Monday, October 16, 2017

Double bubble, bits and bobs

The marathons

First I'll get marathons 125 & 126 out of the way, one on Saturday and then another on Sunday. Part of Traviss and Rachel's 'Winnie the Pooh' series they were on the same route as last year and I didn't take any photos as the views were slightly hazy this time although they were still glorious. Take a look at my photos here from last year to get a feel for the scenery. The Sunday last year was also my 99th marathon.

It was a 9:30am start and as the venue was only about an hour away I didn't need to leave home at silly o'clock which was an added bonus (although I do prefer an earlier start so I don't hit the busy period on the roads on my way home). As I phoned Mike to let him know I'd arrived safely I noticed the mileage on my car, which I'd reset when I left home; 26.2 miles, ie marathon distance! What a happy coincidence.

The route was laps of around 5.25 miles and you could complete as many as you liked within the 6 hour time limit. It was 5 laps for a marathon.

This was day 1 on one of the rare flat sections. On day 2 I was wise and took my walking poles to help with the exceedingly steep uphill sections!

Heading out for lap 2. I don't have  a number any more at Traviss and Rachel's events as when you've completed 1500 miles at their events they give you a 'VIP' bib with your name on. Such a nice gesture as recognition for supporting their events. They always look after everyone so well and I wish all Race Directors were more like them!

I really enjoy the challenge of this sort of event. Some people completed one lap, others more than the marathon distance (speedy Lee was one of the few people who ran up each of the steep hills and completed at least 3 extra laps each day). It's wonderful to see the joy on someones face when they've completed even more laps than they thought they could.

It was nice to chat with fellow runners en-route and there were plenty of dog walkers and horse riders out too but it was also nice when there weren't many people left out on the course. That's when the mindset of a long distance runner is crucial as you have to be able to cope with not seeing another person for what can sometimes seem like age. We all have our own coping mechanisms and being a numbers geek mine is usually to count which keeps me in the moment. I count my left footfalls from 1 - 100 and then start again. I don't think about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes I will break to take photos or for a chat when I meet up with another runner but then I go right back into my own zone. Other people listen to music or podcasts which is also a great way to pass the miles.

On day 1 I was delighted to finish in 5:56:05 which was 9 minutes faster than last year. I nearly went out for another lap to make it an ultra but I was anxious to get home to get bathed and fed in time for 'Strictly Come Dancing' to which we seem to have become addicted even though we are really awful dancers! 

On Day 2 I got out of bed with no stiffness or perceivable soreness as if nothing had happened the day before. However, I wasn't fooled by this feeling of euphoria as I knew those hills would feel like mountains on day 2. I wasn't wrong but I was delighted to find that I was only 20 minutes slower the next day coming in at 6:19:36 which was actually 38 minutes faster than last year. So that's 3 tough marathons in 8 days, each faster than last year. Go leggies!

Aren't they gorgeous medals!

Today Mike and I went out for a nice 4 miles walk which helped stretch my legs out. I've now got a few days to recover fully with just a few short runs before next Sunday which will be the anniversary of my 100th marathon.

Bits and Bobs

We had a little jaunt out on Friday taking in an antiques centre we didn't know, an art exhibition we visit each year and then an impromptu trip to Battle for a wander around so here are just a few random things to make you smile.

The antiques centre was in an old railway station near Bexhill-on-Sea and it was a lovely looking building - see here for better photos.

We arrived mid-morning and we noticed there was a cafe so we headed off for coffee and cake (as you do!). I knew it was going to a fun place when I saw this sign:

Wise words indeed!

On the wall was this massive moose head

Free wifi seems to be obligatory nowadays

Our next trip was to see the annual exhibition from the Pure Arts Group which is held in a hotel near Battle. We weren't overly excited by many of the exhibits this year although some of our old favourites produced some interesting work.

What did catch our eye was this lady's magnificent hair. We chatted for a while and she said that when she'd visited the Summer Exhibition in London (which we had to miss this year) she was accosted by many different people who thought she was an exhibit! I'm not surprised as it was stunning.

Afterwards we headed into Battle town centre which was getting ready for the annual Battle of Hastings re-enactment which is a lively affair and forms part of the Battle Festival. We were saddened to see that many of the high street shops had closed and were empty because they just aren't getting the business nowadays. Such a shame.

What did brighten our day though were these beautiful floral displays along Old Lady's yard.

I have such a lot of photos to share from the garden and even more photos of some of the amazing fungi I've been spotting recently. I'll try to get them uploaded soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Therapeutic knitting and stitching (and some useful support)

The last few days have been very stressful which has resulted in a rather unexpected rush of activity on the creative front.

I've been knitting like crazy on a jumper using one of my favourite yarns, Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

I wanted something light and airy and not fitted and 'Slouchy' fitted the bill perfectly. I have plenty of kidsilk haze in my stash, thankfully purchased in sales or on eBay as it's not a cheap yarn!

I started my gauge swatch using the recommended needle sizes but knew straight away it would be too loose so went down several sizes and got the tension square just right.

So off I went, knit, knit, knit in various corridors and after a very short while the rib was done and I started the pattern.

But sometimes it's not a good idea to start something when you're stressed and I soon discovered that the pattern didn't seem to be aligning with the rib in the way I'd expected. Yes, that could be because I'd misread the pattern couldn't it. After all, I've only been knitting for about 54 years, doh!

Ripping back a yarn containing mohair is not the most enjoyable experience but it didn't take too long - if you have a lot to undo then a good tip is to stick it in the freezer overnight which makes it much easier as the strands don't seem as 'sticky'.

Take 2 flew off the needles and since this was taken the other day I've finished the back, front and half a sleeve. It's an easy pattern repeat to memorise.

Then there's the bargello. This is a sampler cushion cover idea I'm playing with using many different stitches. It's incredibly absorbing and my tapestry stand, complete with light and magnifying glass, has been a real boon. I can't make my mind up which stitch to use for the main central pattern and keep changing my mind! I started with a curve but think I'll rip it out and do a more angular pattern.

Small swatches using a limited palette

It's fun leafing through my many bargello books accumulated over the years. I actually sold one to a dealer at a book fair a while back; I paid £8 for it orginally back in the 1970s and he offered me £42 for it which I accepted as a donation to my fund-raising! It was a good basic book but I had most of the stitches in other books so I don't miss it.

Now what about the 'support' mentioned in the title? Well, I've had arthritis in my feet (especially my toes (ouch!) since my early 40s but in my hands for much longer. Both index fingers and middle fingers don't sit nice and flat and are very lumpy on the knuckles as a result of which I try not to draw too much attention to them!

I've written before about different so-called cures of which I must have tried almost all to no avail. Everyone has to find their own way of dealing with it. I do finger/hand/wrist exercises after a session of crafting which helps keep the mobility but what I struggle with most is my grip and strength (or rather, lack of!). I used to be able to hoick a bale of hay up onto my shoulder and carry it with ease to the barn. Nowadays I struggle just to pick them up and load them onto the bogey. I've also had to adapt the way I knead bread as that really hurts now. About 12 years ago I had to change the hand supporting my horses hooves when I picked their feet as I can't stand much weight on my left hand.

That's what we all do when there's an issue isn't it; either that or we stop doing the thing that hurts which in my case is most of the things I enjoy doing!.

For a while I've been struggling in yoga, specifically in a position known as 'downward dog' as it puts so much pressure on my wrists and the ouchy pad beneath my thumbs where unfortunately I seem to be developing rheumatoid arthritis which crippled my late father in his 60s. 

I don't want to give up yoga as it really helps keep me supple - we runners have notoriously tight hamstrings and yoga helps enormously. When I mentioned my problem to Jane and Malcolm, our lovely teachers, they suggested wrist supports like the ones used by weight-lifters. 

Off I went to ebay and found these:

There's a loop to fit around your thumb and then you wrap the strip around your wrist at a tightness comfortable for you.

They really have helped although I've had to skip yoga today as the pad on my left hand is too sore to put any pressure on it.

On a brighter and more positive note I ran another marathon at the weekend. The Sussex marathon which claims to be the toughest road marathon in the UK due to its hilly route. It has a strict 5.5 hour cut-off and when I ran it 2 years ago I did it in 5:14:37 so I knew I'd have to push myself quite hard. Which is exactly what I did.

It's a 2 lap course with a mix of people choosing to do just 1 lap for a half marathon finish. I ran the first lap hard (those hills are unrelenting!) so I'd have some room for walking the really steep hills on the second lap.

There were only 35 finishers in the marathons, including just 5 women. I was delighted to finish in 5:07:51 to better my time from 2 years ago.

Mike was not impressed by the medal though as it was teeny-weeny (he's used to the amazing medals I get at Traviss's events!).

That was marathon 124 and if all goes well there are a lot more to come throughout October.SaveSave

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Beautiful Batemans

Seeing all my recent posts you'd think we spend all our time out and about visiting places of interest and having a jolly time but this year has been so devoid of joy and good news that these few visits have been extra special and very precious. We certainly aren't out of the woods yet with Mike's health issues so any happy days are treasured.

Our visit to Batemans was another such day. We drive past there so many times on our way out to other places and one day Mike remarked that we hadn't visited for a long time so perhaps that should be remedied; and so we did.

Warning this post contains more than 90 photos so is not for the faint-hearted!

Batemans, near Burwash, is a beautiful 17th century sandstone house and was the home of Rudyard Kipling from 1902 until his death in 1936. The day we decided to visit was absolutely perfect in that it was sunny but not too hot. The house doesn't open until 11am but the gardens are open from 10am so we planned it so that we arrived in time for coffee and cake (you may have noticed this is a theme with us!) followed by a walk across the Estate to burn off some calories.

There's a choice of 3 walks. We chose the one which gave the best views and was about 2.5 miles

We sat outside in the mellow sunshine and enjoyed our treat

The tall plants are Brussels sprouts and you can just make out the tiny sprouts forming along the main stalk

This was a formal area with fruit trees in the grass and clipped box hedges containing a mixture of flowers and vegetables - you can see the wasp catcher hanging from the tree in the foreground.

This sweet young robin came to join us and shared some of our crumbs

You can tell he's a youngster as his breast is orange rather than red and his plumage is speckled

Next we wandered around the vegetable plot - theses are rhubarb 'forcers' (excluding the light produces sweeter stems) but can equally be used for chicory

The peppery leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are often used in salads

Beautiful bright rosehips on this rosa rugosa

The branches of the fruit trees in this area were smothered in magnificent lichens

This Tagetes (possibly 'striped marvel') looked stunning en masse.

Mike fell in love with this stunning Amaranthus (aka 'Love-lies-bleeding'). Not only is it beautiful to look at but you can eat the seeds and leaves. I quite like the seeds and they are a useful source of protein for us vegetarians.

This pretty Helichrysum bracteatum reminded me that I haven't grown it for a few years.

Aka 'strawflowers', so-called because of their papery petals, they dry easily and are lovely for dried flower arrangements.

I rarely grow Dahlias (earwig and slug fodder plus lots of staking!) but I do admire some of their flowers.

A last look back before we explored another area

Apologies for the poor quality photo with sunspots but I love the promise of gateways - you never know what you're going to find when you walk through them.

In this case we discovered Naked Ladies or Meadow Saffron! These are Colchicums, an autumn-flowering (cormous) perennial, and they send their flowers up ahead of the leaves, hence their nickname.

This long fruit tunnel took us through an archway towards the house

There was much more to explore before we went inside

More Colchicums - so delicate.

It's a beautiful house from every angle.

The last of the formal areas as we headed off for our walk around the Estate.

What a wonderful example of recycling! This clever carving was made by a chainsaw carver named  Steve Andrews and was carved out of the tree stump of an old willow tree that had to be cut down last year.

Mr Kipling watches over the pond. It certainly makes a change from just turning a felled tree into woodchips.

A last look back then we were into the wilder areas.

As we crossed over the stream we could see lots of chickens scratching in a clearing in the distance (not visible here, sorry).

As we headed towards the old Mill there was a lot of squawking coming from somewhere nearby.

As we crossed another little bridge we discovered who was making all the noise......

This little sweetheart!

She stopped briefly to say hello before heading off to do chicken business.

Inside the mill all was quiet this time. The first time we visited it was still working but there have been all sorts of issues over the last few years and it has been shut down pending further restoration work. You can read more about it here. I used to buy my bread flour from there when we first moved into the area as stone ground flour is so much better.

Here are a few shots from inside:

Then it was time to venture into the wilder areas and across the fields. We'd worn our walking boots especially but hadn't taken poles. Thankfully it was too hilly and we managed to scramble up many inclines without too much huffing and puffing.

The route was a mixture of fields and woodland.

I love that they'd cut out a section of this fallen tree so that people didn't have to step over it!

As we returned towards the house we went back to the car to change out of our boots as they were rather muddy. Before we ventured inside Mike headed off to look at the 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 and I went for a mooch around the plant centre just in case there was anything interesting but there wasn't.

We spotted the family's hand-carved initials on the stone doorpost. This lead to a panelled and beamed room and I was delighted to find I could take photos without the flash.

There's a bell pull by the front door but I couldn't snap it 'cos there were too many people milling around. You can see a photo of it here. It was very dear to Kipling as it hung outside the house of Edward Burne-Jones (he was a great collector of his paintings).

Throughout the house there are many different objets and paintings of interest including Burne-Jones and Whistler. There is a full inventory of items here. The first room we entered was the hall.  member, Mrs Kipling would scrutinise visitors from her office window above the entrance before they were allowed past the front door! 

 According to a family story, it was an Indian custom that if this little fish was pointing towards the lounge (as above) then guests were welcome but if it pointed the other way (towards the door) then it might be time to leave!

I loved the tooled leatherwork on the chair backs

Sorry this one is out of focus but I've included it as the bottom figure is Ganesha and I have a soft spot for him.

There were so many depictions of scenes from The Jungle Book throughout the house.

Part of a fire surround.

There were lots of information screens throughout the  house plus there were Stewards in most of them too.

Ralph Fiennes has the perfect voice to read them.

That's the very table at which he wrote so many wonderful stories.

There were books everywhere, as you'd expect.

There were lots of glass cases with interesting objets.

A small bathroom area. I love those blue and white tiles.

On the way down a little staircase towards the kitchen I spotted this little felt mouse peeping out of the panelled wall. When I mentioned to other people they hadn't spotted it but I bet all the children would have seen it though.

More pretty tiles (very William Morris).

On the way past the kitchen there were several paintings by Emma Martin on display and they were rather intriguing and quirky. Here are 3:

Study of a tree stump at Rackham Wood



We couldn't see the bedrooms as they were short of volunteers to man them on that day so the last room we saw was the Dining Room, famous for the cordoba leather wall hanging which was indeed magnificent.

I loved the chunky frame around this tiny picture.

Then it was time to head off home

All in all a grand day out.