Thursday, 20 October 2016

London .............. again

We live about an hour away from London by train. Not far really, after all, R commutes there every day, but normally I only visit a few times a year. Unusually for me, therefore, I have been 3 times in the past 3 weeks. First, there was the knitting and stitching show at the Ally Pally, which I have mentioned here before. Then last week, L had her 'call to the Bar' ceremony at Lincoln's Inn. She and I went up during the day and, after running a few errands, met up with R in time for the action. It was such a proud moment seeing her in all her finery. As one of her friends commented on seeing the photos - she looked 90% super professional and 10% fancy dress! The ceremony itself was held in the Inn's beautiful chapel. People walked up one aisle as students, were called to the 'honourable society' and then walked back down the other aisle as barristers, grinning broadly. By request, there was no applause during the ceremony itself, but afterwards the audience were asked to 'make some noise' so that the new barristers could hear them outside. I lowered the tone by whooping loudly and then was terribly embarrassed as I was the only one who did! After the ceremony, there were speeches, canapes and champagne and then we celebrated with a Thai meal and made our way home. 
 Finally, yesterday R had managed to get 2 tickets to see a Radio 4 show being recorded at RADA. The show was called 'Reluctant Persuaders' and is a comedy about an advertising agency starring, among others, Nigel Havers and Josie Lawrence. We actually saw 2 episodes being recorded, one of which had Martin Jarvis as a special guest star and he stole the show with his marvelous voice. He also seemed a genuinely lovely man as he sat at the back of the stage beaming whilst the others did their bit.
As well as watching the recording, I went in early and spent the day pottering round London. Here are a few photos of my day:
Knitting socks on the train:
 Visiting the Harry Potter shop at King's Cross. I actually bought a couple of items here but I won't say what they are as they are Christmas presents for my girls.
 There was a long queue of people waiting to have their photos taken here:
 Then I caught the tube to Islington to visit Loop:
I had never been before and was agog at all the lovely yarns; it would be extremely easy to get carried away and spend a fortune. I was restrained and bought 3 skeins of yarn for a shawl and a small pot of lavender and mint hand balm.
I still had a few hours to kill before we had to get to RADA, so I made my way to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Gallery.

I ought to insert a little explanation for my visit here. On Sunday, R and I dropped L back in Oxford and took her for lunch here:

We sat outside by the river watching people punting (with varying degrees of success!) and shared a mezze platter. Afterwards, we went back to her flat for a cup of hot chocolate (it was actually colder than it looks in the photo!) and whilst we were there, we had a little play on J's virtual reality computer. There was one particular 'game' called 'The Night Cafe' which I loved. It was very clever - someone had taken Van Gogh's paintings and incorporated them into a cafe setting which you could 'walk' round. There was his famous chair in a corner, people from portraits sitting at tables, a vase of sunflowers, views of starry skies out of the window etc. - you get the idea. All the while you were exploring, you could hear piano music and, on entering another room, there was a pianist playing and Van Gogh sitting in a chair smoking and listening. Occasionally he would get up and walk around. It was so unexpected and I found it a bit overwhelming - rather embarrassingly, there may have been a few tears! The only thing I didn't enjoy was when I found myself at the top of some steep stairs and my acrophobia kicked in, but apart from that it was beautiful. Anyway, back to yesterday, I had an urge to see some of his paintings again, hence the visit to the gallery. 

'A Wheat field with Cypresses' is my favourite. I can remember coming to the gallery a few years ago for a birthday treat. R, I remember, loved a particular portrait of a pope - I can't recall which one or who the artist was, but it was so lifelike that it could have been a photograph ............... and it left me cold; it did absolutely nothing for me. Then I found myself standing in front of Van Gogh's wheat field with tears in my eyes (it happens a lot!) because it was so beautiful. R couldn't understand it and thought that it looked like a 3 year old had painted it ............. each to his/her own I suppose. 
I bought some note cards in the gallery shop, to jazz up my letters to E at uni, and then it was time to meet up with R. By this time my legs were starting to ache - I had made the mistake of going for my morning run (still going, CT!) before catching the train and it had been a long day, so I met R and limped my way here:
 Apologies for the blurry photo but it was starting to get dark and my camera isn't the best.
After the recording we hopped in a taxi and headed for Paddington but, as usual, the last direct train had left and we got as far as Reading before having to catch the dreaded bus alternative. I was a little concerned as I had had to park the car in a car park that locked automatically at 12:30. Luckily, we just made it in time.
So, those are my 3 trips to London recently. I'm not saying that I'm "tired of London", but I think I may leave it a little while before my next visit.
That's all for the moment. Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Couch to 5K

It all started with the lovely CT from Countryside Tales. After reading her wonderfully inspiring post about her running, I decided to give it a go. For a while I had wondered about the Couch to 5K programme, but other things and my natural indolence always got in the way. My exercise of choice is swimming, with a little yoga and sometimes pilates thrown in, just to shake things up a bit. Running was something that R and other people did. I can remember doing it at school but I was never particularly good, nor did I enjoy it much, so I'm not sure why CT's post made me want to reach for my trainers ......... but it did. I printed off the Couch to 5K itinerary, stuck it to the fridge, donned my gym shorts and a ratty, oversized T shirt and off I went.

I find, like with most things, that there are pluses and minuses. The biggest plus so far is the feeling when I walk through the door afterwards. The house feels lovely and warm, I have my breakfast smoothie whilst cooling down and then enjoy a warm shower. I feel virtuous and, if I'm honest, more than a little relieved that it is over for 2 days! I feel less guilty about sneeking the odd biscuit and when R and I had to run for a connecting train on the way back from London this week (missing the train is a big deal round here - you can find yourself stuck on a cold station, waiting for the midnight bus alternative - the one that takes over an hour winding along the country lanes and stopping at every god forsaken station between Reading and our destination), I did it without a second thought. 

As for the minuses - well, I'm waiting for the time when I actually look forward to running. At the moment, I'm still forcing myself to leave the house and I'm hoping that this will improve. Also, I'm only at the end of the 2nd week. There wasn't much of a step up between weeks 1 and 2, but next time, I will have to run for 3 minutes at a time. I know to some of you, that might not sound like much, but for me it's a big deal! I wear an analogue watch and don't have a snazzy phone, so whilst I'm running, I'm constantly squinting myopically at the tiny second hand to time the sessions. I tried counting instead, but find that I'm too easily distracted and forget where I'm up to! The mornings are getting colder and there will come a time when it gets frosty and slippery underfoot. I can choose to run at the gym but that means driving there and I'd also feel the urge to make myself look more presentable before going. The biggest minus though is other people. It's nice at the weekend because, although I wait until it's light before setting off, people are having a lie in, so I don't see many of them. On week days, however, there are people driving to work and children walking to school and I don't like puffing my way, beetroot faced, past teenagers, who I feel want to snigger at my middle aged attempts. Then there is 'white van man' who feels the need to call comments or whistle as he drives past. I can rarely make out the comments, but I find I am very quick on the draw with my hand gesture in reply. It's a reflex action; please don't judge me! Finally, I worry about what running on pavements is doing for my knee joints. I could run in the park on the grass but I'm sure that wet feet wouldn't improve the experience.
So, there you have it, my running journey so far. I know that it's very early days, but I feel that by writing about it here, I might force myself to keep going and, looking at the list of minuses compared to the pluses, I need all the motivation I can get! So go over to CT's blog and read about her far more impressive running experiences. If she can inspire me, she can inspire anyone!

Other happies this week:

R and I went to a local Classic Car Show. Sadly, his beloved 'Bridget the Midget' (or 'The Lady' as I like to refer to her in my head - see the adult Ladybird Book of 'The Midlife Crisis'!) was off the road and we had to take my car, but we took a picnic and the weather was glorious.

 I find I have a yearning for a camper van!
 On Wednesday, I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Ally Pally:
I had a wonderful day, but did feel that a little more seating would have been a good idea. I took a sandwich and bought a coffee from one of the stands but, finding the seats all occupied,  I sat on the floor with a bunch of other ladies - the more elderly of whom had more than a little difficulty standing up again!
Here are my treats for the day: a pottery yarn bowl, a skein of yarn from La Maison Tricotee and a hat pattern and yarn from Toft.
 The yarn bowl in action - this is a sockhead hat for E. 
I met up with R after he finished work and we went to an Ethiopian restaurant, Addis, for dinner:
I finished my Hitchhiker Scarf. So called because of the number of 'teeth' along one edge ......... that's right, 42.
Finally, a not so happy. On my last visit to Oxford, L had helped me to choose some yarn to make a hat for her boyfriend, J. Yesterday evening saw R holding the skein of yarn, whilst I turned the handle on the winder (we certainly know how to live!). Before I knew what was happening, we had managed to make an almighty tangle that took us well over an hour to sort out. Bad Words were uttered and the scissors used on more than one occasion. I feel that a yarn swift will be making its way onto my Christmas list!
Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm just off to move some dust around the house. Wishing you all a wonderful week. 
Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

September Blues.

I've been feeling rather 'empty nesty' for the past week. The weekend before last we headed west along the M4, with a car packed to the gunwales, to take my baby to university. I was brave all the way there in the car. I was brave as we helped her to unpack her things. I was brave hanging her pictures on the walls. I was even brave making her bed for her to sleep in that night, far away from home. I tried hard to be brave as we said goodbye and watched her walk away ................ and then I sobbed all the way home in the car! We did stop for lunch at Wahaca, a Mexican street food restaurant, where I tried to drown my sorrows with tequila ............. but then I sobbed there too. I'm even teary now writing this. It's so hard. Those of you who've gone through it will understand. Those of you who haven't yet - go hug your children now! It all goes so terribly quickly. One minute you're fetching this little thing back from hospital, supporting that wobbly head and wondering how on Earth you are going to cope, and five minutes later (or so it seems), they're heading off into the big, wide world without you. 
I find that I get twitchy at 3:15 in the afternoon. That's the time when I used to set off on the school run and the time when I now miss her the most. I know it's the way it's meant to be and I am so proud of her and all she has achieved. I also know that she has struck gold with her accommodation this year. Her room is in a beautiful building with fantastic grounds. I had told her not to expect too much as they always put the nicest looking rooms on the website. I prepared her thoroughly for dark and poky with a view of the bins. What she actually got was light, spacious and beautiful, with lovely oak furniture, a fireplace and a view to die for. I also know that when she has settled down and is used to the routines, she will have a fantastic time, in an amazing city, making friends to last a lifetime. I hope so anyway. In the meantime, the tidy rooms, the lack of towels slowly going rancid on the bedroom floor and the lack of an overflowing laundry bin are no compensation; I miss her - as does Hamish, her house rabbit, who seems to want more ear rubs than usual.

We tried to make the most of her last few weeks at home and here are a few photos from that time:

A walk and a picnic to nearby Beacon Hill, ostensibly to pick blackberries:

 Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) in the distance:
 The resultant crumble:

A trip to Warwick. We paid for L and E to stay in a beautiful Tudor B&B for a couple of nights. I dropped them off and collected them in the car and we treated ourselves to afternoon tea in the Lord Leycester Hospital before the journey home: 

 The girls bought me a present of delicious gingerbread rooibos tea:
E and I then went to Bournemouth for the day. We were very lucky with the weather, it being the day after the storm that flooded our little town. The sun shone and we sat on the beach, walked in the gardens and visited the oceanarium: 

 We also fed sneaky chips to the extremely tame squirrels!
 ....... and went on the merry-go-round. We were the only 2 on it and I embarrassed E by waving to the passers by. To be fair, they did wave back!
 The otters that we watched for ages at the oceanarium. This one would pick up a pebble off the bottom of the stream and then lie on its back, playing with it. I tell you, this otter could juggle!
I forgot to post a photo of the blankie that L and I made for E.  Apologies, I didn't manage to lie it straight and it looks a bit wrinkled here:
The tequila that I sobbed into at Wahaca:
There have been a few happies to cheer me up this week:

I spent a day in Oxford with L, where we walked round the market, had a trip to the Yarn Store for 'cheer me up' supplies and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

There was a lovely dog walk with a friend: 

A lot of knitting on my Hitchhiker shawl using this yarn:
A visit to the lovely Watermill Theatre with R to see this:
It is a true story, set in WW1, about some soldiers who come across a printing press and start to produce their own newspaper. 'Wipers' was what the men called Ypres, where they were stationed. It's always a treat to go to the Watermill and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening out. The honey and ginger ice cream in the interval was very nice too!

One last happy - I ordered a Halloween Kit from Tracy at Thimble and Thread Makes. I was thrilled when it arrived today as Tracy had gone to such trouble putting it all together. The kit contained a project bag (the material was a surprise, you just had to say whether you wanted 'spooky' or 'cute' fabric - I went for spooky) a pumpkin DPN cosy, chocolates, stickers, stitch markers and a progress keeper, a sachet of drinking chocolate, a mini skein of wool, a pen shaped like a syringe and lots of other Hallowe'en treats. I'm looking forward to using it in October after I have cast on a hat for E.
Is it too early to mention the 'C' word? I was very happy to discover this week that these are back in the shops - well, a girl's got to cheer herself up somehow!
Anyway, that's all for this week. Its 3:15 and I am getting decidedly twitchy, so I'm off for a soothing cup of gingerbread Rooibos. 
Wishing you all a wonderful week.
Toodle pip for now. x