Summer 2011, 2012 & Winter 2014 – No.48: Learn to Rollerblade

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26.48. Learn to Roller-blade (1)

This, I suspect, will be quite a short post. After all, there is only so much you can say about roller-blading. I actually started off on quad skates but I really did not get on with them. RJ tried for most of a summer to help me get the hang of them but to no avail.

The following summer, another friend of ours introduced me to inline skates instead and that was much more successful. However, I was still very slow, wobbly and insecure. I didn’t do anything for this goal in 2013, I can’t remember why. Then in the winter of 2014, RJ started taking me to a roller-disco on a weekly basis and a lovely lady who runs a local roller derby squad helped me massively.

After several weeks, I was no longer wobbly or worried and could finally go faster than walking speed. I will admit to some unusual techniques to distract myself at the beginning -skating round the hall mumbling random Japanese phrases to myself did stop my brain over-ruling my feet though! I reckon now I can skate well enough to say this one gets crossed off. Although I have stopped skating since I got pregnant due to the risk of falling, I will pick it up again at some point next year and I hope to improve my skating further then.

 

Guest Post – How I Spent Three Weeks in China by Thea van Diepen

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By Thea van Diepen:

In the summer of 2013, I went to China to visit relatives – no, they’re not Chinese, they just live there. 😛

It was my first time ever being off the North American continent, my first time travelling alone, and my first time in a country where I only knew two words of the language (previously, I’d been to the U.S., Belize, and Mexico. So, yes, I know a little Spanish). It was also the first time I’d gone to visit my relatives, instead of seeing them when they came here to visit.

And it was super cool.

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The only picture I have of myself from the trip – I was too busy taking picture of everything else!

My relatives live in Chengdu, which is in the Sichuan province. The Sichuan province (“si” means “four” and “chuan” means “river”) borders Tibet, and a lot of Tibetan people live in the mountains of that province, as well as in the cities. It’s an area known for its spicy food, and Chengdu is known for being very hot and humid. And probably other things. But that humidity is pretty darn hard to ignore. 😛

For the first couple of days, I stayed in Chengdu with my relatives and processed all the newness around me.

Because everything was new. I’d made it a point before the trip not to have any expectations of what I was going to see and experience. Since I’d never been to China before and had only heard about it and seen pictures, I knew that none of the ideas in my head about it would be accurate.

Which was such a good idea.

I remember the ride from the airport to where my relatives live, seeing all the buildings, the signs, the cars. The traffic patterns.

The cars there are smaller than here in Canada, for one thing. And the shops are open at the end that faces the street (unless they’re closed, at which point it’s literal as well as figurative), which would be crazy here because of how cold it gets, but is perfect there because it lets the breeze in.

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Not Chengdu, and I don’t think those are shops along the street, but you get the idea

Oh, and the food is amazing. It’s the perfect amount of spicy for me, which is hard to get in Canada outside of Asian restaurants, and so, so flavourful. I returned from that trip with a lasting love for baozi (steamed pork buns, eaten for breakfast), numbing pepper (not spicy, but it makes your tongue numb for a few seconds when you chew it), and this one dish with pork and garlic shoots (which are sweet!).

Baozi, my one true love :3 And a couple regular steamed buns

Baozi, my one true love :3 And a couple regular steamed buns

Then, for about two weeks, we went into the mountains to see some Tibetan towns and villages, putting our lives in the hands of bus drivers. Seriously, they drive really fast there, and the roads along the mountains don’t even have the nice guard rails they do in Canada, so I spent most of the bus rides not looking down.

We stayed at guest houses, walked the streets, got asked by some very nervous police officers to sign a waiver written in questionable English, ate lots of in-season fruit, and enjoyed the beautiful, beautiful scenery and architecture.

One of the guest houses we stayed at

One of the guest houses we stayed at

One of the meals we ate there

One of the meals we ate there

My copy of the letter given to us by the jumpy police officers after we signed the waiver

My copy of the letter given to us by the jumpy police officers after we signed the waiver

I took in as many details as I possibly could. The shapes of buildings, the texture of stone, the way everything was on an incline because we were on the sides of mountains, the tell-tale signs of fields and houses way up in the mountains.

The colours are different, the mountains are different, the air is different. We were up so high, I felt like I could touch the blue curve of the sky if only I reached enough. And, fascinated as I already am with clouds, I loved how they would wrap around the mountains in mysterious, eerie perfection. The opening credits of Mulan with inked drawings in the background made a lot more sense to me after seeing that.

The coloured pieces of cloth along the roof of the bottom house are prayer flags, meant to protect the house and collect karma as they wave in the wind

The coloured pieces of cloth along the roof of the bottom house are prayer flags, meant to protect the house and collect karma as they wave in the wind

On the way back, we saw yaks, bought a pail of fresh yogurt, got giggly with a touch of altitude sickness, and tried to get our driver to dance to the music playing from his car as the valley spread out below us and the huge, huge sky.

See what I mean about that sky?

See what I mean about that sky?

We hung out in Chengdu during the last days of my visit, where I got to fulfill my second goal of the trip: buying an erhu! It’s a musical instrument, also known as the Chinese violin, known for its beautiful, emotional sound. If you’ve seen the first of the new Star Trek movies, then you’ve heard it in the music that related to Vulcan.

An erhu, beautifully played by a performer at the Sichuan opera

An erhu, beautifully played by a performer at the Sichuan opera

I also (finally) learned more Mandarin than just ni hao (hello) and xie xie (thank you), and I also learned some Amdo (a Tibetan language), all from the same teacher. She didn’t speak much English, which made our lessons interesting, to say the least, but we had a lot of fun and I really did learn quite a bit.

After that, it was time to head home.

And home was beautiful, too.

A sign at the Chengdu panda park

A sign at the Chengdu panda park

Many thanks to Thea for her guest post!

11th October 2014 – No.65: Get Married

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_DSC2797Elliot and I met in 2007, at a shared friends birthday party. After that, he moved away for a while but when he came back to Hastings, he rented a room at my daughter’s dad’s house and we started to notice each other a bit. Elliot is extremely shy and I am just a bit dim about other people’s opinions of me, so we went around liking each other for ages before we realized the feeling was mutual. We started dating on May 8th 2011 and got engaged when on New Year’s Eve 2012. We set our wedding date for the 14th October 2014.

Elliot and I signing the marriage register

Elliot and me signing the marriage register

We stayed at different houses the night before so we could get ready separately.  I spent the morning at my mum’s house with my sister, daughter and the rest of my bridesmaids. The morning passed in a flurry of dresses, make-up and warm pain au chocolat, with less stress and panic than I’d suspected there might be, other than getting rained on a bit on the way to the car. Our wedding was taking place at a venue called the Azur, which has stunning views as it’s basically on the beach. Incidentally, it’s featured in the movie Byzantium (quite a lot of it is filmed in Hastings, where we live), so if you want to see what the room where we got married looks like, you can see it in the scene where Saoirse Ronan’s character is playing piano.)

Hannah's Cat form the traditional archway

Hannah’s Cat form the traditional archway

Arriving at the venue, I waited with my mum for my interview with the registrar (for those of you who are not English, they have to do a last minute interview before the ceremony to make sure it’s all above board.) I was feeling pretty nervous by this point, but happy nerves. Eventually the Master of Ceremonies said it was time, so I went into the hallway and joined the rest of my bridal party. My morris side was there to support me and they kicked things off by processing in, accompanied by live music. My bridesmaids Sue and Lou went next, followed by my twin sister and my daughter, who was scattering rose petals.

 

Elliot and me with our Lucky Sweep

Elliot and me with our Lucky Sweep

At that point, I realized I’d left my bouquet in the kitchen sink. There’s a rather funny photo taken at the point I told my mum this; she looks horrified.  Finally, it was my turn, so I took my mum’s arm and we walked in. I could see Elliot waiting for me, looking awesome in his suit. We did the part of the ceremony where my mum gave me away (when I first asked her to give me away she wasn’t keen on participating in what she viewed as an archaic idea of male ownership of women, but I pointed out that to me, it was more like saying, ‘I’ve spent my life loving this person and now it’s your turn; I’m trusting you to look after her heart.’ Then she was OK with it.)

Photograph ALL the guests!

Photograph ALL the guests!

The ceremony went pretty flawlessly, Elliot came in too soon on one of his vows and ended up saying “I will” twice. When it was my turn, I did the same thing as a little joke. We signed the register and processed out of the wedding room under the tradition arch of staves my morris side does whenever one of us gets married. We had some time then for drinks and congratulations and for photographs. We got several with our Lucky Sweep. It’s a dying British tradition that a chimney sweep at your wedding brings good luck and this particular sweep is the one who cleans the chimneys at my mum’s house -he used to make the brushes dance out the top of them to entertain me and my siblings when we were children. Since it had stopped raining and was actually quite beautifully sunny, we went outside for more photos, taken by Matt; the son of a friend of ours named Barny who had quite a hand in getting us together, since he was the one who told each of us that we liked each other and this is what resulted in our first date.

The bridesmaids and grooms men with the happy couple

The bridesmaids and grooms men with the happy couple

There are always an enormous amount of photos taken at weddings, so the photo-taking went on for some time and took up most of the gap between the wedding and the meal. I got a lot of compliments on my dress, and most people were surprised to discover it had been made for me by a very good friend out of about £30 worth of curtain fabric (we had a very low budget for our wedding.) We’d paid for a special package provided by our venue, the Azur, called the ‘Grand Wedding for a Grand’, so £1000 got us the venue, the master of ceremonies, a three course meal for 50 guests and the use of the venue for our reception at no extra cost. They were even happy for us to bring our own buffet for the evening. The meal options were very nice, a choice of gnocchi or winter root soup for starters, chicken breast in Marsala wine or  (actually, I’ve forgotten what the vegetarian option was because I didn’t eat it) for the main and warm chocolate brownie with mint ice cream, or apple crumble for dessert. Elliot bucked the menu, he said it was his wedding day and he was having steak, so he did. There were some rather envious looks when it was brought in sizzling away on a hot stone platter.

First drink together

Our first drink together as a married couple

The meal was of course followed by toasts, which we kept limited. Elliot’s cousin Be made one, since he was the best man -it was well put together and very funny. It is also the reason large numbers of people now refer to us as ‘Lizziot.’ My mother made a speech full of in jokes for me, which was very sweet but lost on most people, especially as my mother is a very quiet speaker and most of the room couldn’t hear her. Elliot wasn’t going to make a speech but ended up doing it off the cuff after our Master of Ceremonies announced him as doing one (obviously assuming he was planning on it.) It was short, simple and perfect. While dinner was being digested we took the chance for some more photo’s and then went back inside to socialise and welcome our evening guests.

My morris bells and Elliot's Joker socks

My morris bells and Elliot’s Joker socks

Our evening entertainment was a fantastic ceilidh band called the Sugarloaf Band and we had a whale of a time dancing the night away to their wonderful Irish music. Elliot and I had our first dance alone, consisting of an awkward shuffle in random circles because neither of us can waltz. We did actually try to get lessons but our teacher kept cancelling on us due to laryngitis, so we gave up.  Fortunately with ceilidh dancing you have a caller giving instructions, so it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the dance, it’s just a load of fun. It’s also not that easy in a fishtail dress.

Swapping headgear...

Swapping headgear…

We spent a happy evening chatting to our guests as they enjoyed the dancing and buffet, and all the guests that weren’t Elliot’s family commented on how many of the guests actually were his family -Elliot has a very large family and we had them visiting from places like Denmark and America as well as all over England. For our wedding cake we’d selected a chocolate cake shaped like a caterpillar. I thought it would be a waste of money to buy the usual fondant covered fruitcake that you usually get at weddings and I figured a party cake from our local Marks and Spencer’s would do fine (and it did.) Since Elliot’s cousin Sam had used a sword to cut the cake at his wedding, I’d been joking to Elliot that we should outdo him and use an axe -I was quite surprised when he suddenly produced a giant battle axe (courtesy of Be.) We duly used it to decapitate the caterpillar, which was funny until Be said ‘Now it’ll never be a butterfly’ and my daughter started crying. I think she was pretty tired and overwhelmed by then.

Cutting the cake :)

Cutting the cake 🙂

All good things come to an end and eventually we had to go home. Surrounded by joy and good wishes from our loved ones, we piled into a taxi with all the gifts, which we wouldn’t open until the next day. We got back happy and exhausted, made some tea, got into bed and watched Armageddon, since it was on TV.  It was a perfect day and I couldn’t have had it go any better.

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The doomed caterpillar cake meets it’s fate

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 🙂

2014 Annual Review

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Hello! It’s time for my first ever annual review (of how well I did at my goals for 2014), so let’s just dive straight in:

What went well this year?
 I ran the Hastings half-marathon in less than my target time of 3.5 hours
 I also did a five-mile race, this is the most running I’ve done since…ever
 I caught my first fish
 I abseiled (rappelled) down 128 feet of building for charity
 I started the Trefoil Guild Bronze Voyage Award and it’s satisfactorily in progress
 I got a B in my maths G.C.S.E. Hooray, I can do higher math now!
 I got married! Best decision ever!
 I have (to date) written 15,500 words of my novel (breaking my personal record)
 I finally learnt to roller-blade
 I mastered my natural shyness about singing in public by appearing in the Hastings Gang Show and singing two solo numbers
 I also tidied up some loose ends and finished a couple of minor projects, as well as regaining an old friend I thought I’d never see again.

What did not go well this year?
 I set the target too high for my goal: ‘Write at least 1000 words per day at least 5 days a week)’ I’ve decided to ‘mini-habit’ this in 2015 -50 words a day is so small I can’t possibly fail at it and will most likely write much more each day, therefore both establishing a daily writing habit and encouraging over-achievement rather than failure. I can always move the bar later.
 National Novel Writing Month: I did well for the time I could put into it. I found it highly enjoyable, it just didn’t mix well with full show rehearsals and performances. Verdict – I took on too much. Next year I will not be mixing NaNo with any other goal. I might do Camp Nano instead…
 Go to America, meet Elliot’s family etc: Plans changed, money was needed elsewhere, this is now planned for April 2015 (fingers crossed anyway)
 Take my Grade 3 flute exam -okay, honestly, I barely worked on this…it just didn’t appeal this year, so it’s a 2015 goal now.
 Road test ideas for easily maintained and automated businesses; take further if poss. This didn’t happen because I’ve been testing out a business idea that is not easily maintained and automated…but it is super cool and my husband is into it, so maybe that’s better?

Goals for 2015, including but not limited to (and in no particular order):
• Complete a beginner’s archery course so I can start competing
• Go to America to visit my husband’s family
• Take my daughter to Disneyland Paris
• Have a go on a trapeze
• Take my Grade 3 music theory exam
• Actually work on my Grade 3 flute exam
• Start refreshing my piano skills so I can help my daughter with her lessons
• Do more stuff with my daughter –baking, science experiments, crafts, maths etc
• Finish the first draft of my novel (daily writing and NaNo)
• Increase the size of my family (Elliot and I are officially trying for a baby!)
• Implement more sustainable techniques in the way I live e.g. grow my own veg

CONCLUSION: 2014 was a good, productive year that could have been more productive if I had avoided some scheduling conflicts but probably was as good as it was going get because weddings are a massive time/energy/money suck even when you plan really simple ones. I’m now really looking forward to next year! I wish everyone as much joy in themselves and their lives as it is humanly possible to feel; here’s to another year of inspiration, small wins (and big ones) and friendships old and new!

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2013 to 2014: Get at least a B in G.C.S.E. Mathematics

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stock image from PIXABY

stock image from PIXABY

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the English educational system, G.C.S.E.s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are taken at or around the age of 16 and are the qualifications with which you leave secondary school and move onto college. Ideally you should leave school with a minimum of five G.C.S.E.s; I left with eleven. So, you might be wondering why, nine years later, I decided to retake my Mathematics G.C.S.E, when I already had a perfectly acceptable C grade. The answer is; I like tornadoes.

Non-sequitur? Maybe. Backtrack a little and we’ll find out why. I have loved tornadoes ever since I saw Twister. One day I was thinking about people who had careers in fields that they were passionate about and I thought (as you do), maybe I should study meteorology. Except, to take a Meteorology degree in England, first you have to have A-levels in Maths and Physics. I don’t have those. Okay, I thought, let’s look at getting them first. Well, to study Maths or Physics at A-level, you need a B grade or higher in G.C.S.E. Maths or Physics. I took Combined Sciences and as I’ve said, got a C in Maths. So clearly, if I wanted to study weather science, first I was going to have to take the Maths G.C.S.E higher paper.

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stock image from PIXABY

I’m going to come clean now and say that a few months into studying for the maths exam, I decided that I didn’t want to be a meteorologist (I subscribed to the International Journal of Meteorology because I thought it might be useful but I found it really boring. I like watching weather more than I like crunching numbers about it.) I decided to carry on with the maths though, because to my great surprise, I was really enjoying it. If you had told me in school that I would one day consider maths to be fun, I would have laughed in your face. Mind you, I would have done that if you’d told me I would one day voluntarily complete a half-marathon, so clearly my sixteen-year old self didn’t know me very well.

I wasn’t considered good at maths in school (I was predicted an E grade in my exams, so Lord knows how I got a C), and because of that I hated it. It turns out, having one-to-one tuition with a teacher who gets excited about his subject matter and actively cares about your success, makes learning a lot more enjoyable. That teacher was Be, who is my husband Elliot’s cousin. He has a degree in accounting and is training to be a maths teacher, so he was quite pleased to have a guinea pig student. At the same time, my husband (who was still my fiance at this point) was taking his Mathematics G.C.S.E for the first time (he didn’t have any English qualifications, being American, and it was an issue for a different course he wanted to take) at our local college. Elliot’s teacher was none other than Be’s dad (the maths brain runs in their family.) So, Elliot and I revised together, sat our exam together and anxiously awaited our results together.

stock image from PIXABY

stock image from PIXABY

Finally, about two months after our exams, we got our results; both of us passed -with a B grade! So now I have an A, five B’s and five C’s for my G.C.S.E.s, which is great. I am happy with my result, I worked really hard for it. I liked trigonometry the best because it makes sense to me, lovely geometrical puzzles that are so applicable to real-life situations (try designing a house without it!). I even made up a song to remember the sin and cosine rules. I think I enjoyed simultaneous equations the least because I find the process difficult.  I liked maths with Be so much I even have plans to study the A-level with him (I may not want it for a meteorology degree but it’s useful for a lot), although not just yet because private tuition and examining as an external candidate is EXPENSIVE. I will have to come back to it later. All in all, I feel pretty good about myself. I like to push my boundaries and challenge my preconceptions of myself and I reckon I did just that. 🙂

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Me and Be

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.