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!


Thursday 30 July 2020

The thing about running... 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! 


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! 


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!


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! 


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.


Thursday 23 July 2020

We’re going....hopefully!

Finally got to my shots from Tuesday’s Reds Display practise at Scampton - not too many that I’m happy with, but allowing for the grey overcast conditions I expected that. I did get the shots I wanted of the two jets running in for the Gypo Pass though - and one of those is above.

Back at home, we’re starting to prepare to hopefully get to the Hebrides before all that much longer - ferry tickets are now booked thank goodness, and circumstances actually mean we get an additional day and a bit over in Uist this year as well - our usual ferry crossing is not available, and because of the limited capacity on the ferries at the moment we decided we’d make “plan A” the day earlier, rather than running the risk of actually losing a day or more of our holiday. Thankfully the booking went smoothly, and we have secured accommodation for the additional night also - wonderful! I really feel as though this trip is needed now - although I’ve been furloughed from work since April, and MrEH has been working from home, we’ve not actually taken any holiday time at all this year yet - everything that we did have booked was cancelled of course, so a few weeks away will be just perfect.

I also plan to get back into the habit of regular running again before we go away - I have another virtual challenge coming up and plan to run an 80km month later in the year - more than I have done for a while so I want to get back to the routine of it beforehand to prepare. I also hope to do some of that mileage in the Hebrides too - I love going there with a challenge to work on as it’s such a fabulous place to run! I went out today for the first time in a couple of weeks - just 3 miles, a reasonably paced first mile, a far slower second one, and then some speedwork mixed into the third for good measure - I’ve not done speedwork in a fair while so that was long overdue. The plan is to try to throw some in once a week from now on - but we’ll see how that pans out! For now, it’s back to the old routine though - 3 runs a week, that pattern works. Time on feet, build the miles up gradually. Time to make it happen.


Tuesday 21 July 2020

Friends, and beers, and Little Red Jets!

Yes, the observant amongst you will notice that the photo is NOT a little red jet....I’ve not had time to process those yet! Allowing for where I am tonight though - the photo above is somewhat fitting...

A not so early start this morning and a drive up M11, A14 and A1 to Scampton to see the Reds practising this afternoon. Summertime practises always feel like a real luxury - winter training tends to demand 5am alarms and freezing cold muddy fields, but this time of year things tend to be later in the day - so a leisurely start, and if we’re lucky some nice warm sunshine. Not quite so much of that today, but still warm enough. Once flying was complete, back to Claire’s for a brew and then for me, back to Scampton to meet my pal at my accommodation for the night - a house just outside the wire of the base, available to friends and family of those working on camp for a very reasonable rate, and handily within walking distance of the rather excellent pub in Scampton village... A good natter and brew with Fletch, then Claire turned up (also staying here tonight) and shortly afterwards it was time to head to the pub for dinner.

The Dambusters Inn at Scampton is probably my favourite pub anywhere. The food is excellent, they always have a range of beautifully kept beers on, and almost invariably I go there with brilliant people - nothing not to like there then! Tonight was no exception - steak and all the trimmings, followed by Lemon Tart and ice cream - delicious! Washed down with several pints of Rudgate Brewery’s Ruby Mild - a beer which won the prestigious Champion beer of Britain award when we served it on our bar at the Great British Beer Festival some years ago, and as such still a firm favourite of mine. Good company in the form of Claire and Fletch, plus a chap I’d not met before but who works with Fletch. Greg, Steve and the team at the pub have clearly worked hard to ensure that they can safely reopen under the new Covid-secure guidelines - tables inside are reserved for those eating, and well spaced out, while people just wanting drinks use tables outside - also very widely spaced. Having all table service and not going to the bar feels a bit strange, but very pleasant nonetheless. Above all it felt safe  - something which I was a little concerned about having not sat inside a pub for quite some time - and I will be extremely happy to return again any time!

The best thing about today was it just felt normal - aside from the inevitable topical references which you would expect, it didn’t feel that different to pre-Covid times. We ate, drank, exchanged gossip, traded banter and talked of plans for the future - and it felt wonderful to *have* positive plans for the future too. There may not be masses of air shows on the horizon, but as ever we have proved that we can still have fun, regardless - and that counts for a lot!


(The relevance of the photo above? RAF Scampton was of course the home of 617 Squadron and where the famous Dambusters raid launched from during World War 2.)

Sunday 19 July 2020

Long walk Sunday...

Each time we go to the Farmers Market, we park (with permission!) in the car park of the village pub. Yesterday, MrEH suddenly said “you know, we should walk across here for a beer tomorrow, to give something back for the use of the car park for all these years!” Now those that know me will be entirely unsurprised that I didn’t disagree in the slightest with this idea - so late morning today we wandered out to do exactly that.

By road, Matching Tye where the market is held is only 4 miles away, but naturally we had no wish to walk any more of it on the roads than we had to, so a nice circular route was worked out returning via a field a couple of miles from home where we happen to know there are plum trees... first though, the way there. Once through Newhall - the slightly odd new development on the outskirts of Harlow that I have written about here before, it was retracing steps from a route we walked in the opposite direction on one of our first longer walks at the beginning of lockdown - over the motorway, then across to the village of Hobbs Cross before continuing on a short stretch of road then off across fields again. Some gorgeous views...

...albeit a rather more cloudy day than we might have hoped for mid July! Our plan had been to just have a beer or two at the pub, but a quick sneaky peek at their menu indicated some rather tempting sounding sandwiches, and more importantly cheesy chips, so we decided to have lunch too. (Get us - lunch out, just like the olden days...!) The beer was a choice of Sharps Doom Bar or Greene King IPA - not exciting options but both (he had the GK, I went for DB) were well kept and perfectly drinkable, and the food was delicious.

A brief burst of excitement on the way back as we spotted a striking small mainly yellow bird sitting among the crop in a field. Yellowhammer? Nope, wrong bill shape. That also ruled out Siskin or the rarer Serin - but we eventually realised that in spite of the completely wrong habitat what we were looking at was a Yellow Wagtail - a lovely and unexpected surprise.

Masses of fantastic wildflowers everywhere still as well - the last of the poppies, yellow agrimony, field bindweed with its little pink & white  striped flowers, some of the orchids we found close to the motorway the other week, and various other things including the blue beauties above - not sure what they are as yet but MrEH is looking them up as we speak. Also plenty of butterflies still - countless Large White, Gatekeeper,  Speckled Wood, as well as the tiny orange skippers, and the odd Ringlet, Red Admiral and Peacock.

Onwards towards home then - over the motorway - FAR busier again now...

...then to the field with the plums....some, but not that many yet, we’ll return again in a week or so. A good 10.5 miles in the end though - the longest I’ve done in boots for a while, but with (hopefully!) our Hebrides trip not too far away in the horizon, I need to get my feet used to wearing them again.

Now to turn thoughts towards the week ahead. Possibly another aviation adventure - that is TBC at the moment. Other than that though nothing specific planned - let’s see what happens!


Friday 17 July 2020

Happy place...

I was originally planned to head up to RAF Coningsby yesterday until receiving a message earlier in the week saying to make it Friday instead. Unfortunately that also came with a change of time from middle of the day, to first thing in the morning...ugh!

So, fast forward to this morning - 5.20am and the alarm went off, out of bed, kettle on, wash, dress, tea made in my trusty insulated mug, and into the car 20 minutes later for the 2 hour plus drive to Coningsby, home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. It was the first time I’d made it up there  since last autumn - BBMF don’t start their display season workup until March at the earliest as a rule,  and with lockdown kicking in when it did there was no opportunity to head up there until now.

Just before 8.30am the wonderful sound of Merlin engines filled the air and the Lancaster, Hurricane and three Spitfires took to the sky. With this year being the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain a special formation was the order of the day to start things off - with all 5 aircraft joining together. Always a treat getting to see these wonderful warbirds displaying in a bigger group than the standard 3-ship and today was no exception! The formation then split apart into its component parts with different aircraft performing their separate displays - all in all best part of an hour of flying to photograph - bliss!

The photo above shows the Battle of Britain anniversary formation - known as “Dowding Formation”, hopefully we’ll get to see it displaying elsewhere at some stage before the end of the year, although that remains to be seen!


Wednesday 15 July 2020

Objecting legs...

Took the photo above this morning specifically to use on today’s blog post. The sky was blue, the clouds were beautiful...lovely! And it got photobombed by a wasp. 🤦🏻‍♀️ What’s the odds on that?! Oh well, I have no alternatives in particular so you can have it anyway!

Wondered earlier why my legs felt a bit stiff and achy this evening - then realised that I’ve walked very nearly 40 miles in the last 4 days so realistically they are probably entitled to feel a bit sore. More stretching to come before bed this evening - that will help - probably before I add another load of miles tomorrow, admittedly, but still! I’ve been rounding our morning walk up to at least 4 miles each day since last week simply to get a bit more movement into my day, and both yesterday and today I have done an additional walk to charity shops on the hunt for more jigsaws - no luck yesterday, but today I nabbed three which will keep us going for another few weekends.

I also spent a chunk of this afternoon looking at various options for Hebrides holiday cottages for Christmas. As we both have “spare” holiday time this year, an extended winter trip is a possibility - probably only a few days more, but enough that we might be able to take our own car rather than hiring one up there... it’s all up for debate at the moment, but we thought we’d take a look at options for places to stay on the other islands as well as bringing our usual favourite little cottage on Benbecula into the mix. We suspect we will end up in Bayview, as usual. After all, the ability to step outside the door to a view like this... pretty hard to beat! We’ll see. Decisions to be taken and choices to be made. And now - stretching to be done!


Tuesday 14 July 2020

Starting again...

A face full of red jet at Scampton back in 2016.

I've said before that when I am stressed or anxious one of the first things to go is the "good habits" - I neglect things like stretching, forget to drink my water, and spend a lot of time fretting about all the things I "should" be doing and losing sight of whether any of them are important or not. My planning goes out of the window, and I spend too much time feeling guilty about just sitting reading a book for example, to actually enjoy it. Last week was a bit like that - and in the end I just decided to cut myself some slack over it as worrying about that stuff was just adding to the anxiety. on a day when just getting out of bed, showered and dressed feels like a bit of a challenge, that's often the best thing to do, however, this week, it's time to re-set and re-build.

My main aim for this week as far as exercise goes is lots of walking - I may run if I feel like it, but no pressure on that one and I’m currently feeling a slight niggle in my left ankle which I want to be sure is OK before I run too much on it. I’m rounding up our walks in the morning to 4 miles plus trying to add an extra walk in later in the day as well. Plenty of strength work - I’ve been trying to keep up with that since the gyms closed but inevitably it’s not as easy to motivate yourself at home, without much in the way of equipment - so I’m trying to focus on the stuff I can do using a pair of light dumbbells, resistance bands, body weight and one heavy dumbbell. HEAPS of stretching and mobility - I’m aiming for most days on this, with a few sessions of foam rolling thrown in too. (Ouch!) Aside from exercise, sleep, hydration, and reminding myself that I don’t have to be doing something ALL the time! I’ve got an aviation photography trip planned for later in the week, weather permitting, which should be fun, and Claire and I are also plotting some trips for the future too - we might not have air shows but we’re damned if this is going to stop all our fun!

Other planning is taking place a around our Hebrides trip - ironically enough the changes in the ferry timetables because of the virus might yet mean that we get an extra day and a half across there. It has also meant that we’re having to look into an extra night’s accommodation though, plus having to make the decision to make the long drive up to Mallaig in one go without our usual overnight stop. The accommodation thing is further complicated by the bunkhouse where we usually spend our first night being unable to open for multiple occupation at present - however the owners of the bunkhouse also have a couple of cute little “hobbit home” glamping pods, so have allocated one of those for us for the two nights instead! Now all we have to do is to hope we can actually get booked onto our desired ferry - the alternative means an even longer drive up at an even worse time, so fingers crossed!


Monday 13 July 2020


Parndon Mill Lock

The plan for today was essentially to "Get stuff done" - too often of late I've felt like I was drifting rather, and that doesn't help with the feelings of anxiety around everything that is going on. Last week I just needed a more gentle week, but enough is enough and now it's time to get back to some rather  "better used" days.

I started off this morning with our usual morning walk - as far as the town centre with MrEH as we needed to drop a letter in to the Civic Centre, then I waved him on his way home to start work while I popped into a couple of shops to pick up some needed odds and ends, then an amble back with a slightly extended loop on the last section rounded off the walk to 5 miles. After yesterday's 12 miler in the afternoon that felt more than enough to start the day off, too!

The rest of the morning was mostly spent completing a job for our volunteer role with the Great British Beer Festival - although the festival itself is obviously from necessity cancelled this year, there is still stuff going on behind the scenes and there was a sizeable task which needed completion before emailing across to our Festival Organiser. All good, and we will now be able to return to lurking in the background for the next few months before getting a head start on things ready for next year's event which we are all very much hoping will actually go ahead! It feels very strange to think of not gearing up now ready to head to Olympia in just a few weeks - we've both done the festival for so long it feels completely alien without it in place. On the other hand, having not had to spend the last couple of months doing stupid levels of work around it isn't being missed quite so much...

Some pottering around watering plants, washing up, tiding the kitchen and putting washing out followed, before the mammoth task of sorting out my email inbox. For a while now I have followed the practise of dealing with emails once a day - deleting stuff not required, replying to those that need it, and filing everything in assorted archive folders should they be needed in the future. Over lockdown though I have got out of the habit of this, meaning that things were in the most almighty mess. Lesson learned - spending best part of 2 hours painstakingly deleting, sorting and filing is not the greatest fun, and I have without question remembered why doing it as you go along is by far the better option!

I have also done a few bits of life admin - some emails sent about various holiday arrangements (fingers still crossed on that one) and also a tentative enquiry about plans around Christmas. We have also established that MrEH's firm will be allowing a roll-over of a proportion of unused holiday time, meaning we might be able to squeeze in an additional trip with friends either later this year or next spring. Meal planning for the week - I had a sketchy idea of what we’d be eating but hadn’t matched meals to days, so that is now done. Possibly my most practical task today was to shift a couple of FB contacts to my “acquaintance” list plus also unfollowed them. These are both people who make my heart sink if I see any form of interaction from them, but “politics” means that unfriending them would be potentially awkward. Acquaintancing means they will not see my content, and unfollowing means I won’t see their content in my feed, either! A win!

All in all, a fairly successful day!


Sunday 12 July 2020

Up the river and round the lake!

Back to “long walk Sunday” today with another wander along the river from Harlow to Roydon, then up to Glen Faba, part of the Lee Valley Park. We went there for the first time a few weeks ago but only walked round part of it that time so decided to go back to explore more thoroughly.

Both MrEH and I did fitness stuff yesterday, plus I did a 5 mile walk yesterday morning, and as a result the legs were a bit sore and stiff before we started today, it was also the first time in a few weeks we’d walked that far, but the walk around the lake was so beautiful we were completely distracted from our aching legs. We had no idea where the paths went, but basically kept the water on our left and only once found ourselves following a path that turned out to be a dead end.

A really lovely walk and a location that we will almost certainly return to again - a lot of the paths would work well for winter walking too. Plenty of bird-life to be seen although nothing that unusual on this occasion - I suspect the spring and autumn might see more variety though. 

And that is another weekend done and dusted. I’m planning another aviation photography trip for the week to come, and also want to get some more older photos sorted out too, so hopefully will manage to make decent use of my time. 


Friday 10 July 2020

A nearly normal morning...

A message arrived from an aviation friend last night with a screenshot drawing my attention to the fact that the "NHS Spitfire" - the aircraft that ARCO at Duxford have painted as a tribute to the NHS heroes from the Covid-19 crisis - was going to be local to me this morning. Extremely grateful for this as it had completely passed me by that it was flying again so soon! To my delight I spotted our local airfield - North Weald - on the location list, how exciting!

MrEH and I went for our walk as usual first thing then on return I grabbed some toast for breakfast, and my second brew of the day, wouldn't do to miss that, before picking up the camera kit for the second time this week and heading out. On arrival there were a fair number of folk about clearly all there for the same reason I was, but parking was easy enough thanks to lovely Wings Cafe / Weald Aviation allowing use of what would usually I believe be their staff parking area. First off the Air Ambulance was powering up  - we did briefly wonder if they were about to go on a shout which would have been ironic timing considering that the Spitfire Flypast was specifically for them! Fortunately though it turned out to be just a ground engine run which is always nice to see. Next the arrival of an ex Army Scout Helicopter was a bit of a treat - it flew in, hover-taxied to just in front of where I was standing, then subsequently hover-taxied again to relocate slightly, giving plenty of time to get some photographs of the first classic aircraft of the day!  Then the speculation about which way the Spit would appear from began amongst those present - we knew where it was coming from, but allowing for the need to present an underside at some stage, plus the proximity of the M11, it was none too certain that it would actually run in from that direction, and sure enough when the chap next to me said "I can see it - just above the white clouds there" it was from a trajectory which would allow it to cross the motorway at a right angle. One run round presenting the topside, then a circuit back to pass again this time allowing a short banking maneouvre to show the "THANK U NHS" message on the underside. A quick wing waggle and on to the next location (or not - as it seems it managed to miss out our local hospital entirely and head straight on to Hertford - oops!) leaving behind it the lingering and distinctive sound of a Merlin engine, and lots of smiling faces!

As it always the way with aviation enthusiasts conversation kicks off quite naturally and before too long the rumours start passing back and forth - and it was of no surprise that before too long someone revealed that they had heard that the Douglas Skyraider parked outside the Heritage Hangar was being strapped down for an engine run, and those still hanging around ambled in that direction to watch the action. The more optimistic tried to get a little closer than advisory and had to be waved back - while those of us who have experienced this sort of thing before tucked ourselves into positions where we and our camera gear would not get utterly pelted with any debris thrown up by the wash from the powerful engine! After just one false alarm the engine fired up - hesitantly at first, and then with a more confident roar, and we were treated to the sort of full power run where the very ground under your feet thrums, you can feel the bass note of the engine through your core and you can sense the desperation from the aircraft to hurl itself free of its restraints and launch itself into the sky - just beautiful!

Above all the best thing about this morning was just how normal it felt. Sure, social distancing was being observed, but in real terms that involved little more than giving others a courteous level of personal space, and it just felt so nice to be over at North Weald with the camera again as I have been so many times pre-Covid, having conversations with like minded individuals and seeing some beautiful aircraft. For a couple of hours, being able to set aside all the concerns and anxieties of the past few months, focus on camera settings, exchange stories, chat with like-minded individuals was just a joy. May there be many more days like that to come!


Thursday 9 July 2020

Running in circles...

I had to drive my Dad to London again today for another appointment - so decided to seize the chance to fit in a run around the lake that I frequently run round after work in more normal times while I was waiting for him. My Garmin chose not to record it properly - although the run log is there on the watch, it refuses to transfer to the app. Sigh. I confess I had to talk myself into this one - my motivation to run has been back to rock bottom again all week, and running had turned into something I “should” do rather than something I wanted to do. Today, with the lure of a nice location and some water to run round, it became something I wanted to do again. Drizzly rain put a bit of a dampener (literally) on things, but I managed to get 2 laps round in before it got heavy enough that it became unpleasant, and I made a dash back for the car. And yes, I did feel better for it - movement is a wonderful thing!


Wednesday 8 July 2020

Not being edited...

The Red Arrows flying “Tornado” on Monday. 

Mental health is always a tricky subject for me to deal with "out loud" as it were. Some people are quite happy baring all on social media and face to face with others - I'm not one of those people. For me, talking about my mental health - or specifically mental ill-health - is  something I have to take a big deep breath and steel myself to tackle and that I am only comfortsble talking about in what feels like a “safe space”. It's something I've been working on - I've been fairly open on here about the fact that I have suffered from depression for over 10 years now, and anxiety for a little over 5. The majority of those I consider to be friends will be aware that I have had my struggles, those who are closer have a bit more knowledge, but beyond the very occasional oblique reference I rarely reference it on twitter or facebook for example. For me (and I stress "me" here - this an entirely personal point of view and relates purely to what I choose not to share) it all feels as though it is undeservedly self indulgent, as though I should just "get over myself" or "pull myself together" and even as though if I did go into any further detail, someone would tell me I was attention seeking or making it all up. Almost worse is the prospect of having references met with sympathy - something which is meant with kindness but I find extremely difficult to know how to react to (which is why comments will be disabled on this post, too!). As a result the easier road has been to find my safe spaces elsewhere - this is where the blog comes in as here I can write about what I like, nobody can try to "edit" me. Even here, I struggle to say much - this post, like others where I have referenced my MH will take an age to write and probably just as long to get the nerve to post, too.

I said when I posted for Mental Health Awareness Week that mental health looks different for everyone - and what affects one person might be very different for another. Indeed everyone has their own triggers for things being less than great, too. For me anxiety can arrive in a few ways - at the start of the current Covid-19 crisis the constant flow of drip-fed bad news proved to be a gentle slope that I slipped down almost without realising it - almost learning to live with the constant heavy, dragging feeling of trepidation after a while. The cancellation of so many events at things unfolded was more of a "progressive loading"- one thing after another dragging me down slightly further each time until suddenly I had arrived at the bottom of the black hole. At other times it can be a single traumatic event that lands with a bang - and even being aware that this sort of event is likely to cause me problems doesn't always help to ward off the descent. For me, a really bad anxiety attack is almost paralysing - it affects my appetite, my sleep, my ability to function at all, to be honest even though that might not be immediately obvious to the outside world - and that is where I've been for the past few days.  I referred a few days ago to something that had happened completely out of the blue with someone I trusted, considered to be a friend. In a single sweep that trust was gone, and I was left questioning why I had been so stupid as to feel that I could speak freely in front of that person, why I should feel that I have the right to state an opinion, and most of all why I was too stupid to spot the warning signs that had in fact been there previously. (That last is an interesting one - a good friend said something similar about herself and a situation she has been dealing with recently and of course I reassured her that she wasn't stupid at all...apparently it's not possible to apply that reasoning to myself, though. Sigh). Initially I couldn't stop shaking, feeling sick. My heart rate shot up and I found it impossible to breathe other than in short gulps. Yes - that is indeed a panic attack I'm describing - horrible things as anyone who has had one before will know. Being able to recognise it as a panic attack can help - at least you then realise that it's not something physical - but making it go away can be something else altogether. Further messages arrived on my phone - each one adding to the feeling of panic; what was going to be said next, how was I going to be attacked further. I wanted to run away, block the number from my phone to stop any further contact. After a while I got the nerve to read the further messages, initially a qualified apology, then, subsequently, a more genuine one. I couldn't reply at that point - firstly my hands were shaking too much to text - a message to another friend took me a ridiculous amount of time to type out - and in any event I simply didn't know what to say. Eventually several hours later I simply said that I thanked the person concerned for apologising, that I needed to work through how I felt about things, and that I would appreciate being left to sit with that for the moment. Then the guilt kicked in - a mutual friend who also knows what has happened said that the message sender was feeling dreadful about it. My knee jerk reaction was that the easiest thing to do would be to just accept the apology and let things go back to normal - that would let the other party feel better about things, and genuinely, I hate to think of them feeling so bad about it. BUT. And it's a huge, pretty much life changing "but" in this case - things can't go back to normal, or at least certainly not the same normal as before for me. This event has ripped away a support network that I have had in place for a long while - the thought of being able to speak freely in that setting again is now impossible. It feels as though everyone else in the group is allowed to have opinions - but for some reason, for one person, the rules are different for me. Simply because they don't agree with those opinions it's fair game to attack me for them - but privately, where nobody else will see, rather than openly as part of the (group) conversation that the opinion was voiced as part of. I can't get past the fact that it is going to be a very long time - if ever - before seeing that person's name flash up on my phone doesn't make me feel incredibly anxious and panicky. At the moment at least, self-preservation has to come first - I'm starting to climb out of the worst of the anxiety symptoms now - a bit more sleep the last couple of nights helped massively (having to drive about 300 miles on Monday on just over 3 hours sleep wasn't the best thing I've ever done, bluntly, but I was damned if I was letting the event affect me even more by meaning I cancelled something I had planned a fair while ahead!), also being proactive as far as social media is concerned.

Sadly I suspect I may lose other friends from within the same social group over this which I would be truly sad about - it's inevitable I suspect that it will be seen by others as "Robyn has flounced" as I'm not going to share what was said more widely even though probably it would be reasonable for me to do so in the circumstances and it would certainly put a different light on things. My only hope is that me not opening up doesn't lead to anyone else being attacked in the same way - there are others in the group who also have fragile mental health and would probably struggle every bit as much as I am if not more if it happened to them, and I would feel horribly guilty if that did occur. I'm also feeling horribly guilty about being unable to just let this go and say "it doesn't matter" - but that would really be selling myself short - it DOES matter, and I am entitled to feel hurt, upset and incredibly vulnerable over it too - this was a message that was designed to wound, to hurt, and to create guilt - and those feelings can't be banished overnight or those words unsaid just by way of an apology. More guilt around even writing this down and posting it - indeed had I thought there was even the vaguest possibility that the other party would see it there is no way it would ever have seen the light of day! I actually do feel calmer for having written it all down though and now read it through too. I can also now acknowledge that no, I did nothing to deserve or invite the message that was sent to me or the allegation that was levelled at me. That I’m not ever-reacting - people who’s opinions ai trust have reassured me of that. That yes - it's ok to feel as though I can't just brush it under the carpet. And no - it is not my job to behave in a particular way to assuage someone else's conscience either.

For now - deep breaths, self care (that always sounds cheesy to my ears!) remembering that I CAN still allow myself to trust people, and above all time to take stock and re-set things, then to start tentatively feeling my way towards a new sort of normal.


Tuesday 7 July 2020

Apolitical viewpoint...

Red 7 over Scampton yesterday. 

Nope, I've not missed a space in that title! I've said a few times on here, and repeatedly elsewhere on social media that I was brought up to believe that someone's "personal political opinions" should be just that - personal, and once again recently I have seen something that entirely underlines the common sense of that. All too often those with strong publicly aired party political standpoints seem to allow that to cloud their consideration and understanding of the fact that those with different views are also entitled to an opinion, and that disagreeing with that opinion does not necessarily make the other person "wrong" - it simply means that they see things in a different way. Also, it often seems to mean that on the occasions when perhaps, secretly, they feel that "their" political party has maybe got things a bit wrong, they are unable to just sit quietly with that, or even better, to acknowledge it, but instead they feel that they must continue to defend that party's stance at all costs, even if in the back of their heads maybe they are thinking "hmmm, actually, I'm none too comfortable with that one, either" - being seen to "stand as one"and not acknowledge so much as a chink of doubt in the policies though trumps the conscience speaking up.

Obviously I vote, always in general elections, generally in local elections. As far as I can think I have never voted in EU elections although this has certainly in recent years been due to those often falling at a time when I will not be at home to vote, and simply not feeling bothered enough about them (or in all honesty as though it made a great deal of difference to the bigger picture) to bother getting a postal vote sorted. I employ lots of different reasons to decide where my vote will be placed in each case, but "party loyalty" is not one of them. When a survey asks me which political party I support, I choose the "none" option. There have been leaders of every political party in the years since I have been of an age to vote that I have mistrusted hugely for various reasons - but none that I have "hated" - I don't know them so how could I possibly make such a sweeping and personal judgement? There have been others - again across pretty much all parties - who I have respected a great deal, for what they stand for, for their approach to a particular situation, or for the way they have dealt with adversity. I don't believe that all supporters of a particular party are cut from the same cloth - I have friends of all manner of political persuasions and judge them on their personal behaviours and values, and how they treat others, NOT their political party of choice. I also have a fair few friends who I could honestly not even begin to guess where their political allegiance might lie - but finding out would make no difference to that friendship. In the run up to the last general election I unfriended someone on Facebook after they wrote as a status that they hated all those who would vote for X party and would never have those people as friends - my unfriending not being about whether I was planning to vote for the party in question, but because I found the viewpoint that which box someone would put a pencilled cross in could wipe out so many other factors utterly abhorrent, and I realised that I simply didn't want to consider myself friends with a person who felt that view was acceptable. I would never dream of ending a friendship because someone's political views differed from my own - if however they allow those views to mean that they treat me, or others with disregard, spite or as somehow "less worthy"then that is a different matter - then it is they who have made the decision, by their actions, to end the relationship. I tend to walk away from, or at least withdraw from, conversations about party politics - I find them, and the emotions that they can so often draw to the fore in others, really very stressful, and so often sweeping statements get made by those who are passionate about a specific political party with little consideration for the feelings of those who choose to place their vote differently. Personally all I can do to counter this affecting me is to ensure that where someone allows their political views to justify them in treating others badly, I will continue to choose to step away from that person, unfortunately that will probably not do much on a bigger scale to stop them continuing to practice such unpleasantness - but at least I won't be exposed to it.

Similarly, not having a strong allegiance to a particular party also means that it is possible to treat areas of policy on their own merits. In the current situation with Covid-19 for example I think that there have been areas where the UK Government and devolved administrations have performed extremely well, and others where they have performed far less so. The instances of local health trusts discharging infected patients into care homes should have been dealt with very differently, and far faster (although really, should it have been necessary to tell them that they should not be doing this? You would think not - however it seems for the future that the learning curve here is that even the things you would not imagine people would dream of doing do need spelling out as unacceptable!) and I feel really uncomfortable with the way things have been leaked to the media ahead of being formally announced leading to confusion. If the UK media were capable of being trusted to report things in a responsible and non sensationalised way then this may perhaps have worked - as it is though they are not, and this has lead to far more confusion over some things than there should have been. Similarly my personal view is that social distancing should remain at 2m for the time being - the devolved administrations of Scotland & Wales have in my opinion at least until the last week or so dealt with the messaging around that far, far better - by reducing distancing to 1m in some circumstances as has been done in England it is inevitably going to lead to a lot of people feeling that they can just use 1m regardless, and that makes me uncomfortable - more for those who are vulnerable to infection than for myself, although it concerns me that I could potentially pick up the virus as a result and unknowingly pass it to my Dad, for example. Similarly the 5 mile radius restriction on movements in both Wales & Scotland shows quite how removed from so much of those countries their administrations are. As a friend of mine put it "we've not even got so much as a pint of milk within 5 miles!" - if you're in Glasgow or Cardiff then you're unlikely to have too many issues, but there are huge swathes of both countries where the issue is exactly that, people don't even have a shop that close, far less friends or family to visit!

At the start of the current national emergency a number of politicians made clear that they were going to suspend party politics in favour of adopting a far kinder and more supportive approach. The view seemed to be that those in charge of setting out how the crisis was to be dealt with had a tough enough job without having to take the time to also deal with being pulled apart purely because they were from the "wrong" party, and I know a huge number of people really appreciated and respected this approach. Inevitably as time has moved on party politics have returned, rightly so - but it feels as though even now there is less "bitching and sniping" just for the sake of it at that level. It may be that in fact it is still happening, but just for whatever reason, being reported less, but the result (it feeling as though there is less unpleasantness just for the sake of it) is the same. Sadly, on a more general level though, it does feel as though things have returned to normal, or even worse. Those who were cheerfully advocating #BeKind a few months back appear to have forgotten how to do that, or more likely no longer care now the hashtag isn't trending. Twitter is once again a pretty toxic place (I'm almost entirely living in notifications on there at the moment) and FaceBook is heading in a similar direction with much the same results. One of the things I have seen recently which resonated most strongly with me and seems appropriate here is "People keep saying we should go back to normal - instead how about we try to go forwards, to something better" - a lovely sentiment, and one which I truly wish more people would consider.


Monday 6 July 2020


Leaving you with this shot for today. It's been a long and tiring couple of days - mentally and physically - and I really need my bed and the hope of a decent nights sleep tonight after last night's anxiety-head-whirl.

Lots of laugh out loud moments with good friends today helped though. Don't they always?


Sunday 5 July 2020

Socialising a little...

We are starting to plan some more sociable events. I have a night away from home staying with a friend imminent, to do some remarkably “normal” aviation photography stuff. Our Zoom chat with the gang yesterday included some discussion about trying to all get together somewhere fairly central to everyone for a weekend at some stage before too long, although a lot will depend on the rules being relaxed to allow more than two households to congregate together outside at least.

Shuttleworth have announced a “drive in airshow” for a couple of weeks time - the premise being you are allocated a 5m x 5m parking bay, and aside from use of toilets etc you aim to stay within that bay. A good idea, although for me the £50 per car price tag makes it unjustifiable for the line-up of aircraft displaying. For a family of 3 or 4 though this would be a decent deal. Although MrEH would come along with me, he’s not really interested in the flying aside from the Edwardian stuff which might fly, but might not, depending on the weather. If they had involved some of the aircraft from nearby Duxford in the line-up too I would very likely have felt it was worth the money, but as it is, I’m going to swerve this one I think.

It is beginning to look optimistic that we might be able to visit the Hebrides for our deferred holiday later in the summer. It may have to look rather different to normal, with face coverings being mandatory in shops in Scotland from next week for example, MrEH may find himself doing rather a lot of shopping on his own as I cannot currently wear face coverings, and I think I would feel uncomfortable explaining that I was exempt in that circumstance. The Ferry is easy to deal with so long as I can wear a covering for long enough to get from the car to the outside deck, we tend to sit outside in all weathers anyway! This is the first time since rearranging things that I have actually begun to let myself feel even slightly hopeful about this, and after what has been at times an incredibly difficult few months, that trip has never been more needed, so hopefully we will not have to face disappointment again.

On a less cheerful note an interaction today has left me questioning my continued participation in  a group of which I am part. A message received from a member of that group this morning blaming me for something which patently could not have been my fault, in really quite unpleasant terms left me literally feeling sick and shaking, a feeling which has still not entirely subsided. My first reaction was to lash out in return, and make clear how hurt I was, but I am grateful that I surprised that initial urge and instead reply relatively calmly - pointing out that their comments were uncalled for, and clarifying something else they have accused me of. I know need to establish in my own mind where that leaves me in our social group - although I have in the past proved that I can step away from a group when one members’ behaviour makes me feel I no longer want anything to do with that person - in my experience those friends worth retaining find a way through, those who are not, don’t, so I’m actually not as alarmed and worried about the thought of no longer participating in that group as I would have been. This is not the first time the person concerned has chosen to take something I have said as a personal attack on them, and also not the first time that they have apologised in the terms and with the same mitigation that they have today. While it would appear that they may not have learned from that first experience, I definitely have and will not be opening myself up to the same treatment being meted out again. I’m worth more than that, and also need to be mindful of my own mental health - dealing with situations like this morning provides all the triggers I need to plummet into depression again, but being aware of his means I can take hopefully steps to guard against that. Self care, or self preservation - call it what you will!


Friday 3 July 2020

Truth? Or Fiction?

I was thinking about favourite bloggers from years gone by this morning - who is still about and who has faded away. Some leave, then return (Sue from Smaller & Simpler Life - you!)  others seem to disappear for ages then you discover that they’ve been blogging again for ages, you just hadn’t found them - Tracey AKA Fostermummy! Others have been about seemingly forever but still manage to keep it new and fresh (MeanQueen). Then there are those who simply disappear completely - anyone know what happened to Saving For Travel? I miss her blog, with her clever ways of saving to enable visiting fabulous destinations! Less missed, certainly by me, is another well known blogger who closed down her blog allegedly after being trolled - but certainly after she had herself treated another member of the blogging community in a truly appalling way. Prior to that she had pretty much entirely re-written her back-story, and my (and others) suspicion is that she actually chose to close down before she was called out - in the background of “all things money saving” but hiding in plain sight were brand new cars, luxury hotel stays and countless other contradictions. And this is the thing with blogging - and I guess to an extent any form of social media - you can choose to lie, to dress your life up as something it is not, but the chances are that people are going to be smarter than you give them credit for, and they WILL suss you out. I remember on one occasion after I had done “Frugal February” when we were working to pay off the mortgage - we’d cut things to the bone, lived from the cupboards, made our food shops cash-neutral, opted not to spend on going out, etc, and ended the month on a tiny spend. Shortly after a friend was asking me about it and after chatting on the subject for a while she gave me a conspiratorial smile and said “so go on then, how much did you REALLY spend?” - unable to believe that it was not all a front to look good on the blog, she was convinced we had to have made the whole thing up, in essence. I’m not sure if she was pleased or disillusioned when I explained that no - if you see it on the blog, then it’s true, I refuse to gild the lily to make life look “more perfect” to outsiders!

It is no coincidence that the blogs I’ve always enjoyed the most are also those - I believe anyway - that play things pretty straight. I think that Tracey has commented before that she refuses to curate her life to fit what people might expect. It’s not just blogs either - Instagram is a prime example of an environment where. People,  an portray their lives as absolutely perfect - no burned toast, split seams, petty arguments over the housework or favourite novels dropped into the bath for our favourite influencers - all is shiny and perfect, every photograph oh so carefully staged, never a hair out of place or a dirty plate left in view in their perfect loft apartments. Do we think they really live like that? Hell no - at least not if we have even half a foot still on solid ground, but of course that’s the thing - they rely on those who have been sucked in to perpetuate the myth , and for every one person who DOES believe that is how those lives really are, there is the potential for that follower to find themselves feeling that if their life is not that perfect, they have somehow failed. In fact of course what they are measuring their full unedited life against are the edited highlights of someone else’s. The “best bits” only - the perfect healthy dinners, the immaculately made up, posed photos, the fitness routine that frankly, even during lockdown, most of us would simply not have had time to maintain!

Next time you are looking at an Instagram account, or reading a blog, and you find yourself feeling a sense of it all being “too good to be true” then perhaps consider that in fact maybe it IS too good to be true - that you are only seeing the bits of someone that they choose to show you, but in fact, when the shutter isn’t clicking, their life may well be much the same as yours - after all we do all have to load the dishwasher, empty the washing machine, and get the shopping in - that stuff just doesn’t make riveting viewing on social media! Start considering it to be only half the story - with the other half, that they choose to keep quiet, being FAR less glamorous!

Thursday 2 July 2020

Throwback Thursday...

Spent a chunk of today looking back at some old aviation photos again - from Cosford Airshow 2015. For a while now I have had a feeling that there should be a fair few shots there that I’d never got around to processing first time I went through them, and sure enough the first ones I found were a load of the fantastic Gloster Meteor - a jet we haven’t seen displaying since the tragic events at Shoreham later that same year. I think there can be very few of us aviation photographers who wouldn’t love to see a Meteor flying in the U.K. again - I know I would! 2015 was also the last time we saw a Vulcan bomber fly as well of course - and that is one aircraft we will almost certainly never see airborne again.

As a further “throwback” this afternoon I had volunteered to drive my Dad into London for an appointment - in the interests of not risking being late, we got into Walthamstow with half an hour to spare, so took a little drive around the area that Dad grew up in to full some time. I think he was pretty astonished by all the changes - I have been round the area on a reasonably regular basis since we moved away in 2003, and even for me I find it quite strange going back to an area that is quite so different now.

MrEH and I made the decision to move out of London at the point where we wanted to buy somewhere to live - realistically we would only have been able to afford somewhere absolutely tiny in London at that stage, and moving out just a few miles meant that without over-stretching ourselves financially more than we felt comfortable with, we were able to buy somewhere of a far more practical size. For me it was a huge decision - a Londoner born and bred, I had never lived anywhere else, or indeed wanted to! Going back now is strange - and although there are areas of London I would like to live, there is no prospect we would ever be able to afford even those places where frankly we wouldn’t be caught dead!


Wednesday 1 July 2020

Day 100...

The end? Or the start of the beginning? Take your pick, but with - realistically in England at least - lockdown coming to an end, it’s time to move into our new normal, and so this will be the last day I blog with a day number I think. 100 days, over three months, more than a quarter of a year - whichever way you choose to look at it without question it has been a very strange time to live through . I said at the beginning of these daily blog posts that it felt as though it was a pretty momentous time in our history, and I still feel that’s true. My generation’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond will be taught about this in schools - indeed, it makes you wonder how, in a society that seems ever more consumer driven - how unbelievable it will seem that all shops were shut, and in most cases for so long, too!

I’m going to try to give a pretty honest “pro’s and cons” take on how things have been right here. It  has been a very tough time to live through - from the initial terror, the numbers that were being reported early on as likely mortality figures for the U.K. if no lockdown was put in place were horrendous - hundreds of thousands dead was the figure being suggested by experts - and from my perspective it felt as though I would be extremely fortunate to emerge with both my parents still living, for example. Through to the restrictions placed on us early in lockdown - I found being told I could only go out once a day for exercise incredibly difficult - not that I always DO go out more than that, but usually, I have the option if needed. Having to queue for access to food shops was a strange one to get used to as well - especially as at first there was precious little in the shops to buy! Adjusting initially to both of us working from home, and then to just MrEH being in that position - our flat isn’t the biggest, and losing one entire room several days a week to be “office space” has been a challenge. The drop in income - me being put onto furlough and MrEH having his hours dropped to three days per week - so 60% of usual income - we were probably better equipped to cope with that than a lot of people, but it’s still been a challenge to juggle day to day cashflow. The uncertainty around this too - my furlough period is still open ended - the right decision for the company as the aim is that by the time I go back things will be back in a fairly even keel again but still an odd, uncertain position to be in. Silly things have contributed to this as well - it feels as though our food spend has gone through the roof - because usually we would eat at least some meals away from home, on days out or weekends away - and so those would come from different budgets. Similarly we’ve been buying beer in with the food spend - and that of course would usually come from our own spending money so not be visible at all on our joint spending. In fact we have been spending far less than we would in usual times, it’s just appearing differently - and more obviously - in front of us. Then - and for me this is by far the biggest thing - the cancellation of so many much anticipated events and plans. The first for us was the decision we had to take with the rest of the working party to cancel The Great British Beer Festival, then our holiday celebrating a close friend’s 50th birthday on Lundy, and our own fortnight in the Hebrides. Airshow after airshow cancelled - including several that I had expensive and technically non-refundable accommodation booked for. I have missed my aviation photography too - no trips to Scampton since February, and my only proper aviation photography since then has been a single trip to Lakenheath soon after  lockdown restrictions were first eased.

So - that’s the negatives, but there has undoubtedly also been many positives too. Referring back to that last point about the airshow accommodation  - people proving that they can be very kind about things, by agreeing to either roll over bookings to next year or being willing to refund, even against the terms of the relevant booking site. Spending more time together - I’ve said before that MrEH is probably the only human being on earth I can imagine spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with, and this has underlined that fact. Of course there have been niggly moments - it would be crazy to suggest otherwise, but generally speaking we’ve been perfectly content to continue doing the majority of things together without either of us feeling that time alone is something we crave (and for the avoidance of doubt, as checked with him he felt the same about this too!). Rediscovering the love of our little outside space on the balcony - taking the time to do the much overdue work of painting, putting decking tiles back down and repairing the fences both sides. Time, generally in fact. It is going to be quite difficult to readjust when the time comes to our previous level of “busy” I suspect, and indeed, I think we are already starting to consider that perhaps we don’t want to return to quite the same level. The ability (not just for me, but for many others too) to commit more time to exercising outdoors - I have several friends who have begun the Couch to 5k programme and seen it through during lockdown - one good friend ran her first ever 5k earlier this week and was utterly delighted with herself, quite rightly! It’s been a delight to see so many others getting grabbed by the running bug! Indeed for myself too - when the weather has been hot having the ability to decide just to run around the woods, and on other cooler days venturing further afield. Exploring so much more of our local area as well - quite literally turning along roads in the mornings simply because we’ve never walked along them before, and at weekends heading out to places we’ve often talked about going before. Walking the sculpture trail is something we have idly discussed doing for years, similarly going to find the remains of the temple. Doing more baking has been good fun too - from simple stuff like flapjacks and scones, through to chocolate brownies and chocolate banana bread - everything has been delicious and we’ve found a few recipes we will make again. Also in the kitchen - my sourdough starter has been a triumph, giving us the ability to have freshly baked sourdough bread every week. If I’d known how simple it was I would have done it ages ago, and even the bread itself is dead easy - far easier than a traditional loaf!

So there you have it. MrEH is back to 5 days working now although there is still a financial impact....for us thankfully for the moment at least mostly cancelled out by no travel expenses. We have our Hebrides holiday re-booked for later in the summer and are crossing fingers that we can go. I’m planning a Scampton trip...soon! Pubs re-open at the weekend. Some shortages still exist in te shops - bread flour is still tricky to come by, in particular. We still have a long way to go with the virus for company I suspect and we may well still have difficult times to come, but this point seems to mark the turn into a new phase.

I may well still blog most days I think, I’ve got used to it and am enjoying it again. I believe I am right in saying that this is the longest consecutive run of daily posts I’ve made since I started the blog - perhaps I should see that as another lockdown positive?!