A shoe for everything..I now know..


I don’t go to the gym very often, all that grunting, panting and sticky, stinky sweat, and that’s just me trying to get my Shock Absorber sports bra on in the changing rooms.

Why sit on cracked vinyl seats which harbour their own bacteriological ecosystems and push bits of metal around when you can hoik barrow-loads of poo to the allotment and breathe clean, fresh air? Why run on a treadmill watching a screen when you can run outside watching the world, and get muddy into the bargain?

When I do go, it’s to take part in a circuit-training or similar class where there’s lots of little stations around the sports hall, each describing different exercises which thankfully only take a minute or so at a time. There’s a lot of jumping up and down, stepping side to side, juggling with weights and socialising with classmates. And as far as kit is concerned, anything goes, no-one wears fancy designer lycra, or if they do, it’s from the previous decade, maybe century.  And doesn’t everyone just wear whatever shoes come to hand…or rather foot…?

I have a good collection of running shoes, luggy ones for the boggy fells, less luggy ones for the less boggy fells, sturdy ones for the trails, which makes up most of my running, then a pair for roads, which I don’t do very much, and parkrun, so they are also my circuit shoes. I mean, why would you have a separate pair for inside?

Today I had an extra piece of kit to work with on the circuit and it was exclusive to me. I was singled out for this special treatment by the long-suffering Mike. Just by way of background, Mike is Mr Circuit at Kirkstall Leisure Centre, I’ve known him for years, he likes to keep a clean and tidy class and that includes the sports hall.

So I set off on my circuit journey, oblivious to the trail I had inadvertently collected at Saturday’s parkrun and was transferring to Kirkstall. When I looked behind me and saw a little mud sculpture next to a larger mud sculpture with a Saucony  tread, and a few muddy leaves tumbling from my shoes, I knew I was in trouble and may have to reconsider my policy on indoor shoes. Quickly.

Mike presented me with my extra piece of kit was a brush, a big brush, my punishment was to sweep up the mess I’d left behind and promise to wear mud-free shoes. Mud-free shoes? Is there such a thing? Looks like there is now!

Knitting tributes in Otley


There’s been a bit of a rush on red wool in the market town of Otley over the past few months. The knitters and natterers who click their needles at the parish church have produced 16,000 poppies which have made a magnificent tribute to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

Most of the poppies are draped on and around the church, but they are also prominent in the rest of the town, where there is a trail of poppies painted on the pavement, leading to the memorial gardens where there are the silhouettes of two Tommys, soldiers from the war. It’s beautiful.

In and among the sea of red are white peace and purple poppies to commemorate animal victims of war. White poppies were first worn in 1933 after being introduced by the Co-Operative Women’s Guild to stand for peace and commemorate all casualties, including civilians and non-British casualties.

According to the report in my old paper, the Telegraph and Argus, the town will also be taking part in the international Battle’s O’er event on November 11, Armistice Day, where pipers and buglers will start commemorations starting early in the morning. Here in Calverley, the piper will play the lament at 6am. I’ll set my alarm, I really will. Later in the day, beacons will be lit, church bells rung,  and 100 Town Criers, including Otley’s, will join together in an International Cry for Peace around the World, it will be a very loud cry indeed.

Crying with a stranger


Today I cried with a stranger, proper tears trickling down my face, carrying little blobs of mascara. We were both in the Imperial War Museum North contemplating the Lest We Forget  exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1.

Actually, the tears came as soon as I went through the door and heard the deeply sad Abide with Me, followed by the tolling of a single church bell. The first photos set the theme of the exhibit which outlined how the dead lay where they fell on the battlefields, covered in mud and the blood of others. Some were hurriedly buried, but there were too many to mark and mourn.

It was thanks to Fabian Ware, a man ruled out of active service because he was too old, that the Imperial War Graves Commission came into being. He went with the Red Cross to the Front and saw the lack of mechanisms to record the graves, so he set one up. From there came the memorials we have in our cities, towns and villages and of course to commemorate the signing of the Armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the two-minute silence we observe every year as a mark of respect and remembrance.

The elderly gentleman contemplating the information board about poppies looked sad, I felt compelled to strike up a conversation. I do that a lot, I am that mad woman who talks to anyone, even on the Tube. You’ve probably avoided me on more than one occasion.

It struck us that there was no-one alive who had fought in the Great War and very few who had seen combat in WW2. He was part of a group of ex-servicemen who met from time to time, but there were so few of them now, they had stopped. His eyes filled with tears, so did mine. Again. I asked if he’d ever visited the battlefields near the Somme, he hadn’t, but had driven past with his wife on the way to the Alps, his wife had passed away not long ago. More tears. Alps? I asked, that’s where we drive to go rock climbing. Rock climbing? He asked, that’s what I do… We swapped climbing stories, we’d climbed in many of the same places, seen the same sights, enjoyed beers in the same places afterwards.

He looked at me and said. ‘It’s been so good to meet you, I’ll be leaving here with a big smile on my face’. I replied. ‘Me too, me too’. It’s good to cry with a stranger, but it’s even better to smile.

I only went to Ikea for a chair


As we staggered through the self-scan check-out, balancing boxes, bags, pine-scented candles, enough tinsel to trim the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree and a bumper bag of Daim bars, the lady with the big smile asked if I’d like to complete a questionnaire on my shopping experience at Ikea. Would I!

I only went for a chair. The old kitchen chair in my office-cum-workshop-cum-conservatory has been assessed by the company’s occupational health representative (me) and awarded an 11 on the bum-numbing scale, even though the scale only goes to ten. Ikea was the answer, actually, it’s always the answer, so near, so convenient, so enticing.

Noel and I went through the Ikea rules. We set a deadline, no more than half an hour in the store, plan the route, taking every short-cut, no hanging around in the kitchen store, no stopping off at the cafe for Swedish meatballs, no stroking the textiles, no picking up picture frames and no bags. If we didn’t have bags, we couldn’t fill them, it was as simple as that.

But you know how it is, you go through the yellow revolving doors and that’s it. Essence of Ikea is pumped out through the ceiling tiles, it’s an assault on the senses. Beautiful colours and patterns everywhere. Interesting ideas on every corner, so we had to look at every corner, the short cuts were dull in comparison.

And who can resist the delicious aroma of the cafe, made all the better for being staggeringly cheap. A bacon buttie for £1? We could have two, two each that is, and a slice of apple cake. And do you know you can get four cinnamon rolls for £1.50? The coffee is bottomless, just keep on refilling, oh my goodness, it’s heaven, or himmel as the Swedes say.

Full to contentment and bouncing off the walls with our caffeine overdose, we picked up the bags we vowed we wouldn’t use and staggered under their weight to the next deliciously-decorated corner. We’d been there an hour and weren’t even in sight of those lush textiles.

Somehow we found our way to the check-out. How clever of them to put the sparkly precious Christmas things there, so beautiful, so essential, such good value. Yes, it’s October, but who knows when we’d find ourselves in Ikea again?

In the check-out queue, we both had that nagging feeling there was something else to add to the pile and the trolley which we’d picked up on the way. Ah, it was the chair, Noel went back for it, I picked up the bag of Daim bars, I don’t even like Daim bars.

So there we were, through all the obstacles, a little poorer, though not as poor as we would have been if it wasn’t for our Ikea family membership. Noel trundled our hoard down to the car while I answered the questions.

Yes, I came for one thing, I said, yes, I’d been seduced by all the other precious things which if I didn’t absolutely need them immediately, they would come in, as we say in Yorkshire. Ah, said the lady with the big smile, that’s what everyone is saying. Now, she asked, would I like a hot dog?

Another parkrun 250

Modelling the parkrun volunteer 25 tee-shirt

Getting my green tee-shirt for completing 250 parkruns earlier this year was a huge thrill and felt like a great achievement. But this week, on International parkrun Day and the 11th birthday of Woodhouse Moor parkrun,  by sheer co-incidence, I notched up an even more thrilling 250, this time as a volunteer.

I do love running, but I adore volunteering, especially at parkrun. I remember the first time I volunteered, I was put on a marshal spot near the 1km marker, where I did what I do best, shouted encouragement. Loudly.

When you take part in a parkrun, you’re caught up in what’s happening around you, you get to know the people who run at the same pace and in my case, see the backs of the faster runners as they lap me, it’s wonderful. Well, it’s wonderful once I’ve finished, while I’m running I think I’m going to collapse in a heap and roll around on my back, legs waving in the air like an upside-down tortoise.

But when I’m volunteering, I see everything and everyone – and get to shout too. Loudly of course! I’ve done all of the volunteering roles, apart from timing, I get distracted far too easily to do something as precise as that. And the results, I haven’t done those, I’m too scared of losing all the data by pressing the wrong button.

I’ve been event director at Woodhouse Moor for the past couple of years and have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting many volunteers and visitors who support and take part each week and I love it. Our parkrunners are so thankful to the volunteers, many clapping us as they pass, some shouting thanks, if they have the breath.

Volunteering is giving, without wanting or expecting anything in return. The team of volunteers at parkrun turn up early in all weathers, set up the start and finish areas, grapple with the one-size-fits-none hi-viz jackets and wait for the final finishers, giving them the biggest cheer of all. We are the last to leave and then have to endure coffee and cake while we process the results and sort the tokens. Tough, I know, but we persevere, sometimes having to have a second or even third coffee and a sausage sandwich.

I have a parkrun tee-shirt for volunteering, it comes, free, after 25 volunteering stints, which is more than generous. It remains my favourite tee-shirt, I wear it with pride wherever I go. There’s no tee-shirt for volunteering 250 times and I’m glad. Like every other parkrun volunteer, I don’t do it for any reward, I do it because I love volunteering and because I love parkrun.



The cat climbed up the chimney

This is what happens when you’re curious. If we hadn’t completely stripped the bedroom wallpaper to see what the wall looked like. If we hadn’t found a board and wondered if it concealed a secret. If Garry the joiner hadn’t removed that board to reveal a lovely fireplace. If I hadn’t wondered what it would look like surrounded by a mosaic. If Heidi the cat hadn’t decided to jump up the newly-opened chimney to see what was up there.

If all that hadn’t have happened, we’d have a boring blank bedroom wall, a healthier bank account and a soot-free cat. But where’s the fun in that?

Following the Great Gutting of the Bedroom back in April, when we swallowed our bodyweight in plaster dust, the long-concealed fireplace was revealed and all agreed it couldn’t be covered up again. There was nothing but the fireplace, no surround, no mantelpiece, no antique tiles, so in my mind, it was a blank canvas. ‘I know’, I announced, ‘I’ll make a mosaic’. I have no idea where that came from, I’ve only made one mosaic before and that was from a kit, but I’m never one to let enthusiasm and lack of any practical knowledge or skills get in the way of a good idea.

What followed was a lot of research and quite a bit of maths, which is not my best ever subject. Still, working out how many 2cm² tiles I needed wasn’t that hard. And of course there’s the old adage, measure twice, cut once. I’d a massive template on my work table and I damned well made sure it fitted the surround. How I would carry it upstairs when it was made was a bridge I resolved to cross when I reached it.

Mosaic-making is like doing a massive jigsaw, except you wear goggles and make up the pieces and the pattern as you go along. Glue is also involved, it’s gloriously messy and extremely colourful at the same time, what’s not to like?

Carrying it upstairs turned out to be easier than I expected, nothing fell off, which was a bonus. Once in place and grouted, which created even more mess, it was time to get Garry the joiner back to cut cut through the plasterboard which had covered the fireplace while I did the mosaic. I felt I should have invited a band to give us a fanfare as we saw the lovely fireplace again. Instead, our curious little cat walked straight into the bedroom, sniffed at the fireplace and jumped up the chimney. The little minx. Turns out it’s a very big chimney and she disappeared from sight. Fortunately I have a voice that can be heard in space so my yells brought her tumbling down with a nice little layer of soot. Socks, our other cat, looked at her in disgust, which is nothing new.

The chimney has now been plugged, the cat cleaned up and I’m contemplating my next mosaic project to decorate the inside of the fireplace. Watch this space!


parkrun, je t’adore


It comes to something when a continental weekend away is planned around a parkrun. Not that we’re addicted to parkrun or anything, but if that city has one, then it would be rude not to show our running shoes and chat over coffee and croissants afterwards.

In Paris, we had a choice, there are two parkruns, a little out of the city, so we chose a hotel at Puteaux, that was nearby, relatively. We had a 5km brisk walk to get to the Bois du Bologne, the longest warm-up I’ve ever done, but I was ready to join the hoards of local parkrunners and pick up a few new words of vernacular French for my running vocabulary.

We trotted up to the start, after marvelling at the Bois de Boulogne, which is like a very large version of Calverley Woods, I even did a spot of le plogging en route, though there wasn’t much too litter around and we’d spotted poo-bag dispensers, bravo! We’d passed many runners in the park, expecting to meet them at the start line, but no. parkrun in France is nowhere near as popular as it is in the UK, and there were just over 30 of us there to hear the Run Director explain the course first in French, to the two locals who probably already knew, then in English for the rest of us. Looks like I wasn’t going to pick up any French vernacular that day!

What a wonderful run in a beautiful place with delightful people. The Run Director, a Brit who lives and works in France was very interested to hear we were RDs in Leeds and I think, given half a chance, would have let us help him with the results as he’d only just taken over.  He confessed it had been Tuesday the previous week before the results were out, but hey, who’s in a hurry?

The post-parkrun coffee was en plein air, in warm sunshine, with the usual interesting tales from a group of people brought together by their love of parkrun. I was chatting with one of the French parkrunners and asked why it didn’t seem to have taken off with the French, even though the French clearly loved running. He just smiled and shrugged in that wonderful Gallic way that always says, ‘I don’t know, I really don’t know’. ‘Mais moi-même, parkrun, je l’adore,’ he added.

Personally I’m looking forward to many more French parkruns, not just for the running,  the coffee, croissants, and good company, but because I’ll always be near the top of the results rather than leading from the back. In France, results are presented in alphabetical order by first name and this week, I was second to Alison. Maika was some way behind, and ahead of Noel. I definitely like parkrun France, in fact, parkrun, je t’adore!