Monday, November 12, 2018


Armistice Day 100 years on, 1918-2018

There has been a national effort to make this year extra special to honour a whole generation of young people who lost their lives in such horrendous conditions.

They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson's amazing treatment of old black and white footage has captured a snapshot of every day life back then.  What touched me was that they all looked so cheerful even in the hellhole they found themselves. How can we ever thank them for giving us the freedoms we enjoy today.

Special events have been taking place up and down the country, for example 'Shrouds of the Somme' is an installation of over 72,000 figures wrapped in shrouds. This is the number of allied troops who lost their lives at the Somme and whose bodies were never found, so were never buried.  Towns and villages have been decorating their War Memorials and commemorative services were held.

Here are some photos collected by me over the last few months and from the day itself:

This group of photos was taken in August where the whole of Sevenoaks town centre was themed in red:

Images like the one below have appeared alongside war memorials throughout the country

The war memorial in a nearby village was decorated and the names and details of all the fallen recorded individually. It was incredibly moving to read the details.  The following photos have come from various different sources as we were unable to attend.

In the evening people gathered at the memorial, torches were lit (one for each local life lost) and carried by villagers to the beacon nearby followed by a service in the church.  Sadly we were unable to attend as I was marking the occasion in a different way and didn't get back in time (more on that later).

My Armistice Day was commemorated by taking part in a running challenge event at Samphire Hoe near Dover and I can't think of a more moody place to be on such a sad day. The weather contributed to the atmosphere by being epic - I can't think of a better way to describe it. 

The route had to be changed due to extremely high waves along the seawall. We were up on the top of the hills and could see them about 30 feet high on occasion. When we set off there was torrential rain followed by hailstones which hurt!  The wind was really strong no matter which way the route took us and you were battered from the front, back and sides at different points throughout the route. Again the photos have come from several different people.

Once or twice the sky cleared and the sun came out briefly before the sky went black again and the the rain came.  

There was some slippery mud to negotiate.

Somehow it felt right that conditions were tough but they were nowhere near as tough as the trenches. I felt really reflective and wasn't quite as bubbly as usual.

We had been told that we'd hear the canons fired from Dover at 11am and that the marshalls would blow whistles so we could pause for 2 minutes silence.  However, the wind was too strong and very noisy so Traviss positioned marshalls along the course and they held banners up when the time came and we held a mass race freeze.  That in itself was really moving as even the dog-walkers joined in and stood in silence, but also looking out over the channel at a roiling sea and thinking about the fallen soldiers was incredibly sad.

This wasn't the only marathon held on the day and my talented friend Heather had created 2 magnificent cakes, one for each event:

This was for our event.

This for Rik's event.  There were over 1000 poppies were all handmade of sugar paste.  Seen here with the medal.

This was our medal.

I don't know what my official time was yet but it was somewhere around 6:11. It was a tough day both physically and emotionally for marathon 160.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Arthritis update and some sea

Catchy title hey?!  I thought I should share some of my coping methods as I always get a lot of hits on here when I mention the A word.

I have both Osteo and Rheumatoid arthritis and I do not take prescription medication for either as often the side-effects are ghastly. My dad suffered terribly with RA and was unable to walk a step by the age of 65 so didn't get to enjoy his retirement as planned.  Sadly the medicine that was prescribed for this arthritis also damaged his kidneys adding an extra health problem so I have always been wary.

The Osteo started in my 20s with my left index finger developing a huge lump on the knuckle nearest the nail.  My right index finger joined the party in my early 30s, as did my toes and my left knee which had been damaged in a riding accident as a teenager.  Rheumatoid left me alone for a few more years before it made its unwelcome appearance.

Many people ask how on earth I run and how come it doesn't it hurt my knees and feet.  Aha, now there's the thing; running has actually helped my knees. The damage to my left knee had caused me to walk with a slight limp for decades but running has strengthened the surrounding muscles which give it extra support and I haven't limped for many years now.  When I first started to run long distances it hurt my feet, especially on concrete surfaces, but then I discovered running shoes with extra cushioning and they haven't troubled me since (touch wood!).

My first pair of HOKA One One

Ironically, the main issue I have in running is with my hands and wrists as what you may not think about is that you hold your arms in the same position for hours on end in long distance events.  I tried wearing crepe wrist supports but they annoyed me and got really sweaty so what I do now is make sure I release them from the same position every so often and do jazz hands and circle my wrists (and sometimes the moment is captured in a photo!).

There are lots of day-to-day things that cause me consternation and I've had to adapt accordingly.  My mum used to have special gardening tools with chunky handles which she said helped her grip but I'm still OK with my ordinary tools at the moment.  When my dad's hands were completely twisted and gnarled, and looked more like claws than hands, he used cutlery with big handles too.

Here are a few examples of everyday things sent to test me:

I find it hard to grip simple pull tops such as this one on a carton of milk.  If Mike isn't around I just puncture it with a knife then peel it back a bit.

This little gadget, a Zyliss Strongboy is priceless in my world as I simply cannot open factory-sealed screw-top jars without it.  I had one my mum used in the 1980s and it only packed in about 2 years ago so I bought this as a replacement.  Annoyingly, the first one broke within 18 months but as it has a 5 year guarantee it was easy to get a replacement.

You just extend the cord to fit round the lid, hold the body of the jar in one hand (in my case I hold it and press it against my body as well because my grip is a bit weak) and twist the handle with the other.

The other main issue I have in the kitchen is lifting heavy pans as my wrists seem to give way nowadays.  We've gradually replaced the really heavy ones so that all our large pans now have 2 handles which has solved the problem.

Oh how simple this looks doesn't it........

.......but if I extend my had to reach the bits you have to squeeze then I haven't got enough strength to squeeze!  To get around this Mike undoes the top for me when I get a new pack and I just leave the top loose so I can manage it.

Here are few other things I find helpful:

These strange-looking fingerless gloves (bought from Damart years ago but they don't seem to stock them anymore) really help sooth my hands when it's really cold and I wear them when indoors.  The fabric is quite thick and very warm but I can't wear them for too long as I don't like the pressure on my fingers.

I think I've shown these wrist supports before but they are worth mentioning again as they have become invaluable for when I do Yoga:

They are styled for left and right hand with a stretchy loop fitting around your thumb and a velcro fastener on the wrist.

They are sold as weight-lifters grips but they are perfect for giving me extra stability in yoga positions such as 'downward-facing Dog' or the plank.  The only problem I have is that if I forget to take them off before we do poses lying down I sometimes get my hair caught in any exposed velcro!

The other things I find invaluable for doing anything using weights such as 10-1s - are these palm weights. People suggest you do 10-1s holding 500ml bottles of water or a can of beans if you don\t have weights but I simply cannot grip things like that for long.

These nifty little hand weights are shaped to each hand and weigh .45kg each so you get a good resistance workout without having to worry about losing your grip (no comments thank you!).

Dietary help

Now this is an area in which there are Old Wives Tales and much mis-information so I always take the supposed miracle cures with a pinch of salt.  For decades I've taken a tablespoonful of cider vinegar in a glass of water each morning.  Did it make any difference?  Nothing noticeable, it just makes me pull faces!

What I'm going to experiment with next is combining it with honey (dissolve a teaspoon of honey in boiling water, add cold water and a teaspoon of cider vinegar, mix and take before food 3 times a day). Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest this is helpful I will try anything, with an open but somewhat sceptical mind.

I always use a cider vinegar which includes a bit of the 'mother' which has strands of good bacteria so if the vinegar doesn't do much at least it will help your gut bacteria to flourish!

I'm also experimenting with making my own 'Apple Scrap vinegar' but it won't be ready for a while 

Golden Paste

I knew that turmeric is often bandied around as a 'cure' for arthritis.  I use it a lot in my cooking but apparently the benefits are lost if it's cooked for a long time so although my curries taste wonderful I'm not getting the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric.  Boo.

Then a friend sent me a recipe for making something called 'Golden Paste' which is a mixture of water, turmeric powder, coconut or extra virgin olive oil and ground black pepper.  I thought it sounded pretty disgusting and ignored it but when my pain went up a notch I thought I'd give it a go.  I made a small batch up as directed (without getting my hands stained although the kitchen looked somewhat worse for wear) and tried it.  Oh my goodness it tasted disgusting! I tried putting it into a glass of Kombucha (yuk), into my morning kefir (yuk), then into my evening meals (yep, yuk again!).  I threw it away.

Fast forward 12 months or so and my arthritis was getting even more irritating. I joined a Turmeric Users UK group on Facebook to see what people on there said about it. Apparently they give it to animals too (horses and dogs were mentioned).  They all think it has wonderful powers but there was a divide between those who love the taste and said things such as "I just eat it spread on a cracker, yum!" (do these people have taste buds?!!!!) and those who said they disguise it in their food which is OK if you add it at the end of the cooking time. I viewed comments such as "I tried this last week and it's made such a difference already" with complete scepticism but I was at the stage where I just had to try something to reduce the pain without resorting to medication.

I saw someone post about delihart catering, run by Rachel, who provides ready made sachets of turmeric, each sachet being enough for 3 weeks, or longer depending on the dosage you choose.  It costs £6 a sachet plus £3 postage but if you buy 3 sachets she offers free postage for members of the FB group.  She makes it fresh each week and you can open one sachet and freeze the rest for when needed.  So I ordered some.

It came complete with lots of information about how to use it, dosage and warnings about checking it's  OK to use with any medicines you might be taking.

I started taking it at the beginning of September and increased the amount I took each day gradually and it hasn't affected my tummy which is good.  After a week there was no change in my pain levels. After a month it was just the same.  The sceptic in me resurfaced with a smug look on her face.

Now in my 3rd month I have noticed that my fingers aren't as sore even after doing 4 hours of heavy garden work - pulling weeds out of clay usually induces chronic arthritis pain but my fingers felt OK. Plus, my tiresome left thumb is not bothering me when I knead dough. My left wrist has stopped throbbing but my right one is still sore.  Wet weather usually gives me a problem, even though those in the know reckon that it has no affect on arthritis, but this current wet spell hasn't troubled me yet.

I've also got more used to the taste and have developed my own way of taking it - in the morning I get a teaspoon of it and swallow it quickly, swiftly followed by chewing 3 prunes to take the taste away (part of my 6 prunes taken daily to help keep my bone density in good nick which all post-menopausal women should do.  I picked this up from a Scientific analysis of bone density in a programme on the BBC a few years ago). At lunchtime I do the same with the remaining prunes or perhaps add it to my soup in the colder months.  In the evening I just add it to my food at the end of the cooking time adn I don't always notice the taste quite as much now.

It's amazing what you can get used to out of necessary!

I've just received my fresh batch of Golden Paste from Rachel and I reckon that by the time I've finished the next 3 packets I'll be able to give my final verdict on it.  Keeping everything crossed that it continues to make a difference, even if it just stays the same as any reduction in pain is welcome.

Beautiful sea

We were out and about in Hastings this afternoon and I just had to share these photos of the sea I took before we headed home as it looked magical!

This one made me smile because.....

.....I was wearing my favourite kidsilk haze jumper and it matched!

Monday, November 5, 2018

More Awesomeness

Every so often someone new appears on the marathon circuit and then you see them so many times that you notice them and you wonder what motivates them.  Some people run for charity as I do, others are running away from things (eg bad relationships/divorce, alcohol/drug addiction, depression) or perhaps to lose weight and/or get fit in the process.

One of the people I noticed was Lesley Morrill who only started running in middle age and completed her first marathon when she was 62 years, 4 months and 25 days young. That's very precise isn't it; and there's a very good reason for that which will be revealed in due course.

Here's a bit of background: Lesley is a horsey person and has a gorgeous 20 year old Dutch Warmblood dressage mare named Risabella, a fellow redhead.

Gorgeous girlie!

But her passion goes much further than just owning and caring for horses, she's a Sports Coach specialising in teaching physically disabled children, from 3 yrs to young adults, to ride.  She told me she has always felt the need to challenge herself especially as she puts these children on top of half a ton of horse and expects them to get on with it!  Her challenges have included tough events such as being part of a team completing The 3 Peaks Challenge and climbing Mount Toubkal (she doesn't like heights and had just 4 weeks to prepare!) to raise money for Riding for the Disabled & Cancer Research.  So we already have a picture of a very gutsy and determined lady don't we.

Then back in 2014 she decided she needed a new challenge and mentioned this to her boss David, himself an accomplished  runner, who suggested she try the Brighton 10k which was taking place before the Brighton marathon.  So the seed was sown and has lead to some magnificent achievements.  There was a sense of inevitability about it especially with David to chivvy her along.  As he was injured at the time she kept him company walking at the back which is how she just happened to complete an accidental marathon in 2016 at the beautiful Ranscombe Nature Reserve which has featured on here so many times as I can't help stopping to take photos of the plantlife whenever I run there!

That was it, she was hooked and after she'd completed a 30 mile event a colleague at Hope in the Valley RDA Group suggested she complete a 50 mile event to raise money for their group which would be 50 years old in 2 years time.  Well Lesley is clearly a girl who cain't say "no" and so she started booking lots more marathons.  A girl after my own heart she prefers trail marathons for the stunning views, plantlife and dogs as she loves seeing different breeds.  Like so many of us she was encouraged by the wonderful Traviss who has pushed me way beyond what I thought I could achieve and she sent me some of his words of wisdom that had inspired her:

It’s not about the shoes, it’s what you do in them that counts.  
It’s about not breaking, when you’re broken. 
It’s not about glory at the finish, it’s about belief at the start.  
It’s about endless hard work, when nobody is looking.  
It’s not about entering events, it’s about committing to them. 
It’s about going as far as you can go, and then taking another step. 
 It’s not about having the courage to fail, it’s about having the patience to succeed. 
It’s taking what you have been given, and making something better. 
It’s not about the medals, it’s about the memories.  
It’s about measuring yourself in miles, then marathons and finally, in character.... 
Traviss Wilcox/RD/Marathoner.

I have seen first hand the amazing support and encouragement David Brett has given her and she has been very lucky to have such an incredible Boss and friend to help her achieve her goals.  As his injury began to heal they didn't run/walk together as much but he still gave her lots of support, pushing her that bit further than she thought she could manage.  I should mention that David has completed over 340 marathons, which include 100 or more ultra marathons and he's very modest about his amazing achievements.

Lesley realised that by pushing herself that little bit more she could achieve so much to link in with her charity (50th marathon, 50k, 52 marathons in 52 weeks, 50 miles.....) and she hasn't stopped there as she's on the cusp of completing 100 marathon in 100 weeks which is a phenomenal achievement.

Lesley is on the left sporting her 52in52 shirt with David 3rd from the right wearing a black top

Whenever Lesley is struggling during a marathon she thinks about the youngsters she coaches.  They have pain and live with great difficulties all the time and she uses their strength to motivate herself to get the job done.

A short while ago she finally got her hands on the coveted blue and yellow top and joined the 100 Marathon Club as a full member.  But that isn't all - she also set a new Club record for being the oldest woman to run her first marathon and get to 100 marathons!  She will be 65 later this week and I think she is a shining example of what we older ladies can achieve.

Lesley, you rock and I can't wait to see what your next challenge is; be it running or anything else I know it will be suitably challenging!

Bits and Bobs

Some of our Winter visitors have arrived:

This pretty Grey Wagtail was pottering about on the patio when the ducks arrived and chased him off!

They have so much yellow about them that I always find it difficult to distinguish them from the Yellow Wagtails!

The Green Woodpecker has been busy searching for grubs in the orchard.  We didn't see any babies this year.

The young Moorhens are very brave this year and are coming right up to the house.  I chuckled when I spotted this one trying to reach up to the nut/seed feeders.  Sorry it's a bit blurry - I must clean the windows!

We took a walk along one of the footpaths near Bodiam Castle the other day and I loved this view showing the turrets just peeping out of the trees.

After our circuit we ended up outside the Tea-rooms which were open so we had to have coffee and cake to sustain us for the walk back up the hill to home.

I don't think I've shared this driftwood horse before.  It's been there for several years now and still looks beautiful in all seasons.
On the knitting front, I've just started a new jumper but wanted to share this photo of me wearing the Allie shawl.  It had its first outing in Tunbridge Wells the other day and 3 people stopped me in the street and asked me where I'd bought it (haha!) and a lady in the Yarn shop took a photo of me wearing it.  I loved wearing it although I'm not very good at styling it properly and kept getting the pointy end tangled in my hair!

I treated myself to a copy of the latest Laine magazine, issue 6 as I really liked the look of several jumpers.

This is the first one I've started; Hryggir by Helene Magnusson

I have more than enough yarn in my stash and after a rummage around I found 4 balls of a laceweight yarn from Fiddlesticks knitting that I'd bought to make a Wedding shawl for my friend about 10 years ago.  Why is is still in my stash?  Because the wedding didn't happen as no sooner had they become engaged, her fiance did a runner with her best friend.  Good job I hadn't started the shawl then!

Further rummaging revealed several different balls of Kidsilk Haze as options to use in the main body.

My test swatch worked out perfectly despite Tilly's attempts at sabotage (top left!).

Not me mum!

I've just finished the neck ribbing and am about to start the lace pattern for the yoke.