Sunday, 30 May 2010


I'm not sure how successful this post will be.  The children are having a mid-morning bath due to the swimming pool being closed for a gala (the swim would have produced the triple result of getting them clean, being fun and burning up some energy) but it sounds as if some sort of naval battle is going on, judging from Daughter's dramatic cries of woe.  So at any moment I may have to vanish to arbitrate.

We're in Aberdeen.  We were meant to be in Aviemore, camping by Loch Morlech, but the forecast was for rain and whilst apparently there was only light rain over there yesterday evening, if further east is anything to judge by, that will have increased. As tomorrow is meant to be a sunny respite between days of rain, we're going to Aviemore tomorrow instead.  My camping trips with MY Family (i.e. Husband, Daughter and Son) have so far consisted of mud and midges, and I'm not keen to repeat either experience: so Husband has had the sense, and perhaps the empathy, not to suggest that we camp in the rain.

The lovely thing about being in Aberdeen, at my Outlaws, is that we have a fantastically lazy time.  This morning I finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  It was one of those Waterstone's temptations: 'you've spent over £10, would you like to buy this half price?' which I succumbed to, but having initially thought it was perhaps a little pretentious, passing through 'well, it's French and therefore philosophical/psychological' I ended up really enjoying it: and being very sad at the end. 

(nb. this review was published on my birthday, but also describes the book rather well):

The difficulty is what to read next.  I left Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow at home: I've read it several times before but not for several years, and knew there would be books to choose from up here.  Do I read a biography of Eleanor of Acquitaine, which again I have read previously but before I realised that she was 44 or 45 when she had her last child - and 82 when she died! - or another novel?  I opted not to read the biography of Eleanor of A. again as I want specifically to carry out some wider research, if possible, into some of the Plantagenet Queens of England: their family and medical histories, and whether they came from long-lived lines, which I think may be of relevance.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog made me wonder if I've had too much time to think recently.  It's good to be able to think and philosophise, but at the same time there is aways the danger of becoming too introspective.  It struck me especially in relation to this pregnancy that I'm hyper-concious of what my body is doing and how I feel: far more so than if I had to go to work every day and concentrate on something other than me.  My tiredness is not my imagination however, nor is the nausea.  But part of me wants to pull myself together and make myself go for a long run, or a swim.  But with the pool closed that will of course have to wait for another day - what a good excuse!  I shall go to have a bath instead.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Not that many weeks ago I was looking out of Son's bedroom window as I was saying good night to him, and saw 8 or 9 frogs jump out of our pond, bounce across the garden and disappear behind the garden shed.  They have not been seen since: nor is there any sign of any more frogs despite there having been a fair few tadpoles in the pond when I started clearing it of the excessive amount of algae it contained.

This morning imagine the children's delight as, just as they were having breakfast, a baby rabbit appears on our front lawn!  I wonder whether it will come back again at some point, and where on earth it had come from.

We also saw some sort of thrush, I think it was, and outside my study window I've just seen a tiny little blue tit with something in its mouth, presumably for nest-building.

There also appear to have been lots of big fat bumble bees around this year, which is excellent news.  I still intend to create a bee-garden, but not from necessity so much as just because I'd like to.

Singing with Pianist D. later so must get on with sorting out the music.  So much for my thinking living in the country would be boring: it's anything but!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010


It was beautifully hot and sunny over the weekend: in fact a bit too uncomfortably hot for me, to be honest: I feel so lethargic at the moment.  But I can't complain when, for instance, we went down to Derwentwater on Sunday afternoon and took a rowing boat out on the lake.  It was glorious and the kids loved every moment.

The weather changed this morning.  It's been grey and overcast all day and far, far cooler.  One of the Mums at school commented that I looked tired, so it's not just my imagination. 

I'm in a rather gloomy mood.  Nearly 3 weeks to wait for a dating scan, by which time I'll be 10 weeks pregnant: which is fine so long as I am still pregnant.  I feel tired and nauseous in the mornings, which is a good sign (and also grumpy and emotional), but I'm just rather nervous as when I previously had a miscarriage I had no symptoms whatsoever.  I've had a tiny bit of brown spotting recently but I feel that unless it gets worse it's not worth calling the Dr. or midwife - my appointment on 14th June will at least confirm whether things are progressing or not.

I've been doing a bit of historical research.  The Plantagenets in particular throw up some interesting examples of obviously strong women. Eleanor of Acquitaine was 45 when she had the child who became King John (the notorious): in turn John's second wife Isabella of Angouleme, by her second marriage to Hugh of Lusignan, had a final child when she was 46.  Eleanor of Castile was 43 when she had her 16th child, who was to become King Edward II.  Philippa of Hainault was 43 when she had Thomas of Woodstock, in 1355.  There then seem to be few similar examples until Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's wife: by her second marriage her final daughter was born when she was 43. 

In contrast, Queen Anne is known for her 17 pregnancies but the oldest any of her children lived to was 11: and her last pregnancy was at the age of 33.   Her sister Mary (as of 'WilliamandMary the Orange') appears to have been infertile.  But who knows how many more children Queen Victoria, who was obviously made of stern stuff, might have had if Albert hadn't died?  Her youngest daughter, Beatrice, was born to her when she ws 38: Albert died not long after, putting a stop to any more child-bearing for Victoria.

I shall do some more research on the subject and see what I can find out about the various medical histories of these women, and their families generally.  It fascinates me that women in medieval times were able to have tens of children and still carry on child-bearing into what would have been perceived as old age, and in some cases then live for another 15 or 20 years, despite the odds of the time.

As I write it has brightened up a little outside.  I doubt the weather will be noticed much by the parents of the two children who died yesterday in a school bus crash near Keswick.  One was celebrating her 16th birthday.  Road deaths in Cumbria seem high, and all too often to include young people.  What a waste of life, and so quickly and easily snuffed out.  I sat watching the news while I was having my lunch with tears rolling down my face.  That seems rather melodramatic when I knew none of the participants, and when their families and friends must be feeling so much anguish.  But I think as much as anything I cry with relief that my two gorgeous children are alive, and healthy, and happy, and I thank whatever miraculous power exists - be it even only the lifeforce - for them.  Awake they are lively, cheeky, confident, bright and beautiful children and can drive me potty.  Asleep they still have their baby faces, unknowing that I have gone in to kiss each of them, to tell them I love them and wish them sweet dreams. 

RIP to the two who died yesterday, and also the driver of the car involved in the crash.

My job search continues but without much luck at the moment.  I spoke to a publisher this morning who told me there are few freelance proof-reading opportunities around at the moment, although she was able to suggest some specialist surveying avenues I could try.   The TEFL course I'm thinking of doing doesn't begin until the end of August, which is probably good timing in fact, but seems a long way off.  I'm not good at sitting around waiting for things!  I know of about 4 jobs coming up, but none has been advertised yet....  My gloom arises from lack of income coming in: I don't want to use up all my redundancy payment on living expenses, but I fear that it will all too quickly disappear.

However I do believe that positive thinking helps generate positive things happening, so I must get myself out of this slough of despond and cheer up.  Lanercost Festival Chorus yesterday was really good: we all sang well and I felt asthough I'd really been getting some fresh oxygen in and out of my lungs!  Tomorrow I have a singing practice with Pianist D.  She's playing at a party we're holding, and I'm singing, and then we're going to market ourselves to wine bars, restaurants, etc.: so long as it goes OK tomorrow and at the party.  I'm still nervous that I'm not good enough but then I've heard so-called professional singers who are probably no better than me: and Pianist D is an excellent musician.

So I'd better go to get some more music sorted out and make the children's tea.....

Thursday, 20 May 2010


How selfish can I be?  There I am wondering whether or not I want this baby when I did nothing to stop it and there are people out there who would give nearly anything to be in my situation, whatever their age.

As predicted, my singing lesson cheered me up.  My Singing Teacher is such a lovely, cheerful person and always makes me feel good about my singing.  We also chat.

The mother of the girl who has the lesson before me also had an unexpected third child, and said both she and her husband were up and down about it emotionally right up until the birth: though they wouldn't change a thing now and the baby - who comes along and waits while his big sister has her lesson - is the most adorable smiley little thing.  The mother also agreed that she is far more relaxed having a big gap between children as the older ones can help: she too had a small gap between her first two, which is really hard work when they're tiny.

My singing teacher wants me to do more 'singing for fun'/relaxing singing, as well as the 'classical' stuff I love, and so she was supportive when I mentioned that Pianist D is keen to accompany me and that we're even thinking of trying to get 'gigs' in local wine-bars etc.  I sent the repetoire list off to Pianist D today, from whom I got an enthusiastic response: now I just need to get hold of copies of all the music!

Baritone W and Pianist M came round this afternoon to practice the duet we're doing at Son's school tomorrow, and we ran through the lesson plan.  I'm rather looking forward to it.  We're going to try to get the children to join in a bit as well: they can join in the warm-up, sing bits back once they've heard us sing, and then if there's time we're planning on getting to do a round.  So it should be a bit of a music lesson for them rather than just sitting and listening to us adults.

I guess this is a type of Educational Outreach work to schools, so when I saw that Carlisle Leisure are thinking of employing some Educational Outreach workers to take their classical concert series to schools, and only on a part-time and temporary basis, I immediately thought I'd really enjoy that as a job.   So I had a chat with the Finance Director and have emailed the relevant manager to ask him to let me know when the posts get advertised.

I've also had an idea for another article, which will need a bit of research of historic facts, which will be interesting: and......... FINALLY I've drafted one section of the book which Running Friend C and I are writing.  I just need to type it up now: possibly after singing at the school tomorrow.

Lovely evening driving back from a Board meeting in Carlisle this evening, after a rather grey day: but what is worth mentioning was the misty grey cloud over Brampton Fell, which looked quite out of place.

Made the most fantastic turkey lasagne out of the leftover roast turkey from the weekend: really tasty, though the children wouldn't touch it.  Must go to make up their lunch boxes for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


First midwife's appointment yesterday.  Like an idiot I came home and looked up the percentage likelihood of someone of my age having a miscarriage and was shocked to find that within the first 6 weeks at least it's something like 80%.  As I didn't feel queasy at all yesterday afternoon and have had funny stomach feelings on and off, I was immediately convinced that the new life that had begun inside me had ceased: and felt somewhat upset.

A bike ride out to Lanercost, Banks, Birdoswald and back along the 'B' road just north of that, turning off to Walton and back to Brampton, in the glorious evening sunshine with incredible views, cheered me up.  It wasn't a fast ride but it was a good feeling to be back on my bike pedalling along in this lovely countryside.  Although the photo above is from last year, the sunshine is similar.  The photo is taken from one of my favourite running spots, at the gate leading into the back of Talkin Tarn.

I then had a horrible dream last night during which I had a miscarriage: needless to say I won't go into details.  Today I have been fairly convinced that it's 'all stop' (as opposed to 'all go') but I then started thinking that perhaps that's what I want.  Truth is I'm not sure and my emotions are still rather up and down.

My other dream last night was more surreal and was about singing at Son's school on Friday.  The dream went through my lesson plan in some detail, and accurately, but the children were all misbehaving and there weren't very many of them.  I guess we dream about things which are bothering us in one way or another.

My emotional turmoil today may also be due in part to tiredness: Daughter ended up in my bed last night so what with that and the bad dreams I slept badly, and she woke me up early.  She was also in a bad mood and tired as she had gone to bed late as well.  We both had hysterics with each other this morning, her sobbing her eyes out and winding me up more and more, and me getting cross.  Eventually I calmed down and gave her a big hug but by that time her eyes and face were red and her nose running and I felt like a complete louse.  I still feel bad about it now.

I also think that going to sign on doesn't help.  I am genuinely putting a lot of effort into trying to get work: I don't want only £65 per week for the foreseeable future: and the people in the JobCentre comment on how much effort I'm making.  However I still somehow feel as if I'm trying to con the government and that I shouldn't really be there: besides the fact that I just feel completely out of place and find it depressing.  This is despite nowadays their having carpet on the floor and fabric-covered chairs and not keeping you waiting in a long queue: it's all quite civilized but it's still, at the end of the day, signing on.  And you have to show the record of what you've done to look for work, and go on courses they want you to go on: etc. etc.

Still, I have to go for my singing lesson now and that always cheers me up.  My teacher is a lovely, cheerful lady and singing is a therapy in itself.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Little did I know on Wednesday what stunning news Thursday would bring.

At lunchtime I did a pregnancy test.  I didn't even have a chance to put the lid back on it and leave it the 5 minutes to work before it was showing 'pregnant'.  I was flabbergasted.  Husband and I had both just rather assumed that at 48 I was too old to get pregnant, at least not without trying really hard.

I'll be completely honest: my first reaction was that I was going to go straight down to the Doctors and ask for an abortion, feeling stupid for letting myself get in that position.  I rather tearfully phoned Husband at work to tell him the news and we agreed we should discuss it that evening: though I think it was rather hard for him to concentrate on sums for the rest of the day.

He came in beaming, thinking the situation was hilarious, not the slightest bit worried about finances, and of the view that whilst the ultimate decision was up to me, he felt that if we didn't let nature take its course then in 10 years' time we'd regret it: something I have to admit had been niggling at me despite my apparent resolution.  After all, we had let nature take its course previously which had resulted in this situation.

I saw the Doctor on Saturday.  She was lovely, and reassuring: apparently about 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, even in marriage.   Husband had found out that the oldest lady ever to fall pregnant naturally was 58: 59 when she had the baby.  10 years older than me!  And even in medieval times, Eleanor of Acquitaine was 45 when she had her last baby and Eleanor of Castile 43.

So I'm not now drinking alcohol and have started taking folic acid.  I see the midwife on Tuesday.  An online calculator showed that I'm 6 weeks pregnant and that the due date is Saturday 8th January.  Having now had 3 or 4 days to think about the situation I'm getting used to it and rather want to give it as good a chance as I can.   Goodness knows what my mother is going to say!

Meanwhile exciting things happened on Friday morning as well, and combined with the baby news I'm more and more sure that going self-employed and working from home is what I need to do, and what I'd find fulfilling.  I went to see Cumbria Chamber of Commerce first thing, and was given all sorts of useful leads and ideas.  It made me completely resolved to sort out a TEFL course as soon as I can: and I'm hoping they'll give me some funding towards it, which would make a huge difference.

I then went to BBC Cumbria to be recorded for 'Little Cumbria'.  What fun!  I'm going to be broadcast - for all of about 45 seconds per day - Monday to Friday this coming week.  But I was also asked if I'd like to go back in about 12 weeks' time, to which I readily said yes, exhibitionist that I am.  Just imagine where things may be in 12 weeks' time.... I should have done or at least started a course, I should have started some marketing, I may have got some work, and I may even have started my book.  And I will - I hope - be 4 months' pregnant (and by then I will have told the children, if everything is going OK: it will be interesting to see their reactions).

I wonder how old the oldest woman to get pregnant naturally in Carlisle has been?  If anyone knows, post a comment!

To the garden.  Little progress in the garden lately though the plants and weeds continue to multiply. I'm delighted that my hanging basket has some green shoots popping out of the top, and there's something with lovely purpley-red flowers in the front garden.

Husband took most of the back fence down this weekend. As a result we have a pile of slightly rotten, splintering wood at the back of the house (no doubt he will have a bit bonfire at some point being a bit of a pyromaniac) and a big gap to the outside world.

Son fell in the pond - so much for my worries that the children would get splinters/fall out of the garden and down to the road etc. Apparently he was trying to get a ball and fell in. He was soaking, poor lamb. Husband and one of his friends thought it was hilarious and I have to say I saw the amusing side rather than being particularly concerned, dreadful mother that I am. I think his pride was hurt more than anything: I was speaking to a friend on the phone this morning and he told me quite strictly not to tell other people! I think it quite scared him as well - he insisted I lay down next to him when he first went to bed last night. Put his clothes straight in the washing machine as there is still a lot of algae in the pond, despite a) plants b) a chemical treatment c) some barley things. However it is still possible to see the bottom: and I've seen one fish though the numerous tadpoles seem to have disappeared (hiding?).

New solar-powered lights from M&S look fab.: and I even have two left to put round the back once that's 'done', as I didn't realise you got two in a box.

Fingers crossed for some sun this week and time to do some more digging!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


It's rather a pity, really, that I'm going to have to get a 'proper' job sometime: that is unless I can generate enough income out of freelance work.  I'm having such a good time and am so busy: I fully understand why retired people say they can't understand how they ever had time to work.

Briefly, my tasks include: housework (it's so great not having to slot it in around everything else or at weekends); decorating (not done much of that so far); gardening (ditto though more progress than the decorating); childcare; job-hunting; writing (articles, book and letters); singing practice; trying to keep fit or get fitter (including planning an aerobics class I could teach somewhere); entering competitions (you never know I might be able just to win some of the things I want done to the house); looking for proof-reading and TEFL courses (one day I'll sign up to them both); meeting up with friends....

I met up with a friend for lunch yesterday.  She was glowing with happiness: she's just adopted a child and everyone is clearly really happy.  It was so lovely, and positive: you hear stories about the problems of adopting children, particularly older ones, and this was proof that it doesn't have to be so.

I also had a very positive experience in Chivers, the running shoe shop in Carlisle.  The staff in there are incredibly helpful: I can't hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for running shoes and needing advice about what type to get.  I later went running - in the new shoes - with Running Friend P, down at Stainton.  The 4-mile route we do is used, with a different start point, as the beginning of the Lakeland 50 which Daft Running Husband did last year and intends to do again this year.  In fact he's even roped in some equally Daft Running Friends this year, and I think plans to aim for the Lakeland 100 next year.

But I digress.  The route is lovely, though I hadn't run it since last September and had forgotten how undulating it is.   You start off by running up a track.  A quick run through some woods and then you come out at the top of a field with a lovely view across to Ullswater in the distance.  Up and down a bit more through sheep fields and the route brings you to Dacre and an old Pele Tower (I think it is) and then via the Dalemain estate to Dalemain House.  Across another field and then a steep climb up through some woods, to burst - or struggle - out at the top to a magnificent view of the Pennines around Alston, and across towards Scotland.  It's then only a few yards to get back to the start point in Stainton.  We ran it the quickest we ever have yesterday in 44 minutes, but would like to get down to 40 minutes.  I drove back up the motorway singing.

Today I'm planning on starting to write my book, but so far I've applied for a job, written to the tax office, and need to write to a couple of publishers about proof-reading.  Singing lesson tonight.  Not sure I'll get out for that bike ride I promised myself......

Monday, 10 May 2010


Another beautiful evening.  Choir practice at Lanercost: driving there in the early evening sunshine reminded me once again why I live here.  I sometimes regret the lack of career opportunities but I only have to look around me to remember what life is about.

There was snow on the fell tops this morning: we can see the Lake District Fells and the hills of the Scottish border from Brampton, and Brampton Fell is in fact the very northern end of the Pennines.  Some are wild and stark: it's easy to imagine the Border Reivers going to and fro and stealing each others' cattle and generally causing mayhem; others are rolling and green and lush.  Lanercost snuggles into a valley and feels like an ancient oasis of calm: I know Edward I maybe didn't have much choice about where he stopped and stayed as he was so ill, but I'm sure he must have found the surroundings of Lanercost soothing before he moved on to Burgh by Sands.

There are two elements to why I love it so much around here, both related.  One is the open country, the fact that you can go for a bike ride and only pass 2 or 3 cars on a 20-mile circuit.  The other is the history: it's 'in your face' as so little modern development has happened around or on top of the historic buildings and places.  Even Carlisle has its old streetscape and many of its old buildings, and the last major development was the Lanes, 25 years ago (not to say it couldn't do with an improved, updated and upgraded retail offer, but that's a different matter: and House of Fraser is in the process of refurbishing and going far more upmarket and trendy.  I may even shop there instead of at John Lewis in Newcastle!).

Husband and I both love history and both loved working for British Waterways: I think perhaps because of the historic connection.  So having just seen a property manager job vacancy at the Northumberland Estate, I've applied for it.  Not that their property portfolio will all be old: I'm quite sure a lot of it will be modern, but the historic connection to Alnwick, the Percy family and Northumberland is seeped in history. 

What also appeals is the fact that some of the portfolio is in Europe and I've had a hankering to do some European property work for some years.  However I'm not sure they'll want to recruit someone who can't relocate and who will need to be home-working for some of the time.  It's funny how things change though, isn't it: one minute I'm absolutely sure that I want to work for myself and diversify: the next I see a job that I really want.  Well, I've applied and Fate will decide.  I'm sure other historically-related property jobs will come up in due course if this one ends up being a no-go-er.

Meanwhile I'm signing on to Freecycle to see if I can pick up some goodies for the garden!

Sunday, 9 May 2010


To many people doing an 8-mile run in an hour and ten minutes will not sound very impressive, but I was pleased: particularly after my performance at Hawkshead.

Running Friend A and I, plus a friend of hers, arrived in Langholm about 45 minutes before the run began.  Having all admitted to many trips to the toilet before leaving home, we then proceeded to go again about 3 times each in that 45 minutes: until the run was about to start and Running Friend A wasn't allowed back into the building!

For some reason I had expected a trail run but in fact the first 4 miles or so is all on road, albeit quiet, winding, country roads.  It starts with a hill: the first bit is short and relatively steep and is one of those hills which tricks you into thinking you're at the top when in fact you have another but less steeply graded phase to go.  There was then a downhill section on where I told myself to keep it steady, despite the fact that plenty of people were overtaking me, as we were only a mile or so into the run.

Fortunately I'd seen a very sketchy profile of the run so knew there was another hill around the 3.5 mile mark.  By then my shoulders were absolutely killing me and, being used nowadays to running on trails rather than roads, I was also getting rather bored with tarmac, despite the fact that my watch was indicating to me that I was going more quickly than I had anticipated I would.  I also kept telling myself it couldn't possibly be as bad as Hawkshead and what's  more was an entire mile less.

Halfway up the hill I walked for a bit to rotate and stretch my shoulders and then started running again.  Before long there was a water station and then, to my joy, the route turned onto a track.  All of a sudden I felt happier: this was the sort of terrain I was used to, and it was fairly well-compacted with smallish stones so fairly easy running.   After an open section it started winding through the trees and the final few miles seemed to go a lot quicker than the first few had done.

Stepping on to the footbridge which led back into the playing field where the finish was located I saw Special Friend M, her husband and son waiting at the other end: her father 'invented' the route and her parents still live in Langholm.   My spirits rose and I waved, them waving back and cheering and clapping me on.  A quick 200m or so round the field, running as fast as I could as I could hear someone behind me trying to overtake (and I was blowed if he or she was going to), and over the finish line!

Post-race there was soup, a bread roll, a flapjack and a cup of coffee for every competitor (in fact they even paid us the compliment of calling us 'athletes'): plus we each got a medal and a little shot glass.  The goodies must be some of the best from any event I have completed, and it wasn't even expensive to enter.

So a third success of the weekend and I am so glad I did it: thank you to my friends for encouraging me.  Maybe Bassenthwaite Triathlon is on the cards for the summer after all.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


Life is good.  Choir sang at Nether Denton church this evening: what a beautiful spot, and what a lovely church (built on the site of an old Roman Fort if I understood the plan on display correctly).  The views were stunning: rolling lush green hills in every direction and Carlisle and the Solway Plain just vaguely visible in the distance.  There's something comforting about having hills around: they make you feel protected and safe,  but being able to see into the distance also provides a feeling of one's spirit floating free.

I guess it did help that it was a beautiful sunny evening and that the sunset when we left was creating glorious shades of red hovering on the horizon.

I got more compliments about my singing, which was lovely: though of course, as I said to some of them, it never sounds as good in performance as when practicing in my sitting room at home.  I do get nervous and sometimes it means the support for and focus of the voice goes.  I really liked the acoustics tonight: although it was a dry acoustic, I felt that everything - mistakes as well as positive attributes - was clearer than yesterday.  In the choir master's redition of Butterworth's Six Songs of a Shropshire Lad every word was crystal clear; and heart-rending.

When I got home I spoke to Special Friend M on the telephone who told me that her parents, who attended yesterday's concert, had praised my singing.  It was just what I needed to hear in terms of a confidence boost.  Special Friend M also told me that in tomorrow's Dr's run I count as a SuperVet.  Doesn't that sound so much better than just a plain old 'vet': I'm not just a vet, I'm SUPER!

While I run Husband is taking Son and Daughter to their swimming lessons.  He went on a Delicious Desserts course today and came back with the most fabulous puds.  He's an extremely good cook, and particularly spurred on to make anything sweet.  I have bought him various baking cookery books and everything he makes always turns out well.  Just as well I don't generally have too sweet a tooth or I would get incredibly fat, despite the running.  But reverting to running I guess I'd better get to bed or else I'll feel too tired to run.  Can I make it three successes this weekend?

Friday, 7 May 2010


I have to admit that my job-hunting this week has not been quite as energetic as for the previous couple of weeks.  On the other hand I've been following up leads, researching courses and generally following various paths which may bring in some income at some point in the future.

I'm quite sure my running never will, however.  It's just as well I have no aspirations in that direction.  Running has always been my least favourite of the triathlon disciplines, and I do it because it's convenient, it's a great way to get fit, and because the trails and the scenery around here are gorgeous.

Running Friend A and I did a 4.5 mile run this morning whilst our respective pre-school daughters were elsewhere.  I felt somewhat the worse for several glasses of wine last night and a late night: completely self-inflicted but then I think I was rather hoping Running Friend A would send a text saying she didn't feel like going, which would have let me off the hook.  She didn't.  In addition she's somehow managed to talk me into doing the 8-mile Dr's Run in Langholm on Sunday: but she also gave my phone number to the guy who runs the Fitness programme at William Howard School, at my request.  He wants Husband and me to run a running club (Mega-running-fit Husband said I could take out the slow people) and I've also planned an aerobics class which I'm going to offer up: I could get paid for it perhaps.

The Dr. in question - the one who invented the run - was at the concert tonight with his wife, who sings with Gretna Choral.  I was somewhat worried about my duet as I kept forgetting my cues: as it turned out it was fine and I didn't even look at the music.  I got plenty of compliments so I think it went OK:  I don't think people were saying it just to be nice.  I hope.  I know I didn't make as much of dynamics as I should have done so I'll have to try to do better tomorrow night.  The trouble with live performances, of course, is that you only get one stab at them.  I do hope I get some more duets, solos etc. but I still worry that maybe I'm not really all that good.  I wonder whether it's better to be very confident and not worry, or whether in fact being a little lacking in confidence means you work harder at getting things right?  Certainly in terms of the whole choir I think we sang best the pieces we found more difficult: not the ones which appeared easier and which many of the choir already knew and had sung several times before.

When I got home both children had been allowed to stay up late watching television.  Not long after I came in Daughter, bless her, said she wanted to go to bed: quite a change from the child who used to cry her eyes out and kept being put back into a cot as she repetitively got out of a bed.  She is now snuggled up under her duvet looking like young children do when they're asleep: babyish, warm and cuddly and as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. 

I promised them both a cooked breakfast at Jacobites in the morning, and I also need to go to the Aladdin's Cave of a hardware shop to see if I can buy a prop for the washing line.  Husband is off to do a dinner party desserts course all day and is then planning on making us all fat with lots of puds over the forthcoming period.

I nearly forgot the big news of the day, which is that we have a hung parliament.  It's rather exciting except that I'm not sure uncertainty is a good thing for the country in the current economic situation.   Now I don't work in the public sector I can say what I think out loud: I hope that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats manage to find a way to work together to form a government.  Gordon Brown seems like a genuine and honest man but, quite frankly, who goes and gets more into debt when one is in debt already?  And the public sector desperately needs drastically cutting: getting rid of the ridiculous numbers of policies and strategies and procedural documents which need to be constantly produced would be a good idea and get rid of a lot of well-paid but very waffly-sounding jobs.

That's not to say that if a part-time well-paid waffly-sounding job came my way I wouldn't snap it up promptly.  Anyone out there got one to offer me?

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Thursday is a 'daughter day': she's not at nursery so we do something together.  Last week it was Fun at Splatz at Haltwhistle (which I can highly recommend to anyone with young children): this week she wanted to stay at home so after dropping Son at school we went to cast my votes in the Elections, went to Jacobites for a drink and a chocolate brownie (their new premises are great - far more spacious than the old ones - I think the teenager driving a car into the other building did them a favour in a strange way) and then to buy her a new toothbrush and to the greengrocers for aubergines.

Aren't aubergines beautiful?  I'm not mad on them to eat, other than in moussaka, which was what I needed them for, but I love their smooth, shiny purple skins.  They don't look like vegetables at all but like something coloured in with dark purple wax crayon.

So while I cooked Daughter did lots of painting, colouring and jigsaws and we were both happy.  After fetching Son from school we went to Houghton Garden Centre.  I hate taking my children shopping.  I feel I have to do it but I hate myself for nagging at them constantly not to touch things, to come when called, not to drop food on the floor in cafes...  I wish they would just behave perfectly.  I remember being at motorway services several years ago, driving back to Bristol from Scotland, and getting mad with Son because he was refusing to eat his tea.  In the end I walked away from the table, him following crying loudly and insisting he was going to eat his meal: only to receive glares from a French family sitting nearby whose four (yes, FOUR) children were all behaving perfectly.  Ever feel like a complete failure as a mother?

Fit Husband ran home from work again today whilst I did nothing exercise-wise, but I'm running tomorrow morning.  I needed to print off my C.V. as one of the fathers at school asked if I'd like to be part of a team bidding for some work in Jersey to do with listed buildings (wouldn't I just!) and I also needed to practice my duet for tomorrow: I keep forgetting my cues.  I can't understand how I had learnt it perfectly a couple of months ago for Carlisle Music Festival and now am distinctly dodgy.  Somewhat worrying as I want to impress with my performances tomorrow and Saturday!

I haven't really written much about my singing in this blog so far: I think because maybe it matters too much; the emotions singing engenders in me are perhaps somewhat too intimate.  The voice itself is such a very personal instrument, being after all part of one's own body and, if it doesn't sound too exaggerated, soul.  Singing is a way I can express myself and when I don't feel I have sung well enough, the failure feels worse than, say, not doing very well in an exam which one knows one should have done well in.  Perhaps that's at the root of why I gave up completely for 20 or 25 years, instead of perservering, even though now I wish I had perservered.

I'm increasingly optimistic that work will turn up in some way or another soon, and that it will be home-based and hours to suit me: I have to grasp opportunities which come along but can also influence fate by my choices.  We're convinced that we've had a virtual rabbit's foot (or guardian angel) since living in Cumbria, which is looking after us.

Meanwhile it is lovely to have the extra time at home with the children and I fully intend to make the most of it.  Despite nagging at them I am generally so much more relaxed than when I was working four days a week and trying to fit in 5 loads of washing and all the other housework on day 5.  And they are gorgeous, bright children.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Anyone who has ever had a report or piece of written work reviewed by me will know what I'm like with red pen.  Some people would consider me pedantic: one once asked whether I'd ever read Eats Shoots and Leaves (which I hadn't at the time.  I have now and spent most of the time laughing as it is so me).

It is not surprising perhaps then that my latest idea for earning some money on a self-employed basis and working from home, is to become a proof-reader.  The problem is the number of courses on the internet.  Type in 'proof reading courses' and hundreds of options come up.  How on earth does one decide which are the worthwhile ones, and which result in qualifications at which any decent publisher would turn up his or her nose?  Fortunately I remembered that a Dutch friend is a proof-reader, so I asked her, and she had the good idea of approaching publishers to see whether they would just try me out anyway, and also to ask what courses they would recommend.

It's been a week and a half since I last wrote here and not only has the proof-reading idea bubbled up.  I had the idea of writing a book jointly with Running Friend C (I need to write up a run so we can compare notes); and I've finished my gardening article, which is now ready to be sent out into the wide world to see how it fares.  I need to find a gardening magazine for idiots though as the one I currently have in my possession - a BBC publication I believe - only contains articles about huge gardens which are all obviously managed by people who know exactly what they are doing.  Unlike me: our pond looks very strange at the moment, following my having dropped some algae-killer-stuff into it.  It's very clear but also all the remaining algae round the edges is obvious.  I've now ordered some organic barley bales as they are meant to be the answer: apparently snails aren't as they can end up being more of a pest than an advantage.

The compost heap is however now, I think, finally sorted.  I can't remember whether I wrote about the smelly job of moving it out of a plastic 'bin' into an open wooden one, and off the concrete slabs.  It was disgusting and made me retch: fortunately Wonderful Husband did it second time round.  I am hoping that finally, in a few months' time, we will have our own compost rather than a smelly decaying wet mess.  Yuck.

Besides the garden we've also had the entire In-Laws family to stay as we had a big party at the weekend, and for some moments Wonderful Husband became Very Annoying Husband Who Arranges Things Without Consulting Me.  I love them to bits and I enjoy having them: for a time.  I have to say it was nice to get the house back.  They're all very messy which upsets my feng shui anti-clutter (some would say retentive) nature and I did get a little fed up of 3 excited small boys throwing the dolls' house furniture down the (dolls' house) stairs and asking to play on the X-box at 7 a.m.  But Son (one of the 3 excited small boys) in particular loves having them here.  Daughter's a little less sure though goodness knows why as she can be more boisterous and aggressive than the lot of them.

What I am meant to be doing, of course, is looking for a new job.  I find myself in a bit of a dilemma though.  The more I think about it the more I want to be self-employed and work at least some of the time from home:  to be my own boss.  However it is incumbent upon me as a 'JobSeeker' to look for work: which is fair enough and exactly the criterion I would apply if I ruled the world.  I think training for new careers counts but I'm not sure whether writing books and articles does... I'm meant to make at least 3 speculative approaches per week (I've exceeded that) and check various websites (easy enough except am I meant to apply for jobs which might just vaguely be suitable?  For example should I be applying for jobs paying a lot less and doing something - goodness me! - like Residential Estate Management?).   Also I really don't want to work more than 2 or 3 days per week as once both children are at school that then gives me 3 or 2 days to build up my writing, proof-reading, teaching English....  Hey ho.  I'm sure they'll tell me if they think I shouldn't get the dosh any longer.

I find the whole signing-on process somewhat demoralising as well, and not a little surreal.  I have to say the staff and the buildings nowadays are very pleasant, and it's particularly good that one doesn't have to sit around waiting for hours in some dingy and bare pre-war building: when you have an appointment you are seen more-or-less on time (Sensible Husband did point out that that may no longer be the case after the Election when a whole load of public sector cuts have been made and JobCentres become short-staffed) and there is even carpet on the floor.

The other surreal place is near Forest Head.  Fit Husband decided to go for a run up there, the morning I was annoyed with him, and I went too.  There's a wide area of disused small quarries with workings which have more-or-less returned to nature and bits and pieces of ruined buildings.  It wasn't difficult to imagine the echoes of people who lived and worked up there: there was a cottage where the remains of an old iron stove could still be seen, but the roof was open to the sky and the floors had long gone.   Who lived there?   What did they feel; what drove them?  Where did they go and why did the house get left?  And what happened on the day the quarries closed: did they all close at once?  Was there a stream of people who left, never to return?  The entire area was sad and lonely and echoed silently with the noises which once would have been so loud and busy: a ghost town.

 The quarries probably became uneconomic, which brings me on to tomorrow's General Election.   Who will get in?  Who is going to do what to the economy of this island over the next few years?  We'll wait and see.