Sunday, 26 December 2010

On a day like today.

On a day like today I wish believed in an after life. On a day like today I can see why people do. On a day like today it would be hugely comforting to believe that a person 'lived on' after their time on Earth was over.

I don't believe this, so when I hear that someone has died I know that I will never see them again. There will be no sitting on clouds, looking down on loved ones and watching over them.

I heard today that an old friend of ours died on Christmas Eve. He was 48 years old. I have so many great, happy memories of times spent with him. I also have feelings of guilt. For two short periods of our friendship I was so cross with him, once for something he hadn't actually done, and once for something he did do, but who the hell am I to judge, that I was not a good friend to him. I can't do anything about that now. I'd love to offer up a 'sorry' to him, but he won't hear it. To be honest, I am not sure he was aware that I was cross, and we were on good terms again, so the guilt is just my self absorption I suppose!

Life is too short and too precious. We have one life, and one life only. Sometimes that life is far too short. There's a lot to be said for living each day as though it were our last.

RIP Nigel. I, and many, many others will miss you greatly.

What is it with me and losing things in France?

'That was the best Christmas ever!'

Not just my words, but those of all the family!

We left home at about 3pm on Christmas Eve and drove down to Maisons Laffitte to stay in Cerys & Paul's house, while they were back in England staying with their families. We didn't bring presents with us, as there would be no room in the car if we did, but Santa managed to arrange stocking presents for the children. Arriving late in the evening, the children put on their traditional new pair of PJs (from Father Christmas) and went to bed. Luckily they were all tired and didn't take long to drop off. They did wake early. Very early! I normally have to wake my children up, but they woke up at 6am French time! That is 5am UK time and far too early for me to be civil to anyone - even though Cerys had left the caffeinated ground coffee easily accessible! We managed to put them off until 7am, and then they all piled in to open their stocking presents. Sonic screwdrivers, watches, autobiographies (Keith Richards) and toothbrushes were all well received.

After a quick breakfast followed by topping up the oil in the car (pesky warning lights) we set off for Disney. I've never seen the roads as empty - it is normally stop start traffic until about 15km before you get there. I noticed that the small boulangeries, tabacs and cafés were open - even though it was only 8.30am!

Disney was chilly, about minus 4c, when we arrived, and didn't seem to get much warmer during the day. We realised that various children had forgotten their gloves, so headed into a shop to buy some more. I'd just paid and we did the normal count up of children when we realised Esmé was missing. I wasn't worried, as normally when one can't find a child they are engrossed in something on the other side of a display and you locate them a minute or so later. This didn't happen. We scooted around looking for her, having told the other 4 to stay in one place and not to move on pain of death! We started shouting her name, but still couldn't find her. We asked to speak to someone about a missing child and were asked how long she had been missing for - I said 'about 15 minutes' they told me they would file a report when she had been missing for 30! I tried to have a hissy fit in broken French, he tried to calm me down in broken English. I was torn between getting this man to do his job and running round the park looking for a small girl in a pink ski coat, and believe me there must have been hundreds of small girls in bright pink ski jackets!

Eventually, after half an hour, he took me to 'Lost Children' to fill in a report. No one would believe that she had a 'Pink hat with a pig on it!' They made pig noises at me and asked if I was sure, I said yes, and then remembered my camera and showed them a picture taken just as we arrived showing madam with her Peppa Pig hat! Forms were filled, 'phone numbers exchanged so that they could 'phone me 'if they found her' and I could 'phone them 'if' we found her! I wasn't mad on the use of the word 'if' or the suggestion that I go off and enjoy my day until she turned up again!

Luckily, just as I was finishing this process, as with all things French a lot of paperwork was involved, and about 45/50 minutes after we had first noticed she was gone, Joshua spotted her. She was chatting away to a French lady and walking back towards the shop. She'd gone out of the shop, all the way up to find the Slinky Dog ride (how did she remember how to get there? The last time she was there was September!) and then back again. She was quite bemused when I burst into tears and kept hugging her! She was very pleased with herself and had enjoyed her adventure!

The rest of the day was great fun! Lots of rides, minimal queues, and all of us knackered by about 3pm! We left Disney, stopped at a boulangerie in Maisons Laffitte to pick up some bread, and went 'home' to make supper! Pasta may not be a traditional choice for Christmas dinner, but we've had it before (by popular demand) and will probably have it again! This was followed by Doctor Who, and reasonably early nights all round!

Boxing Day followed a similar pattern, with unwrapping of presents replaced by packing of car! Disney was busier, but not excessively so. It was much colder, minus 6c when we arrived! We didn't do as much today, picking and choosing rides where we wouldn't have to wait too long and which would offer some warmth!

We are back home in England now, and will open presents tomorrow. It has been a lovely Christmas, very different to normal, but very nice all the same. We are hugely grateful to Cerys and Paul for letting us use their house as a base! I can't believe how stress free the whole weekend was (well, apart from losing Esmé!) It was far more relaxed than a weekend at home!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I've deferred.

I deferred my entry for the Brighton marathon this morning. There is no way I can train for what would be my first marathon and do my final teaching practice. I am still debating what to do about the Bath half marathon, which is only 11 weeks away and two weeks before my teaching practice ends. I want to run this race. I've run 10 milers when unfit and unwell. I finished Paris to Versailles thinking that I could do a few more miles if no one threw another hill at me, but I really don't know how knackered I'll be in a new school. I guess I will just see how it goes and defer nearer the time.

There are other races. I will do Paris to Versailles again, there is the Alton 10 in May, and the Royal Parks Half Marathon in November, so it isn't as though this is my one and only chance to run a race, but I hate, hate, hate not doing something I have committed to do.

Went to the gym again this evening as it is still too icy outside to run. I ran for 35 minutes on the horrible treadmill, covering 6.8km. To try to alleviate boredom I varied the pace, running most of the way at 10.5kph and throwing in the odd 500m at anything between 13 and 14.5kph. My head finds it hard to work out speeds and distances in metric, as I am an Imperial girl, but I think that I averaged about 8.17min/mile. More variety was added by my accidentally hitting the 'Emergency Stop' button and wondering what the hell was going on as the treadmill stopped rather quickly! The button is large, obviously very sensitive and located in the middle of a bar directly in front of my running position, so, as I leant forward to alter the speed I think I must have knocked the button with my arm - gave me quite a shock!

After the treadmill I did a quick session on the power plates. They are great for stretching out overworked muscles, and I like to think that the strength work I do on there makes up for the fact I hate lifting weights, doing squats, press ups and sit ups!

In other news, we are cautiously optimistic about our trip to Paris. Friends have just done the reverse journey and lived to tell the tale. I've also taught my older daughter to knit! I haven't done anything 'crafty' in a long while, but a couple of weeks ago I discovered a 'new' wool shop. New is in inverted commas because it has been there for four years, and I must have driven past it hundreds of times, but one Friday evening I saw someone walking into the shop and noticed it for the first time. The Inter Knit Cafe in Farnham is lovely! A huge range of yarns and accessories and the owner was friendly and helpful. I bought a couple of skeins of yarn, some funky new needles and set about knitting a new scarf in a feather and fan pattern. Kitty has been eyeing this scarf covetously as it grows, but she is not having it! Instead I taught her to knit this afternoon. Chunky yarn and 8mm needles mean that the 25-30 rows she has completed look like she has done a lot of work! Teaching her wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be. She picked it up pretty quickly and only came to me when she dropped a stitch or got confused. Mind you, she has only learnt to knit, not purl, and I did cast on for her! I'll try to remember to post a picture when she's finished.

I wonder if I should get the boys to take up knitting? It has to be better than a DS, but then again I am not sure if it is a good idea to give them weapons to poke each other with...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Anyone for ice skating?

The trouble with writing something that purports to be running blog is that, when one is not running it is difficult to justify a blog entry! My children broke up in stages, the 4 younger ones, who cannot really be left home alone, finished a week before the big, supposedly responsible one. This, and a madly hectic social life, for the children rather than me, meant the I barely had a chance to run. The last time I ran outside was on 12th December!

Then, just when the child-who-is-old-enough-to-babysit-if-I-bribe-him-enough finished school, the snow hit! The photo was taken during a brief sunny spell. Since then we have had more snow, a wee bit of thawing then refreezing, resulting in very icy road and pavement conditions. I've seen some nifty looking snow chains for shoes that might help, but in common with the local council I put off buying such useful devices as we 'never get weather like this!' Cabin fever sets in if I don't get a good run every few days. I also eat more when not exercising as I get fed up and eat to cheer myself up - this is A BAD THING! I know as I snaffle down the Mars Bar from my secret stash of French Mars Bars (they are nicer than English Mars Bars and slightly smaller so therefore they are a diet food) that I don't need the calories, I know that I am just eating because if I am eating I can ignore, for a few seconds, the mountain of laundry that needs sorting, but I eat the thing anyway. And I don't really enjoy it. That's the really sad thing!

Anyway, today I decided enough is enough, and drove cautiously to the gym. I arrived just at the start of a short spinning class (20 mins spin, followed by 30 minutes of something requiring co-ordination in the studio), so I joined that. It was a good kick start, giving me the impetus to work out indoors. I followed this with a 5k run on the dreaded treadmill. Not too bad tonight as I listened to 'The Archers' whilst running - how rock'n'roll am I?! It isn't the same as being outside. I don't get the same sense of escape and I think that knowing I can hit the stop button at anytime takes the edge off the whole thing. If you are 4 miles from home and want to stop you can't, unless you want to 'phone home and ask for a lift (and I'd have to be in a really bad way to do that) you just have to keep plodding on! I normally find that, after another mile I have gotten over the 'oh my god I can't move another step' feeling and have started to enjoy the run again.

So, children are now all off school. Nativities and carol concerts have been enjoyed, pre Christmas traditions (Olympia for the horse show, visits to Santa) have been observed, a couple of shows (Armstrong & Miller and Tim Minchin) have been enjoyed. All that now remains is a bit of last minute wrapping, which will be tricky when my fingers are crossed that we won't have too much more snow before Friday because we want to go and see Mickey Mouse!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

With thanks to Woman's Hour!

The roads are still icy but my ankle is on the mend! Hurrah! I decided not to risk a run on the ice rink and stayed in the gym today. I am not really enjoying my audio book, and didn't fancy listening to music, so used the app on my 'phone to listen to the radio instead.

I love Woman's Hour! The articles are diverse and interesting. When I have been observed teaching I get lots of comments on the 'breadth of my knowledge' and my ability to 'link science to everyday events.' A lot of this comes from listening to Radio4 in general and Woman's Hour in particular. So, with my headphones on I started to run on the dreaded treadmill. I set the treadmill at 11mph and set off. I decreased the pace to 10.5kph for two 8% hills, each about 1k long, and after I had got the horrible hills out of the way I played with the speed, varying it between 12 and 15kph. I listened to articles on bathing babies with eczema, women on submarines, and Chinese Imperial robes. None of them were relevant to me, but interesting non the less. Before I knew it I had completed 30 minutes on the machine. Probably to longest I have ever survived on a treadmill before terminal boredom forced me off!

I've spent the rest of today wrapping the presents that need posting, and making a casserole. I am still waiting for several presents to arrive - if they don't arrive I'll have lots of lovely things to give as birthday presents next year. We'll be busy after school with 'Carols by Candlelight.' Hamish is in the choir, I am looking forward to it greatly, people who went last night said it was 'magical!'

I've been asked for this recipe a couple of times, so thought I'd post it here! Was going to make it at the weekend, but had run out of red lentils! Enjoy! It makes plenty, I usually make it in a stockpot, but I guess you could halve the quantities.

Lentil and bacon soup

3 Onions - the huge ones if you can get them, if not 4 or 5 smaller ones
Carrots }
Celery } you need equal quantities of onions, carrots and celery
10 rashers smoked bacon
Red and green lentils - up to the 900ml mark on a measuring jug
Chicken stock cubes
3 litres of water (adjust if using chicken stock instead of cubes)
Herbs - oregano/thyme
Tomato purée - about a tablespoon (ish)
Lee & Perrins - a good shake
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan to serve

Peel and chop onions, carrots and celery. Snip bacon into small pieces.

Olive oil in pan, enough to thickly cover base, heat on low. Add onions, carrots, celery and bacon, put lid on and sweat for 10 - 15 minutes. Don't let them brown, they should become tender. Stir occasionally, while you are doing this fill the kettle and boil the water.

Add lentils to the pan and stir.

Put stock cubes in jug and add boiling water then add to lentils, heat rest of water (to make up to 3L) and add to pan.

Stir in lots of black pepper and a little salt, add herbs, tomato purée and L&P.

Bring to the boil. Turn heat down and simmer with the lid not quite fully on, for at least 30mins until red lentils are soft and green ones are cooked by with a bit of a bite in them. It is quite forgiving if you cook it for longer.

Check seasoning before serving.

Freezes really well!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It is the little things that make such a difference.

I've had an eventful week. I went to visit my friend in France on Tuesday. We had a lovely couple of days mooching about, and I returned home on Wednesday evening. I should have arrived home at about 9pm, but due to snow my drive from Ashford took a wee bit longer than I anticipated, and I eventually got back home at about 1.40am on Thursday morning. I saw one articulated lorry plough through the crash barrier, then across my side of the road before coming to a stop in the ditch at the edge of the road, and while I was on the hands free, talking to Husbando, I shocked him with a stream of expletives as a BMW overtook me and then went into a spin so that his headlights were shining right at me! I knew that there was no way I could stop on the ice rink that was pretending to be the M25, but luckily I was travelling slowly and managed to drive around him.

Since then, the children have been off school due to snow days, so we spent Thursday and Friday keeping warm and sledging. I used one of the sledges on a trip to the supermarket. I was not keen to take the car out, so set off on foot with the sledge and pulled my shopping home. It was only 2 miles, but felt a lot further battling the snow and the wind!

The gym was closed on Thursday and Friday, and there was no way I was going to risk running on the roads, so I feel very sloth like this week. This morning I discovered that the gym was open! Hurrah! I changed quickly (no other way to change when it is so chilly!) and drove to the gym.

In my haste I had forgotten one little thing. I got on the treadmill and set off. After 10 minutes, including a couple of hills, my left ankle began to protest quite strenuously! I couldn't think what was wrong, I gave it another 5 minutes, but the 'niggle' didn't go away, it just seemed to get worse. I was confused, I hadn't lost my footing, gone over on my ankle or anything like that, and surely running on a treadmill was easier on the joints than running on a road. I got off the treadmill, and hobbled to the Power Plates and continued my workout, then did some time on the eliptical cross trainer. I still couldn't work out what was wrong.

I came home, had a shower, put clean clothes on, and then went to change the orthotic from my 'work out/running' trainers back into my 'everyday wear' trainers. As I fished around for the small (about 3" long, less than 4mm deep) orthotic under the insole of my trainer I realised that it wasn't there. I hadn't moved it over before I went out. Oops! I am amazed at how much difference it makes. I'll have to be more careful in the future!