Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

What a mess

The children are visiting at the moment.

image

Yesterday Molly and I had matching pigtails.

image

It was fun.

We also went swimming. When we went in the small kiddies pool, Molly said, “Oo, it feels warm and hot and nice. Like chocolate mousse.” Which is fair enough, I guess.

While everyone else was having fun and splashing about, I decided to go for a swim in the big pool. I didn’t have my goggles but I thought I’d just deal with it. It’s fine. No problem. Off I went, to the grown up pool and got in the lap lane and got my Olympic brain on and set off.

It was a disaster, people! It was a disaster. I started with breast stroke. My face went under so I closed my eyes and breathed out and when I came up, I opened my eyes but there was still lots of water on my face which went in my eyes so that hurt. And confused me. So the next time I went under, I closed my eyes too late. Which confused me further so I forgot to breathe out properly. The next time I came up, my eyes were stinging and I had loads of water in my nose and mouth.

I was a mess. I started to get all breathless cause I was breathing in and out all at the wrong time. My face was a mess cause my eyes were red and I was coughing and spluttering like an idiot. I was panting like an old person trying to climb stairs.

It was just all wrong. All wrong.

I’ll never get to the Brazil Olympics like this. I feel like I’ve really let myself down.

Breaking the rules

This morning, I am joining in with Emily and Kelly’s Remember The Time blog prompt.

image

For some reason, the first thing that sprung to mind is the following story. It’s a bit feeble but I’m just going to run with it.

When I was about ten years old, I had an operation on my hip and spent about six weeks with plaster down both of my legs. A lady used to bring me work from school so I didn’t fall behind. I think, actually, because I didn’t have anyone around me to distract me, I got quite far ahead with things. When I then went back to school, I was ahead of everyone else and bored so I got a bit restless and naughty.

Because my operation meant I had to use crutches for a little while and had a huge healing scar, I couldn’t go swimming. I used to still go along to the swimming pool but would just sit on the side.

This particular day, I had an idea that I wasn’t going with them, I’m not sure why. Then someone came and found me and said I was supposed to be on the bus. So off I toddled towards the school gates to the bus. My teacher, Miss Moore, saw me as I approached the bus and came over and really bollocked me.

She was going, “We were looking everywhere for you. We’re really late now. You’ve held everyone up.”

And this, my friends, is the moment at which I totally broke the rules. I broke the rules of the teacher-pupil relationship. I broke my own rules of good behaviour. I broke the rules of respecting authority. This was the first thing that sprung to mind when I saw that I had to write about breaking the rules.

When my teacher shouted at me for being naughty, I said…..

“So.”

Wowzers! What on earth was that about?! That is crazy talk.

I remember being quite shocked that that had come out of my mouth and being like, “Omygoodness, she’s gonna go mad!”

And even though I’m 28 years old and have done lots of other things in my life, had numerous jobs and lived in many different places, for some reason, this singular incident when I was 10 years old is my first thought when I am asked to write about breaking the rules. 

The weather and us

We in Britain have quite an involved, emotional relationship with the weather. I imagine most countries have a dependence on their weather in some way but as a Brit, the reaction to this year’s weather has amused me lots.

It was cold. Very cold. For a long time. Now I’m not one to moan about the weather, mainly because it’s all over the place so I figure there’s no point being so attached to it as it’s bound to not be doing what you want it to. Also, as a generally quite hot person, I much prefer things to be a little colder so that my body temperature comes out somewhere in the middle! I love going for a walk when it’s cold and I can see my breath. By the time I’ve walked for five minutes, I’ll be really warm anyway.

So this winter, this long never-ending winter, when it was cold for seven months, I did not complain. I prefer swimming outdoors when it’s raining or cold too, because most people don’t like it so they go to the indoor pool. Which leaves the pool empty for little me and I don’t have to get mad because it’s so full and people aren’t following the Swimming Pool Rules. I like the comfiness of wearing a big cuddly coat, which I can only do in extreme cold because I get hot so easily. I also like dragging out the Downstairs Duvet while watching a film in the evening. The winter forces us to be cuddly and to cook hearty warming dishes like beef stews and cottage pies and apple crumbles. All the things, I like.

When the complaining about the cold continued on into May and early June, it became hard to defend my position, especially given that the garden was looking a little sad, none of the trees were bearing fruit and all the bees were dying. I felt sorry for the bees, as I like them. I’m all into the bee scene.

Small talk during the last weeks of this long winter pretty much only consisted of weather-chat. Whilst in work, when a customer entered the shop with their umbrella and their big winter coat and scarf, they would just look at me with a look on their face and we both knew that weather-chat was on the cards. It became unavoidable. And so I made polite small talk about the weather.

“It’s been too long now, hasn’t it?” I would say.

“I’m still wearing my winter coat, in June!” I moaned.

“Snow?! In May! Unbelievable!” I exclaimed, all the while thinking that I didn’t mind it so much.

When I got up first thing, dressed in my jarmies, and the cold hit me, I’d grumble a bit but it was nothing a cup of tea couldn’t handle.

And then it warmed up. We stopped moaning about the cold and rain and the sun shone. My goodness, did it shine!

And we, the British, we were excited! Brilliant! We sat out in parks and ate icecreams and acted like we were on holiday. We loved it!

Me? I was sweaty and uncomfortable. I was not really having fun. My new job required a half an hour walk and not very much shade along the way. So I arrive at work feeling gross. So I have to take extra clothes to change into. But then I work all day and get hot and disgusting. But I don’t have any more clothes to change into. So my walk home is in already sweaty disgusting clothes. Then I get hot on the walk home and by the time I arrive home, I’m just a mess. It doesn’t make for a very attractive Laura.

And then the weather got really really hot. Too hot. We spent a lot of time inside, hiding from it. We moaned. Yes, we moaned. Because it was too hot.

This time I joined in. I’m not mad for hot weather anyway, as you’ve guessed, so my moaning was genuine.

Then there were thunderstorms so we rejoiced! Ah, what a relief from this overwhelming heat! Thank GOODness! Phew!

Then we saw the forecast for this weekend said there are going to be more storms and rain… And guess what happened?

We moaned. We moaned because we had a weekend away at the coast planned and a birthday party outside down by the river and the damn rain had spoiled it all! Fist-shaking and despairing came into play. And we lamented the awful British weather again!

Are you keeping up with this? I’m not sure I am. Let’s go from the top.

1. It was cold. We moaned.
2. It was hot. We rejoiced.
3. It got hotter. We moaned.
4. It was stormy. We rejoiced.
5. More rain was forecast. We moaned.

Poor weather. When we seem happy about something, he does more of the same and then we moan!

(I personally, am always moaning about extreme heat. I think I was an Arctic explorer in a previous life.)

Acting on my bucket list

At the start of September, I posted a bucket list so I thought it was time for a little check in, to let you know about my progress.

1. Join a book club.
Ok, I still look hopefully at signs in Waterstones stores or online and intend to do it. To be honest, I forgot I’d kind of obliged myself to do it by writing it here so I forgot to make myself join one! I’ll do it, I promise.

2. Master front crawl.
I don’t swim as regularly at the moment for a few reasons. The main one is that they close the outdoor pool from October til April and the indoor pool isn’t as fun. Also, I pulled a muscle in my leg a few months ago so took ages to get back into it. Perfecting breast stroke is my main focus when I do get to the pool. Fail no. 2.

3. Go back to Namibia (or at least make solid plans about it).
Ok. This one is going well. A friend who I worked for as a travel consultant is over from Namibia at the end of this month. We are going for a drink to discuss a two week trip to Namibia next year.

4. Go on (or plan) an epic walking adventure.
Ummm…. Does Richmond Park count?

5. Try running (haha!)
This one I did…. Kind of. I ran for the bus this evening, which I jumped on in haste then five minutes later realised was not on its way to my house. It was the wrong bus. I ran. I ran for a bus. And it wasn’t even the right bus. But I did run. This is a fact.

6. Go to Secret Cinema at least once.
Ummm…. I went to the normal cinema last week… Does that count as being half way there?

7. Sign up for a college course (not sure what in, I just think would be fun. Maybe food).
I’m thinking of doing a course in history or ancient civilisation or something. Another thing I forgot I’d told the world I’d do so forgot to sign myself up for something.

8. Go to that restaurant in London where everything’s completely in the dark.
This one I have not done either but I have possibly done something better… I’m going to a lovely restaurant in Paris on Thursday which comes with a fabulous recommendation from my manager. I still have the restaurant-in-the-dark place in the back of my mind though.

So there you have it. Not progress as such. Not what you’d call ‘solid plans.’ It really just amounts to running for the bus and a planned drink with a friend from Namibia. But it is progress. Of a sort.

Things I love

Narnia

Branston Pickle

Jumpers with animals on them

Swimming in the sea

Mountain trekking in foreign lands

Iced peach tea

Cooking for friends

Anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Making a good coffee

Peppermint tea

The nice feeling after you’ve cleaned the house

Vanilla yoghurt

Walking in London

A long journey on a train or a bus

Finishing a book and deciding which one to read next

Listening to an audiobook while walking to the swimming pool

Yoga

Homeland

The first day of snow

A pile of freshly washed clothes

Anything containing truffle, especially truffle butter

Panettone

Family Guy

Upstairs or Downstairs: A Downton Dilemma

So last night, as I was watching Downton Abbey, I was thinking about where I’d most like to be in the house. Not forever, just for a short stay to hang out.

Upstairs would be fun cause you could just hang out doing not much but you would have to deal with Soppy Edith. I was slightly impressed with her new direction in last night’s episode but still, she was an idiot in the first series, which put me firmly in Camp Mary in the Mary-Edith face off. So Edith gets no sympathy from me. And if you lived upstairs, you’d have to hang around and smile nicely at her.

You would get to hang out with Cousin Violet though, who should write a book of wisdom. One of her recent quotes always makes me laugh. The others are looking at the massively overdressed table before the guests arrive and going, oo is it too much, have we gone over the top? And Cousin Violet just glances over, looks pleased and says, “My dear, nothing impresses like excess.”

You’d get to hang out with Mary and Matthew, who I was really rooting for the whole first two series. Then they finally got together and it was very exciting but the excitement needs to come from somewhere else now. I think Matthew is fun and he’d be good company. I’m still working out whether I just really love Mary’s dresses or whether I’d like to be friends with her or whether I’m a little bit scared of her.

I like Lord Grantham too. He seems wise. And Sybil’s nice, although I do not like Sybil’s new haircut.

After a while though, you’d want something to do. That’s the problem with Upstairs. You’d be much frowned upon, I think, if you pottered off for a swim or a bike ride. I think you wouldn’t be allowed to, Lord Grantham would look deeply disappointed, as he did when Sybil married Tom.

Downstairs though, you’d want to go for a bike ride or a swim but you probably wouldn’t have any time. But a lot of the gossip is from Downstairs. I love how Carson is very proper and slightly gruff, to the extent he’ll tell the members of Upstairs off if he needs to. And he totally fancies Miss Hughes.

There’s the Anna and Mr Bates excitement which kept things going a bit in the other series. But now Mr Bates is incarcerated, the excitement factor has been reduced somewhat.

Thomas The Meanie is an exciting character because I’m constantly waiting for his demise. I can just feel it’s going to come sometime soon.

There’s always something brewing with Daisy as well. She works in the kitchen, preparing the food, so obviously I feel an affinity with her. That’s the thing about being downstairs as well. I’d get to be around the food and cook.

It’s tough. It’s a tough decision. Upstairs…. Downstairs…. I guess in terms of cooking, which is high on my priorities list, I’d have to be downstairs because there’s no kitchen upstairs. Do you think Lord Grantham would allow me to have a little kitchen upstairs? I think he’d say it’s not proper.

Maybe I’d go downstairs. I’m someone who likes to have stuff to do so Downstairs would be busier. Do you think they would have any truffles for me to cook with? But actually, when you’re Upstairs, you can take holidays and stuff. I like holidays. Hmm…. I’m now sure now….

The big 200 and an Italian feast

So it’s my 200th post! Very exciting. I haven’t been swimming in a little while as I’ve had a cold so I’m going to try, from next week, to swim 200 lengths in honour of it. Not all at once. I’ll try a bit each day. I need to do 30 each day, right? Wish me luck!

I’ve got lots of birthdays and excitement this week so am going to give it til Monday to start the challenge. Thanks for staying with me or joining me along the way. It has been lots and lots of fun. To celebrate this milestone and to embrace my recent trip to Italy and in honour of seeing a friend for the first time in ages, I prepared an Italian feast!

I got a beautiful cookbook the other day. The most beautiful cookbook I’ve ever seen.

image

It’s full of Venetian recipes and the antipasti section is amazing. In an effort to impress, I insisted on making one of everything!

I finished work at 3pm and had timetabled in when to start everything so that I’d be ready by 7pm. I suddenly realised, at 3.35pm, that I didn’t have almonds for the cantuccini biscuits. I set my white wine and white wine vinegar and juniper berries to boil (for the pickled chicory) then I quickly grabbed my purse and ran down to the shop. I got the almonds and ran back to the house…. When I said ‘I quickly grabbed my purse’, that’s exactly what happened. I grabbed my purse AND NOTHING ELSE! I was locked out. There was no-one else with keys who would be back before 6pm. We had taken the spare key from the next door neighbour because it didn’t work anymore, it was always getting stuck. We kept meaning to get another cut, but didn’t. O no! The next door neighbour walked by and I explained my predicament. We went in her garden to see if I could climb over her fence into my garden and try and figure a way to get in. It’s not really a climb-over-able fence so I was stuck outside, pan boiling inside, on a tight schedule for preparing dinner, with no way into the house.

We eventually got in but another neighbour played a very risky game of almost falling through a roof to do so and it all took about an hour. I was VERY behind schedule.

When I was back in the kitchen, I pickled my chicory, made my duck stock, grilled my aubergines and dressed my rocket. I was back on track. As I was whizzing the almonds in my food processor for the cantuccini, it popped and stopped working! This was NOT on my schedule! It wouldn’t have been a very big deal had I not needed to whizz the duck breast fillets for my duck and porcini mushroom meatballs. My only option was my handheld whizzer thing. You know the type that you stick in a pot of soup to whizz all the lumps out?

So there I was, with a handheld whizzer thing, trying to whizz duck breasts. I got it done in the end but it wasn’t easy and bits of mashed up raw duck kept flying about and sticking to my face and arms.

I threw together an apparently Italian drink, minus the alcohol – elderflower cordial with mint, lemon and ice, then topped up with ginger beer.

I was nervous about attempting the Carta di Musica (music paper) as it needed to be rolled really really thin. It’s basically a paper thin cracker made with semolina. It went surprisingly well. I had some rocket and walnut pesto I had made that morning and after grilling some aubergines with parmesan, mozzarella and basil then rolling them up, I was almost ready to go. I just wrapped the end of a few grissini sticks in salami and pickled chicory and stuck them in a glass, put some dressed rocket into the braesola and rolled it up and put some truffle butter in a dish and we sat down and dug in. (Yes, you heard me right, truffle butter! I finally got some! And it was totally worth it.)

image

At this point, I noticed that the caster sugar was on the side, unopened and realised that in my panic over the food processor breaking while I was making cantuccini, I had forgotten to put the sugar in! What I had was a savory almond dough! I whipped the biscuits out of the oven and binned them then mixed some sugar into my remaining dough. It didn’t really mix in very well though. I just wrapped the dough in clingfilm, fridged it and hoped for the best.

Next was the main course. We had a parmigiana, a roast tomato risotto, a duck and porcini meatball in a duck stock and tomato sauce, and scallops and pancetta on a bed of minty pea stuff.

image

The parmigiana looks quite large and intimidating, I didn’t realise that when I cut it!

After eating everything and having a bit of chitchat and sneaking another meatball or two, it was time to address the cantuccini disaster. I cut my dough into six pieces and put it in the oven. It did not go well. Because there wasn’t enough dry stuff in the mixture, it didn’t bake hard enough. It also wasn’t sweet enough. I made us espressos in a percolator, which were really strong, and we dipped our biscuits in.

image

I felt a bit feeble, with my savory, slightly soft almond thingys. So I implemented a back up plan. There was ice cream in the freezer! Mascapone, cherry and pistachio. Score! The dinner was rescued and we tucked in.

All in all, a success, I think.

Happy 200th post to me! What a fabulous way to celebrate.