It only took me two years

Hello all. Something pretty exciting has happened recently. Do you remember when I told you about this running-around-at-the-crack-of-dawn thing? Well, I keep going back. Every week, for four weeks, I have gone into London Bridge or up to Primrose Hill at 6.30am and run around or stepped up huge steps, all in the name of fitness. I wouldn’t have said I particularly needed to get fit but I just went. I didn’t think about it and I just went. And then I went again.

And I think I like it. Don’t quote me on that because there’s a strong chance I actually don’t enjoy it but I’ll get back to you when I’ve figured that bit out. I just get up and I do it and I don’t question it.

I remembered today that, actually, I’ve been ‘meaning to’ go running for a while now and even put it into a blog post I wrote two years ago because I thought putting in the public arena would oblige me to act on it. Then I proceeded to do bugger-all about it. Obviously. I mean, running, really? What’s the bloody point? You go in a straight line somewhere and then you go back and you’re knackered and what’s the point? So I said it, I said I wanted to go for a run and I put it on my bucket list and then I sat down and drank a cup of tea, safe in the knowledge no-one in their right minds would actually run and so I wouldn’t be judged when I didn’t complete my task.

But, out of nowhere, I saw a friend and he said I should come to this crazy early morning running thing and then I did. And I did again. And now it’s four weeks later and I’ve been every week and I even went twice this week. And I don’t ache the next day after a workout anymore. Not at all. And I bought running leggings (they cling in all the wrong places but are mega comfortable) and running shoes (illuminous pink laces – what’s not to love?) and there are rumblings of actually running in an actual race where you have to run far.

I’d love to tell you that it makes me feel peaceful and at ease with myself or that my consciousness goes to a higher plain and I am able to solve all my worldly woes through running. I’d love to tell you that my legs are enjoying the action of running up and down hills for 40 minutes, that they thrive on it. I’d love to tell you what running or working out ‘means’ to me.

But I can’t.

I don’t know what it means to me. I guess it must mean enough to make me get up at 4.45am, leave the house at 5am and journey to different parts of London for a session that takes a third of the time of my round trip to get to it.

Maybe I’m having or anticipating a mid-life crisis. I’m approaching thirty and I don’t half spend a lot of time doing not very much. Yes, I go to and from work every day and that is fine. But I think there is a reason why women like myself ‘take up’ running as they approach thirty. For me, it’s the voices of older friends in the background saying things like, “Once you hit thirty, it gets harder to keep the weight off.” Or having the constant self-delusion that doing jobs where I stand up means I’m burning loads of fat. It would have happened by now, if it was going to. Catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or a photo and seeing the beginnings of your mother’s bingo wings on your arms. I think that’s why I always imagined I would run at some point in my life. Unless it’s high-action, it won’t shift that over-30 weight!

I’m giving the impression that it’s a weight loss thing here, when actually, I don’t think it is. Maybe just a general fitness thing? I don’t know. A level of intrigue as to why runners are so addicted to running? The knowledge that there is something magical that I want some of? Is it the solidarity among runners? I don’t know, although I do know that I like my workout friends a lot, to such an extent where my contact with them has become a way of extending the joy of the brief workouts. ‘Joy,’ really? I don’t know.

Today, when I went to the Friday session, I knew I was in for a total running workout. The Wednesday is climbing up and down huge steps. The Friday is running up and down huge hills. Last week, I slowed to a walk on the way back up from my first hill. Down was glorious. I flowed and (despite the fear of running too fast and smashing my face onto the ground) and it was easy. Then I turned around and ran uphill and three steps later, I walked and wished it were over already.

Today, I had my new running shoes and I wanted to run in them. To prove that I could. So when I reached the bottom of the hills, I did a slow turn and I took baby running steps back up the hill. Children could have crawled it faster than I was moving… but I was running.

“I haven’t stopped to walk at all today!” I kept panting at my running friends, who high-fived me or stopped to hug me. And in some little place in the back of my mind, I think that might be why I do it. That’s where the joy is. It’s in the genuine happiness of others in my teeny tiny successes.

A self-conscious voice sometimes pipes up with, “I bet someone’s told them to be extra nice to you in particular because they see that you’re new to this running thing.” I think I wouldn’t care if it was that that made the others so ready to partake in the pride of my small victories.

I only know that it is nice.

It is nice to enable your body to do new things and to feel it’s ability to go a little further before it screams at you to stop. And it is nice to share these victories with people who want you to do well.

And so to Week 2

It’s Wednesday and, yet again, it’s 6.30am and I’ve been up since 5am and I’m at London Bridge and it’s dark and there’s a man in extremely short shorts hugging me. And I have muffins with me. And my legs are ready.

And it is Week 2 of my relationship with Project Awesome.

As demonstrated last week, exercise is not my strong point. I had a sore throat after about thirty seconds last time because I was breathing so hard after a little bit of jogging. That sore throat lasted two days. I had obviously used my left leg to step up more often than my right as it was sensitive as though it had been bruised. I limped and hobbled and winced and complained whenever I had to use my achy left thigh which,  by the way, was often. I felt like I’d aged by thirty years and told as much to anyone who’d listen.

Then I thought, what on earth?! I did half an hour of exercise and my body is wrecked?! What’s wrong with me?

I had to go again, if only to see whether Danny’s claims that “it won’t hurt as much on your second week” were true. In traditional Laura fashion, I baked cakes for the occasion. It seemed appropriate.

So that is why I am here. I’m ready to go.

“Who’s new to Project Awesome?” Danny asks. Newbies raise a hand and close their eyes and I, as one of the ‘old timers’ (!) join in running around and high fiving the new members. We do a few hugs around the group and are told the plan.

This week, we’re going to run around the Lord Mayor’s office building once then come down into The Scoop and run up and down the huge steps, up and down, up and down, all the way around til we get to the end then run around the building again, then do the steps again, building, steps, building, steps, etc, etc.

O, and it’s timed this week. Well, never mind! There are worse things than coming last at a workout which will be followed by muffins and where everyone is nice.

Expecting to feel heart-attack-esque, I set off running… and my breathing is not heavy and laboured, I do not get a sore throat, my legs don’t feel too bad.

But next we’re going down into The Scoop so now I’m for it. Legs, get ready, I’m sorry for what is about to happen. And I go up and down the stairs and I do not go very fast but sometimes, instead of taking a few mini steps in between each big step, I just take the big step. And I do not fall over in exhaustion. And when I run, it is not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination, but it is less, a little less, horrible than before.

Of course I am a million miles away from the graceful, toe-first beach run as seen on Baywatch. No matter how much I try to gliiiiiide, instead I plod. I plod like a slow-charging baby elephant approaching a waterhole. My body crashes down with each step and I feel like a little chunky dwarf, huffing and puffing away.

But it is happening. I am running and I am stepping and I hate it less than I did last week. That is improvement, I feel. It is in the right direction, anyway.

As soon as the first people stopped because they had completed the required amount of circuits, I sidled on over and said, all innocent, “O, have we finished now?” Seeing the desperation on my face, they told me that I needed to go round one more time. Just one more. I got a bit sulky and ran off to do one more round.

My goodness, I was pleased when Danny said we were finished. He, of course, could have gone another billion times around, running the whole way, smiling (obviously) and shouting out niceties and encouragements.

I, however, was more than ready for a muffin and to find that place where we had coffee last time. Off we pottered, again wanting the mad-but-lovely feeling, of having achieved something together, to last longer.



It’s 6.30am and I’m at London Bridge

There are two types of people in life. Those who do things. And those who think about doing things.

I am predominantly in the latter group.

That’s not to say that I never do anything ever. But there are many things that I think would be fabulous to do or be and then I make no steps towards doing or being. I just think, “Ah, that would be nice.” Then I make a cup of tea and read a book instead.

For example, omygoodness I’d totally LOVE to be a farmer. That’s not actually what I mean. I don’t actually want to clean up cow poop and labour in the fields and put netting over my cabbage plants to stop the slugs from eating them. But I would like to always have fresh milk from cows and grain to make flour for bread and fresh vegetables from the ground. So basically, I don’t want to have to go to Waitrose anymore. And I want to eat fresh amd organic all the time.

You see?

Same with my mind’s ‘sporty’ version of myself. I think “omygoodness I’d love to be really sporty and fit and strong.” But then…. tea and a book.

Now the problem with this is that if you have friends who are ‘doers’, sometimes you get dragged into actually doing things too. Annoying!

So that’s why this morning at 5.21am, I was on the first train into town dressed in leggings and running shoes. You who know me will know this is not my usual attire.

Leggings + Running shoes +  5.21am = Madness.

And yet, there I was. Being a ‘doer’.

As I approached the group in the darkness, a face lit up and I was enveloped in a hug by a ginger-haired stripey-jumpered ball of energy and smiles. There are worse ways of waking up.

Before we got started, all newcomers were told to close their eyes and hold up a hand. We were high-fived and welcomed to Project Awesome and then instructed to hug two or three people near us.

This was turning out to be the best and most unusual workout I’d ever been to (ha, I talk as though I’ve been to billions). I liked that there was a limited amount of movement and hoped that by simplying being there, I was burning calories.

Of course it wasn’t as easy as that.

Danny, the brains behind this operation and the smiliest man ever, then, brutally, told us we had to run round a nearby building and then return to The Scoop for some stair climbing madness.

Now, you see, he had lulled me into a false sense of security with all the hugging. I was all like, “this is so lovely and chilled, he’s so great, we just hug and make friends a bit, I luuuurve this workout.”

The running bit shouldn’t have made me feel like I was about to have a heart attack. But it did. This is the problem with being a thinker and not a doer. I think I’m quite exercisey, I walk a lot, I have a pedometer, I don’t get breathless running for a bus. I think that all these facts make me quite fit, without actually doing anything to get fit.

And so, the running did not come naturally. I was breathing pretty hard by the time we got back.

Then, said the ever-cheerful Danny, we were going to run up and down the steps of The Scoop. I hear you asking what The Scoop is so let me explain. It’s basically a mini amphitheatre. At its highest point it has twelve steps. When I say ‘steps’, I want you to imagine something almost knee-height and quite deep. Unless you’re really propelling yourself cause you’re Danny so you run the whole time, it takes two paces to get to the next step. Twelve of them. Knee-height. Two paces deep.


And over.

And over.

Seven times around the amphitheatre. Zig-zagging across from one side to the other and back.

Bear in mind, I’ve arrived at this on the verge of a heart attack from the run. After two or three trips up and down the steps, my legs are screaming.


I want to listen to my poor legs but I’m too self conscious to bow out while everyone else soldiers on. Begrudgingly I make the long journey from one side the other, up and down, up and down.

Danny bounds around like a child, yelling encouragements and looking like he’s having brilliant fun. I look nothing like that.

But then, about my third trip around, something changes in my brain and in my body. My mind wanders. I start having proper thoughts behind the screaming leg thoughts. This means the leg thing mustn’t be so bad. I get into a little rhythm and plod away and it isn’t quite so horrible any more.

And, as the sun rises, I see the Tower of London and the Thames and the sky puts on a fabulous picture for us, pale blue with scatterings of pink and orange clouds at the skyline and it seems really rather nice to be here with these strangers, trying to climb up and down huge stairs without falling over from exhaustion, cursing whoever yelled “Burpees!” as I do some kind of leg-jumping-clapping thingy.

So nice, in fact, that we all linger around for much longer than is necessary when finished and go in search of coffee and breakfast together.

I bemoan my jelly-leg situation (although it’s not that bad) and we all do the ” How do you know Danny?” thing, as he’s really all we have in common, as well as the stair madness we’ve just endured.

Slowly, real life creeps back in. Our early-morning stair-madness bubble pops. We drift out, bikes are unlocked, phones are checked, Oyster cards located.

And I return to my life as a thinker knowing that, for once, I was a doer. And it was good. I’ve a feeling I might go again next week.



Holidays – Part 4

Hello all. The first three of these are sitting around in the archives from the last few months and this is part four, from our regular guest blogger, Rambler5319.

Today I visited the village of Corfe Castle. I’d planned a visit to the castle, a walk round the village and then a walk back to Swanage over the Purbeck hills. Corfe Castle is a Dorset village with a very special history to it. It was originally built by William the Conqueror! The castle was one of the first to be made from stone rather than wood & earth. It was sold by Elizabeth I and then sold on again, some 63 years later, to Sir John Bankes. As a royalist stronghold it was attacked during the Civil War by Parliamentary forces. On their second attempt, in 1645, they captured it and proceeded to demolish it. This explains why it looks a little run down as you walk round. Some of the walls are leaning at rather precarious angles.

I’d got a lift and been dropped off on the main road just north of the village. I walked in along a footpath with some interesting indicator signs – they fold down into a square post and you pull them up and out to read the info. Here’s just one of them.


Now I thought “Gong Farmer” – what on earth could that mean? Well if you read the detail you can see just what this guy had to do! Yep that’s right he cleaned out the royal toilets (all the no.2s of course) and then carried the stuff out into the fields to be used as manure. I’ll bet those fields had a bit of an odour, eh?

Here’s a view of the approach to the castle


And a bit further on


Here’s one of those walls leaning over. Forget Leaning Tower of Pisa – How is this NOT falling down??


After about an hour’s wander round the castle I made for the village itself and came across this sign


And just to the left was the actual shop with all the Enid Blyton stuff in. For those of you who don’t know, Enid Blyton allegedly based Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five books on Corfe Castle. However in one of her own letters written in 1962 she seems to suggest that is not the case. She writes of a visit to Jersey (in the Channel Islands) and of several times visiting an island off its coast where there was a castle which she wanted to put into a book so she did. And so now you know!

For those of you who missed out on The Famous Five books when you were younger the Five were: Julian, Dick & Ann with their cousin George and her dog Timmy. The first FF novel came out in 1942 and Noddy (with Big Ears & Mr Plod) and their adventures in Toyland followed in 1949. Remember Noddy when you were little?  I wonder if you remember what he did for a living? Yes that’s right, he was quite an enterprising guy – a self-employed taxi driver.

There then followed another 23 Noddy books and in 2008 Enid’s granddaughter (Sophie Smallwood) was commissioned to write a new book to celebrate 60 years of Noddy.

And then there was this chair


In 1937 Enid wrote a novel The Wishing Chair.

And just a bit further along on the same street, but totally unconnected, was this


The monument was put up as you can see some 36 years ago to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the murder of Edward (King of England).

Now in the days before we started numbering our kings (Henry I, II, III, IV etc) a king was given a name. For instance before Edward I (1272-1307) we’d had 3 other Edwards who’d been king: Edward the Confessor  (1042-1066), Edward the Martyr (975-978), Edward the Elder (899-925).

This memorial, as you can see, relates to Edward the Martyr. His story is interesting and begins with his father King Edgar (959-975) also known as Edgar the Peaceful who died aged 32. At the time Edgar was on his 3rd marriage (to Queen Aelfthryth) – yep 32 and married 3 times! Anyway it was believed that Edward was rightly the son of Edgar but not Queen Aelfthryth. Therefore some believed that Edward’s half-brother AEthelred (the Unready) had a more legitimate claim to the throne. (The AE at the beginning of his name is not quite strictly correct as it’s often shown with the letters joined – the right diagonal of the A being taken out and the rest of the A attached to the vertical of the E. Here is the Word Symbol – Æ – but I’m not sure how it will come out in WordPress. You’ll just have to imagine it if it doesn’t work.)

Anyway one day when Edward was visiting Queen Aelfthryth & AEthelred he was attacked and killed. At least three views on the reason for his killing have been put forward but none is conclusive so we’ll leave them. We do know that the martyr tag came from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle written some 60 or so years later in 1040. What is known is that he was attacked at or near the place where Corfe Castle stands but that he was buried about 5 miles away in Wareham – significantly, “without royal honours”. (He was succeeded by AEthelred the Unready who reigned for 38/9 years.)

And here’s the little village square in Corfe Catle


I headed down the hill to begin my walk. The path immediately led up hill. After about 15 mins I came across these guys.


I know what you’re thinking – are these llamas or alpacas? I think llamas as alpacas look noticeably smaller & chubbier but I am course prepared to be corrected by any llama/alpaca experts who might be reading this. Anyway there they were happily munching away in the field as I walked by.

I carried on walking (uphill). After about an hour I stopped to have a sandwich and a drink as it was pretty hot. A rambler walked past and I asked whether the top of the hill was just beyond the crest ahead of me and he said “Well not really, there’s a fair way to go to the top!” Little did I realise that by the time I got to the top of the hill it was just short of 3 miles!! And it had taken 2.5 hours!! Getting down the other side took just 30 mins. (I had noticed those brown contour line thingys on my OS map seemed to keep rising and that they were quite close together in places but never imagined the trek would be quite so energy sapping!)

Towards the end of walk, before hitting the outskirts of Swanage, the path looked like this


And after crossing that field I was less then an hour from home. It had been a brilliant day weather-wise and somewhat challenging walking-wise and now time to enjoy good soak in the bath to ease those weary legs!.

The nonsense returns

Ok, Chat time! Get ready for the madness that will ensue! There are the usual amount of serious-faced photos from people with real life stories assigned a 9.9 (!) on the shock factor scale….


It’s like the lady and the photographer were sitting around having a cup of tea and joking about the weather etc and then he went, “Ok, photo time! Think of war and famine and ebola! Aaaaaand, serious face! GO!”

Now have a look at this.


It’s a picture of her sister. Her much much younger sister, I’m hoping. Because otherwise the person sending in the photo is in her teens. Is Chat really suitable material for young readers?

Let me tell you why I think Chat is not suitable material for young readers. We only need to look at the typical front cover headlines; Bathtime With The Bogeyman, He’d Wait Til Mum Went To Work; Wiped Out! My Post-Poo Problem; Birthday Bomber’s Deadly Gift; The Doll Did It, Sooooo Creepy!

You see now, why I’m worried about young people reading Chat and sending in pictures of their bikini-clad pre-teen sisters? Who on earth is letting their young kids read Chat?!

Next up, here’s a pic of my gran shopping in Turkey.


Thank GOD she sent that photo in! I was worried that she might not have and what would life be if I didn’t know what K Senghore from Chester-le-Street’s gran was doing?!

Moving swiftly on….

…to this possibly INSANE peice of advice from Andrea Illingworth.



There’s a reason why people don’t do this and there’s a reason why, as a 15 year old in food tech class, my friend and I got TOTALLY BOLLOCKED by the teacher for thinking we were smart by doing this very same thing. It’s because it is massively dangerous and could cause fatal injury.

Andrea Illingworth, you muppet.

And Chat team, you are even bigger muppets for printing this twaddle. Health & Safety people ought to have you arrested.

On a lighter note, you could hang some CDs outside your house if you want to look like some kind of poverty stricken hippy who wants to decorate but can’t afford a wind catcher.


Thanks, Pat. Life is better now.

Health pages next. Always something good there. Best letter = “I’ve had a lump growing on my clitoris for a couple of weeks. I daren’t see a doctor as I’m terrified she’ll tell me it’s cancer.”

So instead I’m writing to Chat magazine to ask if it’s cancer. Obviously.

Next a story, that I’m not sure we need to know, about a lady who loses all her energy after she’s been for a poo. Awful.

Baby pictures page next. Picures of babies doing absolutely nothing except being babies. You know I have a thing about the crazy names these poor kids get given. Let’s check them out.

Kailem (a girl)
Harley, Braydon, Esmae, Ruby, Livia, Aurora (one family, with parents called Becci and Luke. A case of making up for their own ordinariness by making their kids ‘edgy’?)

Not too much name-wackiness this week actually.

There is, though, this utterly bizarre double page spread about football, in which things like this are thought worthy of page space.




I think your brains are probably exploding from Chat nonsense now so I’ll leave it there. You probably couldn’t handle any more. I know I couldn’t!

Airports are weird places

Airports are strange. The air in an airport is thick with emotion. Especially if you’re just dropping someone off then returning home.

Home seems strange after being in an airport. Unsatisfactory. It’s like you’ve given the carefree run-away-to-another-country part of yourself an airing, yet not been able to indulge the feelings. And everything mundane and day-to-day seems unbearable.

I can’t bear the idea of going to work tomorrow. It seems so…. stationary.

Yet an hour ago, I wasn’t even considering how I felt about work tomorrow. I was just going to go there.

Everything is different for a while when you’ve been in an airport.

A little part of you remembers the time you got on a plane when you were 18 and moved to Africa. It also remembers the times you donned a backpack and flew off to South East Asia for six weeks of carefree abandon. It remembers the surprise trip you planned to Rome, the long weekend in Morocco, the time you flew to China to trek the Great Wall. And it remembers the time you flew to Texas to say goodbye.

That part of you is different, it’s excited and interested. And interesting. The part of you that gets on the plane is a more interesting version of the you that goes to work.

I guess airports are wierd because people are in the process of becoming that more interesting version of themselves. And you are not. You are watching them. And then you are going back home.

All I will have when I get home is the memory of a lovely visit and the less interesting version of myself.

Bucket list item finally ticked off

I have very few items on a bucket list when I make one. The things on there are also, usually, really easily attainable. Things like ‘walk in the park more’ or ‘take up running’. Things that I can just do any old time…. but don’t. This will always be one of my great mysteries. When they write books about me in the future, they will all say, “She could have done it, but didn’t. It’s something more puzzling than laziness. It’s purposeful not-doing-ness.” And they will name this condition of inertia after me.

So anyway, one of the things on my bucket lists is always ‘Go to a book club.’ I hear of book clubs around and I think, “O, I’ll go to that.” And then I stay at home instead. I’ve been doing this for absolutely ages. I can remember first considering going to one 11 years ago!

But then along came Hampton Court Palace and all its wonderfulness and they have a book club and I suddenly thought “I MUST DO THIS!” And I emailed to join and I got the required book and goddamn you, I read it!


Finished it this morning actually. I was quite amused by it. I thought it was a brave book, in terms of him not being afraid of dealing with potentially controversial matters. I didn’t love it but it was an interesting idea to think about what the Queen’s thinking when she sitting for hours at long boring events etc.

So I had my thoughts ready to share. Wandered to the bus stop in more than enough time. Was listening to an audiobook called The Husband’s Secret which, by the way, I’m loving. Stood at the bus stop. Got on the bus.

….and then the bus was going the wrong way!

I’d got on the wrong bus cause I was concentrating on the book instead of the bus. I jumped off and had to hotfoot it the last ten stops to Hampton Court Palace which, by the way, takes faaaar longer than you think it will. So I was ten minutes late. Dammit.

First ever book club and I was late because I let a book distract me.

Anyway, there I am, sweaty, panting and over eager. I didn’t offer that many opinions but then, somehow, we got to discussing which royal we’d most like to spend an evening with. The majority voted for Camilla but I was loud and clear in my vote for the Queen.


“Yes, well I’d need to get tips, wouldn’t I?”


“Yeh. For becoming Queen.” Obviously. 

It was at this point that I chose to reveal to the group The Queen Plan. They received this information well and were supportive, reassuring me that 29 was definitely not too old to be adopted.
So it went well overall and I’m looking forward to next month’s book club. It took me 11 years to get there but it was very enjoyable and it was here!



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