Category Archives: Challenges

The Leibster Award

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So, my friend Thea nominated me for the Leibster Award, which is kind of like a pay-it-forward interview thing that gets people to open up about themselves (not that most bloggers need encouragement to do that :p ). I’m pretty pleased about this, because I never get nominated for this sort of thing (can’t quite work out why. Maybe I don’t strike people as the sort who’d play along.) So here’s the rules:

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Step one, check. Now for step two:

  1. What is the air velocity of a laden swallow? Is it European or African? Whichever, it’s probably slow compared to the ground velocity of a cheetah. 🙂
  2. What are your thoughts on Doctor Who? If you watch the show, what are your thoughts on Peter Capaldi as the Doctor? I watch Doctor Who sporadically, mostly only catching season starts and ends. My favourite Doctor was David Tennant. Peter Capaldi strikes me as a bit Willy Wonka-like. Dark and sort of insane.
  3. If you could have a non-pet animal as a pet (and such an arrangement would, in fact, work), what animal would that be? Ooh, a lion! I’ve wanted one ever since I was five. And I would love him and stroke him and call him Squeee.
  4. Do you think Pluto should be classified as a planet? Why? Probably not. It is quite far away and not very big…Also, if Ceres, Eris, Makemake and Huamea don’t get to be proper planets, why should Pluto?
  5. What is your favourite muffin? Chocolate, of course. All other muffins weep before it.
  6. What is one restaurant you will never eat at again, ever? (And whatever did that restaurant do to you to deserve this?) The John Logie Baird (our local Wetherspoons). Their fry-up doesn’t come with mushrooms as standard. If you order a portion as an added extra, they charge you  75 pence and consider one mushroom to be a ‘portion’ of mushrooms  . In my book, this is pure evil. There is never an excuse to be stingy with the mushrooms.
  7. If you were suddenly two feet shorter, what one change in your life do you think would be the biggest? I would have considerably more difficulty kissing my husband….
  8. What if you were suddenly two feet taller? That would make me 7ft 10…I’d probably hit my head on all the doorways.
  9. How do you feel about pie? Not what you think about it. What are your feelings about it? I have so much love for pie. Whoever invented pie is a genius.
  10. What is something you did (or that happened) in elementary school (5-11 years old) that you are still absurdly proud of? Ummm…I fought such a war of stubbornness with my teacher over a book, that my Headmaster had to end the war by giving me the book. It’s an odd little tale largely to do with my rebellion against not being allowed to keep taking this book out the library because I ‘needed to read other books.’ I read plenty of other books outside of school and I didn’t have this one at home and didn’t see why I shouldn’t keep reading it if I liked it so much. It was actually weeks of my teacher withholding this book and me refusing to read any other before the Head stepped in. The book was ‘Girl’s Adventure Stories of Long Ago’ if anyone was wondering.
  11. Is there a dream you had as a child that has come true? What is it? If there isn’t one, what’s one that you’re working towards? This is an awesome question, because for me, there are so many. Getting married, having a baby, learning to play the flute, going skydiving, going ice skating, becoming a morris dancer, joining Girlguiding, fire-walking….and there are plenty I am still working on, like writing a book. (17,000-ish words and counting, people!)

My 11 random facts:

  1. I jumped out of the first plane I ever flew in. Actually, for a few years, I was able to say I’d taken off in a plane but never landed in one. It’s fun to confuse people 🙂
  2. I have oddly flexible shoulders and some contortionist style party tricks up my sleeves.
  3. I can wiggle my ears. All the women in my family can.
  4. If I could live in any book world, it would be Milly-Molly-Mandy’s. Everything is so lovely and simple.
  5. I really want a tower. Preferably a library tower, with the obligatory sliding ladder. And a fireplace flanked by leather wing-backed armchairs. And my bed over in a corner….
  6. Everyone thinks my favourite pizza topping is chicken and mushroom but it’s actually beetroot, rocket and goat’s cheese.
  7. There have been many books that made me cry but the one that made me cry myself to sleep was ‘ The Song of Pentecost’ by W. J. Corbett.  If you liked Watership Down, you’ll probably like this book. It’s about a group of mice forced to move from their home, their fearless leader Pentecost, their journey and the characters they meet. But fair warning, it has a sad ending.
  8. It is hard for me to pick a favourite movie but here’s a few of them. White Oleander. Twister. Little Miss Sunshine. Memoirs of a Geisha. Any of the Bring It On movies (except number two. Number two was awful.) Chocolate (the Thai movie, not the one with Johnny Depp in it.) Nine (the musical).
  9. I also quite like the film Byzantium, because it was largely filmed in Hastings (UK) where I live. There is a whole scene where one of the characters (Eleanor) is playing piano, which is filmed in the room I got married in. It’s cool being able to see one of my favourite actresses (Saoirse Ronan) hanging out in places I’ve been all my life.
  10. I wear a lot of purple. A lot.
  11. I once sang in the Royal Albert Hall. My school’s chamber choir was invited to participate in an event involving a thousand school kids singing a song composed especially for us. I really wish I’d bought the DVD…

My nominations….

  1. http://littlesuedoll.blogspot.co.uk/
  2. https://squidgetsmum.wordpress.com/
  3. http://runclevergirl.com/
  4. http://boredkidcomics.expectedaberrations.com/ (Thea, I know you already did this for your main blog but I’m running out of people and Kara only has 7 followers….you don’t have to but maybe answer from Kara’s perspective? *cheeky grin*)
  5. https://idolyrics.wordpress.com/
  6. https://the57thsnowflake.wordpress.com/
  7. https://byjuliette.wordpress.com/

That’s all the people I follow with less than 200 followers…I can’t do 11!

My questions for my nominees:

  1. What’s your favourite topping for pancakes?
  2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
  3. If you could achieve any one goal, money no object, what would it be?
  4. If everyone who read this had to give a donation to a charity, which charity would you choose and what would be donated? (food, clothes, money….)
  5. Llamas or alpacas? Which one is best?
  6. If you could only ever wear one colour again, what would it be?
  7. What was your dream job when you were a kid? Do you do it now?
  8. Based only on what you know of me from my blog, what would you buy me if you had to buy me a present? (This question is here because it’s my birthday tomorrow, not because I’m some weird kind of present narcissist.)
  9. Would you rather be a cat for a day, or a dog? Why?
  10. If you could pick any world leader and go for a day out with them, who would it be and what would you do?
  11. If you could answer this question, or give someone a cookie, which would it be? (leave it blank if you gave someone a cookie.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this! If everyone I’ve nominated posts a link back to their answers that would be really cool, but you don’t have to 🙂

5th July 2014 – No.72: Abseil down Ocean House

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Every couple of years, St. Michael’s Hospice in Hastings holds a sponsored abseil to raise money for their charity and their partner charity of the Sara Lee Trust. I signed up partly because I like to raise money for this cause and partly because I really wanted to abseil down something larger than 30ft, like the last time I went abseiling. So, I paid the £10 admin fee and set about raising sponsorship, ready for the 10th of May. Alas, when the 10th arrived, so did winds of nearly 40 miles an hour (at ground level, who knows what it was higher up the building) and the abseil was postponed for reasons of safety. I didn’t mind as much as one might suppose; it happened the first time I was going to go skydiving too and actually I wasn’t really feeling up to it that day.

My abseil t-shirt

The abseil was moved to the 7th of July. On the day I showed up at my assigned time of 11:15, to be told that there were delays due to strong winds and it would be another hour or so. I signed in, collected my t-shirt (to show which of the two charities I was supporting) and was given my name and number on paper so I could be identified (in photo’s, not in case I fell off. That’s just ghoulish.) I went for a coffee in a nearby cafe and came back an hour later to be told it was still an hour’s wait. Some time later, I was called into the reception of the building to get harnessed up. Here’s a lovely picture of me looking far more worried than I thought I felt.

Getting ready

I waited around in my harness for at least another hour as the wind speed kept picking up and dropping but the organisers and participants were all determined to go ahead with it if it took all day, so we tried to be patient. Eventually, at approximately 3pm, my small group was ushered into the lift and we ascended the building to the top floor. It was full of machinery and insulation and had the definite atmosphere of somewhere prohibited. Walking into the final stretch of corridor, we could see the open door and the last member of the previous group waiting her turn. I asked the people in my group if they would mind if I went first, as Elliot, who had come with me for support (and taking photo’s) was really not feeling very well and had been wishing himself in bed for the last few hours. None of them minded, so when the next person was called, I  stepped out onto the scaffolding rig from which I would descend.

The 128ft of building that is Ocean House

Standing up there, with St.Leonard’s spread out beneath me and the wind in my face, I felt my nerves peak. The extended wait had done nothing for the butterflies in my stomach and as hard as I was squashing them down, they were still there. I listened carefully to the instructions I was given as the people up there attached ropes to my harness. Then, I very slowly lowered myself backwards into thin air. It took longer than the first time I had been abseiling; I had thought I would be less scared because I’d done it before but actually it was worse! There is something in it when people say ‘ignorance is bliss’.

Me, coming down

After I got a short way down, I heard the photographer on top of the building call my name, so I paused and looked up so she could take my picture. (I’m really looking forward to seeing it and I shall definitely post it on here when I get a copy.) I made my way very slowly down the building. It was hard to keep my feet on the wall because of the wind and after a while I somewhat gave up and just sat in the harness as I lowered myself down. I wish I could say I took advantage of the view but I spent most of my time staring at the brick wall in front of me. It took such a long time for me to get to the bottom (or at least, that’s what it felt like) but eventually I got close enough to hear Elliot yelling encouragement. Finally, my feet touched the ground and the gathered crowd applauded (in that polite British way we have that conveys approval rather than enthusiasm.) We posed for a picture, and then I took poor Elliot home and looked after him because he was really not well.

I’m mildly disappointed that my nervousness didn’t dissipate on the way down, however I did accomplish what I set out to do; namely having a longer go at abseiling as well as raising money for a good cause, so overall, I am happy with my experience.

Me and Elliot after the abseil

Me and Elliot after the abseil

Quick update, St.Michael’s Hospice doesn’t have my pictures from the top. Nor do they have a bunch of other peoples. They are not sure what happened but it’s obviously very disappointing because it would have given you more of an idea what it was like up there.

5th May 2014 – No.77: Run the Keith Chandler 5-Mile Memorial Race

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So, in my last post, I wrote that I had started training, by which I mean I’d been jogging a couple of times. Well, confession time, I went maybe once more after that. Running alone is really boring and I have much more interesting stuff to do. Consequently, I had very low expectations for my goal of running more of this race than the last one and assumed I would end up walking most of it.
For the first part of the race, it seemed my earlier assumption was correct; I started too fast, couldn’t hold my pace, and ended up walking, just like last time. Then, around one and a half miles in, I passed a man accompanying a blind female runner. (Well, she may have been partially sighted, I didn’t ask, but they were each holding one end of a short skipping-rope-like thing and he told her every time we approached uneven paving etc, so, I’m going with blind.)

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “I’m having trouble keeping pace.”

“You can run with us if you like,” he offered.

I accepted eagerly; and started running again. The pace was good and I found to my surprise that I could actually sustain it. It was nice chatting to my fellow runners as we went. I began to believe I could actually make it to the end. Then we turned into the wind and it got tough. I struggle to breath properly with the wind in my face anyway (it feels so horrible it might as well be drowning) and fighting wind resistance is, I think, what caused the stitch to kick in.

With the finish line just around the corner, I faltered. I nearly stopped. The stitch was bad, I had never run this far consecutively in my life (no, really, the most I ever did in school was the timed mile we were forced into- 8 mins, if you were wondering) and I nearly gave up. Then a hand grabbed mine and a voice said;

“I’m eighty, if I can do it so can you!”

And the lovely man ran with me over the finish line, my octogenarian hero 🙂

My time was 1 hour 5 minutes and 52 seconds. I came in 358th out of 367, which is in the bottom 2.45%. And yet, the medal I got for finishing means so much more to me than the one I got for the half-marathon because although it was a shorter distance, I ran more of it. It was a huge personal achievement for me, although an hour an five minutes isn’t a particularly fast time for five miles. The whole experience of this race was better because other people buoyed me up. The man and woman I ran with, the old guy at the end, I may not know who you are or ever see you again, but thank you, if you are reading this, thank you.

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I decided to go all Olympian for this one 🙂

Oh yes….because somehow I’m determined to keep torturing myself (emotional and mental gains from these races are epic but physically…ow), I am planning to enter a 16k obstacle course with a couple of my fiances cousins in November. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Although I didn’t manage to enter the obstacle course last year, it’s still on the list. However, I have entered this 5 mile race again for 2015, with my friend RJ, who I’ve been regularly training with (yes, you read that right, actually regularly training)! Once we’ve done it I’ll post a photo.

Me and Rachel

Me and RJ

23rd March 2014 – No.17: Complete the Hastings ½ Marathon

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When I was in school, I hated P.E. (along with Mathematics, it was my least favourite subject). So you can be forgiven for wondering why I would sign up for an endurance running event of 13 miles, covering some very steep terrain in a circuit following the original town boundaries. I had one motivation for this and it’s ridiculously shallow; I wanted the big shiny participation medal you get if you finish. So, I entered soon after the 2013 half-marathon, fully intending to do the thing properly. I would start training in January 2014, as recommended by the organisers. I kitted myself out with suitable running gear, sports bra, trainers etc. Well, the utterly atrocious weather that winter put paid to my training before it had begun. I’m not kidding, rain, hail and gale force winds battered the whole of Britain for weeks and caused cliff-falls and sections of train-track to collapse; it wasn’t an appealing prospect to go running in it. The race route goes up Harley Shute (very long steep hill) and onto Queensway (this is a road race, so the motorway was closed to traffic), in the middle of which is the five-mile point and a clock. I was surprised to discover my time was just over an hour. I began to hope that my estimated finish time of 3 and half hours, which I had calculated based on apparent walking speed during the walk to Rye (it being the same distance of 13 miles), minus lunch breaks etc, might be erroneous. I ran occasionally, mostly getting tired out quickly but once finding the rhythm of it and doing quite well. I came to the conclusion that my poor running skills might be due to technique and not fitness; after all I was walking the route with no problem, faster than some of the runners.

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(Or go to http://www.raceroutes.co.uk/route/156/196/hastings-half-marathon for an excellent map of route with interactive elevation display)

Around the halfway point, up on the Ridge, the weather changed. The sun disappeared and a light rain began, followed by a sprinkling of hail. My fingers swelled, numb with cold, stiff in their movement. I distracted myself with the excellent running playlist my fiancé had put on my phone and kept going. Occasionally, I would pass groups of scouts holding out cups of water, or members of the public holding out sweets and orange slices. I was grateful for all but none more so than in the last mile, where I think if the peel was edible I would have swallowed a quarter of an orange whole. At the ten mile clock, I noted my time was 2 hours 16 minutes. I pumped my fists in the air, celebrating, only three miles left. I sent a text my fiancé to start heading to the finish line to meet me. A second lot of rain and hail began, worse than before. I bore through it, turning onto All Saints Street, where I spotted my mum. I was pleased to see her cheering me on, got pumped up and started running again, which I had been doing periodically, forgetting each time that I lacked any real ability.
The final three miles of the race are totally flat, familiar territory to me and should have been relatively easy. However, a combination of dwindling energy resources and a brutal assault of hail so thick I had to shield my face reduced my speed to an almost-crawl. I could barely force my frozen limbs to keep going, even when the finish line came into view. Marshalls and spectators called encouragingly that I had only meters to go but exhaustion convinced me running was not in my best interests despite this support from strangers. I may well have walked over the finish line if I hadn’t spotted the clock, reading just a few minutes less than three hours. Suddenly, I’d be damned if I finished over three hours, so I dredged up one final burst of energy and crossed the line running.

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I stopped, bent over, gasped for breath. A small person wrapped itself around my waist, shouting ‘Mum, you won!’ I hugged my lovely, well-meaning (if somewhat mistaken) daughter and staggered over to my fiancé. He helped me sit until I’d recovered enough to go collect my finisher’s medal, the big, shiny lump of brass I’d worked so hard for. Afterwards, I discovered my biggest issues were not the sore feet and legs I’d expected (they didn’t even hurt) but the violent shivers that continued well after I’d peeled the sodden clothing from my frozen skin and the stomach cramps and persistent nausea that refused to dissipate until I finally managed to eat something later (at which point I ate a massive bacon sandwich and bag of Doritos and none of it touched the sides.)
So, I finished 3257th out of 3428, beating the bottom 5% of runners (171 people) with my time of 2 hours, 58 minutes. Everyone says this is a perfectly respectable time, especially in view of the fact that I walked most of it and didn’t train. Oddly, I find myself unsatisfied, not with the time but the amount of actually running I did. So, the day after the Half-marathon, I signed up for a five-mile road race that’s in May. I have started training, (e.g. I’ve been jogging twice) so maybe this time I can run more of the course instead of walking it.

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Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

Me just after the half marathon, with my daughter Emiko

3rd of May 2013 – No.53: Walk from St.Leonards to Rye

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The walk from St.Leonards to Rye was an idea born many years ago when my father mentioned that it was possible to walk all the way to Rye by going along the clifftops. I decided then I was going to do it someday, although at the time I was too young to make such a walk unaccompanied. I intended to do it in 2011, then in 2012 but both those years the summers were really windy and rainy and the winters even harsher. Exposed on a clifftop, you really want no more than a light breeze and a little sunshine if you are after a pleasant walk. The summer of 2013, however turned out to be the hottest, sunniest summer we’d had since 2006, back before Emiko was born, when I wrote my list.
I mentioned my planned walk to my fiance Elliot to see if he was interested in coming with me and he was. Elliot loves hiking. He mentioned it to his cousin Be and he decided to come too. Finally, hearing of our expedition, our friend Sue decided to join us and so the date was set. The Long Walk, as it would come to be known, would take us 13.1 miles along the seafront from St.Leonards, where I lived, up onto the East Hill, which is part of the cliffs, through Hastings Country Park, which runs the length of them and then back down again. This was as far as I’d gotten before and the rest, while having been memorised from Googlemap, was technically an unknown.

Me, MEF and Be in a tree

Me, Elliot and Be in a tree

I liked the idea of setting off not knowing exactly how to get to my destination. I decided to use the occasion to test the weight of my disaster prep bag. I have been putting together three-day bags for use in an emergency resulting in us needing to leave our home (this is a government recommended precaution, not doomsday-prepper madness) and I wanted to make sure I could easily carry my supplies a fair distance.  We had planned to leave at 10am (because Be couldn’t meet us earlier), estimated the journey to take no more than 5 hours including breaks and aimed to arrive in Rye at around 3pm and celebrate with a well-earned cream tea. Life being life, of course that isn’t quite what happened. Various delays meant we didn’t meet Be until 12, so we were behind schedule.

The first part of the walk was lovely but hard-going. The clifftop is basically a series of hills, so you have to walk up and then down 4 or 5 slopes of varying steepness in order to get to the flat bit. While it kills the calves, going up isn’t too bad. You get beautiful views of parts of Hastings and the sea and the park itself is lovely. There are some really interesting plants up there. It’s a popular place to walk and we met quite a few people coming and going along the trail. We were asked to take a picture of a group of American tourists, who were quite pleased to discover Elliot is American too. When we were done, we got them to take our photo. Somewhere around 2, we stopped for lunch. Elliot and I had been to our local bakery before we left and had enormous rolls to eat. Mine was bacon. There is something really lovely about unwrapping greasy paper to reveal delicious meat and bread when you’ve been hiking.

L to R, MEF, Me, Sue, Be

L to R, Elliot, Me, Sue, Be

After lunch we carried on until we reached the village of Fairlight, where we proceeded to buy more water, having consumed all of ours during the last few hours. Once you get through Fairlight, you reach Pett Level and that is really where the Country Park ends. After that, you follow the Sea Road, a very long, straight and frankly, monotonous path along the pebble beach. It goes right alongside the old marshes, now home to numerous sheep. We did find an ice cream van though and I treated Sue and myself to an ice cream cone each.
Once you eventually reach the end of the Sea Road, you walk past a load of caravan holiday lets and take a shortcut across a field to reach the final stretch. This a road which has three very, very long straight roads, connected by corners, which means you can’t see Rye until you turn the last corner and even then it’s seems like a really long way away. By this point, we’d mostly stopped talking. While the uphill of the Country Park is harder on the legs, it’s variety and postcard views make it a more engaging walk than the latter half of the journey. I think we all just wanted to reach Rye so we could sit down, having not sat down since lunch, almost three hours ago.

The sign at Pett Level

The sign at Pett Level (that’s Sue and Be in the background)

We knew we were too late for cream tea, by the time we made it into Rye the teashops would all be closed, which was a little disappointing. Happily, while my feet hurt, the disaster bag wasn’t bothering me at all, which means I got the weight limit right. Plus, if anyone had needed first aid, I would have had supplies to hand. Finally, we spotted the sign that told us we had reached the official outskirts of Rye, at which point, Be took off running and crossed the invisible line.
“I win!” he shouted, and was promptly followed by Sue claiming second place. Elliot and I stopped to take a photo of me with the sign and before we crossed the boundary together. Then we walked into the centre of Rye and waited in the station carpark for Sue’s Mum, (whom everyone calls Mother because she mothers us all), to pick us up and drive us home again. All of us were exhausted and in dire need of a cup of tea but it was great fun and I am planning other Long Walks.

Me with sign at Rye

Me with the sign at Rye

17 of April 2013 – No.25: Go fire-walking

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image from pixaby

image from pixaby

I first came across the idea of fire-walking when I was a little child. I was going through a phase of fascination with all things paranormal and discovered an encyclopaedia in my local library detailing many things of a spooky persuasion, including the exploits of certain fakirs, who walked on burning coals. This is me we are talking about, so of course, my seven year old brain thought ‘I bet I could do that’ and yet another desire was born. I had known for ages that our local hospice, St.Michael’s Hospice would every few years hold a sponsored fire-walk to raise funds, but so far I had always missed the announcement and therefore the application deadline.  This year however, I was buying our local Observer on a weekly basis so I could keep up with the news on the Hastings Carnival Queen competition, so I did see it. I wasted no time in applying, paid my £10 entry fee and set about raising money.

On the 17th of April, my fiance Elliot and I went to William Parker School where the fire-walk was to take place. I registered and received my participation t-shirt. I could see the fire-pit laid out but not yet burning and began to get quite excited. There was quite a lot going on to entertain spectators while those of us taking part were getting our training/pep talk, so Elliot went off to get a burger and I joined my fellow fire-walkers in the school gym. The training was mostly designed to get everyone hyped up and confident and to lay potential worries to rest. I didn’t really have any worries or doubts about my ability to go through with it, because I had already researched the physics behind the act. Fire-walking is possible because of several things: firstly, by the time the fire dies down to embers, it is mostly carbon and ash, both of which are poor conductors of heat. Secondly, you walk across the embers quickly, so there is no time for heat to transfer (this is similar to the trick where you pass your finger through a candle flame, if you’ve ever tried it) and thirdly, at that time of year the grass is usually damp and forms a moisture barrier on your feet. There is actually an episode of Mythbusters where they demonstrate the effectiveness of the moisture barrier by dipping their hands in molten lead. So unless you stand on the fire, you will not get burnt.

An hour or so later, suitably pepped up by our training exercises, the participants and I exited the gym and assembled around the fire, by now at the preferable state for walking across. There followed some showmanship by the event organisers where they demonstrated the temperature of the fire with heat sensors and then they began sending us across, accompanied by furious drumming by the local Section 5 drummers.  I took off my shoes, rolled up my trouser legs and joined the queue. Finally my turn came. The guy running the event asked everyone by turn the same two questions to determine we were ready before they let us go.

“What is your name?” asked the guy.

“Elizabeth Fitzgerald” I answered confidently.

“Are you ready?” he roared at me.

“Yes!” I bellowed back, and walked briskly out onto the burning coals in my bare feet. I felt a cosy warmth beneath my soles and before I knew it, had crashed into the man at the other end who was there to stop people like me who over-enthusiastically carried on charging down the field after we had left the fire behind us. Then I turned around and joined the group of people who had completed the challenge to cheer on the remaining people. One girl even did the fire-walk in her bikini!

Afterwards I joined Elliot, who said it was awesome and then gave me the unfortunate news that none of his photos had come out. They were all blurred from the motion and the amount of ash in the air, so unfortunately I cannot show them to you. I was quite disappointed but I cheered up when the celebratory firework display started up at the end. A week later, I received my certificate in the mail, along with a letter thanking me for the £115 I had raised.

Despite the sad lack of photographic evidence, the whole experience was brilliant and I will always have my memories. I always knew I could do it and now I have proved I can. 🙂

16. 25. Firewalking

27th October 2010 – No.63: Go Abseiling

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Having finished my National Diploma in Business with such good grades, the next logical step was to apply to a university and carry on my education. This was never originally my plan (hence not being a list item) but everyone else was doing it (worst reason to do something, ever), so I applied for and was accepted onto a degree in International Business at Brighton University. Living with my flatmate at the time was making my life rather difficult so in-between finishing college and starting uni, Emiko and I moved to a small flat on the other side of town. As you can imagine, my bad habit of moving house right before or during big life events did make things rather stressful, especially since I now had further to travel to get Emiko to nursery before the 70 minute commute to Brighton. So, long story short, before the first semester was up, I knew that course was not the right course for me and that it was not the right time in my life to go to university.

I could have left right there and then. I would have, if not for one thing…we were shortly to be taking part in Team Skills Day, a day when students from similar courses are randomly grouped together with each other and then expected to learn to work as a team whilst competing various mental and physical tasks, one of which was abseiling. Abseiling had been on my list for a while and I hadn’t had any opportunities before, so I leapt at the chance, even if it meant putting up with uni for a little longer.

Me and the guys I wnet with for Team Skills Day

Me and the guys I went with for Team Skills Day

Team Skills Day dawned and I dressed in sensible clothing and shoes, packed myself a hearty lunch and made sure I had my camera. The coach journey was actually not too bad; I have largely outgrown my travel sickness although it does come back sometimes. On arrival, we were sorted into random groups. I only knew one person in my group and I was actually quite upset not to be teamed with my friends because I knew I was never going to see them again. Each group was assigned a leader and told we would be competing as teams for points for each activity we completed. I disliked our leader fairly quickly, especially when he told us that because he doesn’t think winning is important, his teams usually come last. I like winning and I didn’t want to miss out on activities because this guy wasn’t bothered. The first activity we tackled was belly crawling through what some people might consider claustrophobicly small concrete pipes. They were kind of wet and consequently we spent the rest of the day covered in mud. One of our group refused point blank to go through the tunnels even though it lost our team a huge number of points, so I was actually really glad when we got around to abseiling.

My peers watching me descend the 30ft tower

My peers watching me descend the 30ft tower

I wasn’t first up, so I got to watch a couple of other people do it before me. I was excited and I had that funny tingly feeling you get that’s half adrenaline and half nerves. When it was my turn, I left my camera with my group so they could take pictures and climbed the several flights of wooden stairs that led to the top. Part way up, it felt as if the tower was shaking. I was a little bit thrown and wondered what the hell was going on. Arriving at the top, I could see our group leader jumping around and shaking the stair rail. Maybe he thought it would add atmosphere; maybe he was just bored. Whichever it was, I really didn’t like our leader now. And there I was, about to dangle myself off a 30ft drop with only him to hold the other end of the rope. I looked him dead in the eye.

“You’re not going to drop me,” I said. It was a statement, not a question but I guess he thought it was because he started spouting semi-comforting stuff about how he would lose his job if he did. While he talked, he set up the rope through the karabinas in my harness and then began instructing me on how to descend. The most important things seemed to be keep your feet level with or higher than your hips and not to let go of the rope. Following his instructions, I put my feet on the edge and started leaning backwards out over the drop. This is the scariest part of abseiling. Once you’re in the right position, you just kind of half walk, half hop backwards. I actually did feel quite secure and was enjoying the treetop view immensely. It turns out, it doesn’t take very long to climb down 30ft. I felt like I had only just got the hang of it when I reached the bottom and I immediately resolved to abseil down something bigger one day.

The first time I went abseiling

The first time I went abseiling

And, yes, our team did come last in the points competition but even though we didn’t get to do all the things the other teams did, some of them didn’t get to go abseiling so I was glad I’d had the opportunity.  I now plan to wait until St. Michael’s Hospice has their next abseiling challenge to raise funds and take part in that (they get people to raise sponsorship by abseiling down a 13-story office block). Ultimately, while the day didn’t go exactly the way I was hoping it would, overall I did have fun and I was happy to have a new experience under my belt.