Monthly Archives

June 2016

Books

What I talk about when I talk about running

29th June 2016

Murakami book on running

 

At the beginning of this year I was feeling head-achingly overwhelmed. Details aren’t the point but I could give you some potentials just so you get the vibe. It might have been S.A.D, it may have been mid life insecurity (just being honest, I seem to be working mine up quite adeptly and my father passed away at 60, so labelling it midlife, for me, is a plausible reality), it could have just been post Christmas fatigue. Really, in order to get to that point of ‘not feeling on my game’, I just need to have a list longer than I can cope with, to have lost track of dates and forgotten things, have that perpetual feeling of constantly chasing my tail or pitiful lacklustre energy levels to feel overwhelmed – if I drop the ball with my physical and mental health by eating/drinking badly or overbooking myself and not spending enough time alone, I just unravel a bit, it’s an inevitability. If I then add any personal pressure into that mix, or stresses by proxy – problems that friends or family are having, issues with the children, BOOM… I’m having an internal implosion.

But, on the flip side, I’ve always got running.

I got into running after signing up for the London Marathon when I was 21 as an antidote for heartbreak – the type of heartbreak that reacts boldly (and naively) with ‘I’ll show him’ when actually, quite frankly ‘he’ probably doesn’t even have any clue I ran a marathon and neither would he care, nor does anyone else really. It might have turned out to be a completely redundant and painful endeavour except that I now knew I had this practice, which, while I didn’t especially enjoy it and wasn’t entirely great at it, seemed to sort my head out and had the added benefit of keeping me fit, making me more productive and less, how can I put it? the word ‘crazed’ probably covers it. In any case, though I knew all that, I think I found the 26 miles a little traumatic for someone whose lack of innate athletic prowess had resulted in never being picked for sports at school. It took a while (years) before I went for my next event, The Great North Run. That race I prepared for properly, but again, I ran that and dropped running once again. However things came back into their own when my dad died and running came sharply back into focus as a healer. An organised run felt like a productive, unifying thing to do and my sisters and I ran the Brighton Half for charity. Since then I’ve intermittently run other halves and last October I ran in Bright 10 but I’ve never run as consistently as I have in 2016.

When the New Year came around I hadn’t run properly since October, but I signed myself up for a 1000km in 2016 challenge on the map my run running app and a few days into January embarked on my first 6 miler with my friend Matt. I was pretty hungover as I recall, it was freezing, it rained and I cursed almost every step. My starting point was that all encompassing term: slumpy. I’m now 56 runs down and have 494km racked up. I feel stronger, I feel fitter and more importantly a whole lot happier. I’ve run one half marathon and one 10k so far this year and I’ve got 2 more 10k’s, a half, a 10 miler and a tough mudder to go. I went to see an intuitive last September and he said I had a tendency for obsession once I get into something. I think there is probably something in that. You can see all my running bits on @abrilliantme

Anyway a book on running seems to be a good idea at this point in time, something inspirational to keep me interested. So many people had mentioned this title to me. The only other book I’ve read on the topic of running was Born to Run and if you want to read any book about running I would also recommend that in a heartbeat.

Murakami’s book is much more of a informal discussion about running and how it fits into his life. It’s a quick read, but one that left me wanting to run another marathon, sign up for a triathlon, run more often (so I upped my training from 3 times a week to 5 or 6) and also to re-read the Great Gatsby. It also hit on something I had been thinking about when I thought about running, what possible point is there in me signing up for events when I’ve no real hope ever of breaking the tape and when I have a very philosophical approach to personal bests (you can’t run the same race twice)? – I’d sort of been turning it over in my mind that for example investing money in entrance fees etc… was perhaps wasteful. I enjoy experiencing the events with people I know and the anticipation and intrinsic pressure that comes in participating in them but I really think it’s the effort involved in the training which remains with me. Over the last 6 months I’ve absorbed the great outdoors outside my home and taken in the normal everyday goings on in town and at the seafront. Aside from walking the dog and the school run, I could easily get very disconnected from other life day to day. I’ve been out in rain, mist, wind, cold, sleet and intense heat this year. I’ve watched the seasons change at the beach, seen it morning, afternoon and evening. I’ve connected to that temporary void that running attains and kicked so many endorphins around my body I’m thoroughly addicted. I’ve been calmer. I’ve slept better. I did then, agree with Murakami that even activities which appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so.

I appreciated his book for many reasons, but I particularly liked his description of his daily routine and how he manages to do his work around a reasonably uniform timetable that doesn’t please everyone that knows him. Daily routines have intrigued me since reading Mason Currey’s “Daily Rituals” last year – another great read. I think his description of how long distance running figures into his lifestyle as a necessity in order to do the real work spoke to me. Running isn’t for everyone, but when it is for you, you know it.

 

Crochet

Scrappy Blanket

22nd June 2016

Scrappy Blanket

I’ve had an additional project going on in the background over the last few weeks. Initially it started out as a discarded granny square I’d begun some time ago that I’d marked out to be a cat blanket I would end up donating at the local animal shelter. I dug it out and thought I’d do something with it.

The beginning of the scrappy blanket

 

I got the idea that I would use up all the scraps from my other blankets by adding them randomly and see how it turned out. Quite quickly I got really taken with the project and saw it as a great way of de-stashing. I have a shameful stash of yarn that I am currently harbouring and I feel pretty good about turning all these unused bits and pieces of yarn into something useful. I’m desperate to clear my supplies out and only have what I need.

 

Detail of the blanket

Current progress

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I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the way the colours are working up. Initially I thought I’d stick to dk but as it turns out I’ve thrown all sorts of weights in, sock yarn I thought I’d one day get round to using, random colours I’ve picked up when I first started out crocheting, cotton, 4ply. The fact is I’ve got drawers and drawers of unused yarn and I feel pretty icky about it. I may be close to finishing this one now (I want it to take camping and brighten up the tent, I’ve got an old one for the other bed, my first large crocheting project I ever did) but I’ve for sure got enough yarn to be getting straight on with another one. When I first started out crocheting I acquired yarn like a kid in a candy shop. I didn’t realise I’d have yarn left over from projects or buy yarn for projects I would never start! I’d buy extra when I ordered online, I’d buy skeins impulsively and greedily. If you’re reading this, you probably know the feeling.

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I’m almost there on this one and I’m pretty attached to it in all its imperfection. It’s the ideal project to settle on the sofa with and switch off at the end of the day and it’s growing at a satisfying pace. There’s also something about the process when I make a big blanket project that I connect with, which is hard to explain. I’ve made quite a few now and I think I will always remember where these projects sit on my life timeline, what was going on, what my thoughts were, what my challenges were, how I was thinking and also silly things like how the living room was looking, what tv show I was crocheting to, how big the children were.

I’ll be making these kind of infinity granny square blankets with all my scraps from hereon in so expect to see plenty more randomness in the future!

Books

:: Book Review :: ‘All the Days and Nights’ by Niven Govinden

20th June 2016

Niven Govinden - All the Days and Nights

 

For the past couple of years on New Years Eve we have been sitting down with a sheet of paper to list 50 of the years “Humble brags” – It’s not really a list for sharing but it’s a great tool for private self congratulation, noting items down that vary with degrees of impressiveness and triviality. Last year I couldn’t come up with 50, but out of the 47 I did manage, I noted the amount of books I’d read in 2015. Since last year, I’ve been tracking my reading through the goodreads app on my phone – if I get a book recommendation from a friend, a magazine or a podcast I add it to my ‘want to read’ shelf and then as I read any book I update my progress daily to see how much progress I’ve made. It’s the kind of person I am, I get a real kick out of seeing how far I’ve made it through the book and keeping track of what I’m reading or going to read. As it stands at the moment I have 515 titles in my ‘to read‘ list.

 

So the humble brag was that I’d read 27 books, when I wrote that down I was pretty pleased with myself. I had aimed for 20 and I’d done it comfortably. Fitting in reading is a choice, but not one without its many challenges when you are an adult, it means you’ve got to focus and not be interrupted which can be very very difficult. When my children were babies I was so frustrated I wasn’t reading, something I love to immerse myself in, because there was so much to do in the evening, which was my only time to myself. In the end, I came up with a strategy where I’d read just 10 minutes after they’d fallen asleep. I could always find ten minutes and then get to doing the laundry and tidying up. I had to make sure I did it everyday. I didn’t get through that many books, and I had many people say “I don’t know how you do that, how can you get into the story? When I read, I have to sit down for a while and really get into it.” The way I saw it was this was the only way that was making me read consistently, so I took it.

 

Now, I get to read quite a bit more and it is SUCH a pleasure. I like fiction and non fiction and try to alternate as best I can. When goodreads asked its users to set themselves a challenge for 2016 I thought I’d aim high and typed in 50. Maybe that’s too much, but I’m hoping I can discover a number I can aim for every year. We’re coming up to halfway and I am not going to reach that 50 unless I make reading non negotiable from now on and up my daily reading. Even now I am only setting myself a 20 minute minimum amount of reading time a day, I figure it will whet my appetite to fit more in. As it stands I’ve completed 10 books so far this year.

 

I’ve reviewed only one read so far this year : ‘A Little Life’ – a book that I feel may eclipse everything else I read in terms of how it became an immersive experience, I lived and breathed that story. I had to recover for quite some time afterward, I found it difficult to pick up another. This post though, is on a book I picked up randomly at the library a few weeks ago. It’s great to have targeted titles to plough through based on their high goodreads rating or recommendation but I feel compelled to throw in a few wildcards this year. This one had promising one liners from the major broadsheets on the back and an interesting premise for a plot. Anna Brown, a dying artist works on her final portrait whilst her husband and life long muse for her work walks out to seek and see for himself the paintings he has sat for over the years.

It was an enjoyable read and an interesting story. You the reader learn to understand the relationship between the artist Anna, rejected by the town in which she lives for the work that she produces and her husband who has an ease, grace and amiability that makes him accepted by everyone. I felt that as I read the book I discovered more about her conviction to do the creative work that she was compelled to do and also why her husband was trying to understand if his life had been one of substance if his one and only role was to sit for her. His journey and his encounters at each of the destinations explain his own motivations and his importance as the subject of her work. The language is gently paced and rich. It is a lovely and subtle read, but I only gave it 3 stars out of 5 in the end. I can’t quite see how the Mail wrote that it was as ‘gripping as any thriller’ – sure you could turn the pages quickly, it was a short novel, but it never got un-put downabble. I’m all about the paperbacks at the moment having spent weeks working my way through a bit of a tome, “The Mountain Shadow” I need to start stacking my completed reads on top of each other so I can hit my target. I’m already on the next title, a Murakami, you can follow all my reads on instagram, the link to my feed is at the bottom of this page.

 

 

Crochet

The neon blanket

17th June 2016

Neon Blanket progress 1

 

This neon blanket got started a few months ago, you’d think it would be done by now, but alas not. Originally I was going to try a join as you go babette for these particular colours, but it just didn’t work for me. I decided on hooking the squares up a bit more uniformly and over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to work on just this one project. Of course that hasn’t quite worked out, I’ve got a continuous granny square blanket on the go too which I can’t seem to put down in the evenings. I’m just not getting it done quickly enough for me, which I find frustrating because I have a huge list of ideas and projects I can’t wait to get started on. Despite my creative time being interrupted a bit by a post run week of fatigue where I didn’t crochet at all, I have been able to get back to it over the last few days and slowly but surely it’s growing and coming together. There are about 14 more large squares to crochet and then I’ll have moved on to my favourite part, the sewing up and the bordering.

 

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I started this blanket quite a number of months ago and I had great intentions to hook up a couple of squares every day and have it finished in a matter of weeks, ha! jokes! This piece is for a friend, my form buddy from secondary school that I sat next to everyday for registration. I have known him a LONG time. He was my housemate for two years at university and when I saw him last I said ‘sure I’ll make you a blanket.’ I have, in the past swerved any grand crochet gestures, projects just  took me so long to make, but with all the granny square practice I’ve had pieces come together quicker now so they’re going to start being a bit more commonplace. The colours are ‘his’ colours bright pink, bright green and purple.

 

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I’ve reached that point in the make where I can see that I’ve got somewhere but it still feels like an overwhelmingly long way to go. I’ll be honest, I’m bored. I’m bored of sewing in ends – and there are ALOT of them in this. Every round, I weave in the two tails of each colour. Every round I think, I’ll do that trick where you twist the first tail into your stitches so you don’t have to weave it in. Every round I forget to do this.

 

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This is the only photo that picks up the purple. The colour can photograph pretty dark in my other pictures.

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But, I do think that the end is in sight for this week, which is exciting.

Crochet

Bank Holiday Camping

2nd June 2016

Lulworth Cove

 

We just got  back on Tuesday from a glorious Bank Holiday weekend’s camping in Dorset. The sky was blue and the sun was out more often than not. The Sunday was the highlight with a beautiful day at Lulworth Cove, fantastically hot, the kids enjoying paddling in the freezing waters and we sunk ice cold beers and ate fish and chips in sun drenched gardens at Lulworth Cove Inn.

We’ve visited Farrs Meadow before, last year, albeit slightly later on, it was really lovely to be back for a short time with friends we’d met there in our previous trip. As it was a birthday celebration there was a festive vibe to the stay, many children to hang out together and plenty of campfires.

I LOVE camping – I like sitting and relaxing outside with none of the routine daily of my life, no ‘real’ housework, no pickups or drop offs to distract me, no laundry, no digital interruption because the phones have always run out of battery and importantly a shared responsibility for ‘what to have for dinner’. I don’t know what it is about that dinner thing that’s got the oppressive touch to it but sometimes I feel like hurling myself on the kitchen floor at the prospect of deciding on and making another home cooked meal from scratch, and that’s coming from someone who likes cooking.

But back to the merits of camping, I love the way the children play unsupervised with other children they meet there, they’ll play for hours, with an independence we’re unable to give them at home. I like the temporary suspension of real life, where the only real concerns for the day are eating and sleeping. Sometimes we attempt cleanliness and trying to look presentable but standards are so significantly reduced I have no trouble walking the dog wearing something I wouldn’t even take the recycling out in at home.

I sometimes feel that camping seems to be my kind of modern day interpretation of a stoic experiment into a certain voluntary discomfort. Which is a bit rich, since, on the camping scale we are pretty glampy, we’ve got the light and airy bell tent, airbeds, double duvets, blankets, a shelter for if it rains. It is relatively comfortable as camping goes, but nowhere near what home life is like. Here, I have the kitchen underfloor heating on in the mornings, the dishwasher, the power shower and uninterrupted sleep (now, obviously when the kids were little…never… I served my time). Most camps the sleep has been brilliant. The tent doesn’t get hot in the mornings, the children sleep in. This camp was slightly different in that Rocco had got a LOT bigger and heavier since last year and no longer was the sleeping experience one to relish because we got to spoon the dog or see him all curled up neatly at the foot of the bed. This time it involved a lot of Rocco settling ACROSS MY LEGS and my legs in particular, between my waist and my calves. 35 kilos that had to be kicked off at intervals and also appeared to give the beds a slow puncture. We were also on a bit of a slope, the site is generally flat but we were squeezing in onto our friends fully booked pitch as we decided to join last minute so there was a lot of rolling to one side and middle of the night rearranging. I can live with the stripped back vibe to camping fine if I’ve slept but after 3 nights it felt appropriate to come back and appreciate the house.

 

The fam a lam at Lulworth Cove

 

Lulworth Cove

 

We struggled on photos because we never had any phone battery but there are a handful of captured memories. Here, in the water, I am preparing for the artic enema part of my future Tough Mudder, it says a lot that I didn’t even go in up to my knees, I don’t know how the kids stayed in there for so long.

 

At the pub

 

I even went for a run while we were away, previously I never get around to one, I bring my kit and it languishes in the clothes box. This year, with my 1000km challenge I was determined to rack up at least a couple of miles and luckily I found myself a running buddy within our camping crew. We ran alongside the river and into woodland and then got hopelessly lost but I ran. It’s only a matter of days now until I run a 10k and I needed some distance in my legs

 

Rocco

 

Rocco, apart from ensuring early starts, escaping the tent in the early hours (yes, if he has access to the start of the zip, he can open the bloody tent), jumping into the River Stour and getting stuck because of a steep bank was no trouble whatsoever. Ahem. I have to thank the man that climbed an overhanging tree bough and pulled my panicking dog out the water by his collar because it started to look like it could all go a little wrong. Had I been on my own I would imagine I’d have had to jump in and swim him along the bank until it got easier for him to climb out himself.

 

Sunset at Farrs Meadow

 

The one thing I didn’t bring was my crochet. We were really limited on space in the car and in previous camps I very rarely get any done. The grass gets everywhere, it can get grubby and end up smelling of camp fire smoke so I left it, but I really missed it – it feels like it is so much a part of everyday that I can’t be without it. Needless to say I have more than made up for it on my return and plan to get a whole lot finished and a whole lot started over the next few weeks.