On birds, bees and an underdressed first date

Mid April

A couple of weeks ago, I took some friends on an exploratory trip around my part of the world.

F pointed out an advert for “cinema night” on the notice board of one of my local churches. They were going to show a children’s film, followed by a film called “More than honey”. None of us had heard of it, so I made a mental note of the date and decided to look the film up online when we got back.

***

It’s a film about bees, or more accurately about the role and treatment of bees around the world. It was produced by the people who made ‘We feed the world”, a film I watched several years ago. I can’t exactly say I enjoyed watching it, but I was glad that I did.

This one sounded like a watchable film too.

***

I asked H if he wanted to come with me. It was something we might have done anyway, but we decided, semi-jokingly to call it a first date. It also meant we could go in his car ;).

When we got there the church was not only dark, but also locked.

Hmm.

After much puzzlement, lots of wandering around looking lost and a more careful study of the advert, we discovered that the church displaying the notice wasn’t the church showing the film. Google maps wasn’t particularly helpful, as it reckoned the film-church was in the same place as the notice-church. It took quite a lot of sleuthing powers to find out where the film-church actually was, by which time we’d missed a considerable amount of the film. The film-church was several km away, so getting there would have gobbled up even more of the film time.

Ever practical, and quite a lot pragmatic, H suggested we skip the film and go out for dinner instead. He knew of a restaurant close by where he’s eaten with his work colleagues before. And besides, going to the cinema is an overrated idea for a first date anyway..

When we got there I almost bailed.

It was a very posh-looking place. The sort with a french name and cloth serviettes. It turns out that “eaten there with my work colleagues” actually translates to “my boss takes us there to celebrate finished projects”.

I don’t eat out much, and almost never anywhere fancy, so I’m almost always out of my depth when I do. On the occasions when it is required of me, I like to have some forewarning and a chance to pretend that dress like I know what I’m doing. My going-to-the-cinema-in-a-church-hall clothes do not match my idea of going-to-posh-restaurants clothes. H laughed at me when I told him I wasn’t appropriately dressed to eat there and said he didn’t care, and also that one of his colleagues has been known to eat there with his hair still full of swarf. I could hardly compete with steel toe caps and swarf so I shut up and we went in.

Confronted with a menu full of words I never heard in school french lessons I almost bailed for the second time.

In the end I chose something more or less at random. My French is obviously worse than I thought it was because what arrived bore very little resemblance to what I thought I ordered. In fact, the only thing both dishes had in common was the chicken. If I’d still had a menu I would have checked, but they’d taken them away and I wasn’t sure enough to say anything without “proof” and it was entirely likely that I’d pointed to the wrong thing when it was my turn to order.

As I ate my spinach and hoped it would make me strong, I wondered how I always end up in such odd situations.

***

H was wonderful company, the food was good (if unexpected) and no-one said anything about my attire or tried to make me leave (which is admittedly obvious to most people, but still a realistic if irrational fear in my head). And a good time was had by all even if it was a shame we didn’t get to see the film. I think I will try to borrow it from the library

On swapping stereos when the music stops – in practice

This is the new one:

And this is mine:

Both freshly dusted with the airgun:

And wiped down with a damp rag.

This is the beginning of a good day 🙂

(Also of note but not worthy of a separate post: I achieved a personal best on the rowing machine, remembered to put the rubbish out for the dustbin, I’ve been at work 2hours already and it’s not even 9am yet! 🙂 So far, today has been a success..)

On making the wheels go round

(or: on letting go of what is not yet broken)

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

If it’s working and you know it, and you really want to keep it that way,

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone!

***

I cycled to work again today.

It’s been really cold lately and it was still around freezing when I left the house, late.

The wheel was stiff when I tried wheeling it away from the bike stand and towards the road. It felt like the brakes were jammed on tight, but they weren’t. After a bit of gentle persuasion and a few angry words it unstuck itself and off I went.

I assumed (see, there’s that bad word again, almost as bad as “planning”) there must have been ice in the works somewhere – it did get thoroughly soaked last week and it was icy this morning (never thought I’d have to scratch ice off the saddle, but I did).

***

I left work while it was still light to cycle to my maths/English/German student. As it turned dusky and got darker and darker I realised I was riding without lights. Argh. As a car driver, I can’t stand cyclists without lights.. as a cyclist, I try to be car friendly, in the hopes that they won’t run me over. Also, as I found out on Wednesday, lights are useful.

***

After we’d talked about adjectival attributes (?!) for as long as we could concentrate, I borrowed a front bike light from my maths kid’s mum and headed home.

Except I couldn’t. The front wheel was stuck again. It took me several metres of pushing and kicking and cajoling before anything happened. When it finally did start rolling, the nut holding the front wheel onto the forks starting turning too..

I stopped and did it up as best I could with gloves on. Another couple of paces and it was loose again.

At some point I noticed that the cables from the dynamo were hanging in the breeze and the box they’re supposed to join into was riding round in circles, presumably enjoying unknown freedom.

I prodded it a bit, retightened the nut and rode home, very very carefully.

***

It would appear that my dynamo has died.

When I said I was thinking about getting new lights, I didn’t mean I no longer wanted the old ones.

Tomorrow, I will have to find a bike doctor before work. Even if I was willing to buy new lights and ignore the dynamo, I am not willing to hurl myself at the pavement when the wheel falls off.

I expect I will have to leave my bike there and then walk to work or at least walk to the train station.

Sometimes I really love my life.

***

I think it’s time for a new motto/mantra:

If it’s working and you know it, leave it alone! Do not touch it, use it or think about it. Do not criticise it. Do not think about changing it or replacing it.

Instead, be thankful for it..you never know when it’s going to stop working..

On yoga as an unusual form of torture

One I wrote a long time ago (mid summer, sometime) and never got round to sending..

***

Until recently I’ve always been a bit, I don’t know, snotty about yoga.

I first heard about it 15 years or so ago when it was propagated as ‘not a good thing’ by the church youth group. I had no idea what it was or what happened when you went, I just knew it was to be avoided. It had a vague air of being some kind of sect, dangerous and fully unknown.

Years later, I figured out it was basically just a room full of people stretching and twisting themselves into complicated poses. At some point I started discovering that more and more people I knew, even Christians*, went to yoga sessions and treated it as a sport equal to, say, swimming or tennis.

Still, a sense of alien, almost silliness,  hung over my idea of it. It was a bit suspect in my mind, something for modern ‘alternative’ people, navel gazers, the odd ex-ballet-dancer who wants to keep supple, but mostly for the people who have kale smoothies for breakfast and salad for lunch; the ones who have perfect nail varnish and perfect hair all the time. The people who have precise, tidy lives and 3000+ friends on all the sites people collect friends on. The people I don’t really have much in common with. At least not on the outside. On the inside I imagine people are all much the same. Not that I’ve checked.

***

Recently, yoga has been mentioned implicitly and/ or explicitly incredibly often.

It started a year or so ago when I made fun of an advert for Everyday Yoga courses on offer at work. Turns out one of my colleagues’ wife is a yoga teacher, and he thinks that it really would be very helpful if everyone at work actually did practice yoga every day… Oops.

Despite trying hard to backtrack, I wasn’t very successful, and I probably made things worse rather than better. Ho hum.

Then a friend told me how helpful it is for her, followed by several blog-writers swearing by it, followed by another friend leaving a box of yoga-position-cards on the table in the room I stayed in, followed by a friend of DB’s mentioning how amazing he finds it.

Not long afterwards, DB and I went to the friend’s house to talk about something entirely different. Before we left, the friend’s wife told me I should go to the yoga course with her husband because it was SOOO good for him and would be good for me too. Bearing in mind I hardly know her, and that we hadn’t been talking about me having a problem or looking for a new sport, I was a little bit surprised and not at all adequately prepared to say anything sensible – like ‘no, but thanks anyway’ – and change the subject. Instead I mumbled something like, ‘ach, I don’t know……why don’t you go with him?’. She’d had time to rehearse, and had a list of more or less fantastic reasons to back up her choice to spend Sunday mornings at home. Not that I knew it was Sunday mornings at stake.. (and early Sunday mornings at that!)

It didn’t take long for DB (and his friend) to join in, ‘yeah, why don’t you go? You need to get out more’**, and I ended up agreeing to try it once.

***

As part of a semi-major garden reworking, DB and I took the old scrappy hedge out of the front garden. In doing so we won back a decent sized patch of land, enough for a miniature veggie patch. Whatever. That Friday evening we drove a couple of hundred miles and bought 11 box trees as a replacement hedge. On the Saturday, we dug an older tree out, dug a further 11 holes and planted the trees. On the Sunday morning I was up early to go to my first yoga session.

***

I survived the 2 hour session, just about, and came home to tell the tale. I spent the afternoon in the garden, digging and getting rid of the remaining hedge roots

***

On Monday, I felt like I’d been steamrollered. I haven’t had such widely spread muscle ache since the first time I went skiing. Every part of me hurt.

I hobbled to work, I crawled up steps, I tried to make sure I didn’t sit down if I needed to stand up again soon. Similarly, if I was sitting down, I didn’t stand up if I could help it.

I wasn’t sure if it was from yoga or the hedge or the root-removal, I just know it took a week to recover.

***

The session after that seemed even harder – I slumped into a heap when I got home and refused to move for most of the afternoon. The session after that was strange. It felt easier, but when I got home (at 11am ish) I went to bed and slept 4-5 hours solidly. Even after waking up I was in no fit state to actually do anything.

***

That was just after Easter.

I’m still going, several months later.

Not every Sunday, but probably every second or third, on average.

I ought to go more often, given that I go back several paces for every session I miss.

I am still incredibly unfit, and unstretchy, and incapable of remembering a string of positions.

But. And this is a big but (bordering on bigger than mine). I am making progress. I no longer fall asleep the minute I get home after a session. I am able to walk on Mondays. I am able to plank for as long as it takes for the course leader to say, “breeeeathe iiiiinnnn… cobra!” (Which is luckily only about 2 1/2 seconds, but you have to start small, right?), I have been known to balance on one foot with my arms twisted around each other in my own personal impression of half-an-eagle. (I still don’t get the obsession with half animals. I especially don’t know why anyone would want to crawl into the position of a half-baby, even if it is the yoga equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card. But there we go. I didn’t make the rules.)

I still think it’s a form of torture, and I still have a heck of a long way to go before I am in any way graceful or elegant, or even capable of touching my toes without bending my legs, but I’m confident that I’ll continue to get better if I continue to go, and better is gooder than worse.
..Still. it is a shame about the Sunday morning lie-ins!

😛
* writing this now, it seems like a ridiculous distinction to make. At the time the realisation shook my world…

** which is true, but unusual for him to say. Usually I suggest things to do, and he finds reasons not to do them.. maybe I should get his friends to suggest the other things too…. 😉

On the morning after the last 4 days

I  CAN STILL WALK!!! 🙂

That’s the main thing, right?

I ache pretty much all over, and going downstairs isn’t a whole lot of fun, but it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it might be, not even as bad as last year, despite my lack of training beforehand and not feeling all that good most of the weekend. Although, thinking about it, maybe that’s the reason. Maybe I didn’t push myself as hard as I usually do, because I was more aware of my not-feeling-goodness. Who knows.

I’m happy I can still walk, and that I’m not properly ill.

On remembering and forgetting

It’s amazing what you can remember about things you haven’t done for months. It’s also amazing how much you forget.

I’ve skied for 2 of the 4 days. Today is the third day.

The first day, getting my boots on without help was the first hurdle, carrying my skis was good, standing up without falling over was better and I was so happy at still being able to turn corners and getting down the mountain in one piece that nothing else mattered much. I didn’t really notice how much my feet or my head hurt until I was in the car on the way home. I took a headache tablet after dinner and went to bed.

Yesterday, my feet hurt from the day before, my legs ached, my shoulders ached, my head was fuggy and my stomach had found something to complain about. I slithered my way down 2 runs and went to sit with the other ladies (who preferred sitting at the bottom to the mountain to actually skiing).
After lunch we decided to drive across the valley to the other lifts (same company so same ski passes). I was feeling a lot better, and there was better snow. Also there was a wide blue run open which presented a chance to practice technique instead of just getting to the bottom. 5 or 6 runs later I remembered what it felt like to know you’ll get down ok, and to enjoy the process, another couple of runs and I could concentrate on what my feet were doing and not on the slope (if you go down the same slope often enough you know what’s coming), and after that my feet were able to concentrate by themselves and leave me room to think about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to ski, to look at what the people around me were doing instead of hoping we wouldn’t collide, to just have fun with the mountain. I can’t believe I’d forgotten about that.

About 15 minutes before the chair lift closed I met one of the rest of the group on the way back from a red run. We decided to get one more go at it before the lift closed and set off. It’s SO much more relaxing to ski even the steeper slopes when you’re confident in your feet. We met some of the others at the top and came down as a group. When we came to a red-black crossing most of them went down the black slope. I dithered a bit until they said I could do it too and then joined them.

I did it too, I got down without panicking and only falling over a few times :).

And now it’s today.

I’m off out 🙂

On waiting

I’m in southern Germany in a hostel with 11 other people. The hostel has one shower and we’ve all spent the day on the slopes. I think I’m the last of the unshowered. I don’t care, I have a good book (and a post to write :)).

***

I hardly ever mind waiting as long as I have something to do (or read) – even 7 hour train journeys (which are basically just waiting to get somewhere) don’t bother me.

However. What really does bother me, is when there’s a queue and people push in. Especially when the pushers are children and nobody cares or says anything. Maybe being English is an unhelpful attribute when skiing, maybe I’m just not pushy enough, maybe my skiing trousers make me invisible, who knows. What I do know, is that people are inclined to push past you in the queue in an effort to get on the lift first. There are sneaky pushers and flat out blatant pushers. When they’re old enough to know better, you can get stroppy, when they’re smaller it’s more complicated. When the only contact you have with them is the queuing time you don’t know who belongs to whom. I don’t think parents appreciate strangers telling their kids off, and there’s an unwritten rule that it isn’t done, so I usually hold my peace, but it is so tempting to say something. Or bash them with a ski pole. Or their parents for that matter.

On Perfect days

(Anyone who read my earlier posts – or spoke to me during May – knows I was invited to spend a week “messing about on a river” (and connecting lakes). This post should have been posted directly after getting back (mid June) but somehow wasn’t. I’m going to post it now anyway)

________________________________________________________________________________

Some days are just so perfect nothing could make them better. They’re even perfect in the moment you’re living them, not just in your memory afterwards.

They’re pretty few-and-far-between, but they do exist.

The first Saturday of the boat trip was one of them. The rest of the boat trip was fantastic too, but there’s something about doing things for the first time that makes them special.

This post won’t do it justice, but I’m going to write about it anyway in the hope I can convey a fraction of the amazingness to screen-paper.

______________________________________________________________________________

I arrived on Friday, was picked up from the station, fed, watered and sent to bed.

I woke to the promise of warm breadbuns for breakfast. By the time I was up and dressed the promise was reallife and waiting for me on the table.

We packed the car and after a brief detour to the workshop to do some last-minute finishing off, we found ourselves parked in a playground on the banks of a huge lake on the outskirts of the city looking at a row of motor and sailing boats, one of which was to be our home for the next week-and-a-bit.

We unloaded the contents of the car into a heap on the pier and I misused a kid’s trampoline while R parked the car where it wouldn’t disturb anyone. I love trampolining, even if the sign forbids anyone over 14 the pleasure of bouncing. Luckily the trampoline police were on duty elsewhere and I got off with being laughed at by R as he came back to start loading the boat.

The only way onto the boat was a thin wooden plank leading off the wooden pier and across the water.

The plank wobbled.

Also the boat rocked if you touched it. I don’t balance better when holding onto something unstable.

I’m not particularly scared of walking on curbstones, and the plank was considerably wider than a curbstone. However. Something in the knowledge that the plank was at least a metre above the water, whereas the curbstone is a maximum of maybe 10cm above the road, made walking along it that much more nervewracking.

Having made it to the boat carrying considerably less than I could carry along a curbstone, R wisely decided I ought to stay inside the boat. He fetched the rest of our stuff while I stowed it somewhere it’d be out-of-the-way yet accessible for the rest of the week.

As soon as the pier was empty we were off 🙂

R’s friend A and A’s nephew D were already onboard A’s boat and waiting for us to get our butts in gear and catch them up.

The first port-of-call was the filling-station.

Filling a boat is very strange. For starters you have to pull up alongside the fuel pump in your boat and then tie it up before you can fill it. I don’t drive, but I’ve never seen anyone tie their car up, and I don’t remember ever tying my motorbike up. I clambered out of the boat and stood on the ‘bank’ out of the way.

When the tanks were full, we untied the boats, moved 50yards up the river and ‘parked’ (involving more tying up) so we could go shopping. We didn’t want to leave the boats unattended, so A and D went shopping first, then it was our turn. The shop was a good 5 minute walk from the river so they brought the shopping trolley back with them. We laughed, took photos 🙂 and walked the empty trolley back to the shop. R refused to walk the trolley back after we’d shopped, so we left it in its trolley shed and carried our shopping back to the boat.

We now had food for the boat and food for us. We needed water. We stopped at a very small port, where a man threw the end of a hosepipe at us and wished us a good day when we threw it back to him.

All things being sorted, we were finally ready to go.

 

It didn’t take long before R suggested I drive. Drive? Steer? Whatever one does to boats to make them go where you want them to go.

As I said above, I don’t drive, but I was curious and 8km/h is a speed even I can handle, so I agreed and he set about telling me how it works. I slid onto his side of the ‘sofa’ and took the wheel. A drove in front of us setting both the speed and the direction, so I just had to follow him without ramming him, the banks of the river, the other boats, or anything else really. There’s also a guage to tell you how deep the water is. Running aground does you no favours.

It seems I am surprisingly good at steering a boat :).

Having discovered this, R relaxed and lay back in the sun. I can’t watch people being lazy if I’m not 😉 and I was supposed to be revising for my upcoming Glass-Theory-Exam, so I dug my 400 painstakingly written 13×7 cards out and handed them to R with the request to go through and ask me the questions. The rest of the day was spent with me behind the wheel and R behind the cards.

Turns out R is dyslexic and, apparently, my handwriting is appalling. Reading is something that came pretty naturally to me, so I don’t really understand how it must feel not to be able to, even if I can understand not making out other peoples’ handwriting. He stumbled through the question while I tried to work out what I might have written, then I answered and he tried to work out what I might have written and whether it coincided with what I answered.

R knows loads – often more than the teacher – and can [usually] explain it in a way that makes me want to listen, so each card became the starting point for a mini-lesson.

 

After a while we arrived at the lake. A threw the anchors out and R and D attached our boat to theirs and we all went swimming (very cold, but okay once you were in).

I lay on deck “to dry” ;). R brought me a Thermarest which meant I lay there a lot longer than strictly necessary.. 🙂

A started washing his boat, I can’t watch people being lazy when I can’t, but I can’t watch people being quite so active while I’m laying around doing nothing (actively watching them be busy doesn’t count) so I washed ‘our’ windows. I’d been irritated by all the dead flies and gunk on the windscreen while driving but hadn’t wanted to say anything… This was a fantastic opportunity to do something about it – and prove my year of washing school windows was good for something.

R sunbathed – apparently watching people clean stuff helps him sleep ;).

As soon as everything on A’s boat and the windows on ours gleamed and glistened (wonderful words :)) we settled down for a BBQ and an evening in. Our boats were joined together so that we were practically all in one ‘room’. The BBQ was on theirs, so we were able to relax (even more) and wait to be served :).

In our supermarket dash it seems R and I had stumbled across the best lamb ever. I wouldn’t recognise the packaging if I was looking for it, and I don’t even remember what the shop was called, which is a bummer, but maybe its bestness wasn’t entirely due to the sheep…

 

D is clumsier than I am 🙂 He was our dinner-entertainment, dropping and spilling things to the amusement of all (and he laughed with the rest of us, so either he’s a fantastic actor or he really didn’t care).

A washed up, R lit the oil lamps and anti-fly-candles and I sat with a Baileys-and-milk listening to the Irish country band giving a concert on the far side of the lake (even if I didn’t believe R had booked them especially) and watching the stars come out.

 

I don’t think anything could have added to the “idylle” (idyllic-ness).

On writing Revision Cards

I have decided to be super organised.

Not as organised as I said I would be in October, but still a good sight better than I sometimes am.

I have exams in the last week of July.

My last ‘block’ (46-50 hours of lessons) is the first week of July.

Usually I would finish the last block, realise I’m 2 weeks away from the exams and panic – locking myself away from the world and living on frozen (and baked) pizza.

This time I have decided to revise all the things I’ve learned in the last 3 blocks, so that I know ‘everything’ 😉 by the end of June. That way I only have to revise the new stuff in the 2 middle July-weeks (thus locking myself away from the world for 2 months instead of 2 weeks ;)).

Having done a lot of exams to get this far, I know I revise best when I get to talk lots ;).

I’m not such a fan of talking to myself so I need people to help me.

I need people to find their way into a subject they most likely have less than no idea about.

I need people to ask me relevant questions and be patient with me while I squirm about on my seat working out what they want to know.

I need people who are willing to try and work out what I mean when I finally have an answer, and to decide if it fits the question.

Because most of my questioning-victims aren’t so well versed in Glass-Theory, and because my school-notes are a huge mess of brightly coloured scribbles and arrows, I’m going through them and writing the most important things onto A7 cards. I’m even making it easier for them by writing a question on one side and the condensed answer on the back.

Now they just have to be able to convert my squiggles into writing and add the correct grammar.. 😛

That’s the plan anyway.

The practice looks a little different.

I can’t concentrate enough to actually write the stoopid things..

Even knowing I have to finish writing by Tuesday doesn’t help me much.

It’s Sunday. That gives me the rest of today and 2 more days.

2 more evenings really, because I work until 5pm.

I have such a short deadline because I don’t actually want to lock myself away for 2 months. I want to continue to do all the things I love doing and be able to read the cards in the gaps. There aren’t many gaps as it is, but I want to be able to use the ones life throws at me, even if they’re short ones. It’s amazing how many A7 cards you can read in 5 minutes.

It’s also amazing how few you can WRITE in the same timeframe.

It’s practically the end of May already. Here are [some of] the things I want to get done round my revision:

A work colleague (a nice one) and I are going to visit a super-glassblower for a couple of days and be shown how to do clever things with glass. I want to bring him and his family a cake to thank him for his time and for organising the whole thing.

I’m going to spend 8-9 days on a boat with another glassblower. I will hopefully not only learn to drive a motorboat, get through [canal]locks, and sleep while bobbing about on the water, but also find time to learn the stuff I’ve written on the cards. I do have the added bonus of a questioner-with-background-knowledge though :).

2 lovely ladies from school are coming to see me and my town. I really want to have loads of time for them and show them all my favourite places and introduce them to my favourite people so I don’t want to be revising then.

My mum, my gran, my [parents’] house and my [parents’] garden are celebrating assorted birthdays and anniversaries so I’m going home to celebrate them. None of them speak German so the cards would be useless even if I found willing victims.

And then it’s the beginning of July and I’m back in school.

I’d better get back to the books/cards I guess…

OH YEAH!!