Monday, 30 May 2011

Getting back on (2)

I was going to blog about running tonight but since my last post I've had so many messages on and off line that I thought I'd follow up on Saturday's post instead. You'll need to wait until later for my latest running related musings.

First of all, to all my friends who have commented and sent messages of support - thank you all so much. It's been really lovely to hear from you all and to get your love and friendship. It really is things like that which get me through on my bad days.

Secondly, I didn't mean my post to be too pathetic. It was just a realisation that at 43, the dating game is way more scary than last time I was single - and that was bad enough. Not only am I dealing with being on my own, this time I'm doing it with more wrinkles and grey hairs and fewer opportunities to get out and meet people. Clubbing isn't really an option for the over 40s, or at least not in Stirling it isn't. And in any case, I'm not sure I would be well suited to a 40 plus partner who still spends his time out clubbing with the young things!!

My work obsession was a contributory factor to my last relationship breaking down - not unreasonably my husband wasn't particularly keen on always coming second to the job, the irony wasn't entirely lost on me that I even ducked out of a heart to heart about saving our marriage because of a crisis at work - and it's now a real barrier to getting out and looking for frogs/dolphins. When I was asked the other evening what I did in my spare time, my first thought was 'what spare time?' and my second was 'good question, what do I do?' Watching TV, knitting and drinking wine aren't exactly exciting pastimes!

Now I know that's unfair - I run (in case you hadn't noticed), I dance, I enjoy music, I love travelling, I do like knitting but I prefer to describe it as one of my creative crafts, I like to cook and when I had one, I quite liked my garden too. But the reality is that I give so much to my job that at the end of the day/week, there isn't really much spare time. And with marathon training now starting to kick in, there'll not be much time for anything else at all. I'll be an even more boring dinner companion if I'm not careful!!

So, a concerted effort is required. I think I need to stop relying on chance and do something positive about meeting new people and enjoying my non-working time. As I said yesterday, I've tried the lonely hearts thing and it was bit off putting. I've also tried the dating guys at work thing, and that's just a recipe for disaster - in so many ways. Choosing my own partners hasn't been particularly successful, but my first blind date experience wasn't too encouraging either. What to do?

Sensible friends advise finding a new interest, or joining a group connected to an existing interest. In reality that will either need to be something to do with running or alternatively an occasional commitment. I just don't think I'll have time for anything else. A few weeks back I treated myself to a number of tickets to gigs and other events. If nothing else, they'll get me out of the flat! And then some internet research suggests there are dinner/social club type things available these days for folk like me, struggling to make new friends but not wanting to be as upfront as signing up with a dating agency.

I'm worried again that dear readers, you will think this is a down beat post - it's not meant to be. Yes, it's hard getting back in the dating scene (at my age) but at least now I'm actively thinking about it and starting to take some baby steps towards doing something about it. That's a huge improvement and something I'm feeling fairly positive about. And at worst, perhaps I'll just end up with a whole heap new friends and some new experiences, some of which might even be good. At best, I might find a new love interest - which would be nice!

All in all, I guess that means - Frogs beware, there's a girl with a penchant for kisses on the loose!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Getting back on

There's a saying that when you fall of a horse (or is it a bicycle?) that what you really need to do is get back on again. That's assuming you haven't broken any bones I would have thought. Or that your horse (or bicycle for that matter) is fit to take you back on.

Well, just as it's true for horses/bicycles, so is it true for life in general. Or as true as any of these cliches or aphorisms ever are.

I find myself therefore, dear reader, contemplating how - and if I'm honest, indeed whether - to get back into the dating game. Before you leap to a conclusion, I don't mean I'm thinking of taking out a lonely heart ad. I've already tried that approach and let's just say, it's not one I think I'll try again. That's not to say that I might not try replying to an ad or two, if I could only just get beyond the preconceptions that most of these ads provoke. Or, more to the point, if I could work out what half of them actually mean. GSOH I understand, N/S is obvious but OHAC???? And does clean shaven mean facial or other?? For the more cultured, there is of course a fabulous Wendy Cope poem on the subject that's worth a read.

Because, do you know what, it's actually unbelievably scary. Or at least it is to me - mid forties, twice divorced, work obsessed, wrinkles and grey hairs showing, gravity working its worst on my skin tone and completely out of practice. How on earth do I go about it? How do I get started? Will anyone be interested anyway even if I do?

And there indeed is the rub, as Willie boy would say. What happens if I do manage to screw my courage to the sticking point, put myself back out there again, turn myself into a metaphorical party - and nobody comes (double entendre entirely intended).

On a very small scale that happened last night. I took up the invitation of an acquaintance through work to be the partner for a friend of his at a formal dinner. It was all in all a lovely evening - excellent company, fine food, an excuse to wear a posh frock and buy a new pair of shoes and a new place to visit thrown in for good measure. The trouble is, my date for the evening and I just didn't seem to hit it off. Or to be more accurate, while I was enjoying his company, he rapidly seemed fairly bored with mine and at the end of the night, he gave the distinct impression of not being able to get away fast enough.

Now I know there could be any number of explanations - he may have been distracted by weighty matters, he could have just been shy, he might not have wanted to go to the dinner in the first place, perhaps he doesn't like redheads. But the thing I keep coming back to is that there's just the outside chance that it's actually me. Perhaps I am boring, perhaps my company isn't that great, perhaps I just wasn't likeable enough. Maybe my independence is off-putting, or my sense of humour isn't that funny after all. Maybe I'm just not that great a catch.

Of course, it could also be that we aren't suited to each other and all I need to do is to find the right man. But that still begs the question, how on earth do I go about doing that? Meeting the right guy probably means meeting lots of wrong guys and I'm not sure if my fragile confidence is up to it at the moment. Last night has really dented it if I'm honest.

Bit of a dilemma really. As long suffering/chronic readers will know, I like to look for dolphins - but the reality is that they aren't that easy to find, and even harder if you don't go anywhere near the sea in your search for them. Looks like I'm going to have to get my feet wet after all - only problem is, I haven't a clue how.

Friday, 27 May 2011


Well, dear readers, I'm off on an adventure! Currently I'm blogging from my train seat - now arriving into Wigan - and making a mental note NOT to travel by Virgin Pendolino trains again. There's nothing wrong with the service or the comfort, other than it's making me feel incredibly travel sick. I think these are the infamous tilting trains, and my reaction is apparently not uncommon.

But the real adventure isn't the train journey but what's waiting for me at the other end. Or rather who.

Much against my normal reticence, I am heading off for what could be construed as a blind date. A friend of a friend has a friend (keeping up?) who needs a partner for a formal dinner tonight. So, I'm obliging. Not only is it someone I don't know, it's in an environment and company that I've not experienced before so I'm not quite sure what to expect.

But the big bold Bex decided to take life by the horns and say yes to this adventure. So that's why I find myself swaying (damn!) my way down to London, with a posh frock and a new pair of shoes (of course) in the case above my head, wondering what it's all going to be like. Another stage in the journey to a brand new me.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, 23 May 2011

The gory details

Ok. I'm slightly less exhausted tonight, so a bit more of a detailed blog post about yesterday's adventure.

For anyone who has been asleep for the last week and hasn't already heard me rabbit on about this, yesterday saw me running my first ever half marathon. It was in Edinburgh as part of the Marathon Festival, and I finished in a very creditable (in my opinion as a first timer) time of 2:20:06. I was aiming for 2:20 or under so those 6 seconds are a bit of a nuisance, but in reality just finishing was achievement enough for me! However, to put it in perspective, the winner of the overall marathon completed his 26 miles in a minute less than it took me to complete my 13! Hmm.

It was a tough gig, and really has made me wonder if I will be fit enough to complete my marathon madness challenge for the year, competing with the awesome Just Frances at the Loch Ness marathon in October. My time was pretty good for a newbie - remember I only took up running last year - and is pretty consistent with my 10 minute mile pace, although it did fall off as the race went on yesterday. Miles 8 to 11 were my own personal 'wall' experience - legs locking up, feelings of failure setting in, extreme exhaustion - there was nothing for it but to lock down and just grind it out, pace after pace after pace. I was living from mile marker to mile marker - you can see the pain on my race photos, which I'll post online when I get the download link.

And then miraculously the mile marker read 12 and there was just over a mile to go to the finish line. The crowds started appearing, cheering us runners on and then, it was round the roundabout and there was the finish line. A final spurt of speed - oh please, let this be over - propelled me across the finish line and saw me complete the race. Oh the bliss - except I was too stone tired to feel anything other than dizzy. Ok, dizzy and strangely emotional. If I hadn't been so tired I think I would have cried - instead I started hyperventilating, not a pleasant experience after running for over 2 hours.

The final challenge was to negotiate my way through the finish palaver - water, medals, t-shirts, photos, race pack, bags. There was no end to it. But fortunately, eventually I found my way to the reunion area and my own personal guardian angel, the amazing Sue who stepped in at the last minute to be my one woman support team. She was waiting with hugs, bottles of juice, sweets and moral support. She even carried my bag to the shuttle bus. What a woman, couldn't have done it without you!!

When I eventually got myself back to Stirling it was all I could do to drag myself home, run a hot bath and (much to Cat's delight) slump on the couch for the next few hours. Perfect protein/carb meal of baked beans and cheese on toast rounded the day off, in bed by 9.30 pm, fast asleep by not much later. I was a tired, happy, sore, exhilarated, excited, exhausted bunny, that's for sure.

Today has been spent recuperating. I'm so pleased I had the sense to book the day off. I managed a quick trip into Stirling for coffee and that's about it. An afternoon of alternatively watching movies and the weather was about all I could manage.

So the big question remains - if I do my training for real from now, will I be ready for a marathon in October? The honest answer is, I don't know. I realised yesterday (and today, ouch!) what a seriously big undertaking this is. I can't really imagine running twice as far as I did yesterday. But then again, that's what I thought after my first 10k, and I managed that yesterday.

Watch this space, that's probably the most I can say for now.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

2'20 ish

That's the time I think I did (ish) in this morning's Edinburgh Marathon Festival half marathon. Official results aren't online until tomorrow and since I haven't given in to gadget-frenzy yet, I don't have anything more accurate than what the finish line block said and my estimate of how long after the start of the race I actually crossed the start line.

And the photo? Well, that's pretty much how my feet now feel. And how they behaved between miles 8 and 11 come to think of it!

More tomorrow, but for now I'm just pooped!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Big day

Well, half big day I suppose. Tomorrow is my first ever half marathon. It's an early start and having carbed up and hydrated all day, I'm now trying to persuade my brain to have an early night and let me get rested up too.
So, goodnight readers. Next post will let you know how it all went - unless I really can't sleep in which case you might have to put up with more of my ramblings!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Car go?

One of the more fun parts of my day today was to attend the launch of the Cargo bike scheme here in Stirling.

Arranged by the fabulous Going Carbon Neutral Stirling, the Cargo bike scheme is putting 15 of these strange looking vehicles on the streets of Stirling to prove that you can get by without a car and utility cycling is a realistic option.

Cargo bikes are apparently a fairly common sight on the streets of Dutch towns and allow cyclists the capacity to transport bulky items - and even passengers - around without the need for a car.

I did actually try one of these out today and despite not being particularly good on bikes normally I could see myself perhaps giving one a try. Perhaps it might just move me closer to the challenge I've set myself this year to give up my car.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Ok, I'm not quite this mad but I do have my first ever half marathon this weekend in Edinburgh. Wish me well dear readers. I'm hoping to come in under 2 hours 30. In my less confident moments I'm just hoping to finish!

Results will be posted here as soon after the race as I can manage.

And let's also take a moment to thank the fabulous Sue, who agreed to step in and be my support team at the last minute. She'll be waiting for me at the finish line in Musselburgh with a wheelbarrow to cart me off in as I stagger over.

Thanks Sue, you're a true friend x

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Summer's here

Or at least that's what I'm trying to convince myself with a healthy salad for supper. But to be honest, there's not much sign of it at the moment.

It's often said that Scotland has two seasons - June and the rest of the year. Well, I think we had June in April this year and it's now reverted back to winter. Cold and wet has been the order for this week. And after the glorious weather we had at the end of last month it's really not on. Having cast our collective clouts when the May blossom came out, we're all rushing to throw them back on again, with a few jumpers for extra measure too.

But I remain hopeful. I'll keep eating my salads and optimistically wearing my summer clothes, and who knows maybe the sun will remember to come back again.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tender hearted

I used to think The Good Morrow by John Donne was the most beautiful love poem I knew. But it's been replaced by this one.

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you
and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.
                                                                   Carol Ann Duffy

Bitter sweet. They're fragile things hearts - easily touched, easily hurt and all to easily broken.

Hidden symbolism of the photo, anyone?

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The morning after

Not a long post as I'm still recovering from the democratic marathon of the last couple of days. But here we are, results all known and the post match analysis well underway. I can't - and actually don't want to - comment on the results but I do want to tell you a bit about my experience of the process.

I've had the great privilege to spend the last 2 days playing an active role in the election and it has been fantastic. It's a real perk of my job that I get to take part.

For me, election day started at 6am on Thursday as I headed out to start my round of Polling Place inspections and it all ended last night at 5pm when we finished the AV referendum count. I did manage to squeeze some sleep in there on Friday morning between 2 and 6 am, but otherwise I was on the go the whole time.

It's a long, hard graft - and believe it or no,t I got off lightly by only needing to be involved on the day (and day after!) itself. For many of my colleagues it's been a marathon that's taken over the last few months to make sure that all the arrangements ran smoothly on the day - sorting the polling places, recruiting and training the polling and count staff, administering the postal ballots, registering the candidates, making up the polling place packs and much much more.

It's a lot of work and effort, yes. But it is one of the most important things we do, so that's fitting. I never cease to be impressed by the professionalism and efficiency of our elections team. It's due in no small part to them and their hard work that things ran so smoothly. Well done, guys.

And well done too, to all of you who went out and voted. I'd have loved the turn out to be higher but over 50% wasn't bad. Turnout in Stirling was a little bit higher than average at nearer 57% but it does mean that almost 1 in 2 people eligible to vote opted not to.

But if you missed out, don't worry - you'll get another chance next May in the council elections!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Excitement grows

I blogged yesterday about the importance of voting, and the excitement we should all feel about an election. And for me today the excitement grew. Having undertaken my training as a stand by, today it was confirmed that tomorrow I get to be a Polling Station Inspector. Yay! It will be the first time I've had a formal role in an election and I'm thrilled.

I've had a bit part in the last 2 major elections - 2007 as candidate liaison at the count, with the unenviable task of trying to explain the electronic counting system; and last year just helping out at the count - my main responsibility was acting as runner for the counters and sealing up the unused ballot envelopes. There's such an adrenaline rush being involved, and since you know my views on our rights and responsibility in relation to voting, you'll realise I see this as a real perk of the job.

Thinking back, my first real experience of elections was in 1974 when the then Conservative (?) government had the audacity to call one of the year's 2 elections on my birthday in February. I can remember asking my Mum what she voted, and being told in no uncertain terms that you didn't ask that question. What a person votes is personal and private to them. This is emphasised in the guidance and training for my current role. The primary purpose and responsibility of polling station staff is to ensure people are able to vote, and to do so in secret and with utmost privacy.

After my inaugural - and not particularly promising - brush with democracy, my interest remained piqued. I can remember Thatcher being elected PM in 1979 - more because she was the first (and still, only) woman than because of her politics. Then in High School I developed a deep and abiding interest in politics as a whole (thanks Mr Walker, my fab Modern Studies teacher) - and it's stayed with me ever since.

 As a student I got the chance to be involved personally - staffing a polling station at one election, running the campaign for a student candidate at another, and even standing for election myself. I was spared canvassing, however, as no-one stood against me (in either of the positions I stood for) and I was therefore returned unopposed. I loved the counts most of all - all the glitz, glamour and excitement.

And now I get to do it for real as part of my job. Sometimes there really are perks!

Tomorrow's going to be busy - with an early start. My inspection route is out in the rural part of our area and I need to be at my first station when polls open at 7 am, 2 visits during the day to each station and then I'll not be able to resist heading on to the first part of the count tomorrow evening. We're doing a Friday count but that still means there's ballot box receipt and ballot paper reconciliation to be completed tomorrow, so it will probably be Friday before my day ends. And then up early again the next day for the count proper. And since we're counting on Friday rather than overnight on Thursday, if the election result is as close as some of the polls suggest it might be, we could be in the eye of the storm as regards overall results.

As I said, excitement grows!!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

V is for vote

It's an exciting week we have in prospect here. No, really - it is! There's an election to vote in, and what could be more exciting than that? Perhaps an election and a referendum?

This Thursday sees another election day. In Scotland these days elections are a fairly regular occurence - not because of any fragility in our political structures, but because there are just so many opportunities to vote. Last year was the Westminster (UK) election, this year it's Holyrood's turn (Scottish Parliament) - and the special Brucey Bonus of a referendum on what system we should use to elect our Westminster MPs. And next year, the local Councils in Scotland get their chance. No doubt there'll be a European election in there somewhere some time soon too. Sadly the very local level doesn't seem to attract enough interest to generate elections for Community Councils - which is a pity. But I'm pleased to see that the Youth Parliament elections this year were well contested - at least here in Stirling - so maybe the future's not completely bleak for political activism!

As regular readers will know, I'm a big fan of voting, particularly for women, for whom the right to vote is still enough of a novelty for us to cherish it. I don't really mind whether you use your vote wisely or foolishly, or if you even just go along a spoil your ballot paper, that's your choice. The most important thing is that you take part.

I haven't decided yet how I'll vote on Thursday but I do know I will definitely be voting. And as I'm doing it I'll be thinking about the women who fought - and in some cases, died - to make sure that I could. I'll be thinking about the countries where people walk miles, sometimes for days, and queue for hours to exercise their right to vote, often in dangerous situations. And I'll be thinking about those other places where the universal right to vote is still a distant pipe dream.

I hope you will too. It's your right. But it's also your responsibility. Don't waste it and don't shirk it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Making the most of it

So, what did I do with the rest of my long weekend? Did I mope and stress about being on my own or did I get out there and enjoy myself? Truth be told it was a bit of both - plenty to do and distract myself with, interspersed with spells of stopping to think (always dangerous I find) and starting to feel sorry for myself. But I am pleased to say, those spells were few and far between, and certainly didn't take over what has otherwise been a truly lovely day.

After a long lie and a few more pages of Beevor (check the link, guys, before you snigger knowingly!), and a light breakfast of toast and homemade marmelade (thanks Mum), I headed out into Stirling armed with my camera. I was looking for Signs and Symbols - for my entry to A Million Little Photographs - and find them I did. Perhaps not what the mind might automatically jump to, but signs and symbols all the same. And all the better for being found in and around Stirling. You'll have to wait until I've finished the challenge and had the photographs developed (yes, it's print not digital!!) before you get to see them. Hopefully there will be a few acceptable ones in there.

After that, feeling a tad on the thirsty side, I opted for my next favourite pursuit - drinking coffee. A short - ok, fairly long - stop at the Burgh coffeeshop did the trick - and also stimulated my creative juices as well. Leading to a new chapter (at last) for the collaborative book writing challenge - hopefully that will be a spur to my fellow contributors to get writing again too.

And now, I'm ending the day multi-tasking with cooking, blogging and checking out Facebook. A fairly productive day all round really!

Oh, there was some sitting around in the sun as well - but no running. I'm saving that for tomorrow morning (ahem!).

Time off

Well, it's been a long holiday weekend here in Scotland this weekend - an extra long one caused by the Royal Wedding on Friday and May Day holiday today. And the second long weekend in 2 weeks. And unusually, at least for this weekend, the weather has been amazing. Amazingly good that is.

So, what have I been doing with myself? Well, I've:

  • almost completed the spring cleaning of the entire flat. Only Cat's room to do now and he steadfastly refuses to join in
  • sat in a fair few cafes and drunk lots of coffee
  • spent time with friends - in person and on the phone. I even wrote a letter to one of them
  • successfully avoided the Royal Wedding, only slip up was the Souvenier supplement in Saturday's paper
  • had 2 lie-ins, which isn't bad out of 8 opportunities
  • tried not to think about work too much - and mostly succeeded
  • run a total of 22.8 miles - including 12.5 miles this Saturday. Contemplating another run this evening
  • taken photos of myself doing all sorts of silly things, courtesy of Photo Scavenger Hunt
  • had a picnic in the park
  • sat in the sun and topped up my vitamin D
  • thanked my lucky stars that my hair is now short and didn't get all mussed up in the wind
  • been antiquing - to borrow a North American phrase
  • been crafty with yarn and ceramics, although not at the same time
  • cooked proper food, as well as using up what's in the freezer
  • read and read and read
It's been really good fun. Most of the time. But at times it's also been tough. When you're on your own, long weekends can be a difficult time. 4 whole days stretched out ahead of you with no firm plans can feel like torture. It's no coincidence that I've filled my time off with so much to do that by the time I get back to work I'm exhausted. Sometimes that's the only way to get through it.

Do I mind? Yes, I do. I'd like to be able to enjoy my time off without worrying about whether I'll have enough to do to distract me from feeling lonely. Do I wish I was at work instead? No, I don't. I'd still rather be on holiday - and by packing it full to the rafters it never feels like a waste. All I'd like, I guess, is someone to share the fullness of it with me. Oh well, maybe next time!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

33 1/3

No, not the speed that an LP went round on a turntable - although clearly it was - but to recognise that somehow unbelievably we are already one third of the way through this year. How did that happen?! Yup, it's May already - spring is well underway, the winter's cold seems like a distant memory and before long it will be summer, recess, holidays, long days, light evenings. And then autumn, winter and more snow.

So, a third of the year in, how are my goals for 2011 going? Hmm, bit of a mixed bag really.

I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up. Hell, I'm not even sure I really want to be grown up. Work continues to trundle on. There's actually some interesting stuff going on and in prospect - if only I could convince myself it really is interesting, it would be a step in the right direction. So far, my assessment of adult life is that it's pretty sucky - ok, you have the freedom to do what you want (kind of) but you also have to pay the consequences of that. And not just being grounded either!! And responsibility, whose crazy idea was that??

Seriously, I still haven't worked out whether the job I have is the one I want. And my attempts to settle into something/somewhere more permanent haven't come to much. Of course, it might help if I spent some time actually thinking about my job rather than just hurtling on from one week to the next. And if I'd viewed more than just one property, that might also help with the finding somewhere new to live challenge too.

On the plus side, I'm keeping up with my fitness regime - the challenge of a marathon in October is a definite incentive to keeping the running going. I completed my second 10k in April and am signed up for my first half marathon at the end of this month. And I'm going to compete in the annual race in my home village of Aberdour this summer too.

I've also added to my tally of new places visited with a fabulous trip to Shetland at the end of March.

The blogging hasn't been so consistent. I did really well in January and ok in February, but March and April have seen a bit of a slump - caused by a bit of a slump of my own to be honest. Concerted effort for May is required. Although I'm still ahead of my 2010 performance at the moment.

The book hasn't been touched however, my inspiration has run a bit dry. So if any readers have suggestions for plot, character or what next - feel free...!

And me? Well, I'm still a work in progress. Good days and bad ones. Ups and downs. Discoveries and disappointments. Triumphs and disasters. Progress? I think the jury is still out on that one...