Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Christmas

I was supposed to write a lovely blog post showing off all my terribly tacky Christmas decorations.

(For me, more is more at Christmas.)

But I never quite got around to it.

So instead, I shall leave you with this...

I'll see you in the New Year!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A very old Christmas Wish List

I have seen many of the Christmas wish lists posts floating about on many blogs over this past festive month and I wondered if I would join in.

But then I realised that I don't really know how to do one of those collage posts (and I should really because Bonjour Blogger totally has a post on how to do collages, helpful blog that it is), nor is there anything really post-worthy that I would want. Books. Any books. Just get me some books, yeah?

As fortune would have it, I don't need to write a wish list. I can just show you this one;

When down visiting my Dad and his wife at the end of November, he presented me with a letter which he had found.

It was a letter I had written to Father Christmas. It has no date on it, although I could probably take a stab looking at the items on there. All Dad could tell me was that he knew I definitely didn't get anything that I'd put on this list for Christmas that year.

I did eventually end up with a couple of things on there, I think they were birthday presents, so goodness knows what happened this particular year. But luckily for me it is still here to share today.

For those who find it difficult to read my pencil scrawl, this is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Father Christmas,

This is what you may be able to bring me at Christmas [so polite and yet to the point!]

A pair of slippers 
[starting sensibly you see, you don't go in with the big demands first]
The Penny swimming pool
Dream Dance Barbie
or, three wishes Sindy,
Paint me a picture Sindy
some boots, shoes, roller boots for Barbie,
and some clothes for Barbie,
A girls world head,
a shell suit,
a teenage mutant hero turtle t-shirt
a teenage mutant hero turtle glove puppet,

I have a feeling that this was a draft letter that I wrote out before writing a neat version to send off to Father Christmas.

There was one thing that I wanted more than anything on this list and I know a request was made on more than one Christmas list and birthday list over the years.

A Girl's World Head.

Oh how I dreamed that I would have that frankly weird head that I could slather make up on and backcomb it's horrible hair. I had a friend who always had the coolest toys - she had one of those Mr Frosty machines and she had a Sega Megadrive - and I would go round to her house and not so secretly covet it, but it was never meant to be.

Nor sadly was my request for a shell suit which was another long-standing wish list attendee. It does mean I have no hideous photos of me in the 90s wearing one though...

I did eventually end up with a Spirograph so, you know, don't feel too sorry for me.


Also, remember when they were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles instead of Ninja because they thought if they called it that we'd all turn violent from watching it? Fun times.

Friday, 20 December 2013

2013 Crochet Review: The Year of Amigurumi

I can't lie to you, I have not managed to complete my Not Really Resolution of crocheting my Tetris blanket. I mean, not even close.

Actually, I should probably tell you now that I haven't really done any of my Not Really Resolutions.

Like really not done any.

I haven't even learned to knit.


But I can redeem myself. Because whilst this may not have been the Year of Tetris Crochet, and certainly wasn't the Year of Not Really Resolutions, it was the Year of Amigurumi.

I have latched on to this like a crazy person. Ever since I did my zebra and elephant earlier in the year I've been taken over by the bug and whilst my hook hasn't done much resting, I just haven't had much time to devote to crocheting blankets.

Zebra herd

The best thing about it is just the speed at which you can turn something out. Crochet, and especially the Tetris blanket, can be a bit of a long game sometimes and you can work and work and work without seeing huge gains. But not with amigurumi, you only have to be hooking for a couple of hours and you can already see the shapes forming. The fact that they are made in separate pieces means that you can literally watch your creation building up and, as with all things, the more you do, the faster you become. I am easily twice as fast as I was when I first started now.

My giraffe that had an incredibly wobbly neck

My first zebra took weeks and weeks to crochet and make - I made one last week which took me a total of 3 nights to knock up.

Best of all? This amigurumi craze has been a little earner for me. The first zebra and the giraffe were made as presents for two friends who were expecting, but pretty much everything else since then has been made for someone and has brought me some money in.

Penguin - one of the funniest things I've crocheted

I'm never going to be millionaire and obviously you can never really charge for the amount of time you spend on them, if any hand-crafty person did that then no-one would be able to afford any goods ever, but hey, I'm sitting in front of the TV anyway, I might as well be making some money doing it.

One of the best things I've made has been this bunny dolly, a pattern from a crochet magazine, that I made for my niece for her birthday. She was the most complicated thing I've made so far but the details are what makes her. Her little pink cheeks and her hair are the best parts. And she has the cutest little bunny tail that I haven't got a picture of, to my immense annoyance.

Since making her, I've made another two that have been sold to people at work and she is so incredibly cute that I can't help but think that I'll be making more in the future.

The lovely thing about amigurumi is that even if you're making something that you've made before, and you're following exactly the same pattern and more than likely using the same yarn, each item you produce will come out looking ever so slightly different. So much relies on expression that just the one little different move of your needle or one iota of difference to an eye placement means that the finished article has a completely different personality.

Bunny dolly to the power of three

So yeah, this year has been the Year of Amigurumi. It's satisfying, it's quick to make, it's fun and it's making me a little pile of cash which I keep separate from all my other money to make sure it doesn't get swallowed in the day to day. So far I've put it to good use and have bought pyjamas, books and bath salts with it.

I know how to live the high life.

But as we were drawing to the end of the year I decided to get selfish and make a little something for myself. I had bought a new book and hadn't flipped all the way through it, so I was terribly excited when I got home and realised that there were some Christmas designs at the back of the book.

So I would like you to meet Ralph.

He may just be my favourite. It's hard to let every item go but if I really had to give Ralph away I really think I would struggle. From the tip of his antlers, to the bottom of his stripy legs and even including his little red nose, I love every inch of him. And although it will be difficult to pack him away at the end of Christmas, I know how over excited I will be to get him out again each year.

So here's to the Year of Amigurumi.

And not completing your Not Really Resolutions.

From L-R: Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Goat, Zebra, Bunny Dolly, Zebra, Penguin, Reindeer


All creations are from this book and this book apart from the bunny dolly who is a pattern from Inside Crochet magazine (September 2013). 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

On friendship

I sat in the Wetherspoons at lunchtime eating my burger and looking about. It's newly opened in the 'town' and quite the talk of it. It's always full which always leads me to wonder where all these people used to go to drink and eat. Did they just stay at home?

My eye alights on one of the booths where there are 6 ladies in their 40s and 50s sat. Wine buckets are on the table, sharing platters in situ. They are all talking at once, several conversations overlapping and get periodically louder as excitement levels reach fever pitch.

It's not really the sight I want to see when I'm feeling so alone.

I wonder if that will be me in 10-20 year's time. Will I have made a tight group of friends by then (please god)? Will I still be friends with the people I'm friends with now?

I wonder where it all went wrong. I'm in the minority of people who are not still close to the people they went to school with. I'm not even that close any more with the people I went to university with (American Girl and American Boy in exception). It feels like it would be silly to blame anything else but me - I'm the only common thread. But then I get defensive. I could blame myself for not making an effort, but then others didn't make any either. Plus we're at the point where lives begin to drastically diverge - as people get married and have children I've watched the friendships they have slowly diminish - there's less time for friendships, and even less time for friendships where the other person doesn't have a baby and "can't understand what my life is like right now."

It must happen to others, I can't be the only one.

I wonder if I'll ever get to sit around that table with a group of gossipy friends.

And then I realise.

I do sit around a table every night with a group of gossipy friends. It's called the interwebs.

I show my face on Twitter every single day and more often than not pipe up in a conversation that's being had on there. I ask questions and offer up solutions. I exclaim with delight at photos of cats and share pictures of what I've had for tea that night. They're only the small things, but it's the small things that make a friendship - it's the random snippets of information that we share that give us an insight in to each other's lives.

It shouldn't really have come as a surprise that I've made a return to blogging. Because it's where a lot of my friendships now come from and are based on. I've been talking to some of you for years and years now, how weird is that? I tell you things I would never tell the people that I work with, or even some of my 'real life' friends.

'Real life'. That's a weird phrase isn't it. I've just gone back through this post and put quotation marks around each time I've mentioned it (hopefully). I still make the distinction to people when I talk about the people I know online. When I told people about going to Norbury Manor I got myself in a pickle trying to explain who I was going with when really I didn't need to. I just needed to say "I'm going away with some friends."

I couldn't have written an e-mail to my friends that contained within it the words that I wrote in my post last week. Even if I could have I wouldn't have experienced the plethora of comments and Tweets that I received. Sometimes it is about quantity and at a point where you're feeling quite alone, to realise that there are people out there is all you need to decide that maybe getting up in the morning won't be so bad after all.

And yes, of course, eventually, there will be new friends. I will get a car and I will be able to join the groups I would like to join and I will meet new people. And yes, I can try to rebuild and repair the cracks that have appeared in already existing friendships. But also I will make every effort to remember that some of the friends that have got me through this past year are you guys.

And I would like to thank you for that.

Here endeth the mush.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Meet the gerbils

Name: Tyrion Lannister

Age: 6 months

Occupation: Gerbil and Chief Digger

Hobbies: Digging, sitting in my food bowl, grooming my broseph.

Most likely to say: "Got any toilet roll tubes on you?"

Name: Ser Jorah Mormont

Age: 6 months

Occupation: Gerbil and Chief Nest Builder

Hobbies: Nest building, Eating, running on my wheel, climbing

Most likely to say: "Got any pumpkin seeds on you?"


This may seem like an odd blog post hot on the heels of my last one but I do have more to say on that. I just don't want this blog to read like an angsty teenager's diary...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My grass isn't greener

It's funny really when I think about it. Although 'funny' in that way where you feel like you might be hysterically laughing to stop yourself from collapsing on a heap in the floor crying.

I never would have thought in a million years that I'd be sat here in 2013 saying I'm in a worse place than I was in 2012.

I know right. How could anything be worse than 2012? Going from being made redundant, to having to move away from my friends and family in Hull, to being unemployed for a few months, to ending up in possibly the most depressing job where I got bullied. I lived in a city where I had no friends, other than The Person, oh and in the middle of it all I had a pretty spectacular meltdown.

2013 was the ultimate in fresh starts. Literally moving on the 1st January to a new place and starting a new job on the 2nd January which I was loving. There were challenges in the form of living in my sister's box room and having The Person live all the way in Preston but I was feeling fairly positive.

So how is it, that 2013 is heading towards a close and I feel worse than ever?

It's as if multiple things have conspired against me that seem determined to try and block my happiness everywhere I turn and, with no potential solution for some of them in sight, I can feel the 'badness' (those looming, crushing feelings of awfulness that seem to always be hovering over me in the background but I manage to keep at bay) starting to begin it's slow and painful creep over my shoulders.

For a start, the place I live in is tiny. I don't really know how to stress that word enough. The main 'town' is literally a street. A small street. We have one high street clothes store which is about the size of my living room. Luckily I'm not that interested in clothes shopping because that may have pushed me over the edge a long time ago. The fact is that there is just nothing to do here. Basically once you've visited the castle you're kind of out of things to do.

Frustratingly there's a whole host of things to do pretty much on my doorstep. I'm not a million miles away from some decent cities - Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, heck even Birmingham isn't that far away. There's the National Forest practically tapping at my window and National Trust properties galore. The problem? Absolutely none of them are accessible if you don't have a car.

Welcome to the sticks people, where public transport is non-existent and you are left with a situation where visiting Pets at Home and Wickes is the highlight of your weekend.

I have a huge bugbear about people with cars not understanding what life is like without one. I would love for them to come here for a week and be faced with constantly having to say "I'd love to, but I can't get there." or "I'd love it, but could you give me a lift?" Nothing like being 30 and not being able to independently get anywhere to make you feel good about yourself. The closest town I could get to is Burton, which takes 45 minutes on a bus, despite being a 25 minute car drive away and I think I can get to Leicester, although it appears to take 1.5 hours and involve a convoluted and difficult bus journey where you may have to get off a bus but also might not have to - I've been too scared to try it in case I just end up on a bus for the rest of my week.

I do technically have access to a car in the form of my sister's tank but to borrow that means a mile and half walk to her house (and back home again after dropping the car off) and actually, funnily enough, she needs to use her car as well. I'm probably not great at asking for it when I need it because, again, nothing like not being able to independently travel anywhere etc etc.

Secondly, I am 30 and it is well known that the older you get, the harder it is to make friends. I have been here a year and still don't have anyone I can call a friend. Don't get me wrong, I get on with lots of people at work. Lots of people - lots of chatting, lots of laughs - but they are restricted to 9-5. There has been nothing which has materialised into an outside of work friendship. Actually a lot of that is again down to location - most people don't live in this town, but live in other places and commute in, so they're not about to meet up or do anything with. Those people that do live here have lived here all their lives and are the ultimate in small town cliques - no matter how well you get on with them in work, it's not going to translate to an offer of a night out.

I am an extrovert in the true sense of the word. I need people around me to gain my energy. My spark comes from talking to people and interacting with people. I'm not like introverts, who see social interaction as something that drains them - it's honestly my life force.* Me without friends is just not pleasant. And on top of not making friends here, I have slowly but ever so surely drifted away from my friends back home. It happens, people get boyfriends, you don't live there any more, life moves on and leaves you stranded behind it. But it means I have no-one to talk to about the crushing loneliness I'm experiencing here.

All of the above has added up to put pressure on my relationship, and whilst I don't really want to go into that on here (at the moment) things have not been great between us and we are needing to do some emergency repair work. Which is actually difficult when you have nowhere to go because you have no transport (begin that loop again.)

Which brings us to wok. And again without wanting to go into that too much - things have not been great there. My role has changed due to unavoidable circumstances and whilst I appreciate that a new role has been found for me it's not a) what I wanted to do and b) I'm receiving absolutely no guidance at all on how to do it. It's frustrating and just really really gutting because I'd finally found something that I wanted to do and thought I was doing well at.

So there you have it. The holy trifecta of work, relationship and friends has slowly but steadily crumbled over the past few months, leaving me feeling like I'm hanging over a precipice. One from which I have no escape because there isn't a bloody bus back from said precipice.

I joke.

Not really.

Last year, I may have been unemployed and without friends but I lived in a city. There was plenty to do and plenty to explore and there were other places that were on our doorstep that we could get to because there were public transport links. Living here is like experiencing cabin fever on a major scale and feeling as though the other shoe is about to drop...


*For a cartoon which incredibly cleverly and easily explains the difference between introverted and extroverted people please see this How to interact with the introverted cartoon - it will honestly help you you understand the differences between the two. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Emergency, paging Dr Beat

I am not a very good shopper.

I don't really like crowds. I don't really like spending my money on anything other than books and I honestly really couldn't give two hoots about clothes. If I could spend the rest of my days in my pyjamas I would. In fact pyjamas are the only clothes I'm happy to shop for, and in fact the one thing I have to actively stop myself shopping for - one person does not need the amount of pyjamas I own.

I digress.

Because I'm not a good shopper there are times when things just suddenly pop out at me out of nowhere and the thrill I get comes like a bolt out of the blue and I buy it, without really considering whether it is a smart purchase to make.

The town I now live in has very few shops. And I mean very few shops. The only high street clothing shop is a New Look and that is about the size of my living room. Let's just say it's a good idea I'm not fussed about clothes. This is also why I am likely to answer with "New Look" or "Tesco" when asked where my latest item of clothing is from.

Not too long ago a vintage shop opened up and I pop in there when I'm passing. Not to look at the clothes so much as they're not really my thing but to look at what little trinkets she has and my eyes immediately fell upon this little beauty...

In desperate need* of a weekend bag I immediately snatched it up, cradled it to my chest and handed over the £15 she wanted for it and practically ran up the street shouting for joy.

Things I probably should have done include;
- Check inside it you know, in case it was all gross
- Check the zip works
- Check how heavy it was

Luckily for me the first two things on that list where all good but the third....hmm....I probably should have taken it for a test spin around the shop and really thought about it.

This bag appears to be made of some kind of steel for it is not the lightest of chappies. I took it away with me to Manchester and only had in enough stuff for a couple of days and it weighed a ton. But I'm pretty sure this falls under the category of no pain, no gain. Because just look at this bag and tell me it isn't amazing and that you're not just a little bit jealous of me.

I know. You can't. Sucks to be you.

There has been more than one occasion when I have pranced around the lounge pretending to be Doctor. I don't know if it actually is a Doctor's bag but it certainly feels like it and I'm going to pretend that it is no matter what you say.

And if it was a Doctor's bag then Doctor's must have had ruddy strong arms back in the day because I wouldn't have wanted to put lotions and potions in here and had to lug them around to someone's house. I barely made it through Manchester Piccadilly with pyjamas, make-up, shoes and a jumper inside.

And in a fit of 'stylishness' - I don't even know if it can be called that if it's me that's done it - I tied an old scarf around the handle because I just worried he looked a little too plain. 

Is this what the cool kids are doing with their bags at the moment? 

Or am I just being terribly 2007?

Anyway. I'd love to stay and chat but I have a medical emergency to attend to...**


Oh sorry what was that? You're loving my ever so amazing styling and location of this shoot?

These photos were taken at the Abode Hotel in Manchester where The Person and I stayed on Monday night for our annual trip to the Manchester Christmas Markets.

Why yes that is book wallpaper on the walls and parquet flooring - us medical professionals can only stay in the best of places you know.


*Not really desperate at all

**Need a cup of tea

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Gerbil Addendum

So as I was saying, we do not have fish any more. After the tragic deaths of Marcus and Andrew we decided that fish probably weren't for us. I mean they were lovely and everything but they were a know....kind of...possibly....*whispers*....boring.

We really wanted pets but unfortunately, living in rented accommodation in a 2nd floor flat kind of rules out a lot of pets.

We both have a fondness for degus and always end up in front of their cage when we visit Pets at Home (which is more often than we probably should admit) but when we looked at the cage that we would need we had to decide against it because we just don't have room for a cage that size.

So we considered hamsters for a while, as a possibility to get a fur fix.

But the trouble is, I had a hamster when I was little and I hated it. She was mean and she was bitey and really the best part I liked about looking after her was cleaning her cage.

One day, whilst peering in at the hamsters and laughing at the guinea pigs and being scared of the rabbits* I looked up and saw a little face peering back at me. There he was, sat up on hind legs like a tiny little meerkat, bright little black eyes and tiny little paws.

A gerbil.

I didn't know anything about them and I don't know anyone who has them, but after talking to the lovely lady I realised this was the pet for us. They are friendly and like to be handled, they're diurnal, so they're up when you're up. They want nothing more than to be your friend and just hang out.

Being good little renters I insisted that we follow the rules and ask permission from our letting agent before getting the gerbils. I'll be honest - I was getting gerbils regardless of whether I was 'allowed' to or not, but if I can follow the rules then I will do.

I don't think I've ever felt less ridiculous than being a 30 year old woman asking permission to have two gerbils in my flat but such is life and let's not dwell on that...permission was granted, although we had to sign and send back what we have come to call as the Gerbil Addendum which said;

"NOTWITHSTANDING the provisions of clause 3.67 the Landlord agrees that the Tenant may
keep a two gerbils in the Property PROVIDED it is kept caged and FURTHER the tenant will
indemnify the Landlord against any damage caused by the said gerbils to the Property and its

 Just ever so slightly OTT.

Anyway, it was duly signed and returned and we promptly went out and got ourselves two lovely gerbils.

Everyone meet:
Tyrion Lannister


Ser Jorah Mormont

For those not in the know those names are the names of characters from Game of Thrones which is awesome. They are two of my favourite characters in it. If you've read further than Book Three, Part Two then please don't tell me anything I might not want to hear about these characters - George R R Martin has a tendency to kill off characters that you don't expect to die.

So there they are - Tyrion Lannister and Ser Jorah Mormont - the two greatest gerbils that there ever was.

*Yeah rabbits scare me. Get over it. They are too big and you can't tell what they're thinking.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Very Fishy Tale a.k.a. How I Accidentally Killed our Fish

For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter you may not have heard the very sad news that our fish, Marcus and Andrew, are no longer of this mortal coil.

You will also not know that the sole reason they are no longer on this mortal coil is down to me.

Yes. Really.

Marcus & Andrew spent most of this year living a bachelor lifestyle along with The Person after I moved out to go and live with my sister for my job on 1st January 2013. They had a great time, ducking and diving and wheeling and dealing and generally floating about doing fishy stuff.

There was a lot of discussion about how they would get to the Midlands when The Person moved here to join me and in the end it was a very low tech travel arrangements. The boys were put in a large tupperware box and came to Leicestershire, sitting on the knee of The Person, who was in the passenger seat of the lovely van man's van who moved The Person from Preston to our current residence.

We were worried about whether they would make the trip but they had a jolly old time and as soon as they arrived, I got the tank filled up and they were settled in before even a box was unpacked.

However, in the craze of The Person starting a new job, sorting out a flat in which we had no furniture (that's a tale for another time),  and just generally living together again we became pretty neglectful fish parents. The tank looked a bit cloudy and the water really looked like it could do with a change and we kept saying "This weekend we need to change the fish" but we would never get around to doing it and the weeks passed us by.

Finally, at the end of the first week of October, so just over 2 months after we moved in *hangs head in shame* I decided I needed to get that water changed.

So I gave the tank a good scrub, filled it up with lovely new tap water, put Marcus and Andrew back in and sat back and admired my handiwork.

They merrily swam about all afternoon and evening. The Person and I, sat on the sofa in the evening, remarked how happy they looked having a good swim.

About 10pm I looked over at the tank...

Marcus did not look well.

In fact. Marcus looked decidedly not like an alive fish.

I called in The Person to investigate and, as I watched nervously from the doorway, he confirmed my worst suspicions, we were indeed one fish down.

No wait...we were two fish down as Andrew was also dead.

It was horrible. Horrible. I don't know if you've noticed but I kind of like animals, and the realisation that I was solely responsible for the death of my two pets was almost too much for me to bear. In fact I didn't bear it, I promptly sat on the bed and burst into tears. For a long time.

Marcus and Andrew received the most traditional of burials and were flushed down the toilet on Sunday 6th October 2013.

A quick consult of Google has led us to believe that our fishes' deaths, whilst tragic, are not uncommon. Apparently fish don't get overly bothered about living in a dirty tank, they just go with the flow and adapt to their surroundings. However when you perform a complete change on the tank and put in fresh water - whilst it might look nice and make you feel good about yourself - it unbalances the pH and nitrates and all those other invisible things that the fish have got used to and the change is so dramatic that their poor little fishy bodies cannot cope with it any more.

If you have let the tank get dirty and want to change it, you have to perform percentage water changes where you take some water out and replace it with clean water and gradually increase the percentage you change until it's all clean.

We do not have new fish.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Girl's Guide to Mediocre Running

This is not the guide to read if you are planning on running marathons. It's not even the guide to read if you're planning on running half-marathons. It's not the guide to read if your aim is to run sub 50 minute 10ks. Nor is it the guide to read if your aim is to run sub 60 minute 10ks for that matter.

It's not the guide to read if you want to become the world's best runner and it's definitely not the guide to read if you want to work so hard you vomit after each run (because by the way, when you do that, it means your body has been put through too much and you're an idiot, not that you're super awesome and hardcore.) 

This is the guide to read for those people who have been running for years and yet still turn an alarming shade of red after they've been running for 5 minutes. This is the guide if you have never run before but kind of want to do a bit of bimbling about around the local park or up and down the street you live on. This is the guide to read if you know you don't really want to run, but feel like you ought to go out and run off that entire packet of Digestives you just inhaled.*

For I am the above person. I have been running for years. I've done a couple of 10ks and a couple of 5ks. But I'm never going to reach the dizzying heights of sub-60 anything, unless the sub-60 you're talking about is a sub-60 second eating of a packet of crisps.

So here is my guide to mediocre running:

1. Your first outside run is terrifying - so do it ridiculously early in the morning when there's no-one about. I got up at 7.30am on a Saturday to do my first outdoor run, which consisted of a run to the nearest park, once around and back again. You will feel like a weird person and be convinced everyone is staring at you but they're really not, and anyway...

2. Stuff those people on the street - those lazy bitches are walking whereas you are running. Or jogging. Or probably running at a pace that some people could keep up with at a fast walk. Whatevs. You have trainers on so you win. And whilst we're on the point of running in public...

3. No-one knows how far you've run. I was serious about the red face - I look like I'm going to collapse after 1km, but I look exactly the same after I've run 8km as well. So instead of feeling embarassed that you look out of breath, pretend that you've run 13 miles already and you're allowed to look a little tired. If you have the breath, as you're running past someone, try and say "Whew! 12 miles done already in 20 minutes, I am caning it today!"

4. Stay clear of all those running CDs and dance music. Those CDs have their place, especially in a race, but those running CDs are full of songs which are of a much faster tempo than the one at which you're running at. Trust me, as a mediocre runner, those songs are too fast. I was having massive issues being able to run at one point, I was just too tired to keep it up so I had the brain wave of listening to podcasts instead. Now I swear by them - you will find that you will settle into the pace which you are comfortable at and listening to people talking is so distracting you won't really notice how long you've run for and you'll be happier to continue for longer until you get to the end of it. This is perhaps the greatest tip I can give you.

5. If you live in a hilly area try and find a route that has more downhill that uphill in it. I nearly died when I moved to my current residence away from the flatlands of Hull. This place has some serious hills and I did some nearly serious keeling over trying to run up them. So don't. Don't make life any harder for yourself than it already is. You're already running for god's sake, don't force yourself to go up a hill if you don't need to...and if you can't avoid them...

6. ...Walk up them. Until you run up a hill you don't know how godamn fricking hard it is. It burns your legs and your lungs and people who live in mostly flat areas, who occasionally run up a small incline are not able to appreciate how hard it is. I didn't. I had no idea what a hill was until I moved here. Living at my sister's was bad, but at my new place I have no choice but to run up a hill if I want to get home - it sucks. Try your best to run up them but do not feel bad if you can't...

7. ...But using your arms will help you get up them. When someone first said that to me I raised my eyebrows and thought "Okaaaaay, thanks for the advice crazy person" but actually it does help. You don't need to be swinging them as though doing your best steam train impression but focusing a bit more on pumping them as you go up the hill does seem to help. At the very least it distracts you from the burning pain in your thighs, followed by the total loss of sensation in your legs so it's good for that if nothing else.

8. Everyone has a 'Wall' to get past. Yours is admittedly a little earlier on than other people's, but it's a Wall nevertheless. Mine is about the 2.5km mark. Yes that soon. You will want to stop running, you will feel as if you can't take any more breath into your lungs but try and just run a little, tiny bit further and suddenly you will inexplicably feel ok and can run much further than you ever would have thought possible when you were up against the Wall. If you really can't get past the Wall...

9. Just walk!** This is one I have battled with personally so often in running and one that I'm still not entirely at ease with. Sometimes when I feel like walking there's a voice in my head chanting "Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" And this is ridiculous. Walk for a small bit - pick a point further up the road that you will walk to and then start running again. It will be hard, (that's why you should try to keep going if you can), because starting to run when you've been walking is a tough mental challenge but you'll have had your rest and be ready to run for longer.

10. Cut yourself some slack. You won't be  the best runner. There will be no-one you can run with because no-one runs as slow as you. You look like a beetroot and your hair is sticking up all over the shop. You get blisters in weird places because your flat footed and even the special trainers for flat footed people don't really help. You get pains in your knees and shins and even your back sometimes. But you're running. You're running when you could be walking or sat on your backside in front of the TV. You may be a mediocre runner but you're still a runner. Take pride in your mediocrity and those people who go on about how fast they run and how brilliant they are and yada yada yada? Don't listen to them, they're not good for you. And actually there are far more of us mediocre runners out there who can sympathise and help you through your aches and pains and trials and tribulations. Let those others run the fastest race they can - they can be up at the front on their own, I'm happy at the back with the rest of my Mediocre Buddies.


*Mediocre running will definitely not burn off the calories of an entire packet of Digestives. It might burn off one, two if you're lucky.

** This point is null and void in a race. People who don't run the whole 10k, half-marathon or marathon are at the receiving end of my wrath and fury. It's called the Great North Run, not the Great North Walk, you cannot bring home a medal saying you've done 10k when you walked for most of it - that's just doing what millions of people do who go for a ramble on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Today I am not here...

...I'm over on Sarah's other blog Have a Happy Hen Do where I am talking about a particularly memorable hen do activity I experienced recently.

Please note this post contains sausages, fancy dress, and photos of me in fancy dress with sausages.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

London with almost a plan

One thing you should never do in London.

Go without a plan.

For in a city with a myriad of opportunities it is impossible to choose anything to do when put on the spot.

One other thing you should never do in London.

Go when it's pissing it down with rain.

For in a city which is mired in a blanket of grey and misery it is even more impossible to choose anything to do when put on the spot.

Instead you will find yourself being pulled into the Tate Modern even though you know you're going to hate it because you're just not a fan of modern art and even thought you know that your significant other is going to hate it too.

It's ok though, you last about 20 minutes in there. The breaking point is when your significant other sees a piece of art which is some wood with stones hanging from it at varying lengths. It turns out that that is his limit when it comes to modern art.

You swallow your "I told you so" and trudge back outside into the gloom (after a visit to the gift shop).

This is why it's important to have a plan.

Instead of heading aimlessly over the Millennium Bridge towards the comforting glow of St Paul's Cathedral you head over it with purpose, laughing at the pigeons sat in rows, laughing at the fact that your hood is so big you can't actually see out of it and laughing at the fact that thanks to the wonder of Twitter and The Cafe Cat you know exactly where you're heading.

Responding to my plea for somewhere cool to have tea and cake she gave me more than one idea and one h happened to be close by to us, underneath the menacing clouds.

For we are headed to Bea's of Bloomsbury (the St Paul's branch).

We follow the directions on the website (when they say keep turning right they really do mean keep turning right) looking for the hanging teapot lights, foolishly thinking they're hanging on the outside. At the point where I'm about to lose my temper and the rain is really starting to wear us down, we spy a welcoming glow in the distance...

What better way to decorate a tea shop than with hanging teapot lights?

Bea's of Bloomsburys manages to do a difficult thing - be homely without being chintzy, be small without being claustrophobic and be cosy whilst still maintaining a sense of 'coolness'.

We somehow manage to pick the same cupcake from the vast array of cupcakes and cakes and general sweet stuff on offer. Normally the idea of getting the same thing as the person sat opposite me horrifies me but the rain and gloom have got into my soul and I just really bloody want that peanut and chocolate concoction that's begging for me to eat it.

We sit and we talk and we do that ever so British thing of rolling our eyes at a table of women who shriek at some unexpected news. We talk about the weekend ahead, which is going to be spent in Horsham, staying with some of The Person's family and we talk about this and that and a little of the other.

And then we decide to just head to the pub where we're meeting his family later.

Because we are in London without a plan.

And that's just fine.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Things that go bump in the kitchen

I really don't like cooking you know. I've tried and I've tried and occasionally I can find myself enjoying it but mostly it feels like a chore, much like washing your hair. It's one of those things you've got to do but you don't ever really feel like doing it.

I wish that meant that I didn't like eating but unfortunately it's not the case. I sometimes wonder if, left to my own devices, I'd just sit and eat outrageous amounts of toast, salad and crisps.

Actually I don't wonder at all - I'm home alone tonight and have just eaten beans on toast. I felt proud of myself for grating cheese.

But I'm lucky really, The Person actually enjoys cooking. He loves sitting and sifting through cookery books, looking up recipes online, chopping things and throwing stuff in a pan, putting things in an oven and all manner of spatula-related kitchen wizardry.

And so I know I definitely shouldn't complain.


Have you ever attempted one of Jamie Oliver's 30 minute or 15 minute meals? If you haven't this is basically how it goes:
1) It takes about 3 times longer than it should do
2) You use every utensil and pan and piece of crockery you own
3) Your kitchen is destroyed by the end of it.

The trouble is, every expedition in to the kitchen for The Person ends this way. It's not specific to Jamie Oliver, it's the same for every single meal. Most of the time after eating a lovely meal and getting up to put my plate in the kitchen he stands up, takes the plate from me and goes, "Don't go in there." I know well enough not to - my poor heart won't be able to stand the strain.

Don't believe me? Look at this:

This is what happens after The Person makes two sandwiches.

That's all. Two. Sandwiches.

But I'm really not complaining.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

In praise of mediocrity

"Most people don't workout and then feel sad about it you know" The Person says to me when my downcast face appears in the kitchen after another hard workout.

I then take him through all the exercises that I wasn't able to do. Mostly because the woman doing the exercise workout is a ballet dancer who appears to have legs the length of my front room and can dislocate her hips at will.

"You are literally the only person I know who works out and then beats herself up about it. You can't be perfect at everything you know."

I have decided he is right...

I can't run a very fast 10km.

(In fact at the moment I can only run 3km.)

I have the flexibility of an arthritic 80 year old.

I can't do 'normal' push-ups.

(In fact I struggle to do the 'girl' push-ups.)

I use baked bean cans instead of normal hand weights and sometimes those are too heavy for my puny arms.

I could be one of those people who works out until I vomit. I could be one of those people who goes out and tries to beat every run that she's done before. I could be one of those people who says "No pain, no gain."

I could be one of those people who reads other people's fitness posts on blogs and then feels like complete crap about herself because she'll never be that fast/strong/toned etc etc....No. Wait a minute. I am one of those people.

But being that person makes me terribly unhappy and the boyfriend is right, it really isn't normal to feel bad after doing a workout because you suddenly realise that you're not Mo Farrah/most other people you know who run 10km races.

And so, instead of finishing the workout and beating myself up that I could only do three quarters of the leg raises before having to stop and call the stupid, smiling, dancer woman in legwarmers a bitch, I shall finish the workout and give myself a high five for working out until my arm and leg muscles ache - it's not my fault that they ached so early on, turns out I'm not as fit as a fitness instructor. I shall give myself a high five for even doing one leg raise - that's one leg raise more than I would have done if I'd come in and sat on the sofa in front of the TV all night.

I will delight in my mediocrity. I don't want to be the "best I can" at running. I want to be able to do a bit of running and not die during/immediately after. I want to work up a bit of sweat, not throw up the contents of my stomach. Most importantly I will stop calling it cheating if I have to walk during a run - because that shit is crazy.

And now, if you will excuse me, I need to go and mentally throw darts at the face of that stupid, smiling dancer woman in the legwarmers.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Undramatic Dramatic Blog Post

What I'm about to say probably won't come as much of a surprise, given my lack of blogging over the past couple of months.

I'm taking a step away from blogging for a wee while.

The reasons are many and few.

1) Things got a little stressy here at the end of June with a health scare (not mine) and a job scare (mine) and I didn't want to blog
2) I went on holiday to Corfu
3) Work went mental
4) The Person and I moved up to my town and into a new flat

But basically I've just fallen out of love with it.

I've been quite vocal about the fact that I'm not hugely enjoying the "blogging world" at the moment and I'd rather not be part of it until I can work out what it is I really want to do with it. And seeing as I don't want to become another sponsored blog whore and I don't want to take photos of myself wearing the 4 pieces of clothing I own, I don't really know what to do.

So it's time to take a break.

It will almost certainly not be permanent, I think I like this game too much to give it up completely, but a re-think and an overhaul and a reboot is needed.

I'm still kind of hanging about and trying to comment on blogs (although I still mourn the demise of Google Reader daily. Feedly and Bloglovin' make me want to get stabby) and I'm definitely still on that there Twitter (@Shippers1983 if you want to have a natter) but for now, this little corner of the internet will be a bit silent.

Catch you on the flipside.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Friday night's round My Nest*

Some people have crazy Friday nights out - drinking and dancing and hopping their way around pubs and clubs.

Some people have crazy Friday nights in - drinking and dancing around the living room with mates.

But this person has another way of spending her Friday nights...

Catching up on The Archers...

...and learning how to French Braid my hair (how have I never learned how to do this until now?!)

Don't be jealous of my crazy lifestyle kids.


*"The Nest?! The Nest?! What is this crazy woman talking about?" I hear you say - well The Nest is where I live - you can read about it here

Friday, 12 July 2013

Whilst I was away...

....I think, I think, my plant died.

At this point I have the opportunity to make a terribly cheesy comparison between this dead violet and the fact that I have somewhat neglected my blog of late.

But I'm not going to.

Or did I just do it?

Who knows. Apologies. I went away on my jolly holidays and forgot to leave a "Be Back Soon" sign on the door. Although I think we all know I was already checked out long before my break.

I would like to say I'll get back on it immediately....but....naaaaaaah.

See you when I see you.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Me vs The Tank

Yeah I know. Another learning to drive post. How terribly boring for the rest of you but this is definitely something that I need to document because I'm assured that there will be a day, one day, when driving apparently comes "naturally" to me and I will forget all about how it felt like I was in the cockpit of a flying saucer and couldn't remember how to push the pedals.

If you didn't read my first post about re-learning to drive then please go and read it to find out why I'm re-learning to drive and how alien it has been to me.

But the one thing that I forgot to mention in my last post is that the reason for the sudden rush with my lessons has been that there is a deadline zooming up to me.

My sister and family go away on holiday for 2 weeks towards the end of July. I offered to stay in the house and look after Rowan and Rosie (and Blinky obviously) so that they didn't have to spend a small fortune on kennel fees.

All good but for one small fact.

Although it's only a mile and a half walk into work which I'm more than capable of doing, I would need to go home at lunchtimes to let the dogs out/make sure they're doing ok and I wouldn't be able to do that if I was reliant on just my feet. I would need to drive my sister's car to and from work each day.

So lessons were a must because I had a deadline ahead of me. As you may have guessed from my last post, I'm pretty nervous about being in a car again after so many years. So imagine how much more scared I was knowing that I was working up to be driving this car...

...why yes, my sister drives a tank to work.

This weekend my sister finally plucked up the courage to take me out in it so I can get a feel for driving it before I have to do it on my own. It's very brave of her because she's pretty much a bit of a control freak and what could be more scary than giving literal control of your car to someone who basically can't drive? So she really deserves a round of applause.

We went to Tesco early on Sunday morning to have a little pootle round the car park when it was empty.

And you know what?

Tank driving is easy!

Want to know why?

The Tank is an Automatic.

Most of my current stress when driving revolves around stopping and starting the changing up and down from 1st into 2nd gear. As I said before, actual driving I can do. You get in an automatic and all of that is taken care of for you. No need to worry, you can just concentrate on not crashing into everything around you and just drive. It was amazing! It was freedom and it was a confidence boost. We both felt comfortable enough for me to leave the confines of the car park and go out on to the actual road and drive about, and then confident enough to get onto the dual carriageway - although, bless her, she'd only let me do 60mph.

It was brilliant and amazing and I loved it.

We'll talk about parking The Tank another time I think.

I spent an hour in The Tank and was feeling good and no longer nervous at the prospect of driving it.

I then had a 2 hour driving lesson and pretty soon after getting into the car realised that driving The Tank meant that I'd pushed all the information I had in my brain about doing the gears and stopping and starting out into thin air, resulting in me stalling the car three times when I haven't stalled it at all before.


Monday, 24 June 2013

The Nest

I'm pretty much like a goldfish you know. I just expand to fit my surroundings and I'm good at making whatever space I'm living in feel homely to me. I'm a good little nester. I'm not fussed about having a show-room style house where everything is immaculate and has been chosen to go together and "tie the room together" (which is the wankiest phrase I've ever heard).

But even a goldfish has its limits and although I've mentioned the fact that I've been living in my sister's box room for the past 6 months I felt like I needed to show you that I am not exaggerating and also for you to praise me and say what a good person I am for having lived in this space for so long and not seriously hurt somebody/resorted to sitting on my bed and banging my head against the wall.

So I thought I'd take some photos.

That was a laugh in itself. This room is so small that taking photos of it proved almost impossible because I couldn't actually get any of the room in a single photo. Take this photo below - I had to get this by standing way out in the hall at the top of the stairs...


A - My bed. Most of the springs in the mattress have now gone. See those four drawers? They have some clothes in. Bottom left has all my running stuff in it, top left has a couple of jumpers and t-shirts in, top right has bras and a jumper in and bottom right has pjs, 1 pair of jeans and some lounge pants in.

B - Some extra storage - in these tiny drawers I have shoved my pants, tights and socks.

C - Unfortunately this TV does not actually work, there's no aerial.

D - My teeny selection of books whilst all my other lovely books are languishing back in Preston thinking I don't love them any more.

So that's what it looks like from the outside, what about the inside?

Well this hopefully gives you an idea of how small it is. I had to stick two photos together but what you see is what you get. In the above photo you should have been able to see that the length of the room is the length of my bed.

So when I'm lying on the bed, this is what I can see...

A - My wardrobe. Basically has my work stuff in it and some shoes and then space for all my dirty laundry because, well, I've nowhere else to put it.

You may be able to have worked out from this picture of the wardrobe and the storage in the above photo that I do not have a lot of clothes here with me. Actually I can highly recommend being separated from the majority of your wardrobe for 6 months apart from the absolute essentials which for me is my work stuff and pjs. It means that when I went back to Preston the other weekend to start packing for the move I actually just put the majority of my clothes in bin bags and took it to charity.

B - Why is my wardrobe floating in the air? This is where the stairs come up. It's weird innit? It's probably where the boiler should be which would possibly make it look a bit less weird.

C - My towels. They live here. They can't live in the bathroom because I live with 2 teenage boys and they're gross and I really don't want them near my towels. Gross but true.

D - Running shoes. Nowhere else for them to live but do you like how I've stacked them to create more room? Sad isn't it?

E - Hurray for over the door hook things. I'd be buggered without them. Here hangs everything for which there is no room anywhere else - includes scarfs, belts, bags, cardigan and hoodies.

F - Postcard from Heather that I love. It says "Have a totes amazeballs day!" - I see it every day and it makes me smile.


So there you have it. My little nest. Little being the operative word. This is mostly where I am when I am blogging/tweeting/reading/crocheting/on the phone.

I know I shouldn't complain, I'm lucky to have a sister that has put me up for this long for what we both thought would be a much shorter time frame. But, as homely as my little nest is, I am longing to have all my things around me. To have everything at my fingertips instead of going "Oh I know what I'll's in Preston, can't have that."

I am muchly looking forward to moving to my bigger nest.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Behind the wheel

One of this year's Not Really Resolutions was to get behind the wheel of a car again. I passed my test when I was 17 and have never driven again so lessons were a must. This was a not really resolution that I thought would be nice, but upon moving to my current home has become a must. I've been able to get away without driving for so long because I have been living in cities with public transport links. Now I live in what to me is the middle of nowhere and I cannot get anywhere without my sister giving me a lift.

So I plucked up the courage, got my license renewed, asked around and found a local instructor. As the day drew near, the fear began to grow. There's a reason you learn to drive when you're 17. You are fearless and excited to be a grown-up and you can sense freedom isn't far away. When you're learning to drive when you're 30 you are all too aware you're in a machine of death and that the streets and roads are paved with lunatics hellbent on getting in your way.

"Oh it's just like riding a bike" people would say. Really? Tell me this then - would you rather I hit you with a bike I hadn't pedalled on in 12 years or a car I haven't driven in for 12 years? Exactly. Metal death traps.

Funnily enough it is like riding a bike and after a quick re-familiarisation I was off, actually driving in an actual car on the actual road! I remembered how to change gear! I remembered to check my mirrors! I remembered everything, apart from the art of gentle braking.

You see, I just don't trust the car to actually stop. I start off ok, I gently press down and the car responds and begins to slow. It goes slower and slower and slower and then I am overcome with panic that this car, which is now travelling at 3mph is somehow going to career out of control and destroy everything, so I slam my foot down on the already overly sensitive brake, bringing the car to an almighty standstill. Did you know you can do an emergency stop when the car is going that slowly? Well you can.

I was euphoric after my first lesson though. I could do this! I was a whizz! I'd be on the motorway in no time! I vainly reckoned it would be about 5 lessons and I'd be road ready. This week I will have my first lesson and we will be practicing, in my instructor's own words, "stopping and starting." So yeah...probably more than five lessons.

This appears to be my major problem at the moment. I'm Mrs Cool when I'm driving, as in literally driving on the roads - the second I have to stop at a junction, or some traffic lights, or my arch nemesis, the roundabout, and all hell breaks loose in my head. I can't remember if I'm lifting my foot off the brake or the clutch first, what direction I'm supposed to be going in or what I'm supposed to be doing with that stick in my left hand.

I shouldn't be so harsh on myself, I am basically learning to drive and obviously that takes more than five lessons, but still...there's a long road to travel just yet.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

On the farm

Remember this one time when I went away with all the bloggers in March to Norbury Manor? Of course you do I talk about it all the time.

You may remember in that post that one of the highlights was when we went in search of some alpacas that some of the group claimed to have seen during a walk about. We never found those alpacas but we were confronted by two farm dogs who were not best pleased at our loitering. In case you forgot the photo or can't be bothered to click through to that link then here they are...

Fast forward to a month or so later. One of my bosses wants to get together some of the key account people to have a strategy meeting of sorts and wants it off-site. Someone has mentioned a place -  a farm that's not a million miles away that has cottages and a big meeting room. Will I check it out?

So I go online and check it out and it all sounds good. We go ahead and book and the dates are put in people's diaries.

A few days before we go away I go back to the website for another look. Oh how exciting it's a working farm with real animals and everything and oh good lord they have alpacas, I love alpacas.

I get in the car with my sister on Monday morning and we gear up the sat nav, we put the postcode in and I'm vaguely reminded of something. I look at a map and some of the directions on the website and realise that it's quite close to Norbury Manor...

I read the directions some more. It talks about going over a bridge.

As in...a bridge that you might play pooh sticks on and not be able to work out who won?

Alpacas + Pooh Stick bridge + near Norbury Manor...

No. It couldn't be. What would be the chances?

We pull up and there, standing before me who do I see?


Who promptly does this,

And then this...

Closely followed by Charlie who growls as me and yet wants me to stroke him and seems to be quite confused about which he wants more.

And a cat! Called Suki who has the most soft and beauiful fur ever.

And another cat called Tango, who unfortunately eluded my camera.

And alpacas!

And donkeys!

And little chicks!

I am indeed on the other side of the fence to where I was standing about 2 months previously.

Cue immediately taking to Twitter to tell #TeamNorbury about where I was.



This was a work thing so I've ummed and aahed about whether to post this and whether or not I should link to the place we stayed. I don't feel comfortable going into too many details about our stay but I equally want to recommend it to anyone who was looking for a holiday cottage let in the Derbyshire/Staffordshire area. If you do want the details about where we stayed drop me an e-mail or send me a Tweet (@Shippers83) and I'll let you know the details. It was fabulous.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Whipsnade Zoo 10k Stampede

You know how sometimes you book things a long way in advance and you spend ages talking about it and being excited for it but without actually twigging that it's getting closer and closer until you go "Jesus I'm supposed to run 10k around a zoo this weekend!"?


Well anyway.

After talking about The Stampede way back in March (you all suck by the way, nobody was brave enough to come and join us) the weekend finally arrived for Lucy and I to make our way down south for a little adventure.

Our hotel was a bargain that Lucy had found, costing us £25 each for a night in the middle of Luton about a 2 minute walk from the train station, and although our hearts sank when we walked up to possibly the ugliest building alive...

 ...we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the hotel was really nice inside. Even better, we had free access to a gym including a pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

We ran onto the streets of Luton to discover what there was to say and ran smack bang into a store that has changed my life. Why have I never heard of Tiger before?! I can't even describe it, just go on the website and look. (Although be warned, you can't actually buy anything from the website it just shows you what they sell. The swines.)

We also learned that Luton doesn't like you to feed pigeons, handily drawing a picture of a pigeon in case you didn't know what one was.

But you're not here to learn about what there is to see and do in Luton. And anyway I've basically covered it in the above few sentences.

You are here to find out about The Stampede.

This was long awaited for more than one reason for me. I was looking forward to running around the zoo but, after the disaster that was the Hull Not 10k I was looking forward to actually giving a 10k race a proper go.

I wasn't in the best of shape for it. In the week leading up to the race I'd been unable to do any running/training at all because work has been a gobshite lately and my diet left little to be desired as I comfort ate to make myself feel better about work being a gobshite. I haven't checked but I'm pretty sure that Runner's World don't have those in their Top Ten must-dos for race preparation.

I was pleased Lucy was there though - that girl just ran a half marathon, I would be able to harness her running ability somehow and get myself through the race. I hoped. I decided it was a sign that we had the same trainers - these trainers got Lucy through a half marathon, they could get me through a 10k!

For anyone interested they are Mizunos. And you need to be a mega flat footed freak to wear them

In the run up I was a little worried about how hot it might be when we ran the race - I didn't want to overheat and pass out half way round - but I needn't have worried as the weather was outrageously cold on Sunday 9th June. It was almost a joke how cold we all were, hopping about on the spot trying to keep warm.

Before long the hooter went and we were off, we were officially Stampeding! The first big animal we came to was this rhino...

 He looks a peaceful chappy doesn't he? Well he was not peaceful on that first lap. As we came up to his paddock we saw him running and charging about, going up to the fence before retreating and then turning and charging again - he was stampeding with us! Maybe he heard us all running and thought we were a real-life Stampede? I was a little worried we had distressed him but it turns out he does it every year and he seemed happy enough when we went past him on our 2nd and 3rd laps so I think he's ok.

Yes. Laps. Not sure they're a fun way of running 10k. The first lap was brilliant - I was shouting out animals as I saw them and smiling and everything was lovely. Then came the second lap and I got a little quieter. Then came the third lap and there wasn't a word uttered. By the time the 3rd lap came around I was like "Yeah. Whatever. Flamingos. Good work being pink"

The other not fun thing about laps? Getting lapped by the leaders. A bike with a bell ringing behind you going "Move over to the left for the race leaders!" was not a comforting sound. I contemplated throwing an elbow but apparently that's not sportsmanly. I don't need a reminder that I run slowly thank you very much.

I had developed an irrational fear that Whipsnade Zoo would be full of nasty hills, not helped by the fact that in the taxi ride to the zoo we appeared to be going up and down mountains. But thankfully, although the zoo is set on a hill and offers some spectacular views, the course wasn't too bad. There were some inclines but they were pretty gentle really - at least they felt like it compared to some of the hills I have to run up and down near me.

I was so thankful I had Lucy to run with. I had a better deal really, she kept me going whereas I just slowed her down! But having someone to run with who asked if I was ok was a huge help even if the answer was "No, I hate this!"

When we got to 7km I was still feeling not too bad and actually thought to myself that I was ok and was definitely going to be able to do this, but things went rapidly downhill from there and 8-10km was a real struggle. I retreated well into myself and started focusing on following the yellow lines on the road we were running on, I felt if I just kept running on that then everything would be ok. What can I say, I'm not entirely sure running is good for your mental health.

After the race we discovered that we both were pretty sure that 9km was never going to come once we'd passed the 8km marker. I swear it was longer than 1km between those markers. But hilariously, when I checked on Endomondo the other day, that lap was our fastest, we were obviously desperate to get to the marker!

We turned a corner and there it was the finish. The end has never been more welcome and I sped up to get there as quickly as possible. I like to think that the people lining the sides and cheering us on were fooled into thinking we'd run that fast all the way around but given the time I'm guessing they probably wouldn't have been fooled.

Ah yes. The time. The time that I should be really proud of and should be shouting from the rooftops because three years ago I literally couldn't run for 5 minutes on a treadmill without having to stop. The time that I shouldn't care about, but do because I'm an idiot who needs to learn to stop comparing herself to others, especially when people can run further and faster than she can.

My official time was 1.09.26 and I am proud of that time. This is only the 2nd time I've run a 10km race. The last time was in September 2012 and it took me 1 hour 18 minutes so I've knocked a good bit of time off that.

So yeah. Sorry I'm not a super fast runner but I run as fast and as hard as I can and I will never in a million years get below 60 minutes and actually I don't want to. I want running to remain fun and something I enjoy doing, not become yet another stick I can beat myself up with.


I'm done.

Even better than the euphoria of finishing a 10km is the euphoria of then getting to spend the rest of the day looking at animals, and although we had to get changed in a toilet and try and wipe the sweat off with some baby wipes, it totally made it worth it.

I have celebrated my victory by immediately stopping running. Much as I do enjoy it when I'm doing it I have learned to accept that unless I have something to run for I'm not going to run.

So I have signed up to my next 10km - the York 10k on August 4th.

Time to dust off the trainers, get out Hal's training programme, and start running up those hills again...