A kitchen full of Richards


Getting there!


The Richards have gone and there’s an eerie silence, disturbed only by the tip-tap-thump of Socks Akers as he skitters across the new floor and clatters against the unfamiliar cupboards in what’s starting to look like a show kitchen from Homes and Gardens (Yorkshire edition).

It’s week three, we’ve had the Great Emptying, scattering kitchen contents throughout the house in random places so we can’t find a damned thing. We’ve had the Great Water Carrying, which was preceded by the Great Turning Off of the Downstairs Tap, and punctuated by the Great Chuntering, which still continues. There was even a suggestion of the Great Whiff of Calverley, but this was quashed thanks to a friend who went above and beyond the call of friendship and washed our knickers for us (thanks, Jaz!)

The work started with the arrival of the Richards. There was Richard Arlington, from the kitchen suppliers of the same name, Richard Builder Boss, Richard Electrician, Richard Plasterer, Richard Joiner and Harry the Apprentice, who will graduate to being a Richard when he passes his exams. They were a jolly lot, the Richards, though none of them took more than one sugar in their tea and Harry didn’t drink tea at all, he’ll learn.

It now seems an age since Noel was standing in our old Artex-coated kitchen in a boiler suit and mask brandishing an asbestos testing kit, on him it looked good. Fortunately there was no asbestos, just more than a century’s worth of muck which the Richards despatched pretty quickly.

While the rest of the house remains in chaos, slowly disappearing under layers of dust and debris, a new kitchen has emerged. It’s magnificent, no dirt, no dust, no Artex, just spanking new kitchen with lots of empty cupboard and no water. Yes, there’s the catch, we are so near to our super kitchen, but if we want a cuppa, we’ve got to get the water from upstairs. It’s good exercise, though.

So just a couple more days, Richard Worktop arrives tomorrow and then the best Richard of all, Richard Plumber. Their visits will be followed by the Great Tap Turning, the Great Washing and the Great Celebration. Three weeks isn’t really a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an age when you don’t have a kitchen and are living on salad!

I am not a number, unless it’s 1


Number 1 and the whitest legs in the race. Thanks to Neil Grant for the photo.


I have a friend who takes it as a personal challenge to beat his race number, whether it can equate to a time or a position. He’s a very good runner, if he got number 2, he’d beat it.

There’s three main ways you get a race number in single figures, you can be an elite athlete, you can be the first to sign up, or, and this is where I come into my own, you can have a double A name. It’s sometimes a great advantage, though the downside is I often get phone calls from people’s pockets as their loose change dials the first person in their address book, usually me.

At this year’s John Carr series,  run in memory of a Saltaire Strider who died too young, I am number 1. Even better, it’s a series of three 5k races, so I get to be number 1 three times. Noel’s number 2, the story of his life.

Of course I don’t make a big thing of it, there’s no expectations of coming first, not even in my age category, not even in the red hat group and that is a very small and select group. But it does feel good to be a number one, and it probably weighs less because it doesn’t have as much ink. Maybe I’ll run faster, I certainly went for it at the end. Though as it’s a series of three races, a week apart, it doesn’t do to go all out on the first week. I think that’s when number one comes into its own. Let’s see, eh?

Don’t go upstairs empty-handed


Work in progress


The kitchen is in the dining room. And the conservatory. And the spare bedroom. Some of it is now in landfill, the rest is supporting plants in the greenhouse. For the past week or so the mantra was ‘don’t go upstairs empty-handed’ as plates, pans and packets of food were decanted ready for the Great New Kitchen Adventure.

It had all been very exciting, flicking through glossy magazines, choosing bright shiny new units and sparkly worktops to set us on course for Master Chef-standard cooking in a fantastic, modern kitchen.

I’m hanging on to that vision as I cough my way through the cloud of plaster, crumbled artex and about a century’s worth of muck which came down with the ceiling. We have no sink, no cooker, no washer, the house is covered in a fine film of dust, the cats are traumatised and this is only day three of the three-week project.

I hadn’t realised how attached I was to the old, tired kitchen with its scratched steel sink, marble-effect worktops and quirky brown speckled tiles until I saw it being carried out and dumped in the skip, it has served us well, old friend. We could have left it there and had its replacement fitted within a day, but no, we wanted rid of the artex, the pock-marked floor and wobbly ceiling, the electrics needed a new spark of life. It would be worth it, we said.

So it’s salad, microwave meals, takeaways covered in that film of slightly gritty dust for the next couple of weeks, as well as being guests of friends who have taken pity on us and serve us food without dust. It will be worth it, we tell them. And it will!


…where everyone knows your age…


Five veterans after our race


Age is no secret when you run the odd race. Categories are in five-year increments upon reaching adulthood and those pesky race organisers do insist on putting your five-year window right there next to your name. To heap on the whole age-revealing thing, anyone over 35 is a veteran, heaven help us. Fortunately there isn’t a further category of ‘super veteran’ when you reach, say, 50…..and then some.

Yesterday, there were 40,000 seniors and veterans, keeping close company on the streets of that there London, surrounded by the sound of heavy breathing, feet pounding tarmac and deafening crowds where everyone shouts your name, with the smell of sweat, Deep Heat and squashed gel packets, all wearing their race numbers, and very proudly too. I wasn’t one of them, it’s a long way, both to get there and to run, but more importantly for me, why run on roads when there are trails and fells? And why pay £50 to enter and £10 for a skinny latte and over-sugared bun with a fancy name when you can have a great Yorkshire run for £5 with tea, pie and cake thrown in?

So as many of my friends were picking up their race numbers at the expo, having their photos taken with celebrities and giant medals, I was queuing for my number in the first of the Yorkshire Veterans’ Association’s Grand Prix series at hilly Honley, the other side of Huddersfield,  within spitting distance of the Pennines.

The good news is that as we’re all veterans, there are no young whippersnappers to scorch past us. No, they are all old whippersnappers, and you know how old they all are because we all wear our age on our backs, so everyone knows our age, runners have no secrets!

I actually love these veterans races, a couple of hundred of us, 10km or so on hills and trails, with mud and river crossings if we’re lucky. No cheering crowds, six deep as they are down in London, just the encouraging marshals pointing us in the right direction and assuring us there’s no more hills…until the next one..and as a bonus this time there was a little boy who thrust his toy tiger at me to push me on. It worked.

The course took us up hill after hill until we broke through to what seemed like the top of the world, I looked across to behold my beautiful Yorkshire, the sun making the fields greener, fresher, and illuminating the line of runners on the horizon ahead, ages flapping on their backs in a devil-may-care kind of way. No matter than an M80 skipped past me or a fellow F55 bounded up the hill ahead, where else would I want to be on such a day?

I did let a bit of competitiveness break out as I hurtled, out-of-control down the final field, almost taking out an F40, and burst on to the finishing straight to hold her off to the loud cheers of a couple of clubmates and Noel, my biggest cheerer. No goodie bags, but a good buffet with lots of pie and cake and spot prizes.

Being from Yorkshire, we’ve to save our numbers for the next race, we can’t be having any waste. Looking forward to it, I just hope the boy with the toy tiger is there.


Resurrection of the squashed seedlings


There’s no polite way to say this, Socks Akers has a fat backside. Six kilos of cat nearly put paid to my part in creating a living, breathing, flowering, fruiting art installation.

I’d agreed to foster 60 seedlings, destined to join 2,440 others in a stunning art installation at Left Bank, Leeds. It was a simple task, plant bean, beetroot, sweetcorn and sunflower seeds in little peat pots and keep them safe for a couple of weeks, water them, watch them grow and return them to their pals. They were very happy in the greenhouse, then the great hunk of black and white fur decided he needed a new place to sleep.

So an emergency trip to the shops later and I was re-potting the pots and giving Socks the evil eye. The seedlings were safe, a little wonky maybe, but most art is a bit wonky, except Mondrian, no wonkiness there.

The 2,500 seedlings were placed in a huge circle in the middle of the huge former church, where they have become Anastasis, an immersive installation representing life and resurrection, somewhere to sit, walk, reflect, enjoy, listen, yes listen, there’s even birdsong. It’s rather lovely.

The seedlings continue to grow in their circle, unimpeded by cats. At the end of the week. Earth Day, the circle will be broken and they will all be offered new homes. I’ll be taking a few, they’ll have pride of place in the allotment.



So this is why I run, then


Arty running at Yorkshire Sculpture Park


‘Are you the lady who runs?’ the caller asked. Lady? <Snigger>. Runs? <Double snigger>. It was Radio Leeds who wanted to do an interview about running to music, I don’t run to music, I need to be completely aware of my surroundings, I could trip up at any time, but it was nice to be asked.

It’s not a bad title to have, because I do run, dammit (let’s not talk about being a lady). So why do I run, then? It’s always hard, I’m not a natural. I don’t get awards and I never win races, I’m more likely to come last than first, but I do love it.

For a start,  I’m in the great outdoors, whatever the weather, there’s always something to enjoy, the sights, the smells, the splashings. I’m not a keen road runner, I prefer the trails, but if I have to pound the pavements I do, taking in the urban surroundings, watching the flagstones pass under my feet, hey I spotted 5p the other day, I picked it up, I’m from Yorkshire, me.

I love to race, it’s a challenge, I’ve paid for it so I actually have to do it, because, dammit, I’m not wasting money (the whole Yorkshire thing). Sometimes there are medals, or tee-shirts, though never in my size, but always there are team-mates, friends and so many others there to encourage, cheer and generally chivvy me along. It feels good.

Then there’s running with mates, just because I can. Today a baker’s dozen of us met up at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and just ran, looked at art, tried to be art, realised we were nothing like art, ran a bit more, then had coffee and cake, it was glorious. That’s why I run, it’s glorious.

Mix and match

Cooking those colours with clingfilm – and the final result, allergy free!

It’s just over a year ago that my hairdressing habits changed for good  after a massive allergic reaction to the hair dye I’ve been using for years.

A couple of days after having all the reds put back in my hair my eyes puffed up, I got spots on my spots, my neck turned the same shade of red as my hair, my arms itched so much I had to wear mittens to stop me drawing blood, plus it was a bit difficult to breathe. This was a great concern as I had a half marathon to run and I couldn’t be doing with anything that would slow me down any more, good grief, I hardly move as it is.

My GP gave me pills and potions which she said would calm things down until it got of my system, of course there was no question of using that dye again. I asked her whether there was any reason I couldn’t chalk up a 90-minutes PB for the trail half marathon, none at all, she said. Brilliant, I said, I’ve never run less than two hours. No-one laughed. Still it was a bit of light relief as I contemplated a grey-haired future as my head would never be covered in foil again. First world problem, I know. I just had to get over it.

But my hairdresser Claire is a genius, she came up with a plan to use a different kind of dye without all the nasty chemicals, which was great. The downside was that it was the nasty chemicals that stopped the colours from running, so lovely though it is, this new non-reactive dye washes out. My word does it wash out, the shower looks like a scene from Psycho after I’ve washed hair. Plus, unless I come up on the lottery, which is highly unlikely because I don’t do it, I’m not going to pay out for a hairdo every couple of weeks, not when I could do it myself, I’m from Yorkshire, me.

So I armed myself with pots of dye, a few old toothbrushes, a roll of foil and a roll of clingfilm and disposable gloves, lots of them. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I just grabbed hunks of hair, slathered them with colour, stuck some foil on then and wrapped my head in clingfilm, very fetching, I was like a 3-D living Jackson Pollock.

When I was a child, I loved mixing all my paints to make new colours, as a big child I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do the same with hair dye. The colours are eye-hurtingly vibrant, I mixed Dark Tulip with Vermillion Red, Poppy with Flame, then mixed the mixes, the possibilities were endless!  I’ve had plenty of chance to experiment and when I get it wrong, I wear a hat, confident that it will all come out in the wash.