Sunday, 28 August 2016

Things that irritate me...

...when I'm running. A list of things that irritate me generally would occupy far more than a single blog post. Even the patience of my devoted readers would not extend that far. No, this is very specifically the things that irritate me when I'm out running.

People.

Mostly, it's people.

There are the people who walk along, heads down, eyes on their phones, completely oblivious to everything around them. The young man on Wednesday, occupying the centre-ground on a pavement more than wide enough for two, concentration fixed on his phone. As I drew near, his aimless feet meandered him even closer to the line I was running, forcing me off the pavement and onto the road, at which point he looked up and gazed at me in slack-jawed incomprehension. If I'd been less British I'd have said something cutting. Instead I said "tsk" inside my head and kept running.

There are people who walk along in a group - sometimes a family of four, all holding hands; sometimes a group of friends chattering away; sometimes a school party heading for the bus. This section of pavement is the worst in my village:


Yes, you're right, it's a huge pavement. There is easily space to fit four people side-by-side across this pavement. And it is here that I regularly meet four people side-by-side. And none of them step aside. They can see me coming, sometimes they even make eye contact, but they resolutely march on, families holding hands, friends busy comparing notes on whatever it is teenagers care about these days. And I'm forced to run in the road. Why? Why are people so rude? How hard is it to share public space in a civilised fashion?

There are people who shout things from cars. Yes, I'm a woman. Yes, I have breasts. Yes, I'm running. This is not worthy of comment. And even if it is worthy of comment, it's only worthy of the kind of comment you are welcome to make to yourself. Quietly. And no, shouting at me to run faster is not funny, or clever. It's particularly not entertaining when a 7(ish) year old winds down the window and shouts at me to run faster.

There are people who are listening to such loud music on their headphones that they don't hear me running up behind them, even with my elephantine footsteps. Nor do they hear me call out "excuse me!". No, once again, I have to divert onto the road to bypass the noise-o-philes. It's beginning to be a good thing I live in a quiet village, with the frequency I end up in the road.

There have been a couple of notable occasions when self-absorbed, lazy arses have decided that they don't want to walk the 20 yards from the official carpark into the local shop, and instead have decided to drive their obscene four-by-fours up onto the pavement to park. The pavement that I have been running on at the time. I have literally had to leap sideways to avoid being run over.

There are the dog walkers. Not the lovely ones who see me coming and make sure that their dog isn't in a position to either be freaked out by me, or to want to chase me. Not the ones who very kindly stop and hold their dogs (and to whom I always offer a heartfelt thank you). No, it's the ones I never see. The ones who leave their dog poo all over the path. I live opposite a delightful bridlepath. One that is so well-used by dog-walkers that the council have kindly provided a poo-bin:


That little red box? That's a poo-bin. And the council send a poo-collection van every week. What a great job! Poo-collection operative! However, given this provision, why does there have to be so much poo on the path?

It's a good thing that most people are quite nice. Other runners who offer that rueful smile of mutually acknowledged exhaustion, people whose music is quiet enough that they hear my laboured tread coming behind them and discreetly move to one side of the pavement, drivers who see that I'm heading towards crossing a side-road and wave me across so I don't need to break stride, the aforementioned dog walkers who keep their dogs calm and under control. It's everyone else that pisses me off.


Photographs purloined from Google Streetview. 


Thursday, 25 August 2016

A day in the life

7am - woken by a small boy landing on my bladder for a cuddle. Oof. The cuddle's nice though.

7:15 - obligatory snuggle in bed and I read a page of a dinosaur encyclopedia. Isn't this how everyone starts the day?

7:15 - 8:15 - wrangle LittleBear into clothes, food and tooth-brushing, interspersed with lego playing

8:20 - finally insert LittleBear into the car and head to work/nursery. Spend the next 25 minutes continuing our epic tale of dinosaur adventures. This story has been running for about 2 months now. On every car journey. I'm getting better at off-the-cuff story telling. Today sees a Spinosaur, a Sauroposeidon and a Stegosaur making ice-sculptures of themselves half way up a mountain. It would take too long to explain how we got to this point in the story. About two months too long.

8:45 - deposit LittleBear at nursery. He only has 5 more days left and there are beginning to be a lot of "goodbyes" and "last evers". Despite four years at nursery, and apparently being very happy there, he still clings to me and asks me to stay. Every day. It's only got marginally easier over 4 years. At least I don't leave the carpark in tears any more.

8:55 - arrive at work to find everything is still broken. Spend the next 8 hours in a blue funk with my boss, desperately trying to find ways to make a recalcitrant heap of scrap metal behave a bit more like a precision scientific instrument. It's due to head to the customer in three days time and currently isn't good for much more than propping the door open with. And there's not many people who'd be happy to spend £150,000 on a door-stop.

5pm - collect LittleBear, who is hot, sweaty, over-excited and desperate for more dinosaur tales. My poor exhausted brain attempts to string some exciting stories together while not driving into any tractors.

5:45 - 6:45 - make dinner for LittleBear, insert dinner into LittleBear, answer intriguing questions about how many different ways 10 coloured pens can be arranged. (It's never too early to start on combinatorial mathematics is it?) Some intensive lego building.

6:45 - give up on persuading LittleBear to come to the bathroom and carry a sobbing, snotty small boy to his bath. Then attempt to bath a small boy with a minor cut on his leg who refuses to bend said leg, or allow water to touch it.

7:20 - kiss my soft, sweet-smelling boy goodnight and leave him sat on BigBear's lap for his bedtime stories.

7:30 - set out on a 5+ km run. It's still 27C outside, and the combine harvesters are spewing dust into the air.

8pm - home in a sweaty heap, to pace up and down drinking pints and pints of water, while BigBear gets ready for his run. What kind of madness is it that we're training for races on the same day?

8:30 - finally start cooking dinner for me and BigBear.

8:45 - at least it was a quick dinner to cook, and I can tuck in. BigBear sweats his way back into the house but won't be ready to eat for another half hour at least. I eat alone.

9pm - now I can settle down on the sofa... to write an instruction manual for a mass spectrometer. Because there's no longer any time in the day, whilst at work, to do anything mundane like sit at a PC and write. If I'm in the building I'm sweating blood over non-functioning instruments. This particular instruction manual is a bugger. The customer decided to buy a bag of bits from us, asserting he could "build his own" mass spectrometer. Now he's complaining that all he's got is a bag of bits and he doesn't know what to do. Sadly, one of my colleagues promised "full documentation", so muggins here is trying to fully document a bag of bits.

10:45 - I was about to go to bed, but then BigBear has received a text about suspicious activity on his debit card, so instead we spend some time checking and double-checking that actually it's all fine and no money has evaporated.

11pm - bed. Free time? Free time is for wusses.



Saturday, 20 August 2016

What I did on my summer holidays

Since I'm a bit too tired to write, I've decided instead to just hurl some photos at the screen and see what happens. Maybe this is more of a plog than a blog today?

Just look at the pretty pictures....

Give him a rock, and he'll climb it

If he's not climbing them, he's jumping off them

Or persuading Daddy to
join the jumping fun

How can I not be restored with this view?

How about when those same mountains disappear
for several days on end?

I turn my back and LittleBear gets over-ambitious
with his choice of rock for our dam-building

The hydrologist pauses to consider
his next step

Leading his mother and grandmother
up the mountain

LittleBear really does like
to be in the lead

In which I discover the stepping stones
are probably best not attempted
by 4-year olds

A rock and a river are made for each other

Thumbs up for another conquest

Being a 'jagular' in a tree

Me and my boy in the shadow of a mightier peak

Are there any bears in these woods?

We retreated shortly after this photo, when
GrannyBear was nearly blown off the mountain.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Returning to the 21st century

I seem to have been a bit quiet here lately. In large part this was because our recent holiday took us back to the 19th century. Our cottage does have electricity, and it does have a telephone. Though the quality of the line is such that I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you". In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr Watson hadn't been able to hear Mr Bell rather more clearly than I manage to hear anything on our contraption.

Among the things that our cottage doesn't have however are: television, radio and internet. The next door cottage does have an internet connection, and one of those rather friendly WiFi boxes that allows other people to tunnel through it to the outside world. In a very solidly built slate cottage however, it was occasionally necessary to actually press your device against the wall when standing on one leg and praying to the gods of electromagnetism to be able to get enough WiFi signal to download a plain text weather forecast. So blogging wasn't happening.

Then we came home.

And my cleaner has morning sickness and hasn't been for over a month, so I had to remember how to clean. I got bored after about half the house, but at least that half included the bathrooms.

And I'm addicted to watching the Olympics, so I keep staying up too late, getting too tired and then having no energy reserves for anything other than being cross with LittleBear and eating too much. *

And I'm spending my non-Olympic-destroyed patches of time writing Other Stuff. It's work-related stuff, and difficult, and I'm not enjoying it, and it's making me fraught and stressed, but I keep feeling I need to get it done before I'm "allowed" to write anything of my own instead. Tonight I've decided I'm allowed to do "me" stuff in my free-time, and that four evenings in a row of work stuff is enough for this week.

And I've re-remembered that I'm running a 10k in just under 6 weeks and I've just spent two weeks on holiday without doing any running at all, so I've had to knuckle down to actually going out running again.

All of which has meant I haven't really found the time for writing here. 

So this is me, finding a small window of time and reminding you that I'm still here, and reminding myself that I can still put fingers to keyboard and write about something other than scientific instruments.



* What's different this evening? 
My choices are:
- various forms of fighting. I don't like fighting
- women in huge quantities of make up and bling dancing with ribbons, which is skillful, but frankly a bit bloody weird. I keep trying to watch, and keep giving up at the weirdness of it.
- women's gold medal hockey match. Far, far, far too stressful.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Never as bad as I think (redux)

I'm beginning to wonder how many times I'll have to write that things haven't turned out as badly as I feared before I begin to preempt this discovery and stop fearing the worst will always transpire...

LittleBear and I drove to the Lake District last Saturday, just over 250 miles with only each other for entertainment. Which meant that I spent 210 miles telling off-the-cuff dinosaur stories involving some very intelligent dinosaurs who appeared to invent the wheel and indoor plumbing while building their jungley homes (all under instruction from LittleBear who has Very Firm Ideas about how his stories should evolve). Needless to say, I had rather a dry, sore throat after this epic undertaking. At least it took my mind off the traffic. Despite the previous day's radio being filled with tales of woe and desperation from people stuck for hour after hour in tailbacks on the motorways, we (mostly) sailed through and arrived in time for a restorative exploration of the valley. This managed to include nine games of Pooh Sticks, of which I managed to only win 2, which was more or less acceptable to my competitive bear. But only just.

And on returning to the cottage and undertaking a more thorough inspection of all the reported defects, I concluded that nothing was really that bad after all. The mould on the bedroom walls was "only" surface mildew and was successfully washed off with a fungicide wash. The wallpaper is discoloured, but not in a disastrous soggy-and-peeling-from-the-walls fashion. The curtains are an absolutely perfect length, just skimming the carpet, despite BrotherBear's assertion that they were too long. The bathroom does not seem to have any manner of severe leak - in fact it appears to perhaps be condensation dripping from the back of the cistern, since we produced a scant couple of teaspoons of water on the floor overnight. And if it's condensation then how bad the drip is will simply depend on relative temperatures and humidity, so the visit from the Bear Cousins may have just been at an unfortuitous conjunction of climatic conditions.

So, I have now concluded that the wall does not need stripping and re-papering but have instead treated the walls with fungicide, painted one section with two coats of stain-blocking undercoat, ready to repaint with the top-coat shortly. I have also been a diligent bear and weeded the front yard to allow the grocery delivery to be made without the delivery-man having to use a machete to find the front door. Welsh poppies growing out of the front door step are pretty, but impractical.

The only fly in the ointment to date really has been the fact that my poor LittleBear was rather poorly, complaining of feeling sick, refusing to eat and developing an interesting pallor. Despite this, I followed my parents' finest traditions of dragging him out for health-giving walks. During which I then reaped the rewards of this perverse insistence and had to carry his feeble self home again. That should teach me.

On Monday Tigger, MrTigger and the two little Tiggers arrived, which has meant I've barely needed to do anything to entertain LittleBear, as he's devoted to BoyTigger, and wants nothing more than to play with him. And since it's August, the rain is horizontal outside the window, but there's lego all over the floor and a heap of dinosaurs in the corner, while a Humboldt Penguin is flying up and down stairs to the accompaniment of wild screams of delight from two small boys. And we're about to venture out to the nearest cake purveying establishment. Seems like a pretty good summer holiday to me.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Tour de Histon

LittleBear has developed a new and whole-hearted obsession with the Tour de France. This may have something to do with his parents' obsession with the Tour. Somewhat surprisingly, he seems to have decided on this occasion "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", instead of insisting that dinosaurs are infinitely more interesting than whatever it is one of us wants to do. So we are making the most of this enthusiasm for cycling by actually getting to watch some of the race live.

Yesterday morning, we needed to take a quick trip to the shops, and so naturally out came the bicycles, and from then on LittleBear maintained an almost non-stop commentary...

"There's been a breakaway... Geraint Thomas is in the lead, and we're following him. We're a second breakaway, and we're on the Sky team with Geraint Thomas, and we're going to catch up with him and help him. The peloton are 4 minutes behind us at the moment... we've nearly caught Geraint Thomas now, but there's been another breakaway from the front of the peloton! <whispered aside> who rides in yellowy-green Mummy?"

"Tinkoff"

"There's a Tinkoff rider and another Sky rider in another breakaway behind us, so we'll have to go faster! Chris Froome is the middle of the peloton today, I think Geraint Thomas is going to win today."

Permutations of this were repeated throughout the ride to the Co-op, where we stopped "for a wee break, and the peloton aren't allowed to try and overtake while we're having a wee break". Actually we were stopping to acquire chocolate swiss roll and cucumber, but those aren't recognised features of a Tour de France stage, so we had to extemporise. And then we were off again...
"We're level with Geraint Thomas now, and the peloton have caught up with the Tinkoff rider, so I think we're going to win today's stage"

And so it went, all the way back home. We even climbed "an Alp" on the way. For those not familiar with the extraordinary flatness of our home village, I should point out that this "Alp" involved an ascent of approximately 4 metres. Yes, that far. But we made it home, with a final sprint for the line, apparently coming in 15 minutes ahead of the peloton.

The entire escapade was so entertaining that we had to do it all, but further, in the afternoon, with Daddy being nominated to the role of Chris Froome, and Richie Porte of BMC being the rider threatening to overtake us. LittleBear's little legs rode like fury, whizzing round to power him to front of the breakaway again. And, on what passes for downhill round these parts, he lay his torso horizontally to adopt a downhill-racer streamlined position. But he didn't stop the incessant narration. In fact, he barely paused for breath, except when we stopped to consume the contents of our musette, at which point the glugging of most of a bottle of water temporarily silenced him.

Our total for the day was 5.4 miles. And LittleBear now declares that very soon he will be able to ride 10 miles. And that when he's bigger he will ride in the real Tour de France, because he's already a better cyclist than Mummy. I don't know if it's a child-thing or a being-related-to-me-thing of just a LittleBear-thing, but I love the way he throws himself utterly and completely into each new obsession. And he absorbs all the information that passes his way, filing it all away in his head for later use. So, though it was last week sometime that we watched a ferocious descent on the Tour and explained why the riders were all leaning so far forwards, LittleBear had stored that away and made use of it, trying to go as fast as possible.

Knowing LittleBear, I suspect that the Tour de Histon is going to last considerably longer than the Tour de France. In fact, I suspect the time will come when I will deeply regret ever letting LittleBear even know of the existence of Le Tour. For now though, it's pretty adorable.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Repeating myself

Since LittleBear starts school this September <gulp> and he doesn't really know many people from his new school yet, it seemed a kind idea to try and help him get to know a few. And, handily enough, I know quite a few of the mothers of his future school mates*. So inviting a bunch of people round for a weekend lunch in the garden seemed like a good idea. I could even traumatise my poor, introverted husband and cat by inflicting social interactions with strangers upon them. In the end, only the cat left home for the day.

By my final reckoning, I think we had 9 adults and 7 children for lunch today, and despite my fears, the carpet was largely bare of lego and cat hair before they all arrived. And largely covered in lego when they left. And I was very proud of my LittleBear for allowing so many other children to play with his toys without upset. He drew the line at letting them play with his Arctic Lego.

There was only one insane water fight in the garden, no tantrums, no tears, no thrown food, no vomitting, and only one child relieved himself in the middle of the lawn (and he's 2, so entirely at liberty to do such things. Though the cat is currently regarding that particular patch of lawn with grave suspicion)

I had been going to write about the process of getting ready for a party, and being proud of myself for not turning into a total stress bunny, the way I normally would, and how I just allowed myself to wing it, and that this is major progress for me. And then I realised that this is something I've written about before.** Which rather suggests that I've already managed to chill out, notice that I've chilled out, and write about it. And yet my perception of myself doesn't seem to have caught up with reality, and I still think of myself as a stress-monster who freaks out, over-thinks everything and lies awake panicking about anything and everything. Actually, I am all of those things, but I'm also vaguely competent and seem to have mastered some aspects of life without disintegrating into a soggy puddle. I wonder whether if I practice I might become competent at some other aspects of life too? Not that being reasonably ept at having a garden party isn't a good skill to have, but using a telephone might be helpful too, or communicating with workmen, or speaking to new people, or learning that the whole world is not my fault or responsibility...



* This comes about because, back when LittleBear was too small too really make friends or actually know people, we went to a LOT of mother-and-baby and mother-and-toddler groups. So I met a lot of mothers, and in theory he met a lot of children. Since he hasn't been to most of those groups in at least two years, he can be forgiven for having forgotten most of the children. Meanwhile, thanks to Facebook and a new regime of Pub Mums I still know many of the mothers.

** One of the best parts of re-reading that particular blog entry, is that I clearly use the same technique for winning the hearts and minds of small children every year - I give them ice-cream cones. And they respond by sitting in a happy line along the edge of the summer house.