Category Archives: Things

posts connected with life in general

Endings

Sometimes things happen to mark a change of phase in your life – like moving house, getting married, changing job, completing a big challenge you’ve worked for for a long time.

Sometimes, the change is less obvious, and suddenly it occurs to you one day that things are different. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about a paradigm shift, the moment I realised I’d left some things behind and moved forward.

Recently there has been another one. This has mostly come about as a result of endings.

For the first time in a few years, I put on a harp concert that was really successful. I handed my notice in and left a job I had been desperately unhappy in for a long time. I successfully completed the Highland Fling, ending months of uncertainty and worry as to whether I was fit enough and strong enough to do it. I saw the ghost of a relationship long past while coming down one of my favourite hills during the race. A dear friend who saw me through a difficult time in my life rang me up out of the blue, and reminded me how bad things were then and how far I had come since.

I’ve been thinking for a little while that it perhaps it might be time for a new blog. I couldn’t put my finger on why, or what was wrong with the old one (nothing really), I just felt it was time.

This blog started when I was moving away from a very unhappy stage of my life. Although I was moving forwards, I always felt I had to be looking back and comparing where I had come from. I heard myself saying “when this happened in (year xxxx)…” or “because of (x thing in the past)” a lot, and not always in a positive way.

Now, while there will always be bad things that happen, it’s time to move on again and start another phase. There’s never enough time to fit in all the things I want to do, but at the moment I feel as though I know what’s really important to me, and what can be cast aside, or just put away for another time.

I feel quite focused, energised, and able to stop myself being dragged under by the more negative or less constructive things that are part of life.

A quote has been niggling at me for a while,  taken from this wonderful post on one of my favourite websites.

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll join me at my new ‘home’ :

www.withaweeflourish.co.uk

A Dozen Days

About this time last year, I went to the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival with a few friends.

We were there to see a friend of my friends, Andrew Murray, but had tickets for the whole afternoon programme.

One of the films shown was Paul Pritchard’s The Journey, about a cycling trip across the Himalayas via Everest Base Camp.

His was a name from the past for me, from my rock climbing days when I lived in Manchester. My own climbing career was short and ultimately rather painful, but it further indulged my love of high adrenaline adventures, gave me a freedom I’d never felt before and I loved being in the mountains.

I climbed small crags in the Peak District, bigger ones in the Lakes, my first proper mountain in Snowdonia and I thoroughly loved sea cliff climbing in Pembrokeshire. I loved everything that went with it, the planning, the friends, the kit, the weather, the stories, the travelling.

In March 1998, I had an accident when I fell from my first lead, a VDiff called Pocket Wall in Hobson Moor Quarry. I didn’t fall very far, but made a dreadful mess of my ankle on the way down and the accident had a pretty big impact on my life for a long time afterwards.

A few weeks later, Paul Pritchard had a much more serious accident on the other side of the world while climbing a sea stack, and suffered a major head injury. His was a much longer recovery. I remember hearing about it at the time, being a name I knew but not someone I knew if that makes sense. Everyone had an opinion about it, just as they’d had about mine, and I hated that part of it all.

And then, as I drifted away from climbing, and from Manchester, and from who I was back then, I forgot all about it.

The part of the film that stood out for me was where he talked about a part of the trip that had been unexpectedly brilliant, not the actual getting to the end but a step along the way, one of the days that becomes a defining part of your life.

His words were something along the lines of “you only get a handful of days, maybe a dozen days like this, where you really feel… in tune….., but you should maybe aim for that every day”

I had a couple of these days last year, and when the chips have been down over the winter, as they seem to have been perhaps a little more than I’d realised this year, I’ve enjoyed thinking about them and wondering when the next ones will come around.

There was also a very funny part of the film, where he talked about being able to look at and appreciate the beauty of the mountains and the relief of knowing that he doesn’t have to climb them any more. I could relate to this as it’s kind of how I feel about rock now. I climbed Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis last year, because I’d wanted to do it for years and I wanted to see if I still loved it as much as I had. I really enjoyed it, but it didn’t hold what it used to for me, and it was strange realizing how much things had changed.

The film is here, it’s about life, and about change, and it’s excellent.

The Journey – Paul Pritchard and Carol Hurst

This photo was taken while cycling down Mont Ventoux with my dad last year. It’s one of my own dozen days, and I’ll be writing about these over the next few months.

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Press 6 for Ebola

It hadn’t been the best of weeks. Suddenly everything started to catch up with me last weekend and I felt things starting to unravel. Every time I paused for breath there was an email to reply to, washing to do, dinner to make, dogs to be walked.

It lifted last night. My 12 year old harp/greyhound shifting Audi estate workhorse sailed through its MOT for the first time since I’ve had it. It’s pushing 180,000 miles on the clock, but it’s still a joy to drive and the thought of replacing it is just too much to bear at the moment. Other, shinier things beckon constantly, but for now I have no funds and even less desire to change car. I squealed with joy in the garage when they told me it was all going to be OK. I can’t tell you how relieved I was.

And then very early this morning, just for a few hours, things were very wrong again.

My boyfriend R was in agony next to me and things were getting worse and worse. I rang NHS24 for help. We ignored the option to press 6 if I/he had recently returned from West Africa, which made both of us smile for a moment. A few questions and answers followed, accompanied by more painful yelps, and then we were directed to an out of hours GP service at the local hospital. He was seen quickly, thoroughly attended to and then passed on to another hospital for more tests.

He’d barely got changed before a cheerful nurse arrived with a trolley. “Ah’m here to do your ECG, pal.”

This made me smile, as in my head I still expect people to speak with an Essex accent and use the word “mate” not “pal”

I clearly remember the first time I used “pal” without even thinking, just as I now occasionally say “Aye” or “Aye right!” or “ragin’” or “Naw!”

“Ah’ll be quick as a can pal, as a don’t wan’tae miss ma bus” she joked, as another nurse appeared because the machine was playing up a little.

His ridiculously low heart rate was a source of much curiosity for everyone, as they are more used to dealing with considerably less healthy members of the public. At that very point in time, he was hardly the best advert for long distance running as a life-prolonging activity, but everyone was in awe of what he does/we do with our spare time, and they were keen to make sure that everything was alright.

Needles were put in, which rather elevated the low heart rate. A chest X-ray was done. And then, almost as swiftly as we’d arrived, we were on our way again, everything fine and nothing to worry about.

In the space of three and a half hours, we’d dealt with three separate parts of the NHS, in three different locations.

The standard of care was excellent, and I felt so angry that all we read about is the bad news about our health service. For those few desperately worrying hours, we felt as though we were the only ones that mattered, even though we certainly weren’t the only ones being treated in the hospital today. The doctors addressed both of us. I wasn’t left out of anything, or asked to wait separately. Admittedly we arrived very early in the day, which will have had an effect on our waiting time, but I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly everything progressed.

As we waited, I had time to appreciate everything we had and that was being done for us. We were safe, warm, had access to excellent, free medical care, and we were being so well looked after. I’d been able to get us to the hospital/s quickly and safely. Normally, we fight like cat and dog a large proportion of the time, but this morning we were together and the only thing that mattered was that he was alright, and if he wasn’t, I was with him.

It was 10am when I finally got my first mug of tea today. I was less than impressed about that.

All you have to do

After plodding along pretty steadily and mostly pretty happily for the last couple of years, I finally made a big decision on the morning of Day 2 of the Saltmarsh 75.

It was shortly before I took this photo. This is looking out along the Blackwater Estuary towards Bradwell power station, which you can just see on the horizon.

It was a beautiful day, in an incredible part of the country. I had run a long way the day before in some pretty tough conditions. I’d been looking forward to and training hard for this event for a whole year, but I was about to pull out of the race. I’d just had enough, and nothing was going to change my mind about carrying on.

I decided that I really needed to start thinking about running a bit more quickly.

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In theory this should be easy. To run a bit faster, you just… ermm… run a bit faster right?

There’s a great quote I read in a motorbike magazine a few years ago. Something along the lines of:

“All you have to do is lean a little further, get on the gas a little earlier, brake a little later and then you’ll win the race”

See? Easy!

But to lean, you have to understand how and why and when to lean. You have to learn when a little further is a little too far.

You have to learn how much gas/throttle is too much. You have to learn how early is too early.

Learning to go fast on a motorbike can be dangerous, even assuming you are in the relatively controlled environment that is a road racing circuit. It hurts when you fall off, and you can break yourself and your bike. If you are anything like most bike racers, you will cry far more about the latter.

I guess I’m trying to say there are always barriers when you learn something new, or try to improve something you can do already. There is a reason why you do things the way you do them. Mostly it’s easy, or comfortable, or you like doing it that way. And you are scared of the unknown.

The main thing that stops me pushing my running speed is my asthma. I had a bad run last night where it wasn’t settling as it should and it really started to hurt. I know enough about managing it to realise when to stop, so backed off and went home.

But once I start to learn how to go faster, I’m frightened my breathing will get out of control and I won’t be able to calm it down. This can be due to a variety of factors, and a damp Scottish winter is a fairly big one.

So what can I do about this?

I have to know why I want to do it.

I have to find a starting point.

I have to understand what I am going to do and how I am going to try and do it.

I have to be sure I want to do it, so that when it gets hard, I don’t give up.

I have to practice it. Lots.

I have to appreciate it might not work, and I might have to change my approach several times before I find a way.

Reading through this list, I realise how much of this applies to music and learning a big new piece, and how my time at the RCS changed how I approach things.

I also think back to some of the incredible things I’ve done this year, and how I never thought I’d be able to do them.

But I did.

So there’s no reason I can’t learn to run faster. I have an inhaler, I know when too far is really too far, I know that there might have to be some considerable discomfort and I know it will be worth it.

And everything stops

I was on my way home last night and just for a few moments, I had to stop. I could hear a familiar pattern of notes coming from a guitar. I wasn’t close enough to the busker to start with, but as I made my way further down Sauchiehall Street, I recognised the song. The tears came and just for a little moment or two, I couldn’t move.

A few years ago one of my friends was killed. As is common in the bike racing world, people who you don’t know terribly well and don’t see terribly often become friends, because of shared experiences and passions. It can be hard to describe why you love doing something so dangerous to those who have never tried it, but with people who have, there’s a kind of shortcut and you don’t have to explain.

The church was packed to the rafters with standing room only, and the first few bars of Hallelujah started up as her funeral started.

It’s a beautiful song which I’ve tried to play many times on the harp. As I settle into the next phase, where there are no big plans on the immediate horizon, maybe this will be something to work on. I’m a lot better at playing through strong emotions now, and I hope I can use them to bring something special to my arrangement.

I’ve been a bit guilty of wishing my life away lately, worrying about the future and making plans for next year so I have something to focus on over the winter.

L/G always reminds me to think of the here and now. I am desperately sad that she has gone, but happy that she had and continues to have such a positive impact on my life.

I hope the weather is kind tomorrow as I fancy a bike ride. I haven’t said that in a long time.

(Re-blog) UTMB 2014 – heartache and pain

I don’t know if I really have running idols but if I did, Paul Giblin would be one of them. I love reading his blog and am in awe of what he manages to pack into his weeks. I was so sad to read this post, I have some friends who also didn’t complete what they’d set out to achieve at the UTMB this week, and Paul’s blog post give a real flavour of what they were up against. To all of them, and to Paul, I’m glad you tried and I’m sorry you didn’t finish for whatever reasons. But most of all I’m glad you’re back safe and can have another go if that’s what you choose to do.

Pyllon - ultra runner

Hi guys, UTMB 2014 was a painful one for me in more ways than one. Loads of you tuned in, wished me luck, tweeted etc and I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down. I’m sorry for that. Anyway, here’s the truth of it. Make up your own mind.

On the first climb of the race the nagging doubts in my head were confirmed. I was tired and my legs were empty. No real strength or response to my demands. I knew then for sure I hadn’t really recovered from the most stressful and busy period of my life at work. Since the WHW race towards the end of June my work at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games went into overdrive. It was all-consuming. I was still determined to train and I made the necessary sacrifices (mostly sleep), squeezing in runs at crazy times (morning marathons at 4am…

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Mountain climbed

A month ago I arrived home from trip of a lifetime. I accompanied my Dad on a cycling trip to Provence, to help him celebrate his 60th birthday by realising a lifelong dream to ride up Mont Ventoux.

Quite simply it was the biggest, hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then we went back and did it again, on an even hotter day. I learnt so much along the way and I still haven’t been able to get it all into words yet.

It’s not uncommon for me to dip a little after a big event, be it a race or a concert or other performance. I’d anticipated a bit of a low but I find myself struggling to pick myself up, keep my emotions under some sense of control and get back to normal.

I find it helps me to set another goal, something substantial that will really challenge me. But at the moment I can’t seem to think of anything sufficiently epic that fits both the minimal time and budget I have available.

I wonder if perhaps I’m not quite ready, and whether I need to pause a little and enjoy the phenomenal sense of achievement. It was by no means a fast ascent but it was life changing for both of us and I am glad I was able to share my Dad’s big day.

Back to the drawing board, to plotting, to dreaming, to wondering “Could I?” and more importantly “How?” and “When?”

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