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...

Friday, 14 June 2013

The News

Good lord, we're in June - how did that happen?

People kept mentioning it to me at the start of the month and every time they did I felt a bit of a punch to my stomach.

Half the year gone already. This was not the plan. How can I have been living here in the Midlands for this long already?

How have I been living in my sister's box room for this long?

How have I been travelling back and forth from Preston most weekends to see The Person?

How has it been this long?

It didn't make me feel good. Whilst I knew it may take a bit of time for The Person to find a job I don't think either of us appreciated how long that would be, and it had been five long months without even the hint of an interview, much less an actual job.

Stress levels have been high and have snapped more than once, but the edges were starting to fray a little.

So it was with a certain amount of nervous excitement that we made our way back to the Midlands together  on the last Bank Holiday Monday for The Person to have an interview.

I kept it pretty quiet and didn't really dare to hope. We didn't even speak about it that much that weekend, despite our rolling down hills and our trip to Blackpool, we enjoyed ourselves but didn't really talk about what was going to happen at the end of the weekend - the big potential game-changer.

I'll not beat around the bush, there's little point.

He got the job.

And with that everything has changed. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

In fact the light is heading towards us at full speed.

It seems that this was a situation where we just had to wait for the right thing to come along. And it really is the right thing, The Person has got a job in pretty much the only town that would allow us to live together in my town without transport. It is not a transport hub by any stretch of the imagination but the only public transport available runs between our towns. Lucky or what?

I am in the process of finding somewhere for us to live (no he doesn't need to look at it, don't be silly) and now the process of packing up and throwing out begins.

And in one more month I'll get to live with my boyfriend again.

Here's to the next six months.

Monday, 10 June 2013


Many moons ago (or 3 if you prefer people not to exaggerate) my Stitchette friends and I held an exhibition called Embroidering the Truth. We basically embroidered/cross stitched those random things you overhear when you walk past someone on the street or sit behind someone on the bus. You know, the things that make you go, "What on earth are they talking about?"

It was great fun and it would be lovely to be part of something like that again, but what it has left behind with me is an uncanny ability to overhear things wherever I am. Most of the time I just smile to myself or maybe send a text but sometimes the things you overhear are too good not to share.

Like a conversation I overheard when I was at the castle the other week.

As you may well know I'm from Hull and a bit of a fish out of water because the middle class in Hull is pretty small. Where I live now is very firmly middle class and there are all manner of hilarious things I hear on a day to day basis. Nothing has been funnier than this conversation between three boys, aged about 8-10, who were playing among the grounds of the castle:

Child 1: I'll be French!

Child 2: Good idea. John? You and I will be English. Max, you can be Napoleon.



Yeah...10 days into June and I've only managed 3 posts. After I did BEDM and everything. Unfortunately for me, the end of BEDM coincided with basically the worst week or two of my work life leaving me with neither the time nor the energy to do anything, especially blog. 

I did manage to eat a lot though.

Anyway. Don't expect it to get better any time soon - I'm off for 2 days with work now and it's terribly annoying because I have ALL the exciting things to tell you. 

I know. What a tease.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

I capture the castle

This weekend saw me staying at 'home' for a change. I try to set aside one weekend a month where I'm not on a train/bus with a bag in my hand. It gets wearing after a while and five months is a long time to be doing all the travelling to Preston.*

The sun was shining and I'm no good at sitting still so there was only one thing for it - pack up and have a wander down the road to my favourite and my best thing about where I now live...


Look at it in all its ruiny, stony glory. And even better, I got in for free as my sister has an English Heritage card. 

I've been a few times before but stuff like this never gets old for me I'm afraid and this time I decided to take an audio tour (which is free my friends) and actually learn something about it. It was ever so slightly cheesy and cringey in places but I happen to enjoy cringey cheesy things so it suited me right down to the ground.

My favourite parts are all the little details you can see when you stand and look closely for a while. Take that top picture in the left - can you see the fireplace? Mental. I can only imagine how massive that is as you can see it from where I stand when I walk past it on my way to work. I do love an ornate fireplace. In the bottom right you can see another example.

If you make your way into the kitchen you can stand in the fireplace if you so wished and you can even see the oven, plain as day. It all fascinates me and I lap it up like the history loving nerd that I am.

I mean look at all the details - look at all the different kinds of windows and archways there are to be seen. Look at the flowers growing out of places they have no business growing out of!

It is a shame it's so ruined, I would love so much to have seen it how it really was, but that's history for you and that's what happens when you back the wrong side in the Civil War.

What is mega cool is that you can actually climb up the steps to the top of the tower - unfortunately for me it was closed for maintenance so I had settle for going down into the cellar and getting a little freaked out about it and turning my audio guide on early for company.

And then I had a nice sit in the remains of the sunken gardens (which had some excellent banks for rolling down, but I refrained. I didn't want to be that person) and tackled my main challenge for the weekend, that of getting The Woman in White finished.

I'd been reading it for what felt like forever, it's a beautiful copy that Lucy kindly got me for my birthday, and I had really been enjoying the story but it just felt like it had been going on for my whole lifetime - probably a product of the fact that it was originally published in serial format. But it was lovely to sit in the grounds of a real life castle and read, whilst vaguely hearing all the footsteps of those that have tramped those gardens before me.

I wish you could all have a castle near your houses, it's so much fun. But I'll go back when I can go up to the top of the tower, yeah?

*The Person isn't an awful person who refuses to come and see me by the way. I go up to Preston because it gets me out of the way of my sister and her family who probably appreciate having their own home back, rather than The Person coming here and adding to the melee.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The "Best" of BEDM

I've felt all weekend as though I've been missing something and forgetting to do something. I only realised late on today that it's blogging. I'd got so used to needing to have a post scheduled every day and now I didn't need to blog.

It was quite nice actually - for a start I've actually been reading some blogs instead of just focusing on writing my own - and I've spent the weekend reading like a demon to get The Woman in White finished. It's a great book but it is a long book and I was starting to feel fatigued by the end of it.

I don't want to fall back into not posting now that I've done BEDM, I need to follow my own advice and just get the frick on with it and so I'm getting an easy post in.

The trouble with posting every day meant that I wasn't concentrating all the time on what I was posting and I've actually gone back (because I'm massively narcissistic like that) to see what it was I wrote about every day for a month.

And I thought I'd pull a few posts out that I liked - either because I was proud of them or because they made me laugh - and I'd like to stick them in this post for posterity in case they get lost in the big bad month of May.

9th May - Swimming - I recently discovered swimming as a way of getting some exercise in and I forgot how much I loved it.

11th May - Why you should read books - contains a hilarious mis-spell. It will make you smile at the very least if you read it.

15th May - What I need to learn - and I've failed at this at least 20 times this past week and weekend.

24th May - A Day in the life - if you ever wanted to know the kind of things a PA does in their day-to-day work this is a list of some of the things I faced that week (please note it's not a complete day, it's a list of some of the things I am asked to do, I'm not super-woman).

28th May - Beside the Seaside - This was such a lovely day and it may not mean much or interest anybody else much but I'm glad I have this blog to record days like this.

29th May - Morning Ritual - mornings suck.


Six is a weird number to have picked isn't it? Sorry.