Brisk – or not so brisk – walking.

The past week temperatures have soared – getting into the car yesterday, after work, the thermometer read 42°C – which has meant lurking indoors, with shutters & windows closed, drinking lots and perspiring unattractively. I do – none of this “ladies only glow” for me; I’m afraid I need to take a large hanky with me everywhere for mopping up purposes.

Last week there were Shock!Horror!Probe! headlines about how a large number of adults in the UK do less than 10 minutes brisk walking per month, and just 10 minutes brisk walking per day can help reduce risk of early death etc. Mr FD pointed me in the direction of these reports, and said “You could take notice or you could just sit there and die!!!!” Which did seem over-dramatic, but I kind of get his point.

Trans:If your wheel’s broken, you better make your way on foot.

So, last Friday, at 3.00 pm (which was really rather stupid, taking into account the heatwave) I went for a brisk(ish) walk. Now, I will acknowledge that my idea of brisk probably isn’t the medical definition of brisk, but I thought that I might need to build up to that. So 1.6 km actually took 25 minutes or so. And I could have filled a small sea with the sweat that was rolling off me by the end!

Saturday’s walk was more sensibly planned, and carried out at 8.00 am, when it was still vaguely cool – and before my shower! Sunday’s was at about the same time, and all was going quite swimmingly – I almost felt guilty when I contemplated not doing it. The time that these took was not recorded, but on Monday morning (7.15 am) I decided to “Do It Properly” so I down loaded Map My Walk onto my phone, and so I can tell you that I did 1.66 km in 22.15 minutes, which equates to 13.22 minutes per km. This does not equate with the medical definition,of brisk, which reads: A brisk walking pace is 3.0 miles per hour or about 20 minutes per mile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In International units, that is about 5 kilometers per hour or 12 minutes per kilometer So, I have to shave quite a bit off my pace, but for the present I shall say that at least it left me out of breath – especially on the uphill bits!

EDITED TO ADD: Actually I think my maths was wrong (no surprise there!) and if my average was 13.22 kph I am managing to walk at a faster pace than the brisk 12 kph we are being advised. However, I am starting to think that the 13.22 may have been a maximum pace, meaning that much of the walk could have been more leisurely! I will need to check that.

All looking good to continue…until I managed to fall on Monday evening. Coming out from a friend’s house I somehow fell down three steps onto the gravel path. I still have no idea what happened – I had had 2 Pimms & a glass of wine, but felt clear headed and not at all tipsy – I just think I thought that there wasn’t a step where there was one, so there wasn’t the solid ground I was expecting when I put my foot down, but I’m not certain.

Luckily I whacked my head on the ground, rather than the sharp metallic edge of the steps, but it left me shaken, bruised and slightly whip-lashed in the neck. My ellbow has a pretty impressive graze too.Today (Wednesday) I feel less stiff, and my kiné guy worked on my neck this morning, but with a large & painful bruise on my left thigh I certainly don’t feel like trying a brisk walk!

All of which has rather scuppered the Getting-Slightly-Fitter plan.

Never mind. I’ll start again at the weekend, and hope that I don’t end up falling over again.

ETA: I didn’t start walking again this weekend – see later post to explain why – but I’m fine after the fall and will start again tomorrow, which is Monday (all being well)

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Pray, tell me…

How is it that, even with  8 litter trays scattered on every floor of the house, we still have at least one cat who pees anywhere BUT the tray?

Mr FD spent a good halfhour this morning cleaning up the cooker and the side of the cooker, and the floor around the cooker because a cat (and we think we know who it is, Bib) decided that was a really good place to pee. We know that Jasper (or rather, fear of Jasper chasing her) may well be the reason, but there are numerous proper places for a cat to relieve itself. (I know, as I’ve just spent a very warm hour cleaning and changing them!)

Hey ho: here’s aSimon’s Cat that features a kitten, a cat, and a litter tray:

and a cute kitten drowning in litter:

Harry Potter zentangle

When I was at summer school this year, there was a large group of teachers who were die-hard Harry Potter fans. They had grown up with the books, knew which House they belonged to, could quote from the text, had seen the movies several times over, probably owned multiple copies of the books…I caused a shocked silence when I announced that I had stopped reading halfway through the third book because I was bored, and that I had never seen the films.

There was a concerted effort to get Brian (a Polish teacher) and I to lose our HP “virginity” and to watch the films. Unfortunately, they were shown rather too late for me, so I saw HP1, HP 3 and a bit of HP7:1 but that’s all. Brian bought the first book, but wasn’t getting on very well with it (but to be fair, he was reading it in his second language!) but I think he saw more of the films than me.

They insisted I did the sorting hat quiz on t’internet, and I was pronounced a Hufflepuff. I’m not sure what Brian was…

I have to say, the attraction of the films was always Alan Rickman. Although the Snape wig did nothing for him, looks-wise, that voice and those hands..! Sigh. But I wasn’t really gripped by them. Maybe I’ll try to read the books again, to make Olaya, Claire and Gaby happy!

I saw on FB that it was Claire’s birthday a couple of days ago, so, as I was looking for a subject for my next Zentangle, I decided to try a Harry Potter themed one. I looked on t’Internet for inspiration and came across this

which I used to help me create this:

Sorry – bad photo as always!

Not much better…

The original captured Daniel Radcliffe’s profile much better than I have – mine looks as though he’s chewing a wasp, unfortunately – but I still quite like what I’ve done. The plan was to zentangle the face too, but every pattern I tried made it look as though he had really bad eczema or a terrible skin disease! So finally I left it blank.

The “Always” comes from Snape, as he declares that he has always and always will love Lily, Harry’s mother.

There is a terribly sad quote attributed to Alan Rickman (but which apparently he never said. Which is a bit disappointing, but never mind.)

which, of course, did not come true, as he died on January 14th last year. Too young at 69, of cancer.

I may try another variation on this theme. I rather like it.

All the Goings On

Well, it’s that time of year again – the travelling fair are setting up for a weekend of fun, fun, fun. The trouble is it is in the square in front of the house, and the giant Casino wagon is set up literally just outside our front gate: one has to squeeze around its side to get into the courtyard. The dodgems and mini-roundabout start about 3 pm and can  continue anytime until 2 am. A few years ago Mr FD had a contretemps with the fairground people, which ended up with him being threatened by an angry man with a metal bar – I’ve never felt that happy about the fair since then!

We usually go away for Saturday night, which is the worst. Our friends across the square have packed their car, and are leaving tomorrow for the weekend. They have the enormous Dodgems set up in front of their house, with the speakers right outside their bedroom window. We asked our friend Richard – who lives about 5 km outside the village – if we could sleep at his house on Saturday night. We’ll come back for the fireworks, just to make sure Jasper isn’t too worried by them. With the shutters closed and the balcony out-of-bounds, the rest of the cats are not bothered by the fireworks, but Jasper is an unknown quantity.

I don’t want to seem like a kill-joy, as the Fete Patronale is an event enjoyed by much of the village. After all, look at the fun things that are happening – boules competition! childrens’ games! a torchlight procession! a free dance! acrobatics! Vin d’honneur! (basically a free drink) Cabbage soup! My, I can hardly contain my excitement. I’m sure people will have a lovely time – it’s just that most of the village don’t have to sleep with it outside the window!

I worry for the Poor Cats too. Their home isn’t too far from where the fireworks are set off, and the Childrens’ games will be taking place not far away, so their peaceful rhythm of life of finding places to curl up, will be shattered this weekend by noisy crowds and flashing lights. They will, I’m sure, be quite frightened by it all. I will be feeding them a little earlier than usual, as by the normal 7 pm feeding time there will already be a lot of bustling crowds to alarm the cats.

On the cat front (but domestic cats this time) we were woken by an enormous amount of caterwauling last night – racing downstairs we discovered Jasper looking nonchalent, a drift of cat fur, a strong smell of cat pee, and a spitting, hissing Bib on the table. We don’t really know what happened, but I think Bib was over-reacting a little! She wouldn’t let us touch her though, and was glaring at Jasper with venom. Finally I wrapped her in a blanket & took her upstairs to our bedroom, where she settled down. Mr FD got a mop-and-bucket and washed the floor. Not really what one wants to be doing at 12.40 in the morning.

Of course, having been awakened so precipitously, I took forever to go back to sleep. I had an earworm of one line from a song going round in my head, and just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Whichever way I lay I couldn’t get comfortable, and Bib was lying heavily on my feet. I just had to tell myself that I would finally drop off – which I did – but it was a frustrating time.

The past couple of days I’ve been making Thanksgiving cards, to sell at church for Phone Credit for Refugees. I’ll also take them, and some Christmas cards to the Convention for the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe – which is taking place in October in Weisbaden. Last year I sold quite a few and made 60€ or so. Plus got a commission to make 200 Christmas cards for the Bishop. I won’t be doing that (the 200 cards) again!

I have already put them in plastic wrappers so I can’t really photograph them for you to see, as the plastic wrap will reflect the flash. Just trust me when I say they’re quite nice. But I think I’ve had enough card making for the moment.

The Bishop’s Christmas card

The last part of our holiday…

After leaving Roger & Mags, we headed up to the Gower peninsular for the day. it was rather windy, and not very warm, but still spectacularly beautiful! When we arrived, wepaused for a quick lunch of a sausage-and-bacon bap in a café, and then headed out along the peninsular.

 

The very end part is known as the Worm’s Head, I imagine because it looks a little like a reclining dragon. It is possible to walk out to the very tip, if the tides are right, and there were many people who had done so, but we decided not to. Instead Mr FD took lots of photos

both of the cliffs and along Rhossili beach

Doctor Who fans might recognise this as the beach where David Tennant’s Doctor left Rose

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and the Worm’s Head was CGI-ed into a city at some time as well.

See:

After this we headed to The Mumbles, a pretty little seaside town, where we admired the new Lifeboat Station. We were going to stop for an ice cream, but as it started (unexpectedly) to rain, and we didn’t have coats, and we suddenly felt too cold for an ice cream, wer decided to go on to Huw and Trish’s.

Huw was a good friend of Mr FD’s at Uni as well, so they talked a lot about those days, and music, and Tech as well!! I’d met them both for the first time a couple of years ago, when they called in on their way back from Corsica. Trish is really easy to get along with, as is Huw, and soon it was as though we’d known each other for years – as indeed, Mr FD & Huw have! We met their very enthusiastic dog, Dewi:

We were due to have dinner with another old Uni friend, but this had to be cancelled at the last minute, so we just had dinner à quatre eating a delicious lamb dish: Corsican Lamb(but I don’t think it had the artichokes or fennel in) and then chocolate mousse cake. More relaxed conversation, listening to Huw’s music, including his own band, and talking about everything and anything.

The following day we went out for breakfast – full English Welsh breakfast with black pudding, sausage, bacon, and all the trimmings! After that we headed out to Carreg Cenen Castle

Trish & I visited the Castle itself, while Mr FD and Huw walked around the castle hill, with Dewi, to give him a longer walk.

Looking through a hole designed for a musket

Looking down on part of the route of Dewi’s walk

Trish and I chatted like old friends, discussing life in Medieval times, gay rights, transgender issues (!) and food. A varied range of topics, one can’t help thinking!

We met up with the boys for a cup of tea/coffee and then went to a nearby village, Llandeilo, for lunch. I had roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, with a half of another tasty beer. We then wandered around the craft shops – there were some lovely things, including a couple of wonderful (but expensive) paintings. If I’d had £400 to spare I’d have bought one like a flash. Sadly, I forgot to note the artist’s name, so I shall just have to enjoy the memory of them, without any reference point!

When we got back to Huw and Trish’s house we sat outside, and played “fetch” with Dewi, and chatted again, until I felt very drowsy, so I went and had a “little lie down” before we went to an Indian restaurant where we treated them to a very pleasant Indian meal. I can’t remember the name of my chicken dish, but, while it was tasty, it was disappointingly mild. Mr FD’s chicken jalfrezi was rather spicier than he’d expected – so with a little judicious mixing of our meals, we both had a curry of a pleasing amount of heat!

The next day, Huw was working again, and we set off for Kent, where we were staying with MiL for a couple of nights before heading home. We arrived just before lunch, and then went to visit Mike, MiL’s partner, who is in a nursing home, due to a bad fall/ early dementia. It was lovely to see him, although he is looking much frailer than he used to.

When we arrived there was a musical afternoon going on, with an Elvis impersonator strutting his stuff, and flirting with the residents. He wasn’t a bad singer, so it wasn’t too painful to wait! Afterwards, we took Mike out in his wheelchair around the grounds, and then we were able to sit out in the sunshine.

Then it was shopping at Tesco, packing the cars, and off the next day for France. Home again by 6.00 pm.

 

…and after Summer School, catching up with Old Friends.

So, Summer School ended. On the Friday night, most of the teachers who were left headed down to the pub. I went too, but didn’t stay for too long – being a bit of a boring old fart! – and knowing that I hadn’t packed yet! Mr FD was due to arrive by train at 12.00 but I’d promised to drive some of the teachers to the station by 9.00, so I didn’t want to be late to bed.

On Saturday morning, I fulfilled all my tasks and got to the station to meet Mr FD at the appointed time. He had left the car he’d driven over from France (& had hoped to sell, but was unable to) at his mum’s, & took the train to Newbury, where I met him.  We had planned to go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust but the weather was horrid, so instead we drove to a pub we used to go to occasionally when I was at college in Winchester: The Bush at Ovington

Being a little way outside Winchester, it depended on one of us having a car, but it was a lovely place to go. To be honest, it hadn’t changed that much in the 35 years, and sitting in the bar brought back so many memories: there was the big table next to the open fire that we liked to sit at, here was the River Itchen that was so lovely to sit by on summer evenings…. Today, we both had some good British beer, a chicken-and-watercress sandwich, and (for me) some delicious parsnip and ginger soup. Mr FD had chips. I was allowed one.

We were due to stay at a friend’s in Southampton, so we made our way to Southampton Town Quay for a walk (the weather had brightened up a little by then) and a sit, to watch the boats going up the Solent. Then we arrived at Norman’s. We have been friends since my days at college, when he was the College chaplain. We have always got on very well, and I often think I would have loved him to be my Parish Priest: he is so wise, and sensible, and Godly. But, I think, not comfortable. He would be challenging too. He was – as far as I can remember – when he was Chaplain.

Anyway, he had invited Ian (another friend from College – but not this Ian)and his partner for dinner, so we had a lovely time catching up and just chatting. Norman cooked us melon & proscuttio for starters, then salmon with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes and green beans, then a “fruit crunch” – basically fruit salad with lots of red fruit and a touch of rum, topped with crushed amaretto biscuits, and then a layer of whipped cream and greek yoghurt. With brown sugar sprinkled on top, then left in the fridge overnight, there is a delicious fudgey topping as the sugar melts. Yummy!

The following day, we set off for Frome to catch up with more friends from college. Mr FD has known them for almost as long as he has known me, and gets on very well with them. He and Kit like the same music, and can talk Tech for hours, while Alison (another one) and I just fall into chat-mode instantly. Their daughter Hann was there, as was my Godson, Joe – which was a surprise, but definitely a happy surprise. We had a bread-and-cheese lunch, then strolled into Frome town centre to look at the Independent market there – lots of lovely things. I was particularly taken by the idea of book gardens:

which I think are rather lovely! I might (only might, mind you!) try making some for presents if I can find any appropriate books. Emmaus would seem a good starting place. We had tea in a café – very hip and happening, but terrible service! – and then strolled home, Kit & Mr FD forging ahead while Alison,Hann and I chatted about everything and nothing. Joe had gone to meet friends in the pub.

Mr FD and I had visited Asda on the way and bought pizza and salad, so we had that for dinner, and basically spent the evening chatting, comparing Tech and watching Athletics on TV. Very chilled. Very pleasant.

In the morning Mr FD popped back into Frome to buy some medication, while the rest of us tried to choose names for the two kittens that A&K were going to collect that afternoon. I still don’t know what was finally chosen! Mr FD had bought himself a new phone, which meant that his old phone was passed onto me, so I was able to gift my old phone to Joe (who was using an i-phone-something with a broken screen). Godson was very happy.

After lunch, Mr FD & I headed in the direction of South Wales, where we were going to visit friends from his University days. First we were due at Roger & Mags. Mr FD & Roger had “got mildly drunk together on our first evening at Cardiff University” and they have been friends ever since.

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This is a not-very good picture of Roger & Mags’ fluffy ginger cat, Oscar. I didn’t take any pictures of Roger & Mags!

When we arrived, Roger had taken the afternoon off work, so we sat and chatted about music (Mr FD & Roger definitely have the same taste in music!) and sport and Tech. When Mags got home, we then set out for a lovely little pub somewhere not very far from them, in Caerphilly, but, a little like The Bush, very olde worlde.

More good beer, and good food. I started with a goats’ cheese and black pudding salad, followed by a Welsh lamb burger, and fries. Mr FD had laver bread to start, in a type of croquettewith oatmeal and bacon, and then he went the whole hog and had a double burger – one Welsh lamb and the other Welsh beef!

The following day, Roger & Mags had both taken a day off work so we went for a lovely walk (a little too far for me, as I was struggling by the end, but still delightful) We started at Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery

and from there we followed part of the Taff Trail, above the River Taff. We made a detour to visit the site of an old Iron Foundry, that would have been active in the 19th century, but is now quite derelict.

Halfway round, we stopped at another pub for lunch. More good beer, and this time I had Welsh Cawlserved with bread and cheese. And sweet potato chips.

Mr FD and Roger had the most enormous ploughman’s lunch ever, served with 4 types of Welsh cheese, a thick slice of ham, a pork pie, pickled beetroot, pickled onion, salad and a bread roll.  Mr FD didn’t (quite) finish his – though I did note it was mostly the salad that he had left!

The second part of the walk was alongside the river and was really lovely. Incidentally, when we got back home to France there was a BBC 4 TV programme about the Taff, which showed parts of the walk we had done. Here is the link for anyone in the UK who might like to see it.

When we got back to Roger & Mags’ I’m afraid I fell asleep! But later that evening, Mags cooked us a delicious salmon-en-croute, and then we watched some Gavin and Stacey repeats – how appropriate for South Wales! – and a recording of Only Connect. Another chilled time, spent with old friends.

The next day, Roger & Mags had to go to work, and we were scheduled to go on to Neath, slightly further to the west, to call in on another frriend from Mr FD’s Uni days. But the telling of that part of our holiday will have to wait…

Summer School Fun

And yes, it was mostly fun!!

The kids were great, although there was one rather spoiled little girl from Spain. She threw a wobbly everytime we asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, or told her she couldn’t do something she wanted to do. She was a bit sly too, blaming others for things she’d done, or telling tales – “Teacher, Kati speak Russian!” (when she herself had been speaking Spanish ten to the dozen with her classmate!)

Mind you, we had a taste of what her parents were like and thus why she might have been as she was, when, in the evening, Isabella (not her real name) was talking to her father, & the phone was on speaker mode. There was the Spanish group leader in her room, and Aoife, the housemother, came & told Isabella to finish her call, and go to bed. When Isa relayed this message to Papa, he replied – not realising the phone was on speaker mode, or there was a Spanish speaker in the room – that basically she could tell the teachers to f— off and he’d finish the call when he was ready to.  I think even the child was a bit embarrassed by this, and she quickly ended the conversation!

Most of the other children were fine, and, while they may not have learned that much English, we at least hope they had fun!

We went to lots of different places, and did lots of different things. We painted plates

(twice!)

We visited the Hawk Conservancy Trust, where we saw Barn Owls

and Bald Eagles

and Ryan, who flew the Bald Eagles

We went to Beale Park, where there were lots of animals, and to Bucklebury Farm Park where we fed the deer

We went to other animal parks, and had two trips to see musicals: The Lion King and Aladdin. I enjoyed both, but I think the children were a bit bored. Even though they knew the stories and the songs, it must be difficult to follow a play in a foreign language. The shows were spectacular, and colourful, but even that failed to completely hold their attention. Still, they enjoyed stopping for Burger King at Heston services on the way back. And the plastic Smurf toys in the Kids’ Meal seemed to give them as much pleasure as the musicals had!

I think the favourite excursion was to the Oracle shopping centre – the children had so much money to spend (one had come away with £500 spending money for 4 weeks. That’s just ridiculous for a 8 year old child!) and quite frankly went a bit mad, buying vast quantities of plastic tat. And sweets. And finger spinners. Boy, did they buy Finger Spinners! One child ended up with about 6 of the things!

We had planned to go to the park in the afternoon, but it piddled down with rain – so we went back to Downe House and let them play with their new acquisitions instead. I think they were just as happy with that!

In class we baked cakes, and made Barn Owls out of coffee cups and paper plates. We painted symmetrical butterflies and made hot air balloons. We spoke and wrote in English, we watched lots of Simon’s Cat (that was my bribe: “Finish your work and we can watch a Simon’s Cat video.” ) If you don’t know Simon’s Cat, here’s one that I used when teaching Prepositions of Place

Where is the cat? Under the box…In the box…etc etc.

All in all, it was a good time.

Because my computer didn’t connect to the Wi-Fi at Downe House (nobody, including the Tech Support Team, could work out why) I ended up being much more sociable. Instead of holing up in my room in the evening, watching Coronation Street and Long Lost Family, I sat in the Common Room and chatted with the other teachers. It meant I could be supportive as they bemoaned the DoS’s most recent demands (while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that my Head of Dept was much less demanding!) and help give some ideas towards their lesson planning. I got to watch some of the Harry Potter movies – some of the younger teachers were die-hard HP fans. They watched the entire series of movies, but they mostly started too late for me to stay up to watch them. There was some insistance to take the Sorting Hat test to discover which House I belong to:  I am, apparently, a Hufflepuff.

Although I’m not into HP I was a tad disappointed to be a Hufflepuff (such a bloody stupid name) but having discovered the house crest is a badger, I’m quite happy. I like badgers. Hufflepuffs are also Very Nice People So that’s okay then.

I’ll tell you about the other things I got up to another time.