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.