Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A mishmash

I'm still playing catch-up so I apologise now for the diverse topics in this post. Some things will just have to go undocumented or I shall have to spend all day updating my blog!

Crochet


First we have some progress on my crochet blanket. I'm really enjoying this, especially the textural side of it with the bobbles and front post trebles (or front post double crochet in US terms). It measures about 18" across in this photo. The only down side is that I can't work on it for too long at a time as it hurts my hands; darned arthritis. Never mind, it isn't a race to the finish line and it's an enjoyable journey.


The last row in the photo above is crab stitch which really defines the edge beautifully. I know some people are scared to trying it as it's counter-intuitive to go from left to right in crochet. However, a few weeks ago I showed my friend Julie how to do it and although she was adamant that she would never get the hang of it she was soon crabbing away quite happily. It's all about perseverance - just keep trying it and don't expect it to be perfect first time.


Knitting


Next was a needs-must knit. I made these gloves for Mike many years ago and when they started to get tatty I took them for horse duties. They've been darned and darned (you can see a patch on the lefthand side) but I think the moths have been at them too as the yarn just kept tearing each time they were mended so I needed a new pair pdq as my hands get cold very quickly when I'm struggling with horse blankets and feed buckets. 


On rummaging through my stash I found a ball of what looked like a wool and possibly alpaca mix of 4ply and several small scraps of assorted yarns of a similar weight. I wanted the gloves to be really close-fitting as it makes my fingers feel better when they are tightly encased and it's also easier to manage fiddly buckles and halters. So I decided to try an experiment by making the gloves extra large and then attempting to felt them in the washing machine on a hot wash. 

It worked a treat and they feel lovely. Hopefully they'll last a few seasons. This was just a basic glove pattern to which a added some stripes of colour.



Join dementia research update


If you click on the link above you'll see that the number of people who signed up to JDR rose by 2500 in the week after the launch with our region, Kent, Surrey and Sussex just sneaking into the lead. I was delighted that so far 35 of my friends have also signed up to the PROTECT study and hopefully there will be more soon.

The success of that week would not have been possible without all the people who helped to spread the message but I wanted to give a special mention to all the hard-working people at JDR HQ who worked tirelessly to ensure it was a success. They don't get into the limelight but we would not have got to this stage without their hard work and dedication. Well done team!

Here we have Andrew Rutherford, Zara Qadir, Catherine Wheatcroft and Peter Gudge

In my post about launch day I mentioned that I'd forgotten my camera but there was something I just had to share with everyone; this yarn-storming outside Mary Ward House which was across the road from JDR headquarters. There are some sweet little seahorses and fish. Very jolly.

I have no idea who did it or why but I really wanted to share it so I asked if one of the JDR team could please help me out by taking some photos.





Many thanks to Andrew who took these photos on his phone. I chuckled when he apologised for their quality because his phone is 3 years old - Andrew, mine's going on 15 years old and doesn't even take photos!

More exciting news to follow soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Marathon 42 of 60

The weather forecast had been dire for Sunday - torrential rain, massive high tide, strong winds. Hey ho I thought, another 'character-building' marathon. But on Saturday the forecast was modified to add heavy frost for the Saturday night just to add a bit of extra fun to my journey the next morning. I was heading for Pegwell Bay which lies between Ramsgate and Sandwich on the East Kent coast.

My journey planner told me it was 53.9 miles away and would take me 1 hour 40 minutes but I allowed extra time for icy conditions. I'm so glad I did as when I got up it was -6 degrees and none of the roads had been treated so the country lanes were pretty slippery as the rain that had fallen the day before had frozen into glaciers! Even the major roads were icy so I was glad to arrive without incident.

When I'd parked up I took in my surroundings. The sun was starting to come out and it felt much warmer than it had earlier so I was glad I'd chosen layers which I could peel off or put back on if I got too hot our cold.



The first person I met was Carolyn with Bonnie the dog who was doing her 20th marathon. That's Bonnie doing her 20th, not Carolyn who's done considerably more than that.


Rachel was busy as usual registering runners and handing out numbers.


I'd taken along some JDR leaflets for her as she speaks to groups of Carers, some of whom care for people with dementia, which she'd kindly offered to hand out. Thanks Rachel.


There were lots of friendly faces. Here are Sharon and Mark with the Thanet ladies. Mark was doing the full marathon distance but the ladies opted for 1/2 marathon. That's the beauty of this event; it was a 'challenge' which is a timed event with multiple laps so you could choose how many you wanted to complete within the time limit of 6 hours rather than a fixed distance. It's such a lovely idea which encourages people to just have a go without any pressure.


As always at Traviss and Rachel's events there was cake. Just look at this beauty, created by Heather, which includes the cycle-route post and a replica of the Viking longship as well as a bird.


Speaking of the Viking longship, here's the replica. It had covers on to protect it over Winter. You can read a bit about it here and see a photo of it uncovered.



As usual this was an out and back route, rather like a figure of eight, and for the marathon distance you had to complete 8 laps. I love going past people and high-fiving/hugging/hurling abuse or encouragement as required! I liked the mixed terrain which was a mixture of cycle track, tarmac, grass, mud and concrete. Going one way it was really quite hot but then coming back the wind was quite strong at times and I held on tight to my cap in case it got blown away.

At the start Traviss announced that someone was doing their 50th marathon and I realised that, touch wood, I would be completing my 50th later this year at one of their events. When I started my marathon journey back in November 2004 I never dreamt that I would run so many but they have served as a fantastic tool for getting publicity for ARUK and dementia. It was also Melanie's 100th marathon and I was delighted to see her heading towards the finish line to celebrate her achievement.

I'll let the photos do the talking now. They are not in any particular order as you can see the day started with a bright blue sky but became overcast towards the end but they give a feel of the magic of Pegwell Bay.

I tried desperately to resist stopping to take photos on the first lap but by the second lap I just couldn't help myself as it was so pretty.

The area of marshland by the coastal path. You can read a bit about the wildlife in the area here

A Christmas tree? Loved these baubles shining in the sun!

Ponies used as mowing machines to preserve the habitat

What looked like Highland cattle - again, possibly used to manage the grassland

What a lovely village sign (this is a contentious issue in our village!!!)

A finger post for the National Cycle Network similar to the one I saw in Sandgate

Oooh, what are they doing? You'll get a better view when I head back down the hill…..
….aha, kite surfing!

A not very glamourous but functional cafe.

This didn't come out as well as I'd hoped. The whole shrub was covered in the most amazing yellow lichen which glowed in the sunlight

The first time I saw this I thought it was a workman's hut…...

….but as I ran past I heard voices coming from within! There were lots of twitchers out bird spotting.

On my last lap the tide was further in and the sun had disappeared. I love its wild beauty and the muted colours of the grasses in so many shades of brown/grey and green.

My favourite photo of the day as I tried to capture the sunlight glimmering on the sea. It was so pretty.

Each time we finished a lap we were given a coloured wristband. Rachel said I was "high maintenance" cos I wanted a different colour each time!
In my previous post I mentioned that I was rather dehydrated which is most unusual for me. I noticed that I was sluggish for the last 2 laps and I really slowed down. I'd taken on water after each lap so I was surprised when I saw that I was dehydrated (runners reading this will know what I mean!). I wondered if it was due to weaning myself off my asthma medication which had been giving me side effects I'd rather not suffer. I was soon back to normal though so perhaps it was just a blip.

Here's my beautiful medal - what a corker to add to my collection.


Well done to everyone who took part, especially to Mandy who completed 20 miles as part of her marathon training - you go girl!

It was lovely to see so many familiar faces and I can't stress how friendly these events are. If anyone is thinking about having a go at longer distances I can highly recommend Traviss and Rachel's events.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything"

That would be my 42nd marathon then! Yes, I completed the 42nd marathon of my 60 by 60 campaign at the weekend and received the most amazing medal for my endeavours:


Sorry that you can't see it properly but my write-up and photos will have to wait until I've drawn your attention to my vest because today, Tuesday the 24th February, is the official National launch of Join dementia research. The Hugin marathon was the first outing for my tee shirt and I was very proud to wear it. I took loads of photos on the day and will try and catch up in the next day or so.

Join dementia research (JDR)


I've been shouting out about the need to link people with researchers ever since I started speaking about my mum's dementia 10 years ago. In 2010 I attended a Ministerial debate on dementia and met like-minded people. Fast forward to 2012 and I was invited to represent Alzheimer's Research UK as a Lay Champion helping DeNDRoN develop the system. I've already written about that a lot in the past so I won't repeat it here, suffice to say that everyone involved came from a different angle but with a common thread joining us - we'd all been affected by dementia in some way.

At first, our meetings were chaired by Simon Denegri, Chair of INVOLVE (don't you just love all these acronyms!!!) and National Director for Public Participation and Engagement in Research. He guided us through the minefield of issues that needed to be addressed. On his blog, to celebrate launch day, Simon writes:
The service has been in development for over 2-3 years with people with dementia and their carers fully involved in the design of every aspect.   When the Lay Champions Group began its work all that time ago it is difficult to convey the daunting nature of the task that lay ahead of us or its complexity.  Giving people a safe and secure way of signing up for research in this way has felt like building a skyscraper on a small plot of land in a crowded city.  But the determination was always there and it is in no small part due to the commitment of those champions (many of whom will be speaking to the media today) and also the commitment of the organisations involved, to working in partnership with them.
The launch date had been planned for a long time but was over-shadowed somewhat by the exciting news launched at the weekend which I wrote about in my last post. As a result the Press Call with attendant Minister had to be shelved but, having said that, there's still lots going on today. It does however mean that I didn't need to trek back into London so at least I can get my blog up to date!

Yesterday was all about pre-filming and so I headed into London at silly o'clock to be available at JDR headquarters in case any media opportunities came up. I'd been up and about bright and early as I needed to leave home at 5:45am to catch the 6:15 train. I fed the horses and Tilly, checked emails and generally faffed around until I suddenly realised that I needed to get a move on or I would miss my train. 

Panic mode ensued.

Normally I would have prepared my travel bag the night before but I was too tried and full of wine following my marathon and had decided to do it in the morning. Bad decision Susie! This of course meant that in my haste I forgot to collect the camera, some knitting for the train & my bottle of water to keep me nicely hydrated (for the first time in ages I was rather dehydrated after the marathon but I'll save that for my next post). 

As I'd left home so early the Newsagent wasn't open so I didn't have a paper to read which was quite nice as it made me look out of the window and enjoy the view. That kept me occupied until we reached the suburbs when I started to read through my notes which I had managed to pick up before dashing out. Having finished that I decided to play a word game, something mum and I did every day since I was a child and I still do now. We used to play Scrabble a lot with mum and she invariably beat us. I took no pleasure on the day that she stopped beating us. I love those word wheels you see in the papers, Sudoko etc but without my newspaper I had to create my own game. I decided to see how many words of 4 letters or more that I could make out of 'Join dementia Research' in 20 minutes (353 - I do love palindromes). Then I went back to looking out of the window and people watching.

I always enjoy walking through London in the early morning and it was a lovely bright day. Of course, as I hadn't got my camera I can't show you the bunting in China Town which looked so pretty in the sunshine or the friendly cat I met in Seven Dials, an area in Covent Garden which I always like to walk through as Mike's first studio was there. I was heading to Old Gloucester Street to DeNDRoN HQ to meet up with the JDR team and a very special lady, Wendy Mitchell who has early-onset Alzheimer's:


I've spoken with Wendy on the phone and follow her blog and the reason I was so excited to meet her was that she is such an inspirational lady. 

A couple of weeks ago Wendy and I had a conference call with Piers and Zara, from JDR, to plan the activities surrounding the launch. During the conversation Wendy and I just started chatting and sharing our experiences. I noted that we are the same age and that it's important to find out why one person develops dementia and the other hasn't (not yet anyway, fingers crossed) which is why JDR is such a valuable tool to investigate this. Piers spotted immediately that it would be great to share our passion about the cause and so it was agreed that we would be filmed before the launch.

It was nice to see Terry back at the office as he'd been our guide during most of the development process but had left to pursue a career in acting before JDR was completed. He was taking photos throughout the day and popped up all over the place.

Piers very kindly gave up his office for filming and look at the colour of his sofas - they match the JDR logo perfectly! Zara was a bit worried that we were going to chat without a script as she thought we wouldn't be able to sustain a conversation without prompts (as if!!!) but Piers commented that we'd be fine as he'd already heard us gabbling away earlier in the day. It was decided that I should take the lead and introduce each topic as and when required.

All wired up and just testing the sound levels etc.
The cameraman moved around the room freely whilst we were chatting and we were completely oblivious to anything going on around us. The photo below was staged so that Terry could take a photo  with the microphone in view whereas in reality it was tucked away in a corner whilst we were chatting.


We agreed that our starting point would be what had prompted Wendy to visit her GP which was the start of her dementia journey. As we are both the same age it was really easy to introduce JDR as a way of finding out more about the disease: On one hand we have Wendy, non-smoker, doesn't drink, leads a healthy lifestyle and has no history of dementia in her family whilst in my genes I have every available indicator to suggest I could develop dementia. We chatted away freely and without hesitation for over 30 minutes. I caught myself saying "indeed" several times so I hope I managed to keep that in check as it can be very annoying when someone keeps repeating the same word. I've always been a hand waver too but I stopped worrying about that years ago as it's just part of my style!

Finally I paused to ask if there was anything else they would like us to discuss but the Piers came in to collect me as we were heading off to interview and film Prof. Martin Rossor at University College London hospital which was only a 5 minute walk away so we had to dash off.

I'd been given a set of what I thought were innocuous questions they wanted me to ask him and had been told that he wouldn't agree to answer them all and so I must only ask him certain things blah, blah, blah. Oh really? I've met him a couple of times before, most recently at the Royal College of Physicians where he chaired the meeting, and I'd found him approachable and friendly so I paid no heed.

The hospital was bustling and was clearly not the right place to be filming or was it just that I hate hospitals, for reasons I won't bore you with. The guys collected some shots of me walking through the doors to meet Martin but it really wasn't practicable to interview him in his consulting room as it was too dark. He'd only just finished a consultation with a patient and was very gracious to give us his precious time so we headed over to his main office across the road whilst the film crew took a few background shots.

This left me alone with him and we chatted easily whilst we waited for the others to join us. I noticed a photo of him performing what looked like a dressage move on a horse which started us chatting about eventing and all things horsey. We chatted for a while before he found out I'd run a marathon the day beforehand and it turned out he'd run marathons too so the ice was well and truly broken. He then asked me for my background just so he understood where I fitted into the picture.

The thing I really wanted to ask him was how he reconciles being both Clinician and Researcher, two very different roles and I was delighted that he gave me a very personal viewpoint. We went through the main questions I wanted to ask him and I checked if there was anything he wanted to add and he came up with something I shall use in future; he would like people to become 'data donors' in the way that we are blood donors. I think that is a wonderful way of promoting JDR! This time I was not filmed as it was just about Martin speaking to camera. He spoke really well and I look forward to seeing the final edit.

After that it was time for me to head home and I was rather pleased as I was quite tired - must be getting old! More updates to follow asap.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

….and breathe!

Today I am running around doing things that need doing at home as the next few days are going to be rather busy.

On Sunday I shall be heading off to NE Kent at the crack of dawn (well, before dawn actually!) to run along a windy seafront for 26.2 miles. At the moment I'm too busy with other things to worry about whether I'll manage it as there's sooooo much to do.

I realised that I needed to think 3 days ahead with my baking and food preparation so at the moment I'm having a coffee break whilst waiting for 2 loaves to finish proving before I can start preparing for our evening meals. Tomorrow is OK because Mike loves to help in the kitchen when he can and so we're having fajitas which means he can do all the chopping of vegetables whilst I'm out. I've already got a batch of spicy beans made up so that all I need to do is make some tortillas when I get home whilst his chicken is cooking. Homemade tortillas are nothing like the processed ones you can buy and take very little time to make. I'll try to remember to write a recipe for them when I get a moment.

Monday and Tuesday I shall be heading off to London each day for the launch of join dementia research which will either be extremely busy or will involve a lot of hanging around, you never can tell with these things. I'm hoping that the media will be interested as there is so much about dementia in the News at the moment - this morning the Alzheimer's Society announced that their 'dementia friends' campaign has now got 1 million volunteers which is brilliant.

The other exciting announcement was this:
'Leading the world'The government has announced that it will be spending more than £300m to tackle dementia in England over the next parliament, as part of plans which include:
  • An ambition to reach three million dementia friends
  • A dedicated online and telephone service to help people taking part in dementia trials 
  • An international dementia institute to be set up in England within five years to make the country a "world leader" on research
  • The launch of a global fund to find a drug that can slow the onset of dementia by 2025.
Mr Cameron said: "Dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, and I am proud that we are leading the world in fighting it." 
I knew there was going to be some sort of announcement from the furtive phones calls I received late yesterday afternoon asking about my availability over the weekend! What a great start to the weekend and I shall think of this to spur me on if the going gets tough in my marathon tomorrow.

In other news I've been playing around with the curtains tie-backs I stitched. I found a nice wooden frame I'd bought a while ago and it fitted part of the tapestry in rather well. Now I've just got to mount and stretch it onto the backing then it will be going on the wall in my Craft room to remind me that Spring is on the way.


The frame had this watercolour in originally and I thought it was a print but when I took it out I found it was a greetings card.


Inside was this note:


Whoever Nancy was, this little note must have meant a lot to her, possibly when she was about to have some sort of operation or procedure, as she had it framed professionally. I felt privileged to have peeped into someone's precious memories.

On the crochet front, I'm getting on nicely with my latest project and am undecided whether to take that or my remaining sock with me on my train journeys next week.


The colours I've chosen are based loosely on the curtains/blinds in the lounge. I'm using Rowan Summer Tweed, which is now unfortunately discontinued, with a 4mm crochet hook. Thankfully I have a lot of it in my stash.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Over the hills and far away

I'm feeling rather quiet and reflective at the moment. Things can change in a moment can't they and sometimes it takes a while to come to terms with a new situation and accept what life throws at you.

There has been plenty to celebrate of late - Alzheimer's Research UK have just announced the launch of their 3 new Drug Discovery Units as part of their Drug Discovery Alliance and researchers have found a new 'Molecular Chaperone' which may help stop the build-up of the protein which leads to Alzheimer's. All wonderful news and there's more to come!

Next week sees the official Launch of  Join dementia research which is fantastic and I'll write more about it after the event.

Continuing the heart theme here are 2 things I made for Valentine's Day ( I'll never win prizes for the presentation of my cakes but it certainly tasted scrummy!):

Our favourite coconut cake from a recipe of my mum's that I've adapted

Bread with a heart! My own recipe with lots of heart-friendly seeds.

Before I share some photos from my runs I must show a bit of my heart sock and the start of a new crochet project:

A useful and very portable project to take to an appointment in hospital, especially when your appointment is delayed by 1.5 hours!

A new blanket begins
Now for some images from my runs.

Beautiful Bodiam Castle basking in the sun. In the distance you can just make out a white windmill which reminded me that I haven't shown any close-up photos of it so I must do a separate post. At this point I am at the top of a hill about 2 miles from the castle and 5 miles from the windmill.

I often ignore these strange structures known as 'Pillboxes' as there are quite a few in our area but apparently they are quite rare now as many local Councils removed them during the 1950s. Being near the South Coast, Kent and Sussex were bombed a lot during the Wars and the Pillboxes were built during the Second World War when fears of an invasion were at their height. They were to act as a second line of defense if the GHQ (General HeadquarQters) line was breached. There is one in the grounds of Bodiam Castle and it's always very popular with their younger visitors.

This small river looks calm and tranquil unlike last year when it rose over 8 feet and flooded the surrounding area.

Mud, mud, glorious mud but it was better than a couple of weeks ago when I had to paddle through water

These handy stepping stones were only uncovered last year when the farmer cut back the undergrowth. They are easy to run over but difficult for a woman to walk over as there are man-sized spaces between them

Another Pillbox hiding in the undergrowth. I just googled them and found that only 20% of them are still in existence and those that remain are mostly in disrepair.

This field was still flooded as the ground is so saturated. I chuckled when I saw these 2 people enjoying a spot of impromptu canoeing!

Then I was saddened to see what was once an excellent sand school, where I used to watch horses going through their paces, all overgrown and used as a dumping ground. The livery yard that was there closed down following a series of  robberies and it's such a shame that it's just lying empty after nearly 3 years.

After a nice flat couple of miles it's time to climb a bit up through this newly planted field of vines.

Up another gentle incline. I took this photo because it made me sad. Strange woman, why would you do that? Because for over 10 years I used to see a Red Indian here. Yes, a real Red Indian, who wore his headdress and loincloth no matter what the weather was like. The first time I saw him walking along a quiet lane nearby I thought he was heading home after a fancy dress party! He lived a quiet life in his caravan in this field until last year the farmer allowed campers onto the site and his world was turned upside down. We never spoke as he was always a long way off but we used to nod to acknowledge one another. I have no idea where he's gone to but I hope he's found a quiet place to be himself.

This sign annoys me so much, or rather it's not the sign but the fact that it exists. You can read what it says in the next photo then you'll understand!

Why, oh why, do people show such a lack of respect to other peoples property? If they bring a picnic why don't they take their litter home? They are spoiling the very beautiful spot that drew them there. I cannot fathom such a mentality. In the orchards nearby there are now signs asking people to please keep to the footpaths and not to pick the apples. So sad.

The little footbridge leads to this pretty bit of woodland…..

…and if you're very lucky you might spot some of these pretty deer dressed in their Winter coats...
….. and into part of this massive orchard. I was heading for that hill in the distance.
The pretty church at Salehurst has now got some beehives amongst the graves.  You can hear the church bells here and here you can see some sheep acting as Nature's own mowers.

Snowdrops are peeping through the undergrowth.


Farmers are busy pruning their orchards.

I did a double-take as I ran past this in someone's yard. It's a raft! Then I realised it must have been for the Rye Raft races held on the River Rother in July each year. I bet that's rather good fun!

This weekend it's the 4th marathon in my series of 13 for the 12 months from November 2014 until October 2015. I'm hoping the weather is kind to us as it's along the Kent coast again. Please don't let it be too windy………...