Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Loving lately



Living

Firstly, after my little rant here about needing to organise some adventures I thought I should give you a quick update on the plans that I've made to remedy that.

July - The plan was to climb a Munro (Ben Lawer) but my mountain climbing buddy Andrea's legs weren't quite up to it after a particularly tough cycle the day before. This meant that July's adventure was changed slightly and Ryan and I climbed the Pentland Hills in Edinburgh instead.

August - I've two weeks off so at some point I WILL give blood. I just keep putting it off because I'm lazy. No more.

September - I've booked a girl's weekend to York. I'll be joined by two of my best friends on this trip and I'm so excited to catch up with them. I'll also be completing Tough Warrior which I had totally forgotten about until now. Bloody hell. Also in September, I'll be returning to University to train as a Nurse. A huge change from my policy background and one that I'm equal parts excited and terrified about.

October - I've signed up for a bloody half marathon. You know, me, the person who hates running? Yup. However, so far I've actually been enjoying my training thanks to the Runkeeper app which gives me a little green tick every time I complete a run. Who knew I was that simple!? It also tells me which days I need to run, how far and it tracks the speed I'm running at so I can clearly see the improvements in my pace. I'm obsessed with it.

So far the furthest I've ran is five miles but each weekend I run an extra mile from the week before so I'll be at half marathon distance in no time. The only problem I'm having is that I have a pesky blister which won't clear up and I don't want to take time out of the training to let it heal. If anyone knows of a way to speed the healing process up then I'm all ears.

Reading.

I've been making a real effort to read a lot more recently. Over the past couple of weeks I've consumed six books which is probably more than I've read over the course of the year previously. I might try to do a review post about some of the books so I won't say too much about them here other than that Versions of Us by Laura Barnett was by far a standout one for me. It considers the paths in people's lives not taken which is a theme I'm obsessed with. It was just a really lovely book and I highly recommend it.

Blog wise:

I loved this little short story from Tightrope to the Sun.
I've enjoyed hearing about Siobhan's trip to Canada
Sticking with the travel theme, I've enjoyed Existation's posts about Iceland (which is next on my travel bucket list) and Scarphelia's posts about New York.
The idea of writing short stories has been intriguing me of late so this post from Vivatramp was a useful read.

Listening.

I'm currently OBSESSED with John Mayer. I'm listening to most of his songs on Spotify but a couple of standout ones for me are Assassin, Wildfire and Badge and Gun. The quote at the top of the page is from this last song.

I'm also listening to a lot of another John lately. I'm a big fan of country music and discovered John Denver a while back. I actually knew most of these songs before I realised that it was the same man who sang them all. Favourites of mine include Annie's Song, Country Roads and Leaving on a Jet Plane.

Watching.

SUITS, SUITS, SUITS. Season Four has just arrived on Lovefilm so we've been throwing ourselves into that.

We've also been getting into the Good Wife but that's been put on hold while we catch up on the goings on at Pearson Spector.

What are you guys enjoying right now? In particular I'm always keen to hear about books I should read, music I should listen to or boxsets I should be watching.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

In the spirit of undying adventure




''It is true, we are but faint hearted crusaders, even the walkers, now-a-days, who undertake no persevering never ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours and come round again at evening to the old hearth side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms'' - Henry David Thoreau - Walking Part one of three

Inside my head there is an incessant and frantic monologue. It bothers me sometimes so I often fill my mind with distractions, like podcasts or music blaring in my ears to drown out my own noise.

Yesterday I went on a walk with no companions. That is to say I had nobody to chat to nor any podcasts or music to listen to. Instead I listened to the sound of the leaves under my converse trainers, the whirr of the bicycle wheels as the cyclists rode past me and the sing-song of the birds chatting to each other in the trees above my head. In doing so, I was reminded of how much I enjoy walking. I meander along, taking a right or a left turn whenever the mood takes me and it allows a sense of freedom to bloom in me. The world (or perhaps just my neighbourhood) is my oyster.

Ryan stopped me as I was about to leave and asked me which route I was going to take, for safety reasons. I'm not mocking him because I use the same argument to chide him about refusing to take his phone with him when he goes to football training. ''HOW WILL I KNOW IF YOU BREAK YOUR LEG AND GET RUSHED TO HOSPITAL!?!?'' I ask him with urgency, my ability to turn an innocuous situation into a drama on full display. Apparently we have now taken over the role of overbearingly concerned parents in each other's lives. I digress. He wanted to know where I was going and my refusal to specify frustrated him. He doesn't understand that the whole point of my going out to walk is precisely that I do not know where I'll end up.

Yesterday as I walked the plot problems I'd been sat at my desk all day trying to resolve unravelled slightly. Then I practised writing down the things around me, describing them as best as I could, in the most imaginative language I could find. It's just an exercise really, so I won't share any of it with you right now. Maybe once I'm improving I might feel more like sharing but the chances are probably not, because there was no real point to it all, which was the beauty of it really.

Walking makes me feel relaxed in a way that many of my other physical activities don't. The aimlessness of it contrasts with the way that most other activities have such specific outcomes. Go to the gym to burn calories, run to train for an upcoming event. Action X results in outcome Y. Doing something without any real purpose is a useful lesson for me to learn.

Yesterday I walked aimlessly and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face. I looked around me and realised that, all things considered, this life is a good one. I think it's important to note those moments down from time to time.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Getting outside.



The plan for this Sunday past was to climb my fourth Munro (Ben Lawer) with my friend Andrea. However she is also in training for an epic 52 mile cycle throughout the Trossachs to raise money for Parkinson's UK. If you'd like to make a wee donation to Andrea's cause then you can do that here.

Perhaps she spent too much time around me last year or perhaps she's just her own brand of mad but she's all signed up and almost ready to go!  All that requires to be done now is the training. Oh the training!  Unfortunately, a particularly harsh training cycle on the Saturday before our climb proved too much for her poor, wee legs. As a result, we agreed to call off the hill climb and I allowed Andrea a day of relaxing in ice baths to recover. I'm nice like that, you see.

Lately, I've been craving a bit more adventure in my life so I was reluctant to give up the opportunity to get out and do something. I happened across Alastair Humphrey's blog recently and was pretty inspired by it. Funnily enough some of the big challenges he takes on aren't really for me. I'm far too settled in my life to consider a cycling trip around the world, for example. It was the smaller adventures, his concept of micro adventures, which really struck a chord with me because it's pretty much exactly what I was advocating throughout 2014.

I've always had this idea that I'd have a big life, full of adventure and experiences but sometimes it feels like it isn't possible if you can't find the finances to travel to exotic places, the time to dedicate to lengthy adventures or the motivation to carry out extreme feats of physical activity. Reading Alastair's blog has reminded me that all I need to do to find adventure is step outside from time to time.

So it came to be that on Sunday, faced with the option of sitting in and binge watching Netflix (as is typical of late) or getting outside for a while, I chose to go outside and even managed to rope the other half into the action.

Sometimes it's easy for those of us living in Scotland to forget about what is right underneath our noses. I look at Instagram photos of scenes from all over the world thinking, 'Oh if only I could get out and see that' and yet, I have one of the most striking countries right outside my front door and I rarely use the opportunity to explore it fully.

Edinburgh has been my home for a while now and I've only ventured over to the Pentland Hills once in all that time and even then, I stayed firmly on the lower ground. On Sunday, Ryan and I parked at Flotterstone information centre and then walked along towards Glencorse. Once we reached the edge of the reservoir we walked up the Kirk Road and across the peaks of the hills. You can scope out a map here, because truth be told, you'd be simply mad to follow my directions. Remember?

In total, we spent about four hours trailing around the hills. I would suggest for anyone heading out to follow in our footsteps that perhaps you should do it the opposite way around as most of our route was uphill on the way home, which was not ideal really.

The Pentlands is an ideal place for a less strenuous walk as you can stay on the lower level and never venture up any of the hills, as I did here. If you're looking for some spectacular views out over Edinburgh then you can take on the steep - so steep- climb up to the first hill. From here the peaks ebb and flow so you are faced with plenty of upward and downward walks to get those thigh muscles burning. Mine are aching today, I tell you.

It is my belief that those who venture outside will be rewarded for their efforts and in Ryan's case, his decision to trail around the Pentlands with me rewarded him with the sight of me falling arse over tit out of a tree into a pile of (sheep? cow?) poo. Well worth the journey he assures me.

Monday, 6 July 2015

How to plan a Wedding. Part 1:

1. Get engaged. Feel overwhelming joy and excitement about the nuptials and your future. Decide that it is going to be a wondrous experience throughout. Convince yourself that due to your simple tastes this wedding will be a simple and cost effective affair. Feel smug.

2. Decide that you'll just have one of those quaint barn weddings. Surely that's cheap. It is in a barn for Christ's sake. Realise quickly that renting a barn costs almost your entire budget and that's without any tables, chairs or lighting. Question whether guests really need chairs... or the ability to see.

3. Start a Pinterest board and dedicate three days of your life to pinning. Realise that you have no interest in flowers and if you ever see a pastel colour again, you might want to rip your eyes out. Abandon Pinterest and all its pretty, wedding guilt.

4. Begin the search for a venue. Die a slow painful death during this process.

5. Set up a wedding spreadsheet. Have a serious conversation with yourself about when exactly you became the type of person who sets up a spreadsheet outside of working hours.

6. Try to understand how much venues are charging. Alternatively, your time would be as well spent trying to understand the identity of dark matter. Learn about facility fees and surcharges. Repeat to self confusedly; 'So WHAT is the FINAL cost?' Make self a cup of tea to help tired brain.

7. Use your damned spreadsheet and your (slight) knowledge of venue costs to estimate a basic cost for a wedding. Cry self to sleep.

8. Consider getting married outdoors. Run around laughing maniacally and screaming 'SCREW THE WEDDING VENUES!!' Recognise that you live in Scotland. Hastily reassess this plan.

9. Contact caterers for quotes. Cry self to sleep again.

10. Decide that self-catering your wedding seems like a reasonable, achievable goal. Feel inspired by the people on A Practical Wedding who do that stuff ALL THE TIME. Ignore husband to be when he politely suggests that this might not be as enjoyable an experience as you think it will be. Tell him that he has never believed in your talents.

10. Slowly accept that he is most definitely probably correct and concede defeat. Count your blessings that you're marrying someone more sensible than you, if only because you really can't be arsed cooking lasagne for a hundred people.

11. Look at sparkly, shiny ring and feel better about things. Look at Husband-to-be and feel infinitely better about things. Figure that it will all be worth it in the end.

12. Repeat process.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Girl seeks adventure

Reading through some of my 2015 posts it is abundantly clear that a lot of my time has been spent writing about how I'm not really doing anything. That is in fairly stark contrast to last year so I figured it was about time to resolve the little rut this here blog has gotten into. I am fond of an adventure, you might be aware, and the plan was to keep going with the sort of things I did last year. Recently I re-read the post written on the first of January this year and considered which items I had ticked off the list. It makes for sorry reading;

1. Go surfing - Nope

 2. Go Scuba diving - Nope

 3. Buy a house - Hahahahahahaha.

 4. Give blood as often as possible. - Erm, nope. Soz.

 5. Grow the readership of the blog a little. With this I'm mainly interested in more interaction i.e comments, talking to people on Twitter, attending events etc. Does one extra bloglovin follower count as growth? No?

 6. Take better care of my body. I really need to sort my nutrition out as I was plagued with illness and infection last year when I was a little bit run down.  ERM.......nope. My relationship with Nutella remains as strong as ever.

 7. Bag some more Munros (climb some more hills for anyone not au fait with this Scottish phrase!) - YES! Big fat tick beside this one. Although I didn't actually make it to the top. Let's just gloss over that fact.

 8. Do Tough Mudder again - Erm, I pulled out of Tough Mudder this year. My friend didn't really want to do it and as I wasn't really fit enough anyway I didn't make any effort to talk her into it.

 9. Spend more time with friends - Maybe? Probably not enough.

 10. Travel some more. In particular I'd like to get to Paris at some point this year. - I had a week in Rome and I'm hoping for a weekend trip somewhere if I can allow myself some money out of the wedding budget.

So in short, that's about two out of ten and we're more than halfway through the year. A bit pathetic. Despite this poor showing, my life hasn't been lacking in adventure this year, it's just that it has been in areas that aren't quite so easy to write about. It's been about being brave enough to quit a job I'd worked hard for to start all over at the beginning again. It's been about a partner who decided to set up his own business. It's been about finally getting the head down to start the book I keep telling myself I might possibly be able to write. It's been about deciding to hold a big fucking party soon to celebrate spending the rest of my life with one person. Life is good and exciting just now but because it's been so busy, hectic and *whispers* stressful, a lot of the more fun stuff that I really like to write about here on this blog just hasn't happened.
 
I think, overall, that it's okay that it's been this way because life itself is full of adventure isn't it? We don't always necessarily recognise them when they present themselves and setting out on one doesn't always feel like fun in the way that deciding to climb a mountain, or run a twelve mile assault course does. In fact, sometimes when those real life adventures present themselves you might find yourself lying on the floor, sobs racking your body and unable to move because you are paralysed by indecision. I did. I do. In the end, I always choose the adventure though. That's just the way I'm built. Slowly and surely, I'm starting to cut myself a bit of slack for this and recognise that it's not a bad thing to end up colouring outside of the lines sometimes.
 
But still, I miss the more tangible adventures which filled this blog so this is a formal note to say that normal service will resume, effective immediately. The way to get myself rolling on this matter is to write a plan and to publish it for all to see. That's how I convinced myself to stick with it first time around so here goes;
 
The challenge for July is to donate blood and to maybe climb another Munro.

For August it is to find someplace to go scuba diving. (Is this possible in Scotland? Will I die of hypothermia?).

In September I will travel alone someplace, as yet undefined.

I'll leave it at those few months for starters but as always, I'm happy to hear any suggestions or if you are undertaking an adventure and need someone to join you, I can always be counted on to take part in something not entirely sensible.