Still running

As coronavirus became a reality in England way back in March and staying at home became a possibility I started to worry about my fitness levels.  They weren’t bad, but I had the nagging feeling that having a good level of cardiovascular fitness may help me if I were to catch coronavirus.  On Monday 23rd March I decided I ought to definitely go for a run, and go for a run every day until either I caught the virus or someone in the family did and we would all have to isolate.  Thankfully none of us have caught the virus – yet.  

And so I am still running every day.  (Except Sundays, on Sundays we go for a long walk to make a Sunday feel different). I am still nowhere near being an actual proper runner.  I run a short distance, slowly. And that lack of “proper” running has been the key.  I run for about 20 minutes, on days when that feels too hard, I run less.  I stop if I find someone to chat to, so it’s rarely 20 consecutive minutes.  I am sure I could do better and more, but I do not want to.  It’s a low bar and so is achievable, even after one glass of wine too many, a sleepless night, when it’s too cold, or too wet, or as in the run ahead of me today – too warm. 

And so this week saw me reach three months of running every day.  Me.  Not a runner.  The girls who got out of every PE lesson she could. Who did not start running until her 40s.  I run every day and am about to buy more trainers because I am wearing these ones out. This week I am feeling a bit amazed, but proud. 

Welcoming spring

The start of March has changed the weather.  The annual maternal warnings about March and lambs and lions are being ignored this year (sorry Mum), I am living in the joy of a clear early spring day yesterday.  At one point at the weekend we exclaimed about the feeling of warmth in the sun as we found a moment in sun and out of the wind.  And yesterday the sun shone and the wind had disappeared.

Our morning run felt much easier without any wind or rain and with less avoidance of puddles and muddy patches needed.  The birds were singing and there was a pretty mist rising from the water.  I felt like I had had more sunshine on my face in that one run than I had in the whole of February.  I relished moments outdoors in my work day and the late afternoon sunshine as I ventured out for various chores.

One sunny spring day fills me with joy, it is tangible proof that for everything there is a season and seasons change.  I feel hopeful and that is a good way to tackle the worries of work deadlines, coronavirus, climate change, a poorly dog and an ever-increasing list of tasks that must be tackled in my volunteering life and around the house (yes, my worries range from the trivial to the devastating).  All those worries may make me feel grey and gloomy in any one moment of the day, but the light and warmth will return, often the next moment.  And I am ignoring the sound of rain on the window as I write this.  Spring is here. Honestly.

A garden for me

I love green, being surrounded by leaves calms me and makes me feel I am miles away from a city, not in the middle of suburbia.  One of my goals for this spring was to make a quiet place in the garden and we did that this weekend, creating a seating area at the bottom of the garden.

It’s not quiet because it is far from the house, but because it is surrounded by green, which makes it feel quiet.  About 10 years ago we planted a new hedge to disguise the fencing panels.  A decade on and we have a wild looking, huge beech hedge interwoven by a rampant jasmine plant and an even wilder field maple and something else hedge – I forget what the other tree was, but it is green, the birds love it and I feel as though I am in a wood when I am near it.

The cotoneaster hedge which was there when we moved in is less interesting maybe, but the dunnocks love it and it is huge and old and serves to stores old branches and twigs under, I have no idea what lives in that pile of branches, but hopefully someone has found it useful.

A couple of years ago we pulled up all the flowering plants in our two borders which we were so hopeless at weeding around and looking after and planted some fruit trees instead. And then promptly did not weed around them.   The husband did a grand job this weekend of weeding and mulching one of those borders, which looks beautiful now.

And he built the seat that is now installed at the bottom of the garden.  Which gives a whole new perspective of the remaining unkempt border. The poor cherry tree in the middle of it is surrounded by all sorts of plants which have resolutely refused to disappear.  From the top of the garden it looks a mess, from the bottom it looks like an interesting wild border, with bees buzzing, some flashes of colour and a sense of lushness. We have decided to let it be for another year and see what happens.

Creating my perfect garden has involved clearing the path through it, so I can carry a coffee without getting caught on a bramble, and putting even more seats into it, so I can sit and drink the coffee anywhere.  It’s not a gardener’s garden, it’s a sitter’s garden, perfect for taking a break and sitting in the green.  Perfect for me.

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wild and interesting

 

 

 

Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow

I now have a muse in this blog writing.  I have just asked the husband if we are supposed to be running this morning; we try and run three times a week.  We spent yesterday at a wedding, so it was a late night and there may have been Guinness and gin involved in the day, so we feel a bit slow this morning.  And he got in one more run than me this week due to the vagaries of work travel , so he has got to his three runs.

So the answer to the query to this morning’s running obligation was an emphatic, “no we’re not.” I know we are supposed to be running, but the emphatic response was followed by, “I thought we should take advantage of the Bank Holiday and ask why do today what we could put off until tomorrow”.  That is possibly not the way to live the whole of life. But it is a great way to really relish the Bank Holiday weekend, we have a whole three days to fit in everything we usually do over two.

It is three days of sunshine in which to enjoy all the lovely things we do at weekends. Sounds like most of it will be at walking pace rather than running.  In itself that is a holiday from the usual pace of life and just what long weekends are all about.

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Stretching out the mornings

I am a bit obsessed with an author called Laura Vanderkam, who writes about time management.  Her premise is that everyone has 168 hours per week and we have choices with what we do with the vast majority of those hours.  Her recommendation is to work with all 168 hours, not just 24 at a time.

Reading her books led me to examine how I use my time.  Vanderkam actually writes down how she uses her time every day, in half hour chunks, She has been doing so for three years constantly and it is a fascinating study, which she discusses in a recent podcast.  I would love to do this, but something makes me stop.  Not quite sure what though.

One thing that I have taken away is the realisation that the mornings are long.  We wake up early in this house, so a lot can happen before work. We have made chatting and walking the central point of our morning and not chores.  Deciding not to leave the house tidy and organised was a conscious decision. It has made time for hobbies, some quality time as a family and exercise.  And the dishes get loaded into the dishwasher when someone comes home. In fact, it is exactly the sort of chore we need in that transition time into evening from work. Along with laundry and the general tidying.  All a bit mindless, all perfectly doable in the low energy hours of the day.  Or, and this was a radical change in my head, most can be left until Saturday when everyone has more time to waste.  Yes, waste!

I am sure there are other changes I can make, I must get to actually tracking my time to see where those gaps could be.  I haven’t actually stretched out any time in the morning of course, but it feels like we do so much more.

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Clothes shopping

I hate buying clothes. I think I always have.  As a young person it was lack of financial resources that seemed like the problem.  Now I am really clear it is the process.  I feel overwhelmed with choice, I feel confused by what will suit me, I loathe the whole trying it on process.  The problem gets worse because  I go shopping for clothes so rarely that the pressure on each shopping trip is way too high. I have to find something that suits me/fits/is affordable/right for purpose of the outfit and it all feels like the last chance saloon, because if I don’t find it today, I ain’t coming back.

Online shopping doesn’t seem any easier.  I buy things and leave them in the parcel for days whilst I pluck up the energy/courage/enthusiasm to try them on.  I feel like a failure when I have to return anything.

This is all totally ridiculous and I have no idea where it comes from.  Right now, is a crisis period, I need some new clothes and it all feels far too difficult.  I suspect the old problem of lack of financial resources is a problem still.  In order to find bargains it seems like you need to really shop around, and that is just not going to happen.  I love the concept of a capsule wardrobe, but lack the confidence to decide what goes into it.

For a while a friend sold seconds of high street brands and she had an excellent eye for what suits me, so it was like having an amazing personal shopper with really bargain prices for the clothes.  Sadly, for me anyway, she decided to move on from that venture.

I probably just have to bite the bullet and blinking well go shopping don’t I?  Wish me luck.

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The mystery of a busy week

 

It is one of those weeks where I am doing consecutive travel days, it doesn’t happen too often thankfully, because working in London when I don’t live in the south east of the country feels like hard work.  I am always comforted by the fact my commute is possibly easier than for many who do live in the south east though.

However, as well as extra travel, there seems to be a bit of extra everything.  Why does that happen? A few years ago I came across Laura Vanderkam and her book I Know How She Does It which is a fascinating study of the time of high earning women who happen to have children.  Vanderkam’s premise is that we do all have more time than we think – each of us has 168 hours per week and a few things are true of us all.  Apparently,  we spend more time with our children than we tend to think – we tend to discount mornings for example, or the time spent in cars taking them places.  And we generally sleep more than we tell ourselves we do. And, this is fascinating, we tend to work much less than we think we do.  The key to her work is asking people to track their time for at least a week, but preferably more.  It’s something I have tried to do and am tempted to for the next month or so.

Does this week just feel busy, or is it busier than usual?  Do I just notice it because the travel saps energy, possibly more so than usual because I am struggling with the tail end of a virus?  Or is it because I am getting stuff done, but less time means I am not getting it done perfectly?  My email inbox this morning contains various correction to the notes of Monday’s meeting  – not even close to perfect apparently.

So in an attempt to discover whether this is sod’s law at work actually piling everything into one week when my offspring are lounging around on holiday, or whether it just feels like that, I think I need to write it all down for a few weeks.

Meanwhile – need more coffee.

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Enjoying the books

This is a follow up post to my controversial statement the other day. I am of course not getting rid of all my books, but just the ones that don’t ‘spark joy’ to use Marie Kondo’s concept.

I have by no means finished clearing, but so far, it’s been a great experience.  The pile of books on the landing had some great books in it, which I had just stopped seeing, they were part of the furniture, something that sat next to the mirror, not something to read.  I am looking forward to SJ Parris’s historical fiction.

The space next to my bed contained some real treasures, I started the Claire Balding as soon as I could.

Yesterday I spent a few minutes tackling one of the shelves where I store my old university books – I studied French and German.   That was a real joy.  I kept everything that spoke to me.  So the grammar books are back on the shelf, as are some books which are now history books, but were factual back in the 1980s/90s when I was studying.  Germany was two different countries, odd to think. There were some odd choices too.  The three different versions of the Iphigenia tale all remain (really bright sparks of joy from them), as do the Zola novels in translation and Manon Lescaut.  The latter has me intrigued, why that spark of joy? No idea, I shall have to reread it. There are several Alphonse Daudet novels which were the subject of a project whilst studying in Provence.  I don’t particularly like them, will probably never read them in French – I will probably never read anything in French ever again –  but they sparked joy of memory.

The discard pile really made me giggle.  There are several books by Marivaux.  Who is Marivaux?  I am guessing I must have studied him, so how do I not know?  And I seem to have studied Gerhard Hauptmann, but that made no lasting impression either.

I am really looking forward to tackling the next shelf.

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Walking

I have been dabbling with running recently, mainly because I needed an efficient way to increase my lung capacity and running seemed like the cheapest, most time-efficient method of increasing heartrate as quickly as possible.  I don’t love it, it is a tool to increase specific fitness of my cardio-vascular system.  I can sort of lose myself into the rhythm of the run now, but still, not loving it as a mental escape really.

Walking on the other hand is really different.  I can get into a daydreaming zone really quickly.  I often don’t take my phone.  This is a learnt protection after I went through a period of getting sustained headaches and the optician reckoned it was because I spent even my school run walks (back in the day) answering emails on my phone, or texting – or updating FaceBook. Lesson learnt – our eyes need a total rest from staring into middle distance.   Apparently, the old advice to look away from your computer screen is hugely outdated, as that was based on us only looking at that distance during work hours.  Not every waking hour.

So, walking is now just walking, letting my mind wander, enjoying chatting to fellow dog walkers, saying hi to a few people, listening to the birds.  Not really being any more productive than that.  And I love it.  This week I am reading Claire Balding’s book about the Radio4Ramblingsprogramme, Walking Home.  It is really lovely, I like her writing style and love the radio programme.

It is also inspiring me to plan to walk a long route – not all at once, but in chunks over a year.  I was dragged around part of the Pembrokeshire Coast path as a young child (about 10!) and have memories of that being very hard work.    But Claire Balding’s descriptions of the benefits of a longer hike are appealing.  I seem to remember St Kenelm’s Way being a local possibility.  Need to do some research I think.  And brush up on map reading skills.  And replace my boots.

 

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Visiting Birmingham

One of the spring time resolutions is to discover more about my home town of Birmingham, UK.  I am an immigrant to the city, arriving here 19 years ago, drawn by a sense of friendliness, a real buzz as the city changed dramatically from its industrial roots.  There seemed to be a desire to do something different, not develop, that implies it was in some way backward, but that is not true at all.  This is a city built on discovery, on science and industry, and on a strong sense of being Birmingham.

For those of you not from here, I know the reputation is not always of a dynamic city, but believe me it is.  I have myriad political views about whether that dynamic nature is being encouraged and allowed to thrive, but despite cynicism on my part on the reduction of local facilities, education, health care, social care, I suspect that there’s something in the nature of being here that will ensure the city continues to thrive.  Ever the optimist.

So this spring I intend to visit some of the many places I have never actually been to.  Feel free to add to the list, but so far I have Aston Hall, Selly Manor, Blakesley Hall, chunks of Sutton Park (I have done some, but seriously, it’s huge!).

I have one of the brilliant Independent Birmingham cards and intend to start working through the members of the scheme.

I haven’t been to the Ikon gallery for ages and there are rooms at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that I have never seen.  And – confession time – I have never been to the Barber Institute of Art.

There are a couple of quirky places I want to get to – the Coffin Works and the Pen Museum are on that list.

Add to that the miles of canal to explore and the parks to visit, and I am wondering if this is a whole year’s work?