Monday, November 25, 2013

Zebras are like buses…..

You don't see one for ages and then you see several!

We were in the lovely town of Rye the other day when we stumbled upon this lovely chap out shopping in all his stripiness:

He looks as if he's just stepped off the Serengetti and popped into the shop! He's made of concrete and resin and he was sold. It brought to mind another fine zebra I encountered on one of my runs earlier this year.

Then I remembered that my neighbours, the 'neigh' part is quite relevant in this case, from Stevenson Brothers Rocking Horses produced a beautiful rocking zebra a few years ago and it has been hugely popular. The brothers grew up in Kenya so it isn't quite quite so odd that they chose a zebra and they have donated money from their sale to various charities based over there.

In the same shop there were lots of strange taxidermy birds and other animals together with this horse's head which had been made to look like a unicorn:

He was a gorgeous horse with the most beautiful muzzle and I really wanted to stroke him but I felt a bit weird about it and so I didn't.

Rye is a pretty town with some beautiful timber-framed buildings and cobbled streets. The cobbles are quite hard to walk on and you have to be careful not to trip.

We had a look round a couple of art galleries and an exhibition of works by local artists.

As Rye is one of the Cinque Ports (originally from the French 'cinq', i.e. 5, but pronounced "sink") one always expects lots of paintings with a nautical theme. I loved this mermaid.

This beautiful anchor by the very talented Heather Collins was covered in a mixture of wool scraps, felt and embroidery. It was stunning.

We had a jolly good mooch around the shops as it was a nice bright day and I came home with these jolly over-the-knee socks in my favourite colour, purple, and adorned with the happy faces of pansies rather like the violas I have in some pots at the moment. I also sneaked in a couple of balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in 'blackcurrant'.

The other highlight for me was finding these wonderful tea-towels (and more!) by Sarah Young. I had a long chat with the gallery owner about these as they took me right back to my childhood and learning to sew.

Not only can they be tea-towels but you can cut around the shapes, sew them together and make a doorstop, cushion, or even a tea cosy. Such fun and wonderful designs too.

Clarence the cross-eyed lion took me right back that wonderful TV series Daktari from the 1960's.

Although he was beautiful it was Hester the Hare who stole my heart. Well I could hardly choose anything other than a Bluebelle lookalike now could I? I always think that Rexes are more like hares than bunnies and their coats are like velvet. I do miss having them hopping around the place but we do have plenty of pesky wild rabbits on the land.

Tango and Bluebelle, the last of my beautiful Rex rabbits 

I spotted this woolly friend hanging on the wall of a weaver's studio.

As a footnote, my first G8 blog post went onto their site this morning here so I hope I'll reach a new audience.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Brighton continued

I've just received the final photos from the lovely Ant Bliss. Ant and his team take brilliant photos and hang around in all sorts of weather to take photos of often bedraggled-looking runners crossing the finish line. As I am one of the slower runners I am always delighted to see Ant's smiling face having  battled my way round one of the many downland marathons. More of Ant's race photos later.

Mike took these two shots of the gigantic wheel by the seafront. With the advent of the Millennium wheel alongside the river Thames in London there seems to be  a craze for installing them in seaside towns. 

On a clear day the views would be lovely.

Runners arriving at the start line
Now for some of Ant's photos taken at various points during the race. I always, always have a big smile on my face 'cos I just love running and competing in races alongside other people.

When I started running 11 years ago it was to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of a friend who died of leukaemia. Nobody, including me, thought I'd manage the 5k race and I never dreamt that I would continue running after the race, but I did.

At the time I was a full-time carer for my mum and for one hour each day, after breakfast when mum often had a nap, Mike would take care of her whilst I went out for a walk or a run. It quickly turned into my special time, all to myself and with no worries and it gave me the strength to carry on.

The rest is history and with 31 marathons under my belt I still feel that running has become my life-glue and I can't imagine not wanting to run any more. Some of my best ideas come to mind when I'm out on my longer runs and it really helps to recharge my batteries.

So back to the photos:

17 minutes in
My favourite - both feet off the ground like a real runner!
I love the lady on the right - she's really going for it towards the finish line!
Mike captured runners as they headed towards the finish line
After the race we headed off to the car so I could get changed then we went for a wander round the shops. It was starting to drizzle with rain and the sky looked rather grey and ominous.

I loved this dolphin waterfall. Pity the water wasn't switched on though.
Bet he had a bird's-eye view from up there!
This whacky shop made me smile with it's zebra stripes and zebra's head.

It reminded me of a painting by the wonderful Charley Harper entitled Serengeti Spaghetti. I think it would make a wonderful cushion done in Bargello work. His stylized animals always impress me as he has a keen eye for reducing their form to the bare minimum.

It also brought to mind my own zebra sweater which I knit about 25 years ago. I saw a sweater in a posh shop but it was way beyond my budget at the time so I copied the pattern onto graph paper and then adapted a knitting pattern that I had already to incorporate the zebra stripes. It's made using a very soft cotton and it has been thrown in the washing machine and treated with the minimum of care yet still looks good after all these years.

My very own brown and cream zebra jumper
Funny how some handknits stay with you for years yet others are either undone and re-knitted or passed on for others to enjoy.

I spotted a couple of shops with mosaic in shop entrances. Not complex patterns but jolly all the same.

That evening we celebrated with a glass or 2 of Buck's Fizz for it is a well-known fact that if you put orange juice into champagne it doesn't count as alcohol.

Thumbs Up

I had my dressing changed twice this week and finally the big bandage has been replaced with a waterproof plaster in girly pink. Not only does it make holding things a lot easier, it looks so much better as the bandages got dirty so quickly; although that probably says more about me being a mucky pup than the bandage!

As I pulled into the car park at the doctor's surgery, I spotted the local geese paddling in the water by the recycling bins. As soon as I stepped out of the car they came flying towards me. Not aggressively, they just wanted food as they are an important part of the village and are spoiled by the local people. The local pub takes charge of them. 

They formed an orderly queue and were rewarded with the bread I'd taken with me in case they were around.

They acted as my escorts to the surgery.

Sadly, every so often one is killed on the road as people don't always heed the sign

Tinker update

Our beautiful boy is still with us but the lumps have now joined together to form one great big lump on his shoulder which you can see quite clearly in this photo. Poor boy.

He looks so peaceful stretched out there in front of the fire. He purrs like mad and asks to be stroked and he still jumps around and uses his scratching post as if there's nothing wrong with him. I have a feeling that he will just go downhill all of a sudden so we'll make the most of what's left of our time with him.

Carpe diem.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Lovely city - yep

Interesting and eclectic mix of shops and buildings - yep

Good food - yep

Good weather for a 10k? Oh yes. 'Twas the perfect weather for a 10k!

First things first. A nice Americano to give me a caffeine boost
Then a pose in front of Brighton pier
Time for a warm-up before Mike headed off for a wander whilst I got on with my pre-race routine
How did I get on?

52 minutes 48 seconds since you ask and a new personal best time. Mike managed to snap this photo as I was sprinting towards the finish line and I managed to give him the thumbs up sign to say everything was OK.

Apparently he was a bit worried because he saw the time clock was showing 54 minutes as I passed him and he knew I was aiming for sub 53 minutes. But my time wasn't based on the clock time but on my chip time which was only activated when I crossed the start line so I was quicker than he thought.

Even my watch time, which I'd started just before I crossed the start line, was 3 seconds slower than my actual time!
I only had one dodgy  section in the race at around mile 4 when we turned and had to run into the wind. It wasn't a strong wind but it did manage to take my breath away a bit and it took a while to get it back under control. It also meant that I had to up my pace considerably for the last mile and then sprint for the final 800 metres.

I had the biggest smile ever on my face when I crossed the finish line.

More photos to follow soon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pennant, a riparian run and an "ouch!" incident

Pennant Magazine

A few months ago I was invited to write an article for Pennant magazine, the journal of the Forces Pension Society. The Editor and General Secretary, Major-General John Moore-Bick CBE DL, thought their readers would be interested in my marathon efforts, the link between physical and mental health (mens sana in corpora sano) and how I use the internet for fund-raising.

I was given 1200 words for the article but I could easily have written 12,000. I submitted a draft with 1300 words suggesting the areas I could condense if need-be but I was delighted when their response was to give me 1700 words to play with, thus turning it into a 2 page spread. Mum's story was included together with links to ARUK and my blog and I hope that people found it interesting and informative.

A riparian run

The other day I felt the need to run just for the sheer joy of running, not caring about the pace or distance. The weather has been pretty vile of late but the sun was shining as I headed off towards Bodiam for a run along the river Rother.

This coppiced tree had been brought down in the storm
I love the darkness of the trees with the light filtering through
Gorgeous lichens
The buttery yellow leaves of a birch tree reminded me of a candle flame (the box on the right is an owl box and there were 2 young Barn Owls in there earlier in the year)
Possibly an alien object for anyone not familiar with game bird husbandry - it's a feeder for pheasants.
A new sign warning of the weir - it made me wonder if someone had come to grief there in their boat 
Smiley sheep
The river was flowing quickly and was only just below the bank
I love the starkness of the trees against the skyline contrasted with the emerald-green grass
In Spring, the river often floods the whole road and submerges both the outer arches of the bridge
It must have come over the bank recently as the football pitch had several large lakes.  The clubhouse had to be built on a platform to raise it above the floodwaters.
The gulls took full advantage of the watery pitch
I loved the yellow/green stripes of the vines on the slope
I arrived home muddy and happy


I'm still busy processing pears and apples. Purees, juices, syrups, chutneys etc. On Sunday it was pears in syrup. These are some Conference pears from our trees. Beautiful, juicy pears.

First I peel and core them using my trusty apple-corer (can you guess what's coming soon?), then I chop them into quarters and simmer them gently in a light syrup of sugar and water.

When they are just starting to soften, which takes about 7 minutes, I pack them tightly into a glass kilner jar and pour in the syrup to cover them.

I'm experimenting with different ways of preserving them this year so I'll also be freezing some and also treating them by simmering in a jar sitting in a water bath (the usual method).

I save all the peeling and cores as there's still lots of lovely pearliness to be had from them. They all go into a pan with a mix of lemon juice and water and are simmered until tender.

Then I strain the mixture through a jelly bag and use the liquid to make a dark syrup. For a pint of liquid I use 1lb sugar and boil it until it reaches the consistency I want.

Now back to the apple-corer. I was happily just getting on with my peeling and chopping when my hand slipped and in so-doing the corer sliced into the side of my thumb. It happened in an instant and then there was blood and everything went into slow motion.

Mike was playing the piano, a Chopin etude, and that served as a soothing backdrop. The corer has serrated edges and as I ran my thumb under the tap I could see that it was quite a deep v-shaped cut, but at least there was still some skin attached at the top end. I found some gauze and taped it round it to provide pressure to stem the flow.

After I'd cleaned up the mess I went and told Mike what had happened. Of course he also told me off for not getting him straight away. I knew secretly that he would make me go to hospital but I have the gene for not wanting any fuss or to be a nuisance to anyone, plus I have spent too much time in and around hospitals so that's why I didn't get him immediately.

I resisted removing my makeshift dressing to show him the extent of the damage as I wanted to wait until the bleeding had stopped so he let me off for a while. However, eventually I had to show him and he insisted that we visit the A&E department. Deep joy.

As it happened, there weren't many people there when we arrived and after an initial consultation with a nurse we were seen within 30 minutes as opposed to the 2 hour wait we'd been expecting. Everyone was very kind and friendly.

Mike came into the treatment room with me and was so sweet and supportive - he knows how much I hate going to hospital. The wound was cleaned and the nurse decided that as some skin was still attached he would use glue and steri-strips (a sort of reinforcing tape used instead of stitches) to hold it in place and then finished it with a tight bandage. He gave me a tetanus jab for good measure.

As the glue is water-soluble I'm not allowed to get it wet for a week so poor Mike is having to do lots of chores including tending the horses and Tinker the cat. No knitting for me that evening but I found I could manage my crochet hook OK which was a bonus.

I've just been to see the nurse and had the dressing changed, in case there was any infection, and everything looked OK. She's given me a much looser dressing which allows me to bend my thumb a bit and I can just about manage some knitting, albeit slowly and very carefully. She said that when she changes the dressing on Friday she'll give me an even lighter one if everything is still progressing well.

This morning I managed to make some bread using just my right hand for the kneading and I covered my poorly thumb in cling film just in case I splashed it with any liquids. Needs must and all that!