Friday, 28 December 2007

what a lovely day

Today has been one of those days that happens very rarely - I spent the whole day with two very good friends that I have known since toddlerhood. We managed to spend three and a half hours in one coffee shop, reminiscing on our childhoods and teenage years. Remembering the adventures we used to go on to a place called Bishopstone Glen. The stories and ideas we conjured up as to what was at the end of the miniature valley and beyond the 'fairy pool' were endless and we never got bored of exploring there.

We laughed until our stomachs and faces ached at how we used to be - how we acted when we were frustrated, our little idiosyncracies that we have not lost, like the surprised look on my face when I trip over yet another bollard / fence / stone / small child. The stories and memories just kept on rolling.

At times it felt like there was no-one in the coffee shop but us and our laughter; at other times I was well aware of the attention we were attracting from other people enjoying their morning coffee / brunch / lunch, whatever stage of the day they happened to be sharing the coffee shop with us. I would like to think that our onlookers did not mind our laughter, and could tell that we were three old friends who had not seen each other together for too long, and shared the sentiment of just how good these times are for them as well - when they get to see an old friend who they've shared life with and truly, truly enjoy their company, totally at ease and revelling in just how easy it is to spend time with them.

When we were growing up, one of our favourite films was Now and Then - well, this was one of Katy's discoveries, but we loved it too. We loved it because it's how we hoped we would be in the future - all having gone separate ways, four friends come back together when one of them is about to have a baby. Even though they are now living different and varied lives far apart from one another, that tie of a long-term friendship remained strong. That is what we hoped for our friendship, and that is how it is turning out to be. The first one of our little group is getting married next year, and we are going to be her bridesmaids, just as we used to dream about when we were little girls playing weddings and mummy's and daddy's.

What a wonderful thing lifelong friendships are. I look forward to the days when we are in our 80's all old and wrinkly and still come together to laugh, knit, and share even more memories...bring on a life full of adventures that we might be able to share...

Thursday, 27 December 2007

on the run

This morning I went for my second proper run since being back in training for my next half marathon. That sounds like a rather official way of just saying that I have finally got myself into gear, hving come to the horrible realisation that the bath half marathon is just 12 weeks away. Eek! At this stage before the Bristol Half Marathon, I had been training for months and months, so 12 weeks felt like nothing. Now, it feels a little too soon.

But, I am glad to say that my body does not seem to have forgotten how to run and just. keep. going. And in fact, it has not felt like that - that I have had to push myself to keep on going. My body definitely feels a bit sluggish and my muscles are complaining a bit but nothing that I can't push past. This morning, I ran for an hour - probably about 10k. Not bad, not bad.

Yesterday it was so lovely to get out in the fresh air and winter sunshine for a couple of hours - the family minus Sarah went to Seasalter for a seaside walk. Lovely. I snapped away on my camera - it's now becoming less and less common for us to be together as a family, what with three of us no longer living in the Bay - and I always notice how much each f us is changing in appearance, so it's great to capture the present to look back on in the future...

Friday, 21 December 2007

Storytime

One of the highlights from my day of childminding yesterday was at bedtime when Grace suggested that instead of reading stories we played a game where we made up a story by taking it in turns to say one word each. A couple of our stories went something like this:

Sometimes my cousin Alfred says I am smaller than a caterpillar, but I say I'm taller than a giraffe and he's fatter than an elephant. When we see each other we often fight like Romans and Vikings and elephants.

Dolphins don't like to swim when it's raining, especially in drizzly downpours. This was first seen by the ship Kaboodle-boodle on the African sea.

How fun storytelling can be!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

oh so sleepy

Today is the first day of my Christmas holiday and what a lovely day it has been. Having been out for breakfast and dabbled in a little Christmas shopping, I came home and did what creatures who don't like the cold do best - made myself a nest and went into hibernation. I relished the fact that I was able to get my big double duvet, curl up in a cocoon on the sofa, watch a film then fall asleep. Simply wonderful. Although now a feel a little groggy.

Monday, 17 December 2007

This is just a very brief post as I really need to go make some christmas cards - all of my plans to be organised in making them have gone out the window due to complete failure to get my sewing machine to work.

I have recently come across this photographer, and I love his work. Take a look and see what you think. I like the fact that none of his work is photo-shopped.

I had a lovely, busy weekend, attending a very beautiful wedding and having the kids christmas party at church, then had 5 wonderful friends round for dinner. I made ice cream and chocolate torte for dessert. Mmmmmm...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

my toes will be the first to go...

This is going to be short - I know that you don't need to be told that - but I have to tell myself that so I hold back on finding something to spend a long time talking about. I have had a totally unproductive morning, other than managing to order some photos (work related, so totally permissable), but otherwise I have been utterly hopeless at getting on with spending the morning studying. This is for a number of reasons:

:: I am distracted by the fact that my big toes have once again lost all feeling in them because it's rather chilly. I am taking every possible measure to warm up using methods other than turning on the heating - I have adorned my jumper which adds 2 stone to me and makes my arms feel like they are too far away from my body, put on slipper socks over my normal socks, drunk 2 mugs of hot water and put a hot water bottle on my toes to defrost them.

:: I am not feeling 100% well - I've had a little bug with me, trying to be a cold but not quite achieving full status as such, but succeeding today in making my brain feel like it's rattling around my head each time I run up and down the two flights of stairs to my bedroom to get another thing I've forgotten to bring downstairs to aid my studying. Brain rattling + tiredness = slightly ineffective Hannah.

:: I am starting to allow the tiredness of this term to sink in a little bit too early as it's not officially holiday time yet - I am so looking forward to staying with Mum+Dad+siblings to get some much needed rest and recouperation.

:: Procrastination - it's just so easy and tempting and I'm just so good at giving in to that temptation.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Dream, dream, dream, dream, dre- e-e-e-am....

I am a dreamer. Not the daydreaming kind, but a serious night-time dreamer. I know that it is relatively common knowledge that most of us have about five dreams a night, but will only remember one or two of them - at the most. However, I can often remember three or more dreams, or things that I have dreamed about in one night. I also know that dreams often reflect what's been going round your head is true.

Last night I dreamed about running. Before going to bed, I had contemplated going for a run this morning, and told myself that even if it was really cold, I could hack it. I really need to get back into running, since I have signed myself up to another half marathon in the not too distant future, and because I was feeling the weight of this, I dreamed that I was about to run 10K which was also an obstacle / adventure course. At the line up, they started shouting instructions about where we needed to go first, which tasks we needed to complete before moving on to the next thing, and I had no idea what they were talking about. So I asked my friend Livy, who happened to be there too, and she looked at me with a rather shocked and concerned expression on her face and said, 'Didn't you read the instructions?' Nope, I hadn't. so I was completely unprepared for this run in every way - no training and no instructions read. That's pretty much where that dream ended. Am I really that worried about not being able to run this next half marathon?!

I'm thinking that instructions were a part of my dream because yesterday, all of the sewing I had planned to do did not happen because I could not fit the bobbin holder into the machine. I tried for about an hour, and looked through the instruction booklet about five times trying to find a diagram or instructions, but to no avail. Reading instructions properly is not something that I do well, so I went away from my attempts to sew thinking, 'I didn't give up easily like I often do when I can't work something out - I remained patient with it, and tried to read the instructions thoroughly and properly, and I am quite sure that they missed this bit out.' Though I know the likelihood is that I did in fact miss the part where it tells you how to fit the contraption together. But it's ok, because Hazel who owns the machine is coming round this morning, so I can get her to show me how to do it. Thankfully I find it a whole lot easier to do something when I am shown how to do it than when I am required to read something and decipher what exactly it means.

(In the process of trying to find a photo for this entry, I came across this photographer, and having spent only a few minutes perusing his site, I have to say I love his photography, and I will most definitely be returning to his site to see more of his work and be inspired and enamoured...)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

i love days like these

This morning has been wonderful. It's my day off and the sun is shining. Yesterday I received a text from a friend who was on my corridor during my first year at uni. She's from China, and happened to be in Bristol for 24 hours, so asked if I would like to meet up for breakfast.

I thoroughly enjoyed my cycle to meet her because the air was crisp and there were lots of other cyclists about. I don't know if this is just me, but I feel a certain affiliation with my fellow cyclists - because of our shared knowledge of the hills and pains involved in cycling. But this affiliation is coupled with a bit of a competitive edge of how many cyclists can I overtake on this hill? Who's going to pull away from the traffic lights the fastest?

I often think about resilience when I cycle - how my thoughts about cycling reflect my resilience - and wonder at the thoughts that pass through other cyclists' minds as they battle up hills. When I found the hills a little bit harder than I do now, and people would overtake me, I'd console myself on the fact that most of those people were men, so a fair bit stronger than me, on city bikes a whole lot better than my mountain bike, so the fact that they were overtaking me was not a measure of my fitness or ability. Now, when I overtake people, whilst I feel an element of victory, I also find myself mentally willing those people on up the hill, silently cheering for them to make it to the top because I know how much a bit of encouragement can help you to persevere.

Having had breakfast and bid farewell to Xinying, I did a wee bit of Christmas shopping, then went to the Royal Mail sorting office to pick up a parcel that was too big to fit through my little letterbox. I wasn't entirely sure where I was going, but en route I met a lovely old postman who just so happened to be going there too, so he showed me the way. How kind.

My parcel was the most exciting parcel I have had in a very long time. It was from a lovely friend in Australia who I lived with when I was out there on my gap year. She has set up her own business selling beautiful cards and stationary, and I love everything she makes. I'd wanted to buy one of her writing sets, but she refused to let me pay for it, and just sent it to me as a gift. (Some of the contents are pictured above, right). She also included a whole stack of tiny little cards - I am so excited about sharing these beautiful cards with my friends, but am also going to find it quite hard to part with them because they're just so lovely. Thankyou Alana.

I'm now going to spend a significant part of my afternoon doing some sewing on my newly acquired sewing machine!! I have had ideas going round my head for months of all the things I want to make when I get my hands on a sewing machine, but I never anticipated that I might have one to use whenever I want, so thankyou Hazel.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Christmas festivities

Wow, today has been a busy old day. This is the weekend of all of our Church Christmas Festivities. Due to a family wedding, Ros who is my good friend and the leader of the 5-11's kids work at church, left me in charge of the kids' Christmas play. To be fair, I didn't have to write the play, I just had to organise the rehearsals, direct the children, and organise activities for the kids to do after the service while the parents enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies.

It all went wonderfully smoothly, and with hindsight (all of 2.5 hours of it!) I am not sure why I found myself feeling stressed and nervous about it all over these last couple of weeks. Actually, that's not true. I do know why. I was in a position which required more of me than I am used to. This is a big part of what this year is about. Being challenged to do things I wouldn't normally do, to be put in situations that I am not immediately comfortable with, because the skills required are not my forte's. And that in itself is a bit stressful - also I think I felt like I was carrying the children a bit in all of this. Sure it was up to them to learn their lines, but it was me they and their parents looked to for answers and direction.

I am so thankful to everybody who helped me with this evening. One of the guys who has been leading kids work for many many years more than I have is absolutely amazing at seeing problems and finding solutions that I simply have to marvel at, and thinking of the things that I failed to - the wonders of team work - I love it.

Today has also been busy because I've been in the throes of preparing Christmas dinner and desserts for 17 people for tomorrow. I like to set myself a challenge with cooking and baking - to not just do the things that I know I can do, but to add a bit of excitement to the food I'm cooking, an element of surprise. This comes in the form of flavoured butters for the vegetables - an idea taken from Jamie Oliver which involves blending together different herbs and flavours with butter, which you then add to your vegetables when you come to cook them. Mmmmm...Then for dessert I've made an Italian baked marbled cheesecake and two chocolate banoffee pies. Whilst I am sure they will be delicious, I always find that when I bake something, I lose the desire to eat it, having spent so long with all of the wonderfully unhealthy ingredients! Though I'm sure when it comes to it tomorrow, I'll find a little space in my belly for some of each dessert!

Sorry for the lack of photos - I tried to put one in but blogger didn't seem to be loving it.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

getting a little bit tired

Living in a city with no car and no money means that I have to cycle everywhere (unless I decided that spending 45 - 60 mins walking everywhere I need to go was a better option). As my friends here know, cycling is not my favourite activity. I know that I complain about it a little too much, and that this is is something I need to deal with my attitude about. So I try and constantly remind myself of all the benefits to the environment, my health and my pocket as I'm struggling up yet. another. hill.

Yesterday was one of my 'I'm-feeling-negative-about-cycling' days, as I had to battle uphill for 2.5 miles against the wind, first thing in the morning, all too aware of the fact that I was going to have to cycle the same route again that afternoon to get to childminding, then cycle a bit further to youth group in the evening.

So, you'd think that if I dislike cycling this much, I'd gladly accept the offer of my lovely housemate (who drives and also helps out with the youth) to drive me home from youth group then come back and pick my bike up today. But no. There is something in me that feels I owe it to myself to cycle home - because 90% of the time, the routes that take me home are downhill the whole way, and who wouldn't enjoy whizzing down a hill at 30+ miles an hour (guesstimate but it sure does feel fast)?! Sometimes I find my mentality baffling.

Yesterday I picked the children up from after school club, which means seeing a different bunch of children from their classmates. I found myself in the quite bizarre situation of seeing various children that I recognised from completely different settings, all in one room at after school club. There was a girl who'd come to church on Sunday with one of the regular girls, another child who's come to a kids church social event, a boy who was in one of the nurseries I worked at over the summer, and a few other children who look remarkably similar to ones I have met somewhere before. I suppose it isn't that odd really, but I find the fact that I know who they are but the probably don't remember me, or realize that I've looked after lots of their friends before, a little odd. But then my life has always been like that with people - as my brother could account for, I have some abnormal memory for remembering people who were some distant relation of someone we knew of at school - I remember people who have had no significance in my life before, but somehow I know something about them. There's a little fact about me.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

rainrainrain

This weekend we have the two oldest daughters of the leader of our church staying at our house. We had a fun filled day planned for them, including a walk to Ashton Pool which I was very excited about - I think I might have blogged about Ashton Pool before - I've only been there once, a few weeks ago, and was so excited to discover a beautiful new, secluded place in Bristol to go for a good old woodland walk. It looked like it would rain, but it was ok because we were fully prepared with wellies and waterproofs. So off we went, having had a yummy brunch.

We were about five minutes away when we encountered a mini flood - a small pond filling the width of the road. Jo's technique of getting through the flood was to accelerate, hold her breath and hope for the best. Needless to say, the consequences were not great. We ended up spending two whole hours waiting for the breakdown people to come.

So no walk at Abbots Pool, but Jo did have her first experience of having to pee in public behind a tree - I am so proud! As I was about to go and do the same, I was standing by the boot of the car, in the throes of putting my wellies on, when the breakdown recovery people rang me. As a result of my slightly hindered focus on what I was doing, I forgot that I was standing by the edge of another big puddle, only to be reminded of this when a big lorry whizzed pass, sending a torrent of water my way - there was enough power behind it to pelt me forward which was quite impressive. I think I felt more sorry for the man at the end of the phone who was greeted by my squealing, than I did for myself. Oh what fun.

By the time we got home it was 3.30 and high time for lunch. Ah yes, and it only took the man 2 minutes to fix the car - all we needed was a cloth, some WD40 and a bit of knowledge about where the water might go when you drive through a pond.

(Image not my own, though I wish I could say it was.)

Saturday, 1 December 2007

my week

Just to fill you in on some of the details of my week that I did not have time to include yesterday, I have been...

: : Amused at the fact that I slept soundly through the blaring alarm of the mental institute / something of that nature / not sure precisely what it is - building that is behind our house that my bedroom faces - the alarm went off at 2am, accompanied by a call out saying, 'alert, alert, escapee...' or something of that nature and I was oblivious to this drama.

: : To a conference at Ashton Court Mansion not the prettiest of mansions on the exterior (there seems to be a bit of a theme of yellow mansions running through Bristol), but beautiful inside. This conference was run by Play England and was free, with a free cooked lunch with very posh, giant sized cutlery. I cannot give you a brief synopsis of how the day was, because it provoked such extreme emotion in me that if I start talking about it, we will be here for a while. Maybe that's for another day.

(In short, I am horrified and slightly distraught that we as a society have got to a stage where 'play' is being given on prescription - that's right, by GP's, that the levels of childhood obesity are as hideously high as they are, and that conclusions are being drawn that children don't know how to use their imaginations anymore.....Thankyou so so much Mum and Dad for giving the four of us such a wonderfully rich childhood - for not spoiling us with sweetsweetsweets, TV and the like, for not sending us to numerous afterschool programmes and things that meant would have spent very little time with you, for reading to us all the time, for answering the questions of our ever-inquiring minds and generally being wonderful parents. Thankyou thankyou thankyou. I hope you know how eternally valuable the sacrifices and investments you have made have been and will be.)

: : Being creative - making the first Christmas decorations of this year with the girls I look after - making ball-balls (is that how you spell it??!) out of string. We filled water balloons then coated string in PVA glue, wrapped them around the balloons and rolled them in glitter, then hung them from the oven to dry. Lots of fun and a whole lot of glitter everywhere.

: : Baking snickerdoodles - what a wonderful name - with the girls I look after. Delicious little cinnamon cakes / cookies - a combination of the two.

: : Sewing, Sewing, Sewing, though I can't say what just yet.

: : Wedding dress shopping with my beautiful friend Sarah, who looked stunning in all the dresses she tried on.

: : Baking a super-delicious rich chocolate french flourless torte, made using a Divine Recipe, with Divine chocolate. Mmmmmm...There was much appreciation all round from the lovely ladies who consumed the torte.

: : Going to Luv Esther - a musical production of the Bible story of Esther.

All in all, it has been a grand week.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Unforeseen blogging break over

Well, that was a bit of an unforeseen blogging break...Having been deprived of blogging during my week of training, I came home to have the power supply for my laptop met an unanticipated demise. I was fully expecting my laptop to die completely, as it is barely held together - it's a wonder it actually works. But no, it is not dead, just the power supply which I bought just under a year ago. I was oh so glad when I remembered the whole legislation on faulty products which tends to mean that even if you don't have a receipt you can return them and get a free replacement, which I did yesterday. The kind lady checked inside the box to see if everything that was meant to be there, was there, and it was, with what I thought was an added extra. When I bought my last power supply, there was no plug, and it was not your average fixing (don't know the proper lingo - sorry). It turned out that I needed a kettle lead, which needless to say, is rather short, meaning that I always had to be within a metre of the socket I was plugged in to. So it was to my initial delight, then slight indignance when I discovered that my new power supply had all the parts - some little monkey had obviously stolen the last one that I was entitled to. But because I didn't realise at the time (idiot for not reading the box and 'contents'), I suffered more stress than was necessary. Ah well. That is far too many words about a power supply.

There is a lot to write about but I am already behind schedule for all the things I have planned to do for today, so I must leave it there and go to market to buy some cheap fruit. Love it.

Friday, 23 November 2007

thinking about fair trade...

Sorry for the lack of blogging - one thing I didn't think about when I signed up to NaBloPoMo was that I wouldn't be able to blog while I was away on training in Wimbledon, as has been the case this week.

It was a good time, as is always the case, with some quality teaching. I usually come back from training feeling refreshed, as it gives me the rare opportunities to get a good night's sleep - I had 10.5 hours on Wednesday night.

On the journey home, we got to talking about fair trade - Adam said how he actively avoids buying fair trade because it's not 'fair' and you're giving money to a corporation. I'm not quite sure that I understand this logic, as surely it's better to be giving your money to a corporation that is paying their workers a fairer wage than other corporations...As we were discussing this and I was trying to put across the benefits of buying locally, I got a bit lost, and ended up thinking that this - buying ethically, the impact what we buy and where from has on the environment, businesses and people - is something that I really would like to be more knowledgable about. If anyone would like to share any information with me about any of these things, I would greatly appreciate it - I will of course also make my own efforts to find out more. For anyone who is interested in these issues, I came across the 100 mile diet recently, which I like the idea of...

Photo: Taken by the road on the way to the local shops...

Saturday, 17 November 2007

photo time

I had fully intended on posting yesterday but the day ran away with me, and after an evening spent doing a million press ups at a circuit training class led by a Rastafarian dude with the longest dreads I have ever seen (I reckon they measured about 1.75metres), followed by a dinner party with some lovely lovely friends, I ended up getting to bed rather late.

I spent yesterday having coffee, baking and doing my assignment for this month, which is illustrated with photographs - perhaps one of the most fun assignments I have done. I thought I'd make this mainly a photo blog for today to give you a wee glimpse into what I have been up to recently.

Bonfire at Sand Bay, Weston-Super-Mare


Tiny tiny cup cakes for a friend's hen day

A walk in Eastville park

Birds in flight


Flurry...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

i love tins

A couple of my friends got married a few weeks ago and to save money, they made it a bring and share affair, so there was a whole array of foods. As I was one of the last people to leave, I helped clear up and to my delight I found a whole unopened tin of chocolates. Today, we (me and my fellow year-teamers) finished the last few chocolates, and I sat there with the shiny empty tin in my hands and delighted that I had another tin to add to the ever growing collection on top of my kitchen cupboards. Out of the 20 odd tins, we have only been responsible for eating the contents of just one tin - the wedding one. The reason I have so many is because when I started baking for my church, people kindly donated their spare tins to me, and since then, there has been a steady flow. I'm going to be baking for church this Sunday, and I am very excited because baking for church means I have the perfect excuse to try out a load of new recipes.

Anyway, the point of me writing about my tins was that when I was delighting in the new addition, I unconsciously spoke my delight aloud, at which point Adam (fellow year-teamer) said, 'why do you want so many tins?' then proceeded to find the answer by texting the ask anything line. The reply he got back was 'Hannah wants so many tins because she's trying to collect enough to be able to melt them down and build a passenger liner out of them. Good luck to her.' I thought this was a much more amusing than the real reason - that it is yet another tin to fill with delicious things.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

nodnodnod

Well, for once, rather than having difficulty in thinking for a title for this post, I had the opposite problem - too many titles! I went for nodnodnod because it is most fitting with where I am at now. It's the end of the day and time for bed, but as I'm meant to be posting daily, and actually have some things to write about today, I thought I could spare 10 minutes before sleep completely sets in.

I've just got in from childminding. School pick up was a highly eventful affair today. I won't go into the details, but lets just say I had to do a whole lot of consoling, reasoning, running and rounding up of children, and managed to make one of the girls late for her dance class. The first half of the pick up had gone fine - I had to pick up the youngest an hour earlier than his sisters. As we went back to his friend's house for some juice, he ran alongside his friend, excitedly talking about how he was 'running at the speed of life' which I thought sounded quite exciting!

The second sister who is 7, was so tired and fed up that for the last part of the journey home she complained about how I was making her walk half a million miles and that we still had 100 miles to go, making the whole journey 2 million miles. (Which even to my poor maths brain does not quite add up!!) It was going to be absolutely futile to even think about disputing / correcting this 'fact' about the distance of the walk home so instead I somehow managed to turn the conversation round to talking about this 7 year old's dream house. She really got into describing the detail of this house to me, and it sounded truly wonderful - especially the rooftop garden where you could lie and watch the stars (with a protective cover in case of rain).

The rest of the evening went smoothly, and I ended up spending the last part of the evening doing something which is becoming a bit of a frequent habit for me - falling asleep sitting on a sofa while reading. The only thing is, I tend to do this when I don't have my head resting on anything, so I end up replicating the motions of a nodding dog, but am too emmersed in a dream state to do anything about it. Last week when I was babysitting for another family, I even managed to fall asleep whilst in the middle of texting, and dropped my phone. So I picked it up again, only to promptly drop it again!

The cycle ride home was oh so very cold. It was the type of cold that leaves you struggling to catch breaths because your chest has tensed up in defiance against the cold, and where your ears start off feeling like they're burning then progress to just really hurting because of the bitter wind rushing past them. My journey home is almost completely downhill, and the only respite from this attack on my ears came when I had to cycle up a bit of a hill - not something I would normally call 'respite', but in this instance it was. I am so thankful that I have a lovely warm home to come home to.

Monday, 12 November 2007

stampstampstamp

This is just a very brief blog for today as I probably won't get another chance to write before I go to bed, and I need to at least try and post every day for NaBloPoMo.

Today has been a rather quiet day in the office as far as work goes, but I did get to buy 200 stamps and stamp a whole load of envelopes - hence my stamp covered hand - which I did love doing, as sad as that might sound. But I love post, and as sticking stamps on post is an integral part of giving and receiving post, I relished this otherwise mundane task! (Apologies for the quality of the photo - it was taken using the camera on my phone.)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Today has been another lovely sunny day, and as it definitely feels this Autumn is drawing to a close and winter is on it's way, I wanted to get outside and appreciate the carpets of leaves and sunshine through the trees before they go again until next year. So, I hopped on my bike and went to Eastville Park, which is lovely - not anywhere near as exciting and beautiful as Abbots Pool where I went for one of the best Autumn walks ever last Sunday, but good all the same - there were swans on the lake which was quite cool.

I snapped away with my camera - If the photos are any good I'll post some but that'll have to wait until they're developed - the joys of film SLR's. Then I sat amongst the swirling leaves and started reading my new book club book, which I will post about once I've got stuck into it. Right, I'm off to have dinner with some lovely friends.

(Photo taken at Westonbirt Arboretum Autumn 2004)

Friday, 9 November 2007

bloggingandbooks


Ok, so to give myself a wee push in the direction I want to go in terms of blogging, I signed up to Nablopomo which is basically encouraging bloggers of the world to write a blog a day for the month of November, and in the process, meet lots of other bloggers with similar interests, which I find quite exciting, but also slightly scary at the prospect of just how much more of my time this has the potential to eat up, so I must be disciplined!

This evening we had bookclub, which I always love. This week we were discussing our thoughts on My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I love the way she writes and how it totally draws me in to feeling the emotions of not only the characters, but how I might feel if I were in a similar situation. To write a book that can cause you to sob is quite amazing, in my mind. I really like books that are emotionally involving, I suppose partly because of the way it takes the attention away from my own life for a little while, not that my life is in anyway bad right now, but there is something wonderfully cathartic about thinking about someone else's life for a little while. (Regardless of the fact that it's fictional.)

I'd love to go into more detail about the thoughts this book provoked in me and why, but I think that may well take a little while as I would need to explain the premise of the book first, to make the picture a bit clearer for you, and right now what I actually need to do is sleep. Maybe that's something I'll write about tomorrow.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

precious moments

Yesterday after childminding I went to visit the family who I used to work for, as I haven't seen them since July. It was so lovely to be greeted by an excited squealing Madeleine even before they had opened the front door to me. It was bath time when I arrived so Celine and I sat by the bath chatting while Madeleine splashed away and got re-accustomed to me, as there was the initial confusion of knowing who I was but being slightly unsure of why I had disappeared and then suddenly turned up again. It didn't take her long to remember and when she did, she threw herself on me and gave me a hug in a way that only children can and told me that she missed me. Precious. After that she went a little bit hyper and bounced around the house on her little pink space hopper and showed me all her new exciting things, like her big girls' bed. When it was time for her to go to bed she threw herself on me once again, this time with a bit more force, knocking me over and not letting me get up. I feel so privileged to have had 2 wonderful years looking after Madeleine, and that there is still that familiarity there. I treasure moments like these.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

search for cinnamon

Yesterday I cooked for my small group from church. I was very much excited about cooking because I love to bless people with food.

I cooked sausages with spiced apple sauce. One of the essential ingredients in cinnamon. Bizarrely I had great difficulty in tracking any cinnamon down! There was but a few pinches of the good stuff in my baking cupboard so I tried visiting 2 Tesco stores, rang another supermarket, tried Sonni's my local cornershop and another corner shop down the road and had no joy! Fortunately I found some in the eleventh hour at the Boys' house so all was well in the end.

I'd love to write more, but time is not on my side just now as I need to go pick up the sproglets from school. (Not my own sproglets but the ones I look after, just to clarify.)

Friday, 2 November 2007

oh gosh

Well, in a slight moment of madness, I have signed up to another half marathon. It's amazing how we block out the bad memories to make plenty of space for the good ones. Or is it simply that the good ones end up outweighing the bad?

I definitely know that since starting training for the Bristol half marathon my mindset and attitude have changed - in a good way. I am more determined to persevere than I used to be and I suppose that is something that I want to grow more in in other aspects of my life and if you grow in one area of your life, it slowly but surely translates into other areas.

I never really used to read the blogs of people I didn't know, but recently I have been thoroughly inspired by some wonderfully creative people's blogs that I have stumbled across through blogs of people I know, and of people I don't. I am kind of amazed at the blogging communities that develop as a result of shared interests, but also quite excited at the prospects! I have yet to break into any of these communities - I guess because I feel my blog is somewhat lacking in the things that appeal to people about blogs, and also it isn't how I'd like it to be - a story in pictures. One day I'll have the money to buy a camera that is small enough to allow me to document life as I go...(Until then, if anyone has a digital camera that if for some bizarre reason you don't need anymore, feel free to throw it my way!)

For now, here is a picture of a place I love - Westonbirt Arboretum.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

fresh, fresh, fresh


So last Thursday was my birthday and it was a truly lovely day. I'd hoped to post the photos with this post but my friend still has them as they were taken on her digital camera.

One of my lovely presents was this wonderful candle. I had come across it in a beautiful shop called Sage which sells lovely lovely things. The smell of fresh linen is one of my most favourite smells in the world so to be able to capture it in a candle that can burn for 35 hours is simply exquisite. I could not afford to treat myself to the luxury of this candle, but I'd mentioned it in conversation at work, and one of my colleagues listened. So lovely.

I also got a wonderul array of recipe books. Even though I have only lived with my housemates for a few months, the fact that they bought me a Tessa Kiros recipe book, and 'The art of Chocolate' book shows just how well they know me. I'm so excited about cooking up some treats!!

Today has been my day off and I had the most leisurely morning that I've had in a long long time - I woke up at about 9am (which is virtually unheard of for me) then read in bed for an hour and a half. I love reading, I really do. Especially when it is a book that totally captivates your attention. I'm reading 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult and whilst she doesn't seem to hugely vary her writing style between books, I still love it. She's very good at capturing emotion to the degree that you feel like you're catching an element of what the characters - if they were people - would be feeling. But there's something more than that. Something which I can't quite communicate in the way I want to.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

loving autumn

I seem to be going through a bit of a funny season with blogging at the moment. I really want to blog, but seem to have lost my lyrical flow (if I ever had any!). In all honesty, whilst I would like to think that I was unaffected by my big brother's comment a while ago that each of my entries was like a little novella, I did feel slightly patronised (no hard feelings John) and I think this has affected the way I write. I guess in saying this I am wanting to get over it and get back into writing again.

In losing my writing momentum, I would have loved to have kept this updated with photos of all the exciting things that bring joy in the everyday-ness of life, but the lack of a digital camera has hindered this somewhat. I would so love to have a bit of a documentary of my life going on because I know that whilst many memories will stay with me for my lifetime, there are a whole lot that won't. Also, there are hundreds of things which capture my attention on a daily basis, which I will never see again as you can never truly replicate anything, and it's those little things which I want to capture. Like last Sunday, I went for a run in the morning, exploring St Werburghs which is still a relatively new part of the city to me, and so holds lots of undiscovered delights. So I took the opportunity to explore my surroundings a little bit. As I ran through the Narroways Greenlands which is an area preserved by the National Trust, I ran over a railway bridge. Sadly, there was a lot of metal fencing - almost caging - arching over the bridge, but what caught my attention was the way a plant had woven its beautiful red autumnal leaves and tiny tiny tendrils in and around the mesh of the ugly metal fencing. Quite amazing. But I know that if I go back there in a few weeks time, those leaves will no longer be the stunning reds and oranges of Autumn, but probably will have died.

My run took me through a small area of woodland which I didn't know existed, which was much to my delight, to find some woods right by my house. The woods came out by some alotments. I was about to turn back on myself and run back the way I had come but then noticed how the trees lining each side of the pathway had bent over towards oneanother to make an archway for everyone who walks underneath it, and I simply couldn't refuse such an invitation to explore a little bit further. The next thing I knew, I was running past some pigs! There is a wee farm in St Werburghs, and I had stumbled upon it. It's amazing the way the farm makes you feel like you are in a totally different place - it's not your usual farm with acres of fields, but it does not feel like you're in a big city.
I also came across an area of self-built eco housing (mum, you would love it). I think this is very cool - the way the houses are built makes you feel like you are in a shared community space - there's none of this terraced house business with all the front doors facing the same way so that you can easily avoid eye contact with your neighbour, thus extending the unfriendliness of British people. Rather,the houses are built in a slightly hap-hazard way in terms of their orientation., but with a good central space that appears to be communal.
Sorry, I'd not doing a great job of conjuring up images in your imagination.

I hadn't intended to tell you all about my run - my fingers just seemed to get carried away - I suppose I just wanted to share my excitement over my new discoveries with somebody.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

I did it!!

I can now proudly say that I have run the Bristol half marthon! Woohoo!!! I won't be sure of my exact time until 9pm this evening, by which time the info from my Championchip will tell the powers that be how long after the race started I crossed the start line (there where a whole lot of people running this thing). But I did it in roughly 2 hours, which is what I had expected.

I can honestly say that it was an enjoyable experience. I loved the sound of pattering footsteps as everyone ran along silently, cheered on by the neverending crowds of supporters. There was a wonderful atmosphere throughout the whole run, and I found that I was able to keep on running without any difficulty. Unfortunately I did not run the whole way with Ros - by the 10 mile point, Ros was feeling she needed to ease up on our pace, so I went ahead. For those last few miles, I went into this odd state of just being 'in the zone'. Whilst I was still grateful for all the supporters I felt almost oblivious to them - just me and the road, me and the road, and a few runners who I became quite intent on overtaking, and did so quite successfully!! I sprinted the last 400 metres, and then had some kind lady undo my shoelace so she could take off my championchip - to save me bending over!!

I felt great for a while after the race - until the effect of the endorphines and lucozade had worn off - at which point, I felt desperately in need of sleep and food. The roast dinner that Ros' husband had cooked for us was incredibly welcomed by my hungry hungry belly, and I soon perked up.

So that's that done and dusted. Who knows what challenge will be next...

Saturday, 18 August 2007

muchneeded...


I've really been missing blogging recently - my summer busyness has prevented me from devoting as much time as I would like to writing about the things taht have been inspiring me and all that's been happening in the life of Hannah recently.

I've discovered a new joy in delighting in the small things around me that inspire me to be creative, although I have to confess, none of this inspiration has been put into action yet - largely owing to lack of time. I am hoping that in the week of resting at my parents house that I have after this summer school has finished will be filled with flourishes of creativity...

Some recent snapshots of the things that have brought me joy recently...

Running around Eastville Park (my new discovery in Bristol) in the early morning sunshine, with a gentle mist moving across the lake and dew soaking my feet.

Being back by the sea

Sitting in the flower garden with my precious friend Rachel, just revelling in the long lasting friendship we have and the wonderful familiarity that's always there no matter how long we've been apart

Preparations for sending surprise parcels to old friends

Reading books that get me so excited about life and all the adventures yet to come

I so desperately want to do more creative things and so am hoping for more opportunities over the next year to learn some new skills and improve on others...

Friday, 27 July 2007

the rosebery residence

As I had suspected, I have had a blogging break inflicted on me, due to moving house, and t'internet taking slightly longer than was hoped to get set up. But we finally got there, and are online again, which is wonderful.

I am thoroughly enjoying my new home, which is most definitely a far cry from student living, and so feels more homely than my last house (which I must add, I did love). It really is beautiful, and I have had great fun in the tasks which most people would deem to be mundane - cleaning the floor, wiping down the working surfaces so there's not a crumb in sight, filling the house with the smell of clean washing (one of my favourite smells in the whole world), sorting the dead flowers from the alive ones then hanging roses upside-down to dry...I could go on.

Although I have been working since graduating, I have had a nice amount of time free, where I have indulged myself in the pleasures of reading, which I struggled to make time for while I was studying.

I've been reading Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a small island', and have been slightly unnerved at the accuracy of some of his observations of english behaviour, some of which, women are more predisposed to than men. For instance, he comments on how women behave when paying for something in a shop. I was stunned the other day when I found myself mirroring his description of this; Having stood for a while in a queue to pay for something, we women often act surprised when it comes to paying, then faff around for an age, trying to find the relevant card, while the far superior male approach is to have the money and card out of their wallet well in advance of paying. While standing in a queue the other day, I became aware that I was falling into this stereotype - it would seem that when standing in a queue, I am somehow taken into a trance-like state where I forget that I am even waiting to pay for something, hence the element of surprise when it comes to paying. Needless to say, when I managed to alert myself to the fact that I was fitting Bryson's description to a tee, I was quite proud of myself.

Then, to my dismay, I found myself on the verge of eliciting a second trait Bryson had identified: that of asking questions when you already know the answer. Bryson gives the example of being at a train station and seeing a queue of people all waiting to ask the guard if this is the platform for the 8.59 to Victoria. Having given the appropriate answer to the first questionning person, the next five people proceed to ask the poor guard the same question - it's almost as if the British public are deaf until standing a metre in front of the person-in-the-know, and have to be told face to face themselves before they believe what they have already heard. I was about to follow this path; having examined in careful detail all of the offers on shampoo and conditioner and established that nearly everything was buy one get one half price (identified by the bold red labels plastered all over the shelving stating this), I was still going to ask the checkout assisstant whether the items I was about to purchase were on buy one get one half price. It took a whole lot of muscle to control to restrain myself from uttering those words. Yet I still managed to elicit another of Bryson's identified traits in the process of paying for my items. There had only been two people in the queue in front of me, but the shop assisstant felt it necessary to offer me an apology for making me wait, so what did I do? I said sorry too. Why? because that's what we Brits love to do (either that or complain). I said sorry for waiting. Ah...I love being English!!

Friday, 29 June 2007

tales of a nursery worker and a little bit more...

Over the last month I have had the joy of experiencing the high's and low's of nursery work, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to paint you a picture of what it's like...

Life working in nurseries is one where you get shown a whole lot of love by children in a way that we as adults are hopeless at doing, where children accept oneanother in spite of any frailties; where you can fly around the world and back in a few minutes, where feeding 20 children at once can actually be surprisingly easy.... Nurseries are places where giraffe's get mistaken for rats, where it is fun to eat soil, sand, uncooked rice and glitter, where I am told by a two year old boy that he has a big bum like me; where I have gained the world record for the highest number of cups of tea to be drunk in the space of 15 minutes by a non-tea drinker; where it is ok to ask who has done a poo, then use your nose to sniff out the offender, and where children love to tell you that they have just done a 'humungous' poo; where you get covered in puke and have to sit on the bus on the way home, aware that you smell of baby sick, but are just too tired to care. Don't you wish you could do this job?!

Today is moving day for me, and I awoke at 5.45am, probably because I was trying to make lists in my sleep of all the little things I need to remember not to forget. Bit by bit, I have removed the marks of me in this flat - the photos, the breadmaker, two (of our 5) cupboards filled entirely with baking ingredients and equipment, the cd's, the pretty candles, the African drums...and so from today, this house will lose its housemate who has become a recyling fiend and insists on trying to be as eco-friendly as possible, often to the annoyance of her housemates; who always gets up at ridiculously early hours and has almost mastered the art of stepping over the broken floorboards to minimise the risk of waking her housemates, but still manages to sound like an elephant; who every now and then takes over the kitchen for 9 hours to bake for 200 people. It has been a quality two years sharing this flat with three wonderful girls who I will miss very much.

I will probably not have much internet access for the next couple of weeks as it'll take a while to get it all set up, so sadly there will be a blogging break for that time.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

mother hen

well, my feminine response to the common cold (a.k.a the 'man-flu' for all you men who have not heard of such a thing) presides once again. Despite having been out last night and not being in bed before midnight, I still awoke at 6.30am this morning. Naively, I thought that just this once, I might be able to trick my body into going back to sleep. Yeh right. Instead, I just started thinking about all of the little things that I mustn't forget to pack when I move in a week and a half. My housemates are off to London today for a fun filled couple of days, including a trip to Wimbledon, so as they were up bright and early this morning, I decided to get up too. This was when the mother hen in me reared its lovely head (which I genuinely am beginning to love) as I looked around the flat and saw what a mess it was in. So, at 7.15am I started tidying. I wanted to hoover as well but thought the boys who live below would not be so appreciative of my nesting tendencies at this time in the morning. I am very much looking forward to moving in to my new abode and having a fresh canvas to inspire creativity, so to speak. I love homemaking.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

croydeliafever...

ok, so here's the post I promised...Last week involved working for the most part with lots of wonderful children who come out with some wonderfully classic comments, like, "my cat got dead. It was walking very slowly across the road and a car was coming very fast, and it got dead." and from Madeleine as we were walking back from the park, as she stopped, I asked if she was ok, to which this particularly special 2 year old replied, "yeh, I've just got a wedgie. Just sorting it out...ok, it's gone now." Legend.

On Thursday we ('we' being 23 of our friends) took a trip down to Croyde in Devon for a day at the beach. And what a wonderful day it was. I cooked a good old barbeque, using the stones as my utensils and we had rather a fancy lunch of bacon and beefburgers with salad and all the trimmings (well, nearly all). It was wonderful to have a good old swim in the sea and try and catch a few waves on the body board. The journey home was blissful - the feeling of having sunkissed skin, salty hair, and sand ingrained into your skin, along with the immense tiredness that I finally allowed to settle after a long week of being ignored was brilliant. I could totally get used to going to the beach every day.

On Friday I went up to Spitten Farm in Evesham, with 150 people from my church and another 700 people from other New Frontiers churches across the Southwest for the weekend. Due to the British weather being truly faithful in its nature, we got incredibly wet and muddy, and spent most of the weekend this way. It was a fantastic weekend where God moved incredibly powerfully amongst all who were there - the young and the old. It is amazing to see how God responds when people are hungry to meet with Himand have hearts that are willing to hear what He has to say.

Monday morning was spent manically preparing beef goulash for 10 people before going to childminding. I don't think I've ever cooked with such speed - I felt like I was on ready steady cook - how much fun would that be!?!

Over the last couple of days I have had a runny nose and have been sneezing an unusual amount - it doesn't feel like a cold so I am hoping it's hayfever - a slightly funny thing to 'hope' for, I know, but if it is, it means that a few pills should sort me out. If it is a cold, I could be in a spot of trouble, as I have been asked to sing at a wedding in 2 weeks time (which I have to confess, I found highly amusing when I was asked - I never envisaged myself singing at someone's wedding), and my cold's are usually pretty persistent. Ho hum....

what was I thinking - it's bed time, not blog time!

Every day for the past week or so I have intended on writing a new entry but I have had very little spare time. So the time has finally come, at 00:10 - a time which is usually unheard of for me to be up at. Why am I up now? because I have been out celebrating with one of my medic housemates who intercollated this year (did a degree in a year), and she got a first, the clever girl. So, after my church small group, I joined them at a Thai restaurant for a very late dinner - well, they ate and I watched! Actually, there is so much to write about that I am not going to delve in now, so this will have to serve as an appetite whetter (if that is such a word!) for what's to come...goodnight lovely people.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

To my Dad

Today is my Dad's birthday. 48 years ago today, my Daddy was born into the world and had it been any number of days or years later, none of his four wonderful children would be here today. If you haven't met him, my Dad is a wonderful man, who doesn't get anywhere near the credit he is due for all he does (but God sees it, Dad). He is incredibly committed and dedicated to everything he does, everything he is passionate about he approaches with an awesome determination. He is a wonderful father, a loving husband; he's been a teacher to probably thousands of people in the time he's been a lecturer, and has taught both the young and the old. He has an amazing ability to communicate with all ages and all types of people. He is a talented artist and a gifted musician. What a legend. Thanks Dad for all you do for our family - for the way you have always provided for us and never once complained about it; for the phenomenal patience with which you have raised us, and trusted each one of us to God. I love you very much Dad, and would love to be in Herne Bay with you on your birthday to give you a big old hug.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

play time

Today I spent the afternoon working with the wonderful toddlers of Torwood House Nursery, which consists of three four storey houses all interconnected. Pretty amazing. The kids were great - with a constant stream of runny noses, sunhats falling off, poo-ey nappies and fun. It was slightly surreal in that I just rocked up, told the first person I saw in uniform that I was Hannah from the agency and then someone took me to the kids. No-one else asked my name or told me what I should do - they just let me get on with it. It's quite funny the number of children who call you 'Mummy' after spending just a few hours with them, yet struggle to remember your name despite being told numerous times what your name is. It's also amazing just how trusting and affectionate children are - it never fails to amaze me what an incredible transition happens somewhere between childhood and adulthood that means that you stop showing affection and trust in such a selfless way...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

cookies, cakes and children ...oh, and illegal activity

The last week was my first week of free time since finishing my degree. Much to my surprise, I found myself lying in till 8.30am, which is virtually unheard of for me, and I have to say, I am not really a fan of this laying in malarky. I know that to most people 8.30 does not constitute a lie-in, but to me, it's almost 2 hours later than when I would normally get up, so that's a good chunk of the morning for me. Anyway, the bonus of having a whole lot of time on my hands was that it meant that I could finally get stuck into working on the canvas I am doing for a friend's wedding reception (see above for a snapshot). It basically consists of hundreds of beads stitched on with a few rose petals here and there. It has been wonderful to finally get my creative brain working after a long break due to my degree.


My free time has also meant plenty of time baking yummy treats for various people's birthdays, and for lots of children. It was my flatmate Sarah's birthday on Thursday, so I made here a mountain cake, which was demolished way too quickly, but that's what happens when you've got lots of hungry friends, and when you give someone their cake with all those hungry friends there, waiting to be fed! Unfortunately Ben's birthday cake wasn't quite so spectacular, as his had to be posted to Cambridge, which makes for chocolate-mountain-transporting- difficulities.

Some exciting news on the summer job front is that I start childcare temping tomorrow! I'll also be working on Friday, and both of the nurseries are really close to my house, which is always a bonus. I am trying to value my prime housing location as much as possible for the next few weeks, as I will be doing a whole lot more cycling over this wonderfully hilly city (that has succeeded in reducing me to tears with cycling frustration during the winter months) when I move house in July.

I suppose I should give an explanation for my reference to my 'illegal activity.' Today, Katie asked me to take back a dress and get a refund for her, as I was going to that end of town. So she gave me her card and wrote her pin on my tummy in case I forgot it. All fine. When it came to getting her refund, I put Katie's card in the chip and pin thing, as directed. All fine. Then the lovely Bristolian lady put a pen down in front of me. In the few seconds of her putting the pen down and processing the refund, I realised she had put the pen in front of me for a reason. She wanted a little thing called a signature - just a formality when it comes to proving who you are. Hmmm. So, I explained that actually the card I was using was not my own so should I fake my friend's signature. In the proper Brizzle accent, I was told, 'well iss gone throughinnit so yer...ang on...'Kenya, is gone through an its not her card so she'll 'ave to sign it won't she?' Kenya, the co-worker confirmed that yes, I would have to forge Katie's signature. They were slightly unimpressed, though I couldn't determine whether their annoyance was any more exaggerated with a crim like me than with anyone else, as I had not seen their expressions change in the whole time I was in the mile long queue. They then told me I'd have to fill out 'this' which was asking for my name and address. As I was not sure whether this was to cover their backs against forgery, or just protocol for returns, I asked if I needed to pretend to be Katie again. Turned out I did, so another forged signature. I was quite surprised at how natural I looked, writing this signature like a pro - not that I am impressed at my ability to forge signatures...sorry mum and dad.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Grace...



There is something truly remarkable about grace. Grace is something that is massively misunderstood in our culture, and it's something that when we even just begin to grasp, revolutionises our understanding of God.

I am having great trouble in finding the words to explain what I want to say - I guess because I am aware of the enormity of grace, yet also incredibly unaware of just what it means for God in His grace to choose to dine with the outcasts, the sinners, the broken - all those who society in their piety cast aside and see as unworthy. To understand that grace means that even though God hates our sin, he welcomes sinners - no matter how ugly their sin is in the eyes of the world; it is not that God overlooks our sin, but that He pardons us in spite of our brokenness. What kind of a love is this? Something that a huge proportion of the world dismisses as impossible - as an ideal, a cover-up excuse for messed up people being happy when they find God.

The fact that God's grace means that even those who have spent the majority of their lives making others' lives a misery, can know God's grace, disgusts a world that thinks it understands justice.

My mind boggles at this grace, but my heart is awed by it.

I've been re-reading Brennan Manning's 'The Ragamuffin Gospel', which is an incredibly refreshing insight into God's grace. Thinking about grace got me thinking about the title of my blog. I chose to call it 'running for grace' because I want to know more of God's grace, and I want to be running towards it rather than away from it. But actually, the whole concept of running for grace is slightly paradoxical in that the whole point about grace is that we do not receive it by striving for it, but simply by the fact that Jesus' death made us worthy to receive it.

I think that sometimes I drastically miss who God is because of my striving - my running out of a desire to know more of Him. In this striving, I am becoming more aware of the reality in what Manning says about the 'graced life';

'The child of God knows that the graced life calls him or her to live on a cold and windy mountain, not on the flattened plain of reasonable, middle of the road religion.'

In experiencing God's grace, there is a responsibility to show others that same grace - even though we will mess up in this, God gives us the grace to be gracious. In knowing God's grace, it no longer suffices to live a life characterised by 'middle of the road religion', which can seem like the far easier alternative. It's a big old challenge, but one that I want to embrace...

Friday, 25 May 2007

finito

Yesterday saw my last ever Early Childhood Studies exam. I have officially finished my degree and am a 'graduand'. I am also oh so very tired. It hasn't really sunk in that I have actually finished - that all the bulging lever arch files around my room are no longer going to get any fatter. I really hope that the books and folders do not become a redundant part of my life - that I actually end up using some of the amazing things I've learnt. Only time will tell I guess.

I am going to be moving house in about 5 weeks time to a lovely three bed, four bathroomed house, with a beautiful kitchen that I am very excited about cooking up some culinary delights in. So the move is going to mean some clearing out. I haven't really accumulated a lot of junk since being at uni, but there are some things lurking on shelves and in drawers that could be got rid of. So the culling has begun. There is something very satisfying about getting rid of unneccessary things, making way for a new start - I thoroughly enjoy sorting and cleaning. On that note, I need to go and check how the fridge is doing. It's finally defrosting day, and there is a huge ice overhang, which some borrowers would have amazing adventures climbing - if they actually existed. But it's time for the overhang to go to make room for another term's worth of ice to build up, due to the lack of a door on the mini freezer section at the top if the fridge. Gosh, what a boring piece of information - sorry if I have left you feeling a little bit bored after that!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

running like the wind

This morning I went for a run with my trusty running buddy Ros, and we ran 8.5 miles at an average speed of 7.59 mins to the mile, which I thought was pretty good for a good length run. That is officially the longest run I have ever done. I know it's a long way off marathon length, but not bad for a morning's run, I think it's fair to say! The picture to your left is of the beautiful Ashton Court Estate, which is one of the places we ran through this morning, where we saw a herd of deer and some frolicking squirrels.

So, it's Sunday afternoon, and my incredibly hardworking housemates are studying away, but as I don't work on Sunday's, I've been enoying some down-time. I have slight post-prandial lethargy (check out my medical knowledge - and that's not from Wikipedia!), having had a deliciously filling dinner at Wagamamma's. Amazingly, there was still a queue out the door, despite the bucket loads of rain pouring down. There's something about good food that not even bad weather can make people stay away!

I am into the penultimate week of my degree, which is....hmmm...I don't really know how I feel about it. I don't feel reminiscent, or sad, or excited or scared - in some ways it feels like a bit of a non-event. But I suppose it is quite exciting and a little milestone in the life of Hannah Barnes, to reach the end of my BSc.

The adventures that I mentioned I have been having have included my briefest visit yet to Herne Bay - for less than 24 hours for an interview last week, a trip to Weston-Super-Mare beach, which made me feel like it was summer, and a weekend trip to Woolacombe for a hen weekend. The hen weekend was definitely the highlight of my adventures so far in 2007. It was a gloriously sunny weekend, and we spent one whole day surfing which was absolutely brilliant. I came back from the weekend blonder and frecklier - a true sign that summer is on its way, not that you would believe it right now with all this rain. Gosh, how English am I, chatting away about the weather?!

On Friday, I went to my first ever book club meeting. A lady at church decided it'd be fun to start a book club to get to know some different people and to encourage those of us who love to read, to read more. It was a really fun evening, and I have to say that I was more than content to do nothing else with my friday evening than go to a book club and eat malteasers. Love it. Our fist book to read is the kite runner, which I have heard both very good and not so good reports about, so I'll just have to see for myself...

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

excitement and boredom

Well, I have failed miserably at keeping my blog up to date as of late, unlike my brothers, both of whom are legends.

Revision is upon students across the nation, and for me, the last set of exams of my career at Bristol university (if you can constitute 2 exams as a set!). Even though I only have two exams, I have to know everything in a whole lot of detail, and half of what I've been revising really hasn't been enthralling.

I am in the process of creating a piece of art for a friends wedding in June, and was having a bit of a creative block. So, I decided to enlist the creative genius of a friend at church who is an artist. I just googled her name to see if she has a website, and she doesn't but it turns out that there is another lady with the same name (and surname) as her, who is also an artist! What are the chances. Anyway, within five minutes of speaking with Sarah, I was feeling incredibly inspired and excited at the prospect of cracking on with the canvas. Only thing is, it still has to wait a bit because revision has to be a priority. Humph.

On a positive note about my work, I received an e-mail from one of my interviewee's from my dissertation, who said she thought it was excellent, and did I mind if she passed it on to some of her colleagues as she thought it would be very well received! I was very flattered, as I am by no means an expert on the use of art in health, and so to be told by professionals that they think my work is significant is a wonderful compliment.

I saw my tutor today, and she told me that she quoted me yesterday, when teaching my fellow ECS students as she felt that some things I had found in my research voiced things that were not summed up in other research. She also said that she plans to quote me again, and that my research was very powerful. I'll be gutted if the examiners don't share such sentiments, but even if they don't I have still been very encouraged - I never expected such a positive response.

I have been having plenty of adventures amidst my revision, but they are going to have to wait a bit longer, as I still need to do a couple more hours of revision before bedtime.

ttfn.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

a brief interlude

I have spent most of today so far working away in the medics library, which is a wonderful place to work.

However, for the last hour, my focused mindset has been repeatedly intruded on by the sound of church bells. When they first rang, I thought, 'Oh how lovely! someone's got married!' but when they carried on and on and on, I became aware of my cortisol levels elevating and the incessant ditty, 'pop goes the weasel' going round and round my head, because that is what the tune the bells were ringing at that point in time resembled the most.

Down in the basement of the library (where I am now), I am free from the joyful torment of the bells, but I must return to my reading about partnerships, collaboration, co-ordination, interprofessionalism, and about a hundred other terms which mean pretty much the same thing, and that is what every author who writes about them confirms for me, who, as a layperson is able to work that out all by myself...

I have been intending on writing a new entry for ages now, but I have had to prioritise my time, and a whole lot of other things have come before my blog. I will endeavour to write another entry by the end of this weekend.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Easter Weekend Adventures

I have been very blessed by the generosity of my good friend Sammy's family these last five days. They took me to Spring Harvest in Minehead, and treated me like one of the family, which I love.

I had also been invited to as wedding which was over the same weekend that Spring Harvest covered, and, not liking to do things by halves, I went to both. I got up bright and early on Saturday morning and travelled for 5 hours to get from Minehead to Truro. The journey itself didn't actually take 5 hours, but to avoid any risk of missing the train I had to get from Taunton, I caught the first bus of the day at 7.15, which left me with a 2 hour wait at Taunton station. When I arrived at the Monkey Tree caravan park, where we were staying for the weekend, I had a lovely surprise - my friend Nommi, who moved out to America a year and a half ago, was there! I had been told she wouldn't be able to make it, so it was wonderful to see her.

The wedding was absolutely amazing. After a beautiful service in a very old chapel in the middle of the countryside, we went to Kate's (the bride) family home for the reception. We were greeted by the soothing tones of a jazz band, and a champagne reception with delicious canapes. I was incredibly grateful for the canapes, having only eaten a croissant for breakfast, and it was 3.30pm by this point. I spent a considerable amount of time during the champagne reception dancing around the garden with Hope, who is perhaps the most beautiful 5 year old I've ever seen - she's one of the leader of my church's five children, and is just delightful.

Easter morning saw the cooking of breakfast for 15 people, followed by the easter egg hunt which I had organised with my two housemates-to-be. Due to the boys' tactics of locking the caravan's doors to hinder the girls' progress, a lot of jumping through windows happened. I definitely had as much fun watching the frantic searching, as the hunters had searching for their prey. As soon as we'd finished the easter egg hunt, I had to go to the station to go back to Minehead. I caught the station with a few minutes to spare, and that's where the fun started. I went to text Sammy to let her know I was on my way back to find that I had lost my
phone.

I've been realizing that I am quite good at planning how to get somewhere, but tend not to work out how I am going to get back. When I went travelling, this tendency characterised pretty much everything I did. I knew how and when I was getting to Australia, but had no idea what I was doing when I got there. While in Oz, I drove some friends from the Bible college to someone's house in a suburb about an hour and a half from where I was staying. It was fine getting there, as I had someone navigating, but didn't think twice about how I would get back. Somehow I managed to find my way back in the pouring rain at night (thanks God). Pretty amazing as I have the navigational skills of an ox -actually, that's probably an offense to oxen!

So, the same was the case with getting back to Minehead, I hadn't massively thought through the fact that I was travelling on Easter Sunday, so the probability of a limited to no bus service running was quite likely. This was going to be a major problem if I got to Taunton (which is an hour away from Minehead) to find there weren't any buses, and I didn't have my phone. I started wracking my brain for friends' mobile numbers, and the only number I could recall was Mum and Dad's.

Thankfully there was a bus when I got to Taunton, and when I got back to Butlins, I found a note from Sammy to let me know that Jo had texted her to let her know I'd left my phone. Praise the Lord! She informed me that they would be playing mini golf at 4pm so I could find them there. As I didn't have my phone and I don't own a watch, and my sun-reading skills are not up to scratch, I could only estimate the time. I thought it was nearly 4 and the first person I asked thought the same. Great. So I waited a while - no idea how long. No sign of sammy and her family, so I went into the skyline centre and saw a clock saying 3.20. Hmmm. Asked someone who said it was 4.20, but I thought the watch said 3.40. Hmmmmmm. Giving up on accurate clocks and people's ability to tell the time, I headed back to our chalet to write in my journal and wait for sammy's family to come back at 5 when we would go to dinner. I still have no clue what time I arrived back, or how long I waited for - it was very odd not knowing the time and not being able to contact anyone.

On the last evening at Spring Harvest, we went to the cinema to see Amazing Grace. I have wanted to see this film since it came out, so was really looking forward to it, but when sammy said that 9.30pm was going to be the best time to go so we didn't miss any of the things we wanted to go to, I knew there was a risk that I would not manage to see the film in its entirety. Surprise surprise, the inevitable happened - I fell asleep. It caught me completely unawares - I had been doing so well, feeling totally awake, then Bam, I was out for the count. To add insult to injury, I then proceeded to start sleep talking at a really serious point where someone says, 'Conscience is everything', then there is a prolonged pause. So there was no disguising my sleep talking from the rest of the cinema.Ah well.

Little sister's coming to visit today - first trip to Bristol, so that's exciting, although I'm feeling a bit sick from eating too many yoghurt coated raisins - hopefully I'll be feeling better by the time Sarah gets here. On Friday I'm heading to the Bay to see my wonderful family which I'm looking forward to a lot.

Just for my record, as much as anyone else's interest, last week my running buddy and I ran our fastest yet - 8.47 minutes to the mile, and that was with a chesty cough.

Monday, 2 April 2007

how to overcome 'man-flu' the female way...

As you all know, I have not been particularly well this last week. But, because when I get a cold, I do not classify it as 'man flu', which seems to warrant spending at least 36 hours in bed, incapacitated, unable to do anything for oneself other than groan every now and then in the hope that someone will give some sympathy, I have continued life as normal.

Instead of spending time in bed, I went tobogganing with the kids from church, which I would highly recommend as an effective alternative remedy to all the males out there who think that bed-rest is the only way to rid yourself of a cold. Rather than keeping your cold-germs to yourself, you get to share them with everyone else, thus removing the selfish aspect of having a cold. Even better, follow my example and spend time with children, who are guaranteed to pass the cold around not only their own families, but all the children at school. So, not only are you not selfish with your cold, you are eliciting generosity.

I have just been on the phone, and my friend totally re-emphasised the ridiculousness of man-flu. Her fiancee has apparently suffered from a 'health breakdown', (female definition: common cold), which is the physical alternative to a mental breakdown, according to her fiancee. Absolutely hilarious. There were tears of laughter involved when she recounted to me the seriousness with which her husband to be had described his 'health breakdown.'

So the rest of my weekend continued as such...Saturday evening was spent planning an easter egg hunt for easter sunday morning, which will be spent at a static caravan park in Devon. My future housemates and I had great fun planning ways to make our friends look as ridiculous as possible, providing entertainment for everyone else at the caravan park. Upon returning home, rather than going to bed, I proceded to peel 40 odd potatoes and enough parsnips and carrots for 9 people for sunday lunch. Goodness knows where this stroke of genius came from - cooking a roast for 9 people when you have to be out of the house by 9am, and not knowing quite how many extra people might get invited at the end of church. Anyone would think I like a bit of a challenge.

Of course, the meal preparations could not go by without a near death experience. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I did have vivid images before my eyes of the house burning down. I'd popped up to Helen's flat upstairs to check on the roast potatoes (not enough shelves in our oven for everything), and managed to tip the tray of roast potatoes and burning oil over the back of the oven shelf, plummeting them towards the flames. Fortunately it was all ok as the potatoes decided that they liked the safety of their roasting dish far too much to risk jumping completely into the flames. So nothing was burned, and the house still stands in one piece, but the potential for a fire was definitely there.

By the end of lunch, we were incredibly full, to the point of not being able to move from our seats for a good while. This might have had something to do with the rather extravagant desserts, consisting of chocolate souffles and lemon squares (hence the photo), of which, everyone had both, but managed to leave plenty to provide for our breakfast and lunch today.

So, to recapitulate, in order to overcome man-flu the female way, simply fill your time with tobogganing, egg hunt planning, parsnip peeling and potential fires, and top it all off with a good amount of sugary desserts, and you'll be cured.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

the plague

I have fallen prey to the plague that John has been referring to. It started off as a relatively harmless sore throat which could not be eased by copious amounts of water and orange juice consumption. Then came the sneezing, which is fine. Next, the waking up throughout the night because my silly little body can't get itself around needing to breathe purely through my mouth, resulting in Apnoea.

Then, the breathing-like-a-walrus routine. I had not realised I had reached this stage until I was asked my my housemates at dinner if I was ok, as there were some slightly disconcerting breathing noises coming from my end of the table.

Perhaps what's most disappointing about this cold is the debilitation of my senses. I can't taste or smell anything. Then last night I burnt my tongue on a cup of hot chocolate, which might as well have been some warmed, diluted soil - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to tell. This morning I have woken up with an incredibly husky voice which makes me sound like I've been on 40 a day for the last couple of decades. So now, I'm a cross between a walrus with a camel-like tongue and the voice of a smoker. Nice.

By the way, in case you were wondering about the photo I have included, it's of a cell tissue of a chimera plant. I was going to include a picture of normal, nose-blowing tissues, but when I googled 'tissues', and this came up I thought it was far more interesting. The name 'Chimera' orignates from 'Indo-European root', where Chimera is a mythical creature which is made up of the front parts of a lion, the middle parts of a goad, and the tail of a snake. I think I'll stick to my walrus-camel-like state.

In other news, last Friday saw the handing in of my beloved Dissertation, who, although I had grown fond of, needed to have some time away from me - we'd been seeing a little too much of each other to see things objectively. We've seen many happy and nearly tragic times together, including the memorable near-death experiences on two occasions. The first, when my ipod shuffle decided it had had enough of its existence in my pocket and cunningly decided to leap out of my pockey whilst I was cycling, completely unaware of what was taking place underneath my nose. The second time was just the other week, when Kingston, the newly employed guard and saver of the dissertation after the demise of ipod, decided that perhaps my editing of Dissertation wasn't adequate, and decided to go for a little spin in the washing machine. Needless to say, Dissertation seemed to have permanently disappeared. But, after a bit of prayer, scolding and drying, Kingston was feeling back to himself and behaved wonderfully for the remainder of his time as guard of Dissertation.

(Sorry about the change in font size - couldn't work out how to change it back to normal.)