Friday, 30 May 2014

The Gym


As I mentioned on Monday I've joined a gym. I've tried working out at gyms before and not at all enjoyed the experience, but I want to get fit and healthy so I've swallowed my doubts and given gyms a second chance.  The gym I've joined, with Colin and a friend, is The Gym in the centre of Leeds, just a couple of minutes from where we all work (too close to avoid on a lazy day!).  We visited it two weeks ago and they offered us a tour.  It had lots of equipment, was spacious and had a good atmosphere.  It also helped that the guy who showed us around didn't try to sell us membership!  He gave us a discount code to get the joining fee for £10 instead of £20 and let us go without any pestering.

I'm two visits in now and finding it to be a different experience from the other gyms I've tried.    I like the fuss-free atmosphere and not feeling cramped up.  The staff are very helpful, everything's clean and in good condition and there's enough variety of equipment to keep me interested.  The biggest difference is that I'm enjoying it!  It feels good to be challenging myself and to know that I'm doing something positive for myself.  I was surprised at how much it's helped me wind down after work; after 15 mins of cycling hard I'd left the day's stress behind, and by the time I got home and showered I felt more relaxed than I have in months.

We've agreed to nag each other to go if our motivation flags, and I've promised myself that if I really can't be bothered at any point I'll go anyway, do something gentle and that will probably get me in the mood.  I want to feel fit and healthy for once in my life, and to know I'm building myself up stronger than before.  I'm forever getting aches and pains, feeling sluggish and ill so I need this boost and I've finally decided it's worth putting in the effort in to do it.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Square

I've got half a 'tah da' today because I've finished the 49 granny squares for a blanket I'm making...


...and today I've started joining them together with rich red yarn.  It's going to be fairly large, I'm aiming for generous throw sized.  I like to have a granny square project and some sock knitting in progress at any given time because they're both straightforward and I don't need patterns for them.  With this project I've enjoyed using up scraps from my stash of DK acrylic yarn and making some unlikely colour combinations which should work when they're all pulled together in one blanket.  Something I like about this sort of project is that the squares themselves can be way out in their colours but all the squares balance each other out when they're joined.  Each of these granny squares is 5 rounds and three colours.  Joining them is a big task but I love getting stuck in.

The second square thing is a typewriter I bought in a charity shop for £5 yesterday.


It's a Silver Reed Leader Two and is in very good condition.  It needs cleaning because there are crumbs and hairs under the keys but it's well oiled and works well.  Most of the ribbon is still moist because it was wound up and kept in a case.  I want to clean the platen, which is the only really grubby bit (blobs of white out), give the case a wipe down and get the dust out of the inside of the machine.  This is my second typewriter.  My other one is an Olivetti Lettera 32 and was my Dad's.  I'll write more about both of them soon because I think they deserve a (loving, adoring) blog post of their own.

A third third thing which is suspiciously un-square for me is that I've joined a gym and will be starting with an induction tomorrow.  It's a budget gym in the centre of Leeds and I was impressed when I had a tour of the place so I'm going to give it a whirl as I want to improve my overall fitness and flexibility.  I'll report back on it over the next few days!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Thursday and Miss Alcott

Here we are at Thursday, plenty of week behind us and lots of weekend a little way ahead.  Work's been eventful with a bit of accidental team bonding, a suspected heart attack (all was ok in the end), a project looking fit to collapse but pulling through and the usual smattering of things breaking unexpectedly and general headless chickenry.

I've done hardly any writing or making this week, I've mostly been reading; an input week rather than an output week.  After a weekend when I pushed my own nerves to the limit it's been a welcome come down, and talking to a couple of friends who are absolute bricks has helped a great deal.  I've been reading letters and journals of Louisa May Alcott and some of her shorter stories.  I've loved 'Little Women' for years so it's interesting reading some of her other work.  Her 'pot boilers' are dramatic and over the top but with cunning twists.  I prefer the stories she wrote about everyday people and everyday things and believe that's where her humour and wisdom came out most strongly.  Such a shame that she lived in an age when as a single, childless woman she had to continually justifying herself.  Has much changed though?  We still live in a culture focussed on pairing off and having children and I think the stigma of being an 'old maid' is, unfortunately, alive and prospering, as is disbelief at a woman choosing not to have children.  It would be good to see things move on from these Victorian values!  If you like 'Little Women' I highly recommend 'Work' and 'Hospital Sketches' as both are based on her own experiences and are full of the flavour of real life, with a lively sense of fun as well as touching sadness.  They're both available to read for free online here or to download to Kindle for free on Amazon ('Work' is here and 'Hospital Sketches' is here).

Reading, eating strawberries, watching the rain and letting my imagination wander...ah, wonderful, wonderful laziness, and a happy Thursday evening.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sunday

I've been feeling unsettlled lately but it only hit me yesterday after I'd worn myself out with housework after a busy week at work, then sat in the sun feeling drained.  I realised that because of the age I'm at and other circumstances there are certain major decisions hanging over me that must be made; nothing I want to write about here but it would be downright dishonest of me to pretend everything is rosy and bright in my mind at the moment.  It's also made me realise that in the stress and struggle of recent years I've fallen out of touch with myself, like forgetting about an old friend.  I'm quite a reflective person but have perhaps fallen into the natural temptation not to reflect too deeply for fear of what I'll find.

There are always good things to be enjoyed though, and feeling like this causes me to reflect on those things too, keeping me balanced.  We got a new bench for the yard yesterday so I have somewhere to sit that isn't the hard front step and because I'm awake early I've come to sit outside on a beautiful and quiet Sunday morning.  It's just me, the singing birds, a busy rook strutting around the street and the cats.  Actually, a cat was stalking the rook stealthily then the tiny dog from up the road came galloping along and scarred them both off, which looked very daft!

I've promised myself that today will be a day with plenty of quiet time and pleasant things like good coffee, planting seeds, writing and sewing.  I'm wishing you an equally lovely Sunday too.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A Trip To Scarborough


 Me and Colin took a trip to Scarborough on Thursday, where we stayed for a couple of nights.  We a fed bread to a seagull bread when it landed on the roof by our holiday flat window:


We stumbled upon a hidden cliff path:


With views of a hidden bit of beach that we couldn't get to:


We had a walk down the cliff, then had to face the climb back up!


On both evenings we walked along the cliffs and beach:


We had a look at a big area of rock pools which looked volcanic and weird:



Colin wrote me a flattering message in the sand:


Monday, 12 May 2014

Reaching Further

I saw an old interview with sculptor Henry Moore today in which he said:

"The secret of life is to have a task—something you bring everything to. And the most important thing is—it must be something you cannot possibly do."

What struck me was the the last part, that it must be something you can't possibly do.  I like this because it reminds me that I'd rather reach beyond myself and fail than to only do what I know I can do and remain stagnant.  In fact dormant might describe it better; standing in one place waiting for something to happen instead of growing outwards to reach it.   But how tempting it is to stick to what I know and not venture beyond it.  I think it's worth remembering that all the millions of people who've discovered new things, created fine art and music, explored new places and thought in challenging ways were and are ordinary people who've been motivated to go a step further than what they're comfortable with and see where it takes them.  We can't all be genius scientists, artists, explorers and philosophers, but we can expand outwards as far as we can go in our own unique sphere and refuse to put artificial limits on ourselves.  We can learn to be fearless in what drives us by willing to go just that one little step further and see what happens.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Charity Shop Gold: Moka Pot

Yesterday I found something in a charity shop for ages.  It's a moka pot for making coffee and was worth the wait to get it.

It's a lot simpler to use than I thought it would be.  Cold water goes in the bottom chamber, ground coffee in the middle section and then you heat it on a medium heat until the coffee bubbles through to the top chamber.



Then you mix it with hot water and milk for a wonderful cup of coffee (or drink it on it's own for an espresso like hit).  I love good coffee and think this tastes better than coffee from our filter machine.  I found detailed instructions for making coffee in a moka pot here along with conflicting advice in the comments section; what else is the internet for if not for getting confused by contradictory advice?  It varied from one person laying down Rules In Set In Stone that you MUST follow in order to get good coffee, to another saying bung the coffee in and just go for it (I liked that one).

I love this and it's a good job I've got de-caff coffee in the house as well as regular as I keep wanting to make coffee in it but don't want to buzz about all day!

It's a blustery and cold day here in West Yorkshire so I'm going to take my coffee upstairs into the bedroom, where it's warm and bright, write and enjoy being inside while the weather's so uninviting.  I want to crochet but have reached 'Saturation Point' with it ie. I've done too much of it and now my finger hurts.  Ah well, gets me to focus some quality time on writing instead though, which is a good thing.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Monday, 5 May 2014

Gardeners Confession Time

I havn't mentioned gardening on here for a long time, I might even say a suspiciously long time because if I'm honest I've been avoiding even thinking about it.  My gardening history is:

2009:  Moved to a house with a large yard, planted flowers and seeds, they bloomed and grew gorgeously.

2010 and 2011:  More effortless growing.  I had a comfortable rest upon my laurels.

2012:  It rained and rained and rained.  The garden, along with the rest of the UK, got washed out.

2013:  The yard was subjected to a reign of terror by slugs and snails who ate everything.  I was angry, disappointed and I cursed the molesting molluscs and their families, chucked out all the stumps of my beloved plants and swore off gardening*.  Then got an allotment with some friends;  I'm nothing if not reliably inconsistent.

Late 2013:  After a Summer spent struggling with the neglected and tangled patch of land we inherited which some would call an allotment, we decided to give it up.  Me and Claire had a frank talk about it and felt like we'd been avoiding a taboo topic!  We were both feeling guilty about not being able to devote time to it to make it work, but it did feel good to give up the responsibility.

*I think Colin must feel the same because when I asked him what the collective name for slugs and snails is he replied "Bastards".

This brings me to 2014 and the second plague of slugs and snails.  Last week I saw that they'd eaten the one tub of flowers I've planted so far.  The speed with which they destroyed them gave me the creeps and I'm now scarred of planting out the peas and tomatoes that are getting too big for my kitchen windowsill.  I never suspected that the simple act of planting seeds in pots and leaving them outside could be so traumatic.  Before they ate everything I tried migrating the snails ie.  moving them to the park (the slugs got away scot free as I couldn't bare to touch them).  After the plague I've decided I'm going to have to play dirty and have bought slug bait.  It's a bottle of granules that swell up with moisture, the slugs eat them, get full, crawl back home with a food hangover and die of over eating.  The granules are non-toxic so are safe around investigative dogs, cats and toddlers.  It seems to be working but I can't be sure as there's so little greenery left that there's nothing to judge it by, so I may have to put out a brave little pea shoot to test the waters.

So The Garden 2014 so far:  Slugs and snails eating everything, slug bait in place, yard otherwise bare (blue slug bait is the only colour) and seedlings safely behind glass but getting a bit too big to stay there.

How's your garden growing?  Any tips for organic slug slaying?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Progress

I've had two small victories with writing today which have spurred me on.  One is that I've reached 7000 words on the story I'm writing on, which is more than anything else I've written.  The most previously has been around 5000 words before it petered out and I found I was so bored by my own story I didn't want to go on.

The second small victory is that when I read back over what I'd written I found I wanted to know what happens next and where the story will end.  I think that as long as I'm curious I'm motivated to keep on moving things forward.  With this one I'm really trying to keep on asking questions when I get stuck or bored so that I'm digging deeper, trying new things and - hopefully - improving my writing.  I do have a rough outline but it's sketchy, so I've got lots of freedom as I go.  I've read how lots of writers won't start writing a story until they have detailed outline, and others don't plan at all, but so far I'm enjoying the middle ground.  I know roughly where I'm heading and I have notes on my characters, plot and ideas, but there's room to expand and adjust, which gives me a wonderful feeling of being unlimited and free.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Escape from Facebook

This is how I wrote this post originally; it was self righteous and annoyed:

I used to have a Facebook account but deleted it because I found it a negative and messy place to be.  Recently I opened a new one because so many of my extended family are on there.  How long did I last before deleting it again?  Three weeks.  Returning to Facebook reminded me of the two main reasons I left the first time around.  The first thing that struck me on returning to Facebook was the clutter;  I felt like everyone's stuff was scattered all over the place, in my face whether I liked it or not.  To me it felt claustrophobic and messy, closing in endlessly.  Secondly, and the biggest reason, is the sheer amount of everyday meaness and negativity.   Part of this is receiving friend requests from various people who made my life hell when I was younger;  it hit home when I got a friend request from a man who bullied me mercilessly every day at school from when I was 5 to when we went our separate ways at 16.  There also seems to be a lack of civilised exchange.  A discussion disintegrates into a viscious argument faster than you can say 'Dislike'.  I don't like the idea of all this aggression and negativity being chanelled into my home.

However, this is how it ends now:

I found out that to play Scrabble on my phone I need to sign in via Facebook so I've signed up again.  Everyone has their price; it turns out that mine is a board game I'm not very good at but can't resist.

Damn.