Sunday, 12 August 2012

Oh I do like... be on holiday. Particularly when it's beside the seaside.

Hi, dear reader. It's me again, back - if only briefly - to tell you about my latest holiday. I realise I've been somewhat lax in my blogging of late. Life has kind of got in the way, if I'm honest. And it will do again pretty soon, but more of that in another post. For now, however, it's holiday blog time...

I'm just back from a fun-filled (yes, really!) week in Yorkshire, which also doubled up as multiple trips down memory lane. Day trips to Whitby and Scarborough. Country drives around the North York Moors and Vale of York. A visit to York itself. Almost every day brought a wave of remembered moments. Even staying in the cottage was (a bit) like those family holidays we had as I was growing up.

But the biggest jolt was when we deliberately went out to find some specific places, and I found that I had very vivid recollections of the places themselves that were hidden in the dim dusty parts of my unconscious mind. Places like Great Ayton, where I spent a week every summer in my teenage years discovering that I wasn't quite as far from normal as I thought I was. Or like the suburbs of York, where my grandparents lived and where I spent time most school holidays. Or Hemingbrough, where my Mum's grandparents lived. Finding that I recognised street names and bits of road almost instantly was very strange, and just proves how powerful our brains really are.

We also found time to do new stuff on our week away - a James concert at the Stockton Weekender Festival, a performance of the York Mystery Plays, and a visit to Castle Howard being just some of them.

Best of all, however, was the taster we got of what 'playing house' is going to be like. Soon, very soon. But that's a post for another day too. For now, I'll leave you with some of the photos from our break. There's more to be posted so check back a couple of times if you want to see the full set.

Thanks for reading, hope to see you again soon :)

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Sh*t Happens...

...but so, luckily, does good stuff!

The observant among you will have noticed that I haven't blogged for a while. Ahem! To be more accurate I haven't blogged since March and I've only blogged 11 times this year altogether. After hitting my blogging pinnacle in 2011, with a blog post more or less every other day, 2012 has been a bit of a famine for bon mots.

My excuse? Well, life just kind of got in the way. Not in the really tough and horrible way that it has done in the past, but in an altogether happier and much more fun way. I can safely say that I have never been happier. And I like that. I like that a lot!

I'm hoping that this little cloud of happiness will keep on floating around for quite some time to come. But I confess I'm aso hoping that I get myself back into some of my other life stuff too. For example, I definitely need to start running again. My Race a Month Challenge fell this month (although my awesome running partner in crime is still plugging on, completing her May race last weekend) and if I'm honest I've actually only run 5 times this year, 4 races and 1 training run. There is no excuse except distraction and laziness.

Oh, and I also need to start blogging again.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Back on the road

So, today was race 3 in the great 2012 race-a-month challenge. The venue - Grangemouth; the distance - 10k; the time - 1:04:09.

Am I happy with the time? Not entirely. I was hoping to get back within the hour but with no training, I guess this isn't too bad. And it does, at least, break my race time decline, being a good 30 seconds better than my last 10k (even though it's a good 8 minutes slower than my PB).

It does, however, show just how much I need to get back into my training and regular running if I'm to improve my PB this year. Or be ready for my second half marathon in May.

Next up is the Balfron 10k in April. Time to lace my shoes a bit more regularly, I think.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Random thoughts 4: Words, words, words

My Random Thoughts challenge for this week is all about words. Which I'm really excited about because I love words. As an aside, I'm also really excited to have a couple of friends who seem to also love words about as much as I do. The awesome Just Frances, for whom I include within this blog her favourite word - antidisestablishmentarianism, and Graham, who has been very keen to point out my own particular turns of phrase over the past few months and I suspect would find the same humour as me from the lead photo for today's blog post!

But returning to the challenge, this week my instruction was to take 10 words at random out of the dictionary and decide for myself what they should mean. See what I mean? Great fun!

So here goes:-

Drawl - either, a laid back artistic technique in the abstract genre, used to create baffling and occasionally childlike paintings. Not cubist, but more similar to the surreal style favoured by Dali and his like; or, a small compartment or hidey-hole for putting bizarre and seemingly pointless objects that may one day become useful - as in, "I'll just put this thingmie in the drawl in case we need it in future"

Freight - a scary event experienced by a good Morningside lady and how she felt afterwards. "He jumped out in front of me, waved it around and shouted obscenities. I got quite a freight you know, Elsie!"

Marcella - sounds like it should be a fruit, perhaps a type of sweet cherry, but is in fact a type of cotton material. I think I prefer my definition...

Pantaloon - the actor who plays the fool in the annual village pantomime. Often people think he's really talented but then quickly realise he's just typecast. Alternatively, it has been extended to refer to the co-worker you desperately try (and fail) to avoid in the corridor before he pins you down to ask the most idiotic questions about that project you're working on, showing all the while an unhealthy interest in the subject.

Scrouge - I was surprised to find that this was a real word as well as the name for the famous miser from Dickens' Christmas Carol. I was even more surprised to find that its meaning fitted perfectly with the word - a form of definitional onomatopoeia!

Telophase - a great invention that allows you to instantly disintegrate that annoying cold caller who has just interrupted your favourite TV programme with their telephone call offering the very latest insurance/financial service/double glazing/solar panel. "Press 1 to hear your messages. Press 2 to delete messages. Press 3 to delete caller"

Univocal - like a unicycle but louder

Legacy - the obscure language for legal documents used by lawyers to confuse and mystify their clients, and in the process, successfully pad their bills.

Comfort - a stronghold and defensive building designed to protect sheep. (It's my meaning, you don't like it, make up your own!!)

Irreprehensible - politicians, journalists and economists normally. Not because they're paeans of virtue, but because they really do try to convince us that they are beyond blame...

And before I go, just to share with you another few things this challenge put me in mind of ...

a) great dialect words - crabbit, glaikit, hattered, biddy
b) words that can be said in any number of ways - leg-end, pig-eon to name but two
c) words that are just funny in themselves, or at least to me - potato (but don't ask me why!), and
d) made up languages - tnew ot serutcip, as Molesworth would say...

So, that's my 10 words - and more. It's been great fun and I really would encourage my reader(s) to try it for themselves - either with their own set of 10 words or with any of mine above. I'd love to know if I've got the meanings wrong...!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Random Thoughts 3: Memories

My blog challenge for this week is to write about a holiday memory. When I got my email telling me what my topic was this week, I confess I thought - ya dancer, this will be a cracker. Which of my many amazing trips, sorry adventures would I write about? Would it be Spain, or Sicily? Wales, perhaps? Or Shetland? Or maybe my first solo foray to Bristol?

But then I thought I'd blogged enough about them already, and it woud be too easy. Or rather, too hard to pick out just one memory. So I thought I'd go a bit further back and think about my childhood holidays.

Again, it's not too easy to pick out just one memory. Rather it's a mix of all sorts of rememberings, sights, sounds, smells and just plain feelings.

Most of my childhood holidays were spent with my grandparents at their home in York, or  in some part of the UK in a cosy (and sometimes, not so cosy!) self catering cottage in the off-season. We never really took holidays in the summer because either my dad would be working or the garden would be in full bloom and needing a lot of attention. In any case, we were lucky enough to grow up in a seaside village and my sister and I were more than happy enough to spend our summer holidays running wild at home. We were never short of things to do and there were adventures aplenty from what I can remember.

When I was thinking about this blog post, one particular non-home, non-York holiday memory sprang to mind. I must have been very young, probably less than 4 years old. We were staying in a cottage next to a working farm. It was the summer and we were somewhere in the west of Scotland. It was a hot summer (for a change!) and the cottage was beautifully cool inside. I seem to remember us being cooled off after days at the beach with cool baths and the smell of calamine lotion springs to mind, so I'm guessing we probably got a touch of sunburn as well. I remember we played on the beach a lot. I think our grandparents were there, I seem to remember showing off my new pretty cotton nightdress to them and thinking I looked like a princess.

All of those are great memories but that's not the one that sprang to mind. This was.

One day we'd been out and got home later in the afternoon. The farmyard had piglets in it. We'd seen them a few times during our holiday. This particular day they were quite agitated and squealing a lot. And their bottoms looked sore. I can remember asking what was wrong, and my Dad (or my Mum) told me they were a bit sore because they'd just had their tails docked.

Now, to my little mind that was bad enough. Imagine having a bit of you cut off, that must really hurt. No wonder their bottoms were sore and red! Looking back on it now I realise, you don't dock piglets' tails. I think what had probably happened was a bit more painful and something that little boy piggies definitely wouldn't enjoy...

Oh, the innocence of youth!

(And I bet that's not the blog post you thought you'd get this week, Frances!)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Random Thoughts 2: Of ships and shoes and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings

This week's blog challenge, set by my partner in crime, I confess has had me somewhat flummoxed. My prompt was to write about a man who teaches his cockroaches how to dance. I mean...??? To be fair, this kind of thing was always going to happen since we're taking our challenge prompts from a creative writing ideas page. But, since my blog is generally about me and my meanderings, and dancing insects with exoskeletons don't generally make an appearance in my daily life, this was a hard one.

To start with, I thought I'd find out a bit more about cockroaches. A quick Google search took me quickly to more information than you'd ever want to know. And just as quickly convinced me that I *really* don't want to know anything more about the little darlings -  I mean, I knew (and was quite comfortable knowing) that they are hardy little creatures, most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust, but did I really want to know that the female can remain pregnant forever and can produce 150 offspring per year? Or that they can fly? Or that they can grow to be over 2 inches long? No, I didn't. And, sadly, now that I know them, I can't unknow them, no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I'm trying really really hard just now!

By now, you're probably as grossed out as I am by the subject so I'll change it - but first, another factoid I discovered is that they have 6 legs with 3 knees per leg. So dance classes were probably quite fun - if you like cockroaches that is...

Anyway, having convinced myself that I didn't need to know anything more about cockroaches, my mind next wandered on to that phrase about angels dancing on pins. I realised that I didn't actually know what that meant, what the proper quote was or even where it comes from.

Seems it is a reference to pointless discussions about meaningless things, or at very least things so completely theoretical that it would be impossible to prove them one way or the other, and of little real value if you did. Hmm, sound like another item in the news recently?

And after that, my wardrobe mind led me on to the quote in the title of this post -a prize to the first person to correctly identify its source (without checking Google first - no cheating now!). Details of the prize will be revealed once the winner is announced.

Which all just goes to prove, if you really try, you can write about anything...

And in case you're wondering about the photo, as befits a post about random thoughts, it's a random picture too. Pretty, isn't it?!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

North by North West

I'm currently heading back to Scotland after a(nother) great weekend in and around Manchester. As the TransPennine Express whisks me North, I thought I'd use the time productively to share my weekend.

Until I visited just after New Year, I really wasn't sure what I'd think of Manchester. It's a big city after all, one of England's 10 'core cities', and that means big. Being a bit of a hick, I don't always feel comfortable in big cities. London, for example, usually intimidates me – the buildings are so tall and close together, the crowds so thick and purposeful, the expressions on faces so focused.

I was prepared to feel that way in Manchester too – but it didn't happen. Instead I actually felt quite at home. Now that might in part be because I was being shown round by someone who knows the city well, but I'm not sure that's the whole reason. The city has (to me at least) a good vibe – an undercurrent of humour and humanity, a city where people live not just work or visit. It also was far less busy and crowded than I expected – although to be fair, we did avoid the main shopping drag. 

It has some big buildings and some very modern ones, that's true. But it also has some more human scale ones, and a great combination of old mixed in with the new. The red brick definitely helps too. Less severe than London, or Edinburgh even. And stylish, very stylish!

In the city we visited many of the sites – the Town Hall with its Ford Madox Brown murals and opulent marble staircase, Old (or to be more accurate, not so old quite spanking new) Trafford, Rylands Library, Museum of Science andIndustry, Salford Quays, the Lowry Theatre, the People's HistoryMuseum. We even made a trip out to the mecca of Mammon that is the Trafford Centre. Sadly, Coronation Street is no more so the Granada Studio Tour wasn't on the itinerary.

But it wasn't all city life – and I confess I was amazed at what beautiful countryside there is within very easy reach of the city centre. Beautiful market towns and former mill towns with vibrant high streets and pretty cottages. Rolling moors and enticing country walks. Saturday morning'stea stop, for example, was a garden centre near Warrington boasting a tea room complete with outside booths, blankets and heaters, all with a great view of the fantastical ice sculptures created by the small fountain.

Admittedly the North West has its fair share of down at heel locations – mill towns that haven't survived the post industrial age that is modern Britain, areas of deprivation and poverty. A quick scan of the local council websites tell the story with regeneration schemes, anti poverty projects and youth employment initiatives commonplace.

But for all that, you know what? I liked it – even the train journey through Dumfries & Galloway, the Lake District and Lancashire is a pleasure. Apart from the damn Virgin Pendolino trains that is, their travel sick inducing properties never cease to amaze me. This morning's alternative of the TransPennine Express is a joy by comparison, even if it is just a glorified Sprinter train!

PS Best of all was the company, but that's a whole different story for another day...