Up in the hills

I was having a debate with a friend the other day about relaxation in a city vs. being up a hill.  Once upon a time I would have been completely with her: a city break, particularly in one of the big, buzzy cities of the world, would have been one of my ideal get-away from it and unwind opportunities.

Or would it?  I loved living in London initially and even when we moved to Cumbria I missed the excitement and bustle of a city, and would regularly dash over to John Lewis in Newcastle for an urban fix.  But even so, as a child I used to enjoy standing at the top of a hill with the wind in my hair – I just didn’t do it very often.  As soon as I discovered skiing that became my annual holiday of choice; and it wasn’t long after that that I started mountain biking, then got fitter, improved my swimming, and began to enjoy outdoor activities which entailed being in hills and mountains rather than in a city.

It took me years to make the decision to move away from urban life, but as soon as it was made, when David and I decided to move to Cumbria, and we were in Cumbria, we knew it was the right decision.  I remember the first time we ran in Gelt Woods, and the rush of excitement and freedom – the closest thing you can get to flying without any mechanical assistance – of running down the hill near the motocross track, a view across to the Solway Plain.  Or putting the bins out on a dark starry night and looking across to the Solway Plain in the distance.  And then, standing on the Ridge one evening on my own, not long after we had moved into the house I am still in, and realising – putting into words in my head – that my soul felt right.  The Ridge, as anybody who has read any of my blogs even irregularly will know, is a special place for me – and for others too I think.  Perhaps the leylines which run through Lanercost also run along the Ridge?

So for me, standing at the top of a hill with my feet on the ground and my head in the sky is one of life’s relaxing, enriching and liberating experiences: and whilst I still love city breaks, probably my friend was right when she said I am a standing-at-the-top-of-a-hill type of a person.

I’ve done that a lot lately.  Mark from across the road,  my friend Penny and I had all entered the Howgills half marathon.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the Howgills are the fuzzy felt hills to the east of the M6 just south of Tebay.  Part of them is in Cumbria even though they lie completely within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  I had wanted to go up into the Howgills for years, so a half marathon seemed, at the time I entered, a good idea…

We had a training run up Blencathra, a Lake District Fell which I have driven past in various directions many times and which I have seen change character with the seasons and the weather.  We didn’t – couldn’t – run much of the ascent but were rewarded by a glorious view of lakes and fells from the top.  We did run down, my love of descending giving wings to my feet.  I could hardly walk downstairs for two or three days after.

Blencathra April 2017 (4)

The following weekend we had a training run in the Howgills themselves, from Sedbergh.  Whilst many of the Lake District Fells are quite stony at the top (they are, after all, higher than the Howgills on the whole), these were beautiful grass-covered mounds, undulating invitingly for miles, just how they had looked from the motorway.  However although the route we chose did not climb as high as Blencathra, it was certainly as steep if not steeper and we began to wonder how we were going to get on in the race.  We weren’t going to be running uphill much.

As it turned out, there were five miles or so of ascent in the race (at the beginning), followed by a steep but stunning and glorious descent down the side of the highest waterfall in England – Cautley Spout, 175m.  This all happened before the halfway mark, and the race organisers then put in another nasty little and incredibly steep hill only 2-3 miles before the end.  Even the ultra-fit marathon runner who came past me, saying ‘show the hill who’s boss’, didn’t run that bit.  The humorous organisers had put a sign up saying ‘it’s not a hill – it’s just the path is at an angle’ (or similar): although the motivational sign of theirs which really helped me was the one not too far before the end, as I was about to give up and sulk and walk all the way to the finish, which said ‘it’s not a knitting club – now push on!’.  How did they read my mind?!  It got me running again, all the way over the finish line.

And the next challenge?  I’m cycling the next stage of my round Cumbria bike ride – which I really must get on and write up, as well – including up and over Corney Fell.

I also know that I want to live at least halfway up a hill, with a good view from my house: if I can see the sea in the distance that would be great, but if not at least some rolling hills and fells and maybe a lake or a Tarn.  I’ll know when I find the right property.

Obscure jewels

The great thing about Cumbria is that you can find almost unknown treasures just off the
beaten track.  Sometimes you wonder how they survive; others seem to be thriving
despite not being anywhere obvious, nor well-signposted.

1. Brampton to Longtown (7)An example is the delightful little museum at Bewcastle – out in the middle of wild, almost-unvisited, haunted Reiver country.  It doesn’t take long to look around, but it tells the story of Bewcastle for those lone visitors who trek up to this remote part of north Cumbria.

 

Today we went to Threlkeld Mining Museum, which sits within the Lake District National Park just outside sometimes-crowded (relatively speaking) Keswick.  It represents one of the contradictions of the Lake District, even of Cumbria itself: this now idyllically rural county once made its wealth from industry, the landscape being gouged to free various valuable minerals.  Copper, lead, slate, graphite and even coal have been taken from the fells, valleys and coast that sheep now roam over and walkers ramble across.

Threlkeld Mining Museum appears not much more than a collection of rusty excavators in a quarry at first glance, but spending some time there is rewarding.  There’s a short ride on a narrow gauge steam train which takes you up to a quarry which is still worked – perhaps recently most significantly to help repair the road past Thirlmere (Keswick to Ambleside) which collapsed when the side of Hevellyn suffered a major landslip in the floods of December 2015 – and a tour of the old mine workings.  The guides are informative and enthusiastic and you come away with an enhanced understanding of how unsafe and unhealthy conditions were working underground – children carrying large tubs of excretia away at the ends of shifts; pit ponies and men falling down shafts, to be left at the bottom to rot; poisonous lead; children laying explosives, made from goose quills filled with powder, at close range because they were more expendable than adults… the social history is fascinating and humbling.

The Museum has no flash modern cafe facilities but during the gap between our train ride and our underground tour, one of the Museum staff pointed us in the direction of the cafe in Threlkeld village (the excellent Village Coffee Shop).  This was another ‘find’.  The village is bypassed by the A66 but if you bother to turn off the main road and head into the village there is a sign for a cafe.   This is situated in a beautifully refurbished village hall with superb views across to the quarry and the fells beyond.  It’s a community enterprise project (I can’t remember the exact name) so the cafe is run by paid members of staff but any profit it makes is ploughed back into the community.  It’s no amateur tea-room either: the coffee was lovely, the cakes looked superb, and the toilets were clean and nicely decorated with fresh flowers.

And friends I Threlkeld Mining Museum April 2017 (1)worked with at British Waterways may be amused to see that one of BW’s rusty excavators now lives at the Mining Museum!

 

New trainers; muddy trainers; hello Hadrian’s Wall

It’s ages (a few years) since I ran from Walltown Crags back to Brampton – the last time was when I was training for Kielder Marathon, the incredibly wet summer of (I think) 2012.  A lot has happened since then both to me and to my friend Penny, with whom I was running today – but as she said, “you can’t be depressed when it’s like this”.

It was slightly chilly as we set out from Walltown Crags, and within the first few metres we were saddened when we came across a recently dead sheep – and saw that she had died giving birth to her lamb, whose legs were sticking out at the rear.  Later we saw another sheep giving birth – we didn’t stop to see if that one was going to live and the farmer was nearby anyway, but it was sad that in the midst of the glorious spring weather with everything bursting into bud and new life, that here were two lives which had ended: and probably in pain and distress.

But here it is, a photographic presentation of our 20km very muddy springtime run from Walltown Crags along the Hadrian’s Wall path to Lanercost, where we then turned south through Quarry Beck and then Ridge Woods to head into Brampton.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (1)
Brand new trail running shoes
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (3)
Between Thirlmere Castle and Gilsland

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (5)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (6)
The milecastle at Potross Burn, Gilsland
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (7)
Running down past Willowford Farm and the ruins of the Roman bridge
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (8)
Over the bridge and up the other side (steep!) to Birdoswald.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (11)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (12)
Blencathra from Banks Turret
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (13)
Looking towards the Solway Plain and Scotland from near Banks
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (15)
The Irthing near Lanercost
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (16)
Delicate wood sorrel
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (17)
Very early bluebells!
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (18)
I love running through Quarry Beck Woods

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (19)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (22)
My damson tree!
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (20)
New trainers… baptism of mud

Half term with the kids

Half term has been and gone in a flash.  Last weekend was David’s turn to have the children, although I had them on Friday night and Saturday night, which meant that I had time for a run on Askham Fell with Penny on Sunday.  Both of us had work to do so after a late lunch at the cafe at Askham Hall, it was time to head home.  I drove back over the hills rather than up the motorway, and came to the conclusion that one day I shall live in Penrith or Kirkoswald, high up a hill and with a view.

On Monday Edward and Bella were keen to go to Energi, the new(ish) trampolining place in Carlisle.  I jumped too… I’m not very good as whilst I don’t mind jumping high, I’m not very brave at jumping over on to the next trampoline – though I did manage it a few times.  I also landed on the hard bit in between a couple of times, which is rather jarring on the ankles.  I wonder if I was the oldest jumper in the place?  I’m now thinking it would be good to go to one of the ‘Energi Fit’ classes.

Tuesday I had a conference and choir, so the children were with David Monday night and Tuesday night and back to me on Wednesday morning.  We had various dentists and opticians appointments all week, Edward had a swimming lesson every afternoon, and Bella was booked on to a Robotics course on Wednesday.  She found it boring as all they did was make robots out of cardboard, but at least she didn’t learn how to hack the school computer and write rude things on it, which was what happened after the Coding course… we also did some cooking that afternoon – she made a flourless chocolate cake and I made banana cake.  As nobody wanted to eat the banana cake (none of us is a fan of bananas, it seems) we gave it away, and I understand it was enjoyed by the recipients.

On Thursday the ‘treat’ was the Lego Batman movie, along with popcorn and hotdogs.  It hasn’t been a particularly healthy week food-wise, the more so as the kids seem to be rebelling against my tendency to want to eat fish as my main protein rather than red meat.  So this week we have had spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, and chilli with tacos – I’ve also made lamb tagine which I’m going to add butternut squash to before serving it with couscous, but I’m not sure what the trio’s reaction will be to that.

I had arranged to meet a friend at Whinlatter on Friday and as we drove down there the weather was colourful.  The sky was bright azure blue, the main central lakeland fells were covered in snow, and the plantlife was a mix of golden russet brown and vibrant-about-to-be-spring green.  The kids had a good time running around in the playground, although Alex tried to be too old and too cool for it.  Judging by my garden, spring is definitely on its way, and despite Storm Doris (a bit of a non-event up here in Cumbria), the weather hasn’t even been particularly cold.

Not until today, that is – and even then it was only cold on Talkin Fell.  Alex had a friend, Luke, to stay for the weekend.  We had a militaristic day yesterday with a visit to Carlisle Castle and the Regimental Museum followed by the Roman Gallery at Tullie House and then today decided we’d walk up Talkin Fell.

It all started well enough but became windier, wetter and wilder the higher we got.  Bella then fell over in some mud (as happened last time we went up there as well – spot the brown-ness of her black jeans), and the happy mood of the day changed to grumpiness.  As by then we were all getting colder and wetter we decided perhaps we wouldn’t go all the way to the top and eat our picnic up by the cairns: and the two older boys suggested sensibly that we should walk back to the car and eat the picnic in the car.

Edward has got happily filthy every day this holiday week; they have all eaten a lot of rubbish food (as well as plenty of good food as well) – and despite the inevitable arguments, anger and tellings off – it’s been a fab. week.

Country Nights

I went to a party up past Hethersgill last night, right up in the middle of nowhere, in the wild country where the Reiver ghosts still roam.  I love it up there: rolling hills, miles of roads which could go anywhere, and a deep, deep sense of history – plus, in the daylight, endless views out to the sea and to the fells.  It was a typical country party: you drive up a track, cross a muddy farmyard to get there, and then have lovely mulled wine and sausages in bread rolls to eat (I missed the bonfire for a variety of reasons).  No evening dresses and high heels and no need for piles of make-up.  Bliss.

Driving back across Walton Moss I stopped the car engine and switched off all the lights.  It was black, except that as it was cold and clear the stars were shining brightly.  I could have been all alone in the world other than the stars looking down at me, and I was surrounded by darkness and stillness.  I wished I had my camera, except having just looked for ‘night sky’ images on google I’ve realised that in fact it would probably have been a rather dull picture: lots of black with the odd star dotted around.  But that’s where photos fall short: they can’t describe how you actually felt when you were taking the photo.

stars

I was working (at the computer – doing property valuations) today but by about 4.30 had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sunset looked promising: a dark grey sky above a reddish pink base, the pinky-red striped by black linear clouds.  I drove up to the Tarn and walked around it as the sun went down tried to photograph the gently rippling dark waters of the Tarn, hills dark shadows in the background, trees silhouetted against the sky, pinks and blacks shimmering on the horizon and then the darkening sky above.  Unfortunately the camera wasn’t man enough for the job and the photos came out too light and grainy.

So I’ll just have to remember these nights and these moments in my mind’s eye: along with the full moons which have been so amazing the past few months.  Yesterday’s night sky and today’s sunset weren’t startling or dramatic, but in their own low-key way they were incredibly beautiful: and a reminder to get out there into the outdoors, whatever the time of day and whatever the weather.

p.s. looking through my previous blog I came across this post:  http://supervet-sarah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/running-in-dark.html.  When I look back to things I have written in the past I realise that the things which are important to me are still important to me, and the things I love are things I carry on loving. 

Club la Santa, Lanzarote

This is just a brief post with plenty of pictures as a short memento of a fantastic holiday.  ‘Thank you’ to my friend Penny, who was an easy travelling companion, and to my Mum who gave me a generous enough cheque for my birthday that I could afford to go back to Club la Santa for the FOURTH time (I hardly ever go back to exactly the same place twice – there are too many other interesting places to explore, but I always have a fab. time at Club la Santa).  It had been refurbished and extended since I last went and is now really nice and modern – and the showers are fantastic!

We flew out of the UK on a day when there was snow on the ground.  The weather on Lanzarote was not perfect all week – it was very windy for cycling – and we even wore jeans (rather than dresses/skirts) some evenings, and fleeces – but it was as good as many a British summer and great to be outdoors exercising almost all day every day.  We agreed we should try something new every day so in addition to running, swimming and cycling we did:

paddle boarding; a fitness class on paddle boards; deep water aqua; Zumba; aerial relaxation; aerial pilates (and, in my case, aerial yoga as well); TRX; body balance; body attack; body combat, Taiji Qigong… etc.

By bike we cycled:

to the Fire Mountains (the visitor centre en route is great – and free – and I love the way it’s still so hot underfoot in the mountains themselves that dry brushwood will catch fire);

past Playa de Fumara, up to the Monumento al Campesino and then along a very bumpy road through La Geria to then head back down from Tinajo to Club la Santa;

and up through Soo, Munique and Tiagua to Nazaret and a house that once belonged to Omar Shariff – Lag-Omar – but which is now a fascinating ‘museum’ come party venue (I think the guy trying to sell me some Aloe Vera products was also trying to chat me up… telling me that Aloe Vera would make me sexy and that I’d come back in two weeks and want to kiss him… hmm…).

I especially liked the way that many of the roads had ‘watch out for cyclists’ signs – I think it was only on the route of the Lanzarote Ironman, but shows how popular the island is for cyclists.  At 856 sq km there’s only really one ironman route available – as a comparison, Cumbria covers 6,768 sq km: but has a total of c.400,000 people to Lanzarote’s 139,000. Both of course have their populations boosted significantly by tourists – something which the Lanzarotians seem to welcome: they were all incredibly friendly and seemed delighted if you even spoke a couple of words in hesitating Spanish.

I’ve mentioned restaurants in a separate post. We were a bit disappointed by the ones at Club la Santa, other than La Plaza in the square (where we were served by a cute English waiter who was a bit of an Orlando Bloom look alike).  Restaurant Atlantico is great for enormous quantities of food; El Lago was disappointing for what it seemed to be trying to achieve, although they make a lovely gin and tonic.  Talking of gins and tonics, the Welsh barman in the Sports Bar was a bit of a gin expert and took ages creating two masterly gin and tonics – he likes Martin Miller, which is one I had come across, bought and particularly liked when I had a dinner party recently.

So it was a week of lovely weather and fresh air, exercise as well as relaxation, food and drink.  It was good for the mind and soul as well as the body, and I was a little sad to come home.  One day I would love to take the kids there, as I’m sure they’d enjoy it too.

Time with the kids

views-from-mama-cakes-new-location-6I’ve had some fab. times with the kids recently, and the beauty of where we live has been emphasised to me once again.  When I think that back in the early spring I thought I might lose them all together… it’s not that we don’t have a lot of shouting and turmoil (Bella still tells me she hates me from time to time), but I’m now confident that I am who I am and that being me doesn’t make me a bad mother.  I’m their mother, and whatever I give them will be exactly that – something I give them, which nobody else can.  I may be volatile, emotional, frequently broke, money-wise (and therefore stressed) and – as they once said in a card to me – ‘the shouty fairy’, but I’m their Mum and I’m Me.  My way of dealing with life is not the same as their Dad’s, nor as some other people’s parents, but it doesn’t matter – it’s my way.  Some people will be similar to me – some won’t – and there’s not a right way nor a wrong way.

Over half term we went out and about: I know I’ve said it before here but the weather really has been fantastic recently.  We walked to Lanercost via the Ridge and Quarry Beck woods – my ex father in law picked up the boys from Lanercost but Bella and I walked back again; we went to Edinburgh and met up with my parents and went in the place that’s similar to the Puzzling Place; we went to Acorn Bank = spot the photo which is similar to one from when Edward was only two! – which was fantastic (and followed it with Rheged, where we had an argument but resolved it with ice creams).

More recently I’ve had a long weekend in London with Bella: thanks I have to admit to my generous parents, who paid for us to stay with them at the Regents Park Marriott, which was fab. (it has a Carluccio’s as a dining room and such, such fantastic and friendly service).  It was great to cover old stamping grounds and exciting for both my daughter and me.

I haven’t had much time for writing recently so I’m just including a whole load of photos.  It perhaps says something for my mental and emotional state that I haven’t written much – writing for me is a release in times of emotional turbulence (not always very appropriately, but it’s what helps me – I perhaps just need to remember not to be too public) – and generally (other than HMRC, grrrrr….) things have been pretty good recently.

Which reminds me that I must get on with some professional writing…

Too nice to stay indoors

The lovely weather continues and today I woke to another day of gorgeous golden autumn sun.

walk-around-lanercost-23rd-oct-3

I had thought of running up Talkin Fell, but somehow that didn’t feel like quite the right place to go, and also having cycled from Maryport to Ravenglass yesterday (feature to follow…), walking somewhere appealed instead – and I remembered that I hadn’t been up above Lanercost at Haytongate for ages – probably not since I was training for Kielder Marathon (see Supervet Sarah blog).

walk-around-lanercost-23rd-oct-5So, lazily (and as I was meant to be getting back with time to finish painting my utility room), I drove to Lanercost.  I wanted to be on my own, so when I saw some other people heading up the track to Haytongate I turned left to walk along the lane which heads eventually to Walton, knowing that I’d pick up the Hadrian’s Wall path at the top of the hill (you can cut across the field from Lanercost Bridge as well, to join the lane further west near Burtholme East).  The colours were fantastic and the views as lovely as ever.  I walked to the top of the hill above Haytongate, remembering using it for hill training (and Kerry not being too happy about me suggesting she sprint up it and jog back down at least 10 times); remembering the day when loads of people came out to light up Hadrian’s Wall.

Somehow photos of views across to the Lake District never come out very well, but some of my photos did capture a little of the essence of this autumn – so different from this time last year, when it seemed to rain and rain and rain and life felt as if it was just falling apart.  I’ve also added some photos from a run I did up through Rowbank to Milton and back on Friday: all those photos need is some snow to make them Christmassy!  It’s too early to be thinking (much) about Christmas, but the first snow of the year has already been recorded on Great Dun Fell.

Perhaps this winter will be a white one rather than a wet one…

More mindfulness… or just fab. weather

There was an amazing moon last night.  I don’t care what it was or what it signified – it just was fantastic.  I had been down in Liverpool all day (sunny and lovely in the morning; raining in the afternoon; travelling by train all over the place) and as I drove back home along the airport road from Carlisle the moon took my breath away.

Because I had been in Liverpool on site visits I had my camera with me… I turned left towards Irthington thinking that I might find a good spot to take a picture of the moon, hoping that it wouldn’t disappear completely behind the clouds before I did, but found nowhere suitable.  I thought of driving up towards Walton but that seemed a bit excessive – and then I remembered that I had got a good photo at Talkin Tarn the other evening.

Off I headed, via the winding country lanes, to Talkin Tarn – only to zoom into the car park and find the moon couldn’t be seen at all!  At that point I gave up and went home.

Why was I so desperate to get a photo of it?  Because it was the most amazing orangey-pinky colour, but striped by clouds: you know how it can be sometimes.  Simply, it looked stunning and I wanted to capture the moment and save it for ever.

Perhaps the very best moments can’t be captured and held still like that though – perhaps they only live on in your memory.  Perhaps that’s best: they’re so personal.  We can talk about them and write about them and discover that someone else felt a similar way at a similar moment, but the photos come out flat and the words never truly describe how you felt (great artistry, I think, is when someone captures in words or music or a picture exactly how you did feel: when you can look at something or hear it and say ‘yes, that’s it, that’s how I felt’).

This morning then dawned sunny and blue: another of those glorious autumnal days which Cumbria (in particular) does so well.  It was not a day for staying in and working without cease, so I dressed in running attire (to keep me motivated), and once I’d done what my conscience told me I should in terms of work, I headed out and up on to the hill.  I am so lucky that there is a hill nearby with trees to meander among and lovely views of the sky and off into the distance.  I’ve described it here so many times before that I’m not going to again, except that I never tire of it and part of me just wants to reiterate how glorious it is peering through the branches and foliage out into the distance, or standing at the gate before you enter the wood and just gazing across towards the north.

On the way home I paused at a kissing gate and admired the view for the umpteenth time.  I was conscious of the noises around me: primarily the leaves, growing drier and getting ready to fall, rustling in the breeze.  In the distance some birds were shrieking; children could be heard, excited at being released into the school playground and out of lessons; someone in the distance was doing a final cut of his or her lawn before winter; a plane rumbled gently far overhead.  The sky was that cold, clear blue that autumn does so well on beautiful days like today.

My senses were alert: I guess it’s the mindfulness of running again.  In addition to the sounds around me, there was the smell of new wood where fences and gates had been repaired in the woods; the touch under my feet of leaves or mud or dry sandy ground; the sight of leaves obscuring a path or the contrast of the leaves which have fallen and those which are still green; of the heavens in the distance; and the taste of swallowing a fly as I ran along with my mouth open at the wrong moment!

Woods on a hill.  One of ‘my’ places.  I am lucky that I ended up here.

on-the-ridge-19th-oct-2

Meditation and mindfulness: running, singing and writing

My memory of last October is of a dark, turbulent time, my emotions in turmoil.  The nights and mornings always seemed to be dark, the weather rainy.

This year is completely different.  The weather recently has been glorious and even if it’s a bit misty and the car has a slight layer of frost in the morning, by mid-morning the mist has usually burnt off and the sun is warming everything.  If I put a running jacket as well as a long-sleeved top to go out running, invariably I end up too warm.

So whilst I stood shivering at the start line of Kielder 10k on October 1st, I was glad that Kerry had advised me to leave my jacket behind and I found I was just the right temperature while running – although the photos taken before show me looking a bit chilly (plus wild hair – I can’t wait for the top to grow a bit as it looks so weird).  It’s such a beautiful run and every time I’ve run up there (the marathon 4 years ago; the 10k this year and last) the weather has been glorious.  We also knocked 5 mins off our time this year, which was pleasing – and in fact I felt as if I could perhaps have gone a little bit faster.  I’m now keen to do the duathlon and/or the half marathon.  I should also mention the fantastic picnic Kerry and Kevin brought for after the race, which was really welcome and absolutely perfect.  It was a great day.

Mid-week I fancied running through Gelt Woods, which I haven’t done for ages.  I didn’t do the entire loop all the way down to the viaduct, but instead ran up the Black Path (a former Reiver droving route), down through the woods along by the river and then back past the former Roman quarry.  I then turned to go past the farms and up towards Aaron’s Town, now out in rolling open fields where sheep were grazing under cotton-wool clouds in an azure sky.

This weekend just gone I was singing in Catterline, just south of Stonehaven (Aberdeen).  The boys chose to come with me – Edward was keen to see his newest cousin, Baby Mia – I love the photo of ‘Jedi Younglings’ which her Mum, Gulmira, posted on Facebook.  While I rehearsed and later performed Alex and Edward spent the day with their grandparents, cousin and uncle and aunt.  As I drove down the A90 I wanted to stop to take photos of the North Sea from the hill just north of Stonehaven, it looked so lovely – not the slightest bit inviting as it will be icy cold already I have no doubt – but the waves breaking in the harbour and the blue of the sea under the sunshine-filled sky looking lovely.  Sea therapy!

Stonehaven has some great shops and restaurants and I hope I get a chance to explore it a bit more sometime, but Saturday was busy with practicing.  I hope Nigel, who organised the charity-fund-raising soiree, won’t mind my quoting what he said about my singing, as it was a lovely comment: “people don’t know how lucky they are to hear your voice”.  I look forward to seeing some photos, and I met some great people – Morag, who stepped in to accompany; Orit, who wasn’t well but whom I immediately liked and who I hope to sing with sometime; Sheila, who sang fantastically and who I enjoyed chatting to – as well as seeing people I had met before.

I then went for a run with my ex-brother-in-law yesterday and managed 5 miles with two hills and didn’t walk at all.  I was dead chuffed – and again the weather was fantastic.  I’m clearly fitter than I thought I was…

As I ran through Gelt Woods the title of this blog came to mind.  Funnily enough RunABC North this edition had an article about running being meditative, and Sheila and I were talking about mindfulness on Saturday.  I said that running and singing are my mindfulness.  With both if you’re not ‘in the moment’ then you’re not doing either to your best – both require full concentration or involvement, but it’s also possible to almost get to ‘another place’ while doing either.  With both I feel my feet on the ground and my heart in the air.

And now, with a new head torch sitting waiting for use in the utility room, I’m excited about getting some night runs in; and looking forward to my next singing performance which is in Carlisle in a few weeks’ time.