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.


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. 

Too nice to stay indoors

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


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 language

I have a book called Scott’s Original Miscellany.  I first started dipping into it when staying at an aunt’s house in London.  I later bought myself a copy which has been living in the bathroom, ready to be dipped in and out of as the fancy takes you.  It’s very much a dipping in and out sort of book.  I particularly liked the fact that the 33 degrees of Freemasonry are listed on the same page as are the names of the Seven Dwarves…

I also loved the page about English words which have come from other languages.  I’ve known for a long time that English is a particularly rich language – I remember doing medieval history for ‘A’ level at school and reading that the British are one of the most mongrel of races (Celts, Britons, Vikings, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Picts, Normans… I do wonder whether modern America is more of an ethnic mix, however) and so what with that and our trading/mercantile/seafaring history, it’s no surprise that the language is equally as diverse.  It’s rubbish that it’s a Germanic language – almost half of our words are of ‘Latin’ origin but because of trade there are also plenty from Portugese and further afield.

So here are a few of my favourites, as quoted in Scott’s Miscellany:

Arabic: “The admiral in the alcove, whilst sitting on his sequin sofa dreaming of harems, should fear the assassin rather than seeking solace in the alchemy of alcohol”  (interesting that ‘alcohol’ is an arabic word);

Aluet Inuit: “My anorak is far too cold for a kayak expedition to the igloo.  Bring me my parka instead”  (perhaps no surprises there);

Farsi/Persian: “This talc bazaar has everything! Just one kiosk alone sells lilac tiaras and azure shawls”  (isn’t ‘azure’ a lovely word – so much more elegant and uplifting than ‘blue’);

Turkish: coffee and yoghurt come from Turkish, as does another lovely blue word – turquoise.

Did you know the word ‘tycoon’ comes from Japanese; or the words ‘robot’ and ‘pistol’ from Czech?  Whereas the parliamentary ombudsman is Swedish – as is tungsten light. Other Scandinavian-origin words include inkling, flaunting, dregs and glitter.  On the other hand at the other end of the world, from hotter climes, we got (took?) avocado, chilli, tomato and chocolate (all Aztec).

Of course Scott’s Miscellany isn’t only about language or the names of things.  Dip into it and you’ll find out obscure facts that you didn’t know before – for example, I had no idea that the last castrato, Moreschi, retired in 1913 and died as late as 1922: you always think of castrati as being very much an 18th century phenomenon.  As an aside, the French film Farinelli (he lived from 1705-1782) depicts in lavish style the life of one of the most famous castrati ever, and digitally merges the voice of a female soprano and a male counter-tenor to create the castrato voice… the film, in French and Italian with sub-titles, contains some divine music.

Which brings me full circle really, and complements a comment I made on another blog earlier.  Language; writing; singing.  ‘These are a few of my favourite things’.


Exhilarating Tuesday

I enjoyed my drive to work in the SUV, but by lunchtime I had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sea was calling to me once more, especially with the tail end of Storm Henry still hitting the coast.

I’ve discovered something I actually like about Whitehaven (apologies to anyone who loves the town: I don’t).  It’s the sea, particularly on a wild weather day.

I’ve started enjoying walking down to the far end of the harbour’s South Shore, out on to the West Pier where the outer harbour meets the sea.  You leave the calm waters of the inner harbour behind and stand there on top of the West Pier, waves crashing up and sometimes over the pier walls and against the shingle below.

I took the precaution today of leaning against a handrail as the wind turned my coat into a sail and tangled my hair: but I figured that death would come pretty quickly if you did accidentally fall in – your body would become rapidly hypothermic and you’d probably be knocked unconscious within moments, battered between the force of water and the solidity of land.

It struck me that the very physically elemental nature of this was what appealed to me: like running to the top of a hill and standing there gazing into the distance, the wind swirling around you; or great sex, or when singing or swimming feel good.  There’s an acute consciousness of the very guts of your physical being and yet an awareness of the spiritual or soulful as well: earth meets sky; mind, body and soul merge.

I reluctantly left the sea to walk back to the office – to the restrained heat and hushed atmosphere of indoors and paperwork.  But tomorrow I shall go down to the sea again.

Falling in love again…

(or giggly Monday, images (1)exhilarating Tuesday)

Be warned.  This post will let you in on some of my darkest secrets; my dark side.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

  1.  When I was younger I was a boy racer.  I slowed up and starting thinking slightly more carefully about my driving around the time I became pregnant with Child no. 1.  I even did my Advanced Test.  But perhaps it’s a case of once a boy racer always, at heart, a boy racer.
  2.  I’m a closet white van or truck driver.  As Rebecka at Enterprise said yesterday when I picked up a Jeep, that feeling of being higher up and of ‘my car will squash yours’ is rather a good one… I think the feeling is even better in something more stable and sturdy than a white van (or minibus – I’ve driven both), as I like performance and style as well as being higher up and bigger.
  3. I am dying to try out off-roading.  I always fancied being a rally driver.
  4. I’ve fallen in love again.  It happened yesterday.

I thought my boy racer days were over.  I thought I was far more bothered about fuel economy and carrying my children and lots of clutter around than what a car looked like, or drove like.  But I’ve never quite got over the fact that I like the feeling of acceleration and of power, and I like a car with good road-holding.  I was incredibly proud of the fact that when I did a race day at Castle Coombe circuit, the instructor wrote ‘egscellent’ on my assessment form (he was a racing driver, not a literary genius).

My first dream car was my Peugeot 205 GTi.  When I had some spare money and a secure job and decent salary, I didn’t buy a flat: I bought my dream car.  I sold it 4 years later after a lot of fun and when I decided to chuck in the secure job and decent salary to go abroad to work as a holiday rep. where I drove all sorts of things – including a minibus into a snow drift.

Eventually, having come back home, I climbed – or perhaps jumped would be more accurate – up the career ladder, springing from job to job: without wanting to sound big-headed, it felt at times as if I only needed to apply for a more senior job to get it.  I ended up at British Waterways, where I got a company car: and chose a Golf TDi.  We weren’t allowed the GT TDi, but I loved my TDi.  It was the perfect car for a (then) free and single triathlete – it had plenty of get up and go and also room for my bike in the boot.

As a holiday rep. I drove minibuses and that iconic first ever (?) people carrier, the Renault Espace, carting client’s luggage all over France.  I raced a friend up and down a winding mountain road in the south of France, both of us quite often bare-footed and overtaking more nervous drivers who were probably new to the area, or only visited once a year.  When my sister came to stay she shut her eyes and prayed while I went zooming up and down mountain roads, a sheer drop to one side or the other.

I have always loved trying out different cars; I still have a yen to be a presenter on a car TV programme such as Top Gear (I could be the ‘mature mother’ who assesses cars for safety, sturdiness and child-carrying capabilities…).

But perhaps the vehicle I have enjoyed driving the most in recent months is a friend’s Isuzu Trooper.  It’s that being high up and feeling powerful thing again.  So imagine how I felt when, having had my Volvo towed away for repairs yesterday, I was picked up in a Vauxhall Corsa by Enterprise rent-a-car.


It had been an increasingly Giggly Monday.  Having yelled at Alex as he almost missed the school bus, the day got better.  I went to see the waves crashing against the harbour wall at lunchtime; chatted to Adriana on the train; found I had the same friendly breakdown guy to pick up the car as I had before Christmas when it broke down; and then had a great chat with Rebecka, a Geordie girl who works at Enterprise.

She promised me the Corsa wasn’t the car I was getting but that I’d definitely get an estate car.  As I was only due a hire car for a few days while mine was being repaired I wasn’t too fussed – all I needed was something to get me to Whitehaven for work, or at the very least the railway station.

When I got a Jeep Renegade any thoughts of getting the train to work in the morning vanished.  For a few days I was going to have my own jeep!  Immediately my brain spun into overdrive… could I drive cross country all the way to Whitehaven in the morning?  Where could I take it off road?  Could I perhaps not go to work at all but just spend all day driving around on off road routes?

I did of course go to work.  On the way there’s a field where some work is being carried out – I nearly drove up to the workmen to ask if I could try the Renegade out there.  Then I suddenly noticed that the bypass between Distington and Whitehaven has nothing to stop you driving on the verge… could I slam the jeep into 4WD mode and just try out the verge?  I didn’t quite dare but I have the vehicle for a couple more days yet (please, let my car need LOTS of work done to it…) so I haven’t given up hope of finding an off-roading opportunity.  Or perhaps it might snow…

I love the big wing mirrors and the wide windscreen.  I like the fact that it tells me which direction I’m heading in; the 6 gears; the fact that it doesn’t bleep madly at me when I’m reversing.  I’m looking forward to discovering all its (apparently) thoughtful storage compartments.  I’m not sure about the parking brake; and I’m not fussed about SatNat, which is for idiots who are too stupid to read maps – though having said that I would love a SatNat system which got really upset when you didn’t go where it told you to.  And I don’t like the fact that there’s no CD player.  But otherwise I’m well on the way to having a bit of a crush on this car – or at least on the idea of having a small SUV.  I’ve even started looking up reviews, fuel consumption, prices…

So, do I go for a vehicle which is sensible and practical with good fuel consumption which will last a long time… or something rather more exciting…  well, life’s short isn’t it… and the Jeep Renegade advertisement is tempting:

We’ve all got a renegade within us. A maverick spark, a bit of us that wants to cross the line, not toe it. 

David’s the calm, sensible parent – so I don’t have to be.  I remember years ago a friend saying, about a guy I was in love with at the time, that despite his seeming to be a ‘bad boy’, I was the one who was probably going to lead the children astray more… but perhaps that’s to flatter myself too much.  I’m really quite normal and sensible…


A thought I had just before Christmas… (22nd Dec. to be precise)…

I think this whole depression etc. has cleared some of my baggage out. One thing I’ve learnt is to trust a man’s love – not blindly but to have the self-confidence to know that if he says he adores me, he does – he’s honest and he’s doing his best. And if I concentrate on me, my needs, my gut feeling, my creativity, then I am powerful & all will be well.

With apologies

My apologies to anybody and everybody who has ever called me ‘amazing’ or told me I am a ‘strong woman’.  They are enormously flattering descriptions but – as a friend pointed out recently, and I immediately saw the truth of it – I don’t need to be amazing or even strong.  I just need to be me, muddling along and doing my best just like everybody else.

I seem to be through the worst of my depression, thank goodness – and thanks to the ongoing support of many friends, some from unexpected quarters.  Three men in particular who owned up to depression themselves, and who were able to give support from a place of real understanding: one of them my ex-husband.  One has sent me almost daily short emails or facebook links to humorous or empathetic (or both) pictures or quotations about depression, and also the benefit of his non-judgemental advice from his own experience.  Female friends have been caring and supportive.  I have been surrounded and supported by love, and perhaps that is why even at my blackest and lowest I still felt that glimmer of hope.

I also – and this will go against the grain for any of you who are very practical and non-spiritual – followed up on some sessions with a friend who is an Earth Healer.  I was already a ‘guinea pig’ for her therapy, in, I have to say, a slightly sceptical way.  However we have picked up the sessions again recently and her ‘grounding visualisation’ is of far more practical help to me than the (*! blank, blank !*) counsellor I went to see – who ended up just making me more depressed in my second session.  I had been for a walk in Ridge Woods that morning, and felt deep inside me what I believed in my heart and what I needed to do, and felt calm from it: the counsellor went against all of that and it resulted in my saying things I now regret – and which I can only hope I can remedy.  So the grounding visualisations etc. coming back on the scene a week or two later were exactly what I needed: I needed to get back in touch with the very essence, the core, of me – the place which is actually calm and which other people’s views and opinions don’t rock.

I’m not saying it’s all been upward.  Only last Tuesday I spent the entire journey home from work in floods of tears: but the overall progress is upward.  I don’t feel manic, nor madly happy – but there is a calmness in me despite the fact that some areas of my life are still tinged with sadness.  And I no longer feel a need to be amazing – to be on top of the world because I’m so wonderful.  I no longer even feel the need to be strong – I am vulnerable and can be hurt: but that shows I am human.  I don’t have to live up to superlatives any longer: I no longer need to retain a position as top of (or near the top of) the class.

So my apologies to anyone who felt that by saying I was amazing that they were paying me a compliment.  You were – a huge compliment.  But the strain of doing too much became too much for me; the strain of trying to stay amazingly happy and cope with everything thrown at me was too much.  I broke.  But the fantastic thing is that, with help, I’m mending.  Thank you.

A poem

Just wanted to put this poem up, as it’s one which has always tugged at my heart.  It’s perhaps a pity it ends quite so negatively, and leaves such sorrow in your mind, but on the other hand that summarises the complete sense of desolation and loss which runs through the poem.  I think it’s an exquisite expression of bereavement of any form.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

W H Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Autumn running

I have done very little running recently, due largely to pressure of time: an excuse I don’t like making as I always feel if you really want to do something you’ll fit it in… but sometimes you want to do something, it’s just other things are higher up on the priorities list.  And my priorities list is usually pretty long.

However last weekend I ran Kielder 10km with Kerry.  It was great.  Kerry is really good at keeping a steady pace: and for once in my life I kept with her instead of getting gradually faster.  Funny, isn’t it – with running I tend to get faster; with singing I tend to get slower (especially with sad songs).

The Kielder 10k is a lovely course, and it perhaps helped put some of the unhappier memories of Kielder marathon to bed.  It also made me consider why I run nowadays.  Having been very competitive and having run to keep fit but also to race and to beat my own time (or someone else’s), now I hardly think about my time.  We were slow: but we ran, I felt good at the end, it gave me the confidence to think that perhaps I will manage the Glenridding trail race (9 miles) in a few weeks’ time; and I enjoyed it.  There was no pressure to ‘perform’.

Out on the Ridge today – just over a week later – for another run, I realised that not only do I run to try to keep a bit fit and healthy but I run to be outdoors, and to give my mind and my soul a bit of a reprieve from the hectic emotions of every day life.  There’s something almost meditative for me about running, pausing up on the top of the Ridge to lean against (or hug) a tree and to gaze over into the distance.  Each footstep is a physical connection to the earth: briefly I am air-borne to re-establish that connection with earth as I come back down.  Earth in the sense of the physical dust from which we came and to which we will return and the Native American and other ancient races’ sense of the ‘Mother’.

And of course the leaves were beginning to turn into their golden autumn colours: yellows and coppers against a background of green at the moment, but in a few weeks’ time there will be a mass of copper, bronze and gold.  Having rediscovered the joy of running, and of being outside,  next time I go I shall take my (new) camera and get some photos of the glorious autumn colours.  I just hope it’s not too long before I manage it.