Post a Week 2011 challenge

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to post something on this blog at least once a week. Lo and behold, WordPress has set a challenge to post something once a day or once a week. So, I am taking up that challenge for 2011, and I hope you’ll help me along with comments and feedback.

Here’s to 2011 – the year of the challenge. I will be posting my New Year’s resolutions tomorrow. Happy reading!

Run Number Six

Someone told me that it would get easier after run number nine. If not, then I’m going to sit in a dark corner and eat a whole box of Christmas Ferrero Rocher on my own. Today, I have just completed run number six and it was hard. The box of chocolates are on standby.

For sometime I had sat on the idea of running the Hastings Half Marathon. I like the idea of completing it, but the thought of running for three hours frightens me, so I signed myself (and boyfriend) to run the Hastings Half this March. This means that I need to put in the hours if a) want to complete it in a reasonable amount of time, b) don’t want to die and, more importantly c) have the humiliation of not finishing what I set out to do.

The last (which was the first and hopefully only) time that happened, I cried in the middle of the rain forest. Luckily I was on my own, but I was still embarrassed, but proved to me how unfit I had let myself become.

I had already hiked through the Borneo rain forest which had taken us (brother and random, but very nice Dutch man) all day to get to Camp 5. This was the starting point to climb to the Pinnacles – a set of razor sharp limestone rocks which had been naturally eroded and surrounded by spectacular scenery. I’ve seen the photos. It was (and still is) a hard and arduous climb and my lungs couldn’t take the pace. Within half an hour, I was puffing on my inhaler and stopping, so I was sent back to camp. On my own. I was more than disappointed – shamed in fact –  as I had never been turned away from anything before. After all, I had climbed Mount Kinabalu a few years before, which was a lot longer than the Pinnacles hike and had trekked at altitude to Machu Picchu (before it became fashionable by Ferne Cotton et al), so the thought of not completing something didn’t cross my mind.

After two weeks, fitness levels start to fall and I was damned if I was going to lose the small inroads I had been making over the past few weeks. I had also been drinking the night before, so I needed to run out the alcohol. I donned my running gear, and stuck on Kylie’s ‘All The Lovers’ as I had heard it was a good song to warm up to. But, I found it difficult to set a pace for myself, and by track two, had abandoned Kylie. I had a quick chat with an old chap that I walked past. (In Bexhill, chatting to random people and not getting your head kicked in is still the norm.) His advice was to hold my breath for 20 secs before exhaling. It’s good for strengthen your lungs apparently. I tried it and lasted six seconds before I needed to draw breath.

I ran (moved) for about 45 mins today, which isn’t bad and covered about three miles. I am not a natural runner. I find it boring and the cold air tightens up my chest making it harder to breathe. The body and mind are wiling, but the lungs are weak. However, I am determined to cross that finish line in March. I don’t really have any reason not to.

Another day, another project

I’ve been interested in photography for quite a long time now, picking up my first DSLR in 2007. Floating around Flickr is numerous 365 groups and every year I think “I should join?” Today, I thought about it no more, and joined the 365: the 2011 edition. The task is daunting (a bit like the half-marathon that I’m running in March and climbing to Everest Base Camp for my 30th) but I’m hoping to improve my photography – a lot. I’m not really happy with my photos – I feel that they’re fairly basic, so armed with my birthday present of a Digital Camera subscription, a weekly newsletter from the Digital Photography School and this project to kick me up the arse, I’m hoping that this time next year I will emerge as a decent photographer.  I’ll of course, blog about my experiences (but not everyday. That is going a bit too far for me).

I’ve been interested in lighting, portraits, candid street photography and filters, but photograph just about everything. I think the candids are going to be the hardest, mainly because I am quite shy and hide behind my camera. Ethics also come into it – do you ask someone before taking the photo and lose the moment, or, ask for permission and get something very staged? With children, I always ask permission from parents. You can never be too careful there. But normally, I just take the photo – I blame the shyness.

The project starts on 1st Jan 2011, and I will need ideas on what to photograph. That is where I will need you help. It’s got to be practical and achievable and I’ll post them up on Flickr.

Breaking news – its snowing. Are you prepared?

The UK is crumbling under snowy whiteness, again. And by the looks of it, it’s only going to get worse. Headlines include ‘Big freeze causes travel chaos’ and ‘UK on snow alert’. The Guardian also has live coverage on the snow called  ‘Snow! UK travel disruption continues-live coverage.’ Personally, I think people can look outside their window and generally gauge if they can get outside their door. I think comedian Michael McIntyre sums up our (or the media’s) obsession with the snow with his sketch on this year’s Royal Variety Show.

But of course, the festive season is upon us, and ’tis the time where we visit friends and family. The snow has made it difficult to travel anywhere. Gatwick has now opened some of its runways. I think our plans to visit Cornwall is in doubt, so we will need to rethink our new year plans – not that I’m bothered. New year is usually over-rated anyway.

However, due to the nature of snow, the police were able to raid a cannabis factory because the house didn’t have a thick layer of snow on the roof, thanks to the high tech growing systems giving off lots of heat. Whoops!

Last night was my work’s Christmas party, and I didn’t account for the snow to hit Eastbourne. Living in the UK, you quickly learn not to trust the weather forecasts, which meant that I was tottering around in the snow and ice like an idiot in stupid high heeled shoes. They were open toed at that – my little pinkies were frozen. What should have been a 15 min walk to town, took me and friend a lot longer. We decided to take the taxi back. Although I admit that wore silly footwear list night, at least I was wearing a coat and scarf. Maybe its my age showing here, but I astounded at some of the girlies I saw last night who wore nothing but short, tight dresses and even more higher and stupider shoes and no coat. My excuse was that I lived in another town and I could only pack what I needed the next day. As they were obviously drunk, the danger is that if they passed out and no-one found them (on the beach for example), they could die of hypothermia. Not a good situation to be in at all.

The snow has disrupted people’s shopping. Today is traditionally the busiest shopping day before Christmas-but not this year. The powdery stuff has put a stop to that. Thankfully, before getting my train (which was on a revised service) I managed to hit one shop and finish my Christmas shop. Hurrah! now all I need to do tonight it wrap my pressies and hang up the Chrimbo decorations. That’s right, we’ve managed to get to the 18th December and not hang the decorations. Bah humbug indeedy.

Service is temporarily interrupted

I know, I know. The whole point of having a blog is to update it on a regular basis. This I can only apologise. I’m hoping that service will resume shortly. But, I can tell you that I’ve managed to six runs in six weeks, the new Harry Potter film is ok and it was the right decision to split it into two films (although, I think it would be better to watch it back-to-back with the final film next year) and most of my trains have been on time. Well done Southern. However, heat would have made my journey back from London more comfortable.

We’re also expecting snow on Thursday and/or Friday. I’ll see if I can dig up any more snow facts.

A few transport questions…

Ok – so I’m not laughing now. Well, not at the the situation the snow has put people in. My train was suspended this morning, so it was another day of working from home.

But you have to feel for the people who were stranded at Three Bridges last night. They ended up sleeping on the carriages because it was warmer than standing on the platform. Read the story here.

Today, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond was told to “get a grip ” on the snow situation. However, didn’t we have a similar situation last year? Ok, so this year is much worse (that’s what we said last year), so why is the country at a standstill…again? It’s not the grit this time, but, according to the AA, it’s the “lack of resilience” of the UK’s infrastructure.

AA president Edmund King said: “We might have more salt than last year but we need better planning to allow gritters through heavy traffic and blocked roads.

“Some highway authorities have invested in new gritters but again we hear that farmers offering to use tractors as snow ploughs were prevented from doing so as the insurance had not come through. This is not good enough.” Read the full story here.

We knew the snow was coming. We knew the situation from last year. So why were all the trains suspended on the Southern network? I’ve lived in Austria. Snow is the norm. I don’t ever remember any of the transport being suspended. We have been experiencing extreme forms of weather for a good few years now and 2010 has been the hottest year on record. We have to accept that this is going to happen, year in and year out and we need to, as a country, be prepared.

And come January, the cost of train tickets will be going up (above the rate of inflation I believe). I’ll save that rant for another day.

It has been claimed that the snow is costing the economy £1.2 billion a day. I’ve been thinking, how much would it cost to invest in decent snow equipment? Would the investment not counteract the loss? But then, the next question would be, where would the money come from?

And no-one has started talking about the potholes yet. They’re still patching up from last year.

To end on a positive note, here are a couple of comments I heard on BBC news today:

Journalist reporting from Grimsby on the lunchtime news as he was catching the snow: “Look at those big, meaty flakes.”

Vox pop on the local evening news – do you love or loathe the snow? Response: “I love the snow ‘cos it kills all the insects.”

By the way – I love the snow.

Talking about the weather…

The white stuff has been hitting the headlines for the second time this year which has got everyone into a frenzy. It’s even been trending on Twitter. It makes me laugh, because it seems to surprise everyone, even though we knew it was coming. Today, the Daily Mirror not only devoted the front page to snow, but pages four and five. Yesterday it was page 10 and 11.

Even Will Ferrell was talking about it. He gave out some winter advice as Ron Burgundy on the One Show today. It was a bit weird, not as funny, but he gave it a good shot. (I still don’t get the One Show. I find it a very random programme).

There’s nothing like a bit of snow to bring the UK to a halt and to bring people together. At least it gets people talking. Do other nations talk about the weather as much as we do, or is it just a British quirk?

Here are some snow facts:

  • Snow is not frozen rain. It is created by ice particles sticking together in the clouds.
  • Snow can be wet or dry.
  • Dry snow is fine and powdery.
  • The average snowflake has the top speed of 1.7m per second.
  • They are always hexagonal, but not always symmetrical.
  • The biggest snowflake recorded (according to the Guniness Book of World Records) was seen in Montana in 1887. It measured 15 inches wide and eight inches thick.
  • Chionophobia is the fear of snow.
  • Thanks to Kenneth G. Libbrecht, you can grow your own snow.  Find out how.