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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Third Week of the Running Madness

I’ve hit week three of my running programme, which is apparently the week that most people quit due to boredom, injury or burnout. Although I did manage to injure my shoulder on Sunday (no idea how, it happened mid-run and was sufficiently bad that I spent evensong with my arm in a sling and the last two days taking Ibuprofen with breakfast, which is very rare for me), it is a lot better today and I decided it wouldn’t stop me from running. Apathy very nearly did – I reached the last possible point at which I could go out without ending up finishing my run after sunset and decided not to go. Then I looked at my diary which happened to be in front of me, and realised that if I didn’t I wouldn’t manage three runs this week. So I went and it was great!

Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me. I was feeling a bit trepidatious about this week because it involves longer runs with fewer intervals of walking, but the time flew and my legs weren’t aching anything like as much as I expected. When the podcast ended I felt as though I must have somehow skipped ahead on the recording, because it didn’t feel like twenty minutes at all. The clock assures me it was, though. I’m raring to go on the rest of the week, and here’s to the next six weeks as well.

Today is a generally positive day because my exam this morning went excellently, possibly even better than last Tuesday’s. I’m hoping the next two (tomorrow and Thursday) will go as smoothly, and then the slight blip last Wednesday won’t be as much of a problem. I’ve also decided to treat myself to a day out on Friday, so I’m taking myself to a new cafe for breakfast after morning prayer, then going to a National Trust property for the day. Then I’ll head home and curl up with some popcorn to watch Potiche, my latest LoveFilm acquisition. It’ll be great. Saturday will be spent beginning my clearing out and packing mission (I’m starting early as I have serious doubts about whether all my stuff will fit into the 2m cubed storage unit I’ve rented, so I need time to find alternatives), and then on Sunday I’m going to some mystery village with the choir for the day. It wouldn’t be a mystery if I just googled the name of the place, but I rather like mysteries.

The Curious Lure of Running

I started running two weeks ago. That in itself is odd enough – I have always hated running. When I was training with the university ice hockey team, we ran twice a week. I always went, and I disliked every second.

So it is rather a surprise even to me that I decided to start running again, voluntarily, on my own. I’m following the Couch to 5k programme and using a podcast that plays music with a good running beat and tells you when to jog and when to walk briskly (we’re gradually building up to running 5k non-stop, but that’s a long way off). Then I announced my plan to several friends, including some internet friends who immediately decided to join me. We’ve now got a small group scattered across several different countries who are all following the same programme and reporting back on progress.

I still wouldn’t say that I enjoy running, exactly. I have to force myself through the run, reminding myself that it will be over soon and I will feel a buzz of triumph when I reach the end. Some days are harder than others. Today was horrible; it’s drizzling, there was wind blowing against me along the first stretch of the park, and for some reason every step was a trial. But I made it without walking during any of the run sections, or stopping at all.

Generally I’ve been running early in the morning, before anyone is really around to see me lumbering through the park with a bright-red, sweat-covered face. On Thursday evening I realised I hadn’t done my second run of the week, and if I left it any longer I would either be running on the morning of what was already going to be a long day (I went to see Singing in the Rain on Friday night – more on that another time) or running two days in a row. So I pulled myself together and went out.

I’m not sure what was different on Thursday to today, but I almost did enjoy that run. I did extra sprint sections, I pounded along with a smile on my face, and I felt like a real runner. I was still very glad to reach the end of the podcast, but then something possessed me and I ran another two minutes just because I felt like it. Part of the motivation was having run past someone I knew slightly – I didn’t want him to think I was too unfit or lazy to keep running. I doubt he even noticed me, honestly, but the psychological impetus was there.

Next week the programme steps up a bit, and I will have to run for 3 minutes without stopping. That sounds difficult to me; it’s twice as long as I’ve been running so far. But I used to run that much and more, when I was forcing myself around the 800m track with the ice hockey team, cursing with every step. There’s no reason why I can’t do it now as well.

I think most of running is about mind games: you trick yourself into thinking you’ve got much further left to go than you have, so you are pleasantly surprised when you can stop. You tell yourself how much you’re enjoying this, even if you aren’t. You smile at little birds or small children and your brain believes you’re smiling at the run. And somehow you make it through. Well, that’s how it is for me anyway.

My Fail-Proof Exercise Plan

There are several reasons why I should exercise more.

One reason is that although I’m only about a centimetre taller than I was four years ago, I’m several inches away from fitting into my Leavers’ Prom dress. And it was a very nice dress. The prom itself was rather a mixed bag of drunken friends, embarassing dances and painful goodbyes, but the dress was and still is lovely. Pity I can’t fasten the zip any more.

This is the best my hair has ever looked, before or since

Another reason is that I have a faint memory of maybe, at some point, possibly quite enjoying exercising. I’ve got the glimmer of a memory of getting up before dawn in the depths of winter to trek across town and exhaust myself skating around in the freezing cold air, and then running three million times around an 800m track while other, sylph-like, greyhound people whizzed past me. Even now, my traitorous legs sometimes start to twitch with an increasing insistency and will only be satisfied when I shut down the laptop or turn off the TV or close the book, and walk out of the house.

This is definitely not the best my hair has ever looked

But the main reason that I brave the unpredictable elements and staggeringly steep hills is this:

"Are you busy? You don't look very busy..."

Somehow the thought of a pink dress or the memory of my team isn’t as effective as those chocolate eyes and the quivery anticipation in his tail when I look like I might be thinking of going out, and the sheer exhilaration when he realises that YES we ARE going OUT right NOW in the GARDEN for a WALK is much better than another ten minutes on Facebook. Even if Facebook doesn’t come with flies and hills.

The Rabbit Saga STILL continues!

First there were babies. Then there were dead babies. And then yesterday Daughter Three’s rabbit gave birth – to a very deformed, very dead baby.

Luckily Daughter Three is much less romantic and more stoic than her sisters, and just sort of shrugged and said “she can have more babies!”. She wasn’t very pleased when we said she would have to wait a little while yet, since Rabbit Mummy does not really want to start getting pregnant right now, but she is very much set of having her own rabbit babies. I have no idea what we are going to do with all these rabbits. We now have at least nine, at last count.

Today, I wasn’t working until mid-afternoon so I got up fairly early and went swimming. I got back after swimming 30 lengths and wearing myself out, to discover that the plan for the afternoon was… to go swimming. So I went swimming again.

I really like the swimming pool here, and it is so close to the house – just up some steps, and across the road. Furthermore it is really cheap, since France has an eminently sensible policy of extending its reduced prices to people aged up to 26, rather than just up to 16 (or 12, as my dad’s local council do!). I’m planning on going once or twice every week, and might be going even more than that if I take the children. It’s not really feasible to try and swim lengths with the kids around though, since they need watching and supporting.

Not much else to add except that my stepdad’s granddaughter has had a baby! I can’t quite figure out what relation to me he is, but nonetheless I have a baby boy relative!

Riding is terrifying

It has been quite a long time since I last rode and boy was it an experience. I was riding a pony, but don’t think dog-sized Shetland pony: he was taller than I am by several inches (and yes, Ollie, I realise that isn’t difficult…). I get vertigo standing on chairs so it was a trifle unnerving at first.

Also a factor that I hadn’t really considered was that the lesson was in French. Obviously. I have now learnt the words for heels, mane, trot (it’s… trot), reins (renes), and canter (galop – confusingly). It made things a bit tricky and at one point I was really frustrated because my pony was being lazy and cutting corners, and then kept yanking his head away and stopping if I tried to guide him. Ah well. Apparently I have a natural seat in a rising trot, which I suppose almost makes up for the bruises on my thighs.

The rest of the family went riding again in the afternoon, so both Baby Girl and I had a nap. Then we spent an hour and a half in the playroom playing the Choking Hazard game:

Baby Girl picks up something small enough to lodge in her windpipe and puts it in her mouth.
I run over and remove it from her.
She shrieks with fury.
Repeat until crying with boredom.

The thing about babies is that everything is exciting, everything is interesting and everything is a learning experience. Also everything is dangerous if you go about it in the right way, and somehow they always do. I was having longing visions of a padded room filled with squashy, indestructible toys that made no noise and couldn’t choke, strangle, trip, catch, cut or otherwise injure a small child but unfortunately this house does not come equipped with such a useful chamber.

Now everyone is in bed and Daughter Two is having a Mr Men story read to her in French. Reading the Mr Men and Little Miss books has become our “thing” but we both agreed my French is probably not yet up to reading and explaining a story, so she’s seized the opportunity of her mum being free to read to her and has gathered up all the books we’ve been skipping over. I’m about to attempt some grammar exercises but despite the fact that it’s 8.34pm I’m pretty much ready to hit the hay. Children’s sleep patterns are insidious.

A good week for winter sports

Yesterday we went skiing, today we went skating! At first we tried hiring skates from the little hut next to the open-air rink (a wonderful idea, new to me, where you don’t have to pay to go on the ice and can stay on as long as you like) but they were really dreadful skates, it was like trying to skate on spoons. They were sufficiently bad that we went off to find a sports shop and I bought some new skates – my old ones which were actually pretty new have gone missing somewhere – and got them sharpened. Then I went back and skated for a while, and Jens sat and drank tea and read about philosophy. Then we had to run like mad for the train, which we caught by ten seconds (and paid a staggering £11 for a thirty minute train ride).

I’m currently trying to deal with all the money I’m owed by various groups, most importantly the various flights which I need refunding. I don’t know if I have already mentioned it but when I checked to see if BA had refunded me for the cancelled flights I discovered that they had booked me inexplicably onto a flight to Munich for January 2nd. I have no objection to being given random flights in theory, but I would quite like the money back from the cancelled flights and I have no intention of going to Germany on the 2nd (I will be in London that day and then going home).

Speaking of London, final call for anyone who might be around and want to meet up, other than the people I have already arranged to meet up with! I’m going home on the evening of the 2nd now, because I’m off to Paris on the 8th, but I will be in London on the 1st to meet the Paris family so could grab coffee with people then.

Hope you’ve all had a good Christmas, have a good New Year too!

Photos from Norway

This post has been neatly slotted into place using the miracle of wordpress publishing dates. It’s taken me over a month to get round to sorting out my photos but here they are!

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These are the hotel rooms I stayed in – the fancier one is the Rathbone, the one with the enormous bed is the Holiday Inn. It is not easy to tell from the picture but the Holiday Inn bed is so large that I could lie sidways across it with my arms above my head and still not touch both sides. It was wider than it was long.

This is the frozen lake which Jens and I skated on. We had to dig through two feet of snow to reach the ice, which took longer than we ended up skating for but it was fun! Sorry for the lack of light; I did try increasing the contrast to make the picture less gloomy but this is how it really was so I decided to leave it.

Digging! It ended up about four times this size, after a lot of effort from both of us.

Putting on my skates ready to go. Sadly none of the action photos were any use and all the ones I took of Jens were incredibly blurry but I’m sure you can imagine the two of us swooping round on the ice. Or rather shuffling round and occasionally falling over a lump.

Also, bonus cat:

He was the fluffiest cat I have ever met! I spent a lot of my time there cutting clumps out of his fur with a pair of scissors, which he wasn’t very keen on.

 

 

Edit: I realise that the tiny ice rink and cat photos have somehow appeared in the hotel room slideshow but I can’t work out how to fix it, so I guess you get to see them twice!

Skiing!

Today has been pretty awesome so far. We all got up really late, and had a massive sort-of breakfast (sort of because it was twenty to two) and then Jens, Liv, Harald and I went skiing (Liv is Jens’ mother, Harald is the little brother). I have never been skiing before but it was a lot of fun and actually not as hard as I expected – maybe because it was cross-country and that’s a little like ice skating? Anyway I am now aching all over and covered in damp patches from where I fell over and couldn’t get up without help. Jens left me lying there for ages saying it was something I had to learn to do, but in the end he took pity on me. Good job really, or I would probably still be there.

Kris, Jens’ sister, and her boyfriend Tom just left for the airport as they’re flying back to Britain (Kris studies in Glasgow, Tom in Bournemouth). I would have been going with them but I managed to move my flight so I am heading back on Thursday instead, so we’re going to see the newest Narnia film tonight. Tomorrow I’m hoping we can go skating, as the weather has improved a lot and it’s hovering around -6 instead of -23 at the moment. The ice rink is outdoors so temperature is pretty important!

It seems amazing to me that people in this country can just pick up their skiis and go out and ski whenever they feel like it in the winter, instead of having to pay thousands of pounds to fly to another country and then join a huge queue of other holidayers to slide down a mountainside. On the other hand they do have to cope with the fact that there is a good two foot of snow everywhere, which is surprisingly not much of a problem. If Britain had this much snow I expect people would be having breakdowns trying to go to the supermarket, and there would be car crashes everywhere.

I’m hoping to Skype with my mum tonight. We’ve been trying every day since Christmas day but somehow we keep missing each other despite emailing about times. Maybe today will finally work out! I should also be getting a phone call from the lady in Paris tomorrow to sort out the final details and arrange meeting up, and then I will know for certain that I am going to France! It is pretty much settled already I think, but I won’t feel completely safe until I am actually there and getting stuck in.

It is currently twenty past five pm and it is pitch black outside. Sadly we’re too far south to see the Northern Lights.