Sunday 29 November 2015

There's been some firework shows...

Four in total since the end of Oct. Nothing particularly exciting or remarkable about them; in fact the weather was generally rather kind - mild and actually sunny on a couple of days.

I was not looking forward to the last one though. It was a Christmas light switch on on a roof, and I had worked the same show the year before so I knew what to expect:
Having to get all of the pyro and kit into a tiny lift to get it up five floors.
Carrying and man-handling everything up a ladder into the roof space, past pipes and onto the actual roof.
The surface being very, very wet and covered in manky slime.
Exposed position (6 floors up) resulting in colder, windier and wetter (in my opinion) weather.
A really fun de-rig involving getting all of the kit (which is now wet and slimy) back off the roof (in the dark, of course), through the roof space, down the ladder, into the lift, etc... 

Oddly enough, it wasn't half as bad as I was anticipating. This was due to:
Preparing for the wet, windy conditions and rigging in a more sheltered spot on the roof.
Ensuring we only took the kit we needed to the roof.
Finishing rigging in plenty time so that we could get hot food and plenty of hot drinks (I really enjoyed my hot chocolate!).
Fun and games waiting for firing time to arrive.
A super-efficient crew that made the derig very quick and remarkably pain free!

To be honest, days like that are much improved by having good friends to work alongside. And hot food!

Sunday 30 August 2015

Tiaras and Tutus

What a week! London Amateur Ballet has to be one of my favourite things ever.

I have just spent six days living the life of a ballerina. Arriving at the studio around 9:30am, warm-up class (Pilates or floor barre) from 10am and full ballet class at 11am.

That in itself would be wonderful, but it was followed by three hours of learning and rehearsing choreography with fabulous teachers and amazing friends. The ballet of choice this time was La Bayadere. I haven't seen the ballet (apart from a few snippets on YouTube during the week), but certain sections of music and choreo will be stuck in my head for a very long time!

The other great thing about LAB is meeting other people who are as crazy as you. In the normal world it seems odd to say that you enjoy ballet dancing, but here I was surrounded by lovely people who feel the same. A huge mix of backgrounds, careers, etc but all with a common love of dance.

I did struggle a bit, even though I was three months post-surgery. It turns out that scar tissue isn't very stretchy so I pulled it a bit too much. The result was me taking a "rest day" where I did very little dancing. I also chose to learn one less piece of rep than everyone else. As a result I was still able to dance and enjoy myself and perform on the Saturday.

I am totally floating on a ballet high right now. I hope it doesn't wear off too quickly!

Monday 17 August 2015

Emerald Isle

Five days in Dublin and the Wicklow mountains were lovely and refreshing...

"Breakfast" at the airport...

Log cabin in the woods...

Strolling along the beach at Bray...

Visiting Powerscourt waterfall (largest waterfall in Ireland)...

Climbing on the rocks...

The boys had their motorbikes...

Add to that a sunny walk along the coast, a rainy day spent in a spa and lots of great food with good friends and you get a great little holiday!

I would thoroughly recommend Ireland as a holiday destination. The people were all very friendly and it is a beautiful place. I could have easily spent a week or two more exploring.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Back in the pool

I'm a bit behind on blogging. There's been a holiday and a flying trip that I am yet to write about. But today is just a quick one...

It's been a while since my surgery now and so this morning I headed to the swimming pool for my first proper swim in two months. My general loss of fitness has been quite bad so I knew not to expect the 2km I was managing back in May! I went in with no expectations and did a respectable 700m. I mixed up the strokes, but was very pleased that my front crawl is still in fairly decent shape. Until I started my swimming training back in March I hadn't done much front crawl at all and now it is almost my default stroke. Success!

Here's some other stuff I've been up to recently:

Saturday 11 July 2015

Backstage and tutus

Two weeks ago I spent my Saturday in a sea of tutus, reliving my younger days as a member of the stage crew. Throughout my time at uni I worked panto season at a local theatre, as well as the occasional other show/event. It's where I met several of my closest friends.

This time it was the end of year production for London Amateur Ballet. A was the official photographer for the day and I had tagged along as assistant photographer (not that he needed one!). It started with company class at The Place studios, after which we all decamped to The Bloomsbury Theatre for technical rehearsals and then the two shows.

It was strange donning stage blacks and hanging out in the corridors and wings of a theatre - after four years of panto season (plus the odd other show), I left that part of me behind over 10 years ago.

I basically had no proper jobs to do. I tried to take some photos, but it was tricky with the low levels of light that you get in the wings. However, I did find a variety of ways of being useful and staying busy:
- "tagging" the tutus to keep the layers together
- dressing chairs with fabric (it was actually skirts!)
- running to find the principles when they were due onstage
- getting water for the dancers
- dresser for a quick change
And many more little jobs to help out.

I'm pleased to say that both shows went very smoothly and A took some fantastic photos. Watching all the ballerinas really made me want to get dancing again. I reckon I should be fit enough for class in a week or two. I hope so!

Monday 22 June 2015

A time for quiet

I'm taking life a bit gently at the moment - my path to full recovery isn't as linear as I expected! However, I'm still managing to have fun and happiness in less adventurous ways...

I made a chicken and leek pie (cheated with ready-to-roll pastry, but the filling was from scratch!):

I've spent some mindless time colouring in:

At the weekend we had a lovely evening with friends. (No pictures - too busy chatting and nibbling food!)

Early bedtimes, lay-ins where possible and occasional naps. I can do slow and quiet :)

Saturday 13 June 2015

Charting recovery

Alternative title: Another ode to my Fitbit.

15 days ago I had minor surgery. It wasn't particularly exciting to be honest. I was apprehensive (my first general anaesthetic), but it went very smoothly and I was home the same day.

My Fitbit One has automatically charted my recovery, which I think is really cool.

I wasn't quite so excited when on the first day I shuffled out of the house for a very slow walk (about 200m!), only to discover that the Fitbit didn't count my robotic limping as walking! I ended that day with 23 official steps.

I quickly realised that this was actually a good thing - the aim was to walk normally, and that's what my Fitbit measures. If I got tired or sore and slowed to a moonwalking shuffle, then it didn't count my steps because they weren't really steps.

This is what recovery looks like:
The first day you can see was the day of the op. Then I had a few days of barely anything, until the 3000 step mark. This was followed by quite a few days of three to four thousand steps, where I was able to get out of the house for a short trip. The first of those expeditions completely wiped me out - I had a 2 hr nap that afternoon!

Two weeks later and I'm pleased to be back at my target of 11,000. And perfect timing as I'm due back at work on Monday! :)

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Taking the bank holiday weekend easy

I did basically nothing this bank holiday weekend...

Saturday: a spot of shopping for seafood and other exciting ingredients. Then cooking paella:
Just as tasty as it looks. I was a very happy bunny.

Oh, and of course there was falling asleep whilst watching the Eurovision Song Contest. Annual compulsory TV!

Sunday: It got to 3pm and I still hadn't left the house, so we decided on a little jaunt to buy cake. May have accidentally-on-purpose ended up in one of London's most exclusive shops...

Monday: The most exciting thing I did was make drop scones for breakfast. I even made an apple and summer fruits compote-type-sauce to douse them in. Didn't remember to take a photo though.

Living the slow life is rather lovely sometimes...

Monday 18 May 2015

Ain't no party like an S Club party!

Important Notice: This post contains extreme cheesiness!

I had the most amazing Christmas present - tickets to see S Club 7 live on their reunion tour: Bring it all Back! Finally, after months of waiting (rather impatiently), this weekend was D-Day!

I had such a ball! The music was perfect - loud, cheesy and reminiscent of younger, more carefree days. I shouted and screamed, sang along and danced more than I should have done. It's difficult to sit/stand still in such a great party atmosphere!

One of the best presents ever. A truly great night out :)

Photo from the S Club 7 facebook page

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Not this time

Unfortunately, I've had to withdraw my entry to the 5k Open Water Swim that I was meant to be doing in six weeks time. My training has aggravated a pre-existing medical condition which now needs to be treated. No need to worry - it's nothing serious, but it does mean that I'm now on enforced inactivity until treatments are complete.

I'm really disappointed. Training was beginning to go really well and I was cautiously optimistic that I might complete the challenge (5k in 2 hours). I will definitely re-enter this event or a similar one next year.

And when I do, I'll have some experience and tips under my belt:
- three months is enough time to train, but only if I stick to three sessions every week from the start
- my front crawl technique needs some work so kick board and leg buoy workouts need to be in the training every week
- open water training sessions take much more thought and planning than I expected
- breathing every three (or four or five) strokes is good and needs to be practised more
- swimming fast is hard so I need to add speedy lengths in more often

I also need to prepare for the fact that my hair will need to be tied up most of the time (because I won't ever have the energy to blow dry it) and my nails will be permanently breaking after being soaked so much.

In the meantime, I have halved my Fitbit step count and am forcing myself to sit down as much as possible. It feels odd but I'm guessing I'll get used to being sedentary and lazy quite quickly!

Monday 11 May 2015

Mini Adventure

Yesterday afternoon we went to the beach!

It was much windier than in the city (should have checked the weather before leaving!) and the sea was rough so I only went for a quick paddle. 

Still, managed to grab some scampi and chips before heading home.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Breaking the pattern

There's something both uplifting and depressing about spotting your own behaviour patterns. On the one hand I think, "Great, I've realised that I do that - now I can change it and I won't behave the same again." But on the other hand, "Am I really that predictable? That's such a bad habit to be in, and it's so ingrained. I'll probably always act like that."

After writing about my new challenge of training to swim 5k, I've been a bit ill and run down. Nothing serious, just enough to keep me at work but barely managing anything else. In the last two weeks I've managed precisely one swim and one ballet class, neither of which went particularly well.

That in itself is fine. People get ill. It's best not to train whilst feeling ill, and a week or so off a training schedule doesn't cause failure.

The problem is that it's taken me longer than it should have to get back into training, and I've felt much less motivated to train.

I've seen it before...

When I trained for the marathon, I started well. I researched lots, I ran three times a week and happily logged the times and distances. Then it started getting harder (and quite dull); I realised that I wasn't very good at running and I got lazy. I was full of excuses. And we all know how that ended. (In case you don't, here's the link).

Then there was the half marathon. I did prepare better for this, but I still hit a point around halfway through when I was tired and fed up (and scared of failure) and I let my training slip. This post explains the situation, and is full of excuses. In the end, I pulled it together better. I got out for some decent training in the last few weeks and managed it (just): half marathon post.

I think it's the pause in training, combined with realising exactly how hard it is going to be to train well and the fear of being unprepared, which results in my failure to be prepared for the events.

How am I going to change this?

Quite simply, I have to force myself to keep training. To do each session that is planned. I need to find a way to turn that fear into commitment to train rather than a reason to hide away.

I need to be in the pool three times a week for the next seven weeks.

That's it.

Wish me luck!

Thursday 23 April 2015

My Next Challenge

I'm trying to focus on doing more of the things I enjoy. So, with that in mind I am currently in training for a 5k open water swim!

To put it in perspective, I expect to take around 2 hours (which is the cut off point!), so it's roughly the swimming equivalent of running half marathon.

My haul from Decathlon - all in the name of training!

For the last month I've been in the pool 1-3 times a week (depending on other activities), and from now on it should be three times every week. Other activities (particularly ballet) are going to have to take a back seat.

So far in my training I've managed to switch from breast stroke to front crawl, and swum 2k continuously. Now I've just got to build up my distance, increase my speed, learn to swim in my brand new swimming wetsuit, and cope with the additional challenges that swimming in open water brings.

Not much then!

I am swimming for charity, so please feel free to contact me if you would like the link to my Just Giving page. It also has weekly (ish) updates on my training.

Friday 17 April 2015

Ballet Weekend: The Photographs

A more artistic look at what happened at the London Amateur Ballet Spring Intensive.

Rehearsing the Ribbon Dance (I'm hiding back left in the black leotard and long legwarmers).

In class (led by Ricardo Cervera).

Being given corrections on my port de bras.

Double pirouette!

Matching leotards - post-performance silliness in the studio!

I really did wear a tutu!

Monday 13 April 2015

Floating on a ballet high

For the last three days I have been ballet-ing it up in South West London. Five-ish hours a day of classes and rehearsals, followed by a mini performance. And I loved it.

The London Amateur Ballet company was set up by Tom Lincar-Boulton in 2012. It is pretty unique in that it provides the opportunity for adults to learn real ballet repertoire and perform. They run weekly classes at a range of levels giving everyone a chance to experience something that is usually reserved for the best of the best.

My first experience was this weekend's Spring Intensive course. I was pretty nervous (which is silly considering that I was paying to enjoy three days of ballet) and completely overpacked my bags (prepared for every eventuality!).

The course was focused on the ballet La Fille Mal Gardée, a light-hearted ballet about a village girl falling in love. I learnt two pieces of choreography: a group village girls dance and a solo which involved waving a ribbon around. It was all a bit cheesy, giggly and lots of fun.

New things I experienced this weekend:
  • barre a terre (floor barre) - this basically consists of doing many repetitions of "simple" ballet exercises whilst sitting and lying on the floor. It works muscles that (a) you didn't know you had, and (b) are really important to develop strength in ballet.
  • pilates - yes, I've somehow managed to never do a pilates class (although I do have Darcy Bussel's Pilates for Ballet DVD, but I don't think that counts!).
  • ballet class led by a current Royal Ballet first soloist (Ricardo Cervera). He was charming, very patient, explained everything really clearly and gave useful corrections. A fantastic experience in itself.
  • performing ballet in front of an audience. The last time I did this I was about 16 years old. I'd like to think this performance was better, but having seen clips from the video I'm not sure that's the case...

I also got to meet a huge number of lovely people. Despite the "snooty ballerina" stereotype, I experienced was a really friendly bunch who all had ballet in common. I chatted to everyone, including a retired psychotherapist, visitors from Sweden (who had flown over specially), dance students, an engineer, mums, all sorts! I may have already forgotten half their names, but I can't wait to see them again in a class or next intensive.

I embraced everything - the legwarmers, the tutus and the sweatiness of wearing dance gear all day! For three days I was a dancer.

As you can probably tell, a full day at work today coupled with tiredness and achy muscles hasn't dampened my spirits. Ballet is fab!

Proper photos to follow, but for now here's a few iphone snaps to satisfy your curiousity:

Ribbon Dance

Tutus! Rehearsing the village girls section.

A smiley, sweaty selfie post-performance!

Sunday 5 April 2015

Sunshine and hillwalking

To take full advantage of the extra long weekend we took a day trip to the Peak District for some fresh air and exercise.

The walk, which was about 8 1/2 miles, was a giant circle, including a climb to the top of Higger Tor. It was, of course, beautiful and very picturesque, and surprisingly sunny for the first weekend in April.