Archive for July, 2012

An admission

Ok. I’ve got something to admit. I was unfriendly yesterday. I didn’t mean to be, because I’m attempting be more friendly recently.

I was swimming and there was a woman in the same lane as me going a similar speed. So I started having a little Olympic race of my own against her. While breast stroke and back stroke were in play, we were almost the same speed. Then she started doing front crawl. Therein lay her mistake.

She did that kind of laboured don’t-want-to-put-my-face-in-the-water front crawl. Every stroke required her to throw her body in the opposite direction in order to get her arm forward. She was a gonner. I sped ahead. ‘Eat my splashes, swimming lady!’

As we neared the edge of the pool, I snuck in first for the gold, and my competitor came in a second later for silver.

She had been looking at me over her shoulder like she wanted to say something and now that I was alongside her, she went for it.

She said something about it being a lap lane and that I was supposed to be behind her, not next to her. I thought about saying, ‘yes, I know it’s a lap lane, but I can’t swim behind you if you’re swimming slower than me because you’ll slow me down.’ I didn’t say it. But I wanted to.

What I did instead was reached the side of the pool and threw myself into a length of backstroke without even the slightest pause. Just as though I hadn’t heard her say anything. Totally ignored her. That was unfriendly. But she was being nonsensical. When the front person is going slowly, at some point, someone will overtake, so for a brief time, there will be two people next to each other instead of behind each other. Don’t go slow then get grumpy when someone overtakes you.

So I was unfriendly and I’m sorry for deviating from the mission. I shall try harder.

On the other hand, I was walking behind a lady the other day who had her hands full pushing a bike and she dropped a red pepper. As she tried to juggle holding up the bike with bending down to get the pepper, I pottered over, friendly mission face on, and picked up the pepper for her.

So maybe my pepper picking friendliness cancels out my swimming unfriendliness….?

In the garden

There’s a lot of Olympic-fever about. Even I, not a sportswoman by nature, have let myself get caught up in it all. I have downloaded the London 2012 app to my phone. Yes. That’s right. I have the app. And yesterday I did my fair share of whooping and running around to see the women’s bike ride in Richmond Park (no near-death experiences with deer this time!).

So anyway, while it is all quite exciting, I feel like I might need some time out for something different. With the latest sunny weather (yes, I’m aware there was thunder during the bike race yesterday, but in general, it’s been sunnier, honest), the garden is looking fabulous. So I thought we could have a little tour around.

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Tomato plant flowers

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Fuschia

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The lavender is finally attracting bees! Woop!

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Umm… What are these called? Pansies?

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More pansies

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Marigolds, I think….

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Pansies, again

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Not sure…..

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Pansies….

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Tomatoes

So there it is. For the long winter months, it looks like a wasteground so I am understandably excited that the sun has come out and there is something to show off.

Tomorrow I am off to do some Olympic stuff. There are loads of free exhibitions and, rumour has it, a maze made out of books! Thousands and thousands of them! How amazing would that be?! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Gymnastics

In the spirit of the Olympic Games, I thought I’d tell you a little story about gymnastics.

I don’t remember going to a gymnastics club when I was younger. I did go to trampolining, which was huge fun and was always at a drama club, channelling my inner thespian.

My friend, however, he didn’t need no stinking ‘club’ for his gymnastics. Him and his brother and sister had reached Olympian standards by just practising at home. They were highly organised about it.

They would stand in a line, oldest to youngest, and his sister would take the lead. She would choose a move, a rollover, or a cartwheel, or a handsstand. And when she finished the move, she would throw her arms up in the air and shout, “GYM!”

My friend would come next. He would have to copy the move exactly and, when finished, throw his hands in the air and shout “NA!”

Younger brother would come last and copy the move, hands in the air and shout “STICS!”

When all done, they would shout “GYMNASTICS!” together and then get in line for the next move.

Another rollover – “GYM!” Another one – “NA!” Another one – “STICS!” All together – “GYMNASTICS!”

They also spent quite a lot of time perfecting their ice skating skills. They would push the furniture back against the walls in the front room and roll up the rugs. And they would ‘ice-skate’ around the front room and do commentary on each other’s skills.

I haven’t seen any of their names in the Olympic line-up for the gymnastics or the ice skating but, of course, they might be going by aliases. Because if people knew how good they were and that they were representing Britain in the Olympics, they’d probably get mobbed… Probably.

Laura Maisey, Fully Qualified Piglet and Multi-Award Winner

Well, this is a good week. Passed my exams and been nominated for two awards. I’ll do the other one in a separate post. So for now, I would like to thank Wealthymatters for the nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award. This blog is a mixture of useful info and tips on creating wealth (always a useful thing when emerging from a period of self-imposed student-loan-related poverty!).

So the rules for this award are that I tell everyone 7 things about myself and nominate 15 other blogs for the award. So I’m going to have to think of 7 new things as I swear I’ve told the most interesting stuff already. Ok, here goes…

1. Sometimes I think I might like to spend my life becoming the new Alfred Wainwright, a famed English walker, who spent his time walking the Lake District and writing fantastic books about it, known as Wainwright’s Walks. In light of this possible life goal, I’m looking into walking the Pennines for my birthday next year. It takes about two weeks apparently. A friend did it and had a heart attack and had to be airlifted off to hospital. I don’t think the heart attack was related to the walk.

2. I once walked the Great Wall of China. It took about two weeks. It was exhausting. A lady in one village tried to sell me a Great Wall-themed t-shirt and when I said I had bought the exact same one at the previous village so didn’t need another, she said, in desperation, ‘But I have extra large!’

3. When I was travelling in Namibia with a friend and her family, we were staying in the middle of nowhere in a tented camp. As we walked in the pitch black from the dinner tent to our sleeping tent, we looked back up the path and shone the torch, and we had walked straight past a huge HUGE male lion with a massive mane. It had been lying down next to the path, clearly not hungry enough to have a go. If any of us had reached out an arm while walking past it, we would’ve touched it.

4. When I was younger, I named every single cuddly toy that I had, and I had a lot. When I was supposed to be going to sleep, I gave them all personalities and created a little life with them. My favourite doll, which I’d had since forever, was called Yvonne.

5. After I’ve been swimming, I eat far more than is really necessary, to get my energy back up. I’m probably burning enough to have two or three cereal bars. I tend to eat four or five, then a bit of everything else I find in the fridge. I know this is silly. And I know overall, the swimming can’t be having that much effect, due to my massively increased food intake, but I have decided to pretend that it’s not happening. If you would pretend too, then that would be great. Thanks.

6. I love a project. Love it! If someone says ‘I need to file all this stuff by tomorrow, I’ll never get it done’ I love it, I get straight in there. Or if we need to check the best before dates on everything in the shop, I’m on it, I’ve already started! Re-organising a drawer or re-arranging furniture, I love it. Let’s get the garden looking pretty, someone says. I’m your woman! I love it. I get excited thinking up projects for myself to work on.

7. I feel quite a bit of pressure to do something law-related now that I have my degree but in all honesty, I quite like what I’m doing now, even though it has nothing to do with law. People say, ‘O, so what will you do now?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, at the moment I am mostly baking and writing. Which I like. So I’ll do that.’ Lots of people with grown-up jobs don’t like them very much. Whereas I love my job, it’s great fun. I think I should count myself lucky in that and not be in a rush to go and do something grown-up, just for it’s own sake.

Ok, so now you all know me a bit better (I’m running out of cool facts to tell you all actually. Any more awards and I’ll be telling you things about myself that are of the ‘I had a cup of tea this morning’ variety), and it’s time to nominate 15 other blogs for the One Lovely Blog Award. This is fairly easy as they’re all pretty lovely, lovely enough for me to take the time out to read them every day. I’ll try not to repeat any I’ve done before.

1. Thought Catalog – This blog is just fantastic. There are no other words for it. It’s witty, painfully honest and always hilarious. 33 Things You Should Know Before Dating Me is my favourite of the recent posts, but the’yre all worth reading.

2. A Year Of Reading The World – This blog is great. 196 countries, and a year to read something from all of them. I was super excited the other day when I saw a book from Namibia on the list.

3. The Good Greatsby – I love love love this blog. Invite Me To Your Yachting Party and Thank You For Inviting Me To Your Party. I Apologize For My Behaviour At The Party are among the funniest things I have ever read.

4. Belle Grove Plantation – This blog feeds my history obsession. It follows the restoration of the plantation in Virginia, US, where James Madison was born. The little stories of discoveries on the land and tales of the families who lived there are absolutely fascinating. At some point, I’m definitely visiting, it looks amazing.

5. socomfortablynumb – This blog had me at “I’m not all that pretty. I dress wierd.”

6. CyclingEurope.org – This man cycled around Europe and wrote a book about it, which I’m in the middle of at the moment. It’s a great book, fantastically entertaining. Read it.

7. Bagni di Lucca and Beyond – Gorgeous gorgeous photos. I’ve never wanted to go to Italy more! In fact, I have booked myself a trip there soon and my sole holiday research has been this blog!

8. hairsprayandhemingway – I was initially attracted to this blog by the name. The blog is described as being about ‘literature, beauty and life.’ What’s not to love?

9. AsiaDreaming – This blog always has beautiful photos from exotic faraway lands, that make me want to drop everything and jump on a plane.

10. Blogging for a Good Book – It’s the Williamsburg Regional Library blog and every day I come and check out which book they have recommended. I’ve read a few that have been suggested and they were very good.

11. Tokyobling’s Blog – Again, amazing photos and a fascinating insight into another part of the world. The colours and liveliness in the photos are great.

12. Project 365 by Kenneth Todd – One photo a day for a year. Does what it says on the tin. There are some lovely lovely pictures on this blog, check them out if you’re into photography or if you just like looking at pretty things.

13. Fitness and Frozen Grapes – The great pictures of food are just one of the reasons I love reading this blog. No matter how active I am, I always feel lazy when I read this!

14. Lyrics and Chocolate – The most recent post, List of things that never change was great!

15. Steeshes – A Photo Collection of Mustaches – This blog is just great. There’s always a new picture of a moustache. I feel it is good for one to be up-to-date with the latest moustache fashions. That’s partly why I love this blog so much. Check it out. You’re bound to discover something amazing.

 

PS. As a London-dweller, I feel I should say something about the Olympics. So here it is = the Olympics are nice, aren’t they?

I came. I saw. I passed.

Yes, that’s right. All that hard work has eventually paid off. My results came out on Monday. I was working so had it in the back of my mind to check them after work. Then when I got home, the weather was nice enough to have a barbecue so I did that and it totally went out of my mind to check my results. Not because I’m not bothered about them or anything but because it’s just not in the front of my mind anymore. It feels like forever ago that I was sitting around making up stories about Wayne Rooney to remember case names. It was so exhausting that I couldn’t wait to get them out of the way and move on with normal life. So long as I didn’t have to resit, I was happy to have finished them.

The day after results came out, a friend sent a text message asking how I did. That’s when I remembered they’d been released and I hadn’t checked them! I was in work, again, so thought I’d check on the computer when I got home. After work, I pottered off home and sat down with a book. Again, I’d forgotten about the results!

Finally, something clicked and I realised I should go and get my results. Fingers crossed I didn’t have to do any resits!

And…. The good news is… There are no resits! I passed everything. Pheeeeeew! I’m probably not going to get a call from Supreme Court asking me to join them anytime soon. But I passed! Embarrassingly enough, my best result was in land law. Please don’t tease me.

After discovering this amazing news of passing, I thought I’d check what my title now is. Are you ready…? This is how I can write my name now, should I choose to be pretentious and show off.

Laura Maisey BSc, Pg Dip (Law)

I’m not too impressed. BSc is from my first degree. Pg Dip (Law) is from the one I just did. Pg Dip?! It makes me think of tea = PG Tips. Yesterday, three people, independently of one another, said it made them think of ‘Pig Dip’. It developed a bit further as people got experimental and the current favourite is ‘Piglet’.

So I’ve spent the last two years of my life enslaved to my (less than interesting) textbooks learning about mortgages and voluntary manslaughter and parliamentary sovereignty and offer-and-acceptance… all so that I could have the enviable title of:

Laura Maisey, Piglet.

Great.

Dicing with death in Richmond Park

The day before yesterday, I had a day off and decided I was going to do an epic trip around some of London’s open spaces.

I started the day by watching the Olympic torch pass by. While I didn’t feel especially excited, I thought that in the spirit of Getting Excited About Stuff (a challenge I set myself a little while back), it might be good fun. And sure enough, it was. The build up took a while, one convoy came, then some motorbikes, then some running people. It went on and on. And by the time came, I barely had time to take one, slightly rubbish, photo and then it was gone.

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It was fun though, and the atmosphere was lively.

Then I headed up to Richmond Park to start a walk which also took in Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common. As I came out of the Roehampton Gate of the park, I managed to catch this amazing picture of a butterfly on a flower.

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I went to university in Roehampton so was back on familiar ground as I followed the road toward Putney Heath. I couldn’t resist popping up the little high street to a place called Dong Phuong’s, which we ordered from with such regularity that they didn’t even ask our address when we ordered anymore. O, the junk-food-related memories…

Next I was on Putney Heath and starting to feel the heat. I rifled through my bag and came up with some Body Shop body butter so slathered myself in it and hoped for the best. It didn’t have any sunblocking qualities. It was just moisturiser. But it was the best I had.

I fought my way through thick foliage…

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…until I suddenly stumbled onto an open playing field and a beautiful little hidden country pub called The Telegraph.

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From here it was a short walk to go under the motorway and on the other side I was greeted by Wimbledon Common and a beautiful pond, called King’s Mere. Virginia Woolf apparently called this end of the Common, ‘the bleak end.’ Now I don’t know Miss Woolf personally but I would argue that the bleakness was maybe not in the Common but in herself because this end of the Common is fabulous. It’s a riot of overgrown trees and paths. Everywhere I stepped, wildlife teemed. It was on this stretch that I saw two rabbits, a mother and ducklings, could hear the constant sound of birds and lots of dog walkers wandering about too. Not bleak at all.

This was my view during my Chocolate Stop (I was walking this one alone so was allowed a Chocolate Stop whenever I wanted).

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From here I walked toward Putney Vale Cemetery, which was essentially overflow, when all the church graveyards nearby were too full. At the end of this was a war memorial and some rugby grounds and that’s when I started getting hot again. The sun was out full blast. No clouds, just raw, untarnished, skin-cancer-inducing sun. I’d been shaded by trees for most of my walk until now. But as I crossed over the road and re-entered Richmond Park by the Robin Hood Gate, I started to worry and applied a second layer of my verging-on-useless body butter.

As I struck out across country, trying to get through the park as quickly as possible, I found myself with zero tree cover and started to regret my decision to wear jeans. Hotter and hotter, I got. I started to wonder if it was possible to die of heat in England. My water supply was rapidly diminishing and suddenly… I was in the middle of a group of extremely threatening looking deer with massive antlers!

Shit! How had that happened? Was I in such a heat daze that I hadn’t noticed them? I stopped…. They were heading straight to me…. I wasn’t terrified as such but I was quite nervous!

I started to edge sideways into the long grass and crouch slightly, trying to become invisible. Then I worried that they might think I was crouching ready to attack so I stood up tall again. They split and started walking either side of me. So close!

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They kept walking a few steps, looking at me, going again, stopping to look… Etc. It went on for what felt like ages until they were eventually all on one side of me. I carefully edged away from them, the deer looking back at me threateningly all the while. After about ten minutes of creeping and trying look as inconspicuous as possible, I continued on my path, heart racing. It was all very exciting/nerve-racking.

Shortly after this, because I had gone into the long grass, I stumbled across some mushrooms and was beyond tempted to take one home and cook it! I didn’t though, because I have no idea about which mushrooms are safe to eat.

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It wasn’t long after this that I reached Richmond Gate, my start point, and some trees to hide my burning shoulders under. I think I might wait until late afternoon next time I want to do a five hour trek in the open!

Lessons I have learned from this walk = don’t wear jeans on a long walk, always carry suncream, make sure the t-shirt you catch a tan in, is pretty much the same shape of most of your other t-shirts. I am suffering the teasing of having an odd shaped tan at the moment.

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Just don’t want to finish this book!

Before I start, the answer to yesterday’s blog about how much I spent on a ‘small’ shop in Waitrose was £64 – which I felt bad about to start with, until the guesses where closer to £100. Now I feel quite restrained and pleased with myself!.

Today, we have another post from my regular guest blogger on a subject I’m sure a lot of us can understand….

I wonder if you’ve ever started to read a book and then not wanted to finish it; perhaps you did finish just because you started it and didn’t want to be beaten by it or perhaps you didn’t and just put it back on the shelf, passed it on, threw it away or whatever.

There are some books which you begin reading and you lose interest in. Sometimes it’s the story line: you don’t think it’s that good or believable. Sometimes it’s the characters: he/she/it just wouldn’t or possibly even couldn’t do that in your view. Maybe the characters themselves are a little “thin” or superficial so you don’t feel as if you can empathise or even marvel at things they do. Maybe the plot of the whole thing just doesn’t work or some of its parts don’t hang together very well. I’m sure you’ve been there. I’m also sure, like me, one of those books you’ve put down was praised beyond belief by another reader or even critic who has reviewed it. You sit there thinking “Is it me? Have I missed something?” I’m sure you’ve got a few of those T-shirts – I know I have. You’ve only got to look at some (of course not all) of the various prize winners of the many different awards to know it’s true. Literature has a way of dividing opinion just like music, art (and sculpture) and other cultural areas. It’s very personal. It’s your experience. Normally no-one else shares it with you. When you read a book you’re in your own little world for a time; you don’t usually read the same book with someone else there and even if you did it wouldn’t be at the same speed. It’s a solitary experience although you can be in a crowd while it is happening: on the Tube/Subway, on the bus, in a car (not driving of course), on the beach or even in a library. If anyone speaks to you it’s like they’ve interrupted your mind’s interaction with the book. It’s like they’ve “butted in” when you didn’t ask them to. Your imagination runs wherever you want to go with it for a while and you want to enjoy the “dream” and not have people “waking you up” as it were. Been there? You know, you look up and give them the “Do you realise you’ve just spoilt my reading experience” glazed look or a more serious “keep away” snarl. You may try to be friendly through your gritted teeth. You might even try a half smile when they ask “Good book?” and you reply “Yes I’m just at a really exciting point here” hoping they’ll take the hint and leave you alone. Perhaps a Reading – Do Not Disturb T-Shirt could be a winner; (now where are those phone numbers for GAP, Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger?) You can speak to me when I’ve put my book down, when it is closed with its bookmark sticking out of the page I’m up to; you don’t fold over the top corner of the page, do you? Of course you don’t, one just do that sort of thing!
But there are some books which you begin reading and you don’t want to finish because they’re SO good. You want the experience of reading that novel or biography or straight factual book to go on so you can enjoy it for longer. You’re in that imaginary world of where the text on the page has taken you, even captured you. Perhaps it’s generating emotions of love or dislike of a particular character; perhaps a mystery is unfolding and you’re enjoying all the twists and turns and trying to work out the “whodunit?” yourself; perhaps a relationship is formed and you don’t want it to end but you can see the signs. All of these things can make us want to prolong the experience of reading that particular book although you know it really does have to end.

Knowing there’s a sequel or even a number of sequels because it’s going to be a series may make you get through the book more quickly as you want to find out how things progress.

So why do I not want to finish the book I’m reading right now? If you’re wondering which book – it’s called The Land Of Painted Caves by Jean Auel. It’s part of a series called Earth’s Children. Let me give you the series list with each book’s first published date (it is relevant):

1. Sep 1980 – The Clan Of Cave Bear (also film)
2. Sep 1982 – The Valley Of Horses
3. Sep 1985 – The Mammoth Hunters
4. Nov 1990 – The Plains Of Passage
5. Apr 2002 – The Shelters Of Stone
6. Mar 2011 – The Land Of Painted Caves

Overall 31 years from book 1 to book 6! As you can see there’s quite a variation in the length of time between each of the novels; the longest gap was from book 4 to 5 – 12 years! I came to the series in the late 1980s beginning with the book & film.
Book 1 got me hooked and I’ve read the rest over the years since then. Each paperback is a kind of “brick-sized” thickness; the last one is 782 pages so a good size to keep me busy. The action is in a pre-historic world of Southern Europe involving tribal groups of Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal origins. I’ve watched characters grow together, sometimes grow apart, go on long journeys, make friends and lose friends; I’ve seen them age & have children; I’ve seen some move up the social scale and some down; I’ve seen them discover things about their world and about each other – some likeable, some not. It’s a bit like everyday life today set in this early world. You may not agree with some parts of the story in terms of personal belief but this is their world and it’s what they believed in their world at that time.

By about page 200 I was thinking – this is the last book (so far as the, now 76 year old, author has herself said) and this imaginary world which I’ve been a visitor to for just over 20 years will come to an end. These familiar characters will stop – frozen in time at the end of this book. I don’t know what they might do in the future because there is no future for them – they will cease to develop any further whilst I, on the other hand, will not. Time for me will continue (without my imaginary friends from the book) as it will for everyone but I just don’t want to leave these folks behind. I suppose, in a way, they will stay with me in my mind, because I know about them, because I’ve visited their world, but there will be no more stories about their lives. So what did I do? I picked up another book and read that for a while. Soon however I wanted to find out what was going to happen in that world of Earth’s Children’s so back I went to The Land Of Painted Caves. I read some more and got to page 300 & then 400. Then, guess what? I put the book down again and picked up another one, different to the book I read after 200 pages. And I read that for a while, hoping to keep The Land Of Painted Caves alive for a bit longer. I only got another 100 pages or so before putting it down again and going off with another book. It’s tough as, inevitably, I was drawn back once again to TLOPC. As of today I have reached page 629 so just about 150 pages left. Even if I restrict myself to 10 pages a day I’ve only got 2 weeks left. I know it’s got end but I just don’t want it to be now. Maybe I’ll pick another of those books up and spend some time with them. Eventually, I know and you do too, that TLOPC’s Jondalar, Ayla, Jonayla and their “Cave” & the other “Caves” and “Hearths” of their world will draw me back. You see the big difference with this book, which wasn’t true for the other five, is that I know there will be no more. If the author had just said nothing I would quite happily have read through to the end and just waited for the next one – maybe 2, 3, 5 or however many years.

I’m curious though. Is it just me or have any other readers found a book or series of books so fascinating they just didn’t want them to end? Have you actually stopped and then gone back later?

I feel I’m on the fringes of addiction here but not sure what the cure is. Where’s my nearest literature re-hab centre? I wonder whether I’ll meet some of you there; I’m “virtually” certain I will.