Sunday, 30 November 2014

Race report and news of Lola Towers

Rose bud with yellow rose behind
Groombridge Place, June 2013
The trip last weekend was to the darkest depths of Surrey, to assist at a 10k forest race organised by our friends. The race consisted of running 5k on road and forest tracks, then round an obstacle course including a river jump, then 5k back to the start. For a fleeting moment when it was first announced I considered actually working towards running the course, but I came to my senses and dropped that idea pretty quickly. I haven't been running recently - it's dark, it's cold, and I've got a lot of other stuff on my plate at the moment (as mentioned in one of my previous blog posts).

We headed south on Saturday and arrived in time to glimpse some of the immense amount of organisation that has been put into this little enterprise. Permission had to be gained from all sorts of different agencies including Highways, Forestry Commission, St Johns Ambulance and probably others, plus the advertising, timekeeping equipment, signage, clothing, T shirts, medals and prizes, catering and much, much more. Lists were very much in evidence - lists of runners, marshalls, equipment, tasks, schedules, phone numbers. There was a slight relaxation of organisational duties for a period on Saturday night, but the day of the race started at 6am with signage being put up.

Unfortunately it turned out to be one of the wettest days of the year, and didn't stop raining heavily for the whole of the race. The part of the obstacle course when runners had to jump across the river was usually just a bit more than a step over a bit of a stream, but the water level rose by at least a foot during the morning and runners were having to wade across a torrent up to their knees. When they returned to the start it truly looked as though they had been swimming rather than running, and some of the marshalls were in a similar condition.

Mr A and I had volunteered to be marshalls, and Mr A was put in charge of car parking while I was dealing with catering at race HQ. Mr A was clad head to toe in weatherproof motorcycle gear but I was thankfully indoors, serving up bacon butties, tea and cake. It all went very well, the St John's team weren't needed, and the home-made lemon drizzle cake went down particularly well - home-made by the organisers, not by me. They put such a lot of work into the event, but the turnout was good and despite the saturating conditions the runners seemed to enjoy it. There's going to be another one next year too; maybe I'll volunteer again.

Then on Tuesday, back at Lola Towers, the long-awaited fuse box replacement started. The electrician turned up exactly when he said he would, which is always a good sign, especially as I'd taken the day off work. He thought the job would take a day and a half, but knowing how unpredictable Lola Towers can be I wasn't surprised when the timescale started to slip. The installation of the new box took the first half day as anticipated, but one of the new switches kept tripping, suggesting a fault somewhere on one of the circuits. Electrician Bill spent the rest of the day a) narrowing down the possible location of the fault while b) ensuring that the heating would be operational at the end of the day, which it was.

On Wednesday he returned, and managed to improve things to the extent that the switch stopped tripping, but was still not happy with the test results, plus he had to do the bit of the job that entails connecting the gas and water supplies to the electrical earth. I had to go back to work so I didn't see how he got on, but at the end of the day we had a chat on the phone and he admitted he'd have to be back on Thursday. This has been an expensive week - the electrical job is going to cost a bit more than what was quoted, plus the car had its service on Tuesday and needed a new battery and two new tyres.

On the plus side, I got a lot done on my day off work. After twenty years I'm having the living room curtains cleaned for probably the first (or possibly the second) time, and then after twelve years of being temporarily tacked up I'm getting them shortened properly. I'm not even doing it myself - they were cleaned at a launderette and taken to a shop for shortening. That's the kind of mood I'm in.

I also went to another 'Diabetes Education Club' lecture at Warwick University - this is a bi-monthly evening event for Diabetes Healthcare Professionals. Last time it was my colleagues talking and demonstrating low carb items, this time it was all about Sodium-Glucose Transporter (SGLT2) inhibition as a treatment for high blood glucose. Want to know more? All will be revealed shortly.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

Cat's Eye
by Margaret Atwood

narrated by Laurel Lefkow
"Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood - unbearable betrayals and cruelties - surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for 40 years."
After the experience of reading The Blind Assassin where I wanted to read it again as soon as I'd finished, this was a huge let-down. It's an account of a child growing up in Toronto, and there is no discernible story arc whatsoever. She goes to school, goes to college, has friends, marries, is a painter. Nothing to pique the interest, or hold any dramatic tension. Don't bother. And the audio editing is rubbish too.

Image of the book cover

The Island of Dr Moreau
by H. G. Wells

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"Adrift in a dinghy, Edward Prendick, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, is rescued by a passing boat which leaves him on the island home of the sinister Dr. Moreau - a brilliant scientist whose notorious experiments in vivisection have caused him to abandon the civilised world."
It's an oddly prophetic Victorian story that develops the theme of melding human and animal in a way that some consider similarly ethically dubious in our society - genetic modification. There's not much substance to the story, and in places it is pretty horrible in its description of animal cruelty and mutilation. The main character is pretty bland and the others seem exaggerated, but it's interesting for its insight into the imaginative thinking of the time.

Image of the book cover

Mystery Mile
by Margery Allingham

narrated by Francis Matthews
"Judge Crowdy Lobbett has found evidence pointing to the identity of the criminal mastermind behind the deadly Simister gang. After four attempts on his life, he ends up seeking the help of the enigmatic and unorthodox amateur sleuth, Albert Campion."
Quite a good story and very competently narrated. Not really up to the standard of Lord Peter Wimsey or Hercule Poirot, but good enough to keep me interested. I wish I knew of a contemporary crime writer who could write something in the proper 'whodunnit' spirit but without the violence and gore that seems to be compulsory for anything set later than 1950.

Image of the book cover

The Sum of All Kisses
by Julia Quinn
"Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. But Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family."
A silly Regency romance because I couldn't face anything too heavy. All the others in this blog post are audio, which I listen to in the car. Actually concentrating on the written word at home seems too much like hard work at the moment.

Image of the book cover

Cat Out Of Hell
by Lynne Truss

narrated by Mike Grady
"A cottage on the coast on a windy evening. Under a pool of yellow light, two figures face each other across a kitchen table. A man and a cat. The man clears his throat, and leans forward, expectant. 'Shall we begin?' says the cat..."
I've read the author's non-fiction classic 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' and enjoyed it very much, and this novel was in a '3 for 2' offer so I thought I'd give it a go. It's fine, and I enjoyed it. Not a timeless classic, but so very few books are!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Singing and parking

Rose on trellis with grey skies behind
Peckover House, August 2014
I am saying 'yes' to too many things.

I like doing all the things I do at work and in the evenings and weekends.

My house is not as I want it to be.

I am clinging on by my fingertips, as always.

But do not worry, I am calm. It will be OK.

There has been a lot of activity, days and evenings, evidenced by lack of blog updating. Three lots of badminton, a finance meeting one evening and a choir practice this week. I wrote the rest of this blog post a week ago, and rather than hang on to it any longer, I might as well press 'Publish'. Mr A and I are about to head off on a trip south, so no time in the rest of the weekend either - perhaps there will be time for a report next week.

The choir is just one more thing. I like to sing, and around this time of year there are some great opportunities to belt out some top tunes. In the Trust newsletter there was a call for volunteers to form a scratch choir for the festive season including a couple of concerts, and all finished by mid-December. I've been thinking for a few years about singing in a carol service, so a couple of weeks ago I found myself in a draughty room with a few other similar minded people and an old keyboard.

The person who came up with the idea and who's leading the group (and who owns the keyboard) is a member of a different choir, but not its leader. All credit to her for giving it a go, but there are little frustrations that are utterly unimportant, but niggling. She described an arpeggio as a scale. She counts us in at a different tempo to that of the music. She has chosen some carols and managed to print the music for us, but they are set much too high so that anyone who isn't a proper soprano can't sing them.

She is encouraging us to sing the harmony parts (especially if we can't reach the high notes) but she doesn't read music particularly well so is having trouble picking out the parts on the keyboard (I haven't let on that I can play the piano). The rehearsals are alternating weekly between two locations, both almost impossible to find. But I like her, and I like her enterprise and enthusiasm and positivity and tenacity, and I am happy to give my support and encouragement. I am happy to participate in an enterprise where the quality will be pretty poor (my prediction after three out of five rehearsals) but it will be fun. And you never know, it might turn out much better than I expect. Things often do.

At work, the great news is that at last my parking campaign has succeeded, and the top management has arranged exactly what I would have wished, so that course participants can pay for parking for the four specific days of the course at £3.20 a day. I am getting better at delivering the patient education courses too, but clinics (where I see patients one-to-one) are very variable. Sometimes I get a run of people doing well who are happy and grateful; sometimes clinics are filled with people who find it all too difficult and aren't doing so well. Just recently, it's been more of the latter.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Tradesmen, employment and growing old

Monkey puzzle tree (araucaria)
Peckover House, August 2014 (photo credit: Lola II)
Tradesmen update: I have finally got hold of the electrician and we have agreed a date for the fuse box to be replaced, which will mean a day and a half without power. I have booked the day off work, and had some pleasant thoughts about doing some fun things like perhaps going off for a quick ski in the Snowdome to keep my ski legs trim - my ski holiday is now booked for February. Then I realised that this would be the perfect time to get the car serviced as I need it to get to work every other day. The car is up for a long service medal, as it has now completed more than 200,000 miles.

Employment update: Mr A has scored a full time permanent job and has now been employed for a week; so far he is enjoying it. Meanwhile, I have delivered half of my first DESMOND course for people newly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and the first day of my third course for people with Type 1 Diabetes. DESMOND is a national programme with quality assessment and a requirement to adopt a particular delivery style which includes much questioning of participants and withholding of answers unless they really can't work it out for themselves. The Type 1 course is not quality assessed or peer reviewed, which means that I am only really getting into my stride third time round.

Update on growing old: I have new glasses! and new (trial) contact lenses! I love the glasses, they are varifocals and it has taken me no time at all to get used to them. The contact lenses, on the other hand, are proving more challenging. What the optician suggested was to have two different prescriptions, so my dominant eye would have the lens set up for distance and the lens in my other eye would be for near sight and reading. They provided me with five pairs of two sorts of lenses so I could try them out for comfort. I've had a go at one type for a week, and I don't like it at all - instead of having clear sight for distance and near viewing my eyes seem to confuse the focus and I can't see clearly at any distance. So that's not such a success - but I'll try the other brand in case the problem is with the lenses rather than the prescription.

More growing old news - happy birthday mum! She and dad kindly hosted a very small celebration attended by Lola II, Mr M, myself and another friend during which we watched a film that was made for my school's 60th birthday in 1979. See the odd children! and their antiquated school uniform! Laugh at the teachers' 70s cars, outfits and hairstyles! The undisputed highlight was the orchestra, featuring your very own Lola I and Sister D, with me wearing the biggest specciest specs you can imagine. It was the 70s! Big specs were the fashion item! I still have the massive specs in a drawer, and they are so heavy that I'm surprised my teenage ears weren't pulled completely off.

Brief update on not growing old - badminton club no. 2 have suffered an early retirement by one of their veteran ladies, and asked me very nicely if I could play in a match, so I said yes. Then I found out it was for their 1st mixed team in Division 1 of the league. It wasn't as bad as I expected; I was only made to look like an amateur by their first pair and we managed to scrape wins in the other two sets, mostly because my partner ran around like a maniac picking up everything while I fannied about near the net doing very little. Good fun.

In other news, I combined the trip to London with a bit of time with Lola II and Mr M. They took me to Southall and fed me a delicious authentic Punjabi meal, and I was supposed to help with some household jobs, but I don't remember contributing very much at all. I have a load of jobs for them to help with when they pay a return visit, and I wonder if they will manage to get away with doing as little as I did?

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