Sunday, 26 June 2011

Gentle Walk

Lynn, Jon and their girls came with Donny and me on a walk from Bewdley along the River Severn to Stourport. Despite several weeks of dodgy weather, we were blessed with sunshine. Pal raced up and down and had a good stretch of his legs. Lynn and Jon are inveterate twitchers so every flutter was analysed to species level. We took it slowly and enjoyed a bit of catching up and chatting.

Ducks and Rocks

Every day brings a list of things to do and places to be. There seems to be no day that doesn't have at least two or three items on the list. Sunday last week was a day in question. Swimming lessons followed by a meal out for father's day followed by a Duck Race in Eardisland and finally a bowling match (We won!).
The week involved teaching lots of Bikeability, going climbing, catching up with Steve, catching up with Sarah, shopping, dog walking, catching up with Elaine, and going to Jude's 60th. Jude's party had Becky's band playing. They had a lot of energy and some good tunes, but it was about four times the volume I can stand, so we left early. I just can't do loud music. I
t batters me like a physical assault. I hated discos and night clubs for the same reason when I was young.
Yesterday, we went to Stonehenge with the Cotswold Druids for a S
olstice ritual. There was a fabulous storyteller there, a great 'battle' between the oak and holly kings (summer and winter) and some mad dancing. My girls got to hand out the mead and snacks. It is difficult to get spiritual when there are several hundred tourists photographing you from behind the barriers. I love doing rituals at Stonehenge, but I get more out of them personally when we do dawn ones and we're not on show.
On the way home we called on Andy again to pick up Nick's birthday present - one of Amanda's paintings called Lemon Olive. Nick celebrated his 51st birthday with a Chinese takeaway at Mum's when we finally got back.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Reconnecting in the Tuscan Sunshine

Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday, I faced down some demons and started to heal. Yesterday, doors opened that I thought had been shut. They may only be just ajar, but they are no longer locked.

My mountaineering group, for the second time in as many weeks, decided to change the day of their outing at the last minute, thus rendering it impossible for me to go with them. I was spitting feathers. I have a busy life and I kept the advertised days free at considerable inconvenience to myself and others, only for someone with plenty of time on their hands to decided they didn't like the look of Saturday's weather, and so change the outing to Sunday on a whim.

I was fairly pissed off. Well, as one door shuts, another opens. A friend from university, Amanda, was having an art exhibition in a town about an hour's drive away so I thought I'd go and support her, catch up and reconnect. I headed down the rainy motorway with Saskia and Eartha.

Amanda had spent the past three summers in Tuscany, painting the Italian landscape. Apart from being insanely jealous that anyone can spend their summers doing such a wonderful thing, the collection of paintings she'd compiled were gorgeous. The landscapes glowed with colour, form and sunshine. I loved them all.

We spent the afternoon chatting and catching up, while a stream of visitors came and went. The girls did some pictures in the other room but eventually they started making too much noise so I took them out to visit some other friends from uni, who live on the next street.

Andy and Ellen used to be very good friends, but we had lost contact since I got married and had kids, so I was unsure of my reception. As it happened, there was nothing to be worried about. We chatted away as if we had never been apart. It was lovely. I felt a great weight lifting. I have missed them very much.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Well, so much for the Race for Life. This is, I think, the 5th time I've done it - a 5km 'race' to raise money for cancer charities. This is the first time it has tipped it down. Usually it is sunny and fine. Today it was positively cold. I mean we actually have our heating on.

Donny and I walked round the circuit, despite the training I've done. I could have run it in just under 40 minutes, but we took an hour to walk it. I just can't run with an umbrella. It acts like a parachute.

I decided I should have gone for full on wet weather gear - waterproof trousers and hiking boots - not trainers and a thin top. Either you're walking or you're running. Dressing half way means you do neither well. We couldn't run with raincoats and umbrellas, but we still got cold because we had on running gear. I'll know better next time.

Meanwhile, I have managed to finish the travelblog about our trip to Skye and you can read it here.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bikeability 2

I did my first Bikeability course today. I was working with a bloke called Ryan, who was one of these ex-marines, police, fire-service chappies. His pecs were straining through his T-shirt and he was about seven feet tall. I wobbled gracelessly around the playground demo-ing various things for the kids, whilst he looked on in a super-fit kind of way. We had nine kids from a tiny rural primary school. They were a mixture of ages and abilities (8-11 years old).

It was interesting to see the different problems we had to face. One girl had a flat tyre that wouldn't pump. She ended up sitting out most of the morning until she could borrow a bike. Some of the kids were quite wobbly, but they improved loads with practise.

After lunch we went out on the road. It was a very quiet road but there were still a few cars. The kids practised going past parked cars and junctions and stopping safely and things like that. We set them up doing a circuit with a U-turn at each end of a stretch of road. I was blocking the one end of the circuit from traffic by dint of having my bike across the road. Ryan had the other end.

One car came through, actually quite slowly. He'd clearly seen the cyclists. I mean we were all wearing tasteful fluorescent yellow bibs. He hung behind one of the girls for a while and watched her signalling to turn. Then, just as she was starting to turn, he tried to get past her. Stupid idiot! He screeched to a halt and shook his head at the cyclist! Completely dangerous driving.

Anyway, the girl was shaken up and bit, but the member of staff from the school was worse. The girl hadn't made any mistakes. She'd stuck to the Highway Code and done exactly what Ryan told her to do. The driver was at fault.

So here's the quandary: the member of staff was all for blaming Ryan for the near miss because he told the girl to cycle and signal instead of pulling over and waiting for the car to go past. Bikeability is all about giving kids 'realistic' road experience - which means you can't stop cycling everytime a car comes past, or you might as well do the course on the playground. Having said that, I wouldn't have personally pulled a U-turn in front of a moving car, precisely because they don't expect it and do stupid things like that driver did.

So who was wrong? I would have made a different call to Ryan, but I wasn't in charge at that end of the circuit. That doesn't imply that Ryan did anything wrong. I don't think he did. There is no way of anticipating every idiot driver. There could just as easily have been a boy racer come screeching out of a side-street. It wouldn't have been our bad for being in the way.

Maybe we should wrap everyone up in cotton-wool and not let them cycle anywhere, just incase.