Friday, 29 April 2011

Momentous occasions

It was such a momentous day today that we all got the day off work. Why? Probably not because it was my friend's Mum's 64th birthday (Happy Birthday, Barbara) or because it was the Friday after Easter Monday. Seems there was some young couple's wedding on in London or somewhere. So we all had an extra day's holiday - jolly decent of them if you ask me. Probably the shock of getting an Earldom rather than a toaster as a wedding gift was too much to bear on their own.

Anyway, not one to look a gift horse (even one from the Royal Cavalry) in the mouth, what use did I make of my extra day off? Me, I sprung cleaned (again). While the rest of the nation rejoiced, I did too - but only because now I have somewhere to put up guests - roll on the summer when my sister and nephew, and the awesome Just Frances come to stay.

And then I went out to celebrate with a M&S picnic in the park - just in time to chase the sun away. But still a few more photos for the April Photo Scavenger Hunt secured. And a good excuse for playing on a see saw, and keeping my eyes open for men in uniform - not that I usually need an excuse for that!

And now I'm warming back up again in one of my favourite Stirling coffee shops, the Burgh Coffeehouse, start of the small screen and maker of fabulous coffees and teas close to the main shopping drag of this fair city. 

The Scavenger Hunt has been a good spur for me to get my camera back out again, and also to do some stuff that I probably wouldn't have thought of doing otherwise - drinking Irn Bru (yuk, sacrilege I know, but it really does taste disgusting), eating ice lollies and having above said picnic. I was also brave enough to take (and publish) a photo of me completely naked...

Ok, my hair and face are naked. The rest of me is fully clothed - sorry to disappoint my more red blooded readers!

So all that's left is to complete this loyal (ahem) subject's post with a fitting poem:

The nation rejoices, or mourns
As this happy, or sombre, day dawns
Our eyes will be wet
As we sit round the set
Neglecting our flower beds and lawns

As Her Majesty rides past the crowd
They'll be silent or cheer very loud
But whatever they do
It's undoubtedly true
That they'll feel patriotic and proud

In Dundee and Penzance and Ealing
We're imbued with appropriate feeling
We're British and loyal
And love every royal
And tonight we shall drink till we're reeling

                                                               Wendy Cope

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sunlight or searchlight?

For some time now I've been wrestling with an unknown, worn down at times by the uncertainty and made miserable by the constant questioning and doubt.

I had thought I wanted to know the answer, to know one way or the other what would be. And then, I told myself, good or bad, at least I could start dealing with it. I could move on, celebrate or commiserate, make sense of it all.

But I was wrong. It seems that knowing doesn't make it all better, unless the end result is the one you wanted. Not knowing, and continuing to hope, seems a far preferable situation to me at the moment. Knowing and having my dreams trampled on hurts so damn much. I look back with envy and nostalgia to the time when this albatross of knowledge didn't weigh me down.

In time, I'm sure, it will get better. In time, I'm sure, the searing light of truth will feel more like sunlight and less like a searchlight, illuminating my sorrows and silly dreams for me to see all too clearly. But not now, not yet. Just now it's too raw. Just now, I wish I could have stayed inside, away from the window, not tempted by the need to see and to know.

But wishing doesn't make it so. Time cannot be undone. Knowledge cannot be unknown. Truth must be faced and I will just have to learn how. The dolphin spotter in me still clings to a hope that maybe it only seems the way it is, but the realist knows it for what it is. The end of a dream.

But hopefully not the end of dreams.

And no, you don't get to know what it was/is. Sorry. But don't worry, it's nothing life threatening or dangerous, nothing to do with my health - well, not my physical health at any rate. In the grand scale of things, it's not even really that serious - but it is/was to me. And for now, I hurt for it. 

In the pink

That time of year appears to have come round again, and the cherry blossom is in full bloom. Before long, the golden curtain of laburnum will appear and then the crisp green of my favourite tree as it bursts into leaf. 

And to think, this is the view from my office window. At times I forget just how lucky I am about where I work and how much freedom I have. 
On my way home tonight, I just had to stop and stare in wonder at the trees literally bursting into leaf around me. There were bits of bud dropping down all around and I could smell the scent of blossom all around me. It was a beautifully balmy evening and truly wonderful to behold. 

It's strange to think that little over a month ago we had snow on the ground and here we are now with spring and almost summer on the way. It's amazing to think that without us even doing anything the world keeps turning, the seasons keep changing and what was cold and grey can be bright and colourful again. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Leave your books


    I met a traveler from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
    Percy Bysshe Shelley             

    Lest we ever get too full of ourselves... Or as my Mum would say, Well done. Go to the top of the class. But leave your books, you'll be back!

    Sunday, 17 April 2011

    Another one bites the dust

    But fortunately it wasn't me. Although I did feel like it at various points during this morning's Balfron 10k race.

    Actually, to be truthful, I did bite the dust at the end. I managed to stumble my way across the finish line, with a good spurt of speed for the last few metres, without disgracing myself and then promptly missed the bench I was aiming to sit on and fell to the ground in an unexceptionally ungainly manner. Just my luck that my first sports injury is a bruised behind, sustained after the sporting event itself!!

    But the race was fun. Hang on, wait a minute, did I really just write that? It wasn't fun at all. It was 10km (6 miles) of torture. A bright sunny day and a start time of 11 am meant it was warmer than I'm used to running in and I was struggling with the heat and dehydration from quite early on. It was really noticeable when I got doused with a garden hose on the return leg and felt the immediate benefit of it. [Note to self to train when it's hot and hydrate well before my next race]. The beautiful rolling countryside around the Stirlingshire village of Balfron meant - sadly - hills. And lots of them.

    It was a 'there and back' race, which with the hilly terrain was a torture. You know that the down hill you were enjoying on the way out would transform itself into an uphill for the return leg, and all you could do was slog up it.

    But it truly was a beautiful location and the challenge of the hills did make it a 10k above the ordinary. And apparently I'm not the only one to think that. If you want to see footage of this year's race, try catching Sport Nation on BBC2 this week. I think I managed to avoid all the cameras but you never know. I'll be the one with the purple t-shirt and the tomato red face!

    It has really brought home to me how much training I still need to do to be race fit. While my running pace is ok, my stamina and endurance need some work. If I'd been able to run all of the race, rather than walk sections, I would probably have got below my 60 minute target. As it was I managed a fairly respectable time of 1.01.26 and at the time I was pleased just to finish.

    Regular readers will know that I only took up running last year and that this was only my second ever organised race. My first outing was at the Stirling 10k where I managed a time of just over 54 minutes. Lest you think I'm regressing, the Stirling 10k route is much flatter - and I think I probably had got my training more right for that one than this morning's attempt. But not one to be put off by challenges, regular readers will also know that I've signed up to do a marathon in October with the awesome Just Frances. This race was part of my training, as will be my next race in 4 weeks when I attempt my first ever half marathon. So far the furtherest I've run is 9 miles so I've got a bit of distance to build up yet.

    And now for the shameless plug, I am of course not running the marathon solely for the pleasure of it. While the motivation was to keep Frances company, I've decided to use it as an opportunity to blackmail cash out of my friends, family and acquaintances for a good cause. You'll find the details on my JustGiving page - it really is as easy as point, click, open your wallet, repeat after me 'Help yourself'!. Go on, give it a try - you know you want to!!

    Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

    Saturday, 16 April 2011

    Discovery and rediscovery

    I realise I have been incredibly remiss in not blogging sooner about my fabulous trip to Shetland at the end of last month. So hopefully this will make amends.

    I ended up in Shetland by way of a series of happy coincidences - I made contact with an old University friend through Facebook last year. We'd shared a flat as students for a year and it was only when we got talking some 23 (cough, cough!) years later that we realised what good friends we would have been at the time if only we'd known. By way of explanation, I spent much of my year at the flat, not actually at the flat but instead either at Teviot or my boyfriend's gaff. Not, I hasten to add, at the library. My degree was in reality nothing short of amazing when you consider how little studying I seemed to do!

    Anyway, it wasn't so much friends reunited, as friends rediscovered so when I found myself at the end of March with holidays still to take, a long weekend possible and a trip to Inverness for work already in place, it was a simple step - and happy coincidence - to extend the journey up to Shetland to see Diane and her family.

    The flight to Sumburgh was as much of an experience as I'd been promised. As we touched down briefly at Kirkwall Airport I realised that when I landed at Sumburgh I would have frequented no fewer than 14 UK airports. Who would have thought there'd be so many?!! And when I landed at Sumburgh I was indeed bemused. It was as miniature as I had expected but I hadn't expected a) the runway that starts almost before the land does, or b) the access road that crosses the runway! As Diane explained, she'd seen my flight landing as she was driving into the airport. It was only on the way out - across the runway - that I realised what she meant.

    So Shetland, wow! That's pretty much it, just wow! What an amazing place. I know I didn't see it in the roughest of weathers and I'm sure at times it can be hard living up there, but I fell in love. I now know why my friend Keith blogs incessantly about it. There is a magic and a beauty that is hard to surpass. And the people are a joy - the warmth and welcome I experienced from Diane, her family, her friends and her neighbours was striking. I really did feel like I'd come home, and that to a place I'd never been before.

    But what did you do? What did you see? I can hear your questions, oh loyal readers. You shall not be disappointed. Here follows a blow by blow itinerary...

    Friday evening - arrive Sumburgh, met by Diane and 2 elder sons, youngest being confined to barracks with Chicken Pox. Drive approx 1 hour to the north of the Mainland to Muckle Roe and my bed for the weekend. Charmed by eldest son en route making my heart swell with his undisguised pleasure at my visit. There followed much wine, seafood chowder with prawns and Shetland bannocks.

    Saturday - a refreshing walk on the cliffs at Esha Ness, watching the waves, the birds and the boys not necessarily in that order followed by a couple or 3 lattes at the Esha Ness Braewick Cafe, a hurl along the coast line including a visit to Nibon and what must be the most perfect retreat for (re)born romantics, before heading back across Mavis Grind - where the Atlantic and the North Sea almost meet and a brief visit home to gather strength for Mussels and chips at Britain's most northerly fish and chip shop. Then it was time for a Stampin' Up party and my latest crafty discovery.

    Sunday - another refreshing walk on the cliffs, this time at Muckle Roe itself, followed by a trip to the Spring Bulb Show - complete with afternoon tea and cakes, rounded off with a delicious Sunday roast courtesy of Diane's other half. Mmm, it's no wonder I've put on weight!!

    Monday - and we girls headed off to sample the shopping delights of Lerwick. And boy were there delights - fudge, smellies, books and more fair isle and knitwear than you could shake a stick at. I was in heaven! Who needs High Street, particularly when you can get it all on the internet these days!? We followed our shopping up with some more seafood at the Lerwick Museum before a quick dash round the exhibits - and more shopping. Back home for a dinner of salmon (yes, I was in seafood heaven all holiday!) followed by a madcap game of Monopoly with the wheeler dealers that are Diane's sons!

    Tuesday came all too soon and before I knew it, Diane and I were on our way back to Sumburgh Airport, by way of Bonhoga Gallery and an inspiring exhibition of Urban Baskets, followed of course by the obligatory seafood meal - marinated herrings this time. Then it was time to whisk down to Sumburgh, say (a tearful) goodbye to Diane and jump on my flight back to Edinburgh. And the delights of 'mainland' transport connections.

    A fantastic break, all too short, in which I barely scratched the surface of the wonders that make up the Shetland Islands. I don't know what I was expecting - somewhere harsher and more brutal I suspect - but it certainly wasn't what I found. It was a peaceful place, and I loved it. For more photos, see my album on Flickr.

    I don't think it will be my last visit. Thanks, Diane. I'm so pleased I've (re)discovered my friendship with you.

    Thursday, 14 April 2011

    Three little birds

    I was multi-tasking this evening, making dinner, doing the dishes and listening to the radio when suddenly something made me smile. Get It On was on the radio having a Reggae night. The last track of the show was Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, and it just said it all for me. Gave me hope to carry on and faith that it will be ok.

    And it also reminded me that the second half of my delivery from Stampin' Up (courtesy of the lovely Diane about my mini break with whom I've still to blog following my fabulous visit to Shetland last month) had arrived today and I am now the proud owner of 2 punches - birds and flowers. So now I can make my own 3 little birds!

    Joy joy, happy happy!

    Wednesday, 13 April 2011

    Tread softly

    Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
    WB Yeats                                 

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    Moving on

    Sometimes it comes time to move on. Sometimes you get a choice about it. Other times it just happens. Like shit does.

    And when it just happens, there's not much more you can do than roll with it. You can try to fight against it but often that's just wasted effort. However much you want it to be different, chamber are you have no control over it.

    But the truth is that you have some control. You have control over how you deal with it. Whether you embrace the change and make it more what you want or whether you let it wash over and engulf you. Sometimes that can be hard to see. Sometimes your control is very very small.

    Me. This weekend I changed my hair style. Not much I know. But it was my choice. I could control it, and right or wrong, it was my decision. No-one else's.

    So short hair it is. Until it grows back that is!

    Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    Running away with things

    Ok, they may not be the prettiest of things but my feet deserve a round of applause I think. Despite being of the flat, stumpy and somewhat gnarled variety, they are gamely putting up with my latest obsession - running. And not just any running, oh no! My running challenge for 2011 involves doing a marathon, something I never ever contemplated until Frances got me at a weak moment over Christmas.

    So, assuming they haven't rebelled completely by then, in October this unphotogenic two-some will (hopefully) be carrying me over the finishing line of the Loch Ness marathon in Inverness.

    And over the course the next few months they'll be carrying me over increasing distances as I try to build up from my current personal best of 7.68 miles to the 26 plus needed for a marathon.

    Starting with the Balfron 10k in just under 2 weeks, followed by my first ever half marathon in Edinburgh at the end of May. By then hopefully I'll be fit enough to start my marathon training!

    Fingers crossed, but preferably not toes.