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Invest in What Rewards You

1 Oct

I suppose I shouldn’t start with the conclusion; but if your conclusion is also your beginning then maybe its the perfect place to start.

 

I arrived back from Spain yesterday.  There’d been pretty much a veto on getting leave through the normal holiday times, so more by luck than judgement I’d ended up with a three week block off in September.  A perfect chance to escape from normal life, just me and the dog, and head off to Spain.  I decided that as well as an opportunity to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a long time (far too long a time!) it was also a chance to step back and review my life and where it was going.  I knew I had some decisions to make; decisions I’d been ignoring or putting off either deliberately or just because it was easier to get caught up on a tide and go along with it without really thinking.  I knew I had to do something about this because I had that uncomfortable feeling that I get when I know deep down I’m not being true to me. That unease that feels like I’m watching myself from somewhere high up and want to shout at myself but instead I just carry on watching.

I’d just sorted some stuff out at work that had been causing me a lot of ‘aaarrgh’ (I really can’t think of a better word to describe it) and I’d put that to rest and made my peace.  However, I needed to work out where I go next and what I really want.  I also still have the spectre of marriage/divorce to sort out … i.e., I’m still married and I really shouldn’t be!  I’d started picking back up some bad habits from a previous lifetime and I really wasn’t sure why.  To top it all off – what to do with La Panaderia, my Spanish escape place but also the money pit.  So all in all, not the usual relaxing break.  Throw into that 2,500 miles of driving there and back and I was setting myself up for one helluva journey – physically and emotionally.

Now I’m back.   I’ve thought a lot; I’ve tidied up a lot – both physically and emotionally; I’ve laughed a lot; cried a bit; I’ve caught up with people I love and reflected on the values that I hold.

That’s what it comes back to, the values I hold and how I want to live my life.  I’ve sort of mentioned it before, I think, but I want a simple life.  I don’t want a big house or a fancy car or expensive clothes.  I want to be with people I love, doing things I enjoy.  I want to invest in the things that reward me.   That’s not just about financial investment, its about investment of time; emotion; thoughts; caring.  Investment of me.  Don’t get me wrong, the financial investment is a big one, try running two mortgages and you soon realise how much the simple life has to be lead as there isn’t the cash for anything else!!  But in this hectic world, its the investment of time and emotion that often have the highest cost and the lowest reward.

I also realised I had to stop judging myself through the imagined eyes of others.  Why am I not going for promotion when I’ve got the exam?  Why am I not in a relationship after a couple of years of being single?  Why am I not living a more exciting life and travelling more or going out more or staying in more or joining this club or doing this exercise or …. well you get the picture.  I’m not even sure that anyone is asking those questions.  I very much doubt they are because people generally are quite rightly caught up in their own lives and have no time to think about or judge other people’s lives.  Even if they are – who cares?  I’ve realised that just because people appear to have it all and that all is wonderful, that veneer is often very thin.  As though 60 Minute Makeover came in and slapped some paint over it all and installed a 72″ tv, but as soon as they go, the wallpaper is going to fall off and the tv will fuse the whole house.

So where next?  Investing in the things that reward me.  I realise that I’m lucky to do a job that pays me very well.  Its also a job that I have allowed to cause me a great deal of stress and distress in the past.  Possibly because I’ve invested too much of my heart into it.  So from now on, my investment will match the reward.  The reward is financial and therefore I will do what I need to do to justify that reward.  The other reward I get is working with some lovely people (don’t get me wrong, there are also some complete arseholes, but I can just deal with them in a professional manner and invest only the time that is absolutely required and no more.  I certainly won’t invest them with time in worrying about what they think or what they are doing or what their next plans might be!).  So to the lovely people, I will invest the care and time that I hope I always have.  But I won’t take the stress home with me and I will treat it only as a job and not a life.  If that means looking for promotion, then I’ll consider it, provided it still fits in with my values.  But it won’t be something I abandon important things to get, things like my values, my sanity and my life.

La Panaderia?  Ah, such a difficult one.  I love that house.  Its taken time, money, love, inspiration, dreams to make it what it is.  To take it from a wreck to a beautiful house.  So much investment.  But where is the reward?  I love to go there; I love that friends can visit and enjoy the place.  But it also holds sad memories and holds me to a life I should have left behind me totally by now.

So, I’ve said my goodbyes.

With every box emptied and floor swept, I bid the house goodbye.  That’s all it is, bricks and mortar (or bricks and yeso, to be accurate).  Someone else will turn it into their dream.  This will let me cut ties that need cutting – and, importantly, free up cash each month that I can start investing in a new dream.  What that dream will be, I’m not totally sure yet, but that’s the good thing about dreams, they can appear when you least expect and they can change each time you open your mind.

The other parts:  I’ve reflected on paths I was starting to follow and decided to turn back around and take different ones.  Different paths that will give rewards I deserve, not shiny baubles that might be fun for a little while but have no substance. Like the Turkish Delight in Lion, Witch & Wardrobe – wonderful to indulge in, but at what cost?

All of this I could probably have worked out sitting at home.  But its the other things you realise on the physical journey that are important.  Like realising I could do it on my own and that it really wasn’t that big a deal.  Realising that on the bits that I really could have done with someone else there, I managed and that actually even in a couple I wouldn’t have necessarily been any better off!  Don’t get me wrong, it would have been lovely to share parts of the trip with someone, but it didn’t spoil the trip being on my own.  Realising that even the scary bits (like being completely lost and screaming at a satnav that didn’t understand I couldn’t drive through a statue; like sleeping in a service station car park curled up next to a dog that either barked or snored with equal loudness) I could cope with a find a way through.  Hell, give it a couple of days and I’ll have turned those into amusing anecdotes!

Now I’m back and my conclusion is now my new start.

In the short term there’s going to need to be investment in sorting out a lot of things that aren’t all within my control; but only if I start putting that investment in, will things move forward.  Like starting up a small business, its only by putting the work in early on that you get the rewards later.  So my life is a my small business for now.  A lot of work, a lot of time and effort and energy needed – but the rewards at the end of it will be worth it because from now on I’m only investing in the things that reward me.

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

Was going to say something comparing life to looking over a high wall at the future horizon; but actually its just a cute picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another mile closer …

14 Oct

This week has been a bit of a struggle.  One of those where everything just seems to pile up on top of me and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball under my duvet and stay there for a month or two.   But I guess when you’re a grown up and you have responsiblities you can’t really do that.  Firstly, they’d stop paying me, but before that I’d probably die of starvation as noone to bring me food and then the dog would eat me as he’d be hungry.  Actually, scratch that, he isn’t the sort of dog that would wait for me to die – he’d smother me with a pillow and then gnaw on my leg!

I knew it was going to be bad on a personal level, but to really kick me in the head, work decided to be really difficult this week.  I ended up having to cancel a day off and I went in on the weekend, yet despite that everything I did just seemed to go wrong.  At one point I cried.  At work.  In front of my boss.  I hate crying in front of anyone.  At all, ever.  To cry in front of my boss was just mortifying!  Although I think he was slightly more perturbed by it than me!

On a personal level its been…. shall we go with ‘challenging’?   Its almost a year now since the day I found the text that showed me my husband was cheating on me.  So it was going to be a bit difficult anyway, he’s still with the woman he cheated on me with and I’m alone.  But in that ‘yes I am going to kick you when you’re down’ way that I mentioned before – they’re heading off to New Zealand on holiday (well, part holiday, part racing in World Championship Tri, but he didn’t qualify so that is sort of amusing to me!).  Its not that I want to be with him, I really don’t.  But New Zealand was a dream holiday for us a few years ago and we always planned on going back.  So that he’s going there with someone else is hard, its as though I’m being airbrushed out of existence.   But more than that, it hurts that I’m still alone.  It hurts that someone can go so quickly from telling you that you’re their soul mate and that they love you so much and then all of a sudden they don’t think that any more and they’re telling someone else that.  It hurts to realise there is noone in the world that loves you.

So I had a bit of a mope this week.  I’ve cried a fair bit at home (in addition to the work bit), I’ve walked the dog in quiet fields and howled alone as I whipped along on the pity train.   But I’ve got a choice, I can sink into a pit of wallowing or I can do what I was doing before – just get on with things.  Get up, go to work, come home, do stuff, watch the days pass by.  So that’s what I’m doing.

In the spirit of that, I’ll focus now on what has been positive:

Had a fabulous weekend last weekend.  Friends came up from Hampshire and we had proper girls night out.  Lunch, wine and shopping during the day.  Cocktails and all of us getting ready together in the evening.  I wore a boned corset that I’d treated myself to and I felt like I looked ok.   I did seem to attract attention from traveller types and not the good ‘aussie back packers on a trip to the UK’ type, but that meant I did get to learn some good techniques from my friend in how to get rid of unwanted attention (that’s never been an issue for me before so I tended to be too polite!!)

I’ve lost more weight and am now less than a pound away from dropping into the ‘tens’ (ten stone bracket, that is, not size 10, thats a bit away yet!).  Even after a blow out weekend last weekend, I got back on to the healthy eating and managed to lose a pound this week.  19 pounds to go to target weight.

I’ve run:

Friday 5/10 I got up early so that I could get a 5k in before work.  It was slow, averaging 12.29 minute miles and I walked some of it.

Recovery from weekend meant I didn’t get back out until the 11th, when I upped the distance to 4.16 miles and dropped the time to 11.10 minute miles.  This time I didn’t walk any of it.  It was also absolutely tipping it down, but not only did I still go out there and do it, I actually enjoyed it more.  I think I mentioned once before that I seemed to like running in the rain.  That does appear to be confirmed.

Today, I wanted to run for an hour just to see if I could.  I had in the back of my head that I’d like to start moving towards the 5mile mark as I’ve got my eye on the Woburn Reindeer 10k in November.  Imagine how pleased I was at the end of the run to realise I’d run 5.46miles at a speed of 11.01 minute miles.   Though clearly as  do like to be hard on myself, I also thought if only I’d run another .04 I’d have done 5.5 and if I’d just sped up a bit I’d have been high 10’s!!!  But it gives me an aim for next week.  A mid week 5.5, a fast 3.1 and a 6mile next weekend.  Also going to look up the application for the reindeer run and have it ready just in case.

The technical bits and a picture of the hilly bits

Hot, sweaty, pasty faced – but proud of me!!

Edinburgh and beyond

29 Sep

I’m supposed to be revising, especially as the exam is in just over 2 days time.  Even sent the dog off to spend the weekend with the ex so that I could focus on cramming.  Which means I’ve been to the hairdressers, watched Poirot, been for a run and am now updating blog.   My ability to distract myself from what I actually should be focussing on is fairly astounding.  I even washed the floors in the week (admittedly between mock exams, but still).

So where am I right now?  Well – clearly as I mentioned the exam and revision, I am taking steps to achieve forward movement in my career.  However, I’m not totally confident that I’ve done enough.  I can make all the excuses about not having time:  get home from work, walk dog, make dinner, realise its gone 8 o’clock, hardly time to get the books out.  Weekends have to clean the house, shop etc etc etc, blah, blah, blah.  Ultimately though, I could have found time.  I could have got up earlier.  But I didn’t.  I chose not to, whether consciously or subconsciously.  On Tuesday I’ll know how that works out.  However, I’m not stressing on it.  It will be what it will be.  If I don’t pass, so be it, I enjoy the job I do now, I work with a great team and I’m looking forward to starting work with a new boss from next week so lots of challenges and opportunities coming up.  If I do pass, fantastic stuff …. just got to then wait for a board and who knows when that will be.  So really, no change on what I’d be doing anyway.

Weight wise – Dukan has been a success.  Slow, but successful.  I didn’t get the massive weight loss that some people have reported.  But, again, I’m not stressing on it.  I can only run my own race.  I’ve been losing around 1-2lb a week and since 21 July have lost 17lb.  More importantly, I feel more comfortable in my clothes.  I can throw on jeans and tshirt and feel like I look ok.  I’ve dropped a trouser size in my work trousers and will soon need to order a smaller size again.  I’ve got 21lb to go, but I feel like I can do it.  I’ve got used to the way of eating and I have the cravings under control. I won’t say I’ve mastered them, more like I’ve shoved them into the back of the attic like a mad old aunty (to clarify, I think I read that in a book or saw it in a film, I have never locked an aunty or any other family member in an attic).

Running – hmmm, since the 10k Race for Life some time back I haven’t run.  In fact I ended up with such a bad back I resorted to going to the doctors (I hate going to the doctors) who then referred me to a physio.  Physio’s advice was no running until my back had been sorted out.   A few weeks of stretching exercises (ably assisted by the dog, who thinks the moment you lie on the floor its play time.  Have you tried to do back stretches and core strengthening with a 29kg dog trying to climb on you and lick your face, it ain’t easy.  You never see that in a celeb dvd do you, no you don’t.) and a bit of massaging from the physio (brought to a rapid halt on one session when whatever it was she was doing made me throw up!) and I’ve been given clearance to run again.  This was on the proviso of  ‘Taking It Easy’ and ‘Building Up Slowly’.  That was on Monday.  On Thursday I entered Edinburgh marathon.  Ok, I know that doesn’t sound like Taking It Easy and Building Up Slowly.  But in my defence, the run isn’t until May, so that’s loads of time to Build Up Slowly.  I’d been waiting for VLM results (Virgin London Marathon for the non-runners, its not some new underwear malfunction like a worse form of VPL).  Part of me was thinking I hope I don’t get it as I really don’t want to run a marathon.  But something weird happened as I waited for the letter or the pack and I started to make back up plans.  By the time the postman knocked at the door and Elvis delivered the news, I’d already looked Edinburgh up online.  That there was a code included in the rejection pack to get a guaranteed place seemed sort of like fate.  Next thing I knew, the application was in.  So 26 May, I will be doing my 26.2 in Scotland.  That in itself is fine, but somehow my mind which really doesn’t understand how to not go over the top and stick to a balance level, decided that isn’t enough.  So my aims for the next two years now include:

short term : back up to 10k fitness by end of November (Reindeer run!)

medium term : Edinburgh marathon

long term : a 30 mile run

then that’s it.  I can tick them off my list, know that I’ve achieved it and then just stick to running nothing further than 10 miles BUT and this is the big thing, sustaining that running, so that each week I’m running at least 4 times a week.  Forever.

In the interests of Taking It Easy and Building Up Slowly, I went out for a trial run tonight.  Plan was one mile of 2 minutes run/30 seconds walk all at a very low pace.  Somehow  I ended up doing 1.72 miles, as I was so busy counting that I couldn’t hear the micoach telling me the distances.  The micoach updates on 2 minute points, so after the first 2 min check point I had to keep counting and doing maths in my head, which meant talking out loud to myself because I can’t do maths in my head.  Either I’m going to have to build up fairly quickly or go back to remedial maths classes.  I averaged 12.05 minute miles, so managed the  fairly slow bit.  Legs felt fine, but I’ve realised that I do tense my back up as I run and I can feel a tight band across it even though I’ve stretched out when I got back.  I’m telling myself that isn’t an excuse to book a massage on the alternate days to running and that instead I should find out what it is about my running style that’s making me do that and build my core up properly.  The massage bit sounds nicer though.

In other news – still not dating, coming up for one year since found out husband was cheating and kicked him out.  Part of me thinks I should be back out there and looking for someone new.  Other bit of me really can’t face the whole idea of trying to meet someone new, risking being rejected, risking being hurt again.  Safer to just stay in my own little bubble.  But who knows, friends coming to stay next weekend and we’re hitting the town.  Ok, we’re hitting Bedford and that really isn’t all that great.  BUT a new pub has opened up, its supposed to be good and I’ve been assured there were men there who looked like they were single, so who knows, maybe next week things will change.

For now, though:  I’ve an exam to take and a marathon to prepare for, so lets get out there and get on with it!

This photo has nothing at all to do with the blog, I just really liked it – its my dog when he met up with some other Slovakian Rough Haired Pointers and then they bumped into a Weimaraner puppy!

floating on the breeze

7 Aug

I meant to write this update last week, but time got away with me.  Now I’m glad I waited, as it would have been easy to write it last week as last week was a really good week.   Its easier to write positive when you’re feeling good.   I’d had a few days off work, I’d got some revision done, I’d had some really good advice (more in a moment on that) and I had a great evening out for a friend’s leaving do.

Then the weekend happened.  The weekend was fairly crap.  Actually, the weekend was really crap.   Surely though, that’s the reality check to see if the advice really is sinking in or whether I’m just paying lip service?

“have you ever tried really hard for something only to lose it through no fault of your own?  Like a situation totally beyond your control….. So you know no-one can be certain of a future.  You’re not cursed or evil or punished.   You’re just floating along on the breeze.  Without a clue what’s coming.”

When you’re a wee bit of a control freak like me, that’s a difficult thing to hear.  But when I started to really think about it and really work out all the major things that have happened in my life that just came out of nowhere, that I had little or no control over, I realised how true it really was.  And how liberating that felt.  I suppose its just a fancier way of saying ‘I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it’, but it somehow made more sense when it was put in terms of floating along on the breeze, likely to be lifted or dropped depending on the thermals, twisting and turning but still moving.

So when the crap started, yes, I had a mope.  Yes, I had a bit of a rant.  But then I really thought about it:   what could I actually change?  What could I do to make the best of what had happened?   I could decide not to put myself in a position where there could be a repeat of what had happened.  I could decide to focus on good things instead.  I could decide that rather than hide in my cave (as I would in the past) when a friend offered to come round, I could accept.  I had my rant, then we chatted and laughed about other stuff (ok, mainly puppy stuff!).   A fairly major difference that shows to me how far I’ve moved forward:   I went food shopping.  Nothing major there, except – I stuck to my healthy eating shopping list. I ate healthily all weekend.  I didn’t swamp my feelings in a whole loaf turned into toast and jam or eat enough Haribo to turn me into a jelly (belly) teddy.   That might not sound much, but for someone who eats when happy and eats more when upset, it was a big step forward.  I also didn’t dwell.  I picked myself back up, went into work on Monday and just, well, just got on with things.  The breeze had taken me along a different turn, may as well make the most of it.

Floating along on the breeze doesn’t mean that I’m abdicating my sense of responsibility or ambition, or that I’m just leaving everything to fate.  It means I won’t be focussing on the outcome, instead I’ll be putting in the things I need to do each day, be it eating healthily, be it getting another few chapters of revision done, be it sticking a smile on my face and two fingers up at those that try to bring me down.   I’ll put as much into each day as I can so that when opportunity does knock, I’m ready to sling my jacket on, grab my purse and rush off with opportunity wherever it may take me.

Floating

To our hairy friends

27 Jul

This blog is brought about with thoughts and hugs going out to a friend who’s going through a tough time at the moment, but may make sense to anyone out there who is owned by a dog.   We might moan about them sometimes when they’ve chewed up something (usually something big and difficult to replace and definitely something they weren’t meant to chew), we might despair when they won’t do as they’re told and they’re having one of the crazy 15 minutes, we might feel a bit resentful when we leave a party early to get home because they need letting out.  But ultimately, we wouldn’t be without those beautiful, hairy heart grabbers.

When I went through my first marriage break up and all the mess that was around that, it was my dog that got me through it.  Don’t get me wrong, I had some great friends standing by me.  But on the days when I didn’t feel I could drag myself from my bed, I had to because Fergus (the beautiful dalmatian pictured below) had to be walked.  When I couldn’t be bothered to shop for food, I had to because there was no way he was going to go without eating (never, and I mean NEVER try to deprive a dally of food) and without putting too fine a point on it, when I felt like knocking back a stack of pills and just falling asleep forever, I knew I had to go on because I couldn’t bear the thought of Fergus having to go to a rescue home (he was a handful, noone else would have been insane enough to take him on!)  In no small way I owe my life to my boy.

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Fergus was eventually joined by Phoebe, my pretty, neurotic girl and we had some great times together.  Those dogs knew how to party – and Fergus was a huge flirt!

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This time round, I’ve got Ed.  Bouncy, troublesome, insane, cuddlesome Ed.   And I’m thankful for it.  He stops the house being too quiet when silence is the last thing I need.  If I’m feeling miserable he’ll stick his hairy face on my knee and stare at me with his beautiful amber eyes.  In the past I’ve used running to help me get rid of the crazy in my head.  At the moment I can’t run, but I can get out for a walk.  Who can feel bad when they’ve strolled through a field full of corn, hearing a river bubble underneath the brambles.  Stumbling across a four leaf clover that makes you just know everything is going to be fine.  In the sunshine of the last few days, when you watch the ground getting harder and more cracked, switching from heavy walking boots to lightweight Vans, you can feel your soul opening back up to bask in the warmth.  Even in the rain, you can splosh through mud and feel the freedom you last felt when you were 5 and splashed through puddles in ducky wellies!   Unlikely I’d be doing that if it wasn’t for Ed.

In the last week alone its been Ed that has brought the biggest smile to my face and made me laugh out loud even though noone else around.  Watching him point and then stalk so carefully his prey …. of a ripped plastic bag had me praising him and giggling all at the same time.  Seeing him run like Predator through cornfields – all rustling corn then the sudden appearance of a head before he disappears in a flash, has me laughing the whole walk.  (2nd biggest laugh, was when a colleague joked to me ‘keep your chin up…. both of them’ the look on his face as a universal gasp of went round the office was a sight to behold!!)

So, to our hairy friends, I say a big thank you – for always being there for us, for loving us unconditionally, for silent support, for the laughs and the fun, for getting us out of the house, you have eternal gratitude.  Now, where do I find me a man like that?!!!

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Cake, cake, glorious cake

17 Oct

It has been pointed out to me that I’ve been a bit remiss with updating on my blog.  So my apologies if anyone has suffered any cake withdrawal symptoms or has been aimlessly wandering the streets of Bedford, confused and dazed as to the best place to go for cake and coffee.   My only excuse, or excuses as they are two-fold – are that I was put to work at home for the last days of my recuperation and now have a beautifully painted dining room.  And that sentence gives a clue to the other bit … I’ve had to go back to work.  After 8 weeks off, that was a bit of a shocker.  Words need to be had as so far the only coffee has been instant.  I do now have my coffee machine there, so this will be fired up soon (in theory I was on 4 hour days and there was only me in the office so didn’t seem worth making a whole pot, but the 2nd person has returned from hols so I think he’ll help out).  In terms of cakes, I did try to do my bit today with a bake sale in aid of 100 marathons in 100 weeks ( http://www.raceto100.co.uk – see the link at side of this blog ). *

bake sale

Modesty, however, prevents me from giving a review of the crumbly, rich chocolate brownies; light and fluffy red velvet cupcakes or even the perfectly risen and evenly baked orange, almond and yogurt cake.  Instead, I will ask anyone who purchased one of the cakes and who is reading this, to feel free to add comments.  Message to a certain person who put in a plea for delivery … if there are any left, I’m at the big house tomorrow afternoon for a meeting and will bring some along!

Anyhow, I digress.  Those poor souls are still wandering aimlessly like cake-zombies (ooooh, little reminder – The Walking Dead starts on Friday in UK, cannot wait.)   The Review.   Today I’m going to tell you about the place that has almost become my second home.  When I die I wish my ashes to be sprinkled there (although there is probably some health and safety reason why that can’t happen, but you get the impression).

Fancies (on Facebook as Homebaked Desserts), Roff Avenue in Bedford.  In terms of geography, Fancies is a little too close for comfort to some of the less attractive parts of Bedford.  The street itself isn’t too bad – and is handily on the route to and from Bedford parkrun, making it a very useful place for a post-race recovery drink and carb re-load.  But there is a cut through to The Land of The Doomed.  The Doomed, however,  seem not to travel far from their doorsteps or maybe they are just drawn to the cafe by the bus station (where you can drink instant coffee surrounded by the aroma of, well, pee – and I’m not sure if its human or animal and I really don’t want to dwell).  All I can say is, when you enter Fancies you enter a world of old-style tea shop.  The cakes are served on a selection of unmatched, old fashioned plates that wouldn’t be out of place on your grannie’s tea table.  Quaint, chic and so, so pretty.  If I didn’t know I wanted to go back there, I’d be swiping those plates into my handbag (and by handbag I mean the special suitcase handbag I’d take in specially to do this).

Reading material:   Local newspapers, Elle Decor (had me doing some aspirational shopping which was ill-advised in the midst of decorating the house) and a handful of my magazine cast offs.  Also, The Times – which is handy as I mainly read it for Caitlin Moran’s columns, but I often forget to buy it, but this means I have an excuse to pop into Fancies to see if they have the day before’s paper when I’ve forgotten to buy it just so I can catch up.

Customers:  I’ve done some great eavesdropping in here!!  I’ve been in a few times on my own, mornings are best – you get the ladies who, not so much lunch, as ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and gossip’ and ‘drop kids at the local private schools and sit and plan charity events with a level of organisation generals going to war would be proud of’.   I do think I may have dropped off during one conversation though, as one minute I was hearing about someone who’d sold their house, moved out of Bedford into nearby village, hated it so moved back – to the same house they’d sold, but had then decided again they didn’t like it and wanted to move back to the village.  Somehow I think I warped out here, as next they were saying someone had been snatched by pirates and taken off to be slaves.  I hope this was a film they’d seen or book they’d read, as I’m not liking the idea that somewhere between Bedford and Bromham there are pirates roaming with a side deal in slave trade.

Seating:   No matching, regular sized tables here – its all a mish-mash of sizes and types of table with a jumble of different chairs.  If I can get a suitcase-handbag big enough, the large wooden dining table is coming with me.  The seating is all inside, but chatting to the lovely lady who works there (and I believe owns the shop), they are hoping to have outside seating in the back garden next year.

Coffee:   I tend to go for the latte – for those who prefer their coffee not on the strong side, this is the place to go.  I could do with it a bit stronger, but you know, the rest of the place is so perfect, I don’t actually care.   The cup size is perfect, not so small it runs out and not so large I feel daunted.   They also do rather delicious smoothies and the most dazzling array of teas – but I haven’t brought myself to try the tea as it just seems wrong (and Tea would spoil the alliteration of my blog heading).

Savoury:  it used to just be croissant with melted cheese and tomato, but this has expanded to bagels with cheese and onion marmalade.   I can heartily recommend either.   They take a little while to be served, and they always warn you of this, but its because they are warmed properly so you get a crisp, foil wrapped croissant, with melty cheese and flakey pastry.  Not a microwaved squidge of pastry that manages to be both hard on the bottom but soggy on the top.   Its well worth waiting for and the wait really isn’t that long as why would you want to rush away?  The only disappointment I’ve had is the cheese scone (though I admit I may have been spoiled by The Cheese Kitchen scone).  When I tried it, the scone was too crumbly so when I tried to butter it, I ended up with crumbs that I had to try and squish together with the onion marmalade (sticky, tasty, could eat it by the spoon).

Cake:   What can I say?   Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  Oh.  My.  You enter to an plethora of cakes of every type and size displayed on the counter under old fashioned covers.  Trying to choose takes me longer than it took to pick a house.  This has been further complicated by the recent introduction of chiller cabinet – which meant Banoffee Cheesecake.  I may have developed diabetes just looking at that cheesecake.  Clearly if I was going to get diabetes just looking at it, I may as well try it and be hung for a lamb as a sheep (note:  no lambs or sheep were harmed in the making of this blog).  It was devine, but sweet, sweet, sweet!    They have ginger cake, with chunks of preserved ginger on top – sticky and moist and so gingery you think it should be singing in Girls Aloud and looking pale.  The fig and chocolate chip cake – never heard of this before, glad I tried it.  Intriguing, moist, not too sweet.  But the cake I judge by:  carrot cake.  This is how carrot cake should be.  There are nuts, there are bits of fruit, there are bits of carrot you can see and there’s a topping that melts in the mouth.  The cake is moist but not soggy, firm but not dry.  I shouldn’t have to describe it, you should be heading there NOW and trying some.  If you don’t like it, I’ll eat my hat.  Well, I won’t actually – but I’ll eat your carrot cake for you.

Overall impression:  Really? you need to ask?

Not sure why I haven’t got a photo of the carrot cake or the fig and chocolate chip cake, I think I eat it too quickly.  Instead – coffee, croissant and smoothie.  Aka – bliss!.

a blissful morning

* http://www.raceto100.co.uk   please take a look, there’s a link at the side of this blog:  Simon Buckden running 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise money for Help for Heroes and raise awareness of PTSD

Give thanks to Jeyes Fluid

22 Sep

This was going to be an update on my running* but earlier a miraculous thing occurred.  So surprising and so humbling, it almost brought tears to my eyes and instantly decided I had to share.

Ed walked to heel.

For longer than 33 consecutive seconds (previous record was around 33 seconds, not consecutively and mainly made up of 3 second bursts).

I’d like to think it was the time I put in with him on the agility course,  maybe the respect that Ed now has for me, his desire to please me, the persisting with my plan of ‘turn around and go back in if you pull’ despite the weird looks I was getting – (in summary:  I left the house about 6 times with Ed, tried to walk, turned round when he pulled, gave him another chance, if he pulled again, went in, took off lead, sat down, tried again 10 minutes later … and again…. and again….), .  But in reality – it was the Halti.  Let me just put on record now:  I LOVE THE HALTI. 

For non-dog people, a halti is a sort of head collar – sort of like some MPs and dj’s might wear in ‘special’ basements in Soho (allegedly).  The idea is the dog doesn’t get to pull so much.  For those people with the sort of dogs that would be Head Boy and Prefect (yes, you Border Collies and Labradors) they have probably no need of such things.  Ed is more the kid in school that could be found staring out the window, planning how to get a car into the headmasters office and then encouraging others to help him do it.  He’s the one who’d be running round the playground with his coat held on only by the hood pretending to be a superhero… and then climbing up the wall of the building because the caped superhero then switched to Spiderman.  He’s the one that would cause the temporary teacher to cry … and the temporary teacher had only been brought in because Ed had made the full time one resort to keeping a bottle of whisky in his desk.  You get the picture.

We had a trial run yesterday, which mainly involved me trying to slip the collar on to Ed’s head.  Retrieving collar, attaching it to my own hand to work out how it works.  Retrieving Ed.  Rugby tackling Ed to ground and attempting to put halti on.  Retrieving halti.  sliding across floor to kick door closed and trap Ed in utility room.  Grasping Ed between my legs (those ‘special’ basements spring to mind again).  Getting halti on his head.  Retrieving bits of halti from his mouth.  Shuffling Ed against the settee and jamming him there with leg, whilst using a wrestle hold last used by Big Daddy on Giant Haystacks (yes, I know, I’m old) to keep his head still.  Retrieving halti.  Letting Ed go.  Reading instructions.  Preparing a lot of treats.  holding halti and feeding treats through the gap (back to those MPs and dj’s – allegedly).  Slipping halti on a seated Ed, whilst constantly feeding him treats.  The last part was repeated several times so that Ed could get used to wearing the halti in small bursts (I’ve paid attention to ‘Me or the Dog’.  Kind of).

Today – the Big Test.  A walk to the dog park.  The dog park is about 5 minutes walk away.  It usually takes longer to take account for the constant stopping, changing direction, trying to get Ed’s attention and every other technique we’ve been told.  Now I’ve got fairly meaty arms.  The heritage of a North England/Northern Ireland parentage is arms like a washer woman (and legs like a pit pony, but I’ll save that for a running update).  Those arms are made for hefting sacks of coal and potatoes, so I should be able to handle a 7 month puppy.  Yeah, right.  No.  That dog can take a shoulder out.  My left arm is already 2 inches longer than the right.

But with the halti (and second lead on his usual collar just in case he slipped the halti), he didn’t pull.  Ok, admittedly part of that time was because he was doing a strange walk which involved him hopping on three legs whilst scraping the head collar with a paw and gurning to the sky in attempt to get the thing off.  But at least he wasn’t pulling. In the dog park I left it on so he could get used to it, and he barely noticed it was there.  Even learnt a new trick – he can pick blackberries off the bush and eat them.

And then The Miracle.  On the walk back – he walked.  Alongside me.  Like a normal dog.  The whole way home.   It was beautiful.  Woman and dog as one (not in a special basement way, in a ‘man and beast in harmony’ way).

Oh, the Jeyes Fluid?  after a couple of weeks of trying the scary man’s advice of no treats, I’ve gone back to treats.  I needed A LOT of treats for the halti wearing and agility practice.  Sudden increase in treats might help the walking, it doesn’t help a dog’s stomach.  Or more to the point his bum.   There has been A LOT of sluicing.  But increase in Jeyes Fluid is more than worth it to save my washer women arms

Ed in the dog park, sniffing. Ok, you can’t actually see the halti, but its on.

Ed patrolling around – you will notice the strapping around face, that’s the Halti

Nothing to do with the walk, he just looks so cute!

* 5k today at 31.06 minutes.