Saturday, 30 August 2014

Challenge 8: Kayaking down the Great Glen

For someone who has a deathly fear of water, I sure have spent a lot of time in and around it this year. Facing this fear head on (over and over) might be considered bravery or stupidity. You decide.

Loch Oich is about three hours from Edinburgh so it was a 5am start for me on Friday morning in order to get there in time for the challenge. We were on the road for 6am and I had a breakfast of champions (Red Bull and Squares crisps) to set me up for the task ahead.

The first highlight of my day was that we found the end of the rainbow! The photograph doesn't really do it justice but honestly, I've never been that close to the end of the rainbow before and it's been something I've been obsessed with since I watched this film. Which nobody else ever remembers by the way.

The second highlight of the day was that I managed to perfectly colour co-ordinate my outfit with the safety gear I was supplied with, the water shoes my friend lent me and also my kayak. Never let it be said that there is ever an excuse for not looking fabulous. Certainly partaking in adventure activities on miserable days in Scotland is not an excuse that I will ever accept. I probably should have got my hair blown out for the occasion to top it all off. Sadly, there wasn't a Most Stylish prize. Shame really.

The weather didn't look particularly appealing for a jaunt down the middle of a river so it could be said that I was a little on edge. There was talk of lightening which put me in a thoroughly bad mood. However, all the nasty rumours came to nothing and actually apart from five minutes at the end of the kayaking journey, the weather held up pretty nicely.

There were a few other teams involved in the challenge so in total there were about twenty kayakers lining up to start the journey. I was one of the last ones to get in. Confession: I may have been actively avoiding it. My decision to wait until last was a poor one as I had to watch two of the others capsize their boat and fall into the water. This did not exactly fill me with the confidence I required to step into the evil contraption. Never one to listen to the sensible voices in my head however, I got into the kayak and screamed loudly, eyes clenched shut as the evil witch  event helper pushed me out onto the Loch.

Actually, I quickly discovered that as usual, most of my dramatics were for nothing. The Loch was very still and once I figured out my balance, it was actually plain sailing. The views around us were incredible as we made our way down surrounded by forests and mountains on both sides.

As an aside: I did think about explaining exactly how cinematic the experience was by using the metaphor of an adventurous scene from a movie. I was thinking of something Lord of the Rings-esque. However, I made the fatal error of googling 'paddling movie scenes' to try to find a link and, erm, let's just say that it didn't return many PG options.

The actual competition part of the challenge was a time trial which we completed at the end of the 7k kayak. Unfortunately for my team, I don't really have a competitive bone in my body and I was also highly distracted thinking of rainbows, movie scenes and best dressed prizes. Also there were some ducks that I had to take care to avoid. In short, my time trial didn't go very well. In fact I finished a full minute behind my friends so it's evident that I'm not really cut out for life as a competitive kayaker. However, I'm not too bothered about this pathetic display because it's the taking part that counts. That's what my Mum tells me anyway.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Little Loves

I've decided to write a little blog post about things that I'm feeling enthusiastic because it's a nice positive thing to do after all the moaning I've been doing around here of late. I don't want you getting the impression that I'm a miserable sod all of the time. However, I tend not to be overly good at conveying genuine enthusiasm without sounding sarcastic so bear with me.

There are a few things over this past couple of weeks that I've been feeling fairly enthusiastic about. One of them is Gossip Girl and more specifically Blair and Chuck but I am twenty-seven years old and I will not write a blog post about my obsession with a television series aimed at teenagers. I WILL NOT.

Moving swiftly on...

Discovering a new favourite band.

Picture sourced from The Lab Magazine's interview with the band.

I was in my car one lunch time last week, listening to the radio and I heard this song. I'm not really much of a new music connoisseur,  rather I tend to be pretty apathetic about all but a few songs and I very rarely develop obsessions with bands. However as soon as I heard the haunting intro of My Silver Lining, my attention was piqued and then the lyrics kicked in and it was obvious to me that I would listen to this song over and over and over again. I discovered the voices on the track belonged to a band called First Aid Kit and I have been ALL OVER them on Spotify. Their album Stay Gold is just perfection. These songs are the ones that I would write if I could play an instrument, sing and, you know, actually write beautiful lyrical masterpieces.

I'm a huge fan of the folksy, country style of the music but it's the lyrics that are the best part.

''I don't wanna wait anymore, I'm tired of looking for answers,
 Take me someplace where there's music and there's laughter.'' - My Silver Lining

''I dunno if I'm scared of dying but I'm scared of living too fast, too slow'' - My Silver Lining

And this one is constantly stuck in my head because if there is one thing which is certain to make me fall in love with a band, it's a Johnny Cash//June Carter reference.

''I'll be your EmmyLou and I'll be your June; 
you'll be my Gram and my Johnny too,'' - EmmyLou

I've been serenading Ryan with this song all week. Given that I've the vocal ability of a bag of cats it's probably not as romantic as it sounds.

Appreciating Edinburgh

One of the best things about signing myself up for all these challenges has been that it forced me to get out of the house and do a bit exploring. I live in one of the most scenic cities in the UK (in my humble opinion) so getting out and about is usually pretty interesting. Recently though, I've been spending more time watching Gossip Girl than doing any exploring. Nb: really must stop talking about Gossip Girl!

Tonight though, the sun was shining on my way home from work and I talked myself into going for a walk. On top of that, earlier in the week Ryan and I ventured out and did some Edinburgh Fringe Festival exploring. It's a nice change going out on a week night. For some reason it makes me feel like I'm on holiday which is exciting because holidays are awesome.

Monday, 18 August 2014

The urge to run

This quote was found on Pinterest (only link I could find for it).

I've written before that running doesn't have the best association for me and so recently I've been staying away from it, preferring instead to try out my new skill of swimming. I'd fallen in love with cycling during this year of challenges but unfortunately I'm bike-less at the moment. Or I do have a bike but it's a 15 year old, purple warrior with flat tires and broken brakes so it's essentially useless.

I've also mentioned that I've not been in the best mood of late. It's still hanging around, like a fly I'm constantly having to swat away. For me, bad moods go hand in hand with a refusal to do any exercise whatsoever and the desire to spend an entire weekend watching sixteen hours of Gossip Girl.

At the end of the sixteenth hour I decided that enough was enough and moved through to the bedroom to set out my running gear for the next morning. My alarm sounded at 6.15 am, a little earlier than it's been set of late and I jumped out of bed, ready to face the run before me. Early morning runs are my least favourite because exercising on an empty stomach really does not suit me. Regardless, I felt a little bit joyful at the thought of getting out there. I needed to move my body to still my mind.

Despite not having ran for quite a while, I haven't lost much fitness and this morning I powered along quite easily. I didn't even struggle with my breathing in the way that I normally do, perhaps because I didn't want to over think things. I just wanted to move, to release the pent up energy that is gnawing away at me just now.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm so frustrated about at the moment. Perhaps it's the constant stream of negativity and sadness that faces me on the news each night. Perhaps it's the realisation that no matter how much I try to be positive and to do nice things, this world is a mean old place where people are chased from their homes because they don't practice the appropriate religion in that place or time, where  planes full of people can be shot out of the sky because of tensions over land and politics, where the mistakes of the previous century haven't been heeded and peaceful protesters are shot with rubber bullets and tear gas because they happen to fall into a dangerous stereotype. Or maybe still, it's the fact that in this day and age, dangerous stereotypes still exist.

These are only some of the problems that weigh heavily on my shoulders. I am impotent. I have no power to change these things. Where does one begin? The world is terrifying and all I can do is sit and numb my brain watching Gossip Girl or Glee. I think about writing about these things here but the words don't come because I question what it will even achieve. My writing about it doesn't seem like tangible action but then what would? I don't know.

At the same time as not writing about those things, writing about anything else feels selfish, almost like I'm actively ignoring these horrendous things. It seems shallow to share stories of the small things that make up my life because it's so far removed from the really big issues.

This morning I ran and focused on the rhythmic movement of my legs and the fresh morning air that I sucked into my lungs. It felt good to do something. Anything. Sometimes I feel like my happiness is directly responsible for someone else's misery. That if other people are sad, I don't deserve to feel joy or at least not feel that same misery. Turning this energy in on myself is futile, I know that. I'm trying to do something positive and good here, no matter how small or insignificant and I should keep going with that even when it feels so small that it surely can't make up for all the negative things that are happening elsewhere.

So this morning I ran and tonight I wrote and from now on I'll be trying to channel some of the energy through this blog so unfortunately for you that means that the peace and quiet is over.

I bet you're excited about that ;)

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A rage about a nose clip

I mentioned that I've been in a foul mood of late and that I know that I'll feel better if I get out and exercise but it's been about three weeks since I've done anything of the sort.

Tonight, I got real serious with myself, had some stern words and made the five minute journey from my flat to the gym in order to go swimming. I felt pretty proud about this. Look at me being all productive and motivated.

I have two main problems with swimming. First is that I hate water. I've mentioned that enough times around here. More particularly, I hate it when water goes up my nose, it actually must be the worst feeling in the world. To avoid this horror I wear a nose clip when I'm swimming. 

My second problem is that I appear to have either a) a really funny shaped nose b) a really slippery face or c) a combination of the both. This means that the bloody nose clip NEVER stays on my nose.

Tonight, I managed a grand total of five lengths before it fell off into the murky depths of the swimming pool. Of course, I didn't have contact lenses in so I couldn't see a thing. I spent ten minutes floating around at the top end of the pool, asking other swimmers to help me find my nose clip before I conceded that it was a lost cause and stomped out of the pool in a huff. The lifeguard on duty looked completely bewildered by this behaviour.

After the dramatic exit, I made my way to the showers, peeled off my swimming costume to find that the elusive nose clip had been hiding in there all along. Of course, it was far too awkward for me to go back out into the pool so I just continued getting showered and left my swim session at five pathetic lengths.

And then, AND THEN... I almost ate a fly.

It had managed to sneak its way in to my delicious bowl of ice cream and raspberries which promptly went in the bin after that. 

If there's a point to this ramble -dear god let there be a point - it's that I should probably buy a more sturdy nose clip and wash raspberries more thoroughly. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Blank pages

The pages around here have been a little blank of late. It's because I've been in a terrible mood. Some writers are able to turn this to their advantage, writing poignant pieces about the wonders of the human mind and the big existential questions. Not me. I wallow and reduce myself to pathetic tears whilst watching Glee. I think the fact that I'm watching Glee in the first place is enough to make anyone cry so I probably shouldn't give myself too much of a hard time about that.

I'm in a bad mood because I've got decisions to make and they're weighing heavily on my shoulders. Making good decisions is not my forte. I could write a post about all the poor ones I've made over the years but I'd be here all night and then I'd probably have to go and watch an episode of Glee to forget about it. I don't want to do that to myself.

The reason I'm so bad at making decisions is that it entails engaging in a bit of self-reflection which inevitably leads to self-doubt and then self-flagellation, in the hypothetical sense rather than in a weird, lonely, 50 shades of Grey minus the millionaire hottie sense.

Despite the somewhat dramatic paragraphs above, life is actually moving along quite nicely, I'm just not really finding the heart to write about it. There have been lots of family parties, which are my favourite. There have been nostalgic reunions with old friends and lots of spending time with newer ones. There's also been the realisation that I have someone in my life who takes the sting out of the self-flagellation. Normally by distracting me with food. He knows me well.

So the challenges have taken a back seat until my motivation returns although I am looking at which ones to pick for the remaining four months. I must resume the exercise fairly soon to burn off some of the excess energy which is currently directed inwards. This is apparent but the motivation to do so is eluding me just now. In the meantime, I've been relaxing a little, doing some reading, watching far too much Prison Break and generally not doing much of note.

I expect I shall soon return in triumphant fashion. Until then, enjoy the peace and quiet.