Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pieces of advice I should give you: ''The Mummy Episode''

After the dreaded duathlon I issued eight pieces of advice which were well received and since the blog post went down so well I thought that people are obviously crying out for my wise words of advice so I should make the feature a semi-regular one here on the old blog.

Of course, today is Mothers' Day and in honour of this, and because most of my wise ways have been born of my Mother then I feel it's only sensible to bring you 'The Mummy Episode' of the series today. So without further ado, here is the advice, passed from her to me and now duly passed to you.

1. You're only young once so bloody well enjoy it. 

I started going out to nightclubs when I was 15, if you can believe it, although I'm not sure how I managed to sneak in because I looked like I was about 10 years old but regardless, sneak in I did. By the time I got to 17 I was over it. Nightclubs were boring. Same old, same old.  My friends invited me out one Wednesday night but I had school the next day. I remember sitting in the car with my Mum, telling her that I wasn't sure whether to go or not. She looked at me and asked what I would do otherwise. I shrugged and told her I'd watch some TV in the house. She looked mortified. 'What, you're going to stay in with me and your Dad, two old farts?' She asked me. 'How is life going to happen if you sit in the house all the time? Put your nice clothes on and go out, you're only young once so bloody well enjoy it'.

If you want to experience life then you have to go out your front door from time to time. Even for perennial hermits like me who could have easily kept myself tucked away were it not for the wise words of my Mother. When I think back to my teens and early twenties it isn't the nights sat in by myself, curled in front of the TV that I remember with great fondness but the nights out with friends, swinging my parka round my head (although that's another story) and having a ball. Oh, and I met my other half in a Nightclub, no doubt on a night out which I'd been pushed into going on by my Mum.

2. Don't feel guilty for doing what you want to do.

My Mum's fiercer than Beyonce. I remember back in high school when I was having a bit of trouble with an ex-boyfriend who was jealous that I had a new boyfriend and was causing some problems. I was recounting the story to my Mum and told her that I wasn't sure how I should handle it. My Mum's response was that I was to hold up my ring finger on my left hand and ask him 'Do you see a ring on this finger? No? Then go birl on it you dick'. 'Oh right, calm down there Jenny' I thought to myself, but she did have a point and the moral of the story is this: do what makes you happy and tell anyone who tries to get in your way to do one.

Image found on Pinterest

3. Don't be a dick though.

I can't think of many people who don't like my Mum and that's because she wants to help people and make them happy. If you're a friend of Jenny's then you are a very lucky person indeed and that's not only because you'll receive the most epic Christmas presents for the rest of your life.

She doesn't forget birthdays, anniversaries or any important event. I even received a card and a present to mark the date that I moved into my flat in Edinburgh for the first three years after I did so. As someone who forgets every important date and thinks that cards are a tremendous waste of time, I found this faintly ridiculous but the point is that my Mum thinks it's important to celebrate the things that are significant to others and that's something that people appreciate about her.

On the occasions that I have perhaps, been a teensy, little, wee bit selfish (of which of course there are hardly any examples) my Mum hasn't fooled around, pretending that maybe what I did was okay. Instead she told me straight up that I was being a dick, shoved me in the car and drove me over (often to Ryan's house) and told me to go in, apologise profusely and to mean every word of what I said.

Image from themeekshall

4. Ain't nothing wrong with embellishing a story a little bit.

My Mum is infamous for her stories. Often they last much longer than they really need to and every tiny detail is included in the telling of the story. Details are important though. Who am I to say that the minor fact that Betty from four doors down was in Tesco at the same time as my Mum isn't a crucial factor in the story of how my Dad got on at his hospital appointment that same day? And I suppose that as equally important as minor, inconsequential details are the tangents to a story. My Mum has an incredible ability to jump mid story to something completely unrelated which is oftentimes frustrating but nonetheless sometimes the most interesting things lie in these tangential aspects.

In any case, I suppose that if I didn't think details, embellishment and tangential aspects to stories were important then I wouldn't be regularly writing blog posts about nothing in particular. So thanks for that Mum.

5. Don't ever go to bed on an argument.

I was told this so often as I was growing up and am so incapable of understanding that it's a metaphor for not holding grudges that now, I am physically incapable of falling asleep on an argument. Which, I'm sure is good fun for Ryan who is often kept awake until the small hours of the morning as I pester him to reassure me that he has forgiven me for snapping at him for not doing the dishes. It also means that if you want to win an argument with me, all you have to do is hold out until 10pm and I'll apologise and beg for your forgiveness, however much I fought my corner previously, because there is little in this life that I value more than getting a good eight hours of sleep.

But there is an important piece of advice in there. You don't know what tomorrow will bring and so you should always leave things with the people you love on good terms. There isn't much in this life worth holding on to grudges for. She's a wise bird my Mum.

Image found here 

Happy Mothers' Day xxxxx

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Why I'm taking part in the 'No Make up Selfie'...

Sometimes I struggle to come up with things to write on this blog but then there are other times when things to write about present themselves so perfectly, almost gift wrapped and hand delivered to my door. This week was such an example.

It began on Wednesday when I woke up to find I'd been 'nominated' on Facebook to post a 'selfie' of myself without make-up on to raise 'awareness for breast cancer'. I groaned. Not a chance. After the mass annoyance of the ridiculous 'neck nominations' I could only imagine how annoying this trend would become. It appeared nothing more than a form of narcissism and I questioned how spreading photographs of women without make-up on could possibly help raise awareness of breast cancer, not least because I didn't notice any donations attached to the pictures. I'm ashamed of my initial reaction.

Then something changed. People started to really use the trend to drive some positives from it, donations started flooding in and as of today some £2m has been raised for cancer research. I started to see photographs of women sharing their masectomy scars, of bare faced friends who talked about mothers, sisters and others close to them who had suffered from the disease and I began to understand that people weren't just exposing their face but something much deeper and that something, which perhaps hadn't been started with the truest of intentions, had become important. An honest to god, grassroots social media movement which demonstrated the compassion of people and has shown just how many people are touched by this illness. My faith in society, shaken after the 'neck nomination' incidents is somewhat restored as I sit here and write this today.

And when I think about it at a personal level, I understand the relevance of the no makeup selfie to cancer awareness. My gran passed away in 2010 as a result of lung cancer. She was a woman who was always well dressed, hair always done and generally looked pretty slick. One of the things about the illness is its ability to rob people of their identity, their ability to do their face or hair, to shower, or even to get out of bed. The inability to put on an 'outside' face makes people vulnerable because in our society we are valuable only if we are 'together' and in control. This isn't only the case for those whose cancer takes them from us, but for those who recover too as the chemotherapy and medication used to treat cancer can take a toll on people's appearances while they're undergoing treatment.

And there are some who will say, 'but surely if you have cancer then you shouldn't be worried about your appearance?' A point which I will, to some extent accept, because there are indeed more important things in life than appearance. However, who we believe ourselves to be is so inextricably intertwined with what we look like, that we are to a large extent defined by that. To lose, so rapidly, what you look like, is to lose a small part of yourself. In this context, the no make up selfie is an act of solidarity with those who have lost that part of themselves at some point.

In addition to all of these reasons, the little feminist in me takes a bit of pleasure in the trend because I've approved of women showing themselves without make up and therefore without some of the gender constructions our society places upon us. Men are now covering themselves in make-up and posting pictures as part of a new trend, the irony of which isn't lost on me and I hope that those taking part realise that they're poking fun at something very serious indeed. The fact that society tells us it's normal for women to hide their real face under make-up but that it's ridiculous for men to do so.

So here it no make up selfie. Don't have too many nightmares

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Mid-March Update - 3 Challenges down

I'm three months into the challenges that I set myself in a hungover state on the 1st of January this year and although I've enjoyed the journey so far I have started to question what the hell I'm actually doing, even more so now that the three most difficult challenges (Triathlon, Tough Mudder and Ben Nevis) are looming dark on the horizon.

It's hard to write about the challenges and the training for them without this blog becoming like a fitness blog and that's the last thing that I want it to be but it is an important component of the journey and so here's the necessary training chat update for March.

The Triathlon training is going well. There's no issue with the biking and running, I just need to keep practicing to make sure my fitness levels are sufficient. My achilles heel and therefore the real challenge is the swimming and I'm happy to report that I'm coming on in leaps and bounds in that respect. On Friday evening I managed to swim thirty lengths front crawl and ten of those without stopping. To most people this probably sounds pretty easy, but for me it's a huge achievement. I don't think I've ever swam that far in my life and I felt like an excited puppy when I finished, telling everyone I came across looking for attention and maybe a little pat on the head to reward my achievement.

I suppose that swimming best exemplifies how I've started to take life head on this year and have discarded my fear of failure, instead just diving in* and getting on with things.
*Please excuse the terrible pun

Despite the improvements I was noticing in my training, I did start to worry that I was focusing a little bit too much on the Triathlon and as a result was neglecting any training for Tough Mudder which is only a couple of weeks later. Tough Mudder takes place over 12 miles and I just don't think I can bring myself to run that far in training because I get so bored. I'm therefore hoping that the overall stamina I'm developing for the Triathlon will stand me in good stead for both challenges. This probably isn't a wise idea and no doubt I'll find that out in a dramatic style on the day but I suppose that it will make for an entertaining blog post. Silver linings and all that.

Despite sacking off any potential distance training for Tough Mudder, I have at least given thought to the fact that I should probably get a little bit stronger in order to push and pull myself over all the obstacles. To this end I've been working with my friend and personal trainer Nick who is, I'm quite sure, a sadist. I had my first session yesterday and I'm honestly surprised that my arms are functioning enough to type out this blog post. After a warm up of sprinting up and down stairs, Nick had me completing chin ups, grip tests and box jumps in order to build some useful muscle. And I paid him for this torture. Madness so it is.

*Nick or Leslie Chow? Image from Pinterest

These challenges are all for charity and if you are so inclined you can donate here 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Challenge 3: Did you know that Lara Croft and I are the same person...

I'm not entirely sure where this habit arose from, but every time I'm up somewhere high I look down and wonder whether I'd survive a jump from that height. It's not that I have suicidal tendencies. Rather, I think it's some kind of repressed urge to be a Lara Croft style action woman, jumping from buildings without a care, landing like a ninja and then proceeding to chase criminals and other such exciting activities.

Lara Croft or Kylie Barclay?

Somehow over time, this has morphed into a genuine fear that I might forget (as if I ever could), that I am not actually Lara Croft and might suddenly, without thinking, throw myself from a height assuming that I'll land like a ninja the next floor down. So somehow, through imagining myself to be capable of such heroic feats, I've actually come to be scared of heights lest I get a little over ambitious one time I'm up four flights. My head is a tiring place to be.

Anyway, this month's challenge was to do an abseil which I did at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. My first thought upon looking down the height from which I was about to suspend myself was that, no, I probably would not survive jumping from this height.

Most definitely not surviving this.

I put on my harness and my hard hat in preparation for the abseil and I'll just say what you all are thinking...'is that actually in fact Angelina Jolie in a bright orange hard hat?'

So anyway, looking pretty fabulous and stylish I made my way to the point from which I needed to abseil. I totally had this, no problem. Not nervous at all.

Genuine terror

I confidently made my way over to the instructor who gave me a quick run through of how to feed the rope through my hands and then persuaded me to step over the edge. Nonchalantly I asked him 'Erm, I don't feel like I have any strength in my arms to hold on to the rope. Does this mean I'm going to fall down really fast and splatter all over the ground?' He reassured me that he had a second rope so he'd be supporting me also and that no, I wasn't likely to go splat. Good stuff. I'm sure Lara has the same reservations. Only sensible really.

Anyway, there's not much else to say. It was over pretty quickly (that's what she said), and it wasn't as terrifying as I thought it would be. Sadly I didn't manage to land like an action hero because the rope was too heavy for my weak ass frame and instead I stumbled around like an old lady after a few glasses of sherry, managing in the process to just about take out the fence beside me. I think Lara's job is safe.

Nailed it!!