Monday 31 December 2018

2018 - done!

Where did those twelve months go?! I know we say this every year but it really does seem to have positively flown past! At the start of the year I confirmed that I was going to shun "new years resolutions" as usual, and instead set out a long-ish list of things that I wanted to see if I could tackle/focus on through the year with the following overall aims:

So I guess it's now time to see how I've done with this!

Personal/Health & Fitness:
- I will aim to keep up a good level of activity, with no fewer that 6,000 steps in a day It's been an incredibly rare day when I've not achieved this and my daily average over the year is currently sitting at over 13,000 so I think I can call this one done! 
- Continue with eating well, using the FitBit to log foods some days to keep on track. This has continued to work really well and I've maintained my weight through the year using this method - so again this will be repeated for next year! 
- Exercise at least 3 x per week - more is fine. Gym, running, swimming, circuits, HIIT Sessions - all good. Aside from points when injury has got in the way I've maintained this one pretty well and over the year I have regularly taken part in a good range of different activities too. 

- Stretching is good and helps facilitate the exercise. Ideally a full stretching session at least once per week and mini sessions scattered through as well. Going to "amber light" this as needing to be more of a priority for 2019 and beyond. I have done a fair amount but have also identified areas and specific muscle-groups where I could benefit from a lot more.
- Continue using my Bullet-ish journal to help with planning and general organisation WIN! Again use of it dropped off a bit during the very busy summer months though so something to focus on - I've also refined the way I use it to a degree which in itself helps with actually making sure I DO use it. 
- Do Parkrun - either our local one or another, it doesn 't matter which, just DO IT! Yes - done our local one in Harlow a couple of times and also nearby Gunpowder park in Enfield.  Have established that I don;t like Harlow much because of #ThatHill but as I have a certain hill-related challenge for 2019 already in mind I may need to make use of it a bit more for training for that event, if nothing else! 
- Visit the local climbing wall for a session. Finally did this in November and I'm inclined to say that it might be the one single achievement that I was most proud of from my year. 

Home: We want to continue with the works on the flat, initially to make it a lovely place for us to live, but also to add value. No - thoughts below

- Hallway to be refloored/redecorated No - thoughts below
- Plastering to be done in the front room and bedroom No - thoughts below
- Electrical works to be done over the first third of the year No - thoughts below
- Decluttering at a low level - focus on seeing items within the house that we don't use This has happened but probably needs to continue to happen as an ongoing thing. 
- New coffee table for front room - this is a quality of life thing. We have now established that the one we saw previously MrEH is not that keen on so the hunt continues. Back on the list...! 

This is one major area where we did FAR less than we were intending to. Several reason - the electrician that we found who we *thought* was going to be a great person to use seems to have let us down - we will have one last attempt to get him on the case early next year and then will have to look elsewhere. The hallway and plastering can't be done until the electrics are dealt with - so this loops right round on itself. I'm inclined to say that I suspect we could have pushed this one forwards more too - but I rather feel that perhaps it was just too soon after all the upheaval with the kitchen to go through another lot of household turmoil - more recovery time was needed!  


- Joint savings to continue as they are Yes - really good progress on savings again this year!
- I will keep a good eye on interest rates and make the most of any access we have to higher interest savings Again - we've kept on top of this changing the account that was going to lose it's bonus rate at the right time and keeping up with money going to 5% interest rated regular saver accounts within the limit that those have imposed on them. 
- 0% card must be cleared by the end of October, and again as far as possible this needs to be done without touching savings. This was done, and in the end it was cash neutral to within about £40 if I recall correctly. 
- keep the extra savings ticking over to ensure that our Lundy trip in the spring doesn't have to be paid for from savings. The account which was formerly our "mortgage OP account" has indeed been ticking over on a monthly basis - we still use it for the "money we've saved" on utilities, Sky, that sort of thing, as well as the small surplus from my monthly salary, and sometimes a small surplus from our joint account too. This has actually paid for TWO Lundy trips! 
- Refocus on the small stuff - the odd frittering, and the impulse spends that have started to creep in a little. Frugal February helped with focusing back on this and we're back into the habit of spending mindfully now. We certainly aren't "frugal" to the extent that we used to be when paying off the mortgage was a priority but we've discussed this and are happy with where we're at - we are in a different place financially now and the work we put in at that time has enabled that. 
- "Frugal February" to assist with the refocusing on the small stuff. Yes - covered above.


- Continue to work on gaining confidence in friendships Yes - thoughts below
- Learn to be more tolerant without letting myself be used, and a little more patient without taking unnecessary amounts of sh*t! Yes - thoughts below
- "Let it go" and "This too shall pass" Yes - thoughts below
- Stop and think before acting This also comes under the heading of "mindfulness"
- Try not to feel hurt or upset when other people behave unpleasantly or unkindly - I can't control their behaviour, I can control my reaction to it. Yes - thoughts below
- Be conscious and mindful. Think about the choices I have, and those I make going forwards In part this is again to do with the conscious choices I have made. 
- Tidy up laptop in readiness for the new Airshow Season. I did. And now it needs it again! 
- Continue with volunteering stuff Yes - although it went in a different direction mid year. We also took on a new commitment which is going to mean an adjustment of our free time for the next few years I think.
- Try to tick a couple more items off our big "We want to..." list. Yes - a helicopter ride and also visiting a specific RSPB reserve that we wanted to get to. 
I'll talk about the items above relating to other people as a single entity I think. I made some very conscious decisions this year - to remove some people from my life and to spend time with others, sometimes instead, other times as well as. I've refined those I see as "friends", and there are others who are now definitely in the "acquaintances" camp - and that suits me well. Bridges have been built in one area also and some misunderstandings hopefully now ironed out which is good. My conscience over a particular situation now sits more easily and comfortably. I have a far clearer view of the sort of people who add value to my life - those who are genuine, who do things to experience rather than to be seen to be doing them, those who actively seek to spend time with me for me, not because of other factors, those I actually like more, the more I get to know them! I've also remembered that the more you spend time with people like this, the less you need to worry about your reaction to unkind things said by others as the situation doesn't really arise, so another win there.

All in all I'm calling it a pretty successful year. On the running front I had a vague list of places I'd like to run - the Olympic Park, in central London, and on a beach were key ones, and I have ticked off all of those as well as "on Lundy" which was pretty good. Part way into the year I was also challenged by a social media pal to see which of us could get to 365km for the year first and I was delighted to record my tally by the end of November. Also said I wanted to run in a regular group with others and RunTalkRun has given me the chance to do that - and that is something I definitely want to continue with in 2019! 

Now it's time to start thinking through plans and challenges for the next 12 months - I'll be posting on that in the next few days. Some things will be a straight copy across as they are just as valid to keep up with. Some stuff will be new and I have some solid ideas there already too. 

Wednesday 5 December 2018

On challenges, simplifications and shake-ups...

It occurred to me when we returned from our Hebrides trip in October that I only had a relatively short amount of time remaining to really attack my 2018 challenges. I remember back at the start of the year I used the word "Accountability" - and that has now looped back on itself as I decided to use the next 40 days (from when I started thinking about needing to focus back on completing my challenges through to the end of November) to be fully accountable - first to myself but also to anyone else out there who might be reading. So the "Accountability40 Challenge" was born - a challenge within a challenge, if you will...

My aim for this was partly to get back to routines - running, keeping on top of organisational things at home, and the day-to-day stuff that makes life easier. Partly to kick-start my exercise plans again at a time of year when sometimes it can be tough to motivate yourself to lace up and get out. I also wanted to focus on "Wellness" generally, physical AND mental health, and give our meal plans a bit of a shake-up with new ideas, maybe some new recipes and some different ingredients. Finally I wanted to take some time to see where I have achieved this year already in terms of my start of year challenges, and where I might still want to have one last push to thoroughly tick a box.

I decided that I wanted to lose a few lbs in weight to get back to my "ideal" weight ahead of the Christmas season and all the extra food and drink that sometimes entails. Exercising an average of 5 days per week would help with this as would getting back to running more regularly - with airshows and the summer's high temperatures my routine on this one had definitely slipped a bit. Similarly looking for some fresh new ideas for meals should also help to keep our food interesting and avoid the feeling of having slipped into a rut with what we're eating week on week. I'm sticking with the plan that has worked so well for me of tracking and logging the food I eat 4 days a week, then relaxing over weekends. The organisational stuff ties in with the overall wellness picture as there is no question that for me, feeling as though clutter has built up, or that there are things that we "should have done" that we're putting off plays hell with my mental health. As I've mentioned previously on here, the darker/shorter days can also be a trigger for me mentally so this is a good time of year to be proactively tackling ways of dealing with anything that might have a negative effect.

I love a challenge as you know, so decided to post daily on Instagram to keep up the accountability. I managed to miss one day entirely at some stage, and only realised a few days from the end that I was running behind, and did have to combine two days into a single post over a busy weekend, but generally I did keep up with this daily posting. I intended to do some blog posts, but that didn't happen, and I posted regularly on a private forum that I'm part of with updates on how I was doing - and got masses of support in return, too!

The running regularly started well with me increasing my longer run distance up to 7 miles and a total of nearly 15 miles covered in the first 8 days of the November but my run on the 8th had to be cut short as my hip was extremely painful and I wasn't able to run again for over 2 weeks which knocked my plans a bit. Managed 9 runs in the 40 day period in the end which in real terms, allowing for the 2 week hiatus in the middle, was actually somewhere close to where I was aiming. I also managed to get two runs with the RunTalkRun group in there too which was good - it's not always easy for me to make their runs not being London based but I love it when I can join and one aspect of the challenge was wanting to fit in more social running too! Lesson also learned about not trying to run on multiple consecutive days - my joints simply don't like it! Other exercise across the month consisted of a swim, masses of walking and lots and lots of strength and stability work - something which I want to keep up the focus on going forwards - as well as a couple of Metafit classes. By the end of the month I had also clocked up over 365km for the year thus "winning" a mini challenge that a friend had set us on Twitter to see which of us would be the first to reach that particular milestone in the year.

On the food front I looked for ways of mixing up some of the meals we have regularly with differing ingredients and flavourings, using more fresh herbs for example. Remembered how much I love brown rice rather than white, and finally managed to successfully poach an egg! Bought some wholewheat pasta but haven't used it yet, generally managed to step back from snacks "for the sake of snacks" and make healthier choices when out and about. At the time of writing my weight had headed back to pretty much where I want it to be which was the aim - if I can trim off an additional few pounds ahead of christmas I'll be happy enough.

One BIG challenge I overcame during this period involved attending the local climbing wall for a trial session - pretty much everyone when I said how much this worried me assumed that it was because the height scared me - in fact nothing could be further from the truth, those who know me well are aware that height has never phased me in the least! In fact as someone who is severely claustrophobic it was the fear of getting stuck that made this one truly terrifying - I've always been hesitant about climbing steeper hills as much as anything else because I'm afraid that I will find myself in a position I can't get out of - and this was one reason for wanting to challenge this. I was shaking like a leaf when I arrived but once the session got underway and I saw others climbing I relaxed a lot and eventually managed two climbs to the top on suitably easy routes. SO pleased to have done this and more than a little proud of myself as this was definitely a big thing for me!

I'm going to be taking a lot forwards from this challenge - and a lot of this ties in with stuff in my wider 2018 challenges too. Organisation and using my bullet-ish journal to keep on top of things - this is a winner all the way for me - each and every time I return to using the journal life gets easier. I'm making it less structured though with a straightforward list for each week, using the standard bullet journal arrow system to "forward" things on to do in a future week. More than two arrows on an item lead to a questioning of why I don't "JFDI" or "Does it actually need doing?".  Similarly is SLEEP - I need more of it than I often get, and when I get more of it, life is easier again. This is another area where forming a habit really helps. Strength & stability exercises - I need to remember that I NEED to do this stuff to carry on running - the stronger I am, the less prone to injury I will be, and with my temperamental joints, that's a key thing. (See also "Stretching" on this one!)   And in fact on the subject of the strength/stability/stretching stuff this is somewhere else I can form a habit which would be beneficial.

I've now started thinking about 2019 - and also back to all the stuff I've achieved and the targets I've hit this year. I'll try and do another post as the end of the year approaches specifically on my 2018 challenges - I'm really looking forward to going over those!


Sunday 11 November 2018


On Thursday we celebrated my Great Aunt's 90th birthday. Mum, Dad and I, and the cousins arrived en masse with presents, cards, balloons and flowers and made sure she had a lovely afternoon! So why am I mentioning this in a post about remembrance?  Well you see Auntie D grew up without her Father in her life beyond the age of 3. He died in 1932, aged just 39. Her siblings - my Nan and my Great Uncle Ken were 12 and 7 respectively and were both very badly affected by his death - I remember Nan continuing to miss his presence throughout most of her life. My Grandma lived for another 47 years without him by her side and I have no doubt that not a day passed when she didn't think of him, miss him, and wish that things could have been different. My Mum grew up with the family speaking of a "Grandad" who she never knew.

John Henry Stanley - known as Jack - died as a result of being caught in a gas attack during World War 1. He returned home having been awarded the Military Cross for his actions at the Battle of Havrincourt, but was never fit enough to return to his previous occupation as a wood working machinist. In spite of the fact that he died a full 40 years before I was born I'm tremendously proud of my Great Grandad - the whole family are.

We're very good at remembering those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom - and indeed quite rightly so. They are not the only ones who made the ultimate sacrifice, and paid the ultimate price, however. Those who returned home but died later; those with missing limbs, lost sight or hearing, damaged lungs, lingering psychological effects or any other life changing impairments; the families who had to come to terms with someone returning who was very different to the man who went away; the children like Auntie D who never really knew their Father - on this Remembrance day please take a moment to think of them, too.

Lest we forget...


Thursday 2 August 2018

Airshow season - half way already!

We've reached the mid season point in the UK airshow season and what fantastic weather we've had for it so far!

My season this year started at Shuttleworth in May - I was getting itchy feet and when someone mentioned the first of their "evening airshows" I couldn't resist getting started! As well as the usual Shuttleworth residents there was also a visit from this beauty:

A few blank weeks after that as we headed off to Lundy with a big group of friends for a week (there is a blog post half written on that, to!) but our return to the mainland tied in nicely with the lovely Torbay Airshow - having attended their first show a couple of years ago it's become a bit of a favourite of mine so I was pleased to be able ton get there for a day again this year. It was also my first time this season seeing the Red Arrows display:

A lovely day in the sun with Maxine watching the flying, chattering lots and making the most of access to cheap ice cream!

From June things start getting busy as a rule - although I had made a conscious decision this season that I was going to step things back a bit simply because there are just too many things I want to cram into my summer" - still, Cosford was up next - one that I'd previously ummed and ahhed about doing, but this year the line-up made it an easy decision.

So many highlights it's tricky to know what to pick out but seeing these guys do their full landing display is also good:

Mid month was the first Great Yarmouth Airshow - and I debated long and hard about whether to go or not. In the end I decided to judge it based on the weather, and as the date grew nearer the forecase wasn't looking great. Then a few days before a couple of this year';s Red Arrows Circus chaps started encouraging me to head up to Norwich to see them at the airport which was what I decided to do in the end. I was very glad I did too - thanks to the lovely Caz, and the kind chaps at Saxon Air, I ended up spending a full day airside with the team and the jets - which of course meant that this year's "Circus At Work" project is very much on!

Another trip to Shuttleworth followed - warbird heaven! then into the "big" shows again with Yeovilton arrivals and the show itself. The arrivals day there has proved to be a really nice chilled day and for its £15 price tag, great value too, so friend Gary & I pitched up on a blazingly hot sunny day before being joined by Kim & Jade the following day for the show itself. The absolute highlight for me was finally getting to see this for myself:

My much loved and missed Uncle Bob's name on the tail of RAF Red Arrows Hawk XX322. Thanks to the fundraising "Names on a plane" scheme Bob had been whizzing around the skies of the UK and beyond since last season but for various reasons this was the first time I'd got to see it up close. There was a shriek, and then a tear or two when I realised it was visible - very emotional indeed and I just know how excited Bob would have been at this!

Flying highlights were probably the Belgian Air Force F16 display I think - with their stunning "Dark Falcon" scheme complete with the additional of flares for this display:

The following week was of course the biggie - The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford - a great three days of incredible displays but most of all the years best chance to catch up with oh-so-many great friends that you simply don't see enough of! So many highlights on the flying front - the RAF BBMF's incredible "Trenchard Plus" display where they got all the toys out of the toybox to fly:

Awesome is a much over used word but this really was. See also "emotional". Very very special indeed - I'm incredibly glad to have seen it for myself. Another "Special" was a 617 Squadron Formation with the BBMF Lancaster, the Panvia Tornado and "new kid on the block" the newly arrived to the UK Lockheed Martin F35b Lightning II.

Spectaular and another great tribute to both the #RAF100 anniversary and the anniversary also of the Dams Raid, of course.

This end of the season got wrapped up with a visit to Farnborough. Now this is a show I've never been sure about visiting - tickets tend to be on the expensive side and the public days at the weekend are often said to be not great. However, the draw for me was that they had secured a Spanish Navy Harrier jump jet - and this one was going to be FLYING! The decision was made and I duly met up with another pal - Simon - shortly after bacon butty time for a good old wander about the show. We found the prototype model of the newly announced RAF jet the Tempest which was interesting, then  separated for a bit to find our chosen spot top watch the star of the show:

What a star it was, too! I'd forgotten how unbelievably loud these are! Thank goodness for earplugs - they really were much needed! She flew, and she hovered and yes I confess that it must have got quite dusty as I definitely had something in my eye! In spite of not being greatly impressed with the rest of the show, this was actually well worth the ticket price, for me. Probably not a show I'd got back to though, on the whole.

So next up for me after mid season break will be Eastbourne - this is one for the "usual suspects" gang - Claire, Anthony and I are all in the same hotel I believe, and Tom & Alysha are staying elsewhere in the town. Lots of other friends will be about as well so it's going to be a sort of combined mini holiday and big get together, hopefully! Planning is happening apace and we're all thoroughly looking forward to a great few days! Bring it on!


Tuesday 22 May 2018

Going Underground...

A couple of years ago we were introduced to the "Hidden London" tours - organised by the London Transport Museum, these take small groups of people to the parts of the London Underground system that your regular commuter doesn't get to see. The first one we did was to the old Down Street station -  this station sat between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park on the Piccadilly line but due to the proximity of the other two stations it simply didn't get the footfall and so was closed in 1932. That was far from the end of its life though as it was later to see service during world War 2 as the Headquarters of the Railway Executive committee and even provided refuge for Winston Churchill!

In February we did our second Hidden London tour - this time the disused tunnels at Euston. Our little group met in the old Leslie Green designed station on Melton Street - no longer in use apart from providing ventilation to the active tunnels below:

From there we had a short walk across to the Mainline station and down the "shortcut steps" known to most Londoners to the tube station where we were ushered through the barrier (no Oyster cards required!) and on to one of the Northern Line platforms where a door at the end lead to the tunnels we were after. 

Unused by the public for over 50 years, these tunnels were closed when construction for the Victoria Line started - since then they have been used to run additional ventilation pipes, and for storage and access for those working on the station, and as a result the tunnels are astonishingly well preserved exactly as they were when the last commuters passed through. 

As well as the history of the tunnels themselves we learned about the way the tube stations were constructed in those days - basically they were  built in "kit form" from a standard pack of parts - which leads to oddities like this ticket window - designed to allow commuters to purchase tickets to change lines without having to return to the main booking hall... it is a single window the "in" and "out" make little sense and it can only been assumed that they were in the parts supplied and therefore got used regardless!

Some more posters...who is Spartacus?! ;-)

Originally there were lifts running from these platforms to surface level at the Mainline Station - here is the view up one of the shafts...

These tours are absolutely fascinating - not cheap, we paid £85 each for the Down Street tour and £45 each for this one I believe - but good value for money, nonetheless, and the money supports the London Transport Museum helping to ensure that these sorts of tours continue to be available. since starting to write this post (yes, writing,m and actually getting around to posting can be spread over a l-o-n-g time period!) we've actually done yet another - so I'll try to tell you about that one before all that long too! There is a feeling of visiting somewhere that has been frozen in time when you explore somewhere like this - and some of the small details are absolutely fascinating - for example did you know that all the rings that line the tube tunnels are date stamped with at least their year of manufacture, and sometimes with the day and month also (If you happen to be exiting a Jubilee Line Extension station any time soon take a look at some of the rings that are visible from the escalators for examples of that.

I'll leave you with a picture that pretty much sums up the Euston tour, for me - this is the tunnels as they were abandoned when this section of the station was closed off. The colours on the tiling still so vibrant, and those amazingly preserved posters - there is almost a feeling that it could have a bit of a clean up and swing back into action!


Wednesday 16 May 2018

Being brave...

I've always had a fear of setting goals for myself, and no more so than in any environment that could vaguely come under the heading of "sporty" - at school being shorter than average, bookish and with no great turn of speed I got accustomed to being among the last to be chosen for almost anything that involved teams. Indeed the only two sports I excelled at in school were hockey (surprisingly) and long-jump (even more surprisingly) - I represented the school at a minor level in both of those. The mention of netball or rounders sent shivers down my spine though, and cross country running was always one to be dreaded as not only did I tend to get left behind but I got out of breath too - there were no programmes to build up slowly back then - it was keep up or don't - and I didn't.  No great surprise that I stopped doing any kind of organised sport with a huge sigh of relief as soon as I left school and aside from brief periods of going to the gym, it's only in the past couple of years that I've felt any real inclination to have another go at being a "sporty person".

Accustomed as I was - in my head at least - to failing at anything "active" it came as no surprise when I first attempted the Couch to 5k programme and couldn't do it. It just felt as though it underlined my long-standing aversion to setting proper, solid goals - I wouldn't achieve so there was no point in trying, I'd just make a fool of myself. This time round though something was different - and the nagging voice in my head kept on at me to have another go. Each time when I started I took a deep breath and thought that maybe, just maybe if I could get through the programme I could do a parkrun "or something" - and then each time I failed I kicked myself AGAIN for being gullible - for being brave enough to stick my neck out. Of course I now know why I was struggling so much in the first place! In February I did my first 5k "race" and last week I did another - knocking a massive amount off my previous 29:36 time on the same course, coming in this time at 27:47! (Yes, remember those sub-30 people I "wasn't fast enough" to line up with? Now I'm one of them! I've also been doing regular Metafit classes - after years of running a mile at the idea of doing any form of group fitness this was another huge barrier broken down.

I recently photographed a friend's baby's christening - which also took a degree of "being brave" -  I'd be the first to say I'm no event or portrait photographer - it's a long old way outside my comfort zone and I hesitated like mad when my friend asked me. Not because I didn't want to do it, but because I was frightened of messing up, frightened of letting him down and frightened to take the risk. As I said to him while I was hesitating "I'm trying to work out if I'm brave enough" - back came the reply with absolute confidence "of course you are!" - and yes, I was, mostly because of the pure sense of belief HE had in me. I probably only have two friends who I would even contemplate taking on something so important for - and I've now shot the wedding for one of them and this christening for the other - and in both cases it was their absolute faith in me that gave me enough confidence to take a deep breath and say "OK then!" Two people, both of who's judgement I trust - if they reckon I can do something, they must be right, yes? Another huge first at the christening was that I said to MrEH (Who was using the second camera to pick up on extra shots I might not see or be able to get) that I didn't mind if he got me in any photos - now bearing in mind my aversion for having my photo taken this was also a massive thing. In the past with anything like this he's had to be careful to shoot around me and I've been constantly conscious of the other camera. This was definitely "being brave..."

Yesterday I posted this on Instagram...

...for a long while I've been admiring other people's Transformation posts - being super inspired by how well they've done and what they've achieved, but it was only as a result of a comment from someone else that I finally felt brave enough to post my own - and only then as a result of the prompting from the photo on the right - taken by one of the official photographers at the 5k last week. Taking the step of posting the two pictures also made me brave enough to go into a little more detail about my state back in 2015, when the left hand photo was taken. Having been hit out of nowhere with crippling anxiety and struggling significantly with depression as well - and no real idea how to handle either - the holiday that this photo was taken on, along with our trip the Hebrides a few weeks before between them I am certain saved me from sliding fully into a deep black hole. Spending time both alone and with MrEH in the Hebrides, and with him and other friends on this trip to Lundy forced me out of the repetitive cycle I'd found myself in and on return home I managed to pin down both the cause and a way of working through things, and claw my way out. I'm not "cured" - it's not that easy, but I have coping strategies, and the knowledge to see when things are becoming problematic and deal with them early on. The most valuable thing I read when I got the diagnosis was "You're not going mad - even if you think you are" - I cried with relief at that one. Add to that having been able to take up regular exercise which has itself been superb for my mental health, it's also had effects physically as well of course - I'm finally back to a size that is entirely more natural for me and, as I said in the text above, that means getting back to feeling more comfortable with myself all round.  Previously "wanting to lose weight" was back there with the "setting goals" thing - set an over-ambitious goal > fail to meet it > give up > not bother trying again as "I'd only fail". This time round there were no goals beyond "do a bit more than I did yesterday/last week/last month" and that worked for me. I'm a long way from being "confident" still - but I'm on my way there, hopefully.

There's more bravery to come I'm sure - but now I really AM brave enough to face the idea and set goals - yes, proper ones - to achieve the things I want to, and indeed to admit that there are things I want to achieve too. Covering both the "not being sporty" and the "group exercise" thing I'm joining in with a running group for a run after work tomorrow (weather permitting, but the forecast looks good!) and actually looking forward to covering 6.5 - 7k with other people - none of whom I have even met before! MrEH and I are starting to make steps towards our long-term dreams, and I'm starting to think about stepping up my running distance towards doing a 10k later in the year too. It's actually starting to feel like those targets for the year that I set myself are taking off - I'm pushing myself outside my comfort zone and I'm definitely doing it with a smile on my face!


Wednesday 2 May 2018

More walking...

We decided almost on the spur of the moment on Sunday to go and walk a bit more of the Jubilee Greenway in London. We did section 1 a few weeks back - from Buckingham Palace through to Little Venice, near Paddington, and it's been on our list to do for so long that having started we were keen to get some more of it walked. It was a bit of a grey day but the London walks always feel like they're a bit less affected by less than brilliant weather, to be honest, so we weren't going to let it stop us! 

Exiting Warwick Avenue tube station we headed for the Canal - almost the whole of these two sections are walked on the towpath which is great - always nice to get in a London walk a bit away from the traffic, noise and bustle of the capital. In fact this first picture - taken from the Canal Bridge at Warwick Avenue - sums up pretty well what the walk was going to be like.

MrEH spotted the first thing of notable interest - this blue plaque on the wall of a house at Aberdeen Place - always nice to find an unexpected reference to a total hero and this is no exception...

That felt like a really nice way to start the walk actually - we saw it within the first few minutes and for me it felt really good to have two of my hobbies tied together with something like that.  Always good to have a reminder of those who gave their tomorrows, too...

Finally after quite a lot of walking parallel to the canal but not actually alongside it we reached the point where we dropped down onto the towpath - and were immediately confronted with this - look

The boats moored alongside here are all people's homes too, and the owners have adopted the towpath as their gardens. It's a riot of colour along there with beautifully planted pots and wisteria climbing everywhere - so pretty! Also some really clever re-use and recycling - I loved this planting wall...

Yes, that's the ends of pallets cut off, attached to the wall, filled with soil and planted, it looks amazing! The planks from the pallets are in evidence being used for various things as well so clearly nothing has been allowed to go to waste on these boaters watch!

Onwards and under the first of many railway bridges. This is the Marylebone mainline running ovder the top - later in the walk we would also go underneath both the West Coast and Midland and over the East coast Mainlines too.

When I was little my Nan and I used to make regular trips to London Zoo - usually during the winter as we always felt it was better then, the animals were more active and there was more to see. I can remember many times looking across at the canal and feeling quite sorry for the people walking along as they weren't at the zoo and we were - well on Sunday the tables were turned! Yep - these buildings are indeed part of the Zoological Society of London's London Zoo - we walked past the Giraffe house, some creatures that looked like Dingos perhaps, and on our side of the canal the famous huge aviary with masses of birds that we couldn't identify at all!

Not long past the zoo we saw a cow on a roof you do! We wondered whether this might have been one of the Cow Parade cows from a few years ago.

Another railway bridge - west coast mainline this time - and some standup paddle-boarders too. we kept seeing this group all the way from when we first joined the canal right through to Camden - sometimes we were in front and sometimes they were - they looked to be having a great time anyway!

Camden Lock and its market are, next to the Zoo, probably the most famous stretch of this walk, and as ever it was heavingly busy! Oddly we'd passed someone we know a bit further back along the path and she'd told us to leave the towpath and cross over the bridge at this stage as the market was so crowded it was impossible to get through - handily that lead us straight past a pub so we decided to pause for a pint - particularly once MrEH spotted the Adnams Oyster Stout that they were serving!

A bit of a detour to get back to the towpath at the other side of the road as just past where you can see in the shot above it's closed while some building work is going on - yes, where those cranes are!  When we did rejoin it though we were amused to see this reminder of the Zoo that we'd passed not so long before!

On to St Pancras Basin - and this clever use of gas holders. The holders themselves are listed apparently so the company that wanted to build the flats had to incorporate them into their plans - clever eh? The nearest one to me has been left open and planted as a garden with a fantastic mirrored arbour all around the bottom - it looks utterly amazing!

Look carefully and you can just see St Pancras Station here! The lines on the right of the shot include the Eurostar tracks and we did in fact see a train heading off to France...or possibly Belgium!

Approaching the Islington tunnel now but just time to stop and look at this brilliant Bookshop on a boat!

And then for the Islington tunnel - an 878m long stretch with no towpath, originally boats would have had to unhitch their towing horse and the boat would be "legged" through the tunnel by a man lying on the boat roof and pushing with his feet against the tunnel roof to propel the boat through - now engines take the strain which I imagine comes as a bit of a relief! Rather like the men leading the horses we had to find our way through the streets here - thankfully it was brilliantly well signed...

...with these rather lovely blue plates set in the pavement at regular intervals. We did however make a planned diversion to another pub - one of the Craft Beer Company outlets.

Back onto the canal and this coffee stall's signage made us laugh! Very witty and it was clearly paying off as he was doing a good trade! 

Almost immediately after that we came to the corner of Victoria Park and that was the end of the sections we'd planned to walk - but we still had to get back to the tube. A brief discussion weighed up the options - to backtrack to Bethnal Green or walk on - although not still on the Greenway - to Mile End. Mile End won so we turned right in through the park leaving the next section of Greenway off to our left....then came across another Greenway marker on the path...hmmmm. Turning back to the Canal - and there was another one - very curious! We continued to Mile End Park, all the way seeing the Greenway markers and getting more and more mystified...*

Just before Mile End we got to do something we have both wanted to do for years - crossing the green bridge over the Mile End Road - we used to live in Bethnal Green and have driven under this so many times, almost always saying "we must walk over that one day!" and now finally, we have!

A really enjoyable walk this one - a bit over 12 miles with our odd detours, but almost all really pleasant walking, away from traffic. In spite of the weather this is probably one of the nicest walks we've done, although I think part of that might be down to me feeling so much more confident about my abilities to walk longer distances now. Can't wait for the next section now!


* The mystery of the extra Greenway plates was solved when I re-looked at the route map on Tuesday morning - dog-legging off from the point where section 3 ends and 4 starts is section 10 - and that was what we walked approximately half of at the close of our walk! 

Friday 13 April 2018

Snails...and other interesting objects.

I took way too many photos on our Underground Overground Walk on Sunday - I actually joked to MrEH that I reckoned I was going to have to do multiple blog posts if I wanted to share them all with you as putting them all into one would just make that post far too slow to load up. Then I thought about it a bit more and thought "Why not?!" - it would be great to think that someone else thinking about walking the Victoria Line might find my post one day and get some inspiration from it, so I'll link this and any subsequent ones into it - our "interesting things seen" are mostly different to those of the other people that have completed the walk so I reckon there's space for some more posts on the subject!

When we arrived at Walthamstow Central we walked across the road to the Bus Station so I could use the loo there - I felt a pre-emptive visit might be a good plan. In the event they were closed for repairs, but while I was finding that out MrEH spotted that around the glass enclosure that surrounds the escalator shaft to the tube were a whole load of china garden-type ornaments. When I saw this one...

...I took a photo of it saying to MrEH "You'll see why later in the walk...And so will scrolling now! (Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you might like to scroll on past the next photo...)

I loved the section of Walthamstow Market we walked along and was telling MrEH all sorts of interesting odds and ends that I remembered about it, both about the history and things I remembered from my childhood too. Manzes Pie & Mash shop is an East London institution and I can clearly remember the delicious smells emanating from it as we used to walk past. It's a beautiful shop front too - very traditional of its type, and I was pleased to see that it's now been given a Heritage Plaque. (My parents can remember the "eel man" outside chopping live eels into portions for customers to purchase, take home and cook - all the little individual sections used to wiggle around on the board as the nerves took a while to catch up with the fact that the creature itself was dead!)

We veered off the route that a lot of others had taken when we got to Pretoria Avenue - I knew exactly where the route of the line ran at that point - because of this...

That is one of the ventilation shafts that helps to keep the air fresh down at platform & tunnel level, and it happens to be right next to the school I attended for 4 years when I was little - you used to be able to hear the noise of the trains from it occasionally, although not since it's been fitted with a fancy-pants water cooled cooling fan I'm guessing - although that 3 degrees of cooling it apparently achieves is  much needed in those deep level stations! It's not the most attractive of buildings but I do like the fact that they've painted it Victoria Line Blue - and I wondered whether perhaps more of them had been painted similarly.

Onwards and from Blackhorse Road station came what I suspected would be the dullest bit of walk being on busy main roads and without any backstreets to divert through to add a bit of interest (and some peace and quiet!). Part way along Ferry Lane though you pass by the reservoirs/Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve which makes for a bit of a better view..

...and crossing to the other side of the road we crossed over another walk we did a while ago - the Lea Navigation - you might remember that we walked that back in 2014 - this time we kept walking on down Ferry lane though, tempting as that towpath looked even in the rain! 

Finally just up the road from Seven Sisters station and brightening a very dull stretch of the Seven Sisters Road, we reached it...

This snail has been painted on this wall looking exactly the same for as long as I can remember. It must have been repainted a number of times I imagine but always in the same colours. A quick search on Mr Google has confirmed that it has in fact been there for pretty much as long as I would remember as it dates back to 1976, it was painted for the Jubilee. The Silver one, that is, not the two we've celebrated since. Oh and it's called Sid - next time we pass I shall be sure to greet it by name.

I'll be back with another of these posts at some stage - goodness knows I've got plenty of pictures to share still!


Tuesday 10 April 2018

A quick fix...

By the time we got home from our Underground Overground walk on Sunday and had a bite to eat, all I wanted to do was to soak in a hot bath for a bit and then head to bed. It had been a distinctly long, if triumphant day, so I took my book, had a nice read until the heat started leaving the water, hopped out, dried off and then fell into bed and pretty much straight to sleep. Fast forward to the following morning and MrEH dashing around looking harassed "There's no hot water!" he exclaimed grumpily. Never something you want to hear before 7am, I instantly found myself thinking of the nuisance involved in needing to get plumbers round and all the hassle that entails, never mind the cost.

Then I remembered. Blast - of course, I'd put the immersion heater on at the same time as running my bath the night before, and since we've had the in-line pump fitted to the feed from the hot water tank to the taps, the water pressure is high enough that the tank gets emptier than it should, which means the element in the tank gets above it's prescribed temperature and the thermal link trips out. I know about thermal links from my time in the construction industry - back then they were often a physical link, which blew, but now the immersion heater ones at least are an electronic style trip that works to cut the power to the element in that circumstance. I've had to reset ours once before, and was aware of the issue with it, but being tired after our long day I simply forgot and just did everything in the wrong order. We agreed that it would have to wait to sort until the evening, got ready with the aid of some boiled kettles for hot water, and headed to work.

Yesterday evening I grabbed my spare and current iPhones - the thermostat on the tank is buried in the airing cupboard and you can't actually see it without a phone camera to look at it with. It's dark in there though, which also means you need a torch, By stacking the phones one on top of the other held in my left hand I can use the torch from one for light and the camera from the other to aid vision, leaving my right hand free to do the re-set. I then turned off the switch to the heater - although it has no power feed during the day I didn't want to take chances. Safety first with electrics, always. If I had been doing this job at a time the power to the circuit was live I would have flicked the main trip switch off while I did the job as well, just to be certain.

This is the first thing you'll see - with that little nut on the bottom right corner being the key - undo that and set it aside CAREFULLY, and then lift that black plastic cover clear of it's retaining bolt. Bingo - everything becomes clear.

What you're looking at here is the thermostat itself - the larger red disc is used to set the required temperature (there is a slot in the centre of the disk which allows you to turn it to your required level) and diagonally up and to the left of that is the tiny red "reset"button - at first glance I wasn't sure it had tripped and my heart began to sink, but I gave it a little push with a ballpoint pen nib (the perfect size) just to see and heard a very audible small "click" - hurrah! All done - I popped the cover back on, carefully replaced and tightened the nut, then switched the power back on and set the over-ride to the circuit for half an hour to see what would happen. Sure enough when I checked back 30 minutes later - we had hot water again! 

This sort of small job is a great example of where the internet can be super-helpful. The first time this happened I admit I really didn't have a clue - I knew what had gone wrong, but not how to fix it, but a quick google search and there was a YouTube video just begging to help. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to carry out this sort of little household fix without needing to call someone in though, even more so when it's ME that's effected the fix, not MrEH! (And who knows, in the future maybe someone will find this post and be able to make use of it in exactly the same way!)

Have you encountered any minor household repairs that gave you a small sense of triumph for being able to complete them?