Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Happy New Year

I've made a declaration of New Year.

2016 has not been a great year.

This year I ended up seeking help from a local clinic for a series of hormone related tosh.  Massive anxiety attacks, downward spiralling mood in an uncanny inverse relationship to upward spiralling weight.  Just as I'd made my first appointment to get some professional help to sort my shit out, I found myself in the back of an ambulance being taken into hospital.

I didn't enjoy the hospital experience.  I discovered that morphine and I are not going to have a flourishing relationship.  Ever.  Smallest possible dose sends my blood pressure gurgling down a plughole.  It was a quite weird up and down thing going on as the ambulance men and docs attempted pain management.  After scans and much prodding, the small intestine blockage I seemed to have acquired actually went away of its own accord at 2am leaving me in an NHS nightie with the clothes I'd cycled from work in and my phone and a charger and a nil by mouth notice.

I took a week off to get my head together and bang, work crisis of the year No 1 hit the inbox.  All hands on deck to get the information gathered to clear the name of a rider who had done nothing wrong.  It was emotionally intense, a talented guy who deserved better.

Then we bounced along, tried to go on holiday which didn't entirely go according to plan, coming home a week early only to have the camper van written off on our own street.  Four months before the insurance was 100% settled and the van is still in the bodyshop.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, other holidays failed to come off as work ricocheted from the nicely termed pseudo crisis efforts of the gutter press.

So now, I have declared today New Year's Day.  22nd November is the new New Year.  Because I don't have to wait until 1st January to make things better.  My New Year's resolution to take me through the next 45 days is to try to do something active every day, 20 mins run being the minimum standard.  So, Happy 2017, believe it or not, it's already here!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Little Britain

And now Little America.  A land for the small minded bigots you might suggest.


The good old guardian gave a nice couple of lines on the American Dream.

"The first black American president will now be succeeded by a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. This, according to Trump and his supporters, male and female, is what the American dream actually looks like."
Made me think.  There's been a lot of similarities in the Brexit vote and the Trump presidency win aftermath.  Young people voted differently to old people, and young people didn't get their way, despite it being their future which is being messed with.  Forgive me for noting that in the US this is only a decision for four years not like UK where Brexit, like a dog, is for life not just for Christmas.  
There are already those who don't understand the despair of the people who wanted a different outcome.  Saying things like, we're all in this together, you've just got to roll up your sleeves and get on with it. We've got work to do.  Kind of meaningless for those of us with a 9 to 5 office job and no ability to affect anything bigger, not even, it seems through voting and democracy.  In the UK Europeans are afraid of what their future holds. In America the muslims, the homosexuals and the coloured are afraid of what their future holds. And with good cause, I'm thinking.

Let's make America / Britain great again, eh?
You know what would make for greatness for me?  The feeling of community - people who look out for other people, who help people, who notice when things need a bit of support and realise when they have the capacity to provide that help.  People caring about each other, extended family style.  Greatness isn't about striving for your own personal gain, it's about surviving and importantly making sure that others survive too.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Forty Eight

It turns out I like being 48.  Forty six as an age was of slight concern.  It was a matter of waiting to see if I made it to forty seven.  After all, husband dying two days before his forty seventh birthday was weighing heavily on my mind.  The weirdness of reaching an age where death is a real thing that happens to normal people.  I didn't think 47 was particularly amazing, no real euphoria about making it that far, just life as usual.  But 48.  Wow.  I like 48.  I am bloody near to 50 years old.  I mean, I can smell it.  I can feel its approach and almost taste it.

But I'm 48 and I never knew it would feel this good.  My body still does stuff, everything I ask of it.  I can mountain bike without damaging myself, do four hours of heavy digging and lifting in the garden the next day and still get up and ride 45 miles the following day.  My body is still working, that's pretty cool, eh?  In fact, no really noticeable slowing up from a decade ago.  Not only will it do all that stuff, but it can run further than it ever could at any point in my 30s.  Pretty neat, I'm thinking.

So I enter the late 40s with a hell yeah kind of approach.  A feeling of freedom and recklessness because I'm not broken yet.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Mrs Williams

Dear Mrs Williams,

I know you think this is not important, in fact, a bit of a joke, but I want to let you know what you did to me. I want you to understand that your thoughtless actions had an impact on someone else's life, that you did something bad.

I know you thought you simply rammed an anonymous white van, and that it was just a thing.  Well, it wasn't.  It was Shaz.

Let me explain, properly, the background, from the start.

My husband, my soulmate, my wonderful, kind, strong, beloved husband was taken from me in 2005, quite suddenly and unexpectedly through a malignant grade 4 brain tumour.  When he died I was lost, broken, destroyed, adrift, no longer really me anymore.  And they gave me a life insurance payout.  How ridiculous does that seem, what is money in relation to the loss of not just his life but my planned life with him.  How can money even relate to such a thing, and what's it for?  I left it sat, untouched for years, it just didn't seem relevant to me.  In 2012, seven years on, I found myself starting to be in a better place, a glimpse of the possibilities of happiness, my head coming out from the clouds a little and my feet beginning to find their place as well as this unwanted new life began to start forming some tendrils of spring again.

So, knowing that Dave would have smiled at my actions I commissioned the sourcing and converting of a VW Transporter into a camper van.  It was custom built for me.  Little details and big details.  Customised.  For me.  The seats are a cheery blue and white leather look, and I love them. I love all the little bits and pieces of my camper van.  And I travelled in that van, to Scotland first off, then all over Europe we went in an extended trip while I took time out of real life and work and all that jazz.  I lived in her, like a tortoise traveling in her shell, that's how I was, moved for a bit then curled up safe and warm in the cocoon which the van became.  She was Shazza, my camper van.

I returned to real life eventually, travelling can't last forever if funds don't.  But the van played a huge part in my life from then.  Everytime I needed peace and quiet, she was the obvious refuge, heading off for a week or for a weekend, alone or with friends.  When I needed time to study and write essays for my Open University degree, I'd go away in Shaz, mix up walking or riding my bike by day then quietly, comfortably and in peace, I'd have a seat in Shaz and open up the books.

She represents so many things for me.  She's my dead husband's legacy.  She's my play thing.  She's my happy place.  She's part of how I go away with friends.  She's my only vehicle, my only way of carrying stuff which can't be walked or biked or trained or bussed.  She's Shaz, she's the way I find inner calm and a gateway to fun and adventure.

You took her away.  You admit that you have had a lot of crashes but you didn't stop to consider that maybe you're not fit to drive.  You said you had blacked out, couldn't remember.  You weren't fit to drive.  But you did drive.  You drove into Shaz, you took her away.  You.  You did that. Nobody else did that.  You drove down the middle of the bloody road, you didn't try to stay on your side, you didn't brake, you didn't steer, you didn't look.   Were you on the phone, reading a text perhaps?  You rammed her, and you wrote her off.  You seem to be proud of your bad driving record.  How many other people have you unthinkingly said "oh it was just a piece of metal" to.  You are not a thoughtful person.  We will not be friends.  You did this.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Teddy Bear

We were talking teddy bears the other day.  The house has some minor bears, but it has two Important Bears.  Those who are the same age as their owner.  Mine, with a hole in its ear, some threadbare other parts, a bit of stitching forming its face missing.  His, with a scarf to cover the mark where Action Man got him with the bayonet.  This is a story I did probe in some detail to establish if, in fact, it had really been Action Man's fault.  This aside, these bears are Important.  My mum has some important bears, a panda approximately 70 years old, and randomly she is also the care taker for her brother (still alive)'s bear, a more commonplace brown number.  Her bears will be fine.  All three of her children understand these are Bears of Weight and Significance.  They will be taken good care of, cherished, respected and never thrown out as long as a generation exists.

What will happen to my bear?  Nobody will realise that Big Ted is Important, that he's been there for me, through my first might have been boyfriend, through Pippy leaving town, through my lonely promotion to junior school separate from the rest of my year. He understood what it was like to have to share a double bed with Lou at the junior school journey.  Nobody wanted to share with Lou, she smelt.  And while I had to pretend to the world at large that it was no big deal, Big Ted knew that it was.  And he was still there for me over three decades on when my husband died and I cried on his shoulder.  I fear that his future after I die is uncertain and it troubles me.  Is there a home for Important Bears?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Tour of Tameside part 3

And there it was, day 3.  The big one.  My main goal, if you will, the half marathon.

I arrived on the start line in not too bad a condition.  I mean, yes, I had three of my toes taped up, and I'd given the foam roller some serious repeat work over the past two days, but all looked well.  As you may have gathered, I am not a runner. This meant that for Saturday morning to dawn with a clean dry running top things were not looking good.  However, I do, of course, have many cycling  jerseys so a lovely delicate green Rapha jersey with a handy rear zip pocket for the van key and that was me sorted.

At the start line, we gathered once again, and hiding away at the back of the group I found myself in the company of two women who, like me, were new to this malarky.  It turned out we all had the same fear - the itinerary for the event was clear, the winners were expected through early, but then to our horror, the timing of the awards ceremony was, for all three of us, earlier than we anticipated finishing.  We compared notes.  I got my thoughts in order, and the outcome was:

Main goal: Finish
Stretch goal: Do it without walking
Believable goal: Do it in under 3 hours
Stretch goal 2: 2 hours 30.

I really wanted to believe in 2 hours 30.

And off we toddled along the Longdendale trail from Hadfield.  Unlike day 1, I was doing no overtaking.  For a while, there were people around me, and at least something else to look at, admiring running shoes, checking out who had headphones, anything really to keep my brain busy.  And then there were myriad flies.  That kept me busy too, in the attempts not to swallow any of the annoying things.  That was a failed attempt by the way.  As the route was mostly a there and back, the next entertaining moment was when you see the elite guys and gals coming back on their return leg.  At least I'd managed 5 miles before the first leaders passed me in the opposite direction.

Got to the half way point, not quite dead.  Then there was the entertainment of counting the runners who I was now passing going the other way. I think I was slightly anxious not to be last.  At about kilometre 13 I realised I was slowing up.  By this time, there was very little entertainment to be had, other than glancing at the watch.  Oh yes, now I've done 12km.  Oh look, my running pace is averaging 6.13 minutes per kilometre.  Ah yes, I've been running for 1 hour etc. etc. etc. Flat and straight is boring.  But at least if you're looking at the numbers there is empirical information about you slowing up.  One thing I'd done differently before this race was cram a gel in my pocket.  I am suspicious of gels.  I'm never entirely sure if my digestive system will cope.  But the numbers tell me that post gel I got back on pace, and all was well.

Padding, padding, padding along.  I've always got a song going in my head, and this time I had my own lyrics to it.  The more you keep running the sooner it'll be over was my refrain.  The final three km were bloody painful but I got over the finish line in a blistering 2 hours 10.  Found a quiet bit of field and lay down panting for quite some time.  Back in the van and the assessment of current injuries.  One very bloody sock revealed a toe - neighbouring toe interface had gone horribly wrong.  My left ankle was trashed, both knees were grinding, my hips were sore, and the muscles down the front of my thighs, oh my, who would have known.  And my back ached, and there was chafing in places I never knew chafing could happen.  That'll be a DNS for day 4 then ...

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Tour of Tameside day 2

So, post my best ever 10km time, how was I going to function the next day?  I took stock in the morning.  Foam roller for the IT band as the knee was hinting at a desire to moan.   Taped up one of my toes on my right foot and I was good to go.

Friday night is fell race night.  Or so it would seem in this mysterious world to which I was getting an induction.  A gaggle of people on the start line, some colour coded as in for the long haul, others who were one trick ponies, just there for the fell race. And of course, everyone looked faster than me.

Now, I'm not a fell runner.  As I write this a little bit of me is protesting over whether  I'm any kind of runner at all.  But as a complete novice to this kind of thing, racing, big numbers of people and this mysterious discipline that is fell running, I felt out of my depth.  Other people were in shorts and vests.  I was in 3/4 length pants, a T-shirt and ... get this ... a waterproof.  The skies were black, it looked horrific, and the walker and mountain biker in me refused to go up on a hill without having the wherewithal to look after myself.  A ridiculous thing given the heavily marshalled nature of the event and the short distance.  But that's me, I'm afraid.

I admit I was a bit disappointed at first with this fell run.  The bulk of the early climbing was on road not on anything trail like, but then as we got to Hobson Moor, off road we went.  The off road climb was interesting, in the way that I learned that when I struck out with a fast walk I overtook people running, and held nobody up behind.  And then, we hit the downhill.  A rocky, rutted, single track kind of a descent.  It was kind of glorious, except for the other runners.  I found myself behind a queue of slow movers, and at first, because they were using a gait which looked like running, I did a gentle run.  Then I realised I could walk down and still be on their heels.  Decided that to enjoy it, I was going to need to do some odd little sprint sections whenever the track widened, and that worked surprisingly well and I bounded down like a gazelle.  Or, as in my adrenaline fuelled after race high, I said on twitter, like a force of nature.

That surprised me, my ability to descend rapidly on a technical trail.  I am definitely not a mountain goat by any means, my clumsiness and inability to sort my footwork out seemed to me a given.  Yet, the last few months of running on my own, descending from Chinley Churn down New Allotments in a joyous lolloping style has, it seems, suited me well to descending.  Peak District meets Tameside and the Peak District won, it seems.  That feeling, that glorious happy feeling of running like a child who has an unexpected day off school and runs for the sheer wonder of it, that feeling stays with me. Ah, and there is some kind of photographic evidence.  Me before the race.  I'm the one on the right.