A little dash of colour goes a long way


The long, dark winter nights are on their way and I don’t know about you, but I need something bright to cheer up the dull days, and I want to wear it.

This time of year, the fashion colours in the shops usually range from light mud to dark mud with a few sludgy greens, colours which I never wear. Good grief, I wear enough mud when I run, I’m not going to pay to wear the damned stuff. So as far as I can see, the only way to get the colours I want, is make them myself.

I do love colour, there’s not enough of it around as far as I’m concerned. I even trained as a colour and image consultant with Colour Me Beautiful a few years ago so I could share that love with others, and make a bit of a business from it too. It was great fun, helping people to see themselves looking fabulous in colours they had never even considered wearing – just you ask Noel about periwinkle and pink!

So rather than being disappointed in the shop-bought colours, I decided to make my own using tie-dye. I have never dyed any clothes before, so this was a first. Thanks to a wonderful blog by Stinkymum (seriously!) I had step-by-step instructions from starting with a white shirt, to making what looked like a shirt pie, then waiting 24 hours for it to cook, before rinsing and waiting impatiently for it to dry so I could wear it.

The result? A brighter winter is ahead – and I could be persuaded to take orders!



Running, it’s good for your mental health


Thank you to Lizzie Coombes for the photo


Today is World Mental Health Day.  It’s a day to focus on what’s making us tick, and whether that ticking is working properly, or maybe it needs a bit of adjustment. It’s a powerful thing, the mind, great when it’s working well, debilitating when it’s not.

I love the NHS, I’ve worked in it for many years, I’ve been a patient all my life, it serves us well, particularly in emergencies and when there’s serious physical illness. But, and you know what they say, ignore everything before the ‘but’, when it comes to mental health services, the NHS is playing catch-up.

According to the Kings Fund, an excellent heath and social care think tank, three in four people with a mental health problem receive little or no treatment for their problem. If they are severely affected, they die up to 20 years before their time. Its report says mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the burden of disease in the UK, yet spending on mental health services is just 11 per cent of the NHS budget. Now there’s lots of caveats to those statements, the NHS, its funding and commissioning is complex, more layers than a very large onion, and peeling it can definitely bring tears to your eyes. I know I have worked in commissioning for many years and shed many a tear. But it is a fact that NHS support for mental well-being is severely under-resourced and under-funded.

The onus is therefore on individuals, where they are able, to help themselves as much as they can and for others to be in a position to provide that help. It’s what we do as humans, we try and look out for each other.

Top of my list for mental wellbeing is exercise, whether it’s running, skiing, climbing, hiking, yoga, circuit training or whatever else gets me a sweat on and the endorphins going. Then there’s talking, I have a lovely husband and friends who give me a good listening to.

But if I was to name just one activity that has made me smile when I felt like crying, held my hand when I felt lonely, opened up a whole new world of friendship and given me the chance to help others when they are going through bad times, its parkrun. The weekend just gone was International parkrun Day and at Woodhouse Moor,  we celebrated our tenth birthday, there were more than 600 runners and volunteers enjoying a 5km run, jog or walk. If I could capture and bottle the joy and camaraderie of that day, or indeed any Saturday morning, I would give it to the NHS to distribute free to everyone. Wouldn’t that be great?

Losty McLostface #3


Thanks to Dave Woodhead for the photo


There were definitely no footprints other than those left by sheep. And poo, the sheep had left that too. The few dozen runners racing ahead had either gone another way or floated above the sticky mud. Clearly someone was lost, I strongly suspected that someone was me.

Fortunately, I was bringing up the rear true to form, embarrassingly sporting the number one on my vest, I should have married Mr Zephyr and changed my first name to Zondra. A few hundred metres behind me was the final runner, plus the sweeper. Thank goodness, I thought, we can’t possibly go wrong with the sweeper, if all else failed, he could even carry me, at a pinch.

“Are we going the right way?” I called to the sweeper, the wind whipping my words.

“Oooo,” he pondered, looking at the featureless moorland around us, “I don’t know”, said the sweeper, let’s call him Ron, short for Wrong. So it was official, we were lost up on Ilkley Moor and only one of us had a hat. Catching a death of cold was in the offing.

We were just 2km into the 11km Rombolds Romp multiple choice race. You could do the trails, fells, or just get lost, the third was a destiny rather than a choice. The difference between trails and fells is the accessibility of the route. Trails are supposed to be easier to run on, almost kissing your feet, while fells are more technical and tricky. We’d set off on the trail but were now definitely on the fells, if not the wilderness. There were no markings, no stripey tape and no marshals in sight.

Fortunately I have an inbuilt compass and keen sense of direction, neither function, but it’s good to know they are there. The race briefing described a newly-demolished forest which I could see in the distance, beyond the heather, tussocks, bogs, shooting butts and something that looked like the Slough of Despond. I suggested we made a bee-line for that, as it was a certain landmark, but I was over-ruled. Ron, whose route-finding skills wouldn’t have got him his Scouts’ map-reading badge said we should head for the wall over to the right. It’s not a good idea to be alone on Ilkley Moor wearing nothing more than a tee-shirt and shorts, even if I did have a hat, so the three of us slowly made our way towards the wall. A marshal appeared and looked a little surprised to see we’d taken the scenic route.

I have to confess to being somewhat grumpy at this stage, I can get lost for free, I don’t need to pay for it, even if I do get a bottle of beer at the end. So back on course I put as much distance as I could between me and Ron to prevent the exchange of a few choice words. There was light relief when I hit a very steep stretch of road where the laconic Dave ‘Woodentops’ Woodhead was lying in wait with his camera. ‘Oh it’s you!’ I exclaimed, genuinely happy to see him. ”Tha’d better look as if tha’s running for t’photo’ he said, so I did. Dave and his wife Eileen give so much to the Yorkshire fell-running community and will be crowned monarchs of our fair county come the revolution of devolution.

Noel, who had done the fell race, or rather someone who looked like him, but painted shades of black and brown, greeted me at the end. It turns out he’d fallen full-length four times, probably showing off as usual.

The last runner and Ron followed some time later. I think Ron was presented with a framed map of the route and told never to tail run ever again.

Running a rainbow, being a rainbow



I laughed so much, I really thought I was going to crack a rib. It was one of those deep, long, belly laughs punctuated with hyperventilation, snorting and streams of mascara-tinted tears only stopping short of hysteria by a handful of purple powder which got me slap bang in the smacker.

All around, it was like someone had melted a rainbow. The usually peaceful and modest setting of Oakwell Hall was exploding with shrieks, shouts and colour as more than a thousand men, women, children and dogs, went mad with powder paint.

I usually end my runs sporting of a palette of off-white, mud, sweat and the obligatory dash of poo. But today was going to be different, today was the day I was going to be a rainbow, or as near to it as I could get.

The Colour Rush, in aid of Kirkwood Hospice, is an invitation for extroverts, and those dragged along by extroverts, to strut their stuff around the 5km parkrun course to be showered with coloured powder by volunteers who, I have to say, were getting rather carried away. Noel the introvert volunteered to remain monochrome and take photos, so everyone was happy!

On arrival, all clean in our pristine tee-shirts supplied for the occasion, we registered and picked up our packets of colour.  As two senior managers and one international academic, we were clearly not going to get too carried away. Not like the group of middle-aged women and their now multi-coloured pet poodle emerging from a cloud of green and blue. No, not us, nooooo.

But then, possessed by some kind of colour demon, one of our trio (not mentioning any names…JAZ!)  ripped open one of her packets and emptied it on the other two. It would have been rude not to reciprocate. Before we knew it, we too were engulfed in a colour cloud – and there was still an hour before the start of the run.

The course was punctuated with colour stations where we got a top-up, just in case we were losing our colour. We weren’t. Though we did take the opportunity to scatter the contents of our packets on fellow runners, they reciprocated. We even ran through a bit of mud, just to complement the rainbow explosion we were wearing.

By the time we reached the finish, there wasn’t any part of us that wasn’t covered in colour, and we were aching so much from laughing. But the best was yet to come. Before we could claim our medals and goodie bags, we had to grapple with a mini assault course, one of those inflatable bouncy-castle-style efforts with no sharp edges. The children were straight over, I was bounced around all over the place but managed to finish the right way up on the slide, with my dignity intact. OK, one out of two isn’t bad.

Colour runs should be available on prescription for everyone, as this was pure joy and family fun, making everyone smile and laugh out loud. I’m still chuckling, this will continue for some time, about the same amount of time as it will take to get all the colour from my hair, skin and clothes, ready for the next one!




It’s Mrs parkrun!


Me being a Mrs parkrun. Thanks to Stephen Morris for the photo

There I was, minding everybody’s business. Well, I was marshalling at a particularly muddy section of my club’s popular trail run and had to make sure no-one went the wrong way, not on my watch anyway, when a little pack of runners gave me a big smile, massive wave and called out ‘It’s Mrs parkrun!’

It’s amazing how people label you, especially when the meeting is out of context. I’ve done the same myself when meeting fellow runners. Before I know it, I’ve proclaimed that I didn’t recognise them with their clothes on. In the cold light of day, I appreciate how bad this may sound to everyone else.

Working in NHS management, I’ve been called a bureaucrat, usually with an inappropriate adjective, and much more, some of it not repeatable in this family-friendly blog. I can’t even begin to tell you the expletives that accompanied some of the journalist sobriquets that came my way, though to be fair, there were some kind ones too. Journalism is, after all, a noble calling, which always had a major supporting role in league tables of the most trusted professions. Supporting because, being near the bottom, they hold everyone else up.

I’ve been parkrunning since 2011, completing 225 in all weathers and have nearly as many stints at volunteering. I find it almost impossible to believe, but some people don’t know what parkrun is. Good grief, where have you been for the past 13 years? Briefly, parkrun is a free 5km timed run, in one of 1000 or so locations throughout the world.

Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, where I’m Event Director, was the first to start outside London ten years ago and will be holding a cakey celebration in October. We’re now one of six parkruns in Leeds, each week, we get up to 500 people, so I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me too much that people make the connection.

With all the parkruns around, though, I can only lay claim to being one of hundreds of Mrs parkruns. But I’ll definitely take that. Thank you!


So where were you on 9/11?


Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, 11 September 2001

We’d just had breakfast in the massive dining room of the Yosemite National Park lodge and were contemplating another day of faffing around on the valley’s hard granite climbs, surrounded by stunning scenery. Then the world changed.

An American couple coming in were visibly shocked and announced to anyone who was prepared to listen that a plane had just demolished one of New York’s Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. My immediate reaction was to say, ‘you’re joking’, as if anyone would make such a joke. We hurried back to our room and switched on the TV to see the second tower fall.

Every channel showed the same  scene, the black outline of an airliner hitting the tower, the tower collapses, a second impact, the other follows. They showed the same scene again and again and again, no-one believing what they were seeing. The screen was filled with chaos, paper fluttering from floors that were no longer there, everyone covered in dust.

We must have sat there half an hour, perched on the edge of the bed, as if being closer to the TV would help us to understand any more. If I could use one word to describe what was going on, it wold be ‘disbelief’. The Americans, attacked on their own soil, how could it happen?

Coming from Europe, we totally understood what it meant to be under attack, both wars and terrorism, particularly the IRA who bombed and murdered on the mainland not far from home. But the Americans were shocked.

We were half way through our holiday, with the Grand Canyon next on the list before finally flying home from Phoenix, Arizona. California is nearly as far from New York as New York is from home, we’re not doctors or anything else that would help with the rescue effort, so we decided to just carry on. Not carry on as if nothing had happened, but to carry on nonetheless, what else could we do?

All flights were immediately grounded, so there was no point in adding to the chaos by trying to get home, we’d just be in the way of much more important use of resources. So we loaded up our rucksacks with ropes and climbing gear and headed for the granite. The climbers on the routes nearby, all Americans, were keen to know what we, as foreigners, thought. We said we were shocked, which seemed to give them some comfort. What else would we say?

Over the next few days, the country was engulfed by a great wave of patriotism. Flags sprang up everywhere, books of condolence were opened and the TV continued to show the planes hitting the towers. All commercials were cancelled, giving more time for news and analysis, and there was plenty of analysis, I remember the most statesmanlike being former President Bill Clinton, George W Bush being whisked away in Air Force One, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Nothing else, and I mean nothing, was going on in the world as far as the Americans were concerned.

There was something bizarre about being in such beautiful places in the context of such horror. When it came to flying home, we were searched to within an inch of our life. As we boarded the plane, the pilot assured us that we would never be as safe again as we were that day. I think he was right.


There were 2,996 deaths on 11 September 2001, including the 19 terrorists and more than 6000 injuries. I’m not sure that the retaliation that followed made our world freer, better or safer.

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas


Four steps to chutney


Not that I’d want to shoo summer away, but let’s face it, we’ve had pretty rubbish weather. Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. Thank goodness our native(ish) allotment crops know what to expect with British pseudo-summers.

Cara and Maris Piper, the potatoes, are now cosy in their black bin, harvested ahead of the blight, which had swept through the allotment. We also have a freezer full of home-made oven chips, thanks to Noel, who, for some reason doesn’t want to use the title King of the Potato Peeler which while accurate, isn’t the profile he aspires to on Twitter.

There are so many apples, they are weighing down the branches and falling on the heads of passing allotmenteers, not that that’s funny at all. Not even a little bit.  The onions have resisted bolting and are hanging in the greenhouse, plaited, ready to adorn the neck of any passing beret-wearing French cyclist.

Still basking in the glory of being crowned Jam Queen at the village show with my award-winning™ pink-tinted gooseberry conserve, yes for some reason the green berries turn pink in the jam-making process, I thought I might as well have a go at chutney. There may be an award in it, possibly a medal. I do like a good bit of bling.

The Empire-expanding Brits brought chutney from the Indian sub-continent and adapted it to our tastes – and our colder-weather harvests. Being from Yorkshire and not wanting to see anything go to waste, under the ‘waste not, want not’ banner, or hit anyone else on the head, I gathered up the apples and set to work.

As well as apples, the recipe called for onions, which I unplaited, spices, which I confess I had to buy from one of those new-fangled shops, along with sultanas, vinegar and sugar. As it simmered for a couple of hours, the house was filled with the aroma of spices, it smelled like Christmas, all warm and inviting. Something to savour during the cold, dark days, a reminder of the summer harvests. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait at least a couple of months before we can open the jars as it takes that long for the flavours to mature. Fortunately there are enough apples to feed the village and the passing French cyclists with tarte tartin. And it’ll soon be time to make the Christmas cakes. Yes, it’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.