Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All change and no change

Whoops!  Just noticed that this has been languishing unpublished in Drafts for a week.  It's therefore out of date but you're having it anyway as I did type it!!
The sun has been shining and what a difference it makes. My old garden is looking lovely - mowed, trimmed and floral although there is still some cutting back to be done. My new garden is terrible - a mass of 8 foot high weeds and barely passable pathways. The landlord has long promised to landscape the front but done nothing and I'm damned if I'm going to spend money on the side garden given that he's now selling the house and chucking us back onto the streets(!). Hopefully though, now that he is trying to sell the property, he will get his finger out and do the landscaping works as I doubt it'll sell without them. So, you never know, we might have a useable garden for the last couple of months of the summer...you never know!

I am brown from all the gardening and golfing so, despite the terrible early summer, I look as though I've been abroad!

My golf handicap is also changing, and for the better too! I played in a competition on Sunday and played beautifully. It was probably the smoothest round I've ever played - only 2 poor holes and even they weren't too bad! I won it with 4 under par although there was only a small field, it being a Sunday competition. My handicap came down by 1.5 points which will be a bit of a shock to the system! Most satisfactory though.

In another change, for the worse this time, Richard's grandmother died last week so it was her funeral on Tuesday. She was very elderly (well into her 90's), lived in a home and was totally blind and increasingly incapable so her passing was not a tragic surprise but still sad. The funeral was, as far as they can be, lovely. As I only knew her briefly as a very frail and incapacitated woman in a nursing home, it was good to get a glimpse of what she was like in her prime. The family memories and obvious love everyone had for her shone through and competed with the bright, hot sunshine. Rich's brother gave a moving tribute in the church on behalf of the 4 grandchildren which got most people going and had Richard sobbing away next to me, the big softie.

Rich's grandfather died back in the 70's and she later married a Polish chap from the village we live in. Frank has been such an inspiration in terms of loving dedication. When she was, overnight, struck blind and it became apparent that he could not cope with looking after her in their home, he visited her almost every day, taking 2 or 3 buses and trains each way to do so. Only heavy snow or illness would stop him and even then, we have seen him trying to get there in ludicrously inclement conditions! He has been a common sight on the side of the Valley's roads either walking from the bus stop or waiting - so much so that half the Valley must have given him lifts on a regular basis. I certainly have. I'm sure he will be lost without her but hopefully his family, allotment friends and dominoes pals will rally round.

In other news, work has changed too - it has been very hectic recently with trying to sort out various issues to do with Rotherham United's new football stadium - The New York Stadium but that is coming to an end and work is settling back down again. Thankfully. Our new working patterns of working from home have well and truly bedded in now and I'm enjoying this more relaxed and accommodating way of working in the main. There are some downsides (our team is less cohesive as we see less of each other for example) but overall, the benefits outweigh the downsides.

So, what hasn't changed? In a word - my weight! Since I consciously stopped going to SW a few weeks ago, it has stayed exactly the same. With no effort. While I would prefer that I was losing weight, staying the same while so much is going on in my life is the next best thing.

This week, I'm going to have a go at cutting out some of the bread-based meals which have crept back into my repertoire and also to doing some more aeroblic exercise. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it to Zumba tomorrow but, if I can, I will. I have a lot less golf on the agenda too so might be able to make it out for a run on Thursday, or, at the least, a hilly dog walk. So, maybe next week I will be able to report on an actual loss?! I wouldn't hold your breath but you never know.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


I said I was going to "choose to be happy". Well I have but, sometimes, one's choice takes a little while to be delivered. I had a proper wobble about life in general and the house sale in particular on Sunday morning. To be fair, it was probably caused by the fact that I had not had enough sleep. You know that cycle - waking up too early; fretting SO that you can't sleep; then fretting BECAUSE you can't sleep and you know how much you need sleep; then just fretting because you're tired.

I got teary and stressy but knew underneath it that I had a plan and that I would feel fine once the day began. Which I did. Luckily the weather behaved itself so I could have a full day in the garden mowing, raking, hedge-trimming, raking, weeding etc. I look like I have been self-harming I have so many scratches on my arms and legs but it was too nice to wear long sleeves and trousers so shorts and a vest it was! I have at least evened out the farmers' tan! After this terrible summer, it was satisfying to get the garden properly under control finally.

Generally, it's not nice to think that there is someone, who was once important to you, out there on the other side of the world, filled with hatred and vindictiveness. But all I can do is not let it upset me and live my life properly. I am not going to become bitter as that would only end up harming me and mine. If anything I feel sorry for him if this way of being (not communicating, not co-operating, sabotaging, being bitter and twisted through solicitor's letters) truly is what he wants. There are much better and more healthy ways to live.

Hey ho.

Saturday at least was a lovely, friend-filled day. I spent the day with my pal Kerry who needs a pal at the moment. She has lots actually as she is such a nice, generous person, but it's nice to be there for her when she has a gap to be filled. Her mum was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and she herself is at what looks like the end of a tricky love affair so distraction is the order of the day. We went for a walk around Dam Flask and Agden reservoirs on the outskirts of Sheffield.

It was a cool, gloomy looking but blessedly mostly dry day. We broke our walk 2/3rds of the way round in the lovely village of Low Bradfield. We had intended to go to the pub but spotted The Old Schoolroom Butchery/Deli/Cafe so gave it a go. It was brilliant! Not the cheapest but such a lovely, high-quality "posh sandwich" meal in a beautiful setting. We have both been recommending madly it to everyone ever since.

Then as we walked round the far side of the reservoir, we stopped into an open day at the Viking Sailing Club. Kerry has been wanting to give sailing a go for a while but said that she wouldn't have turned up by herself (although it would have been fine). There was one amusing incident where the membership secretary talking us through membership options clearly thought we were or might be a couple. He was falling over himself to be inclusive and not give offence but each effort somehow came out wrong until we were giggling and eventually had to put him out of his misery!

We each went out on the water for a taster sail. I've been sailing before but wouldn't say I was particularly bothered by it. Besides, with the golf, dancing, walking, french, zumba, training, and myriad house issues, I think it's safe to say that I DO NOT have time for another hobby!

Kerry, though, was out on the water for ages, even after it chucked it down for 10 cold, wet minutes. She got on well with her sailing blokey who is looking for a new crew so she is fixed up for Sunday morning's sailing whenever she fancies it! It was a great result for a Saturday afternoon.

It was doubly nice because her parents turned up while we were at the sailing club for a short walk and to see how she was getting on. It was good to see her mum getting out and about and, strangely considering she is so ill, looking really well. Nice to have a natter with her parents too. They have had some good news about her treatment options so hopefully it won't be the absolute nightmare everyone dreads when they hear the awful cancer word.

After walking/sailing it was a dash home to change and get back into town. One of Rich's mates is opening a new cafe/bistro in the Kelham Island Museum. Kelham Island is the historic industrial heartland of Sheffield which has mostly been converted into flats, trendy bistros, real ales pubs and micro-breweries and high tec/light industrial/meeeja workshops.

Actually, as regeneration projects go, it is a pretty good one although very much a work in progress. It is a real island being surrounded by the River Don and a canal on either side so there are some very scenic walks. There is also a lot of big former steel industry "stuff" hanging around - you know, massive crucibles and huge winches etc. The Museum is well-thought of and Briggsy's cafe/bistro is attached to it so hopefully will benefit from the daytime traffic to the museum as well as the vibrant night-time traffic from the flat-dwellers and real ale aficionados.

Saturday night was the "soft" opening so the food was free with a pay bar. It was heaving with friends and family and designed to give the kitchen and waiting staff a stern test without risking ruining the perceptions of the paying publicwith teething problems. A good idea as there were some glitches but, overall, it was a great evening. Lovely food, good wine menu and good atmosphere. It is called "Little Mesters" after the self-employed craftmens, working in their own little workshops and co-operatives who formed the backbone of the cutlery indutry in Sheffield. There are only a few left now, mostly making snazzy custom hunting knives for rich Americans and Arabs but, not long ago, it was a big thing in Sheffield.

So - looking back it was a good weekend and I did follow through on my choice. Yes, I had a blip but I got back on track. Yay!

And how am I getting on with the "non-diet" since I decided to give SW a break for a while? In a word - fine. My weight is the same as it has been for weeks. It went up, it went down and now it's bang in the middle of my 4 lb swing. No biggie. I'm doing plenty of exercise and not going mad so couldn't ask for more.A

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Busy life!

And it just got busier. You know I mentioned a few weeks ago the possibility of major pressure entering my life as revealed by my tarot card reading?? Well, it has arrived and is settling in nicely now thanks very much. I have an irritating legal battle brewing, possibly involving an application to Court, with the ex over the sale of the former marital home - nice. Then the reality of having to move from our rented property in the medium term due to the landlord deciding to sell it. Then finally the ongoing problems of my mother's deterioration and trying to help my father as best I can.

Obviously throughout this, I want to keep as normal as possible a life going for me, Rich and the dogs and am determined to "choose to be happy" and not succumb to rage or worry. Or both

I was listening to a piece on the radio a couple of days ago about a nurse who cared for the terminally ill. She had written a book about what she had learned from them and during her career and the main thrust of this chimed with me. She said that the main deathbed regret she had encountered was from people who had not, until it was too late, realised that you could, in her words, "choose to be happy". I'm not sure that it is possible or even advisable to choose to opt out of the human condition sufficiently to be untouched by events and sorrow. BUT I do think that you can choose HOW you react to things. You can take action, rather than being passive; look on the bright side; enjoy what you DO have rather than hankering after the unobtainable and choose to be content rather than dissatisfied with one's lot.

So, instead of worrying about what I might lose or why D is being such a pain, I choose to be happy that I don't have to spend time with him any more; that he has/we both have a chance to be a happier person in the future; that I have found Richard and can be a better partner, friend and person with him. It's not too extreme to say that I rejoice that my life has been saved because, if I'd stayed with D for much longer, I would have been dying inside.

Instead of wishing that things were different, we could stay in our house or my mother didn't have Alzheimers, say, I'm going to continue to look for the positives.

We will find a new house and will have the fun of setting that up together. Who knows, it might have a nicer garden or be in a better location or be cheaper? But we will find something and we will be together.

My mother - well, that is more of a challenge, but I can see that SHE is happy and reasonably healthy. She may not know who we all are but she loves us and is happy to have us around. I am closer than ever to my father who has had to see me through troubled times and is now accepting my help. I'm trying to use this situation to forge closer relationships with my brother and sister. I have time to appreciate what Mum has been to me while she is still here (sort of). I can still give her a hug even if she isn't quite sure why! She loves watching my dogs although she would feed them all day if we didn't keep an eye out.

The biggest positive of my mother's illness is that it reveals what a loved and loving person she was. I attribute her general sense of peace with the fact that she was loved as a child and as a woman and still is. While she is confused, she is not distressed. She may show flashes of annoyance but not rage or anger and is generally sunny and smily if somewhat vague and incredibly stubborn too. We would not have had this slow, relatively pleasant, goodbye if she had succumbed to a stroke or an accident or some other speedier form of illness.

So now, more than ever, it is vital that I enjoy my golf; look forward to the Olympics and the new football season; take pictures of the flowers and the dogs and go for lovely walks when the weather permits; see lovely friends; and, top of the list, appreciate my lovely Richard who is being a rock and gives the best cuddles when required (that doesn't sound quite right - a cuddley rock?!).

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Going nowhere but feeling fine

You may have spotted that I haven't mentioned dieting much over the last couple of weeks. It's just not happening. I'm not piling on the lbs or anything or going mad, just not dieting per se. I don't seem to have the time, effort, motivation in me to keep it going beyond a week here and there. It'll come though so, in the meantime, I'm not beating myself up and am concentrating on making sure that I don't go mad. I'm sure exercise is the key but at the moment my efforts are sporadic and haphazard. I FEEL as though I'm doing loads but, in reality, I'm not. In summary, there is too much golfing and dog walking and not enough training, running or zumba'ing.

I was adamant that I would go for a run on Saturday morning but, when it came to it, I knew that the morning would be better spent working on the front garden of my old house in an effort to make it more presentable for prospective purchasers. Now that the baby bird season has passed I got out the hedge trimmers and spent an exhausting couple of hours trimming the wild hedges, raking up cuttings, mowing lawns, raking up grass (the rain does not help in the endeavour!) and generally tidying and weeding. It was a big effort - 4 hours in one go and I was tired and scratched by lunchtime but the front garden looks very nice now. Just the back to do now!!

I do feel that that effort was probably harder work than a 50 minute run would have been so I refuse to feel guilty about sacking the run off!

Sunday now - erm, not so great (on the diet front that is). I played golf in the morning, in the sunshine!! It was wonderful. A benign, mild, sunny breezy morning for a change and NOT what had been forecast (rain, rain and more rain). The course was wet but playable and it was truly lovely. And I played really well too. My "new" driver is still behaving itself and making a big difference to my game. My driving is much more consistent now, my faults are still there but they are less pronounced. 
I have always had a "power-fade"/slice which means that my ball curves to the right in flight. This used to mean that I had to aim dramatically to the left in order to keep it in play. Which was a problem because, randomly, sometimes it would go straight....into the rough on the left. Or sometimes, the slice was too wild even for the aim compensation and it would fly off in to the woods on the right. Now, although my ball still veers right, the slice is nowhere near as dramatic so I have the confidence to aim in broadly the right direction and, without the big curve right, it goes a lot further too! It makes a round of golf sooooo much more relaxing. Instead of having to hunt anxiously through the wet grass or deep undergrowth, I just saunter up the fairway....a miracle.

And without the ocasional wild disasters, my overall scores are improving too. I wasn't playing in a competition yesterday but marked a card anyway and found that I'd played my best round of the season by far - 5 under par. I would have had my handicap cut quite a bit if it had been official! It was so pleasurable but now I'm nervous that it can't last.... Pleeeeaaase Golfing Gods, let it last - I have 3 rounds of competitive golf coming up this week and I'd love to do well in at least one of them.

It has just struck me as I type this, that the new driver is a little like my new dieting lifestyle (yes, I'm stretching a little with this but stick with me). Whereas before I was always at the extremes; either strictly in control and losing quickly (the ocasional straight and long drives) or wildly off-course and risking getting lost in the rough for long periods. Now, I'm much less extreme in both dieting and non-dieting mode. I don't gain big chunks of weight when I'm off-course, but neither do I lose big chunks when I'm "going straight". It's a much more relaxing and enjoyable way to live and hopefully, as with the golf, my "scores" will start to come down gradually too.

The "bad" news from Sunday was the delicious high tea I scoffed while watching the Wimbledon final over at my friend Jenny's place. It was a belated birthday celebration for her; she had me and 2 couples with their assortment of kids over. Although there were LOADS of kids, it wasn't too painful as they sort of cancelled themselves out. As they all get on and thus don't want to spend time with boring parents they left us alone all afternoon (apart from ocasional locust-like forays down to the table of cakes etc!). 
And what a lovely table it was! Jenny had baked scones (with jam and clotted cream) and the others had brough a selection of cakes - walnut and coffee; lemon drizzle; and chocolate crunch. True to my non-child bearing status, I brought Pimms and lemonade!! I didn't take Rich though 'cos he was golfing but, having met again the other "husbands", I think he'd get on with them fine and would be fine with a mellow, family-based Saturday afternoon. Maybe next time...

So, we had a really nice afternoon, catching up about old school friends (we had all just missed a 25 year reunion but vowed that we WILL go to the 30th!) and just nattering through the Murray nailbiter. But too many cakes were eaten and glasses of Pimms drunk. Hey ho - extra energetic dancing tonight maybe?
Finally, by way of a Tuesday night update, I'm pleased to report that I did make it to zumba and enjoyed sweating and jumping up and down vaguely in time to music greatly. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Pendant la deluge...

The north midlands are suffering a biblical downpour....rain and more rain since first thing this morning and plenty more to come.  I have had to cancel yet another golf match set for this evening.  I had 3 to play before 23rd and 30th July and, despite arranging nice early dates for all of them, haven't managed to play a single fixture so will end up playing them all in a rush at the end (and probably in the rain too!).  It's most annoying as I'm desperate to play at the moment while I'm still in the first flush of love with my new-to-me Ping driver.

At the moment it is the answer to my golfing prayers and I really want to make hay while the sun is shining - metaphorically of course - but am being thwarted.  Grrrr  Richard has warned me about falling in love with a golf club.  He says that they all behave wonderfully while they are on approval but, as soon as you actually pay for the club, it turns on you and that is that.  He may be right but I hope not!

The rain falls and the overgrown front garden gets wetter and wetter.  I have the front door open while I'm working from home so the dogs can come and go (not that they're at all interested in venturing outside).  I have taken to monitoring the level of the water running down the front path and wondering whether sandbags will be needed.  I think not, fortunately, as the last deluge pushed so much gravel and stuff down the street that this has diverted the water from coming down the front path. 

What a nightmare in July!!  I feel so sorry for people who have organised events which will be rained off or businesses who need a good summer to keep them going through the winter.  It is just wretched.  But, that is enough whingeing; it is what it is and we have to make the most of it.

So, instead of focussing on the grey gloom of today, I thought I'd post some photos of the Red Arrows.  They are truly wonderful to watch.  So precise and exciting.  It's shame there are only 7 of them now.  2 tragic deaths and then the first ever female pilot had to withdraw for personal reasons.  She is from my village originally - I knew her as a child - so I feel desperately sad for her.  But, even with 7 instead of 9 it is a great display.  I wonder how long the team will continue to fly in these days of massive defence cuts?  I would miss them.

No planes were harmed in the making of this blog.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Airshow weekend

HI again.  Below are some photos from the airshow last weekend.  I've double checked Peridot's checklist of acceptable photo subject matter and I'm afraid there are no cute dogs or cows and no pretty countryside.  Whoops - epic fail!

However, there is no football either?!  Does that help?  And there is some blue sky and sunshine.....

These are the RAF Falcons skydiving display team.  They didn't actually do any skydiving on Saturday due to the low clouds and high winds, just jumped out and opened their shutes.  But they were very precise and made pretty patterns in the sky and when they walked round with free handouts later, they were extremely muscly and nice to look at (I didn't touch or take a photo, what do you take me for??!) so I'll let them off!

Below is the Tornado doing an extremely realistic demonstration of what they do out in Afghanistan.  Bombing and shooting and trying to scare off the enemy from patrols on the ground.  It was sobering trying to imagine what it must be like for people on the ground.  So loud and terrifying.  And all being offered up for our enjoyment and education.....a bit weird to be honest.   They were trying to get across how they don't go in all guns blazing but do several passes to scare off non-combatants before returning to bomb the sh*t out of anyone still there.  I THINK I felt better...

Helicopters can fly backwards.  Who knew?  It looks like I caught them crossing but no - they flew side by side like this the length of the runway for our amusement.

Then they bowed to us.

A Dutch fighter jet showing off.  He was cool and extremely loud!

Right side up.

Wrong side up.

Safe and sound.

We had a lovely weekend over in the flats of Lincolnshire. We went over to my parents' on Friday evening and had a good night in the local with Dad and his ancient pals. Then Saturday morning we were off to the Weddington Airshow. It's a really good day out (honest) and we were lucky in that we picked the best day of the weekend for it. Despite an inauspicious start of torrential rain (while we had breakfast peering disconsolately out of the kitchen windows), it cleared up and stayed fine all day. We had spells of sunshine and blue sky and spells of chilly cloud cover but the organisers (being military chaps and chappesses) managed to arrange for the big displays to coincide with the sunshine so the Red Arrows, South Korean Black Eagles and Italian Frecce Tricolore teams all had blue sky and managed to show off their incredible technical ability to best effect.

As you might guess, I took a LOT of photographs! and you will be seeing a few of them here now that I have exhausted my Pembrokeshire stash. I am as nothing, however, to the proper nerdy planewatchers who congregate at these events. You know, the weirdy beardies who think they actually ARE in the military despite the fact that they're attending an airshow WITH THEIR MUM!

These strange types (the plane-spotting equivalent of twitchers, trainspotters, stamp collectors, autograph hunters etc) make a virture of seeming to be unimpressed by the showy display teams like the Red Arrows (presumably we're meant to think that they've seen them too many times to be impressed by mere pinpoint accuracy and stunning beauty) but then get all excited when a lumbering Saab cargo plane which has only just come out bores its way down the runway. They wear overly tight combat trousers and big black military style boots (as if they were in some sort of SWAT team on the streets of LA rather than being on a perfectly flat and dry airfield in rural Lincolnshire). They have walkie talkies strapped to their chunky belts and a high proportion of the older ones sport bald heads and pony tails!

They arrive early and stake out great swathes of the runwayside with their high-tec folding chairs, often creating little exclusion zones using bungee cords and windbreakers. Their cameras are earth-shatteringly high-tech with lenses over a foot long and great tripods and even sound recoding devices. Although they are sitting in the front row, they stand up and block the view of all the old people and children behind them thus forcing them to stand up too. In short (well, not that short) they are a pain. The vast majority of people at these events are great - 50,000 turn up and coexist pleasantly - but there are always a few fanatics who have to irritate. Harrumph!

Undetered, I squeezed by "little" 8 inch lens (virtually a point and press job compared to the big boys' toys around me) to a place where I could just about see stuff without standing in front of any "civilians" and clicked away to my heart's content. Rich loved it too. It was so absorbing - we found our space and stayed there from 10 'til 5 moving only for trips to buy the odd coffee or beer and to the loo. We were taken by surprise by how quickly the time flew by - a Tornado demonstration, the Red Arrows, Chinook, various helicopters, loads of aeronautical display teams and solo jets, the Eurofighter and, of course, the wonderful Battle of Britain Memorial flight. I love the sound of the Lancaster lumbering through Lincolnshire skies.

Our picnic was not SW compliant but not bad either and no real nasties so I don't even feel too guilty. I won't be able to go to WI until next Tuesday anyway as I'm golfing this evening.

Sunday was just a chilling day, recovering from all that fresh air, driving home, walking the dogs and unpacking etc. I woke this morning feeling positively refreshed and wide awake. I didn't even want to turn over and go back to sleep! I hope this feeling lasts all week. And for you lot too!