Wednesday, 23 January 2013

11. Tube Bagging

A friend of mine wrote to tell me that he had climbed one of the mountains in Scotland - the main purpose of the climb was to celebrate one man in the groups achievement of climbing every mountain in Scotland - he has now "Bagged the Munros". I have left it too late in life (and Scotland is too far away) to start climbing the Munros (there are 283 of them!) it made me think about what I could do in the city - and I decided I wanted to "Bag the Tube". So one lunch hour a friend and I sat and thought about the rules....

1. You must exit every Tube Station in London by walking up the escalator (or stairs if there is no escalator)
2. You must have photographic evidence of each Tube station to prove that you were there.
3. You have to exit the Tube Station with a purpose, i.e not just to say I exited that Tube Station. You have to be doing something nearby - have a meal, visit a monument, catch a train etc
4. You must try and find out an interesting fact about the Tube Station you are exiting.
5. You must keep a log of your Tube Bagging.

Happy Tube Bagging!

1. Victoria - 11.09.10
2. Finchley Central - 12.09.10
3. Piccadilly Circus - 25.09.10
4. West Finchley - 25.09.10
5. Tottenham Court Road - 2.10.10
6. Finchley Road - 2.10.10
7. Kings Cross/St. Pancras - 7.10.10
8. Golders Green - 7.10.10
9. Charing Cross - 9.10.10
10. Wembley Park - 16.10.10
11. Baker Street - 23.10.10
12. Paddington - 23.10.10
13. Woodside Park - 23.10.10
14. Highgate - 24.10.10
15. Borough - 30.10.10
16. Temple - 4.11.10
17. Embankment - 7.11.10
18. Westminster - 12.11.10
19. Leicester Square - 12.11.10
20. Notting Hill Gate - 20.11.10
21. Marylebone - 7.01.11
22. Covent Garden - 05.03.11
23. Green Park - 09.04.11
24. Hyde Park Corner - 10.04.11
25. Tower Hill - 17.04.11
26. Regent Park - 25.04.11
27. Holborn - 04.05.11
28. Kew Gardens - 07.05.11
29. Belsize Park - 12.05.11
30. Trent Park - 22.05.11
31. Turnpike Lane - 22.05.11
32. Wapping - 28.05.11
33. Sloane Square - 04.06.11
34. Hampstead - 05.06.11
35. Manor House - 09.06.11
26. White City - 14.06.11
37. Kensington Olympia - 15.06.11
38. Waterloo - 24.06.11
39. Wood Green - 26.06.11
40. Great Portland Street - 04.07.11
41. Camden Town - 23.07.11
42. Aldgate East - 23.07.11
43. Leytonstone - 28.07.11
44. Kensal Rise - 07.08.11
45. Bank - 24.08.11
46. South Kensington - 29.08.11
47. Chancery Lane - 03.09.11
48. Oxford Circus - 24.10.11
49. Tottenham Hale - 08.10.11
50 - Kentish Town - 22.01.13

Sunday, 25 March 2012

5. Learn How To Make A Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska was one of those '70's desserts that we all loved but would never admit to now!

I wanted to learn how to make one - my youngest sister said it was easy ... she would show me how to on my 53rd birthday.

Well that day came and went (and so did my 54th) and still no Baked Alaska lessons were forth-coming. So when an ideal opportunity arose (in the form of my brothers 50th) and the chance to mess up someone else's kitchen we leaped at it.

When we had finished stuffing our faces with curries my sister-in-law jumped up to clear a small area, not covered by pots and pans, for us to work in. My brother switched on the cooker and away we went.

Here is my youngest sister getting out the flan base ... all the while giving me (me her older sister) instructions - revenge for being bottom in the pecking order?

It seems I am not to be just a mere observer now I am taking over. Separate egg whites and whisk ...

... to stiff white peaks ... add sugar, the vital ingredient we forgot to bring along, luckily my sister-in-law had some but it wasn't Castor and I don't think we added enough but maybe that was just me. It was at this point (I think) that my sister-in-law noticed that birthday boy had in fact just switched on the grill not the oven. So what now? Wait ... for the oven to heat up.

Fast forward - except I'm sure the oven wasn't hot enough. Add ice-cream to the flan - quickly you don't want it to melt ... see how fast I am working?

Pour over the meringue mixture which I think is now no longer as stiff as it once was. Put it in the oven for 5 minutes.

Who is wobbling the most? This is all melting too quickly ...

And now the brandy won't light ... but heck it was edible and now I know how not to make one I'll be better next time!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

10. Read Every Booker Prize Winner

Well I decided there had to be some sort of intellectual challenge stuck in here somewhere. I'm not writing reviews as such - that's all been dealt with on my main blog!

1977. Staying On - Paul Scott (read in October 2011) One of my favourite books ever. Well deserved winner!

1984. Hotel Du Lac - Anita Brookner (read in December 2011) An enjoyable read but I'm not sure if it should be a Booker Prize Winner.

1995. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle (read in May 2012)

2001. True History Of The Kelly Gang - Peter Carey (read in March 2012) Well written and interesting.

2002. The Life of Pi - Yann Martell (read in February 2013) A wonderful book - a little heavy going sometimes but I thouroughly enjoyed it.

2008. The White Tiger - Aravind Adigo (read in May 2012) What a great read. Another well deserved winner.

2009. Wolf Hall - Hillary Mantel (read in November 2012) Brilliant! It was a struggle to start with but a visit to the National Portrait Gallery bought the book to life and the second half was enthralling.

2011. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes (read in April 2012) A very moving and absorbing book. Well deserved winner!

Winner of the LOST Booker Prize (awarded for a book written in 1970 - the rules for the prize giving changed that year which meant no novel written in 1970 could be nominated
2010. Troubles - J.G. Farrell (read in April 2012) A view of the Irish Struggle for Independence from a different angle.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

3. Watch Wales play at the Millennium Stadium

This has been on My To Do List for a several years and finally this weekend the ambition was realised.

A couple of months ago I bought two tickets and ever since have been thinking of time as before/after I go to Cardiff, if that makes sense - I must get my hair cut before I go to Cardiff, I must loose 10lbs in weight after I come back from Cardiff that type of thing.

With tickets purchased, my friend booked transport on the coach and the B & B. Then last week the riots kicked off in London and I was worried about going; I actually lay in bed on Tuesday night thinking I would have to cancel and almost cried myself to sleep. But of course common sense prevailed and by Thursday my bag was packed, tickets safely tucked away, ready for an early start on Friday morning.

We arrived in Cardiff early afternoon and after booking in to the B & B (just across the river from the stadium) we went off for lunch and an exploratory tour of Cardiff. We found it lively and friendly, everybody looking forward to the match the following day. For the benefit of overseas readers Rugby is the Welsh national sport, the team they love to play against (and win) more than other is England so the day before a "Game" rugby is the only thing on everyones mind. They don't ask if you've come into Cardiff to watch it - they know that's why you're there.

On Saturday morning we wondered along to Cardiff castle to kill a couple of hours (that's the stadium on my right in the background) and then it was time to get ready and head off for the 5 minute walk across the Taff to the stadium ...

One of the great things about a trip to the Millennium Stadium is the singing of the Welsh National anthem before the match - not for patriotic bull but for the sheer enjoyment of being there listening to 50,000 odd people belting it out (I'll allow that the English supporters didn't join in) If you've clicked on the link I'm a little tiny red dot somewhere to the top left of the picture, past the goal posts, in the first sweep around the stadium. It was such an exhilarating moment standing singing the anthem before a match.

I'll now be perfectly honest the first half of the match was certainly not the most exciting I have ever watched - at half time the score was 6-6 and all of those points had been penalty kicks (yawn). But it was a game of two halves (as the commentators love to say) and the second half had the crowd on its feet roaring a couple of times ... the loudest and longest when James Hook scored the only try of the match when Wales were a man down. Final score Wales 19 England 9! (The Cheshire Cat grin says it all doesn't it?) Although my friend was supporting the other side he couldn't help but be impressed with the atmosphere and only shrugged good naturedly when the ribbing started!

After the match we went off for dinner at an Italian restaurant and had one drink in an over-crowded bar before heading back to the B & B. Cardiff was heaving after the match and I would be surprised if there was a drop left to drink in the town this morning - the singing and partying went on for hours. A great end to a horribly traumatic week.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

4. Re-enact this advert - 22nd January 2011

When I first wrote the Things To Do List I put this on it because I just thought it looked fun - anyone can run nude into the sea on a sunny summers day - but mid winter in the UK? That was going to be the challenge, and finding someone nutty enough to do it with me!

Actually I found someone nutty enough pretty quickly (no offense Pat), the first time I mentioned it was on my List (and co-incidentally the first time I met her) Pat piped up that she would love to do it too. So a plan was hatched ... we both live in the South East of England but not on the coast (and not near each other) but we found the perfect spot - well it looked perfect in the photos on the Internet - on a secluded nudist beach between Margate and Broadstairs. We decided to opt for a nudist beach because being more mature ladies we didn't want to offend the general public, we also decided against the more famous nudist beaches in Brighton because those beaches are all shingle and you can't run barefoot across shingle!

So the bones of the plan were laid and now we had to fix on a date - this was alot more difficult than we imagined as we just never seemed to available at the same time and it had to be done in the winter. Finally we found a weekend that suited us both.

My youngest sister volunteered to drive us down and act as the official photographer - we both wanted evidence that we had really done it - and in a moment of common sense we knew that someone else ought to be with us in case of injury. We set off early on Saturday morning, giggling and chattering like excited school girls - the fog, rain and wind on the motorway did nothing to dampen our spirits. When we finally reached the beach we sat staring at the grey sea, white waves splashing against the shore - our hearts sank slightly, the tide was much further in then we had thought it would be - no time for a leisurely stroll and quick going over how we were actually going to preform the re-enactment. As Pat and I walked nervously down my sister wrapped her sheepskin coat more tightly around herself. Pats normally immaculate hair will give you an indication of how windy it was!

Once on the beach we wasted no time on false modesty - we stripped off and ran straight in ... the full force of the icy cold water hit us taking our breath away; I reached the water first but Pats shouts and laughter encouraged me to run in further and further - it was absolutely amazing. We splashed about for about a minute and then dashed out again ... in those conditions a minute was a long long time! We ran laughing up the beach and grabbed our quilts and blankets - a man walking past with his Jack Russell laughed at us and with fore finger tapping his forehead and then making large cirlces he indicated what he thought! He asked jokingly what it was like (not sure if he meant in the sea or being mad).

My sister showed us the photographs she had taken and decided that because we had entered separately we were too far apart in the photographs (she thought) and said we ought to do it again! Pat and I stared at each other - laughed (hysteria setting in?) and after a quick "Well we've come all this way" threw down our coverings and holding hands ran back in! The water the second time was as cold as the first time and this time I was alot more conscious that hypothermia sets in very quickly ... I only stayed in a for a few moments before I raced back up the beach. Pat stayed in for longer and I was anxious, but when she came running out she was absolutely fine! Our bodies tingled with the cold and the adrenalin rush - we quickly dried and dressed (I mean really quickly) buzzing. An elderly man walking his two dogs, (dressed from head to toe in Hi-vis wet weather gear) walked past "Ladies if you had stayed in the dogs would have come and joined you" he joked "Come to think of it, pre-arthritis days I would have too. Its exhilarating isn't it? I used to do that all the time when I lived in Wales..."

It was exhilarating ... I wouldn't want to do it every day but Pat is talking about making it an annual event and I'm up for that ...

Monday, 19 April 2010

1. Run 5 Different Marathons - Brighton

I was getting such a buzz from my Loch Ness training that I decided to apply for a second one - to be held 6 months after Loch Ness. It was the inaugural Brighton Marathon, I applied and on 2nd July 2009 I got an e-mail telling me that my application had been excepted. I also decided that this marathon I would be raising money for Guide Dogs For The Blind.
The training for Brighton would start as soon as Loch Ness was over so I wouldn't have to waste time getting fit. I waited 10 days until my training schedule began - the first run was a gentle 2.5 mile jog, after a mile I felt a twinge and by the time I hobbled back home my left ankle was twice the size it had been. I must have injured it on the Loch Ness but amid all the other post-marathon aches and pains had not noticed. Another 10 days rest, ice buckets and medicinal rubs saw a huge improvement but I wore it strapped up, when I was running, for the whole training period. Training for the Loch Ness had been through a lovely summer, I think I only had to train in the rain once. Brighton was very different - all together 3 weeks training had to be abandoned because of snow and ice on the roads. I moved home in early February so I had to learn alot of new routes; in the end that really paid off because my new place is at the top of a steep hill and I was able to run home from work most nights - no more 5 a.m. starts! There was a Face-book page dedicated to the Brighton Marathon and most nights I dropped in to see what everyone else was doing with their training, their eating etc. A Training Day down in Brighton (run by the organisers) was also a great bonus. It was all together a much more social event than my first one. I was running alot more (an average of 5 miles a week) than I had done for Loch Ness and I shed another 5lbs.
My family wanted to come and support me in this Marathon so they rented a cottage in Littlehampton for the weekend. My brother and sisters and nephew, nieces and daughter (12 of us altogeter) came down. It was a really lovely gesture and much appreciated! The down-side came on Thursday when my future brother-in-law got stuck in Poland because of the volcanic ash issue.
The day of the marathon arrived, and my youngest sister drove me into the train station; although there was a sprinkling of frost on the ground - I looked at the clear skies and thought "Its going to be a scorcher." Only 3 people got on the 6.24 train to Brighton, the other 2 were also running in the marathon - 2 stops later the train was packed with runners. Its an amazing feeling knowing you're going to be part of a big event like this. Someone told me that only 1% of the population run marathons - so for just one day every six months I'm in the same group as Paula Radcliffe?
The race started a little later than scheduled and it took me 16 minutes to cross the start line. But once I was off I fell into a nice easy stride - I couldn't believe it when the first hour went by and I had run 6 miles, without any effort. The next 6 miles were tougher because we left the crowds of Brighton, then it was along the coast road out to a village called Ovingdean, there were a few steep climbs (nothing like my run home each night) but it was starting to heat up. I had taken a bottle of water at every check point, the water I didn't drink I emptied over my back and head. As we came back into Brighton we hit the 13 mile point and the crowds at the same time. I looked at my watch and it read 2.29.47, I was a little disappointed because I thought I was doing better and I desperately wanted to crack a 5 hour marathon. At about the 15 mile point my family were standing and gave me a huge boost with their cheering, within a mile I had caught up with the girls I had regularly corresponded with on Facebook page - we encouraged each other but they were flagging and I wanted to crack on. A mile or so later a school friend (who I hadn't seen for over 35 years) yelled out my name and although I wanted to stop and hug her I just screamed, waved and carried on. My family were waiting at the 17 mile point to cheer me on again and it was at this point that I overtook Fat Boy Slim, a local Brighton hero! The route took us away from the crowds now, up towards the docks, Fat Boy crept up and overtook me again and I felt the heat starting to sap my energy; I turned a corner and I saw a row of bunting "GO JANE HEALY". I recognised my school-friends artwork and wanted to shout to everyone near me "Hey thats ME". It was so exciting!

It gave me the pep I needed and in no time I was up to the point called "The Wall" overtaking Fat Boy Slim again and running the terrible stretch between 19 - 23 miles. To the uninitiated this is the stretch where your body starts to scream at you to stop! Every group of para-medics along this stretch were busy attending to people, people with cramp were getting massages, ice packs strapped to niggling injuries, one man was being ambulanced off with an oxygen mask on, another crouching by the side of the road vomiting as heat-stroke looked to be taking its effect. My legs were just starting to ache, my ankle was throbbing, my hips hurt but I didn't even contemplate stopping to start walking. I passed alot of people on this stretch. As we came out of the port and ran up towards the promenade we were running back towards the crowds, suddenly (well not really suddenly) we were at the 23 mile mark and I worked out that if I ran a steady 12 minutes a mile then I would finish in 4hours 54 minutes, which would bring in less than 5 hours. I was pleased that I would at least beat that and that my pace had actually picked up after a disappointing first half split. The crowds were getting louder and the cheering from everyone was so inspiring - I was at the 24 mile point and saw that I had picked up my pace and might be in with a finishing time of 4 hours and 50 minutes. I dug a little deeper and started to overtake other tired runners; my family where there again at the 25 mile mark, I glanced at my watch and thought I was going mad it showed that I had run the last mile in 8 minutes! By now the crowd was enormous and they were all screaming, and clapping - I waved to my supporters and started to fly - I ran the last 1.2 miles in 7 minutes; my finish time was 4 hours 45 minutes 18 seconds! My son was at the finish, standing with a group of young French people - apparently in the final 100m I overtook the person they were cheering on.
It was an amazing race and I blew my old PB right out of the water. I'm sure I was inspired by my family, friend Jackie and the support of the crowd; the fact that I am alot fitter now obviously helped, but my little list of people who inspire me is still tucked into my pocket during those hellish miles. I'm feeling pretty stiff and sun burnt today but later in the week I will be signing up for my next marathon - hopefully in November. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

1. Run 5 Different Marathons - Loch Ness

Once my place was confirmed I drew up a training schedule - I had a vague idea of the sort of mileage I needed to be aiming for and knew all about increasing your mileage slowly to reduce the risk of injury. However I soon realised that 5 months wasn't nearly long enough to get fit and the early part of my training schedule was excelerated much more quickly than the experts advised.
On 4th May my Facebook status read "Jane ..... has just registered to run in Loch Ness Marathon...and shes not drunk, or Scottish!" The replies typically ranged from "Are you Mad?" to "Is this a myth or a real marathon?"
Over the next few months I got up at 5 most mornings so that I could fit in a run before going to work - I saw some odd sights on those runs; I regularily met giant muscle-bound men running uphill (backwards) in our local park (they turned out to be boxers out cicuit-training), during the height of the summer it became normal to come across drunks who had spent the night sleeping rough, sometimes the odd couple who hadn't been able to "find a room", once I watched two drunk middle-aged women physically fighting in the street, drunk men returning home on a Sunday morning (finding themselves locked out), I saw police raids on the crack houses in the neighbourhood and witnessed dozens of arrests - nobody paid me any attention, except the occassional bin man! I limped on through a range of minor injuries and fretted about how I was going to get rid of any excess fluid during the race itself. Once my friends realised I was serious they stopped mocking me and became genuinely encouraging. One close friend was a veteran marathon runner - I was in daily contact with him, seeking re-assurance that I wasn't completely bonkers - on reflection perhaps he wasn't the best judge of that. I lost 17lbs (dropping 2 jean sizes) but was eating like a horse!
I arrived in Inverness the day before the marathon - it was cold, wet and windy, with raindrops the size of bullets, everyone assured me the the weather forecast for the next day was promising. I slept fitfully that night but I was up and ready long before the wake up call that I had booked. The day was beautifully clear and freezing. Following a disasterous mix-up with the buses we were all eventually transported to the starting point at the far end of the Loch, the start had been delayed by an hour. Waiting up there (in the cold) was nerve racking, I looked at all those extremely fit people and wondered what the hell I was doing there. A band of young pipers standing nearby nervously began tuning up, then they were marching through the crowd, a loud cheer went up and we were off. The months of training were over, I was running my first marathon. I had trained on the polluted grim streets of South Norwood, Loch Ness was clear and spectacular, my lungs almost burst with the purity of the air I was breathing! I was going well, I'd run the first 17 miles in under 3 hours, when a thumping pain in my back warned me that I hadn't taken enough fluid during the early stages of the run and it was getting hotter. I reached the bottom of a long steep climb and started walking to the next water point - I refuelled then slowly started running again. The next 6 miles were the longest I have ever run, I don't know how I made it into the stadium - I could hear my friend yelling "Come on Jane" and then it was all over - I wanted burst into tears! I said something very rude, grabbed a banana and some biscuits and stuffed them into my mouth with unashamed greed. When I went to bed that night it took me an age to fall asleep, I was re-living every painful step, I had done it - I had run my first marathon.