Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Year In Pictures

Stolen ungraciously from Jill in Alaska (with all the rules broken):
My year in pictures

To be honest, December: Has been just about the best ever

November: When the kitchen became this

October: Graham Robins photo. Just to prove I wasn't slacking
September: Not my photo, but my soul. I managed the 3 Peaks.

End of August: Finally, I rode my bike again on the Wild Wales Challenge

Cheating a bit here - Early August: Work started on the house

In July I went out for a ride with dad the day of his 60th birthday and he made me go over these cobbles.

June: When I made some offhand thoughts about moving here.

May: When I made some offhand comment about a new kitchen

In April, a day out with the Peterborough CC

March: An ode to what was March (fixing up the vanu) and what was enabled by the end of March.

For the long shaddows and the joy of being back on snow. February

New Year's day in the Peak District. That's my dad with the tree he wants his ashes scattered under.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Family Member

All hail Lenny. Prince of Cats.

Actually, Lenny is from a broken home - a violent partnership where the man involved has done something so bad that Lenny could not stand to be near the husband of the lovely woman who was fostering him on behalf of the cats' protection league. He would, apparently hiss and spit at S. when he walked by Lenny's pen and S. was quite perturbed - he couldn't be near Lenny for fear of being savaged and for a man who loves and cares for cats so much, that's hard.

So it was with some trepidation that TSK entered Lenny's pen, having watched from the kitchen window whilst Lenny and this Trep had a quick and happy introduction. Lenny was by no means enthralled by TSK's presence in the pen but there was no hissing, no spitting, no growling and TSK was quite well behaved too. Lenny even chanced receiving a stroke from TSK and ate a little food from the bowl he offered before slinking away into his fluffy hidey hole.

I loved Lenny straight away. He's shy but reasonably forthcoming with me as a stranger. He's white, oh so white with black ears and face and a black back and tail. His whiskers ping! at you in white on black and his little black nose is shiny and inquisitive. He's a big cat for a yearling and I could tell there was a twinge of adventure in him. I could not wait to rescue him from his fears and his cold, outside pen.

TSK loved him to! Oh joy of joys. Lenny was to come home with us. I kept asking to make sure that TSK was OK with Lenny. I didn't want to saddle him with a cat that only likes me because TSK likes cats just as much as me - if not more. But he was fine with it all - prepared to accept a challenge, prepared to accept the odd nip and scratch, prepared to sacrifice a finger or the occasional arm, prepared to be ignored for a while.

We took Lenny home - a traumatic ride in the vanu, sitting in the new cat box but his fosterers sacrificed their blanket to travel with him to give him some comfort.

Back at the Orchard, Lenny took his first steps out of the cat box. Our intention was to show him where the litter tray and food and water was but before that, he legged it under the kitchen cabinets and there he stayed for the rest of the night. I knew I should've finished the kickboards before I got the cat.

I spent the night worrying about what to do. Would Lenny come to spend the rest of his life under the cabinets if we left him to his own devices? Would he never experience the joy of family life if he didn't push himself to try it just once? Would I have to get down on my belly on the tile floor and pull a screaming hissing cat out from under the cabinets?

You can imagine my relief when, this morning, he was happily lying on his fluffy cushion in the middle of the floor?

He took tentative steps over to his food and ate carefully from the bowl, watching me all the while.

He had a stroke, he had a cuddle. I got TSK to feed him some leftover chicken scraps.

You can imagine our surprise when this was allowed to happen...

and those are TSK's arms, not mine.

All hail Lenny, prince of cats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Chest infection
Back Pain
Noro Virus
Neck Pain
Chest infection

Since November.

Bring on holidays and 2009

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sad Times

I have blogged before about being the black sheep of my mother’s side of the family. Where others have done balet and tap and gone on to learn modern jazz, singing, art and acting, I ride bikes, fix cars and play in the dirt.

It was the shock of the year – and what a shocking year. My dad phoned to tell me that Uncle Terry had died. Not a gentle, something we’ve been waiting to tell you kind of died but an urgent, breaking news, nothing we can do kind of died. There was nothing to know, no answers, no explanation, no illness or discomfort, just gone.

The story unfolded at some traffic lights in town. The girls in the hairdressers noticed that one of the cars in the line didn’t move. He died somewhere between red and green. A tragedy of seconds. He was 61.

When I was little, Terry used to scare me. You see, contrary to popular belief I was a nervous child who clung to the apron-strings and hid away. Terry was a bouncy and enthusiastic man with a beard who encouraged everyone to do anything. It is possible that my have-a-go attitude today is somewhat down to my first forays onto the stage at Christmas panto to get a sweetie off the Widow Twankey. Yup, that was my Uncle Terry – in drag. The man wore boobs brilliantly.

Aside from his panto hilarity, Terry played many serious roles and was a director of many more plays at the Garrick theatre in Altrincham. He found the patience and professionalism to work with his family, playing alongside his wife (often cast as principal boy) and directing his daughter, my cousin Laura, in starring female roles.

No matter how busy he was with the theatre and his work as a nurse and healthcare professional, Terry always had time to invite visitors into his home and offer them any number of drinks or a simple cup of tea. It is this side of Terry I will remember most as they are my most recent memories and as an adult, those that are my true opinion of this man whose boisterous-ness scared me when so young.

When TSK met Terry last year I think he found it hard to believe that I was related to Terry's wife. Strictly come dancing was being heavily critisiced on TV and we settled into their warm suburban home with our usual glass of something warming for the cockles and talked of impending holidays to America.

Since his death, I have explained why I will hold this man in such high regard and why I hold this side of the family so precious to me. They represent a part of my life that is lost to me. I stopped dancing at around 9 or 10 years of age. Since the age of about 14 I have slightly regretted that decision. Who knows whether I would’ve had the tenacity to stick at it any longer or anywhere different? Nontheless, when I go to see a play, a show, a performance of any kind I find it difficult to control my emotions. Most people are impressed but I feel moved to some greater degree – tear in my eye kind of stuff. Perhaps I’m just soft but I find it inspiring to watch others excel at something I genuinely found difficult to stick to and to master.

So I loved this man and his family for giving me the opportunity to get that little bit closer to that world which is so different from mine. At the same time, I love him for the mutual respect and regard he always held for me. The few times we got together in a year or another year, he would want to know what I’d been up to, where I’d been, what my next project was. Then he’d admit, “ooh bloody hell Andrea, where do you get the energy from? You’re bloody brilliant you know, you’d never catch me on a bike, ooh goodness me.”

I once had a chat with a friend about fear. She admitted to me that she wanted to overcome her fear of height and could not imagine doing the things that I have done when I climb. I concluded that fear is a very personal feeling because in contrast, there is no way I could physically stand on a stage in front of a room of people and sing or, for that matter, talk – never mind remember lines and cues. The reactions of fear for me on the stage are the same as my friend at the top of a mountain – sweaty palms, absence of voice, breathlessness.

So it is Terry’s mutual respect that I will miss along with his enthusiasm for life and interest in others, his support, his banter and his sense of family. Any regrets? I suppose I wish I’d asked Terry more about his work at the theatre but the problem is, he was so damn modest, all he was prepared to tell me is,

“it’s hard work but then, that's showbiz.”

We said our goodbyes to Terry on 15th December at Bowdon Church. The church was filled with colleagues, friends and family and he left the building to a standing ovation. See you later old friend.

Friday, December 05, 2008

And so it goes on

After one passionate night of gentle cuddles (as I regained full movement and managed the night without many trips to the little room), TSK now has The Lurgy.

It is a perfect opportunity for quiet, lonely internet christmas shopping.

Now where did I put the new credit card...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Revised Hell

I got a stomach bug in the early hours of yesterday morning so my new-found skill of being able to sleep in more than one position was shattered by not being able to sleep at all. TSK had to make another emergency pharmacy trip - this time for Dioralyte and anti-vomitting drugs. My body has achieved some interesting contortions this week.

At the end of it all, I felt like I'd completed an open 5 event - the same muscular pain and feeling of having consumed nothing but electrolytic drinks for the last 5 hours. For last nights dinner I gorged myself on 6 grapes and a pear before TSK came back from work with a packet of Complan for me.

How do old people drink that stuff?

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm affraid of the dark

In the hours between 10pm and 7am the demons come. They start to growl and rumble when I'm sitting on the sofa and I delay the action of lying down to go to sleep until they can be stilled by my fidgeting no more.

As I sit on the edge of the bed I have to shuffle into just the right place so that when I rock to the side to lie-down the gremlins only have a small window of opportunity to tear and chew at my muscles in my side. If I get my position wrong, the gremlins torture my aching spine as I move my legs to get my knees and feet away from the side of the bed and onto the protective support of the matress.

I lie and pant, breathing through the pain as the terrible beasts writhe within me, their scaly, spiny backs heaving against my spine and scrabbling at my rib-cage. My left arm hawks my pillows into place wherever my head has ended up. My right had goes between my knees to reduce the misalignment of my pelvis to a minimum. TSK holds a frozen ice pack wrapped in a towel to my spine and it acts like a magical ointment, slowly drowning the gremlins until they fidget no more...

but it is not over. As my breath slows again to shallow panting that is currently the norm, I know that my midnight alarm will go again, that the back will spasm, the gremlins needing to go for a wee. I will doze on the loo, not wanting to stand, not wanting to sit until the gremlins get cold and tell me to go back to bed.

They aren't satisfied with bed though and like a baby, I have to take them downstairs and feed them. Only they eat Paracetamol and Co-codamol and Ibuprofen and other drugs I have never heard of. Once they've been fed, I have to burp them. I walk up and down, back and forth in a living room that's filled with kitchen and chairs and laundry. There's not much space to walk but I stroll up and down, jiggling my baby gremlins up and down, sucking the air in through my teeth, waiting for the drugs to work and my muscles to get used to movement again.

I do dishes, I tidy away. I want to sleep but I don't want to lie down. I crouch down to the freezer, bending my knees, not my spine and retreive another icepack. It is tied around my waist with a towl and kept in place by my dressing gown belt like a geishsa's robe and I shuffle like my feet are bound.

Once I have decided I have enough pain releif and mobility to lie down without fuss I head back to bed. In a futile effort not to disturb TSK, I try to lie down carefully but inevitably I scream so loud he is there, exhausted, at my side asking me what he can do. I try to think of something that will help so he can feel like he is helping but I have nothing. He gently touches my hair, touches his forehead to mine. So gentle so that he doesn't hurt me more. Sometimes I NEEEEED him so badly to do everything at once. Apply the cold pack, move it here, move it there, move my pillow, put my dressing gown on, take it off, remove my socks. He works quickly and precisely. He calls the NHS helpline for me and I talk to the nurse between gasped breaths and screams.

Finally at 1.40 we are all back to sleep until the 4am charges start. Great explosions of pain in my waist. These are caused either by my overwhelming urge to lie in a different position than the one I am in (impossible) or by the urge to eat something since I threw up my lunch and only had a cup of soup for dinner. I feed the gremlins their drugs and start the prowling dance around the living room again, this time feeding on grapes and cheese to quash the hunger pangs. Success, then failure as the hunger pangs turn to burp-pangs and yawn-pangs - for every process in this body hurts right now (yes, even farting is a carefully orchestrated squeeze). As my body processes the food, I let out series of little yelps. Burps are released in tiny quantities but inevitably the piece-de-resistance stops me in my tracks and makes my knee buckle as it takes the strain off the spinal muscle that suddenly has so much to do with burping.

TSK's ankles appear at the top of the stairs and I explain my midnight feast, sending him back to bed. The next time I see him he is bringing me a morning cup of tea, despite my grumpy and depressed response that, "I don't know what I want!". I admire his loyalty, determination, care and effort and am genuinely grateful but also I am nauseous and sure enough 5 minutes later I am sweating and 7 minutes later I am talking to god on the great white telephone at the top of the stairs, each heave followed by a pathetic, mewing, "Ow!". I detest throwing up. With a bad back it is hell.

This proves it though, the co-codamol is the only drug I have taken in the last two days - giving the ibuprofen a miss after I accidentally over-dosed twice (though medically, I didn't, in my head, not following the instructions and taking a double-dose, twice, pretty much constitutes an OD). I phone the NHS helpline again in the desperate hope that the nurse at the other end will tell me I probably have an infection and should go to see my GP and tell her she's an idiot. So far I have been diagnosed over the phone and that doesn't seem acceptable to me when I am in so much pain... SOOooooHHHHH much pain. However, she merely suggests I talk to madamme GP again and get some painkillers that don't make me puke.

By the time I talk to Yon Doc I am so happy to be getting something that might not make me puke, my fears of an infection are quashed and I merrily accept the next trial feed for the gremlins. It comes with a recommendation that I buy anti-nausea drugs to accompany it. The nurses, the doctors, the pharmaceutical ladies, the people at work all seem to have gone through this hell themselves and I'm embarrassing myself thinking that my pain is any worse (and therefore comes from a more severe source) than theirs. I suck it up and pick up the new drugs.

My appetite is re-whetted by consumption of plain Jacob's crackers - the only thing I could face this morning and which TSK took a special pre-work trip to the shops for. I head out to "The Starfish and Coffee" in Woot Bass for pancakes, syrup and bacon. Briefly the thought crosses my mind that the bacon might be uncomfortable later but that's what the anti vomitting drugs are for.

The "shopping" (I picked up a £4.50 Jaegar blouse from Oxfam as well as the drugs) done, I decide to visit my local beauty-spot, Jubilee Lake, as I've lived here for a while and not been there yet. I take a path that starts at the back of sainsburys car park and follow it for about 2 miles before it peters out to nothing between the school playing fields above and a steep slope to the sports club playing field below. The fallen trees, brambles and ivy are inpenetrable to a girl with a bad back and a big thick down coat so I retrace my steps until I can take a rather illegal trek across the school playing field. Thankfully, no grumpy headmasters give me a hard time and the kids keep their footballs to themselves. A strike by one of thoses basetards is my worst nightmare today.

A few suburban streets later I find a footpath running behind all houses, the Wiltshire downs reaching out to the M4 and the Cotswolds beyond and I stop to try out the new drugs since it is time. A yellow tit flits through the trees right before me and I tempt a robin to interact by breaking off a bit of Jacobs cracker for it.

Continuing on my 0.5 mph plod I arrive at the path down to Jubilee lake. It's little more than a small duck pond. About 30 ducks are laughing at my stunted gait as I stop every so often to encourage a burp or a sigh. The back muscle can only cope with one blow at a time and burping and walking is not on. The lone fisherman is warily avoiding the lone swan. He's too engrossed to notice me stopping but it's probably a relief since the down coat is still muddy from last weekend and I'm wearing my fleece walking trousers to keep out the cold.

Back at the road, I read the sign which informs me that the area surrounding Jubilee Lake is one of our surviving ancient woodlands so I am happy it is there, even if it is only a little duck pond and some trees.

When I get to the top of the hill above Jubilee lake it becomes apparent to me that I have walked too far. I still have to get home. It doesn't help that I try a shortcut and come across yet another footpath that stops at a school. It strikes me that once upon a time, any Tom or Harry with his Dick could have walked through playgrounds unvetted and emerged the other side to continue his way home. Sadly though, I had to retrace my steps away from the locked gate. I passed the other side of the school. The leafless hedge full of toys and tennis balls of the summer. I hobbled down Longleaze and pep-talked my way back to the house, hardly veering to avoid carelessly left dog poo.

The last hill was the finest challenge yet. The new drugs were working. I squeezed the few gremlins that were still awake to one side and strode up the hill, front door key in hand. I turned the key and it crippled me to my knees. I conclude that I have hurt my back screwing cabinets to the wall and head back to my favourite place - a hot bath.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where did life go?

It's Sunday morning and yet it feels like a week day. With the skiving I have done last week, I'm not sure what day it is anymore. I realised yesterday I haven't blogged since the Wild Wales Challenge in August.

It's not skiving as such. About 6 weeks ago I began to work 50 hour weeks. Driving to Wales and back 3 times a week (for the hours I work mean a return train journey can take twice as long) has taken it out of me and taken it out of my training and my work on the kitchen so last week I started to reclaim my life.

On Monday when I got into work at 1pm after a morning of marking up a countertop, my resource manager told me that my project manager was worried he was killing me. I responded that he was justified in such a thought and that I was in the process of reclaiming my life. On Friday I also got to work at 1 after a morning of plumbing and when I completed my timesheet, I still managed to book in excess of a standard 37.5 hour week.

The plumbing is finally finished. The living room is almost back to normal except for the oven and sink, awaiting collection by freecyclers. There are two cabinets to go in place where the plasterwork still needs to dry and then the final hole to cut in the countertop for the new hob before the pictures appear and my house is open for guests again.

My racing season has been somewhat futile as ever. All about having fun. I am incapable of keeping pace with the leading woman and my team mate, Claire but I try and I find my place amongst the unfit men at the back and I encourage my team mates as they lap me.

Training has been limited. When I do go to the office from my home address, I inevitably jump in the Vanu since I'm late, so very late and will want to be home urgently via a shop to buy eats then continue with the kitchen. There have been no saturday rides for a long time.

Let's be honest though, except for Canada (where commuting was the only riding I got to do), I have traditionally been a lazy winter cyclist anyway so really, more than ever before, I have found snippets of time to train this season.

Every Tuesday night I join the Swindon Road Club in the gym at Fitness First and we let all our frustrations rip in an hour of stationary bike madness to Faithless and Chiccane and, bizarely The Ace of Spades finds its way in there.

The room is hot and dark, which is a relief because the sight of sweat running down the walls might be unsightly. The bikes are no more than a bent elbow's distance appart, meaning I occasionally make contact with the clammy elbow next to me.

We do various excercises, spinning the pedals in double-time to the music, adding resistance and keeping single time with the music, adding more resistance and standing up. Then, after the climb we sit down again and try not to touch the dial, just keep hauling the pedals around. This is good, it replicates the cyclo-cross need to keep sitting the weight on the back wheel whilst climbing a steep hill.

Then the sprint tunes - as my legs whirr by, the lack of resistance means my knees start to lock-out - getting left behind by the pedals so I add resistance to give me something to sprint against and before I know it I am in a race, pushing to the finish-line to get there before the person next to me - wherever "there" is. The instructor knows what to say to keep us pumped, keep the brain working - or stop it working during the minute-long sprint sessions when he asks us to give 110%. "This is my key philosophy..."

Claire and I have discussed stealing the CD to play over the commentary tannoy at the national championships.
Trying desperately not to cramp-up on the way down Pen-Y-Ghent. 3rd of "The Three Peaks" in September. The event was fantastic with perfect sunny weather and not too hot. There was an amazing view off the top of Whernside, looking at the Howgill fells and lake district beyond. I didn't take enough food with me and was starting to cramp up on the way down Whernside. I stepped off the track and put onen foot into a deep rabit hole. When I fell, both calf muscles went into cramp, leaving me screaming in the grass until I could persuade the pain to leave me. A bit scary for the passers by! At the bottom of the ascent of Pen-Y-Ghent, I comandeered some rasins from a spectator which got me through the rest of the day.

The day was marred by my dad not riding. Three weeks before the event he was knocked off his bike by a car-driver. He had surgery on his face a week later to plate a broken cheek-bone and, understandably, was not ready for the event. This would have been his 36th attempt at an event he has completed every year since he was 24. He is 3rd in holding this record (consecutive years ridden) and now it is over, thanks to one split second of undue attention by some muppet in a car. Mostly, I was looking forward to making my come-back to this event with my dad in his 60th year on this lovely planet but it was not to be.

Playing in the tank tracks at a local event in October. Wearing the new teams' colours. This was the hottest cyclo-cross race I have done in the "winter". We all sat in the field in our shorts and teeshirts afterwards and it's why I'm very pink.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wild Wales Challenge Madness

There are days when the alarm rings at 6.15 and it doesn't annoy me so much. Those are the days that I am on holiday and there are important things to be done. It is best when those things are not work on my house but they are epic bike rides.

Efficiently fed and caffeined-up we headed for Bala leisure centre and queued to get our start-time signed before cycling into the Welsh mizzle.

The beginning of our ride was reccied on Saturday, along the quiet side of Bala Lake (or Llynn Tegid as the Welsh prefer to call it). By the time we got to the turn-off for the hills, the mizzle had stopped and the sun was set in to shine all day (through gaps in the cloud as only it does in Wales).

We soon turned off the main A494 towards the harder terrain of the Trawsffynydd Mountain Road. As the slope steepened we stood on the pedals, then started to strain then finally resorted to walking. I don't mind telling you this since the grade was 14%, it had been going on for over a mile and there were 80-odd miles to go. I had deliberately elected to ride this event on my higher geared lightweight racing bike that I will use for the 3 Peaks next month. TSK did suggest it would be easier to do the Wild Wales on the heavier 'Lovely' with the lower gear ratios... and he was right. I had, however, argued that anything I couldn't ride up could be run up with the race bike. Therefore, confirming my confidence in my ability to complete the 3 Peaks in September and ply me with excellent training opportunity and the knowledge I could sit on my new £64, 9g saddle for the desired time period.

All across Trawsffynydd mountain, stretches of 10% - 14% road reared their ugly slopes as we progressed doggedly along. I am happy to report that I rode up all of them, short and sharp as they were.

Finally, in a long, open stretch of moorland the descent away came into view with the occasional gate and cattle-grid just to make it interesting.

The long descent finally dropped back into forest. Descending away from other riders, as is the way of Trep, I drew up to a gate being closed by a farmer. As they set off up the hill, I called out, "car" to any of my companions on their way down the narrow lane. I opened the gate to let myself through and could hear shouting back up the hill. I stood for a moment, gate in hand, trying to figure out what the men in the landrover were yelling. Turns out it was, "shut the fucking gate". I took the time to say a frustrated, "Give me a chance!" in my best sarcastic girlie voice before feigning a closed gate and waiting to open it for TSK and the others following-on close behind. All before, I must add, finally closing the gate once and for all. Apparently the herd of invisible cows did not escape as a result of my courteous act.

Further into the woodland lanes, an oncoming MTB rider found himself facing the Shall-remain-nameless CC, aiming to power past me. On the tight road, the poor bloke nearly wheelied into the bushes, stil clipped in. Whilst I worried for his safety and the event's reputation, the shall-remain-nameless CC seemed content to yell, "learn to ride" at the unsuspecting member of the public. Rarely has an entire group of my companions stirred such annoyance in me but I suspect pack behaviour was somewhat to blame so I kept my mouth shut..

Into the feeding station at Llanelltyd for a chat with the man wearing an "Etape" jersey. 160km followed by the Alpe d'Huez climb... and all before the Tour de France entourage arrives to finish the day... though that's another year for us, it's still nice to hear someone else recommend it..

We are ahead of cut-off time by 2 hours but still leave control quickly so we don't seize-up. A short stretch of smooth main road then over the wooden slatted river-bridge, tolls paid by our entry fee. The impending mass of Cadair Idris ahead told us that more climbing was on the menu. A promising start, then into a massive sharp left turn, the text in the instructions giving the clue, "left turn up sharp hill signposted Youth Hostel". TSK, following what instructions I choose to divulge to him, was in the wrong gear and struggled valiantly to stay on and find the right gear. After two punishing switch-backs on a 17% hill, both of us were on our feet again. This time I decided to stick to my promises and started to jog, keeping the loud-mouths from the Shall-remain-nameless CC bemusedly riding along beside me at a runner's pace, heaving and hauling, yet desperately still on their bikes. It is my silent revenge for earlier.

Up on the moor again and my friend Mary catches up for a chat. A boy wearing a polka-dot king of the mountains jersey calls, "coming through" and, ever the mule, Mary follows the boy, passing him back. I'm not saying Mary's an ass but honestly, he asked for it. It would be rude and cruel for me to divulge his nickname for the day on air.

Lunch is in Barmouth after we cross via the rail/footbride and queue to pay our £1 toll. We bump into a man we met on the "Hills & Plains of Cheshire" Audax in July. We find a sandwich shop serving hot pork, apple sauce, gravy & stuffing baguettes and find it is just the job.

Traffic is frayed between Barmouth and Tan-Y-Bont but everyone survives the patience-test with nothing more than a few beepen car horns. Who khew holiday Sundays were so important? The instruction to, "climb steadily" fell on deaf ears and unclipped cleats as we again faced lengthy and steep climbs. Finally the gradient relented to testingly rideable as we dug into reserves that would eventually bring us out further up the busy coast-road.

Looking tired but sunny just outside Tal-Y-Bont.

Our regular meetings with fast-groups and slower ones confirms our status as the tortoises of the event. With my route-sheet close to hand I regularly confirm the directions to riders who could otherwise go faster.

The return to the main road at sea level is incident-free as the grass-middled winding lanes roll over contours like the Andrex puppy has been at work in the countryside.

The main-road at sea level brings a 3 mile respite before the turn at the Magnox Hydro station sinposted, "pony trecking". The irony is not lost on me as the road rockets to 20% incline and in desperation I call out, "find me a pony!" before I get off and walk again.

The engineering porn on display is hard to resist though and I find myself singing, "turbines to the right of me, pipelines to the left, here I am, stuck in the middle with a bunch of sweaty men". I conclude I am a sweaty walking-woman then all 6 of the folk walking with me are gob-smacked to see a lone rider litterally zoom past us. I was too stoopified to think, "I'll have what he's having".

At the bottom of the climb into Gelililydden

At the top of that climb was the beautiful village of Gelililydden and it's lovely village hall with bikes stacked outside and a man signing forms and tea and cakes on offer. TSK was contented. We have never been so far ahead of schedule and had such time to spare. I was more nervous about not having peed sice 10am and setting off asap so I could keep the legs moving and guzzle more water en route. Mary passed me again as the song, "ooh ah just a little-bit, ooh ah, a little bit more" were echoing through my head and we discussed the 'whys?' of us doing this and how good it feels when we stop. After she rode away from me, I didn't see Mary again so she was obviously even keener than I to make it stop.

Our final obstacle of the day was the previously mentioned, Trawsffyndd mountain road. If only I'd realised earlier in the day that this was my road home, I might've paid more attention. If I'd paid more attention though, I might not have carried on, knowing that I would have to retrace those steps. As it was, we constantly debated which of the slopes ahead would see us off our bikes and walking again. Miraculously I found myself riding past many of my male peers as they pushed their bikes along.

One man from the Cheshire CC proclaimed, "I'm just bushed now." We had a chat about our mileage since he'd accidentally reset his pooter (and when you're that tired, no one is good at maths). The conclusion that we were close to 3 miles from the next turn spurred all of us on as we realised it must be nigh-on downhill all the way.

As he rolled by on the downhill he proclaimed, "this is the bit about cycling I love". He promptly tumbled head-over-handlebars, legs flying, off the road and into a grassy bog. Scaring the living daylights out of me, I left my bike at the side of the road to show my location, with the man now out of sight of the road. TSK was then scared shitless when he saw me stumbling around in the undergrowth. As 6 other people on the mountain assumed I had crashed, I guess it was my dignity that was most badly damaged.

Our tumbling friend was fine. He was lucky not to land on a rock and suffered no more than dented pride and the spoils of nature (sheep poo) on his top, under his bag, on his hands, on me. He did what was best and got back on the bike. After a brief spell of us molly-coddling him, he joined similarly speedy old hooligans in a much faster descent than we cared for.

Once down the scary road/tractor-trail the main A459 beckoned us back into Bala. I swear they moved Bala. We rolled along at a fair pace. With a tail wind, TSK was satisfied to have legitimately used every gear he had on his bike. On old dude passed us wearing a very 80's sweat-band on his head. He was closely followed by another old dude wearing similarly 80's day-glo cap and socks, muttering, "owwwh! I suppose I'll have to go after him..." and promptly sprinted to catch up. A team of Manchester riders raced by in chain-gang formation and as I mock-copied their style I found myself lifting our pace ever so slightly and, I am pleased to report, catching up to the 80's old-boys.

All that served to pass the time to the finish line, a glorious 10 hours, 92 miles and 2707m of climbing since we started.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Woot Bass Phase 1

The new shed has arrived. For 7 working days prior to its arrival we slaved. First carefully dismantling the old shed so it could be freecycled

then digging out earth for the new foundations and breaking up an old concrete path so the new shed could have space behind it and not be buried in the neighbour's fence.

Concrete forms were errected and adapted at the tight coner.

I went to the tool hire shop and enquired about a small cement mixer. A batch of new ones was on the way and they'd bring it round. I was relieved since I needed to be in to receive the shed.

I bimbled as much as possible, getting things right, taking down the old arch and its cimbing plants. There was nothing else to do and so I started to mix the concrete by hand.

Before I made the biggest mistake of my weekend (on Thursday) the nice Polish boy arrived with the cement mixer. He manoevred it round the back, ("is not heavy") and set it up for me. I wondered if it was sturdy enough?

"Is OK"

He was looking at me. He wanted to show me how it worked. I wanted to learn how it worked. I realised I didn't have a long power cable. I scoured the house and called the tennant but resorted to nodding at the on/off switches to convince the boy I knew how it works. He drove away. He was probably shaking his head.

With a power cable borrowed from number 75, I continued my work. For the next 6 hours I shovelled agreate and sand and hosed water in the machine, dragging it, as required, across the area to be filled unitil the area was full of sticky wet concrete.

In that timeframe the shed arrived and, offering his hand in marriage, the chaps declared themselves impressed with my work, while offering their opinion at the same time. They declared me too smart to patronise when I questioned his use of the word 'level' when what he actually meant was 'smooth'.

At 3pm TSK's mum arrived and with me still shovelling, I set her about staining the new shed. At 4pm the nice freecyclers came to pick up the old shed which gave me the opportunity to sit down for the first time in 4 hours.

At 7.30, half the slab was finally laid. We damped the top surface flat and wrote our names (and TSK's) in the smooth concrete then went down the pub for dinner.

I spent the next day painting the vast expanse of new walls and base. TSK arrived on Saturday and shovelled and poured concrete with all his might, halving the task of laying the other half-slab. A man came to pick up the cement mixer and declared himself horified at the huge machine they had given me. Still,they only charged me the quoted ammount and tried to give me change of £15.

A week later we assembled the new building. Wall by wall it became a structure. Then the crew of TSK's dad, my work colleague and ex-tenant all appeared with perfect timing to finger-tips and tippie-toe lift the roof into place.

The heavy-duty roof that had TSK and I staggering round the garden like drunks when we handled it on our own, slotted into place like a square block in a square hole with 6 people handling it, leaving me wondering what on earth I invited them all for and realising that I had no beer in.

It took a good hour or two more of felt-measuring and lifting, upward nailing and door hanging, tacking and trimming before we ran out of gusto and returned a week later to glaze the place.

Result is that with a little help from our friends, family, local businesses and freecycle our first extension to a house we're yet to live in is finally complete. As my reward for all the hard work, the latest is that I'll finally relocate my job, move in again and next week, finally get to enjoy the house I picked to be my home.

Monday, July 07, 2008


It was dad's 60th this weekend and TSK's first 400 ride. Now dad's don't turn 60 every day and TSKs can choose their 400s so I spent the weekend in Manchester whilst TSK spent the weekend in Hull riding round in a significantly large figure of 8.

In the bar at night on Daddy's birthday we all toasted the absent TSK and wished he were there and poondered sending him a text but the walls on the Swettenham Arms are too thick and it's the end of a dead-end cheshire lane and phones of the mobile variety don't work there.

At midnight I texted from home to tell him to text me any time of the night and I would spurr him on. I promptly fell asleep, deeply, for the next 8 hours to find out that I missed the crux 5am call to say he was exhausted and heading for base. I felt bad and worried that he might need picking up. Reassured by a phonecall, I went out for a ride with Daddy to stretch our pre-3-Peaks muscles.

The entry form for the 3 Peaks was posted on t'interweb on 1st July. Last year the event was cancelled and all riders who entered last year were automatically registered this year except for 20-or-so who asked for their money back. So this year, competition for places is hot. On 30th June I sat by my computer at 11pm, debating whether to leave it on for another hour to complete my form and post it straight away. I suspected that entries would be by post only so there really was no need for me to fill in the form at midnight, or to lie awake till about 3 am worrying that I was sleeping whilst everyone else was getting their 3 Peaks places. At 5:30am, the 'pooter was switched on and at 7:30, the form went in the postbox. As with anything vital, I had run out of cheques and TSK had to stump up.

Now the interminable waiting. Entries are closed, the race is full. In 3 days time (or-so) I will discover my fate and a new bike, all the training and forsaking coffee and alcohol for the next three months will all become worthwhile.

The waiting, I think, is worse than the race itself.

Monday, June 30, 2008


TSK and Trepid Explorer are nesting. Wo woh. Don't get excited, there's no little hippotigermusses on the way but we have a window of 12 weeks in which to plan and rework the house that is Woot before we actually need to move back into it.

I have discovered the power of the Ikea kitchen design tool.

I have ordered a 10x7 garden shed for the end of the path to house our army.

We spent the weekend evicting spiders, pruning the overhanging trees on the rear entrance path to the house and crawling around the kitchen with a tape measure.

Oh what fun I'm going to have.

Here's the before

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday night bounce

It's amazing how good it can feel to suddenly have all the time in the world - even if it's only for an hour.

It's noisy around the pool but I feel peaceful because I have 45 minutes to kill before my step aerobics class at 7.

I used to hate the idea of aerobics, all those gym bunnies in lycra. Then I realised I've never been any good at training on my bike or running. I can ride for miles and miles for fun but when it comes to going fast I have to be racing.

For me, good training is all about diversity - a bit at the gym, a bit at the pool, a game of squash, a run then back to the bike. It's easy to push your aerobic capacity when you suck at something. So I am waiting for step aerobics and I intend to rejoin the gym (to fund the aerobics and the pool) and soon I will be standing on the other side of that glass wall ballancing on a gym ball with the guy who likes to do handstands in the morning, the two of us looking like a pair of circus freaks.

TSK's time trial season has gone off to a flying start. What a refreshing change for me. My race training has only started now, ready for the winter. Let's rephrase that, it has to start now. I can only take so much satisfaction from the fact that I'm the only one of four girls at work, interested in this aerobics who gets up at 7am, reaches for the phone and books in for an evening class.

And all this because a friend posted a little dude saying, "Hello, this is your life speaking, more treats please". That little dude is now on my desktop, peeping out at me every day reminding me to finish on time, switch off my PC screen and go and do something more interesting.

OK, I admit, the first few times it ended up in the pub but there's nothing really wrong with that is there now?

There's now a steady stream of events leading up to the big event of The3 Peaks on 29th September:

19July Dunwich Dynamo
24 Aug Wild Wales challenge
30 Aug The Tour of the Cornfields

Who knows, I might just do something special this year at the big race

Sunday, June 22, 2008

All blocked up

I woke up this morning and I was deaf in my left ear. Eugh. "Sounds" familiar ('scuse the pun).

My dad is deaf in one ear. He had an ear infection and fell off his bike and bumped his head. Ever since then he's been deaf in one ear - the left one. This sounds like a horror story parents tell their kids so they don't fall off their bikes, or get ear infections so let's add a pinch of salt. But really, my dad is deaf in one ear and today, so am I, so I am not going out on my bike.

There has been a resounding silence (even to a half-deaf person) over the sale of my house. This probably has mostly to do with the "credit crunch" and impending doom of the housing market but I also feel might be slightly attributed to the so-far uselessness of my estate agent who, two weeks into a 12 week contract has still not managed to load any photos onto the website. For a house that's being marketed as "well presented" that's a bit shit. Good job I'm not in a rush to sell. Their latest excuse for not getting all the photos is my tenant's bras were hanging from the stair rail. Really, I don't feel like bollocking my tenant.

So instead of cycling, I am spending today using the Ikea interweb tool to design myself a new kitchen and to figure out how I can fit all the furniture I own into the old Woot Bass house in a sensible fashion, instead of the higgeldy-piggeldy mess it was in when I first moved in in a rush.

I feel a serious shopping spree coming on soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the less Angsty Post

I have started packing...

Moving in September but packing makes me feel better.

Moving house sucks

Moving house has always sucked and always will do. You take risks, you takes your chances. I guess I have always had a relatively easy ride. I have sold houses at profit and I have bought houses and not had them fall through.

The market is weird at the moment. On the one hand, it is low enough that I can afford to buy in a lovely village that I never dreamed I would live in until I was at least 40. Now I have found somewhere, I have to sell my own house. I am hoping I will find someone who is just like me, someone who's never dreamed they could afford a Woot Bass. That person hasn't yet noticed that I am here, selling, my house at less than its market value. They've had two feckin' days.

I want to move! I want to move now so I can spend a bit of time working on my new house, so I can travel HOME every weekend - not spend my time holed up in this dump of a flat. The toilet broke last night. Two feckin' months to go and the toilet breaks. Feck feckity feck feck.

I think I might go to mum and dad's again this weekend. Not to look at any houses but to trawl up and down some hills on my bike... and on foot. I am tempted to kick my tenant out and start travelling back to Woot Bass but where would that get me? A stash of cash worse off every week, that's where that'd get me.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Soh Tired

Yesterday we did the Tour of the Shires - from Walton in Lincs out towards our home in the Fenlands then up and back towards Bosworth and back to Walton. To be honest, I have no idea where I was or where I was going. I only knew I had to get back to my Vanu at the end of the day.

The tender for the job in London and not getting it exhausted me and depressed me so much I decided on Thursday to go to Woot Bass and get on with my plan to sell by tidying the gardens and inviting nosey estate agents to view and evaluate. The experience of gardening for six hours on a Thursday left me with very heavy legs (I also did a cracking ride on Wednesday night at the Hereward '10 - actually a very hilly 11.5 mile time trial).

On Friday I told TSK that I truly was looking forward to the 200km ride at the weekend but, with so much on, his job was to get me there and get me home again because I had no idea where I had to be and when or where I was going to be going. I could just about manage the riding bit myself.

It was a cold morning for June - 14 degrees - but I opted for the shorts over the 3/4 lengths never the less. About 30 cyclists set off from the village hall at 8 am and we basically rode like we were on another 10 mile TT, trying to keep up with the fast people at the front. As the aged and hardened Audaxers finally dropped me on about the 10th climb (way-to-go I am improving!), we hopped on the back of various groups catching us and passing us.

After 50km and approaching the first check point, I regretted the shorts as the temperature dropped to 13 and the rain began but we were approaching a pub so I can't complain... until we found out that food was restricted to a choice of ham, cheese or chicken sandwiches (plain white bread and butter, no extras) and the only member of staff was making each plate to order. I joined a short queue and felt sorry for the people behind us (YES! This time there were people behind us!!).

When we left the control the rain had slowed to a steady drizzle which kept us reasonably cool on the lessening (but by no means disappearing) climbs through parkland, rolling hills and forested areas. Some of the roads degenerated into wonderful meandering lanes that narrowed to the width of one car and in some places, grass was growing in a strip down the centre - giving us the confidence to ride long distances side by side. I didn't realise there were such places of loveliness in Lincs and Northants and so open! Where in Kent or Cheshire, villages would have appeared, there was little to be found for miles on this route until finally the second checkpoint.

The rain had ceased so we hung our coats on the back of chairs and snuggled into blankets to dry off our bums and feast on a shared plate of chips and carrot cake (each). Outside, the public passed by on foot, taking their Saturday walks along the canal bank and taking the time to admire the stacks of shiny bikes parked willy-nilly on the lawn of the caf A couple wanted to know where we had been and where we were going to and I was forced to admit I didn't have a clue. This Audaxing lark is not as simple as something like the London-to-Brighton.

Benefits of the last few weeks racing around the lanes of Cambridgeshire started to show as I looked at my 'pooter with 137km on the clock and concluded that the last 70km "wasn't far" and "at this rate, we'll be back by 5pm". TSK pointed out that this didn't allow for degradation in speed (despite the good weather and flattening terrain) or that we would be stopping a few more times before the night was out.

The third checkpoint was at a wonderful farm shop. The only bad thing about it was that it was half-way down the side of a valley. At the 150km point, it's never good to know you're either going to have to go back up the hill you just came down or, worse, continue to the bottom of the valley then climb back out. After getting overly-excited in our delirium over pottery hedgehogs clutching "Welcome" signs and fluffy kitten toys and a twee hanging basket bracket with a cat on it, we tucked into yet more cake and a pot of tea. The chap who arrived after us sent back a cup and saucer that had been provided in excess of his requirements - a pot-of-tea-for-two... for one please.

Thankfully, finally (for my Audax career) the weather stayed fine. I, unfortunately, didn't. The climbs just kept coming and I just kept getting slower. My gears are quite high on Red (she lacks a small "granny" chainring) and eventually my left knee made a stinging, stabbing pain which lingered momentarily as I gasped for the air to fill whatever space I had vacated of air with the initial hissy-scream. I found myself cycling through the most remarkable parkland area on a 1% climb doing 8km/hr and mostly pushing with my right leg. It was time to a) suck it up and get on with it and b) eat chemicals. An energy-goo snot-in-a-bag type Banana "flavoured" intake was insufficient so I popped about 5 dextrose tabs which seemed to do the trick and I coped with sweating out sugar for the rest of the day.

Only info-checks to do.

Initially confusion over "The flower-related shop name on the right, before the left turn in to Newlands".

In our tired state, this was translated into, "The flowershop name on the left turn into Newlands".

With only a shoe-shop on the right, called "Daisy Roots", we asked a passer-by where the flower shop was. Happy to help, the lady misinterpreted my question as a need to buy flowers.

Unable to find the words (or the time) to describe what we were really up to, I opted for, "We're on a treasure hunt and the clue doesn't make sense".

Thankfully, before any embarrassment, TSK figured out the truth behind the clue and we were back on track.

Finally at 8pm, 12 hours after our start time, we rolled back into the village-hall carpark, our aching knees screaming out for tea. For someone who dislikes Sandwiches, I took immense pleasure in demolishing a white roll with grated cheese, some onions and smoky bacon crisps. To the extent that I even considered making my own lunch for work on Monday. I ate too much maltloaf and too many Jaffa Cakes and then we stopped for chips on the way home - both of us eating the fishcake and about 10 chips before giving up on forcing any more into our deflated bellies.

But finally, an event we could go to and come back from in one day. We got the washing on and went to our local caf for breakfast this morning. With a head tired and yet clear from a day of blowing away the cobwebs I can see a way forward... today, tomorrow (estate agents) and into next month. This job or any other job, I have decided there will be three elements to it:

TSK (as always)
Having a home (because for all that I've made money out of my house, there's nowt like having a home)
The bikes (because they make me feel better and for all that I'm a cyclist, I should start behaving like one)
On with life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Two weeks ago I wrote this.

In those last two weeks I have, in addition, done a tender for a job in London which I was so convinced I would get, I went flat-hunting the next day.

Subsequently, I did not get that job so the status quo remains.

25/5/08 - Frustration caused by not knowing what I will be doing from one month to the next and then also, not wanting to continue doing the same thing is driving me mad and I am feeling steadily worse. Andrew is being very understanding and incredibly supportive despite the times when I smile at him with a whithering grin or walk away from his foolery when normally I would join in. Today we made our first move towards selling Woot Bass, the little house that brought us so much joy and permanence for such a short period of time. It's OK. It no longer feels like my little house and I will find it difficult to get used to that furniture being mine again.

Being back in Wiltshire, in the country, has rejuvinated me somewhat. I only wish I could afford to live here and be in the hubbub of the south. Faced with the prospect of a new house we are dreaming of renovations and gardens. A book Andrew has borrowed fell into my hands and I have already begun planning what veg we will have in our raised beds.

That has inspired me to start journalling again.
And at that point, I stopped again. Tommorrow I am going back to Wiltshire to put aforementioned Woot Bass into the paws of a useless Estate Agent.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Taking no nonsense

When my lovely TSK left for work this morning he reminded me not to take any nonsense from the boss. This is just what I want to hear, really it is.

The boss might have put up a stink on Friday but I have to go in there this morning with my head held high and get on with my job and not let up.

It's a win win situation for us.

We either stay here and continue to make more money or we booted out and get to leave this place and honestly, anywhere is better than here, anywhere. Being booted out is a preference, nay, a duty.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Today I saw my original marriage certificate for the last time

I am both a very happy, quite excited and also a very sad. Sad that what should've been the best day of my life was wasted on something I knew to be farcical. A later realisation that the "virginal" excitement of choosing flowers, writing invitations, listening to speeches and wearing a pretty frock built especially for me, was flawed by the inevitability of disaster. I'd do it again with the right person - not as big, not as spectacular but definitely more - and more in the right way.

It's partly my own fault and so it is with regret that I posted away five years of my life this morning, recorded delivery. Not so that I know it has arrived, but so that I know when it has arrived, because I must know these things.

On a different note, this weekend, I am looking forward to the prospect of cutting a 1m x 0.5m hole in the side of my van so that I can install a window where once there was metal. I am nervous about this activity. It's not a small window and it's not a workpiece that I can easily discard and replace with a new one at the first mistake.

So I reassured myself by talking to Chris (of the angle-grinder) who reminded me that it didn't matter how jagged the hole that I cut, so long as I have a large-enough piece of rubber to slap over the hole. He's a good friend to talk to, yet his ideas of me, him and Mr Loftus going into business is all together not-going-to-happen. My days of being the only one to do all the management are over.

I stood outside my flat watching the sun go down and drew a rectangle in blue permanent marker pen on the outside of my car.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It was indeed a good Friday


The weather report was for easter was high winds and snow storms. "Dreadful" was how they put it yet there is London woosy weather reporter dreadful and there is the Northern upper-lip dreadful which recognises that underlying snow showers might mean great blasts of clear sunshine in between.

So on Thursday night the Vanu tackled the Yorkshire Dales in its new, fully laden format.

We arrived at the campsite in the depths of dark and a well-meaning yet grumbly farm lady showed us to a spot before returning to lambing which she had been doing for the last 16 hours. I suppose she had every right to be grumpy.

On Friday the bright skies gave us hope and we set off to walk to the market in Ingleton - a 7 mile hike across the moors. We realised an oops in our plan (disconnected footpaths at the fold of the map) and instead, already armed with lunch, opted for a hike up Whernside from the North side.

As we watched the weather roll in we changed our minds back and forth... it was too risky, we were well prepared, we were too unfit, the weather would pass. Then it did.

As soon as horizontal snow had fallen (or should I say, blazed past us at epilepsy-inducing speed, occasionally stinging faces on the way), horizontal sunshine rained down... that is to say the wind didn't drop.

Eventually, in a fit of sunshine, Whernside was declared do-able and we continued on up the steep slope. A family passed us on the way down. The children looked fine & dad was in good spirits but mum warned us that it was "very blowy" on top. How much worse could it be?

And as the sun came out again we imagined their conversation back at the car, him saying, "see, they're up there in the sunshine now".

It was indeed very blowy but a constant force instead of the blustering I had imagined. As we decended the 3 Peaks bike race route I was glad that the wind was doing the gravity-resistance bit for me as my own legs were a bit shaky from the climb.

A couple, walking poles in each of their 4 hands walked the other way.The back of an organised group, they asked what conditions were like ahead. Was there any risk of "falling off? You see he is a little funny with heights". I asked which way they were going down. They didn't know, they were just going to "the next one"!

3 Peaks-ers. I doubted their chances of success on Ingleborough & Pen-Y-Ghent if Whernside was giving them concerns but wished them luck and continued on our way. There's little point in asking my opinion on danger for I am insane.

The day had saved its hail for us to be walking face into the wind. We watched it accumulate as we stumbled along the path-line, eyes-down. Then again it was gone and the bright yellow scortched frozen winter grasses dazzled us in the sunshine. For every snowstorm there was indeed an equal and opposite special moment of sunshine that made everything worthwhile. A day full of "this is the 'why'?" moments.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The new bike is finished. It went together like a dream. Each part was installed without problem - the new bottom bracket, transmission, chain, shifters, handlebars, seat post (caused a few size concerns but largely resolved).

Then TSK pointed out the drop on the brakes wasn't long enough (the brake pads would've touched the tyre, not the rim of the wheel). Sadly I realised the brakes were the only brand new part of Green which hadn't been broken. I would need to go out and buy new brakes.

While waiting for the brakes, the name of the bike came to me. I was thinking of calling her Easy, since she went together so well, so well behaved. Then TSK suggested he would call her "Lovely" and it has stuck.

On Friday lunchtime Bristows texted me (because they're efficient like that) to say my brakes were in... and I couldn't work for the rest of the day.

Finally the last parts of the bike slotted together on Friday night.

Today we had chores to do in town - like visiting the local photographic society's display at the Fenland museum. There were many many beautiful pictures of Rannoch Moor, Buchaille Etive Mhor and Stac Pollaidh, Old Man of Stoer and the 3 Sisters as well as deer, pine martins, wildcats and Falcons to make me lust for Northern Shores. Thank goodness, since I told them I'd go on Friday.

As well as the photographics, we needed to go to the capital of Fenland to find Rainbow Conversions so that we could poke and play and discuss the layout and installation of a Campervan within the confines of the Vanu. That we did. Meaning to leave with an appointment to get windows installed in the vanu we were slightly disapointed to find there was no chance until August when we plan to be living somewhere else. We did, however, leave with a roll of upholstery fabric and insulation foam in the back of the Vanu and a very ambitious plan.

Silver Lining is not going to be the only one playing with bits of wood in the garden this summer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Back once again with the renegade master

I was on a flier tonight on my way home from work - sprinting up the hill, my knobly tyres rasping on the road as I dashed towards the comfort of a cuppa tea.

A group of hoodies were crossing the road right by my turning onto the bike lane around the dog-fields.

"Scoose me guys, can I squeeze through the middle?" I bellowed, confident as the cold, foggy air would allow.

"Sorry!" they crowed, and herded to the edges, watching my every move. In the Ortons I half expected them to jump me for my 50p and sweaty underwear but instead they yelled, "Cheers mate!" after me as I rode off shouting my "thanks" back.

I wonder if my rebellious underdog biker sides me with the yoof pack or if they were still just trying to suss if I was a big bloke in disguise.

I is down with the hood' I is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ski Holiday

Last week I went skiing with my best friend TSK. The plane was 2 hours late so we sat around lots in Stanstead and I did puzzles which my brane is usually too tired for and TSK read lots of his book.

By the time we got to the France it was late and we were too tired to care that we had a two hour transfer ahead cos we were just glad there wasn't a bus full of people that had been waiting two hours for us. We also didn't mind about being late because we knew it was because of lots of snow falling.

When we got to our hotel the lasagne had been in the oven for two hours too long and we thought the food was going to be yuck for the rest of the week but it was OK cos the pasta was just leathery because it was in the oven for two hours. The rest of the food was really good.

On the first day we went out on the green run at the bottom of the hill but we soon got bored of that so we went and did some easy blues and practised some tricks. TSK learnt some new things. At the end of the day it snowed a bit. We had wine with dinner and felt a bit funny.

On the second day it was already snowing lots and just kept on snowing and snowing. We went up high but then it got really windy on top and the snow was still coming down so we went low down on the hill to stay safe and went in early so we could rest before our snowboard lesson. The snowboard lesson was great lots of fun. When we fell over we just laughed and laughed cos we just went fumph into the deep snow.

On Tuesday my little cousin came up the mountain to meet us. We did some blues and had lunch then went and played on a Red run called Voute. It was ded steep with a bit where TSK could go round the edge. Keith loved it cos he went in upto his knees in deep snow and found a jump off the edge of the track onto the steep red. He landed it then caught his edge and did a back flip and the people on the lift went "weyyheyy" really loud and I laughed. We did it again. I had fun skiing up to my thighs in deep snow. On the way down we did the black run into the resort whilst TSK went round the green. I was tempted by the trees but they were way too uniformly planted and my skis were all over the place being crappy legged. I got to the bottom okay though and then realised my boots had been undone all the way down which I textd to Keith later and made him laugh on his way home.

On Wednesday we went to Serre Chevalier and played on their insane pomma lifts which go all the way up to the top of the mountain and some of the slopes are 1:1 (50%) and bounce about a lot. The boys call them nut-crushers. I thought they were funny and tried to lift my feet up. We had nice lunch at Serre Chevalier and didn't queue much. We might go there again. We came down at 3:30 and had crepes with chocolate on and beer and went for a last run before the bus and TSK did another red with a big bump in it that made his crepe wriggle about.

We laughed at the rep for repeating the name of the meeting point over and over and pondered the idea of calling him a week later to say, "where's the bus". He stuck a sticker on me with his phone number on it. I think he fancied me.

On Thursday Keith came over on his skis. He looked like a big girl on skis with his dreds till he went down hill much faster than me. I said I couldn't help him with his ski position because he goes in a straight line really nicely. I made him work by doing some turns and was happy cos the black run was easier for me even if I didn't make it look that way. We went over to the other side of the mountain which was a bit icy so after a bit of bum sliding we went to the bar and drank beer and hot wine before sending my cuz back to Alpe d'Huez.

On Friday it was our last day so we skied the entire resort with TSK doing blues or reds and me doing the blacks and reds and we took lifts we hadn't done yet and went over some little jumps.

It was a brilliant holiday and I was totally pampered and my new goggles did what they say on the tin and stayed fog-free and the new poles did their trick and were really light.

It is nice to be home so I can do my washing and my room doesn't smell like ass anymore.

Ski Fest 2008 - 1

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I want to go now

Ski holiday for two £900
New, less foggy goggles £80
New, shorter ski poles £40
New, less bulky suitcase £30

Re-living your favourite part about having been Canadian - priceless

For lift passes, beer and boyfriend ski rental there will have to be VISAcard

150cm at the top. 70cm at the bottom.

On the health front, I had my lungs tested today. Turns out my lungs have the physique of a 27-year old. Could someone persuade my skin the same thing?

Bad news is, I am level 4 allergic to dustmites - on a scale of 1 to 6. I am not at all allergic to cats. Which brings me great pleasure. I am level 1 allergic to some grass which will explain my occasional hayfever. I am still more worried about the dust mites though, because I am mentally averse to cleaning and this will have to change.

On that subject, I have struck a deal with the boss to move me back home at Easter - if nothing else comes up in the meantime. There's the vague possibility I can organise some kind of deep-clean - NHS style - including nice new flooring prior to me moving home so that middle-of-the-night sneezing fits and wheezing can be minimised. With every day that passes, my urge to leave the fens grows stronger.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Dark Side

After 9 months in this flat, I finally went to Ikea and bought curtain panels to cover the gaps in my blinds.

Last night, for the first time in 9 months I slept soundly in my own bed... all night.

And I saw lots of lovely things to buy for my own house.

They will have to wait.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Getting Nowhere (Please click on the link if nothing else)

Ever feel like you just can't make any progress?

Despite my present contract being very lucrative, I am now resolutely bored of it. It was exciting at the begining - learning how things are done and making them better then getting out there and developing new ideas, better answers.

9 months on and month-in month-out it's the same. Chasing the same managers for the same approvals. Reporting. Somehow we report £200,000 worth of energy savings every month. That's 1500kWh or 1145 Tonnes of CO2 or 2000 flights between Edinburgh and London and I do feel good about that because for every 1145 Tonnes, you can add in the 1145 Tonnes saving we enabled last month, and the one before.

But it's no longer me that's out there. I have to send other people out there and those people don't question like I do. The return and pee on my idea. They don't bring me the information to make up my own mind and still I'm not allowed to go and make my own mind up. I nudge, I chase up, I enquire politely and contractors come and they bring me pens and mugs and cheap diaries and expensive whiskey because I bolstered their sales.

So I went to a conference and I brought you all this back.

The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever Watch

(It's not really that scary so go ahead and click - especially if you're Canadian and feel inclined to forward it to those climate-change denial leaders of yours).

As for me, Libya has been mentioned - a project to bring water from aquifers to the city. The environmental consequence is questionable but the alternatives are depriving the people of the water or installing carbon-guzzling desalination plants close to the city.

Sharjah was mentioned. I'd no sooner like to work in the UAE than in the USA. Rich Arabs / Americans not being my "thing", much to the regional manager's disappointment.

So now I'm pinning my hopes on Glasgow and wind turbines. Watch this space. Whilst I do some swotting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ball Breaking Bitch...

Is how my resource manager described me when I was a mere graduate.

So that way, I found myself sitting around a table with 6 regional or skill directors of my company being trained on how to do a performance review with the intent of reviewing at least one minion this year.

If nothing else, it was a useful insight into what my own performance review might contain.

The man next to me complained of how he did not agree with performance related pay. That this was one more quill in the prickly porcupine that this company has become.

I asked him if he has any shares yet. No.

And apparently he has had the good fortune not to work with anyone that doesn't pull their weight.

I'm looking forwards to being a part of a new, less fluffy company.