Thursday 25 April 2024

A Morning in the Park


Last Sunday, I spent a morning in the park. The sky was blue, and it was lovely and sunny, but it was a fresh start to the day, and I felt cold. I was wearing several layers and an old beanie hat, but it wasn't enough to keep out the chill.  I wasn't alone. Everyone else was dressed in a similar way. In fact, thousands were. This was Greenwich Park, and I was waiting for my start wave for the London Marathon.

For years, I had hoped for this day, as it is notoriously difficult to be offered a ballot entry for The London Marathon. And just when I was getting ready to train for the event last year, I had my accident on the ice rink and needed to defer. It was a huge disappointment at the time, and since then, I've had some issues with my feet, which had me thinking that I might not even be able to run much farther than a few miles. So earlier in the year, my friend suggested we should run a half-marathon. Which was when I decided, if I could complete that without too much discomfort, then running the marathon could still be a possibility.

And that was how I found myself on a sunny April morning in London, stood in a park, surrounded by thousands of runners, all set to complete a distance of 26.2 miles around the streets of London. I dropped off my kit bag at the allocated truck and joined the ridiculously long line for the loo. I was incredibly nervous, as I'd never ran so far before, but I soon began chatting with some other runners who were feeling exactly the same. We were all anxious, but excited about what lay ahead. 

As soon as I heard my start wave being announced over the tannoy, I went to the numbered 'pen', and waited patiently for the approaching start time. Once the previous wave of runners had set off, we were herded, a little bit like cattle, towards the starting line. Then, before I knew it, we were off. 

To begin with, it didn't feel quite as I'd expected it would. The road ahead looked fairly quiet, but I had forgotten that there are, in fact, three starting lines for the marathon, blue, green and red, all of which merge together at approximately mile 3. That was when it all started to resemble the marathon I'd seen on the T.V. over the years. Thousands of supporters lined the streets, and the one thing I hadn't prepared myself for was the noise! It was quite overwhelming at times. The enthusiasm and support for those on the course was incredible. Thankfully, the miles passed surprisingly quickly, and I settled into a steady rhythm. However,  I did stop briefly to take a quick photograph at the iconic approach to Tower Bridge. I was still feeling quite strong at the halfway mark, but as I passed mile 20, I began to struggle, as the effort of running such a long distance began to take its toll. Spurred on by the crowds, somehow I managed to keep going, and it wasn't long before I found myself beside the  Palace of Westminster, then heading down Birdcage Walk towards Buckingham Palace. Then came the final straight stretch along the Mall and through the finishing line. It was here that I was greeted with a big, and most welcome hug from one of the amazing volunteers, then presented with my medal and, of course,  a foil blanket. Exhilarated, but exhausted, I had completed my first ever marathon.

J. X

Friday 19 April 2024


During the second week of our spring break, we spent two nights in Durham. I had never been before. I think the closest I'd been previously, must have Beamish, while on a trip with primary school. This was when Johnathon, my best friend at the time, brought back a lump of coal from the mine, as a gift for his sister :) It's funny what you remember isn't it? 

We set off mid morning, stopping at Barnard Castle on the way to have some lunch. After a walk along the river, we enjoyed our picnic overlooking the castle.  The daffodils were all in flower, and looked lovely, albeit a little windswept. The sky was definitely looking more than a little grey, but luckily we managed to eat our sandwiches before it began to rain.There was just enough time to have a wander along the main street, where we visited a small cafe for hot chocolate, before we were on our way once again. 

Arriving in Durham late afternoon, we checked into our hotel and went for a gentle walk along the river, then straight through the city centre, past the castle and cathedral. The presence of the university there was quite obvious, as the whole city had a student vibe, and everyone we encountered was incredibly warm and friendly. By this time, the sun was shining and it felt wonderful to feel the warmth on our skin. It didn't take long before we were back at the hotel, as the city itself is really quite small. Then, knowing there was very little chance of me getting lost, I retraced our steps alone, but this time went a little bit further, and wearing my running shoes. After all, I didn't want to miss out any of my training, if I didn't have to.

The following day, the rain came, which wasn't too much of a issue, given that we had already planned to look around the cathedral. And it certainly didn't disappoint. It is a large, impressive building and has the most beautiful stained glass windows. We walked all around the Nave, Chapels and Transepts, then through to the Chapter House and the Cloister, which was apparently used as a filming location for one of the Harry Potter films. But that was a little lost on me, seeing as I have never seen any of them. 

There was even a model of the cathedral made entirely from Lego. 
Also, while we were there, we each made a paper Peace Dove, which are to be included in an art installation later in the year. The plan is to suspend fifteen thousand paper doves from the Nave, each with a message of peace, love and hope written on their wings.

We spent the whole morning at the cathedral, but probably could have stayed for longer. I would have quite liked to have gone up The Central Tower, but unfortunately it was closed while we were there. That afternoon, we explored the city some more, and enjoyed a look around the visitor centre, which is situated right next door to the castle. The city is steeped in history, and they had so many interesting artefacts on display.

After a  tasty fish and chip supper, we spent another night at the hotel, then the following day, before heading for home, we took a drive out to the coast at Seaham. The beach at Seaham is well known for it's sea glass, so we thought a morning searching the shore line would be fun. Although it was a bright, sunny start to the day, it was a good thing we were well wrapped up, as the see breeze was making us feel rather chilly. The rough pebbly beach made walking along the shore a little tricky at times, but we weren't in any rush, stopping regularly to collect the tiny pieces of smooth coloured glass. And I couldn't believe just how much we found. Only yesterday, I found another piece right in the corner of my coat pocket! 

It was a lovely couple of days, and we will definitely be returning to the north east later in the year.

This week has seen the start of Lily's final term at primary school, and already it seems to be going fast. There will be a lot of changes and challenges for both of us in the months to come, but my first challenge will be at the weekend...

Oh, and I've also spotted my first bluebells of the season.

J. X 

Monday 8 April 2024

Feeling Rested


The first week of the Easter holidays has flown by. The weather is still changeable, but we've managed to squeeze in some necessary and also some lovely things to do, in between the heavy rain showers. It has felt good knowing I didn't have to work to a schedule and, even though it isn't ever needed, I was nice not having to set my alarm. 

One of the first things on my list was the garden; I am so glad that I had managed to give it a good clear up before the winter months. Since the arrival of spring, I had just been waiting for the ground to dry out a little before getting to work out there. Well, with the amount of rain we've been experiencing, that won't be happening any time soon. So on one of our rare dry days, I set to work replenishing the raised bed with some top soil, and since then Lily and I have planted potatoes, carrots and beetroot. My new net tunnels should hopefully keep any unwanted pests away. I've tidied up the flower beds, and it looks likes most of the plants have survived the frosts this year. The apple trees are displaying new growth, and I've transferred the lemon trees into the back porch, so that I can move them out into the garden just as soon as the weather picks up. I'm looking forward to some sunny days, when I can sit out there with a cup of tea.

At least the grass has already had its first cut of the year, although it always amazes me just how quickly it shoots up again after winter. It's only a small patch of lawn but it can be a job to keep on top of it during the summer months. Something else I need to get on top of are the weeds at the side of the house! I keep reminding myself that the bees need the dandelions at this time of year, and I'm singlehandedly saving the planet by leaving them alone.

Lily has been kept busy with her school work, this week. She has her SATs coming up in May, and all the children have been given some practice test questions, so that they can know what sort of thing to expect. She has been, reluctantly, working at it little by little, simply to get it all completed, as this coming week we are going to be a bit busier, and she won't have the time.
It hasn't all been hard work, however. As a break from the test papers, she also enjoyed a fantastic activity day, taking part in cycling, archery and indoor caving. 

On one of the sunnier afternoons, we also enjoyed a walk along the canal. It was an area I hadn't been to before and it was so lovely and peaceful, although that might have been because the tow path was so muddy! Thank goodness we were wearing our boots. It was a typical spring-like afternoon. We were chilly one minute, then needing to take off our jackets the next. While we were walking, I took the opportunity to take a few photographs using my new phone, just to try and get used to the camera. It seems to be very similar to my previous one, and yet the photographs appear much brighter. 

At the weekend Lily and I endured a trip into town. Shopping is not one of our favourite things to do, but seeing as someone had grown, yet again, we needed to buy some new trainers. I can't believe she is now wearing the same size as me! While we were there, I also picked up a few other items , which will be necessary for me in a couple of weeks. It feels as though I've been building up to this for ever. I just hope things all go to plan. 

Back soon. 
J . X

Monday 1 April 2024


Welcome spring! 🌼🌼🌼

This last week has seen a marked improvement in the weather here, and it has felt so good after what has been a very long and very wet winter. How long it will last, however, is another matter. The clocks changing at the weekend means we also have lighter evenings to look forward to, which immediately has a positive impact on my energy levels, and has me looking foward to spending more time on the fells, and at the lake. 

School has finished now for two weeks, and along with the usual household jobs that I need to get on top of, I also have some lovely things planned. The garden is high up on the list of things which are in need of my attention, and I am desperate to get the raised bed planted up. A visit to the garden centre, this morning, should see that ticked off, at least.

Last Friday, we attended an Easter craft morning, which was a lot of fun, and where we met up with many of our friends. There was rock painting, cake decorating and weaving. Not to mention the complimentary sausage bun and cup of coffee for me :)

In the afternoon we went for a walk to the woods. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was warm on our backs, and we were able to take off our jackets for a while. The ground was still very wet, however, showing just how much rain we've experienced recently. And as we walked, our boots made that delightful squelchy sound in the mud.

Everything was begining to look rather green all of a sudden, especially the swathes of wild garlic beneath the trees. We managed to gather just enough that I could make some delicious pesto. I say 'managed'. You can see the darker clouds in the photograph above. Fortunately, we were home and in the dry before the heaviest of downpours arrived. I expect a lot of people would have got caught out in it.

While we were in the woods, we also gathered up some sticks for our Easter tree. I'd left it a little late this year, as I hadn't realised that Easter weekend was right at the beginning of our spring break. Oops! Luckily, I had already got some chocolate eggs stashed away in the cupboard. 

On Saturday morning, we made our traditional Easter nests. Long gone are the days when Lily needed to stand on a chair in order to reach the mixing bowl. Now that she is getting older, she is quickly catching up with me, and I often wonder how much longer we will enjoy this activity together. 

Yesterday, was another beautiful day. Usually, I would have been packing up a picnic lunch and preparing for a walk on the fells. Instead, I went for a long run, followed by a walk along the river. Running is still taking up so much of my free time, but not for too much longer. I do (very much) enjoy running, but I don't particularly like how it has become all consuming. It feels like when I'm not running, I'm either planning a route, or trying to figure out how I can manage to fit a run into my already busy day. The end goal is now in sight, at least. 

J. X