Monday, 19 October 2020

“Tiers” before bedtime...

 

River Thames from Rainham Marshes.

Approaching 7 months from the start of the National Covid-19 Lockdown, and after a few months where it began to look like the country might have things under control, it now begins to feel as though we’re heading back to the way things were back in March. Wales has today announced a 2 week total lockdown beginning on Friday, and parts of the rest of the U.K. are now under “Tier 3” Very a high risk restrictions. Here in Essex we’ve just been moved into Tier 2 (High risk) by Essex County Council - something which is mystifying the residents of this part of the county as our number of cases per 100,000 is lower than a good many other areas of the U.K. where the restrictions are still at Tier 1 - Medium risk - level. Ironically enough excluded from the Essex-wide T2 restrictions is Thurrock - as a unitary authority they were able to “opt out” in spite of the fact that they have the highest figures of anywhere in the county.  It’s no wonder people are finding things confusing! 

Other areas of the country that have moved into a tier 2 have been reassured that if their numbers drop, a return to tier 1 will follow - for us in Essex though things are not so clear-cut as our numbers are already well below the level that was originally suggested as the one likely to trigger the increased of risk designation. As things stand, we’re not allowed to visit friends or family indoors, whether in a private home or meeting up in a pub or restaurant, although the guidelines are at pains to reassure us that we CAN meet with you to 6 people from outside of our own household in a beer garden, or park - very helpful at this time of year! Essex CC have given no clue about how long they expect this state of affairs to last - meaning that we are facing the very real prospect of Christmas being effectively cancelled for the majority of people - for many the last straw after a really tough year. 

Here, things continue much as they have been. I am still furloughed, and still with little idea how things will pan out when that ends at the end of this month. MrEH continues to work from home, with occasional trips into London to his office - when he travels out of rush hour times where possible, the Underground is quiet during the day, but approaching as busy as ever in the evening rush, at least. I made a trip to Lincolnshire a couple of weeks ago to see pals and watch the Reds final couple of practises of the season - and also squeezed in two trips to the rather wonderful Dambusters Inn - goodness knows when I will next get there! I’m maintaining the routine of running three times a week plus lots of stretching, and also trying to add in some strength training also - a habit I desperately need to get back to. I managed just one airshow in the end this year - Aerolegends ran a successful a COVID-secure show at Headcorn Aerodrome at the end of September, perhaps a blueprint for how things may need to be done more generally next year, we will see... 


Robyn




Thursday, 1 October 2020

Running update

 


4 weeks of my return to running plan complete and so far, all going well. A commitment to running three times a week was the key thing, (with 2 the first week as otherwise it would have meant running three days on the trot - not a good idea!) and sure enough I hit that target. I had no real mileage plans for running this month - just consistency, aiming for at least 2 miles per run, building up the time and distance slowly.

As well as the physical side of running,  I’ve been focusing on the mental side as well - I’ve always found that reading about running makes me more enthusiastic about it too, so discovering Runners World magazine on the library website has been excellent. Also good for enthusiasm is new kit - and I’m loving my new Capri-length leggings from Lucy Locket Loves. Friends have been singing their praises for a long while, so when I saw some good deals come up I leapt at the opportunity and bought a couple of pairs, and they are indeed every bit as good as I was told, I’ll be buying more! Also finding new routes to run - like the gorgeous patch of woodland above - is always a great incentive. Views like the one in the photo just stop me in my tracks every time! 

As anyone who runs knows, one of the big temptations is to try to do too much, too soon - increasing your training load too much can easily lead to injury, but when the enthusiasm is running high it’s REALLY easy to be drawn into overdoing it! Being an impatient sort, I struggle with this as much as anyone, but have tried to rein it back as much as possible - 4.5 miles in week one, 8.6 in week two, 10 miles last week and 13 this week. It’s amazing how quickly the body remembers how the increased mileage feels too - 4.5 mile runs this week felt no harder in terms of effort than those 2 miles back in week one! 

One more thing I have done to bolster the enthusiasm is to upgrade my Strava subscription to the premium level. For the equivalent of £4 a month it gives me far more stats than the free version did - and I’m endlessly fascinated and motivated by the facts and figures around my running, so that is guaranteed to act as encouragement. My current favourite thing is that I can compare my efforts on particular stretches of runs (known as segments on Strava) to effectively compete against myself which definitely appeals! 

So - where from here? Well initially it’s just continuing with the three runs a week, and keep chipping away at my annual mileage target too - I signed up for the 500km challenge again way back in January and thanks to a fair few months during the summer with almost no running at all I entered September a fair way behind on that. Having said this, the same thing occurred last year, and I made the target with a few days to spare, so I’m confident that all being well I can do the same again. I’ve set myself a goal for 50 miles this month., as well as joining in with a few virtual challenges too. I want to try to do at least one run a week where I note my 5k time to feed through for “Notparkrun”. And finally I want to start working on increasing my distance again, so one run per week will get slightly longer, traded off against another getting slightly shorter. 

Above all - and by far the most important thing - is to keep enjoying it, that is, after all, the best incentive of all! 


Robyn

Monday, 28 September 2020

Challenge complete!


 The challenge: 80km per week averaged over 4 weeks = 320km total. This was total movement - walking, running and any swimming - everything recorded in either my FitBit or my Garmin counted. The challenge was for the anniversary of the Battle of a Britain, 80 years ago this year, hence wanting to include the 80 in there. 80 miles per week was a step too far, and 80km running over the month was dismissed as being too much to throw myself into off the back of several weeks of barely any running at all. The 80km total movement in a week though while relatively demanding (a little under 11.5km per day) was achievable even allowing that I knew I had several days in the month with guaranteed lower mileage (2 days travelling home from holiday, 2 days travelling to/from a camping trip with friends and a day at an airshow) - I could add extra distance in other days to take account of that easily enough. I also liked the idea of being able to mix up walking and running, and even possibly a swim - variation is key to keeping things interesting!

I enjoy a challenge of this sort - and particularly at a time like this when I’m both trying to keep activity levels high generally, and aiming to rekindle some consistency in running. Knowing I have a target to aim for encourages me to stay motivated when perhaps otherwise I might give in to not quite feeling like lacing up and heading out -and a monthly goal is easier to focus on than a more long term annual one. The promise of a medal to come if I achieve my target is all the more encouragement too! 

I ended the 4 weeks on 339km, so well over what I needed. More than that though I committed to - and achieved a return to regular running when we got back from the Hebrides - 2 runs that first week back, and three runs each of the next two weeks. I should end this month on 30 miles total running distance - which is my second highest monthly total this year, and a great place to build from going into the end of the year.

I’m keen to find another challenge to crack on with for October. I’m going to be using Strava for running goals - I’ve set a 12.5 mile target for this week to start with - and we will be keeping up with our regular daily walks too - on days when I am not running I’ll be looking to cover at least 4 miles on these. I’d like to swim a couple of times but this will depend on finding a local pool which is open as the open air one is now closed for the winter. I want to incorporate more strength training, and continue with plenty of stretching and mobility work too as those are all things which will help with the running too. I’m not going to set any overall distances to aim for outside of the running - October will be more about variation and consistency. Bring it on! 


Robyn

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Ticking along...




Everyday life ticks on. I'm still furloughed - trying to make the most of the additional time but getting back to a degree of normality in terms of everyday routine now feels well overdue. MrEH has been working from home and in the light of the Government's updated advice today that those who are able to should do so again, we can't see that changing any time soon, either.

 Meanwhile the attempt at some home grown produce is coming along nicely - I'm routinely picking enough tomatoes daily to eat with my lunch, and Sunday's runner beans were entirely home grown which was delicious! We also have kale which I'm picking as needed ready to steam or saute and throw into...well, pretty much whatever I cook, to be honest. That is definitely a good side effect of this year's oddness - that we have had time to grow bits and pieces like this and supplement the food that we buy. 

We have done a spot of foraging too - the Giant Puffball from last week, of course, but also sloes ready for Vodka (MrEH is not a gin fan, hence we tend to do flavoured vodka instead) and also some Rowanberries to try infusing into vodka as well - I'll try to remember to report back on that one - and some rosehips for syrup. We may yet go out after crab apples and to see what else is out there too, but either way we will have done quite well out of free food this year, the plum jam we made a few months ago is entirely gorgeous and I may struggle to stop himself eating ALL of it before I get a look-in! 

My September mileage challenge for the Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary is coming along nicely too and providing a good incentive to run more regularly, although possibly the bigger incentive there is realising that yet again I have let my mileage drop off through the summer to the extent that my annual distance challenge is looking doubtful. Will I ever learn? I think I have made the connection a little earlier this year than last though, so hopefully as long as I can maintain the current routine of three runs per week, and start to build the distance a little too, I *should* be ok for it - we'll see. It feels good to be running regularly again and using our morning walk as a "springboard" to run from is working well. 

I've also had three great examples of customer service lately which deserve shouting about. First up was an issue with a piece of cheese which Highland Fine Cheeses sorted out very swiftly indeed (cheese - Mmmm!). Then an order for one pair of full length and one pair of capri length running leggings from Lucy Locket Loves sale stock arrived as both pairs being capri length - again resolved promptly and efficiently. Finally today I got around to reporting the step-counting discrepancy on my Fitbit Charge 3 - a 15 minute phone call saw them run through all the issues and arrange for a replacement to be sent to me so hurrah for that, too. We're all quick enough to complain when things go wrong, so it's only right that when companies demonstrate this level of really excellent customer service we shout about that, as well. 

Other than that, I am crossing my fingers that the weekend's planned Headcorn Air show does actually go ahead - I'm really looking forward to seeing some aviation in an airshow setting after all this time, it's been a very strange year without it! At the moment the weather forecast is looking reasonable, although not exceptional - it would be irony itself if the show goes ahead in spite of Covid, but the weather then steps in to cause cancellation of the flying! 

Robyn

Friday, 18 September 2020

A new happy place...

 



I’ve mentioned before here how much I love swimming - it’s very much like running in that I procrastinate like crazy about doing it, don’t always enjoy it *that* much while I’m doing it, but pretty much always feel AMAZING afterwards. And on a good day that feeling of gliding through the water, self-propelled and weightless, is just world-beating. In the current COVID-19 climate though, I can’t say that the thought of visiting a swimming pool has appealed to me much. It’s not the pool itself - it’s the changing rooms, always with a tendency to be hot and humid, it just feels like the sort of place that a virus would be right at home, and so I’ve decided against going, but as a result I have really missed swimming. 

I mentioned that we swam on holiday - that sea swim was utterly blissful in spite of the cold and the jellyfish (bastard jellyfish) and it made me realise fully how much I had missed it...so I had a thought, and googled “outdoor swimming pools near...” to see if anything at all came up. And there it was - top of the list - Ware Priory Lido, just SEVEN DAMNED MILES from home. How did I never know about this before? Had I known about it but forgotten? Who knows, but having found out, it seemed rude not to do something with the information. Obviously I procrastinated for a week first, but this morning it suddenly occurred to me that the website had said it would be closing for the season at the end of next week, and so if I wanted to go, it would be sensible to do it soon. So I jumped online and booked - for this afternoon. (Yes, swinging from procrastination to impulsiveness is one of my defining characteristics!)

Well what a glorious place! For a start, they’re managing things beautifully in respect of COVID. Alternating the changing rooms in use to allow for extra cleaning, insisting that you arrive ready to swim and simply strip down to costume or trunks on the grassy poolside, and taking temperatures on the way in just to be certain. You have to book too, and they are only selling a limited number of tickets. Apparently the 10-12 people who were in there when I was is about standard numbers at the moment. The ticket gives you an hour and a half time slot - a hour for swimming and half an hour for showering, which works well. 

 In common with swimming pools generally, everyone was incredibly friendly too - I got chatting with a number of people including one lady who was very, VERY pregnant. Already overdue, she was apparently delighted when told that if the baby hadn’t arrived by the 28th they would induce her, as the 28th is the day AFTER the pool closes for the season, meaning she won’t have to miss any swims! Most of those I spoke to were committed outdoor swimmers - some would usually use pools at Stevenage or Letchworth I gather but those haven’t opened this year. 

Having been once I’ll definitely go back - I just wish I had known about it sooner! It took me no longer to get there than my usual pool, and although it is a little more expensive it’s not enough of a difference to feel significant, and it’s so much nicer - in warm weather, at least! Having grown up visiting an outdoor pool very regularly in the summer holidays (Larkswood in Chingford for any fellow East Londoners reading) it just felt so familiar to me - and without the limited time slot it would be an amazing place to go on a hot day and alternate swimming with sitting on a towel reading...maybe next year! 

Robyn 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

An unexpected find...


I'm working on distance for my September challenge at the moment. It's commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, so I wanted to centre it around the number 80, but having been running relatively little recently 80km running in the month was going to be too much to set my sights on, so instead I have looked to combine walking/running distance. I'm aiming to do an average of 80km per week across the 4 full weeks of the month - 320km total across the month. A week and a half in I'm doing OK - being in the Hebrides for the first week should have been an absolute gift, but in the event we had two days of appalling weather that week which combined with the first day of our journey home reduced our walking distance rather. Still ended up on 55 miles though. Week 2 also saw a couple of low mileage days, and I came in just below my target mileage, meaning that I "used up" the extra miles banked in week one. Week three is so far looking rather good - with 4 days of the week done I'm currently on 36 miles, or 58km, giving me a decent chance to bank some more additional distance against the risk of poor weather next week. 

 To build my mileage I've been looking for any excuse to get out and walk - so yesterday afternoon I grabbed my litter picking stick and a black sack and headed to the woods for another rubbish clearing wander - first a circuit picking straight rubbish, then a second for recycling. It's getting better with just a half bag of each this time - hard to say whether that is because people are dropping less, or just that someone else has also been litter picking, though. While scanning about for rubbish though, my eyes lit on the item at the top of the post - no less than a giant puffball mushroom! This particular one was around 8" across - plenty big enough for 2! Yes, of course we ate it! There was a second one too, but that has been left in place in the hope that it will spore, creating more of them for the future. This is the first time we've seen these so close to home so it would be nice to hope that some more appear - I think that particular area will be a feature of our walking for the next few weeks anyway! 

 Beyond mushroom hunting, I'll just continue clocking up the distance, three runs per week of 2 - 3 miles each, just to rebuild the consistency. My daily morning walks are routinely 4 - 5 miles now, I leave MrEH to head home when he needs to start work and round up the distance on my own. I'm also still doing most of our shopping on foot - double value there as it builds mileage for me, while also reducing mileage and fuel use for the car so win/win. Might have to find myself a challenge for October as well, to keep the momentum going! 

 Robyn

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Another one bites the dust...

 

BBMF Fighters

This year just keeps on kicking us in the teeth - the latest disappointment being the cancellation of Duxford’s Battle Of Britain airshow which was due to be happening this weekend. Following the introduction of the Government’s new “Rule Of Six” the organising team decided it was no longer logistically possible, and it was cancelled last Friday. The cancellation was made even more poignant as this week saw Battle Of Britain day - all the more meaningful with this year being the 80th anniversary of the Battle. There were so many grand plans for the anniversary most of which have, by necessity, been scrapped. On VE Day alone the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight had over 100 flypasts planned - it would have been the busiest day ever for the flight until Covid came along and rendered all the carefully crafted plans redundant.

Sad as the Duxford cancellation is, there IS no choice. I for one was beginning to get a bit twitchy about how they planned to make it possible, and whether the majority really would take any notice of requests to social distance. No clear information had been provided giving reassurance on this, which didn’t help. Rumour was that people were going to be corralled into number-limited compounds, meaning that those who had bought tickets individually intending to meet up with friends on the day would end up standing alone - not really the way most of us plan to visit an airshow the size of Duxford. That IS just rumour though, we may never know what actually was planned. It is fair to say though that to have gone ahead with the show and been responsible for a Coronavirus outbreak which could have lead to deaths both among those attending and in the local area would have been grossly irresponsible, and as the organisers have to be applauded for taking the decision that they did. The majority are accepting of this if social media is anything to go on, with only a tiny handful of negative reactions, and those mostly from those who are blatant Covid-deniers (and probably flat-earthers, as well!) and so can be safely ignored as having nothing worthwhile to say. Most agree that it’s better to be safe. 

I now have one final shot at actually seeing an airshow this year with the planned show at Headcorn in a couple of weeks time. Smaller than most shows, they have also limited numbers, and I understand have plans in place that will hopefully enable it to go ahead although I won’t be too hopeful until I’m actually on the airfield! My fingers are crossed though - it would be great to see some more warbirds flying this year! 


Robyn 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Home...and now to plan the next one!


We arrived home in the middle of Monday afternoon having left Uist just before midday on Sunday - all in all the trip back went well. The ferry crossing was stunning - the photo above is arriving back at Uig under the most beautiful skies. With barely a breath of wind the water has this glass-like surface most of the way across, and we saw dolphins and porpoises on the way too. 

This years trip was all in all a really good one. The weather wasn’t the greatest, but there was only two really grim days, and those allowed a slower pace for a while plus time to visit people - great to meet birders Yvonne & Ian properly for the first time  - Yvonne and I have been exchanging comments on social media for years, we finally met when MrEH and I did our autumn visit in 2018 But only briefly, and since then the instruction to pop in for a cuppa when we are in the area has been oft repeated. Me being me, I’m never entirely confident that people mean this, that it’s not just politeness, but when it’s said often enough it helps to convince even me that it’s OK to act on! Then it was on to a Lochboisdale where the ferry was laid up for the day because of the wind levels, and Byron is also generous with his offers of a brew and a natter! On the flip side of the weather we had several days with little wind and in the sun the temperatures were lovely - the fact that one of those days also allowed our first ever Hebrides swim was an absolute bonus! 

We didn’t climb any new hills this time round, although old favourite Rueval got another visit, and we walked from the cottage up Cleattraval too. The walking highlight was finally getting out to Rossinish on Benbecula - far out on the eastern side, this was the location where Bonnie Prince Charlie was reputed to have escaped “over the sea to Skye” in 1746. We’ve been trying to get that walk done for about 15 years I think - first time we tried it was far too wet underfoot, several attempts since have gone the same way, then last year when it would have been dry enough, we got sidetracked by a slightly different path to another lovely spot... It was a tough walk - a fair bit of elevation, only a faintly marked path to follow for quite a bit of it, and some boggy areas, but well worth the effort! 

And now in spite of hardly being back any time, the winter ferry timetables are about to be released and we are able to book our next trip. This will be our first winter visit taking the car across, and will also be the first time that we’ve been across for more than a week in the winter months. Having done so little mileage in my car this year though, plus the issues with flying or using the train in this age of COVID-19  it seems sensible to utilise the car/ferry option. Cheaper too - saving the cost of a hire car and reducing the journey cost to diesel/ferry only. 

So, let the planning commence! 


Robyn

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Found it! And a bucket thing...

 


Some background - Kettle Cottage, where we are staying, is named for  nearby natural rock arch and cave which forms a “blow hole” in the cliff - called Slochd a’Choire or “the spouting kettle” as with the right weather conditions and high seas it shoots water high into the air! Last year we looked repeatedly for this feature but were entirely unable to track it down. We consulted maps, guides and even the Scottish registry of caves and mines which provided a grid reference - all to no avail and we had to leave, defeated. 

This year we’re back and, undaunted, decided to have another go. We’ve already been out on the headland several times and must have scoured every inch of the coastline in the area of the grid reference numerous times now - but this morning headed back at low tide for another go - with the lower water levels meaning we could examine more of the rocky areas and hopefully see it from a new angle. In spite of this, still nothing. We began wondering whether maybe the maps and grid references we’d seen were wrong - whether perhaps because of the “official” nature of the site providing the reference, others have just copied it without checking, thus underlining the incorrect information simply by further repeating it. So we looked for something different - and sure enough found a reference in a book to a different way of approaching it....and FINALLY, we found it! It turned out to be on an altogether different part of the headland - no wonder we couldn’t track it down before! Once we had found the new information it proved surprisingly easy!

So that was the first thing ticked off the wish-list for the day. The second came this afternoon when the wind dropped and as a result the temperature increased a bit...and we decided that it was time to don swimming gear and have our first ever Hebridean sea-swim! We were undecided as to where until we began to walk towards the beach we thought might work...then looked down into BĂ gh Hogha Glan (Hoglan Bay) just below the cottage, and it looked SO enticing...! The water definitely felt cold when we first waded in, and it took me a good 10 minutes of edging a little further...and a little further...and shrieking when waves splashed me much to MrEH’s amusement, but once actually fully submerged it wasn’t too bad at all and I had the most GLORIOUS half an hour swimming up and down and bobbing gently in the waves. It’s SO long since I’ve swum at all thanks to this wretched virus, which made it even better. Swimming with a view of St Kilda way off the the horizon, being able to see straight through the water to the white sand below me, with birds flying overhead and at one stage being mildly startled by a large leaping fish just a few metres away (a salmon, probably?) really was very special. I did manage to get stung by a jellyfish, annoyingly, in spite of keeping a sharp eye out for them - not badly, but it still feels rather stingy and prickly several hours later! In spite of that though undoubtedly one of the very best things I have ever done on trips over here - jellyfish notwithstanding I’ll be hoping to repeat that at some stage! 


Robyn 

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Neglected...






 

Oops - sorry! Those of you who follow me on Instagram as well will be aware that we are now, FINALLY in the Hebrides for the first time since Christmas. It’s truly about time, and even at the last minute fate had one last go at “making life difficult” with the cancellation of our planned ferry (high winds) and the need to change to a different route involving a hundred or so miles more driving AND a 2 hour earlier departure time. This is turn also meant an even longer journey as a diversion was needed to avoid a road closure on the A82 in the Highlands - up there diversions tend to be a lot of additional miles. Sigh. In the event the weather stepped in again delaying our sailing from 0940 to 1300 - one of the few times we are grateful for a delayed ferry! We came across just over a week ago, spent 2 nights in a “glamping pod” at the campsite we usually use the bunkhouse at (closed this year due to Covid restrictions)  then moved in to our usual cosy cottage on a wind-blown headland last Saturday. Since then we have walked, eaten, drunk lots of beer and wine, and enjoyed fabulous views like the eagle above. 

Life here is none too different in spite of C-19 - small differences, the face coverings obviously, and social distancing. Greeting good friends earlier today with no hug was strange. Hopefully by the time we are next here that one may have been relaxed a little! Winston the dog had no truck with social distancing though and greeted us as usual including an exploratory jump onto laps - no pesky virus getting in the way of THAT tough terrier! Places we usually find second hand books for sale are bare of them - thankfully I  brought a good supply so we will probably manage without running out of reading material - phew! The jigsaws that we had planned to leave here after doing will find their way to a second hand shop though as currently the cottage is bare of any books and similar. 

Other than that life is much as normal. Seasonally we have noticed differences though - this is our first summer visit and birds that we usually take for granted are nowhere to be seen, and the flowers on the machair are beautiful but quite different to those we see in the Spring. This year harebells, ragged robin and the purple of heather abound, plus blue scabious and the vibrant yellow of ragwort and hawkweed. Generally speaking everywhere is far greener than we are used to, but bizarrely temperatures have been lower - with a chilly wind blowing these last few days. When the wind drops, the midgies appear of course! Conditions underfoot are far drier than we are used to though, meaning that already one walk we have been putting off from necessity for many years has been ticked off the list!

So yes - it’s great to be back. It already feels like we’ve been here forever yet we have another week to go yet - bliss! Will it warm up enough for me to swim, is my current big question. This is probably my best opportunity- it’s unlikely we will get another summer visit very soon, so I’m keen to get in the water if possible! 


Robyn 




Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Updating...


Apologies - I’ve completely overlooked the blog for the past few days. Little excuse really except every time I have thought about writing something else has come along and distracted me almost immediately...not an unusual state of affairs as those who know me will confirm! 

I was intending to travel into London again on Saturday for another flypast - the Reds were doing a U.K. tour - flying over all 4 nations capital cities to mark the anniversary of VJ Day. Sadly the weather intervened and only Belfast got their flypast as planned. I looked at the forecast first thing and pretty much decided immediately to give it a miss - the route was a little unpredictable, low cloud was forecast all day, and I felt from the start that even if London got the jets, it wasn’t going to make for good photos. In fact the decision was made a couple of hours ahead of time that it was to be cancelled - a crying shame for the team with all the work that had gone into the planning.

Since then the weather has mostly been “more of the same” - from last week’s blistering temperatures and scorching sunshine we’ve gone to repeated torrential rain showers causing flooding in places around the country. Still fairly warm, but with very high humidity at times as well making it very sticky and uncomfortable.We’ve also had several days of thunderstorms rumbling around for hours at a time, yet here at least we have never really had the big storm that it felt as though it was building up to. The photo at the top was taken just 45 minutes of so after I had to dash for shelter from what felt like a monsoon - anything BUT summer-like conditions! 

Now our attention turns to the Hebrides and our long planned and much looked forward to trip. Things are taking a rather different shape this year unsurprisingly- but the islands will be as beautiful as ever, the people as lovely, and we’re very much anticipating a couple of weeks of relaxation and switching off from what has been a stressful last few months. 

Robyn
 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Has the U.K. Weather got Coronavirus?

 

Well, it seems to be running a temperature, and also appears to have developed a persistent cough across most of the country over the last few days! Seriously though, there has been some awful weather in many places over the past 24 hours - with the worst effect being the train derailment up in Aberdeenshire of course in which 3 people have sadly lost their lives. We’re so accustomed to thinking of our weather as being fairly uneventful - much as we like making a fuss about anything  bit extreme for us - that it comes as a bit of a shock to be reminded so brutally that actually it does still come with it’s risks from time to time. 

Here the worst we’ve had so far is roasting hot temperatures, a brief shower of incredibly large raindrops this afternoon and a few rumbles of thunder, although even that has been enough to make this evening feel distinctly cooler. Sleeping has been a challenge these last few days so hopefully it might feel a bit better tonight. 

I did another short run this morning - the photo above may have already given the game away on this one! Slightly further, and a higher running:walking ratio than Monday - hence the slightly faster pace too (Monday was a stately 11.54 min/mile pace) and again, everything felt fine I’m pleased to say. The next one will be Friday and slightly further again - I’m determined to build this back up again slowly and steadily though. I’ll probably do some longer ones in the Hebrides but there will be a lot of walking involved too - there always is up there as a rule - even the 10k race I did there last year saw lots of breaks to take photos etc and I still managed to finish inside my target 60 minutes which I was thrilled with! I’m a long way off being able to achieve that at the moment! I’m starting to feel enthusiasm for running again which is great though! Hopefully the weather will have cooled off a bit by the time Friday comes around too and running might feel rather more pleasant and less sweaty! 

Robyn

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Opportunities missed?


Readers in the UK will be aware that our government has recently- with great fanfares, bells and whistles - announced a "fight against obesity" - and yes - it was inevitable that I was going to talk about it on here at some stage wasn't it! We're told this has been prompted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson becoming convinced that his weight was a factor in him ending up hospitalised when he contracted Covid-19 a few months ago. Plenty of others have already covered the fact that there is NO reason for him to think that - so I'm not going to go into that too much aside to say that the stats do NOT back up his thinking there. 

I'm going to stick a hand up and suggest another possible reason for Boris being so badly affected though - stress. He contracted the virus but continued to work. Even when clearly pretty unwell, he was still  working including appearing on TV briefings etc. One thing we know for certain is that one of the major factors in giving people the best chance of successfully fighting off viruses is rest - stepping off the hamster-wheel of work and indeed just everyday life if they possibly can. Stress impacts on the immune system - and if we contract something like Covid-19, or even standard flu, we need our immune system to be firing as strongly as possible. This would have been a wonderful opportunity for the government to normalise people taking time off work when unwell - which surely should be a given, but let's face it, clearly isn't, in the UK at least. Ask the majority of people how having to call in sick to work makes them feel and the answer will be guilty, awkward, and in some cases downright scared. Of course most people don't want to let their colleagues and employers down, but equally we're not giving ourselves the best chance of a swift recovery if we're spending time stressing, feeling guilty and worrying whether there will be implications to being off, generally followed by feeling pressured to return to our desk before we probably should.  One thing that is going to have to change now is the reaction that some employers give to someone with a heavy cold for example - that high temperature and cough that most people would simply have worked through now is going to be something that employers should be actively insisting that people stay at home with!

Having roundly missed the chance to do something to tackle the huge amounts of stress that so many people in the UK are under a lot of the time, even when ill, instead the government has decided to play the full guilt card on those in bigger bodies.As usual it takes a broad-brush approach - referring to "people who are overweight or obese" based on BMI, rather than instead focusing on health. And using the emotive "protect the NHS" tagline - suggesting that those in bigger bodies are single handedly responsible for threatening it. (This may be a good time to mention that malnutrition costs the NHS more each year in the UK than obesity does). On a personal note the BMI approach means I am classified as overweight - in spite of the fact that I'm fit, healthy, and pretty much nobody looking at me would suggest that I need to lose weight. I'm not going into numbers here because that can be incredibly triggering for those struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating - and goodness knows there is enough in this whole campaign already that seems designed to adversely affect those people! 

Anyone who has done ANY research into diet culture should be aware by now that it is incredibly harmful - the tendency for people to "go on a diet" and lose weight rapidly (something that the Government has gone on record as saying they are looking for) only to then "come off the diet" and put that weight back on again - plus more on top quite often. That yo-yo effect has been shown to be harmful, yet currently we don't seem to be seeing anything to explain how that will be combated. It also totally ignores the other factors involved with why people may put on weight, and why they may struggle to lose weight, too. Poverty is a prime driver that may see someone eat a less nutritionally dense diet - the oft repeated fallacy that it's cheaper to eat heathily is, for many, just that - false. A single example - I buy a couple of packs of apples per week - costing me usually around £3 and providing 12 apples. Those last us - a household of 2 - a little over a week, however if we added even a couple of children into the mix, that spend might only last a few days. In comparison, a bag of 30 packets of crisps costs that same £3 and yet might see that family of four covered for snacks for a full week. Clearly in an ideal world most people consider it better to eat an apple than a bag of crisps, but not everyone has the financial privilege to enable fruit being constantly available. A bag of 5 donuts comes in cheaper than a bag of 5 oranges. A meal of salad with some protein and carbs added is going to prove far more expensive for that family of 4 than fish fingers, chips and beans, and will probably not fill everyone up as much either. It's important to acknowledge that there is absolutely nothing wrong with ANY of the foods I've mentioned here - fish fingers, chips and beans is a firm favourite tea in this house for sure - but we tend to eat that once a month as a treat, not weekly as a staple because it fits in a tight budget.We buy the crisps as well as the apples, and yep, LOVE a donut from time to time as well! All that stuff can fit perfectly well into a balanced diet - but shouldn't in an ideal world be the main components of someone's weekly diet. 

It's all well and good to ban supermarkets from doing "buy one get one free" offers on high fat, sugar or salt foods, but you also need to provide them with an incentive to instead do those offers on more nutritionally dense foods. Otherwise all you are doing is increasing the profits of the supermarkets from the shoppers who can afford to buy those "healthy" foods while isolating those whose budgets simply will not stretch. The irony here is that the government's own policy document acknowledges that those children growing up in deprived areas are twice as likely to be "overweight" as those living in the richest areas - yet they do nothing to explain how their new policies will tackle this disparity. 

You don't have to get very far through the policy document before the good old "eat less, move more" rhetoric raises it's head - again something which anyone who has done that research into diet culture knows is an over simplification. For full disclosure - on a very simple level, yes, if you take in less calories than you use in a day, then yes you will lose weight. It's the method I used when I decided to get healthier a few years ago - note "get healthier" NOT "lose weight" - and yes, it worked for me, BUT I have the privilege to be able to afford to buy nutritionally dense foodstuffs, to be able to cook my meals from scratch, possibly most of all for me to be able to educate myself about portion sizes and for some foods even use scales to educate myself what those portion sizes look like, and to be able to spare the time and afford the kit to get more active. I could chuck on running kit and go for a run after work - because when I finish my working day my time is my own, this is not true for everyone. I have cooking facilities at home - not true for everyone. I live in an area where there is a good choice of supermarkets from the mid range to the budget, and I have a car, meaning I can buy in bulk and prices tend to be fairly low. And this brings us onto food deserts - and yes, even in 2020, these DO exist! Those deprived areas we were talking about earlier tend not to be the sorts of places where too many supermarkets feel a huge urge to put their stores - and many of those living in those areas do not have their own transport to get to the larger stores further afield, so can be reliant on little local convenience stores. In turn, those stores don't have the competition that they would if they were in the town I live in for example (5 branches of major supermarkets plus 2 budget stores all within a 3 mile radius) and so there is no incentive for them to keep prices low. There is also a tendency for those sorts of stores not to stock a great range of fresh fruit and vegetables,what they do stock may not be good quality or at its best due to slow turnover, and that lack of transport may well mean that frozen is not an option either. 

There is a lot to be said on this subject - but for me it just feels incredibly sad that the focus here is all about appearance, and numbers on a scale, and that there is no acknowledgement that you can be fit and healthy while still having a number on the BMI chart that doesn't sit neatly between 18 - 25. I dislike the disingenuous references to excess weight making someone more likely to be more severely affected by Covid-19 - in a healthy individual this is simply not true. "Unhealthy" is about so much more than what someone weighs or what they look like - and this is a point that seems to be roundly missed here. So many opportunities to educate people on what healthy really means, the benefit of movement, making better choices where that is possible and also to reduce weight stigma (which in turn may well mean that moire people actually DO lose weight!) but all of them missed. 

Robyn


Monday, 10 August 2020

A trial run...

 


(Yes - this is a completely unrelated photo - I posted it on Instagram last night though, and it brought back such brilliant memories I decided it could feature on here, too! It is of course our arrival on Lundy by helicopter a couple of years ago - a fantastic experience!)

It’s been quite an active sort of day here today, in spite of the fact that I have only *just* managed to reach my 10,000 daily step target. We went for our usual walk first thing - a habit that we started at the beginning of lockdown when we were first both at home all week, and have carried on with since - it’s not something we even think twice about now - the standard routine on weekdays is up, wash, dress, walk, and it’s definitely something I’ll really miss when things change again. Once we hit the 3 mile point this morning we were nearly back to home so I left MrEH to carry on back to start work and I picked up the pace to add a final mile of gentle run/walking to see how my sore hip and back would hold up. I settled on short bursts of running with similar length or slightly shorter bursts of walking in between - roughly a 55/45 split I reckon. Just that mile was plenty for this morning allowing for how hot it was too - I was positively dripping by the time I finished! So far, so good though, everything feels OK and I’ll be running again on Wednesday morning if that remains the case - slightly further this time. 

I’d originally been planning to come straight home and launch into today’s workout for the 21 day strength challenge I’m doing, but in fact I was SO hot all I wanted to do then was just have a sit, some breakfast, and cool off a bit!  The downside of this was that I had to knuckle down and do the workout in the mid afternoon heat instead - ugh! It got done though - and I followed it up with a lovely long stretching session in the hope that my legs might ache less this week than they did after the same workout last week! I could barely move by the end of last week so anything that might help will be welcome! 40 minutes of stretching and breathing and discovering that my body is FAR more flexible than I expected it to be really hit the spot!

Robyn

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Not Long Walk Sunday!

 It’s been ludicrously hot down here over the weekend - we’ve been over 30°C both days and it’s felt hotter than that when walking on tarmac or concrete so we decided a long walk today was a bad idea and instead chose to have a wander into town to get some odds and ends we needed - still a little over 5.5 miles but not the sort of distances we’ve been doing on Sundays of late. 

I’ve been playing with black & white photos on Instagram for a couple of days - I like messing about converting stuff to monochrome from time to time - the shot above is a good example, an iPhone picture from winter 2016 which I’ve always loved in colour, but wasn’t sure would work in B&W - but with a good boost to the contrast, to my mind at least, it really does. Aviation photos can be a funny one with monochrome - the old warbirds usually work well, as you’d expect, but sometimes even a modern fast jet with a strong colour scheme can convert nicely - I’ll offer this Sukhoi SU-27 as an example:

Aviation fans will be familiar with the bright blue “pixel camo” scheme of that one - it wasn’t until I was looking for shots with the specific idea of mono conversions that the idea of that one jumped out at me but I really like it! 

Time then to start looking at another week - and yes, I’m still furloughed. It’s a tough one - if I relied on public transport to get to my office I would probably be quite glad of still being off - the thought of using the tube in London at the moment REALLY doesn’t appeal. As it is though, I’d love to be back in my routine - albeit London would be even hotter than it is here at the moment I guess! Instead though it will be another week of finding things to fill my time. I’ll be aiming to max out the activity this week I think - Alice Liveing’s 21 Day Challenge continues, we’ll be walking each morning, and I want to start slotting a bit of running back in again as well now I think. I tried some short bursts of running on Friday morning at the end of a walk and that felt good, so time to increase that a bit now I think and see how that feels. There is also preparation to be done for our upcoming Hebrides trip - so that will help to keep me busy. 

Right now though, there is a beer to be drunk, and a jigsaw to be finished - both hinged that have become part of the routine in this odd “new normal” we’re living with! 


Robyn

Friday, 7 August 2020

Missing the “usual”...




A few of you will probably know that in normal circumstances I would have been spending this week of the year working my arse off for no pay in a gigantic greenhouse in West London - otherwise known as volunteering at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia. It’s something I’ve done annually since 1998 - so this would have been my 23rd year. Last year we added the duties of looking after the British beer order to our previous roles too - MrEH is a Manager of one of the bars and I am a Deputy Manager. It’s a hot, exhausting, sweaty, physically demanding and above all pretty stressful week, but it’s spent with some of my best friends in the world and as a result, yes, I love it! 

The festival was one of the earliest victims of the pandemic - we reach the stage of increasing commitments both in terms of workload and financial outlay from March onwards - and so as soon as it became apparent that the Covid-19 crisis was going to have a huge impact not just on the U.K. but all over the world, decisions had to be made. At the stage we first talked about it it was becoming very obvious that large gatherings - particularly indoor ones - were going to be banned for a significant period of time, potentially with no end date. With so many “unknown factors” the decision was reluctantly taken by our Festival Organiser Catherine to cancel this year’s event - a hugely brave and tough decision so far in advance, but one which was backed unanimously by the entire working party. A fair few folk on the outside said we’d jumped too soon - that it would “all be over by August” - but as we now know this is far from the case and had we tried to press ahead it would have proved a very costly mistake. 

There’s much joking on social media this week amongst the volunteer staff about all the things we are “virtually doing” - imagining that in fact we were at Olympia as normal. Right now for example, at the time I am writing I would be making final checks on any beers we were expecting to need to put on sale later tonight - Friday evening  is one of our business sessions on the bar - so tasking the cellar team with making sure that anything we would be needing shortly had a tap in it, as well as making decisions about anything that would not be ready to sell this evening, but would instead be tapped last thing tonight or first thing tomorrow ready to see out our final day open to the public. With my other pair of hands (!) I’d also be checking that the two teams under our “control” for want of a better word (actually they are staffed by exceptionally competent and experienced individuals) on the beer order side; Wet stock control and wet stock logistics were happy with their tasks and workloads and also dealing with any problems that needed our attention. 

It feels very strange to be sitting here quietly on the balcony, writing this at a time when usually I’d be incredibly busy - and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t to a degree missing the bustle and fun that comes along with it. I’m not missing the sore feet - by this stage of the week no matter how much you obey the first rule of GBBF (never stand when you can sit) the heels are always letting out a low yet relentless throb - although this is much improved from the days at Earls Court with it’s unforgiving concrete floor. I confess I am also not missing the stress - today’s 54BPM is the lowest my resting heart rate has been during August since I got my FitBit in 2017! 

There will be a real “Virtual GBBF” happening next month - although aside from putting together some lists of beers which will be featuring in that we have little to do with that as we’re unavailable during the time it’s happening - and we have a plan to get our bar team together for a meet-up at some stage before the end of the year too. For now though, there will be a glass or two raised this evening to “what might have been” and also to all those pals we are missing this week. For now, that’s the best we can do.

Robyn 

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Progress...

Another few days of sunshine and we just might have our first tomato ready to eat! Tradition of course states that if there is only one ready then it will be cut in half and shared - MrEH would be most upset if I snaffled it for myself! We harvested some of our kale this evening too to have as part of dinner - thankfully the cabbage white caterpillars which had made it home have now moved on without decimating the entire crop! Currently we seem to have just a single runner bean setting - hopefully a few more will appear before too long. 

Progress too on my injury - or rather some diversions from it! I decided that not being able to run at the moment meant a good incentive to focus on strength training instead - and handily one of my favourite instagram influencers, Alice Liveing, has just begun a 21 day challenge focusing on strengthening which I have decided to start working through. I did day 1 yesterday - legs - and it was certainly effective - my lower body is roundly berating me today and I suspect may have entirely gone on strike by tomorrow! Day 2 which I did today was arms and core so I’m expecting similar levels of rebellion from those in the morning! I’m also continuing with daily stretching and plenty of walking - and hoping that the combination of different activities gives me the best chance of being able to get back to running sooner rather than later. Once we’re back from the Hebrides regardless of whether I am back at work or not I may try to find a local gym I can get back to using too - I’ve really been missing my resistance work since lockdown began, and with my usual gym being close to the office even though it is almost certainly open again now it’s been impractical to drive all the way into London just to go and it’s not worth starting up my gym pass again just for a single visit a week. 

Right - time for some stretching! 

Robyn



Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Not running...




It would appear we have an injury. Only myself to blame too - I did a strength workout with weights on Friday, and threw in a new exercise for the first time - which is fine, except I should have done it either unweighted or with very light weights for the first time, not the heavy dumbbell that I was using for other, more familiar, lifts. It wasn’t even a conscious decision - I simply didn’t think. Now the positive from this is clearly that I was able to do the movement with a significant load straight off - the negative however is that a I have pulled either something in my back, or my piriformis muscle again. Cue lots of hip pain and a very sore lumbar region, and, realistically, no running for a few days at least.

It does feel rather as though each time I commit to getting back to regular running something comes along to get in the way again, and it’s really frustrating. I’ve also currently got in mind that our Hebrides trip is not far away so I want to be extra cautious as the last thing I want is to risk making things worse and so get in the way of the walks we have planned. Thankfully at the moment walking seems fine - so for the time being it’s plenty of that, plus lots of stretching, plentiful foam rolling, and a few doses of ibuprofen until I see how things settle down. It’s already feeling a lot better today than yesterday - but I know from experience that patience is going to be key - and that’s something I struggle with! 

Robyn


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Long Walk Sunday

Another Sunday, so another long walk was on the cards. We’d not planned anything in advance for today but the forecast was good so a brief discussion this morning and we decided to take the car to the little town just north of us - Sawbridgeworth - and then rejoin the River Stort and walk up as far as Bishop’s Stortford. 



It was a gorgeous day for a walk by water for sure - not too hot for the most part, and with a light breeze but also plenty of sunshine and beautiful blue skies. 


There is a common misconception locally that the Stort is a canal - but in fact the stretch we were walking is a “navigation” - a river which has been canalised and made navigable by the addition of locks. There are a total of 15 locks on the 22km long Stort Navigation- today’s walk saw 5 of them. Another misconception is that the town of Bishop’s Stortford is named after the river - in fact this is not the case, the river was re-named in the 16th century and was previously called the Stour. 


We parked the car in the centre of Sawbridgeworth a short walk from the river - which was easy to find as you simply head downhill! We realised pretty fast that we had actually joined the walk slightly too far north - but decided not to worry about that now the time being, we’d either walk it at the end or return another week and do it. In the end by the time we got back to where we joined the river we decided we’d been on our feet for long enough so another week it will be! 


One lovely bird spot today - and one that it is surprising we had not seen previously when we’d been walking his particular river - a Kingfisher! We were watching dragonflies dancing across the water, heard a splash and MrEH looked across in time to see the distinctive bright blue flash. A few moments later we both saw it streak away up the river - a stunning sight! 

A long weekend for us this week as MrEH has tomorrow off work. Nothing specific planned, just that he has holiday time to use and he fancied a day off really - we’ll decide what to do with it tomorrow! 

Robyn 

Friday, 31 July 2020

It’s good to be back...



Another little bit of normality tonight as the bar at the rugby club reopened for the first time since 20th March. We went down and met up with some of the same friends we drank with there on that night for a few beers - it seemed only fitting that those of us who had helped them drink the stock in the run up to the forced but necessary closure also kicked things off again at the reopening.  

The club is a huge part of both of our lives in normal circumstances - although rugby is primarily MrEH’s “thing” we’re both involved with the team he plays for as I regularly take photos for them as well. Even when I’m not photographing I frequently pop down to the club to meet the guys after matches for drinks and the post mortem. I’m not always the best at socialising, but there, with people I know well, I almost always feel at ease, and that is something I have really missed. 

Now, we have a long weekend ahead. We both had holiday time booked for this coming week originally for the beer festival - with the cancellation of that we cancelled the holiday too, but MrEH left Monday in place as he felt that by then a simple day off might be a good thing. No plans as yet,  we’re playing this one by ear, but the weather is forecast to remain reasonably good so we intend to get out and about a bit!

Robyn 

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The thing about running...




...is that sometimes it’s really good fun. Tuesday was a good example - 2 miles, pretty hard work, definitely pushing myself, but in spite of that, I really enjoyed it. Other times though, it really isn’t - and today’s run was a good example - best described as HORRIBLE! 

It was warm when we went for our walk first thing - temperatures up up to 30C were promised for the day but the forecast suggested it would be after lunchtime when that really kicked in. Even at 8.30 though, there was never any question I needed anything other than my running kit on, and even just in that, it was warm. We walked - 3.5 miles this morning, across to the pond (above) where to our delight we spotted a Common Sandpiper, our first of the year and a fairly unusual sighting for our little town, then home, MrEH settled down to his work day and I grabbed running belt (keys, phone) and Garmin and headed back out again. 

Almost immediately I knew it wasn’t going to be one of those fun ones - the heat had picked up even more, my legs were saying “no thanks” within the first five minutes, and I am in the middle of one of the energy slumps I still get from time to time as well. The first mile was OK - on the route I ran today that first mile is entirely downhill so pretty much guarantees a decent pace. After that though things got less pretty - I’m not a fan of hot weather running at the best of times, and today was NOT the best of times! At a mile and a half I passed the first of my “get out options” - places where I could simply loop back towards home for a shorter run - the temptation was strong but I dismissed it and carried on - probably walking more than running by that stage. At just short of 2 miles I gave myself a talking to and switched to structured run/walk pattern. Another couple of “get out options” came and went. By the time I reached just short of 3 miles I was overheating to the point of feeling sick, my breathing was wheezy and it had really stopped being any sort of enjoyable - in spite of wanting 4 miles ideally I decided to just stop the Garmin and walk home - sometimes you just need to know when you’re beaten. 

There are always positives from a run like that - today’s were; that I didn’t bail at any of the places I could have done, 3 miles is better than no miles, and it was time on feet (and still 4 miles with the walk home!) - and time on feet is good. Runs like that just happen sometimes - there’s little you can do to predict it and in fact this morning I was actually quite fired up for my run - all you can do is learn from it, and file it away under “next time will be better”. Hindsight being what it is, I should have run the final mile as a “walk the uphill, run the down” but we all know what they say about hindsight! 

So - learn, move on. One more run to do this week, and I will probably make that trail centred I think, and probably on Saturday when temperatures will have dropped a bit. That one will be better - well, it can’t be any worse! 

Robyn 

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

It’s all new...



Transition to the new Blogger interface has happened - I was reverted to it a while back and it quite simply didn’t work at all on the iPad - on the odd occasions it would let me make a new post at all it was impossible to post photos, and as we all know this blog rarely has a post without a photo! So after a few days of trying, failing, and using the old interface anyway, I eventually switched back for as long as it would let me - and that time has now come to an end it seems, time to do battle again! 

First reactions are good - the new post button appeared straight away this time without needing the repeated refreshes that were needed last time out. Posting a single photo too is now seamless - which is a relief as it was the main thing I was worried about. Fingers crossed this is a good sign that the earlier niggles have now been fixed.

And now for the reason behind today’s choice of photo - which you will have spotted is a favourite Hebridean beach. The balance for our upcoming trip is now PAID and I’m finally starting to believe that we might be going! Ironically we have now been told that a Friday ferry crossing has been reinstated on our usual route over, obviously that has happened AFTER we had booked our crossing! We’re sticking with what we have booked though - ultimately it gets us another day across there, so why would we not?! (As “downsides” go, that one is none too bad!) Although we were only across last at Christmas, this trip feels like a long time coming having had to deal with the disappointment of the postponement in May, and I think it’s safe to say that we both really need a couple of weeks to just switch off and relax. 

Something I have been saying almost since we started going across to the Hebrides for a fortnight each year is that I want to spend a good chunk of one day just sitting on a beach with a book with no pressure to do anything - and I’m determined that this is the year it will happen. What tends to happen once we’re there is that each time a day comes along where the weather would lend itself to sitting on a beach, that weather also lends itself to a walk up a hill, or an explore of another island, or whatever. The feeling that we must be making the maximum use of all our time is always a strong one, but this time round I think we also need more than anything else to thoroughly relax. I’m not a sunbather by any stretch, but I can very happily spend a day on a beach with a book, a bit of paddling, maybe a game with a frisbee, or possibly a fly of a kite thrown in....well, as long as the thought of  a walk up a hill, or an explore of another island, doesn’t get in the way, that is! 

Robyn

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Getting back to consistency...



Another run for me this morning - reverting to an old favourite local route, in fact the same route where I did a lot of my couch to 5k running! I’ve decided I want to get some of my old pace back - and the starting point with that was returning to a route I know well. This morning was just 2 miles but pushing myself a bit - still run/walking but certainly more running that there’s been in there for a while! The next stage now is continue with my plan of three runs a week - including some speedwork during one of them, and then in a couple of weeks I run the same route again and see how I’m doing.

Before lockdown I had been working towards picking up pace again with more consistency and more miles during January, then a niggly injury in February that left me not running much at all for a while and then easing back in on the treadmill during March...then the virus started taking hold - and the gym felt like not such a good idea for that last week...and although I have been running since then it’s not been with any degree of regularity. I’ve struggled with motivation a lot - running after work was a straight commitment - plus my boss soften asked me during the day if I was running later and once I’d confirmed to him that I was planning to, it felt less easy to change that plan! Being at home all the time though, there isn’t the structure in place that prompts me to go out and run at specific points. I’ve now realised that if I leave it to run in the afternoon I will talk myself out of it during the day, so I have taken to dressing in running kit first thing, walking with MrEH and then running immediately afterwards. That gets it done before I have a chance to come up with excuses not to, then I come back and just get on with my day.

I’m looking forward to running in the Hebrides before too much longer too - my plan is that some of the miles for my virtual challenge will be run up there. That challenge is another RAF related one commemorating the anniversary of the Battle of Britain  - I have to set my own distance for this one and currently I’m toying with making it a combined walking/running challenge with an average of 80km per week for each week of the challenge, or just a running one and just aim for 80km over the month. I’m not in any hurry to decide so will probably wait and see how I feel a bit closer to the start date. Either way, I think a challenge will be good to give me something to focus on and an incentive to get out there and run regularly again!

Robyn

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Long Walk Sunday...

A meander south from the town and across to Epping Green, and Nazeing Common for us today. A proper mixed bag with weather too. First it was cool and overcast, then blazing hot and sunny, and then cool and spitting with rain! Just one real downpour though and we found a nice densely leaved tree to stand under for that one and didn’t get so much as damp!


For some reason we’ve not really been south on our walks very much - early on before we discovered so many more paths to walk there was a perception we’d have to walk a lot of roads before we got anywhere interesting I think, and then we sort of forgot about it. Today proved once again how easy it is to walk around our area with very few roads involved - just a couple of short stretches of country lane today.


This was not the clouds that threatened to drench us, oddly enough! I do love a nice weather contrast photo though, and this one ticks that box beautifully😉! Mostly it was ideal walking weather today though - not too warm or too cool, and a nice breeze just to keep things pleasant even when we would otherwise have been hot from just moving.


Again we saw masses of butterflies today - including this lovely Comma - I love them with their vibrant orange colour and pretty scalloped edges - such a showy little thing! 


This plant is also a familiar sight in this part of the U.K. at this time of year - it’s borage, and it’s striking flowers create a sea of blue across many Essex fields at the moment, we walked throuh a LOT of it today where farmers had failed to keep footpaths clear - and ai discovered that those hairs in the stalks are also quite an irritant. Pretty to look at, but I’d as soon not have to wade through it again, thanks! 


And the photo above gives an idea of how it looks when you glance through a gap in a hedge and see a field of it on the other side! (We met a rather lovely black spaniel though there too - always a bonus!) 


Finally another butterfly - this Red Admiral landed on MrEH’s arm and declined to move for a while. I remember these as being quite rare when I was a child - My Nan was always hugely excited to see one - although we see them quite regularly these days I still retain that excitement even now! 

The afternoon was rounded off rather wonderfully by seeing two of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft flying over Harlow as we walked back towards home. The Hurricane and Spitfire were on their way to join up with the Lancaster to carry out a flypast over London and I had been watching all three aircraft on the tracker to keep an eye on their line - initially we thought they were going to be too far west of us, but they turned to the East at just the right moment. Hearing a couple of Merlin Engines passing overhead is always a treat! 

Robyn

Saturday, 25 July 2020

On the subject of Face coverings...



Face coverings became mandatory in shops in England from yesterday. Everyone must wear them unless you are exempt - there are various reasons why you might be, some physical conditions can make it impossible to wear a mask, and also some mental health conditions. Small children are also exempt due to the risk of them not wearing their face coverings correctly - as this could increase their risk of either contracting the virus or carrying it and passing it to others, however from the number of tiny kids we’re seeing wearing them, it doesn’t seem as though that one has quite sunk in for many parents!

The purpose of the face coverings primarily is to prevent transmission of the virus to others, they are not intended to protect the wearer and are not considered to be PPE (although there may be a small benefit to the wearer). Wearing a face covering does not replace social distancing either - again something that seems to be passing a fair number of people by!

Surprisingly, in spite of the simplicity of the idea - wear a face covering if you can, help prevent spread of the virus to others - there are still those who refuse to wear them because they see it as an infringement of their human rights. Other claim that a Covid 19 is some sort of fallacy, and others that  that lockdown should never have happened and that the vulnerable should simply have been rounded up in some way, taken to places of safety, and everyone else allowed to carry on with their daily lives as normal. It’s interesting that these people are focused on their own human rights, while apparently being completely immune to the rights of others - maybe this should tell us a fair amount about the sort of people these are? It is reported that some of the anti-mask brigade are also being abusive to shop staff when they are asked to either wear a face covering or leave the store - forgetting, or perhaps not caring, that the staff have not made the rule, they are just being asked to enforce it.

Also provoking a nasty response from many is the subject of those who are exempt on mental health grounds -  many of whom have faced a torrent of abuse on the subject on various social media platforms. Public shaming is the order of the day in some  cases - people sneaking an illicit phone photo on a bus or train, of a fellow passenger not wearing a mask, and then posting that on Facebook or similar for the waiting hordes of similarly minded friends to judge, regardless of the fact that the status of that individual regarding exemption is entirely unknown by the person choosing the start the  kangaroo court. Hidden disabilities are being disregarded or scorned by many - those explaining that they suffer from anxiety which prevents them wearing a mask being ridiculed with phrases like “if my 5 year old can wear a mask you could if you wanted to”. It’s to be hoped that the 5 year old in question would not be suffering from the same level of anxiety that might make mask-wearing impossible, you would think, so the only possible reason for a phrase like this is surely to suggest that the exempt individual is simply being “beyond childish”. Others choose to suggest that those exempt are choosing to be selfish,  or that those unable to wear masks should simply “stay at home” - never mind that those people still need to get food to eat, and in some cases use public transport to get to their workplace! It truly baffles me why some people are using this subject as a chance to be spiteful, or cruel. It feels almost as though this is a backlash over the way mental ill health has been brought into the public eye and de-stigmatised over the past few years - these people can no longer acceptably scoff at the idea of depression, say things like “people should just pull themselves together” or claim that conditions such as anxiety don’t exist - but now they have been given a gift - a way of mocking those with mental health issues “acceptably” - in the name of “being concerned about those that might be infected as a result”. That of course also begs the question that if they are so concerned about some people’s well-being,  why do those they mock not elicit the same concern?

I’m pretty sure that nobody reading this would fall into the camp of choosing to be cruel to those with exemptions just to make themselves feel good, but just in case - please be kind, you have no idea of anybody else’s story or experiences. If you see somebody being judged or shamed over this issue online please try to be brave enough to step in and call out that behaviour. If you see someone using phrasing like “everyone should wear a mask” take a moment to add “if they are able to” or “unless exempt”. A comment like “anyone can wear a mask if they want to” can be balanced by a simple reminder that this is simply not true. If all the fair minded mask-wearers start speaking up against the unpleasantness around this, those determined to get their kicks by behaving so viciously will crawl back into their holes again like the bullies they are, knowing that no longer are those they are attacking easy meat - that they have their defenders now. We all stood together against the virus - we can all stand together against online bullying, too.

Robyn.