Jam today, and tomorrow, and the next day

 

Jam
Home-made jam, home-baked rye bread and strawberries from the allotment. Yum.

 

The allotment looks like it’s covered by a red haze, there’s tons strawberries and raspberries.  Such an abundance of fruit, there’s a very real danger of me eating so many, I’ll have the belly ache of all belly aches, maybe even raspberry poops.

Now I need to avoid the above, but, being a Yorkshire lass, I can’t let it go to waste. Yes, I can hand out punnets to unsuspecting passers-by, and believe me I do, but the allotment just keeps on giving. So, inspired by a couple of friends who enjoy their fruit all-year round, I decided I’d follow their example and have a go at making jam.

There’s no jam heritage in my family, it was always Robertson’s damson from Lion’s Stores. I must have eaten a lot of the stuff because I collected the stickers from each jar and for the price of a stamped, addressed envelope, I received a ‘Golly’. A little enamel badge of a black-faced, curly-haired, thick-lipped man playing a trumpet, or a banjo, or some other instrument. I saw nothing wrong with that then, I was a child and everyone was the same to me (other than Mrs Pell, the Dinner Lady from Hell, who made me eat the peppery, watery mashed potatoes, I hoped she had raspberry poops).

I did progress in jam tastes, but never found the sweet, sticky stuff to be anything special, certainly nothing to write home about, so the idea of making it was more of an experiment that anything else.

Making jam is incredibly easy, fruit, sugar, boiling and a bit of a faff with sterilising jars. The first effort was with gooseberries, there’s lots of those on the allotment, they’re usually snaffled by the resident badgers, but I beat them to it. The berries magically turned from green to red after the great boiling. I have no explanation for why that happened, but it happens to everyone. The result was rather good, it was time to try it with strawberries.

All I can say is, wow. W. O. W. The flavour is intense, like nothing I’ve ever tasted in a jam context. If Noel hadn’t spotted me, I’d have just eaten the lot straight from the jar. As it was I scooped up the drips on my plate with my fingers. Honestly, I’m salivating writing this, in fact, hang on a minute, I’ve just got to nip to the kitchen…..

So that’s Christmas presents sorted, and birthdays, provided the jars last that long. For as long as the allotment keeps on giving, it’ll be jam today, jam tomorrow and, if I have anything to do with it, jam every day after.

When it’s too hot to run…but you do it anyway

 

Pudsey10k2017
Nearly there – thank you to the wonderful Simon Cullingworth whose photo makes me look like I’m actually enjoying myself!

 

You know it’s going to be a hot one when you’re only on the start line and the sweat is already trickling down your back and gushing into your butt crack. Gross, I know, but sometimes you just have to tell it as it is.

The heat was no surprise, with a forecast of 27C, but I’d paid and I was bloomin’ well going to run, or shuffle at the very least, I’m from Yorkshire, me, I like to get my money’s worth.

The midnight migraine hadn’t helped, though the drugs had, unfortunately they are performance-diminishing and add lead to my legs and that general feeling of fuzziness to my head. Thank goodness there were no random drug tests, though they may have taken pity and upped me a few places.

The Pudsey 10K isn’t for wimps, mainly off-road, just short of 200m altitude gain and lots of hills, including a sneaky one at the end, just when you don’t want it. But I’d run it before and I knew what I was in for. Noel’s ITB was playing up so he didn’t want to risk further injury and gallantly offered to take photos. I considered running it twice, so as not to waste his place, but the marshals couldn’t stay there until midnight, they’d much better things to do.

I made sure I took precautions, hat, sunglasses, factor 50 liberally applied and, for good measure, a pack with a litre of water. There was only one official water stop on the run and that was at the highest point, I was certain I would have expired by then if I didn’t carry my own. I even considered making a batch of marzipan balls for extra energy but in that heat, they’d have been liquid before the first hill, I’m not sure the world is ready for marzipan drinks yet. It seemed over the top when most of the runners around me were bare-headed and pack-free, but fair Irish skin (Irish since the Brexit debacle!), a complete aversion to heat and a migraine-induced fuzziness made it a necessity.

It’s never a good sign when a paramedic comes hurtling past you on a quadbike just three kilometres into the race.  When I got to the water stop, I found him helping my lovely friend Karen, who had twisted her ankle. Her race was over, though she was there at the finish cheering folk in after getting a lift back, and she’d claimed her tee-shirt (she’s from Yorkshire too!)

There were a couple of ambulances near the finish which were unfortunately occupied by runners who looked like they’d succumbed to the heat, I understand they were OK – I hope they got their tee-shirts!

As always, the support for this local race organised by the Pudsey Pacers was amazing. I was thrilled to be squirted with Supersoakers – after being politely asked if I’d like to be soaked. Oh yes, that did very nicely. As did the water from a hosepipe aimed at us (thanks, guys!) and all the extra water to pour over my head.

Even so, it was brutal, I walked where I should have run, if it hadn’t have been for the encouragement of the marshals, supporters and photographers pointing their lenses at me so I had to run, I would have given up and I don’t give up easily.

The best bit, though, was to turn the final corner and eyeball the finish line. Two of my team mates ran beside me, oh my goodness, that gave me such a boost. The rest stood there cheering, I felt like I’d won the race rather than brought up the rear, it was fabulous. I’ll be back next year, whatever the temperature.

A certain pride in my city

Aliblog

 

At the risk of being accused of as a lackey for the Leeds Tourist Office, can I just say that I am so bursting with pride over my city that I think I may go ‘pop’?

Them there southerers don’t often let world championship events escape north of Watford, let alone to the badlands of Yorkshire, unless it’s snooker and that gets as far as Sheffield (and the best green snooker table in the world cloth is made in Leeds, don’t you know).

But for the second year running we (I do like to talk about ‘we’, I am a ratepayer after all) welcomed the World Triathlon Championships to Leeds. I’m not a triathlete, unless it’s running, shopping and faffing, but I have friends who are and it’s great to see them enjoying their sport, and be grateful I’m not doing it.

Then there are the elite athletes, they swim with hardly a splash, cycle without squeaking wheels and run without touching the ground, or so it seems. I do always tell anyone who’s prepared to listen and even some who aren’t, that I have raced against the Brownlee brothers, a couple of times, in fact, in the Chevin Chase and the Auld Lang Syne fell race. I needn’t relate here how that ended, except to say they’d been home to change and eat a three-course meal before returning to hand out prizes.

This weekend, the weekend after a very strange week for all the voting public, enthusiasts and serious athletes got the chance to race in our city and not discuss politics. They were all magnificent, and so was Leeds, from the choppy Roundhay Park Lake where swans cast a puzzled glance at the swimmers sharing the water with them, to the city centre where tens of thousands of people cheered and cheered and cheered. Our Japanese friend shouted encouragement to the Japanese team, the couple next to us called out to the Mexican runner in his native tongue and I yelled for the Irish runner, to be sure.

But the biggest, loudest and most partisan cheer from the crowd was reserved for the Brownlee brothers. They’d already featured on the large screens, entertaining the crowds with their starring role in the advert for Yorkshire Tea, though I think they’d better stick to the day job!

The course was designed so we saw them seven times on the bike and four times as they ran, crossing over the commemorative start line for the Grand Depart, Yorkshire’s Tour de France triumph in 2014.  The Brownlees were always way out in front, which we definitely appreciated.

Another fantastic sporting event for our wonderful city, I was so proud. There’s talk of a return next year. Rude not to, I’d say.

Farewell Artex, hello smooth walls

Finish1

I’d look at the swirls of Artex on the kitchen wall, coated in a film of grease, dust and cat hair and hate them. Big swirls of once-white paint looking like the aftermath of a battle in a Mr Whippy factory.

They were impossible to clean and useless to cover up. Their partners in grime, cracked, chipped and hideously old-fashioned tiles were cultivating their own little eco-system. And let’s not mention the floor. No amount of bleach and scrubbing could get it clean, at least that’s what Noel said, I suspect he was sipping tea in the conservatory rather than completing his allotted task.

The prospect of weeks of upheaval to put all of this right was too much to bear, but as the grime grew and the Artex developed a fur, we really had to do something about it. We went for the double whammy and replaced the windows too, just to make sure there was complete chaos in the house.

Now, as we wipe the final paint splats from our hair and buff up the fabulous new units and work surface made of magic material which has no joins (I still don’t know how they got it through the door) we agree that it was definitely worth it.

Yes, we had to re-distribute the contents of the kitchen throughout the house, yes, we washed up in the bath (though not while having a bath, those knives are sharp), yes we lived on salad and takeaways, yes there was dust and dirt everywhere, yes we did have to rely on the kindness of a friend to do our washing, yes the cats were traumatised. No, it wasn’t fun. But it’s done!

We celebrated at the weekend with a party and barbecue. Amazingly it didn’t rain, Noel is usually a forlorn figure at our barbecues, standing outside poking charred peppers while the wind whips around his apron and the rest of us wait inside for him to hand the food through the window.

We had an official opening too, breaking through a ribbon of kitchen roll, no expense spared here, though we were a tad disappointed that reply to the invitation to royalty to perform the ceremony seemed to have got lost in the post.

Big thanks to the Richards at Arlington Interiors and at Waite Brothers Builders, we’d definitely recommend them.

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A personal worst – but one of the best

Mohammed

There’s only really one rule in parkrun, two if you count ‘don’t forget your barcode’,  three if you include ‘have fun’. The rule is about under-11s, who must run with a responsible adult. It’s not negotiable and I have in the past removed youngsters from the results when it became clear that they had run alone.

This week, Noel and I had the pleasure of running with ten-year-old Mohammed and Hassan, his nine-year-old brother. We’d agreed with their mum that we would run with them and she agreed we were responsible adults.

The two were very excited, they’d done one previous parkrun and loved it. Their mum told us they wanted to be sibling triathletes, like a couple of other Yorkshire brothers you might have heard of.

Our parkrun is in a park popular with university students, the previous day had been glorious, with hundreds enjoying the warmth and sunshine, it was also the end of term, so there was a lot of celebrating. Consequently  litter was everywhere. Hassan and Mohammed were scandalised, this is their local park and they couldn’t believe that grown-ups could be so disrespectful to the environment. As we ran, they told us how important it was to take care of our green spaces, they were most concerned about global warming and even described how pollutants could get into the water table. These were two very interesting brothers indeed.

As we made our way round, they were encouraged by many of the other parkrunners, who cheered them on, including the faster folk who lapped us. ‘There,’ I said to Hassan, ‘You can be like him if you train’. Yes, he replied this was what he wanted to do, he wanted that very much. But for the time being, he wanted to beat his brother. He did.

They chattered away to Noel and to me as they ran, which was a bit of a clue that they could run faster if they put their minds to it, but they were having fun, taking it all in, and so were we.

My time was a personal worst, so was Noel’s. But running in the company of two such interesting and interested young men made my parkrun one of the best. They’ll be back, joined by their older sister after Ramadan, we’ll run with them again, until they get too fast for us of course!

 

Through the eyes of others

Jazandme

I can say without fear of any contradiction that I know every stone, tree root, puddle, muddy rut and pothole on my training run through the woods. I can tell you where the jay and her family live, the woodpecker’s favourite tree, the exact place where the rainwater will gush out from down the slope after a downpour. And where I’ll trip up. Every time.

I’ve lost count of the kilometres I’ve notched up running through my local woods. They are very familiar old friends, so familiar in fact that they have become ordinary. Maybe even a little dull.

So when my lovely friend Jaz said she needed to do a short Sunday morning run, four miles or so, as part of her training for a half marathon, I suggested she join us. It was just the woods, I told her, nothing special.

As we passed Mud Ridge #1, as I affectionately know it, Jaz marvelled at the view. Yes, I reflected, managing to avoid tripping up in the usual place, but stumbling a little further on, this is rather lovely, beautiful, maybe.

The rest of the run I saw through Jaz’s eyes. It was all new to her, she was drinking in the woodland, the flowers, the beautiful light, the smell of the wild garlic and the last of the bluebells.

“You are so lucky to live near all this and run here whenever you want,” she said, and she meant it.

Our Japanese friend Maika says the more she sees of this country, particularly Yorkshire, the more she loves it, she’s amazed by its beauty, whether it’s the local woods, the moors or the coast. To me, they were ordinary, but now I’ve seen them again through the eyes of my friends, they are most certainly extraordinary, today and every day.

Too good a goodie bag

 

Ripon3
Heading for the goodie bag – thanks to Maika for the photo

 

Once the race is finished, it’s free calories all around for about 20 minutes. While the muscles and other internal bits and pieces are doing their ‘what the heck?’ thing and screaming for calories, it’s safe to eat rubbish. Well, that’s my interpretation of the empirical evidence anyway. I like to have a scientific foundation for my gluttony.

So grabbing the goodie bag as I crossed the finishing line and guzzling the entire contents seemed like a sensible thing to do. I’d worked hard, ten miles of Yorkshire hills starting and finishing in Ripon and taking in the beautiful Studley Royal, where the hill was so long and steep there were two ambulances parked at the top. I waved as I staggered past, they waved back, something like pity showing in their eyes.

We weren’t meant to be doing this race. There was a half marathon down in Nottinghamshire that had our name on it. The inaugural Sherwood Pines Half promised a trail race in a lovely place with the bonus of just about ten metres of total ascent. But five days beforehand the organisers announced its postponement, saying there weren’t enough volunteers. Now at £28 each to enter, I wouldn’t expect them to rely on volunteers, alarm bells were ringing. Training had been done and my trainers were ready to run, so another race had to be found. Thank goodness for the Ripon Runners!

It was a good start- bacon butties and sausage sandwiches were on sale beforehand, I resisted, I’d a pocket full of marzipan balls and the promise of jelly babies on the way. There were about 400 runners and a fair number of marshals and the day was warm and sunny.

I built up a fair hunger on the way round, and was positively gagging for the contents of the goodie bag as I staggered over the line. I may not have been the quickest runner, but I must have been in the top ten for making the contents of the bag disappear. It’s surprising how quickly  a banana, then a Mars Bar, then another banana went down, followed by a bottle of water and chew on the Yorkshire teabags. There may have been another Mars Bar somewhere in there. The Ripon 10 Buff was looking tasty, but I resisted that.

Without going into any further detail, I concluded that the reason those post-run calories were seen as free was because they didn’t stay around long enough to be …errrr…processed. I blame the teabags. Lesson learned!