Group Yoga and a Live Class!

A woman in black running trousers and a pale blue jacket does a shoulder stand in front of a large wardrobe
Heidi demonstrating a pose I cannot even imagine being able to do

Three friends came to stay this weekend, to celebrate my birthday by eating large amounts of pizza and ice cream and playing board games. This morning between meals and games I took the opportunity to rope a couple of them into doing a short Yogaia class with me. Anna had never done yoga before, I had done about half a dozen beginner’s classes and Heidi is an experienced yogi, so it was quite interesting.

Anna and I were laughing uncontrollably as we utterly failed not only to get into the poses but to even understand what poses we were supposed to be in, while Heidi calmly folded herself up like some kind of human origami project and maintained a zen-like focus. I don’t think Anna and I are constitutionally suited to yoga, but perhaps the zen-like focus and the origami-flexibility both come with practice.

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Yoga with my dog

Benny is a natural at yoga – his favourite resting position is one we like to call “froggy doggy”, where his back legs are splayed out behind him and his pelvis is flat against the floor. Sometimes he lies down and carefully maneuvers his legs into this position, but other times he begins in a downward dog position, then raises his head to stretch his back legs right to the tips of his toes, and allows his feet to slide out from underneath him.

christmas-froggy-doggy
Christmas froggy doggy – he likes unwrapping presents

I’m not nearly as flexible as that, and I don’t particularly want to be able to swivel my hips 180 degrees and lie flat on the floor, but I would like to be a bit more supple. I’ve also got ongoing discomfort in my shoulders and upper back; this is partly due to a tendency to tight muscles that I’ve inherited (hi mum! Hi granny!) but also thanks to my terrible posture. Add to all of that the fact that my brain goes 100 miles a minute and I am not very good at simply being, and the upshot is that yoga would be great for me.

I’ve looked into going to a yoga class several times. When we first moved here, I found there was a Ballet Fit class at the local sports centre. The idea of combining ballet techniques with yoga seemed intriguing, but also terrifying. When I think of ballet, I think of tall, thin, beautiful young women with perfect poise and grace. That’s not a description I would apply to myself! Yoga brings to mind athletic, bendy, healthy-eating overachievers who get up at 4am to meditate and wear Lycra at every opportunity. That’s not me either.
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Education, Hacked

In my last post, I mentioned that I had an assignment for an online course to design an ideal learning environment, based on what I had learnt from the course, and that I would post my response here once I had finished it. I ended up writing it in something of a rush; I planned it out carefully, thought for a long time about what I would write, and then spontaneously went to London for a couple of days. When I got back I realised I had two hours until the submission deadline. Sometimes that’s how life goes! So here is a slightly edited version of what I wrote.


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The New House

I spent the last two days at the new house, which is a small cottage in a village not all that far away from the old house, but with quite a different feel. I’ve never lived in a house where people could look straight in from the street, so it was an unusual experience to be sitting at the kitchen table and look up to see someone peering into the flowerbeds just outside. The road running past is fairly busy for such a rural village, but it is busy with hikers, cyclists, land rovers and tractors – not a lot of normal cars. Apparently the Yorkshire cycle route runs along that road for a while, which explains all the bikes.

When we first arrived on Saturday, we were just ahead of the removal van which was bringing a wardrobe and various other pieces of large furniture. The bouncing, friendly, eight-years-old-but-still-a-puppy-inside Labradoodle is always extremely keen to meet new people, and the general feeling was that his keenness would not be an asset when heavy items were being lifted, so I took him out for a walk down the “public footpath”. I’m not exactly sure whether we stuck to the footpath or not, because the walls between the fields we were crossing had crumbled so badly it was impossible to work out what was public and what was not, but no one shot at us and we had a fair tramp until I saw the van driving off again. Then we went back so that I could have a proper look around.

It’s a lovely little house and reminds me very strongly of the old house, which is where I am tonight. I think that’s because of the deep windows, the Yorkshire stone and the wooden beams on the ceiling – probably the self-same things that led my family to buy the new place. The room I slept in was advertised as a study, because it isn’t really big enough to fit in a bed. Well, it would be, but for some unknown reason a sort of step has been built into the corner of the room and the remaining space against the wall isn’t quite long enough to place a bed. We aren’t put off by such impossibilities, however, so I spent the last two nights sleeping on a camp bed propped at a slightly off-level angle on top of the step. The room, never having been a bedroom before, has no curtains. The neighbour has a bright outside light. I slept surprisingly well.

My favourite room is probably the kitchen. There’s an Aga, which keeps the house lovely and warm and means that making toast is almost too easy. The sunlight streams in and there’s a gorgeous view out of the window. The dog has his own little bedroom in the disused fireplace and there’s a proper farmyard sink. All over the house there are nooks set into the walls. For some reason my brother has carefully filled each one with Furbies.

Now I’m back at the old house. I had hoped to be here by late morning so that I could get something useful done, but in the end we made it here around 2pm and I spent the next hour reorganising the freezer while the huge fish tank was dismantled and removed. The parentals sped off to get the tank set up in its new home before the fish suffocated, and I cleaned up a bit and planned a few meals for the next week.

At five thirty the Tesco order arrived. We’d put in the order last night, or rather I had made a shopping list on my Tesco account and then read it aloud to my dad so that he could place the order from his account and get his precious Clubcard points. Through a miracle of ineptitude and bad website design, only four of the items on my list actually arrived – all the items ordered in multiples. The remaining dozen items were never actually added to the basket. So I rapidly changed my plans for dinner and put in another order. It will arrive between 9pm and 11pm tomorrow, because that is of course the ideal time for shopping to arrive at the door.

When my brother got home we ate instant pasta and terrible flapjack, then went for a cycle ride on the electric bicycles. He cycles on his electric bike to school and back each day, up and down steep hills for several miles, so is completely used to the odd feeling of pushing down on a pedal and flying forwards 30 yards, even uphill. I took a while longer to warm to the idea; in fact I’m not sure I entirely enjoyed it even after almost an hour but it’s certainly an efficient way to move. I’m seriously considering the possibility of buying my own when I start my midwifery degree (when, not if – I’m employing a Positive Mental Attitude to applying for a course that often gets 40 applicants for every place) as it’ll be a whole lot cheaper than a car and a lot more convenient than the bus.

Now it’s time for bed. I’m planning on getting up at 7am when lil bro’s alarm goes off for school, so that we can fight for the shower and the cereal bowls. If the weather is fine, I’ll go out and weed the garden for a bit before it gets too hot and then settle in for a proper blitz on the junk in my bedroom. If the weather isn’t fine then I will consult the arm’s-length list of tasks I’ve been left to do. It’s occasionally slightly disheartening to look round this house and see just how much stuff there is to pack, throw away, clean and fix.

Procrastination Organisation

What I ought to be doing today is grappling with the complexities of International law. However, my brain seems to have gone on strike, so what I have actually decided to do is tidy out my wardrobe!

That might not sound like a particularly good use of my time… until you see my wardrobe.

A very messy wardrobe
"A bit messy" would be an understatement

I’ve been meaning to tackle this particular disaster zone for quite a while, because it’s totally unuseable in that state. I can’t get anything out without the scarves falling on my head. I can’t see what dresses I’ve got hung in there because the coats are in the way. And goodness me, the base of the wardrobe. Let’s take a closer look at that really painful bit, shall we?

outrageously messy wardrobe
Even I can't tell what's in there!

So I put on a CD (Shirley Bassey’s Finest Collection, disc 2, if anyone is interested) and dragged everything except the clothes out onto the floor.

I hadn’t quite realised how many pairs of shoes I own until I saw them all in rows on my floor. The worst part is that there are more pairs scattered around my parents’ houses. Oh dear.

sixteen pairs of shoes
Enough shoes for four spiders! Assuming spiders can ice skate and clog dance, that is.

I’m very fond of some of those shoes, especially the six inch gingham stilettoes, but it isn’t much use if I have to don a hard hat to delve in and find them every time I want to wear a pair. Most of the time I just wear the same pair over and over.

Once the shoes were out, it was looking a lot clearer. The big pink hat took a bit of reshaping, and I stuffed it with brown packing paper to keep its shape before stashing it safely on top of my wardrobe. I also slid the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper up there, to avoid any further squashing. There were lots of bits of ribbon, paper and odd items like spare bike lights and carrier bags still lying around which I wanted to get up off the floor – clutter attracts clutter when you aren’t looking.

This useful storage hanger seemed wasted

I couldn’t in good conscience say that this was a good use of my storage hanger. The bubble wrap and padded envelopes are very useful for packing fragile objects into, but I won’t be packing up my room and moving again for another six months. In the interim that storage could be a lot more useful! So I moved the packing material into one of the plastic storage boxes which live on top of my wardrobe, ready for when I move out again.

Now that I had somewhere to put things, I could sift through the pile of remaining items and store them away. Bike-related things like waterproof trousers, a padded seat cover and spare lights went into the top section, with the helmet hung beside it. My suit hanger and umbrellas went into the middle, where I can easily get at them on a wet day. And the bottom compartment now houses my fancy summer scarves, a clutch bag and my belts. The two winter scarves  are looped around the hanger of the coat I normally wear them with, to make it easier to remember to put them on. Carrier bags went into the home I already had for them (why weren’t they there to start with? How did they get out?) and bits of ribbon and paper went either in the bin, or in the storage boxes.

A tidy, accessible wardrobe!

With all that clutter out of the bottom, my shoes could go back in! Summer sandals and spare black heels are in the little plastic boxes. The three pairs of shoes I wear most often are now tucked neatly under the end of my bed, where I can get at them quickly without falling over them all the time. Eventually I’m going to get one of those fancy shoe storage units, or maybe a shoe hanging bag, but for now they are marshalled neatly and I can see at a glance what I’ve got. Much better.

Next time I need a break from work, I’ve got another two areas I want to tackle: my bureau, and my cupboard.

I’m not sure I even want to show you what my bureau looks like. When I first moved into this room I was really pleased with the idea that I could use the bureau as an alternative work-space. I could have a table, and a desk! I could write letters on its folding top, and pretend to be a Victorian!

Erm, not so much.

Not a lot of organisation going on in here

Somehow, despite all my best intentions, my bureau has become the home for everything that doesn’t have anywhere else to go – and quite often a fair number of things that do. I just open it up a couple of inches and drop things into the mess, not ever brave enough to fold out the top fully until now. It’s worse than I thought! So that’s the next task.

And once that’s sorted, I’ll tackle my food cupboard… again. I’ve organised it over and over, but no matter how I shift things around, I still discover forgotten, rotten vegetables squashed at the back, and I still get attacked by falling plastic boxes when I open the door too quickly.

It might look innocent, but it bombards me with missiles on a daily basis

There is a spare shelf in there, but no brackets to hold it up. So it’s currently just a piece of wood, sitting on the bottom of my cupboard. I’m not keen on the idea of buying some brackets myself but if the college hasn’t got any spare, I might have to. Then I can move the crockery onto its own little shelf and make better use of the space at the top. I’ve ordered some more kitchen implements and storage boxes so it’s about to get even worse… And before anyone asks why I don’t use my kitchen cupboard to store them, I do. Two of them (a kind neighbour who doesn’t cook offered me the use of hers as well). I have an embarassing quantity of kitchen appliances. I have five chopping boards. It’s probably excessive. I can’t help it, it’s an illness.

And now that all that is done, it’s time to get back to work. Sigh.

My Degree is Getting in the Way of my Education

Sometimes I have to remind myself that the primary reason that I am here is to study for a law degree. The secondary reason, or at least the secondary commitment, is to sing in the chapel choir. And a third, fairly important, consideration is staying alive and healthy and not smelling too badly.

But all of these things take time, time which I could be spending doing so many other things! As I type, I am trying to find spare time to visit the University Library Books & Babies exhibition – a fascinating historical look at the literary records of ideas about reproduction. I allowed myself fifteen minutes in there this morning when I went to take out a book on contract law, and I knew immediately that I would need to put aside at least two hours to come back again.

I got back to my room and discovered a clutch of emails enticing me to go to an open day about children’s literature (going to that, it’s a Saturday afternoon), a festive evening at Anglesey Abbey (I’m determined to go to that, even though it slightly overlaps with the G&S society’s 50th Anniversary Ball, which I’m also going to…), a quiz in aid of Wintercomfort (can’t go, clashes with choir), a focus group meeting about whether the term “degrading” is, well, degrading, which I would like to contribute to but unsurprisingly I have choir, an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam entitled Vermeer’s Women (I’m going to the late night opening in a few weeks, since I never get any decent work done after choir anyway)… the list goes on.

I often feel that I’d enjoy my degree a lot more if I had the opportunity to cherry-pick modules from other courses, in a similar way to the American system. If I could get credit for my interest in child development, for example, then I could write an essay on the Books & Babies exhibition or the Children & Literature open day and I’d feel that it was a justifiable use of time to go. I still do feel that it’s a justifiable use to time, if I can find a sensible time (for example, not the day before a supervision with a lot of reading I haven’t finished), but it’s a pity that I always have a slight feeling that my time should be used for my degree instead.

On the other hand, it is wonderful to live in a city with so much opportunity to learn new things that aren’t remotely related to my daily degree drudgery, to coin a phrase. There are lectures and seminars and talks all the time, and the difficulty isn’t finding something interesting to do, it’s finding time to fit it all in around the compulsory reading! The pity of it is that once I graduate and therefore acquire a lot more free time (at least until I start something else), I’ll no longer have access to all of this.

So I suppose I feel that it’s important to make the most of it now. I may not put in as many hours of textbook reading during term, but the advantage of not really going anywhere during vacations is that there’s a lot of library time. For Christmas vacation I’ll be visiting both sets of parents and some friends, but I’ll be back in Cambridge a good three weeks before term restarts – a whole expanse of unstructured time has opened up ahead of me, just waiting to be filled with productive and entirely self-directed reading. The fact that I find it so exciting is probably conclusive evidence of my hopeless geekery.

Home Alone Again

I quite like being alone in the house for a few days. This week, mum and John have gone to the Lake District so I’ve been taking care of the house and animals since Friday. I haven’t been alone all that time though, because Anna has been here to visit! She arrived Saturday afternoon and left about an hour and a half ago, and we have had fun 🙂 Even the massive flood I managed to cause in the porch (by balancing a bowl of muddy water on a small shelf and then bumping into it) was quite fun. Not sure either of us enjoyed the dismembered rodents the cats kept presenting us with, though.

Today is a miserable grey day, which is at least consistent with the other days this week. I had to eventually give up hoping there would be a sunny day when I could dry my laundry, so the house is filled with damp clothes that really need to hurry up and dry so that I can pack them.

I can’t quite believe that term starts in two weeks. It’s been such a long time since I was properly at uni. Although I was there for a few weeks last year, it doesn’t really feel like it – my memories are quite fuzzy and I didn’t get a lot of work done. It feels as though I’m going back after nearly 18 months away and it’s quite scary.

I’m a bit cross, though. I have to be in Cambridge on the 24th for a choir thing, and helpfully I’ll be given a room in Selwyn for the night. The mother of the 5 year old I might be tutoring wanted to meet me at lunchtime on the 24th, so in order to get there in time I’m going down by coach on the 23rd and very helpfully I’ve been given another night in Selwyn.

Except that now I am not meeting them on the 24th, for several complicated reasons. I think partly she feels she is being helpful as she said “to save you a trip, let’s meet on the 30th instead”. But of course this isn’t helpful at all! I’m going down to Cambridge early in order to meet her, and now I am going for no reason at all. Grr.

At least I’ll be able to wander round and see what changes have been made to my lovely city, and maybe meet up with friends who are around. But it does mean I won’t see my mum again unless she comes to visit, and now there’s no reason at all why that has to be the case.

Anyway! I have grumbled about this a lot to several people, so I will move onto more cheery subjects. I’ve been working quite a lot lately on the writing group I run, a sort of support group for people talking part in NaNoWriMo. In previous years it has been a lot of work during November, which isn’t perfect when I’m at university! So I’ve been pre-writing inspirational emails, organising things that need to be organised and cunningly delegating things in a way that doesn’t seem like delegation at all. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, and oddly it’s also something that very few people know I do. I think that’s the thing about the internet – I don’t feel like people will always take it seriously so I don’t mention it on CVs, but it probably demonstrates my organisation, leadership, writing skills and so forth better than almost anything else.

Other than that, I’ve not got much on at the moment. Just enjoying the last few days before it all kicks off. Please cross your fingers that this works out. If it goes wrong again this year, I’ll have to rethink my whole life. Gulp.

A Virtual Visit

In the spirit of all true home bloggers, and also because none of you have come to visit me yet, and maybe a little bit because I like taking photos and haven’t been able to for the last three months, I thought I’d do a photographic tour of my room.

Strictly speaking, it isn’t my room but the spare room in my stepdad’s house, which means that it is decorated as a spare room and has a spare bed in it as well as mine. I’ve been slowly putting my own (removable) stamp onto it though, and whilst there’s still a lot to be done I’m happy with how it’s progressing.

This is the view from my door. My bed is on the left, currently being guarded by Daniel Bear. Hard-core fans of this blog (ahem) might recognise the polar bear on the right as being the birthday gift from my French teacher, who I have called Bearnard.

Here you can see my bedside table, which holds various vital things like my Kindle and a box of tissues. Not very exciting. On the windowsill you can spot a pile of library books, kept separate to avoid accidental theft.

A closer look at my bookcase, which is about half-and-half between my books and John’s. The top shelves are mine, as you can probably tell if you can make out the titles. The bottom shelves aren’t visible in this picture but they contain a lot of dusty old classics, many of which I have a repeat copy of anyway. Hidden away in there is a special edition of The Wind in the Willows, which along with my limited edition Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales is my prized literary possession.

The back of the bedroom door is adorned with two different dressing gowns, of varying thickness and shade of purple. The small figure was a gift from the director (and cast, I think) of The Gondoliers, and I keep trying to come up with a suitably Cornish name for her. Through the door to the right you can catch a glimpse of my en-suite, which is a luxury I will definitely miss in future.

Just to the right of the base of the door is an adorable doorstop, which comes in handy when the wind is blowing through the house and my door keeps swinging open. Also when the cats are trying to get into my room at night. I have no objection to them sleeping on my bed, but they have a tendency to want to leave again at 3am and I sleep with my door shut.

Moving further round the room we come to my mum’s old dolls’ house, which will eventually be moving to make space for my piano. In the living room there is a tiny knitted parrot finger puppet, which was in my Norwegian Advent calendar. Somehow all but one of the human figures has been lost in the move, so the little boy is leading a solitary life.

This is the bench which sits beneath my window. The larger cushions are mine, the smaller John’s. I keep meaning to use it, perhaps as a place to read, but frankly it isn’t very comfortable.

A close-up of one of the photos on the windowledge reveals a tiny May, on the beach. The enormous trainers to my side are not mine but my dad’s.

This is the far corner of the room, which currently is a bit cluttered. When the dolls’ house moves, the writing desk and the stationery organiser will move to the table and the mugs will probably go somewhere more sensible. The tea-for-one set was a gift from Anna, and the other two were gifts to myself. Leaning against the wall is a Joni Mitchell LP which I bought in America. The vase is part of my theatrical props store, and hopefully I’ll be able to afford some flowers for it soon.

So that’s my room, with a few messy spots carefully avoided… The main areas now are the dressing table to the right of the window, which is too messy to be seen (mostly with John’s ornaments, not my stuff!) and the dolls’ house table, underneath which are several boxes of mum’s stuff that still hasn’t been unpacked since we moved here in 2007. Soon I’ll be putting up the picture I got framed which will be great, it’s the first proper decorating I’ve done.

If you want to see more, you’ll have to come and visit! As you can see, I’ve got a spare bed.

Another Museum – Musee Rodin

I’m on a museum kick at the moment because several exhibitions I want to see seem to be ending either this week or during the next two weeks when I won’t be here, so today I went to the Musee Rodin.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say I flitted into the Henry Moore exhibition at the Musee Rodin: after I had queued to join the queue to be security screened before joining the queue for tickets, I only had twenty minutes until I had to be back on the metro. Not really ideal.

However, it was long enough for me to realise that I like Henry Moore’s sculptures, particularly the family groups and the reclining figures, so I bought the exhibition catalogue on the way out. I’ll be going back some time to see the Rodin permanent collection, as I’ve heard it is wonderful, but Henry Moore will be shutting up shop and returning to London (not actually him, obviously, he’s been dead for decades) in less than a fortnight, making today my last real chance to visit.

On Saturday I’m planning on going to the Musee Maillol, which is the one that I didn’t go to last week because it cost too much. I’ve now discovered that possessing a ticket from the Musee Rodin (which was free, although the HM exhibition had an entry fee) makes Musee Maillol cheaper for some reason, so I decided it was worth the lower price.

What with buying the catalogue, and the cost of the ticket to Musee Maillol, and also the cost of a ticket to see Black Swan on Saturday evening if I decide to go, I have worked out that I have exactly 45 cents to spare this week. I’m trying to save half of each week’s pay, although last week that didn’t work out since I bought my cinema pass, and this morning I opened a bank account and immediately deposited half of last week’s money. It’s a great way to make sure I don’t overspend, since I don’t have any way of getting that money out again for three weeks – my bank card will be ready next week, but I’ll be away for two weeks then.

Anyway, the Henry Moore exhibition. It was really interesting. I’ve never been a huge fan of museums, although I still go to lots of them. Somehow I’ve never quite seen the point, but I guess having heard of Henry Moore and seen one of his statues (and most of you will have too – there’s one outside the Fitzwilliam for a start, the weird white thing) helped me there.

Family Group, Henry Moore. Image taken from Christies.com *

His sketches were intriguing because half of them don’t look like anything at all but then when you see the plaster model of the statue he eventually made, it’s possible to track the progress from the pencil drawings. There were also some great drawings in their own right. Especially I liked the sketches relating to air raid shelters in the London tube stations, they are really evocative without being particularly detailed or realistic.

I’ve been making a start on some projects on things which have sparked my interest while I’m here. There’s one on the Tang dynasty terracotta, one on the Medicis (yet to be started but I’m optimistic about Saturday’s museum visit), and now one on Henry Moore. I might try making a plaster model of my own. I did actually make a family group of my own as a school art project. It’s probably smashed to dust in my dad’s house by now, but from what I can remember of it, it was a bit Moore-ish. Totally coincidental since I’d never even heard of him at that point, but it would be nice to try it again. I don’t know if it’s feasible while I’m here though, since four-year-old fingers will be no asset to art.

* The picture above is the final sculpture of one of Moore’s Family Groups. The working model was one of my favourites from the exhibition. The sculpture sold two years ago for more than £48,000! There goes my plan of buying a couple for my garden.