Thursday, 23 January 2014

Olympic ambitions

It's all Tom Daley's fault.  Really - it is.

I saw this picture on Instagram, and it reminded me that the Olympic aquatics centre opens to the public in just over a month's time.  For a split second I thought to myself 'it might be rather nice to have a swim in the Olympic pool', and then the thought faded as I remembered that I hate swimming.  Plus I can't really swim either.  I can float and tread water just enough to not drown, but I can't swim properly and the only 'stroke' I can do is basic doggy paddle for a few metres.  

The last time I did any amount of swimming was when I lived in Queensland, Australia for 9 months in 1995.  It was probably a condition of my visa that I had to swim while I was there; you can't be in Australia and not swim.  Any swimming I did was either snorkeling or splashing around in the sea though, so my 'not drowning' technique was perfectly adequate.  I can't actually remember the last time I went swimming in the UK.  It may have been as a child, with my parents.  I skived off every school swimming lesson at secondary school.  

I have never taken my own children swimming.  When they were toddlers I really wanted them to love swimming and be good at it, and I knew that the quickest way to ruin that would be for me to take them.  So Graham took them, and taught them both to swim at a very young age.  It is one of my greatest parenting achievements that they both swim like fish now, and love it, despite having me as a vehement, non-swimming, role model.  They are baffled at my dislike of it.  My parents have a pool in France, but I don't swim in it when we visit them.  Occasionally if it is really hot, I will sit in the shallow end sipping a cold glass of wine, or float for five minutes to cool down - but I'd rather be sitting in the shade reading a book and watching the others swim.

And yet...when I thought of the Olympic aquatics centre and how I would probably never swim there, I actually felt a little bit sad and regretful that I don't have a life skill that every other adult in the UK seems to have.  I remembered how I thought I hated running until I actually gave it a go.

"Right!  I'm going swimming tomorrow!" I announced to Olivia last night.
There was a long pause.
"You are?"
"Yes.  I'm going to give it a go."

I rummaged in my cupboard and found a swimming costume I bought over five years ago for occasional floating in the pool in France.  Olivia stood next to me, wide-eyed, as if she couldn't really believe I was going to go through with it.   She claimed never to have seen me wearing that swimming costume.

"You'll need googles," she said.  "Do you even have goggles?"
"No.  Do I really have to wear goggles?"
"Durr.  You can't swim without goggles."
"Okay - can I borrow yours?"
"I use Dad's second-best pair...but I think he's got a third-best pair somewhere that you could borrow."

Being a spoilt Londoner, as well as the Olympic aquatics centre just a ten minute bus ride away I also have two pools within walking distance of my house.  I have never swum in either, despite having lived here for fifteen years, but this morning after I took Olivia to school ("are you seriously going through with this?" was her parting shot as she got out of the car) I walked to the closest one and paid my three pounds (I don't even know if this is good value?  Is it?  It seemed pretty good to me).

In the changing cubicle I discovered that my swimming costume didn't fit.  I have - entirely accidentally - lost over 9kg in weight in the last year through running and working shifts, and the costume was gaping horribly.  I suspected that it would gape even more once I got it wet.  Happily, I discovered I could use the bracelet from my locker to clip the straps of my swimming costume together at the back, and this made it fit much better (although admittedly it left me looking like even more of an amateur - as if I didn't even know how to wear my locker bracelet).

The lanes in the pool were marked slow, medium and fast.  I got into a slow one, which only had two other people in it, and set off - not entirely sure whether I could swim a whole 25 metres in one go.  It turned out that I could just about manage a length of doggy paddle - and I stood up at the far end, heart pounding, feeling extremely pleased with myself. 

I had not expected everybody else in the pool to be so friendly.  Everybody chatted during the pauses at the end of the lengths.  There was much consternation and interest at my (lack of) swimming technique, and one man said, after watching me thrash up and down as hard as I could, "how come you're going so fast, given that you can barely swim?".  Polish Paul, in my lane, tried to show me how I could swim with much less effort. 
"This way, you won't be tired!" he said.
"I kind of want to be tired though," I replied, "I'm here for the exercise"
"No, no no.  You want to just glide up and down.  Don't wear yourself out.  I am an expert at gliding!"
As well as meeting Polish Paul, I learnt that the elderly lady in the green costume is known to everyone as The Fish, and that Mustafa, who is sixty this year, learnt to swim for his fiftieth birthday.  I suspect that if I turn up regularly at this time, I might become known as Crazy Doggy Paddle Woman.

I managed twelve lengths in total (not in one go - I stopped between each one), and when I got out, my arms and legs were trembling with tiredness ("you see - you should be gliding, like me!" said Polish Paul, as I rather shakily said goodbye).  

Graham's third-best pair of goggles
I think I might go again.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Thoughts on January

First 2014 purchase of daffodils - VERY excited!
The first daffodils of 2014

For me, January has a clean, fresh feel to it.  It doesn't seem like the start of the year - for me that will always be the new school year in September - but rather, January is a tidying up and a re-grouping.  A shake of the shoulders, chin in the air, and carrying on with a renewed sense of determination.

Back at University for my last term of lectures before I qualify! Gah - where did all that time go?! #omg #really?? #friends
Back at University today

A new term started for me today: a new module, new reading lists, new tutors, one new pen and no new notebook (so restrained of me), plus all my lovely nursing friends together again.  But, alarmingly, it's my last ever term of teaching on this course.  After this, I have placements until July, then the summer holidays off, and placements again up to Christmas, when I qualify.  Qualify!  It's pretty scary to even write that word. 

So I am enjoying the sense of calm and resolve that this time of year brings for me, and trying not to think too much about my time at University coming to an end.  I am grabbing as much fresh air as I can, looking out for the first British daffodil bunches in the shops (Waitrose had some this week!), running, baking bread, and reading novels.

Where Dalston becomes Islington #london #nofilter #bus

Swans in Epping Forest this afternoon #nofilter #swans #eppingforest

...and kale pizza number 2, ready to slice and eat  #pizza #supper #genius

It's blood orange season! #orange #citrus #nofilter
And I'm also filling up all my spare days with plans of nice things I want to do while I still have a bit of time on my hands.  Its January now, and I've got the time and inclination to fritter away 20 minutes photographing blood oranges; but before I know it, it will be December and I'll be a fully qualified nurse.  Fewer blood oranges and more actual blood, I should imagine.  Not long now.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

10 things

Bulrushes in Dulwich Park
  • I met up with a friend in Dulwich.  We went to the Dulwich Picture Gallery to see the Whistler exhibition.  I loved the pictures in the exhibition - the detailed prints and etchings of life alongside the river were my favourites.  It is only on for a few more days, but well worth a visit if you are in the area.
  • I had never been to Dulwich before.  It is a very pretty part of London, with a delightful park to wander around.
  • Yesterday, I went up to Cambridge to see my sister and her small daughter, who is nearly two.  I spent a wonderful morning reading books, building duplo, sorting Postman Pat's letters and cooking play food.  My sister, who is due to give birth to her second child any day now, had a chance to put her feet up and do a little bit of cooking.  When she thanked me, as I left, for coming to visit I was instantly transported back eleven years when I had two small children and my sister, who was only about twenty at the time, would come to see me and spend hours just sitting on the floor with Cam and Olivia, building train tracks, playing, cuddling and reading books.  I had forgotten what a wonderful thing that was: adult company for me, and an adored entertainer for the children.  It's a good feeling to be able to return the favour for her.
    Small niece looking at books. I love the way her hair curls at the back of her head. #poppet
    Small niece, looking at books
  • In between visits to Dulwich and Cambridge, I have been studying pharmacology for an exam I have coming up later this term.  I find pharmacology really interesting but incredibly difficult to learn.
  • Olivia was back at school for less than three days and she already had two birthday parties and a sleepover lined up for this weekend.
  • I have had a great many turnips in my veg box the past few weeks.  I am rather enjoying them, although it can be a struggle to find many recipes for them as they are seen as quite an unusual vegetable these days.  I ate one raw and discovered that it tastes very like a radish.  Who knew?
  • I baked an apple and almond loaf cake - it looks plain but tastes delicious.  I rather like cakes that do that - they seem quite classy and sophisticated.
  • Untitled
    A very pleasing new biscuit tin
  • I have a self imposed tradition of acquiring a new biscuit tin each Christmas, which then becomes a new cake tin once all the biscuits have been eaten.  M and S is usually the best source for beautiful tins at Christmas, and this year's did not disappoint.
  • I have read a run of really good books lately: The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham, The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) were both gobbled up in a few days and I am now on The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, which is another excellent read. 
  • The cowl I knitted from leftover sock yarn has proved to be very disappointing.  It looks pretty but rolls up into a fat sausage whenever I wear it.  I think I probably should have used a thicker yarn, used a different stitch, and made it longer.  I shall go back to my default setting of knitting socks and shawls.

My newly finished cowl...

In its default setting - rolled up...


     I was very kindly awarded a Versatile Blogger award by Phoebe at The Stylish Baker. Thank you, Phoebe!  Having blogged for nearly seven years there can't be that many more interesting things left to find out about me, so I have gone with my usual ten current things instead.  If you haven't come across Phoebe's blog already, do go and have a look.  Her Twelve Days of Christmas Baking had my mouth watering all December, and I made the 30 Minute Soft Pretzels as soon as I read the recipe - they were utterly delicious.