Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghoulies and ghaisties and lang-leggedy beasties

Happy Hallowe’en, everyone!

I am still alive. It’s just that this course I’m doing has eaten my life.

Well, that’s not entirely true. But it’s eaten the time I used to spend on the internet doing non-academic things*. Recently, it’s felt more urgent to use my down-time to cheer up J, who’s been going through a rough patch recently, mostly because of a change of medication. We’ve been doing gentle, calming domestic things. He’s painted the bathroom. I’ve made apple pie from windfalls, and banana bread, and yesterday I created the, um, work of art you can see above.

I like Hallowe’en. It’s one of the few authentic Scottish folk traditions that’s still going, although I notice that the guisers now say “Trick or treat!” when you open the door to them. They never did that in my day. I blame cable television.

Mind you, if I’d wanted to be really authentic I’d have carved a turnip lantern, not a pumpkin – but it’s terribly hard work, and they smell very peculiar when you put a candle in them.

This year, for the first time, I’ve really felt affected by the changing season, and the nights getting longer. In general, I enjoy autumn; it’s not so hot, and I like the windy weather and seeing the trees turn. But until the clocks went back this weekend, I was really finding it difficult to wake up in the morning. I’m not a morning person at the best of times, but this wasn’t good at all. Now that we’ve gained an hour in the mornings, though, it’s light (for the time being) and I feel better; long may this continue.

Exercise, recently, has been good. It was painfully obvious that if I wasn’t making the time to go to the gym often enough before, I really wasn’t going to have time once my course started, so I didn’t renew my membership, and five weeks ago I joined a running group. It’s a JogScotland group, it’s free, and most importantly, it meets at lunchtimes so I don’t lose any time that I’d be spending doing anything useful. And I get out in the fresh air while it’s still light.

Although I haven’t exactly been inactive, I hadn’t done much proper running since the Race for Life in June, when I was probably in my best ever form, since I managed a personal best and could run for 28 minutes on the treadmill without stopping (though I couldn’t do the same on outdoor terrain). After three months off, I felt I’d better start in the beginners’ group. It wasn’t too easy to get back into it, but I wasn’t the slowest - probably because I’m one of the youngest in the group, to be honest, but still – and I’m actually enjoying training with other people. I thought I wouldn’t, since I have awful memories of P. E. at school, but the fact that everyone is at much the same standard helps a lot. Two weeks ago we all moved up a group to “improvers” together.

Having the jog leaders set our challenges is helpful, too. When I was starting by myself on the treadmill, I now think I didn’t increase the time as quickly as I might have, partly because I didn’t want to injure myself. The jog leaders have been trained, and they’re all experienced runners, and so far they haven’t asked us to do more than we were capable of. While I’ve been running with this group, we’ve gone from running 12-minute legs to over 20 minutes without stopping, which I’ve probably never achieved outdoors before. My old friends the blisters are back. But it’s worth it to be running again.

So far I haven’t missed a session, except for last week when I had a mysterious pain in the arch of my right foot, which made it sore to walk, let alone run. However, I went out with the group again today and the foot behaved itself, so fingers crossed. Whether I can continue with this particular group will depend on where I’m working (I’m still temping at the moment) but it’s helping me to get over my aversion to training outside, and for the moment, it feels very good to be doing something structured again.

But now it’s late and I’m tired and I’m going to bed. Night night!

*If I usually visit your site, I probably still do. But I might not always be able to muster enough brain to make a coherent comment. I still like you!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beep! Ping! Flap!

So the walking didn’t go so well last week, partly because the weather wasn’t very good. I did walk home a couple of times, but not every day. It was a busy week: my brother-in-law came to visit at the weekend, and although he is the easiest guest you could wish for, we didn’t actually have anywhere for him to sleep. So we made a gargantuan effort and got rid of all the empty boxes that were sitting about, and tidied the spare room for him, and put things up in the attic. The house looked beautiful for twenty-four hours, twenty minutes of which were after his arrival. At that point he volunteered that he had a few things belonging to my other half in the back seat of his car.

He did.

These things included at least one computer (a vintage Amiga) and a big box of disks for it, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, lots of reels, some boxes of papers and some other stuff, as yet uninvestigated. But it’s now all on the living-room floor. The boys had a happy time firing up the Amiga and playing various computer games. (I had a go, but I was rubbish.)

The weekend did contain a fair amount of walking: we drove out to Gifford in East Lothian and went for a dampish stroll in the woods, and on Sunday we went up to Craigmillar Castle, where none of us had ever been. We’ve often seen it poking up over the trees; it looked quite small and ruinous. We thought we would pop up and have a quick look round while we were having a walk in the park that surrounds it.

It’s actually pretty big, and you have to pay to get in, which we hadn’t entirely expected; but it’s entirely worth it. The place is like a maze inside, with a series of courtyards surrounding a smaller, higher tower, which has spiral staircases and mysterious passages going off in every direction. It took us about an hour and a half to see it all. It isn’t totally ruined; you can go up on the roofs, and there are quite a few chambers which are intact, and which have had their doors and windows restored so that you can imagine what it might be like to live there. It would have been very romantic, were it not for the pigeons.

These are totally barmy. There’s a small tower chamber just off the Great Hall, which we walked into, only to back out quickly as two young pigeons panicked as they noticed us and flapped wildly around the small chamber. None of us is particularly scared of birds, but it’s a small space and we didn’t want them to hurt themselves, so we backed out quickly. Moving on to another room, we warned a couple with a little girl about them – and then heard yelling and wildly beating wings…

From then on, we kept encountering pigeons at every turn. Evidently they think it’s their castle, and why not?

The next big event is the start of my MLitt course in Archives and Records Management. I’ll be away in Dundee for the next few days doing the introductory programme. I’m actually quite nervous about this; it’s about three years since I’ve been a student – what if my brain has atrophied in the interim? It’s not as if I’ve been making great demands of it lately…

But on the whole, I’ll be happy to be a student again. Wish me luck!

Comments roundup: thanks for the "Hire K vibes", Beth! Quixotic and Jeni - yes, I will try to post more often... PQ - I wish we had a basement. When I said "downstairs" I just meant the ground floor. But yes, it was quite strenuous painting it. As for the reading while walking along the street... I have years and years of practice, and Edinburgh is relatively pedestrian-friendly. I wouldn't be able to do it if I didn't know my route, though.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Walk, don’t run

OK, my promise to myself that I would get back to the gym this week hasn’t quite worked out, at least not yet. Mostly because I can't find my trainers. But the week hasn’t been a total washout, exercise-wise, because I have walked home from work every day this week so far. I’ve been having fun geeking around with the Gmap Pedometer to work out how far I’ve gone:

On Monday, I got the route slightly wrong and walked slightly further than I needed to (2.9528 miles or 4.7511km), but the more direct route is only a little shorter in real terms (2.7932 miles, 4.4943km). I’m walking fast, and I’m warm when I get home, although not as warm as I’d be if I’d been running. I’ve been wearing Skechers which are kind of a cross between trainers and street shoes, and my feet seem to be quite happy. I don’t get home from work all that quickly, but more quickly than if I’d gone to the gym, and I’m guessing that the calories burned are probably about the same: I go more slowly, but it's sustained. And I get to read as I go (at least, once I’ve got out of the crowded part of town I do.)

Tonight, weather permitting, I’m going to walk a slightly different route which goes around Arthur’s Seat for part of the way, and comes to 3.1178 miles, or just over 5km, bringing me to a total of 14.4502 miles or 23.2504km…

Blast that pedometer! It’s addictive!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Return of the wanderer

Right. I might as well have announced a hiatus when we got the keys to the house back in May. I could make excuses for the paltry number of entries since then, but I’m not going to. If you are a regular reader, I apologise; then again, if I have any regular readers, I’ve probably left comments on their blogs recently, so they’ll know I haven’t actually been kidnapped or walked into the fourth dimension or got stuck in a bookshop and lost track of time.

I actually started writing a series of rather gloomy entries, and didn’t finish them, and then time passed and they were out of date and I thought I’d better start again. It’s just stupid to go more than, say, two weeks without posting, because then you have to do a ginormous catch-up post that takes far longer to write than a normal update, and so you make it harder ever to catch up...

PastaQueen said a while ago that when a weightloss blogger goes AWOL, she tends to assume they’ve fallen off the wagon. And in some ways, that’s what I’ve done. My gym membership has run out, and I haven’t renewed it, and I haven’t gone for my regular sessions for several weeks. This is partly because I’ve been away, and partly because I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in the next few months in any detail.

My job, which had a 12-month contract, came to an end a couple of weeks ago. This was part of the reason for the gloom. I applied for a couple of jobs in my field while I was still working, and then didn’t get them, and was unemployed for a couple of weeks (which I haven’t been since summer 2004). I’ve now got a temp job which starts on Monday, and I’m waiting to hear about another, permanent job doing what I want to do. Fingers crossed.

Things could have been worse: this was a good moment to have some spare time. While I’ve been off work I painted the whole of our downstairs (with a bit of help from my sister Laura and from the husband) and put together a lot of IKEA Billy bookcases. Last week was largely spent alphabetizing the books to go in them. If I’d been at work, this would have taken a lot longer and my dear husband’s head would have exploded.

His tolerance for chaos and disorder is a lot lower than mine (although, on the positive side, he’s better at getting rid of it) and he’s definitely found the last couple of months very stressful. Last month, he had some fairly serious depressive episodes, and had to have a few days off work (not good, because not only was he depressed, he was worrying that they would sack him and we wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage). Life was rather hard going.

That was the gloom. Kind of interspersed with this, we did have some good times; we went to Arran with his parents, where we went for rather wet walks, then to Crieff Hydro with my family, where an average day went like this: tennis in the morning, badminton before lunch, swimming either before or after badminton. We also went for walks, and did Scottish country dancing on two evenings. All this frantic activity was counterbalanced by some fairly unhealthy eating, alas.

Right now, I need to work out what I’m doing about fitness.

Previously, my weight-loss method could be summed up as “Eat healthily with occasional treats, but do lots of exercise to counter them”. The first part of it is still happening. The second part isn’t.

Part of the trouble was that I went away, twice, just when my job was ending. Even while I was still at work, I was only making it to the gym twice a week, but I was doing those two sessions without fail. I was running for longer than I’d managed before; up to 26 minutes. (Doesn’t sound all that long, but I had been stuck at 20 for nearly a year!) I was enjoying doing free weights; still not increasing the weight very fast, but becoming more confident that I could do the lifts with decent form.

Now I’ve got totally out of the routine, and I’ve got a nasty feeling building up in my mind that when I get back in the gym, I’ll have reverted to being the person who couldn’t run for more than a few minutes and was scared of the weights.

Which is silly. Eighteen months of exercise doesn’t completely evaporate in a couple of weeks; I may not be on my top form, but I won’t be starting right from the beginning. My level of fitness wasn’t particularly challenged by the activities at Crieff (well, until I managed to wrench my foot coming downstairs... and even that didn’t stop me swimming, dancing or playing badminton. And it’s fine now).

I just need to get back to my routine. Probably I’ll have to make some changes to do that, depending on what my work situation turns out to be. Maybe I’ll get round to buying some weights so I don’t have to depend on the gym to do those.

Even though I feel that all my painfully acquired muscle tone (such as it was) has evaporated over the last couple of weeks, I’m reasonably confident that I won’t see horrible gains. We’ve been eating fairly healthily, and I am slowly training the husband not to serve me the same size of portion as he gets, given that he’s nine inches taller, male, and naturally slender. I have even cooked a couple of meals on my own. We seem to have settled into a good routine of planning what we’re going to cook for the whole week, then shopping for it. If we can keep this up, we’ll be doing pretty well.

So, this is my new plan: go back to doing the things that worked about the old plan (lots of exercise) but keep paying more attention to the food. Revolutionary, eh?

I have loads of photos of Arran, Crieff and the new house which I'd love to post, but currently I have no way to get them off my digital camera. Sorry. Watch this space!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I'm only after your money...

OK. I know I haven’t posted anything even tangentially related to fitness since March. Which is very bad of me. Not that I’ve posted about anything very much, recently. There isn’t a good reason why. Life’s been a bit stressful for various reasons – stuff to do with buying the house, job-hunting, and just life in general, and… I’ve needed my brain for other things. Or that’s how it feels.

The running is actually going quite well. The challenge which I set myself, before the wedding, of increasing the length of my runs is continuing; I can now run for 27 minutes on the flat without stopping to walk, and have increased my average speed as well (from 8 kph to 8.6 kph yesterday).

I’ve now been running for over a year. I originally started last April so that I could do the Race for Life in the summer, which I duly did.

Now a year has passed. I’ve learned to enjoy running and miss it when I can’t get my run. That is a very strange thought.

Last year, I was all apprehensive about doing the race. This year, not so much. I’ve done three 5Ks now, and I know I can finish without dying, injuring myself, or feeling too self-conscious. I haven’t posted about the race because I haven’t altered my routine to train for it; the things I had to learn last year have become part of my life.

In fact I was feeling so zen that I barely noticed the race was coming up and haven’t done a lot about getting sponsorship for it. So (and here we come to the point. Sorry)…

The race is on Sunday, for Cancer Research UK. If anyone would like to sponsor me, you can do it online at http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/k-runs . I’ll be pathetically grateful, and will provide photographic proof of having finished.

I’ll probably be amusingly purple in the face. But perhaps not quite so purple as last year.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Wedblog! part 1

Well, my predictions about having my photo taken eating my Last Single Breakfast were correct. (By the way, if you get sick of clicking on links, the photos are in a coherent order at our Flickr page.)

Once that was out of the way, I retreated upstairs to have a bath and generally improve my appearance, then with a towel on my head went to sit in the kitchen, drink tea and chat to my sister Laura and her friend Anna who had come to help her make the bouquets. They’d done this once before, for Anna’s sister’s wedding, and the results were gorgeous. Ours weren’t bad either! (For those who are interested in this sort of thing, the flowers were yellow roses, blue grape hyacinths and genesta, which is essentially a white version of broom, and smells like coconut.) Meanwhile, showers of rain were clattering on the skylights in the kitchen. My cousin Ali arrived, bearing balloons for the two small children who were coming. She and Laura were my bridesmaids and are two of the finest people you could hope to meet. Not only are they funny, clever, and sweet, they are also supremely organised (and not just in comparison with me, either). So they and Mum chased me up the stairs in good time to dry my hair, do my makeup and get into The Dress.

(Warning; boring hair bit coming up, but it’s by special request!) I have an aversion to hairdressers, so I was never going to have an elaborate up-do. In the end, we decided to have most of it loose, with little plaits coming from above each ear and joining at the back: it would go with the mediaeval-style dress, wouldn’t fall down, and, handily, the D. B. prefers it in a simple style. The only tricky part of this style is getting the two plaits to look the same. Ali watched me do it and pronounced them symmetrical, and then Laura, who has high standards, said they weren’t and redid one. In the end, I think they were mostly hidden under the veil – you can’t really see them in any of the photos at all. Such is life.

With Shauna’s example before us, the D. B. and I had planned well ahead to ensure I had “something blue” – the stone in my engagement ring. “Something old” was a necklace which used to be my granny’s (she’s not dead – she just gave it to me!), “borrowed” a knotwork ring that belongs to Mum, and “new” – well, take your pick. The dress was new, but so were my shoes, and indeed my pants…

My dress was easy to step into, but the poor bridesmaids had to be laced into theirs, corset-style. We had practised this several times while affixing their shoulder straps, and I can tell you that there are quite a few wrong ways to do this and I have now done them all. Fortunately on the day, they could lace each other. By this point, horizontal hail was sweeping past the windows and rolling down the road outside.

In the end we were ready in heaps of time. I stood around while waiting for the bridesmaids, and Dad took a lot of photos of me; it was an opportunity to practise my vows, and also walking with the dreaded train. In the bridal shop, I had stood on it and wound it round my ankles so many times. I hadn’t wanted a train to begin with, but the dressmaker talked me into it… The best piece of advice I had for dealing with it came, oddly, from the best man: pretend you have no reverse gear and can only go forwards. “Just don’t walk up to any walls.”

The hail stopped. Dad and I went out to the car, holding my skirt up so it didn’t involve itself with any bushes or damp gravel. By this point I was beginning to feel quite excited.

We used to live on the other side of Edinburgh, and we still go to the same church, about half an hour’s drive from our house. It felt rather odd, travelling the familiar route in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes. I think the driver must have a list of soothingly unexciting topics of conversation suitable for potentially overexcited brides: the state of the roads in Edinburgh, the property market and (prompted by the railings in Queen Street) the manufacture of ornamental ironwork. Somehow this didn’t seem incongruous. Dad, who is a calming influence in himself, also heard my vows a few (dozen) more times. It’s strange – despite all the months of preparation, you don’t really take in that the wedding day will actually come, and even as we were travelling down, I was still having to tell myself “This is real, this is it – pay attention, because you have to remember this!”

As we drove, the day became sunnier and sunnier. We approached the church from the top of a hill, and parked some way away because we were ten minutes early. I was determined not to be late, because I am so notorious for being late that I’d never have heard the last of it: but it doesn’t do to be early either, because the ushers need to get everyone safely seated. Furthermore, because this is the church we go to every Sunday, various members of the congregation who live near were wandering down just for the service. A couple of them passed us as we waited and gave us a cheery wave.

Finally it was time to go down. As we pulled in through the gate, the sunlight was approaching blinding levels. The first person we saw was the photographer, who hastened to take a picture of me getting out of the car; not very easy to do in a graceful manner while you’re trying to keep a big white skirt away from the doorframe and the ground. Team Bridesmaid appeared, straightened me up and rearranged my veil, and after a couple more photos, we made it into the vestibule.

I don’t often get the giggles, but when I do, I have serious difficulty stopping. Just trying on my veil had produced unseemly fits of hilarity in the past. Did I disgrace myself walking up the aisle? Well, no. (Though if we’d had “Here Comes the Bride” as our walking-in music, all bets would’ve been off.) Through the veil I could see the D. B. at the front of the church, and I was so happy to see him (after a parting of less than twenty-four hours) that I couldn’t stop smiling. I do love him so much. He was pretty smiley himself. After welcoming everybody, Stewart the minister told us to “stop looking at each other like that!” and got a big laugh.

The service was lovely. Stewart had given us quite a free rein concerning how we wanted things to go, and we got exactly what we wanted: neither too formal nor too prosaic, with lots of singing. The D. B’s dad read a poem, and my cousin Andrew read a bit of Psalm 85 and good old 1 Corinthians 13. (I did feel this was a little vanilla – I think every wedding I’ve been to has had that reading – but after a lot of searching, we couldn’t find a Bible reading that was anywhere near as appropriate.)

Given that we knew exactly what was coming, I wasn’t expecting to get emotional at the vows. In fact, I was almost worried that it would seem so unreal that I wouldn’t really feel anything. How sincere is it possible to feel, I wondered, saying such familiar lines: for-richer-for-poorer, in-sickness-and-in-health, till-death-us-do-part? Talk about cliché. But when it came to it... it was very moving. I didn’t cry (just as well) but I kind of had to concentrate not to. (And no, neither of us forgot our lines in the stress of the moment!) As we put the rings on each other’s finger, I felt as though we’d just won a prize: we did it! We’re really married!

We signed the register. My brother Pete, who has a lovely voice, and Karen, a friend of ours who’s a semi-professional singer, sang a duet from “The Magic Flute”, which was wonderful (we recorded them rehearsing, and I’ve just wasted half an hour trying to work out how I could post the recording, but am forced to the conclusion that I can’t. Alas. They were good.)

Then we came out into the blinding sunlight and posed for a lot of photos, trying very hard to keep our eyes open.

A lot of photos. Normally I don’t care for having my picture taken, and still less for the results; but we had a very nice and totally non-cringe-making photographer, who managed to get enough photographs of me with my eyes open and not making a strange face. (They were digital, so we’ve only seen the selected good ones – I’m guessing the ones in which I am making a strange face have been mercifully deleted). Of the ones of me and the D. B. on our own, I think I like the ones on the prom best.

Then it was time to get back in the car and head off to the reception.

(More later!)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I’m getting married in the... afternoon

I sit here surrounded by clothes. Hanging along the wall beside me are my wedding dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses (which are bright blue, and have no design link whatsoever with mine) and my brother’s kilt and Highland jacket. He does look rather good in his kilt.

My sister and my cousin have morphed into Team Bridesmaid. They work together with incredible efficiency, finish each other’s sentences and, every so often, fall about laughing for reasons not totally apparent to outsiders. No doubt they’re about to come along and start organising me - they hold full responsibility for getting me to the church on time. I’m not nervous. Yes I am. No I’m not.

Well, I wasn’t nervous at all until the rehearsal last night, before which I thought I knew my vows. The D. B. and I made the misguided decision, several weeks ago, that we weren’t going to do the usual thing where the minister reads out a line and you repeat it. No, we were going to learn them. It’s only eleven lines – how hard could it be?

Hard. I’d repeated them in front of the D. B. lots of times, but the rehearsal was the first time either of us had had to say them in front of anyone else. First he went wrong, and then I went wrong. The bridesmaids have now heard me repeat them rather a lot. Worrying about forgetting my lines then got mixed up with worrying about tripping over my dress, grinning like an idiot and generally behaving gracelessly on the one day when everyone will be looking at us. And I hated saying goodbye to the D. B. last night when he went off to the hotel to stay the night. Which is ridiculous, because I see him all the time since he lives with me, but I like having him around, especially when I’m feeling a little fraught.

This feeling has worn off now and I’m not nervous any more (she says firmly).

Actually, given that my main failing is disorganisation, there’s not that much I can wreck. The D. B. has the schedule (the legal bit) and the rings. The bridesmaids and Mr Newbigging the militarily precise driver will get me there. All I need to do is smile, not fall over my train (or step in a puddle, another distinct possibility) and SAY MY LINES.

This blogentry has been temporarily suspended, twice so far, by people coming in to take my picture. Well, you can’t get married without a ceremonial photo of you doing your Last Single Blogentry, can you? I’ve been up for about 20 minutes, so I’m still in my tartan dressing gown, pyjamas and woolly socks, my eyes aren’t fully open yet and my hair is in a scruffy and slept-upon plait. I am a watchword for glamour. We made a decision months ago that we wouldn’t have the photographer around the house to take “reportage” style photos. Evidently my family are going to fill the gap!

Time to go and have breakfast, I think, where photos will no doubt be taken of the bride eating oatmeal and drinking coffee. Thanks to all the lovely people who have sent me e-mails and comments and things. It’s great to know that people are thinking of us, and I will respond to you. At some point. I am a terrible neglectful person and I’ll never have such a good excuse for being a lousy correspondent again! When you next hear from me I shall be a married woman...
Hey, the sun just came out. Stay right there, sun!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Four weeks to W-day

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Sorry.

There has been plenty to write about, but not much spare time to post it in (or much time to comment on people’s blogs – if you think I’ve been quiet recently, I am probably still reading!). Over the past few weeks, the D. B. and I have spent a lot of time looking at houses (we even put an offer in for one, but didn’t get it), chosen and ordered wedding rings, decided how the marriage service is going to go, chosen our music, and applied for our marriage schedule at the registrar’s. I’ve changed departments at work, which means I work with the public all day, which was rather exhausting at first. Oh, and been for two wedding-dress fittings. The D. B. has been to the doctor and is taking antidepressants again.

I’m not thrilled by this last development – neither is he, after being medication-free for over two years – but it’s difficult to tell whether or not it’s worth trying again. Although we’ve never felt that the antidepressants he’s taken in the past have had any noticeable effect, this is a new one, so we’ll see what happens. Some days have been pretty bad, but by no means all of them, and cheerful days come as a blessing. We’ll just have to be patient and hope.

After all the hand-wringing in my last entry, I am still exercising as usual. In fact, the running is going particularly well – during the last few weeks, I’ve managed to get past the 20-minute mark at which I had been stuck for about six months, and have gradually worked up to 23 minutes. That may not sound like very speedy progress, but the last run I did, I didn’t even feel particularly tired at the end. The only thing holding me back is blisters – my feet seem to be quite happy until the last couple of minutes of my run, and then they rub. It’s true that the length of time this takes has increased along with my stamina, but I’d love to be able to avoid it. New trainers might be the answer, except that my current ones feel absolutely fine for the first 20 minutes, and I’m hardly going to be able to do that long a test-run in the shop…

I’d like to be making quicker progress with the weights, but I have finally increased my weights for bent-over rows and tricep extensions, and am concentrating on form for the other exercises. The other week as I was finishing my deadlift set, a boy who was waiting to use the platform asked me if I was training for rugby! On the one hand, I was flattered that he took me for an athlete; on the other… I’m not sure rugby players are known for their lithe and elegant appearance.

I’ve become aware that although I may not notice much change in my outward appearance, some has occurred nevertheless. Someone at work told me I was looking thinner in the face, and I’ve dug out the odd T-shirt I haven’t worn since summer, only to find that they’re looser than I expect. So is my black velvet jacket. Though I don’t see any difference in my upper arms, sleeves are looser on them, so I have to admit they must be slightly less bad.

Since Christmas, I seem to have acquired more new clothes than I meant to. Partly it’s the lure of some things being a size 14, but mostly it’s because I love clothes. I think of them as costumes: they can be a way to express how you’re feeling, or an armour to conceal it. It’s not that I want to look fabulous all the time. I will defend with all my strength a woman’s right to wear clothes that don’t do anything for her if that’s how she feels most comfortable and happy (for this reason, I don’t like What Not To Wear. If your rainbow-coloured baggy jumper gives you pleasure, why not wear it?) Much of the time I wear jeans, Docs and a T-shirt (the Eternal Student look. A lot of thought goes into it). But I love dressing up as well.

I’ve always felt I looked OK, dressed up for special occasions. That’s one reason why I never like photographs of myself – I’d remember that I felt elegant and together, and then in the photo there would be this chunky ungraceful person with a silly expression on her face. You may remember that one of the main stimuli for engaging on this whole quest was so I wouldn’t hate my wedding photos.

This isn’t one. But looking at this, I’m quite happy with the way I look*. Yes, the silly expression is still there, and I’ll never be tall and willowy. Tall and willowy people are seldom suspected of being rugby players. But working with the materials to hand… I actually might manage to carry this off.

If I can learn to wear a veil without giggling like a mad thing. Is it normal to have trouble taking the whole thing seriously?

*The writer, if questioned, will admit to a certain fondness for The Lord of the Rings. If pressed, she will further admit that she fell in love with Eowyn’s white dress in The Two Towers despite not even being engaged at that point. She does not claim to look anything like Miranda Otto, however, and nor will she be making the D. B. dress up as either Aragorn or Faramir. Really.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Life is somewhat busy at the moment.

I’m trying not to bang on too much about the wedding. It would be only too easy for this blog to slip into “Our wedding, our reception, our music, our orders of service, my dress, my hair – oh, I’m sure you want to hear every detail about how it’s such hard work getting married…” Which would be:

a) boring
b) not really true as to the hard work
c) not like me, really.

So: it’s not THAT much hard work. There are things I’m worrying about, such as my dress (last seen in several pieces and unfortunately transparent in places it shouldn’t have been) but it would be a lie to say it’s haunting my every waking hour. It does take up a bit of time, though, and it’ll no doubt increase as the day gets nearer.

There’s also the house-hunt. We don’t have particularly big ideas – one spare bedroom to put the computers in is about the height of our ambitions – but we want to be able to get into town fairly easily from wherever we are (the D. B. wants to cycle to work, for one thing). So we’ve been spending most Sundays looking at houses and flats, and our lunch-hours going to arrange mortgages and things. All of which takes a bit of concentration.

And unfortunately the D. B. is not entirely out of his bout of depression. It was great having his brother here, and we did lots of things, including climbing Arthur’s Seat. And on Sunday at teatime, my sister suddenly walked in. She’d decided to visit from Sheffield, where she’s studying, and wanted to surprise us. She succeeded. (She's making a bit of a habit of it.) So it was very jolly having everyone together. Alas, once his brother went down south again, the D. B. had a bit of a relapse. There’s a bit of a tendency for this to happen either before or after a keenly anticipated event.

If there was only some tangible reason for the depression, we could do something about it. As it is, however, all I can do is cuddle him a lot, make soothing noises and hope things will get better soon. Which it will, and indeed I think (and hope) it’s starting to. But it’s a bit wearing for both of us. Every so often it gets a bit much, which it did for me on Tuesday – I ended up crying into his shoulder in the street, which is never a good idea.

I stayed home from choir yesterday evening (I had a headache) and it was really nice to have a bit of time unplanned. I didn’t lie around all evening – we did some weddingy things and the D. B. recorded some minidisks – but there wasn’t a timetable.

Obviously it would be good to have more unplanned time together. Really good.

What it boils down to is this – Mum thinks I ought to spend less time at the gym. And maybe I should.

I don’t feel as though I spend hours and hours working out. What I normally do is this:

20+ minutes running, 5 minute walk to cool down.

12 (or as near as possible) Gravitron pull-ups
12 seated crunches on Abdominal machine
3 sets of 12 benchpresses
3 sets of 12 kneeling rows with dumbbell
3 sets of 12 tricep extensions with dumbbell
3 sets of 12 back tricep curls (if time – sometimes I do these instead of the tricep extensions)
3 sets of 12 bicep curls

12 Gravitron pull-ups (I really don’t know why I always do these, but they’re quick)
3 sets of 12 deadlifts
3 sets of 12 squats (or as near as possible)
12 seated leg extensions
3 sets of 12 calf raises

20 minutes on elliptical crosstrainer.

In a perfect world, this would take about an hour and a half overall, and I’d be home by 7.30. But it isn’t a perfect world. Sometimes I stay at work a bit later. Sometimes the place is very busy, and you have to wait around to use the weight platforms or the squat cage or the benches. This means the free weights might take 45 minutes, or longer (they used to take an hour before I split it into upper-body and leg days). Then there’s some time needed for changing before and after, and drinking water (especially after running). Then I have to wait for a bus to get home, which usually means walking for about 10 minutes to a more-frequented bus stop (and then it takes at least 20 minutes to get home from there). Sometimes I don’t get home until after 9.30. And I can see that this leaves the D. B. on his own for an awfully long time. Being sad.

In theory, I’d like to do all of this three times a week. It’s not as though the weight is exactly dropping off me. In practice, I frequently only make it there on Monday and Thursday, and if we’re doing something strenuous on Saturday (such as climbing Arthur’s Seat) I’ll consider that a workout. But I’m also out for a couple of hours on Tuesday at a class, which I have to do, and then I go to choir on Wednesday. It seems like overcommitment and yet I don’t feel I’m doing that much.

I’d hoped the D. B. might join the gym too, and then we’d be together although not at home. But he’s decided he’d rather just run on the road for free. That’s fine, if it suits him. I’d also sort of hoped he might join the choir, but he doesn’t fancy it. Again, that’s OK. But it does seem that we really should be spending more time together. We love each other and we have to be apart 8 hours a day, 5 days a week as it is.

Am I being selfish? Do I do too many things? The class ends next month, and the choir ends in April, but that doesn’t solve the problem at the moment. We have discussed other possibilities, such as buying some dumbbells, and replacing the upper-body day with doing the exercises at home and going for a run. However, we’ve singularly failed to buy any dumbbells (or even investigate what they’d cost) and although the D. B. runs in all weathers, frankly the treadmill looks pretty tempting at this time of year. Also – and this sounds a bit odd, I know – I’d rather not do my exercises with people I know around me. I’d feel silly. I’ve got used to doing them in a specialised environment where people aren’t going to talk to me or say “That doesn’t look like much fun” or the phone’s going to ring. And at that rate, I’d be paying full whack to go to the gym maybe just once a week. Is it worth it?

Another suggestion of Mum’s (just this morning) was that I move to another gym. There is one nearer to our house, but it’s one of a chain. I’d have thought they were unlikely to have as good a free weights section as the gym I’m at presently – if any. And they’re probably much more expensive. I’m paid up until (I think) July at my current gym, and it cost me £100 for a year. Which I know is a brilliant rate, and I like my gym, even if it is a bit crowded right now. Shauna’s gym, which isn’t particularly fancy, charges her £47 a month. And would I still go as regularly, if I was coming home first and then having to get myself together to leave the house again? Wouldn’t the temptation be to stay in more often?

I don’t know. I don’t want to sound like a Cassandra. Maybe this will all sort itself out in summer, when I’ll be doing less, there won’t be as many students making the gym busy, and the weather will be nice enough to go running outside (maybe). But it isn’t summer, it’s February, and I don’t know what I should do NOW. I’d really welcome any suggestions, even if they’re saying “Yes, I think you’re being selfish and you should drop some activities or shut up about it.”

So let me know what you think…

Friday, February 03, 2006

At the end of the tunnel there's a glimmer of light...

...which is to say that both the D. B. and I are feeling a lot better today. Thanks for your comments, people. I went off to the gym and had a storming workout, burning (according to the readouts on the cardio machines anyway) 550 kcal, which must have helped a bit. Then the D. B. came and picked me up – I would normally get the bus, so that was total luxury. And I went home and had some wholesome broth.

Today has been much cheerier and perfectly healthy, so far. Breakfast was oatmeal, lunch was a wrap from Marks and Spencer's healthy range (I didn't keep the wrapper, but it was the only veggie one - lemon vegetables, I think.) I don't know what tea will be, but the D. B.'s making it so it will be healthy.

His brother is visiting for the weekend, and this lunchtime they bought the suit he'll wear to get married in! So at least one of us won't be standing in the church wearing jeans and a T-shirt...

We're all going to the cinema tonight to see A Cock and Bull Story. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 02, 2006


what a stressful week it has been so far, I’m not doing too badly. Or so I have to tell myself.

This is now the second week of Renee’s challenge. The first week went well: I ran on Monday and Saturday and went for a walk on Tuesday and Friday.

(Normally I’d run on Thursday, but instead I went to a Lush party organised by Pisica who I know through LiveJournal. It was strange meeting people I’ve had online conversations with, but never seen before, especially as various people recognised me and the D. B. from our running photos. Although I was shy and awkward at first – why am I so much less articulate in person? – I had fun, and acquired quite a stash of highly scented goodies.)

I was also pretty saintly food-wise. I ate lots of fruit and avoided sugary stuff. I didn’t lose the pound I was supposed to for the challenge, but I wasn’t stressing about it as I knew my period was coming up, so I probably had a bit of water on board.

This week? Not so good.

Life is rather busy at the moment. Well, it always is, but particularly so. There’s the wedding, of course, and my attempts to sort out what I’m doing next year (which has its own set of problems, which I’m reluctant to talk about here in case I jinx things). Then the D. B. and I are also making our first tentative steps towards buying a place of our own, which involves much brain-racking over finances, and spending large chunks of weekend driving around Edinburgh looking at various flats and houses. Since it’s our first time, we’re working everything out from scratch. And last weekend, the D. B. had to go down south to attend a memorial service, and came back in a depression, which he’s still in.

The D. B. has suffered from depression for years – since he was 12. It isn’t necessarily caused by external events, although it gets worse when he’s under stress or doesn’t have enough to occupy him (as you’ll gather, it can be a delicate business ensuring a happy medium there). He’s been remarkably OK for several months now, but this week work is somewhat stressful, and it’s got to the point where he really doesn’t want to go in in the morning (though he does go). In the evenings, he’s exhausted and going to bed very early. It could be a lot worse – I’ve seen it a lot worse – but it’s awful to see him so sad and not be able to make it better.

I was trying not to dive straight into the nearest biscuit tin over this, because overdosing on sugar is not actually going to improve the situation in any way. My resolve held out until lunchtime today, when my better judgment was shouted down. Some rubbish has been eaten. By me. Now I have a bit of a headache and my mouth tastes sickly, which is what happens if you eat junk after abstaining for a while, and you’d think after experiencing this effect once you wouldn’t do it again, but there we are. (I was even slightly repulsed while I was eating it.)

I’m drawing a line under this. It is not helpful and it doesn’t make me feel better and it doesn't make the D. B. feel better and it’s a totally stupid way to behave and I knew that while I was doing it. OK.

So. I said I would journal my food and I didn’t do it (or rather, I started doing it and didn’t post it). I’ll start again, on paper at least, tomorrow. I’ll go to the gym tonight, as planned, and burn off some of the glucose sloshing about my system. I had a very good exercise day on Monday, and I’m still on track to complete Week 2 of the challenge. And if the boy and I are sad, well, that happens sometimes. It will get better. We have to hold to that.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Time to get tough

Looking back over my running times, it has to be admitted: going by the numbers alone, I'm actually getting slower. Yes, slower. I did the Race for Life in 35 minutes something, the JogScotland 5K in 36:50 , and the Great Winter Run in 37:18.

I know there are mitigating factors - the JogScotland run was a very humid day, and the Arthur's Seat run was the steepest. And the slowest times for both of these were over an hour. But still. Over six months, I was hoping for some improvement.

There might be some consolation if the numbers on the scale had moved substantially during that time - I might not be faster, but look at all the fat I've burned off! But they haven't. While I'm sure I have built some muscle, things need to start happening faster. I didn't gain over Christmas, but neither did I lose, and I've started to notice myself going back to bad habits - in particular, eating food because it's available.

When I look at the last few months, I'm a bit discouraged by the little progress I've made. If I'd lost as much as PastaQueen, for example, I'd be under 140 pounds. If I'd lost as much as YP I'd be 150. I know, I know, comparisons are odious.

Why am I being so half-hearted about this, especially as regards diet? Partly, I suppose, it's because I don't have quite such an impetus to change any more. I'm back, or nearly, at the size I was for most of my teenage years. I can wear size 14 dresses and tops, if not jeans. I might not be breaking the sound barrier, but I'm fit enough to walk a few miles or climb a hill without wanting to die (which I certainly couldn't do as a teenager). Things are relatively comfortable.

And yet. I still hate the sight of my thighs in the changing room mirror. I still wouldn't wear a sleeveless top on its own in public. I'd like to go swimming for once without dreading the walk from changing room to pool.

It's easy to scorn the resolutionaries who join gyms in their droves in January. Mine is full of them. On the other hand, they are making a change, not just jogging along in the same rut. Inspired by these ladies, I've decided to do something too.

First of all, this challenge. It's not a huge change to my routine, and to begin with at least will only mean taking one extra 25-minute walk per week. That sounds do-able.

Secondly, I'm going to start journalling my food again. Why I didn't keep doing this, when I had a permanent loss the week I did it, I don't know. But I have ten weeks until W-Day. That should be long enough to make some difference, surely?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I'm back!

Ever since I’d signed us up for the Edinburgh Great Winter Run around Arthur’s Seat, I’d been having visions of the two of us slogging through rain, hail, gale-force winds or all three. Although it doesn’t get super-cold in Edinburgh even in the winter, it would be a bit optimistic to _expect_ nice weather on the fourteenth of January.

I was also a little apprehensive about my levels of fitness. The gym was closed for almost two weeks over the Christmas period, and although I’d been back twice before the run, I hadn’t been too impressed with my performance. On the Monday I’d actually had a touch of asthma for the first time in months, and since in the past it’s often been brought on by cold air, I was beginning to wonder whether running outside in January was such a good idea. The D. B. is a lot fitter than me, and usually goes running after dark, braving the cold without any problems, but had only had time for a couple of runs to get back into it since his cast came off.

He was also a little unclear as to the distance he usually runs. His normal route takes 20 minutes, and given that he runs much faster than I do, I didn’t think he’d have too much trouble with the 5K, although we’d been warned that the first half of the course contained a long uphill section.

Despite all that angst, it was a beautiful day after all – sunny and mild (well, for January). My brother gave us a lift to Dynamic Earth, which is the white structure you can see behind us in the photo, and I was relieved to see lots of obvious runners converging on the complex. It’s always reassuring to know that if you’ve got the day wrong, so have lots of others… We followed the tide of humanity up the steps, then discovered there was no way down and had to retrace our path.

Edinburgh Great Winter Run - before the start

After that inauspicious beginning, we found the starting area for the race already quite busy. The area was divided up into projected finishing times, which I hadn’t seen before. We decided we were probably “30-40 minutes” (the D. B. was determined to run at my pace) and settled down to wait. The warm-up was already in progress, but we couldn’t see the leader from where we were so contented ourselves with jumping up and down a bit and doing as much stretching as the crowd would allow.

Suddenly I was hailed from behind (I must have a recognisable pigtail). It was the Proper Runner from work who gave me a lift to the Race for Life back in July. She maintained that she hadn’t done much training over Christmas and wouldn’t be whizzing round (but she got away from us when we started and we haven’t seen her since!)

The clock started and we were away… only to grind to a halt a few metres later with the pressure of the crowd. By the time we got to the start line, however, things had opened up a little more, and we set off along a good, even path in the sunshine. At this point, we were running on the flat. The D. B was jogging along easily – obviously this part was not challenging him too much – and even I was able to talk a little (we agreed that mid-January was perhaps a little early for the guy with the mike to be talking about “spring sunshine”). It seemed like no time before we reached the 1K mark, and I was quite encouraged that I’d got that far without really feeling it.

Soon, though, the path began to climb. And kept right on climbing. The views were fantastic – I’ve lived in Edinburgh all my life, but I still love looking out over the city from Arthur’s Seat. However, the feeling in my legs was not fantastic at all. Apparently it was a mistake to do quite such an energetic leg workout on Thursday – I hadn’t done any squats since before Christmas, and I’d reckoned I ought to get back into it… Wrong. I had to slow to a walk. My leg muscles were just too tight to run uphill, and I didn’t want to injure myself – certainly not at this early stage.

By way of encouragement, the race organisers had planted signs by the path with their ‘Top 5 Songs for Running Uphill’ (number five was ‘Running up that hill’ by Kate Bush). The D. B. was doing a kind of slow-motion jog so that I could keep up with him. “You’re doing really well. Run to that next sign?” I had a go, but didn’t quite make it.

Over the next two kilometres, I ran when I could (on the less steep bits) but to be honest, most of it was walking. Fast walking, mind you – I was warm, and no doubt crimson in the face – but walking. The D. B. (who was actually cold!) stuck with me nobly and was very encouraging. By this point, most of the field were going about the same speed as us, and as he pointed out, we weren’t exactly falling back. And, well, it was a nice day for a walk.

The turning point came at Dunsapie Loch – we knew this was the highest point of the route. The path is fairly flat here, and I was able to run again. We passed the 3K marker at around this point, and the song suggestions switched to “Running Downhill”. The first one was ‘Moving on Up’ by M People, which would have done as well, we felt, for running uphill.

“Can you think of any songs for running downhill, though?”
“Don’t know. ‘Down Down’ by Status Quo – that’s got to be one of them.” (It was.)
“Hasn’t anyone written a song called ‘Downhill all the way’?”

We didn’t come up with much. On the other hand, the route was now quite appreciably downhill, and running had become easy. Once we’d rounded the western curve of the hill, we could see almost all the way to the finish line, and I began to entertain hopes of being able to run the rest of the way. We could see a few finishers making their way back along the sides of the route already.

I wish running was always like this.

The route flattened out slightly before the 5K marker and the last song (‘Don’t Stop Me Now’). There were still about 300 metres to go, and I would have liked to walk, but I was NOT going to run 2K without stopping and then finish at a walk. I told the D. B. to run on ahead, but he didn’t, and in the end we crossed the line together, hand in hand.

Well, we’re engaged, we’re allowed to be soppy.

Then we just had to collect our free water, disengage our running chips from the socks to which they had become intimately velcro’d, and go and get our goody bags and T-shirts (I took mine out of the packet to check the size, and instantly dropped it in the mud. That was bright.)

Edinburgh Great Winter Run - we finished!

As you can see, I was still a little purple in the face at this point.

“Can I go back to bed now?” the D. B. asked as we made our way back up Holyrood Gait to go and meet my brother, who was giving us a lift back.


In the end, our times were within a second of each other (mine was one second faster – the D. B. must have adopted a ladies-first policy). He’s talking about running the route by himself sometime to find out how long it actually takes him, though. My time was 37:18, which is about the same as the last 5K I did, which wasn’t nearly so hilly. So perhaps my form hasn’t declined as much as I feared, although I’d very much like to actually _run_ the next one.

I’ll be back with a roundup of other news later in the week – I hope. I’ve been trying not to go on too much about the wedding here, but the D. B. and I have been quite busy with various preparations this month, which has cut into my messing-around-on-the-internet time somewhat. But I hope I never go so long without updating again…


For a while now, I've been a little tired of my template. I want a different colour, and I want something less off-the-peg. On the other hand, I know nothing about designing websites, so actually doing much about this is a little difficult.

In the name of totally accurate research, I did a little quiz to see what colour my new design should be - and got this:

Your Blog Should Be Green
Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Well, that's me telt. Fortunately, I don't recall anyone ever being nasty in the comments!