Wild Ennerdale

It was a rather dreary October morning when Tim and Tricia C. came to fetch Mark (from across the road), Bella (my daughter) and me in order to drive down to Ennerdale for the Ennerdale trail race.  I realised with surprise that it had been 6 years since I last ran this particular race, organised by High Terrain Events.  I had done the 15-mile route just two weeks after running/walking Kielder marathon – after one of the wettest summers I had ever know, that October had provided glorious sunny autumnal days, and at the end of the race I sat in a deckchair in the sun, drinking a coffee, soaking up the warmth and admiring the view.  Partners and children waiting for runners to complete the race had splashed in the lake in a beach area near to the finish.

Today however was completely different.  As we drove further west the weather deteriorated until there was a persistent chilly rain.  We passed the pub in Ennerdale Bridge where Penny & Tim O. had stayed overnight in their camper van and headed towards the lake, Tim C. thinking he’d drop us off and then go to find somewhere to park.  In fact we were incredibly lucky and got one of the last spaces in the car park by the Scout Hut.

There was the normal milling around before the race began, drinking coffee, getting cold outside and too hot inside, and going to the loo numerous times: and then it was time for the 25km race to begin.  The last time I had done the race all 3 distances had taken place on the same day – this time the 50km ultra (two laps around the lake and up to Black Sail YHA) had taken place the day before.  15 minutes after the 25km runners started, those of us doing the 10km set off.

Ennerdale-Water-mapThe first half of the route is relatively easy and level.  You head around the lake in a clockwise (south-easterly) direction, wending your way on a fairly narrow path with the lake on your right and trees on your left, until you reach Bowness Knott car park (please note we were going in the opposite direction to that shown on the map above).  At Bowness Knott you get on to a forest road which again stays parallel to the edge of the lake.  The land ownership around here is a mixture of National Trust, Forestry Commission and Unitied Utilities, and they’re doing very little in the way of management in order to allow it to be as wild as possible and for nature to get its own way (Wild Ennerdale).

Following the floods of recent years, bridges have been repaired and replaced across the rivers at the eastern end of the lake and Penny was telling me how they had had to work out a solution which fitted with wild Ennerdale but also allowed for flood water.  The bridges are therefore concrete, so water can just wash over them.  We stopped for a photo at this end of the lake: as this was a race I didn’t keep stopping and taking photos like I normally would, hence fewer photos in this blogpost.20181021_1110101.jpg

We now have quite a collection of the two of us looking into the camera with a lake in the background.  This time of course the hills can’t be seen clearly – the rain was persisting and the views were non-existent.

As the path turns up the south-western side of the lake, it wriggles through trees and over/through streams and becomes very rocky.  I love this bit and like the good friend I am (not), as I saw the chance to overtake a few people who were slightly more hesitant on the potentially slippery rocks, my competitive instinct arose.  I left Penny behind – something she has never done to me in all the times we have run together.  I have no excuses – I was enjoying myself.

It’s quite a demanding section as you need to pick a good line through the rocks and make sure you don’t slip and fall.  At one point I slipped into a stream – however by then I was so wet anyway it didn’t really make any difference.  The streams were running quite high and fast with all the rain and they cross the path at relatively frequent intervals.

There’s a bit of a clamber up and over Angler’s Crag, and marshalls were there to make sure you don’t fall in – there’s a significant drop down to the lake.  I knew by now that I wasn’t too far from the end.  As I overtook a couple more people, I wondered if they would overtake me back on the flatter section – always a spur to keep you running!

The beach where previously families with children had been splashing didn’t exist today as the water level was so high, and as I crossed the river Ehen evidence of the water pipeline which is being installed from Thirlmere to Ennerdale was all around to my left, the natural landscape a temporary muddy construction site, the large blue pipes lying on the ground ready to be buried.  I could hear someone coming up behind me, which spurred me on to keep running – and as I headed over the finish line even managed to put on a bit of a sprint.

And there was my daughter, soaking wet and cold and desperate to get home to the warmth: but it was nice to see a family face waiting for me.  Hanging around in the cold and wet is always far worse than running in the cold and wet – I always feel appreciative of the marshalls who stand on the course making sure runners are OK and cheering us on, but who are slowly getting colder and colder waiting for us all to run past. I was so wet I could just have swum across the lake and it would have made little difference, but at least I was warm from running.

We had all run well and as we travelled back in the car chatted happily and debated which run to do next – a night run may well be on the cards.  Penny and I still have Coniston, Ullswater and Windermere to do, the aim being to complete them within the year of starting the ‘runs round the biggest lakes’, which I think means the end of April… it means one 14 mile, and three 20 mile runs (we’re going to split Windermere into two so that we can do the off-road 40 miles route but over two days…).

Wild Ennerdale is a beautiful run – and all off road – and one I’d happily do again.  But I have to admit it is far more beautiful on a sunny day!

And here are some of the official photos (purchased by Mark Britton) as we run along the forest road… Tricia looking happy and fit; me looking worried; Mark already semi-clothed despite the weather; and Penny smiling nicely at the camera.  That pink jacket of mine does not go with that purple top………



Embracing a portfolio career

Sometimes I get stressed about life (don’t we all): what on earth I’m doing and why; whether I’m doing the ‘right’ thing (is there ever a ‘right’ thing, strictly speaking?).  Usually it’s when I haven’t earned much money in a month and am feeling worried about (lack of) money.

Generally I enjoy my varied and relatively flexible lifestyle but at the times when I get stressed and worried about finances (in particular in order to be able to pay for things for the children) I usually start scanning the job websites, hoping that there may be that one really interesting full-time job out there which will use ALL my skills and experience (surveying, management, writing, presenting, catering, creative, organisational, language-learning, music-loving…) as well as pay a decent salary and fit in around childcare…

The last job I applied for, because I thought I ‘ought’ to, didn’t really appeal right from the beginning.  I won’t say precisely what it was but it was a full-time surveying job in the public sector.  There were one or two aspects in the job description which made me think ‘hmmm’ but by the time I came to the interview I had got my head around possibly working full-time as a surveyor again.  Early on in the interview it didn’t feel right… and I left feeling that it was not going to be my job and that I’d feel stifled working there.  It won’t be any surprise to hear that I didn’t get it, and nor did I lose any sleep over not getting it.

At the stage at which I was applying and thinking ‘should I/shouldn’t I?’, at least two friends said why couldn’t I do surveying as well as being a chef/writing.  As I drove home from the interview I realised they were right: and my conclusion was that perhaps I needed to embrace a portfolio career.  After all, I love the variety it brings.  A typical week when the kids are at school has a fairly strict structure to it so that I can fit everything in, but there’s a flexibility as well because I’m not tied to a particular office or employer 5 days a week.

So, the majority of my hours are doing surveying work but based from home.  Then there is a day and a half at college, at least, plus homework; writing the regular weekly newsletters I write and sometimes other bits of writing (I’d love to write more features), an Italian class and homework; and cooking for dinners.

There are benefits to all the elements of what I do (you’ll notice that there’s no singing practice included above, which is something I really do need to do more of): surveying is something I’ve been doing for years, and is a profession which, prior to children, I got fairly senior within.  I feel confident doing it (most of the time) and it earns a reasonable hourly rate – though there’s not as much of it in Cumbria as down south.  But my current boss is good to work for and the work keeps coming in, and I get to travel around a bit.

College and the chef work appeal to the creative side to me and also it’s an area where I’m learning lots of new things and progressing – which satisfies the restless, always-wanting-to-learn-something-new part of me, as does learning italian (when I finish the catering course I think I’d like to do Italian A level).

The final bit of the money-earning jigsaw is my writing.  I get a huge amount of satisfaction from this and feel it’s something I do well.  I love meeting the wide range of enormously interesting people I interview, and also it often makes use of or complements all the things I especially love: singing, running, cooking, history, living up here…

The downside of the current portfolio career is that I never know exactly what my income is going to be from month to month, and I’m inclined to say ‘yes’ to any offer of work just in an attempt to earn as much as I possibly can – as any freelancer knows – and then I’ll end up at times wondering where I’m going to fit everything in.  But if one of the children is ill I can usually work from home and look after him/her; if they need to be taken to the dentist, doctor, to piano exams etc. then I can take them, even if it does mean not earning any money for a couple of hours.  I can work when I feel like it – late at night; early in the morning (actually, no – I never feel like working particularly early in the morning!); at weekends; at times when I don’t have the children, and I am in charge of my own prioritisation.   One of my closest friends commented that at least I could be myself.

When I got home from the previously-mentioned job interview I had a phone call with a local magazine about some freelance work; and I’m now talking to someone about some possible ‘development chef’-type work.  One door closes; another opens.

And my conclusion?  That I should actively embrace my portfolio career; embrace the fact that I use a range of skills and experience by having a varied work (and educational) life.  And as a result I feel far more positive, optimistic and confident than I did when I was trying to fit myself into the ‘correct’ mould for that last job.



Appreciation, Self-Esteem and Loveliness


As we approach the end of another year it’s natural to question what you’ve achieved and to think about what might be to come, and what you may want to achieve in the forthcoming year.

I started the year feeling quite low, for many reasons.  But at the same time I knew that my introverted time was over: I needed work which got me out and about and meeting people, and I needed to feel part of my local community again.

Changes never happen fast and they often happen in ways you hadn’t anticipated.  As I started looking for an extra source of income rather than only working from home, and thought possibly about waitressing, a friend came to dinner.  A few weeks later she sent me a message with details of a local café wanting a chef.  I wasn’t sure she’d got the right person but “you forget – I’ve been to dinner” she said.  She also suggested I start a local supper club as she felt that people would happily pay to come to dinner at my house – however even so I felt awkward asking my friends to pay to come to dinner.  The idea of Brampton Supper Club was born, with proceeds going to charity, and in its own small way it’s proved quite successful and – again in its own small way – is growing.  I’m now also obtaining private chef work once in a while.

Feeling that I needed an extra qualification to work as a chef, although I’d say enthusiasm and experience count for more, I enrolled on a course at Carlisle College.  With some trepidation, I must admit – I’m 20 years older than the next youngest person, and 40 years older than the youngest student in my year.  But I’m enjoying it and definitely learning new things, in part due to an inspiring tutor who challenges us but also makes me feel that I do indeed have other experience to offer.  And in a strange way it makes me feel young rather than old!

I was also asked if I’d like to write for some local newsletters.  I have always loved meeting people and asking them about their lives and then writing it up, so I jumped at the chance – and it’s inspired me to start pitching stories to magazines again.  There are some fascinating people about!

Related to all of this, I’ve realised many things over the past few months and years, but the subject of ‘appreciation’ has been exercising my mind a fair bit recently.  A couple of years ago a friend said that she thought I relied too much on other people’s feedback and good opinion to feel good about myself; another friend sent me the saying at the top of this post.  Both contain truth but like so many ‘headlines’, don’t tell the entire story.  Clearly totally relying on other people’s opinions about you does not develop a deep-rooted inner sense of self-esteem and self-worth: that has to come from inside.  But appreciation can definitely help that self-esteem grow, and destructive criticism can do exactly the opposite.  We human beings are social animals and we function by living alongside each other.  We have the power to destroy self-confidence by a few carefully chosen nasty words; we can be manipulative and bullying; even murderous.  Or, as Jane Fonda once wrote, “we can take anything in nature and focus on the negative: but the positive beauty of it can change our life”.

This was reflected, as so often happens, when I picked up a copy of The Chimp Paradox (Professor Steve Peters) a few days ago.   Was it serendipity that I happened to open it at the section which talks about the goblin on the fridge: about praising your children first and foremost for who they are, and secondly for their achievements.  Many of us are driven to achieve, or behave in certain ways, because deep down inside we are still seeking approval (and trying to boost our self-esteem?) – not necessarily any longer that of our parents but of ‘society’.  It’s a difficult balance, isn’t it: the world is an amazing place and there’s a huge amount to explore and to learn; and to keep pushing your boundaries, the limits of your comfort zone, is surely what being human is about.  It’s natural then to want to ‘achieve’ – to do well – in new subjects.  Where does the line come between seeking approval that what you have done is good and worthwhile and seeking approval because you need it for your own self-esteem?  But when, also, is it time to be brave and start new things which some people may think you are crazy, if not irresponsible, to do?

I’ve seen destructive behaviours so much over the years: from parents, from bosses, from partners, from people who, for whatever reason, want to pull you down, and when you’re learning a subject or skill or new to a ‘relationship’ (friendship, work place or familial) then it’s natural to want to be accepted – ‘approved’ of.  I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been destructively critical of people myself, particularly when I’ve felt attacked or insecure: I’m all too aware of how easily I could destroy my own children’s confidence, but if I’m in a bad temper or feeling stressed it’s all too easy to be snappy and short rather than provide constructive criticism.  As a woman, I have always felt strongly that I wanted my daughter to grow up to be a strong, confident woman: but as a parent everybody will understand how difficult it is at times when your children don’t do what you want.  There’s free rein and there’s free rein…

The good thing is that is the year when I’ve been able to say ‘I can do without this’ when people have been destructively critical.  It’s not that I can’t take constructive criticism – after all, life is about constantly learning and I’m the first one to beat myself up when I don’t feel I’m learning fast enough or don’t feel that what I’m doing is good enough.  It’s made me realise that self-esteem isn’t about not wanting – or indeed needing – the good opinion of other people: it’s about being able to walk away when things are getting too destructive.  When it’s someone you love it is incredibly hard and can feel as if you’re tearing yourself in half; even with friends it can be difficult and feel disloyal. When it’s a job and you need the money you can feel guilty and worried: but you can bet your bottom dollar that if you take the risk then something better will come along.  When it’s a case of doing something you know to be the right thing but getting told you ‘shouldn’t’ then it’s a case of being brave; hearing the reasons and checking whether they have any validity but going with your heart.


2017 was a year of new beginnings, with the seeds which were planted in 2015 beginning to show some growth.  I have met or re-met new peoples; I have been lucky to have a ‘team’ of friends and acquaintances who support me, appreciate me, and help me feel good about what I do and am trying to do.  A word many people have used about me over the past two to three years is ‘lovely’, which is such a huge compliment as it implies not only worthy of being loved but also someone who gives love. People who are lovely do not dish out destructive criticism; they literally radiate happiness, openness, friendliness and helpfulness and make other people feel appreciated and worthwhile (the ticket collector on the train on Christmas Eve was like that).  About to start 2018, I have only vague goals, but I know what I don’t want.  And if I can achieve ‘loveliness’ even in small measure I will have been a success.  People being appreciative, supportive and kind is what helps the world go round smoothly; this is what can make it a happier place.

So here’s to 2018: may it be a year of honest appreciation and mutual understanding.  May it be a year of loveliness.

Half term with the kids

Half term has been and gone in a flash.  Last weekend was David’s turn to have the children, although I had them on Friday night and Saturday night, which meant that I had time for a run on Askham Fell with Penny on Sunday.  Both of us had work to do so after a late lunch at the cafe at Askham Hall, it was time to head home.  I drove back over the hills rather than up the motorway, and came to the conclusion that one day I shall live in Penrith or Kirkoswald, high up a hill and with a view.

On Monday Edward and Bella were keen to go to Energi, the new(ish) trampolining place in Carlisle.  I jumped too… I’m not very good as whilst I don’t mind jumping high, I’m not very brave at jumping over on to the next trampoline – though I did manage it a few times.  I also landed on the hard bit in between a couple of times, which is rather jarring on the ankles.  I wonder if I was the oldest jumper in the place?  I’m now thinking it would be good to go to one of the ‘Energi Fit’ classes.

Tuesday I had a conference and choir, so the children were with David Monday night and Tuesday night and back to me on Wednesday morning.  We had various dentists and opticians appointments all week, Edward had a swimming lesson every afternoon, and Bella was booked on to a Robotics course on Wednesday.  She found it boring as all they did was make robots out of cardboard, but at least she didn’t learn how to hack the school computer and write rude things on it, which was what happened after the Coding course… we also did some cooking that afternoon – she made a flourless chocolate cake and I made banana cake.  As nobody wanted to eat the banana cake (none of us is a fan of bananas, it seems) we gave it away, and I understand it was enjoyed by the recipients.

On Thursday the ‘treat’ was the Lego Batman movie, along with popcorn and hotdogs.  It hasn’t been a particularly healthy week food-wise, the more so as the kids seem to be rebelling against my tendency to want to eat fish as my main protein rather than red meat.  So this week we have had spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, and chilli with tacos – I’ve also made lamb tagine which I’m going to add butternut squash to before serving it with couscous, but I’m not sure what the trio’s reaction will be to that.

I had arranged to meet a friend at Whinlatter on Friday and as we drove down there the weather was colourful.  The sky was bright azure blue, the main central lakeland fells were covered in snow, and the plantlife was a mix of golden russet brown and vibrant-about-to-be-spring green.  The kids had a good time running around in the playground, although Alex tried to be too old and too cool for it.  Judging by my garden, spring is definitely on its way, and despite Storm Doris (a bit of a non-event up here in Cumbria), the weather hasn’t even been particularly cold.

Not until today, that is – and even then it was only cold on Talkin Fell.  Alex had a friend, Luke, to stay for the weekend.  We had a militaristic day yesterday with a visit to Carlisle Castle and the Regimental Museum followed by the Roman Gallery at Tullie House and then today decided we’d walk up Talkin Fell.

It all started well enough but became windier, wetter and wilder the higher we got.  Bella then fell over in some mud (as happened last time we went up there as well – spot the brown-ness of her black jeans), and the happy mood of the day changed to grumpiness.  As by then we were all getting colder and wetter we decided perhaps we wouldn’t go all the way to the top and eat our picnic up by the cairns: and the two older boys suggested sensibly that we should walk back to the car and eat the picnic in the car.

Edward has got happily filthy every day this holiday week; they have all eaten a lot of rubbish food (as well as plenty of good food as well) – and despite the inevitable arguments, anger and tellings off – it’s been a fab. week.

Country Nights

I went to a party up past Hethersgill last night, right up in the middle of nowhere, in the wild country where the Reiver ghosts still roam.  I love it up there: rolling hills, miles of roads which could go anywhere, and a deep, deep sense of history – plus, in the daylight, endless views out to the sea and to the fells.  It was a typical country party: you drive up a track, cross a muddy farmyard to get there, and then have lovely mulled wine and sausages in bread rolls to eat (I missed the bonfire for a variety of reasons).  No evening dresses and high heels and no need for piles of make-up.  Bliss.

Driving back across Walton Moss I stopped the car engine and switched off all the lights.  It was black, except that as it was cold and clear the stars were shining brightly.  I could have been all alone in the world other than the stars looking down at me, and I was surrounded by darkness and stillness.  I wished I had my camera, except having just looked for ‘night sky’ images on google I’ve realised that in fact it would probably have been a rather dull picture: lots of black with the odd star dotted around.  But that’s where photos fall short: they can’t describe how you actually felt when you were taking the photo.


I was working (at the computer – doing property valuations) today but by about 4.30 had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sunset looked promising: a dark grey sky above a reddish pink base, the pinky-red striped by black linear clouds.  I drove up to the Tarn and walked around it as the sun went down tried to photograph the gently rippling dark waters of the Tarn, hills dark shadows in the background, trees silhouetted against the sky, pinks and blacks shimmering on the horizon and then the darkening sky above.  Unfortunately the camera wasn’t man enough for the job and the photos came out too light and grainy.

So I’ll just have to remember these nights and these moments in my mind’s eye: along with the full moons which have been so amazing the past few months.  Yesterday’s night sky and today’s sunset weren’t startling or dramatic, but in their own low-key way they were incredibly beautiful: and a reminder to get out there into the outdoors, whatever the time of day and whatever the weather.

p.s. looking through my previous blog I came across this post:  http://supervet-sarah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/running-in-dark.html.  When I look back to things I have written in the past I realise that the things which are important to me are still important to me, and the things I love are things I carry on loving. 

Too nice to stay indoors

The lovely weather continues and today I woke to another day of gorgeous golden autumn sun.


I had thought of running up Talkin Fell, but somehow that didn’t feel like quite the right place to go, and also having cycled from Maryport to Ravenglass yesterday (feature to follow…), walking somewhere appealed instead – and I remembered that I hadn’t been up above Lanercost at Haytongate for ages – probably not since I was training for Kielder Marathon (see Supervet Sarah blog).

walk-around-lanercost-23rd-oct-5So, lazily (and as I was meant to be getting back with time to finish painting my utility room), I drove to Lanercost.  I wanted to be on my own, so when I saw some other people heading up the track to Haytongate I turned left to walk along the lane which heads eventually to Walton, knowing that I’d pick up the Hadrian’s Wall path at the top of the hill (you can cut across the field from Lanercost Bridge as well, to join the lane further west near Burtholme East).  The colours were fantastic and the views as lovely as ever.  I walked to the top of the hill above Haytongate, remembering using it for hill training (and Kerry not being too happy about me suggesting she sprint up it and jog back down at least 10 times); remembering the day when loads of people came out to light up Hadrian’s Wall.

Somehow photos of views across to the Lake District never come out very well, but some of my photos did capture a little of the essence of this autumn – so different from this time last year, when it seemed to rain and rain and rain and life felt as if it was just falling apart.  I’ve also added some photos from a run I did up through Rowbank to Milton and back on Friday: all those photos need is some snow to make them Christmassy!  It’s too early to be thinking (much) about Christmas, but the first snow of the year has already been recorded on Great Dun Fell.

Perhaps this winter will be a white one rather than a wet one…

More language

I have a book called Scott’s Original Miscellany.  I first started dipping into it when staying at an aunt’s house in London.  I later bought myself a copy which has been living in the bathroom, ready to be dipped in and out of as the fancy takes you.  It’s very much a dipping in and out sort of book.  I particularly liked the fact that the 33 degrees of Freemasonry are listed on the same page as are the names of the Seven Dwarves…

I also loved the page about English words which have come from other languages.  I’ve known for a long time that English is a particularly rich language – I remember doing medieval history for ‘A’ level at school and reading that the British are one of the most mongrel of races (Celts, Britons, Vikings, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Picts, Normans… I do wonder whether modern America is more of an ethnic mix, however) and so what with that and our trading/mercantile/seafaring history, it’s no surprise that the language is equally as diverse.  It’s rubbish that it’s a Germanic language – almost half of our words are of ‘Latin’ origin but because of trade there are also plenty from Portugese and further afield.

So here are a few of my favourites, as quoted in Scott’s Miscellany:

Arabic: “The admiral in the alcove, whilst sitting on his sequin sofa dreaming of harems, should fear the assassin rather than seeking solace in the alchemy of alcohol”  (interesting that ‘alcohol’ is an arabic word);

Aluet Inuit: “My anorak is far too cold for a kayak expedition to the igloo.  Bring me my parka instead”  (perhaps no surprises there);

Farsi/Persian: “This talc bazaar has everything! Just one kiosk alone sells lilac tiaras and azure shawls”  (isn’t ‘azure’ a lovely word – so much more elegant and uplifting than ‘blue’);

Turkish: coffee and yoghurt come from Turkish, as does another lovely blue word – turquoise.

Did you know the word ‘tycoon’ comes from Japanese; or the words ‘robot’ and ‘pistol’ from Czech?  Whereas the parliamentary ombudsman is Swedish – as is tungsten light. Other Scandinavian-origin words include inkling, flaunting, dregs and glitter.  On the other hand at the other end of the world, from hotter climes, we got (took?) avocado, chilli, tomato and chocolate (all Aztec).

Of course Scott’s Miscellany isn’t only about language or the names of things.  Dip into it and you’ll find out obscure facts that you didn’t know before – for example, I had no idea that the last castrato, Moreschi, retired in 1913 and died as late as 1922: you always think of castrati as being very much an 18th century phenomenon.  As an aside, the French film Farinelli (he lived from 1705-1782) depicts in lavish style the life of one of the most famous castrati ever, and digitally merges the voice of a female soprano and a male counter-tenor to create the castrato voice… the film, in French and Italian with sub-titles, contains some divine music.

Which brings me full circle really, and complements a comment I made on another blog earlier.  Language; writing; singing.  ‘These are a few of my favourite things’.


Exhilarating Tuesday

I enjoyed my drive to work in the SUV, but by lunchtime I had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sea was calling to me once more, especially with the tail end of Storm Henry still hitting the coast.

I’ve discovered something I actually like about Whitehaven (apologies to anyone who loves the town: I don’t).  It’s the sea, particularly on a wild weather day.

I’ve started enjoying walking down to the far end of the harbour’s South Shore, out on to the West Pier where the outer harbour meets the sea.  You leave the calm waters of the inner harbour behind and stand there on top of the West Pier, waves crashing up and sometimes over the pier walls and against the shingle below.

I took the precaution today of leaning against a handrail as the wind turned my coat into a sail and tangled my hair: but I figured that death would come pretty quickly if you did accidentally fall in – your body would become rapidly hypothermic and you’d probably be knocked unconscious within moments, battered between the force of water and the solidity of land.

It struck me that the very physically elemental nature of this was what appealed to me: like running to the top of a hill and standing there gazing into the distance, the wind swirling around you; or great sex, or when singing or swimming feel good.  There’s an acute consciousness of the very guts of your physical being and yet an awareness of the spiritual or soulful as well: earth meets sky; mind, body and soul merge.

I reluctantly left the sea to walk back to the office – to the restrained heat and hushed atmosphere of indoors and paperwork.  But tomorrow I shall go down to the sea again.

Falling in love again…

(or giggly Monday, images (1)exhilarating Tuesday)

Be warned.  This post will let you in on some of my darkest secrets; my dark side.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

  1.  When I was younger I was a boy racer.  I slowed up and starting thinking slightly more carefully about my driving around the time I became pregnant with Child no. 1.  I even did my Advanced Test.  But perhaps it’s a case of once a boy racer always, at heart, a boy racer.
  2.  I’m a closet white van or truck driver.  As Rebecka at Enterprise said yesterday when I picked up a Jeep, that feeling of being higher up and of ‘my car will squash yours’ is rather a good one… I think the feeling is even better in something more stable and sturdy than a white van (or minibus – I’ve driven both), as I like performance and style as well as being higher up and bigger.
  3. I am dying to try out off-roading.  I always fancied being a rally driver.
  4. I’ve fallen in love again.  It happened yesterday.

I thought my boy racer days were over.  I thought I was far more bothered about fuel economy and carrying my children and lots of clutter around than what a car looked like, or drove like.  But I’ve never quite got over the fact that I like the feeling of acceleration and of power, and I like a car with good road-holding.  I was incredibly proud of the fact that when I did a race day at Castle Coombe circuit, the instructor wrote ‘egscellent’ on my assessment form (he was a racing driver, not a literary genius).

My first dream car was my Peugeot 205 GTi.  When I had some spare money and a secure job and decent salary, I didn’t buy a flat: I bought my dream car.  I sold it 4 years later after a lot of fun and when I decided to chuck in the secure job and decent salary to go abroad to work as a holiday rep. where I drove all sorts of things – including a minibus into a snow drift.

Eventually, having come back home, I climbed – or perhaps jumped would be more accurate – up the career ladder, springing from job to job: without wanting to sound big-headed, it felt at times as if I only needed to apply for a more senior job to get it.  I ended up at British Waterways, where I got a company car: and chose a Golf TDi.  We weren’t allowed the GT TDi, but I loved my TDi.  It was the perfect car for a (then) free and single triathlete – it had plenty of get up and go and also room for my bike in the boot.

As a holiday rep. I drove minibuses and that iconic first ever (?) people carrier, the Renault Espace, carting client’s luggage all over France.  I raced a friend up and down a winding mountain road in the south of France, both of us quite often bare-footed and overtaking more nervous drivers who were probably new to the area, or only visited once a year.  When my sister came to stay she shut her eyes and prayed while I went zooming up and down mountain roads, a sheer drop to one side or the other.

I have always loved trying out different cars; I still have a yen to be a presenter on a car TV programme such as Top Gear (I could be the ‘mature mother’ who assesses cars for safety, sturdiness and child-carrying capabilities…).

But perhaps the vehicle I have enjoyed driving the most in recent months is a friend’s Isuzu Trooper.  It’s that being high up and feeling powerful thing again.  So imagine how I felt when, having had my Volvo towed away for repairs yesterday, I was picked up in a Vauxhall Corsa by Enterprise rent-a-car.


It had been an increasingly Giggly Monday.  Having yelled at Alex as he almost missed the school bus, the day got better.  I went to see the waves crashing against the harbour wall at lunchtime; chatted to Adriana on the train; found I had the same friendly breakdown guy to pick up the car as I had before Christmas when it broke down; and then had a great chat with Rebecka, a Geordie girl who works at Enterprise.

She promised me the Corsa wasn’t the car I was getting but that I’d definitely get an estate car.  As I was only due a hire car for a few days while mine was being repaired I wasn’t too fussed – all I needed was something to get me to Whitehaven for work, or at the very least the railway station.

When I got a Jeep Renegade any thoughts of getting the train to work in the morning vanished.  For a few days I was going to have my own jeep!  Immediately my brain spun into overdrive… could I drive cross country all the way to Whitehaven in the morning?  Where could I take it off road?  Could I perhaps not go to work at all but just spend all day driving around on off road routes?

I did of course go to work.  On the way there’s a field where some work is being carried out – I nearly drove up to the workmen to ask if I could try the Renegade out there.  Then I suddenly noticed that the bypass between Distington and Whitehaven has nothing to stop you driving on the verge… could I slam the jeep into 4WD mode and just try out the verge?  I didn’t quite dare but I have the vehicle for a couple more days yet (please, let my car need LOTS of work done to it…) so I haven’t given up hope of finding an off-roading opportunity.  Or perhaps it might snow…

I love the big wing mirrors and the wide windscreen.  I like the fact that it tells me which direction I’m heading in; the 6 gears; the fact that it doesn’t bleep madly at me when I’m reversing.  I’m looking forward to discovering all its (apparently) thoughtful storage compartments.  I’m not sure about the parking brake; and I’m not fussed about SatNat, which is for idiots who are too stupid to read maps – though having said that I would love a SatNat system which got really upset when you didn’t go where it told you to.  And I don’t like the fact that there’s no CD player.  But otherwise I’m well on the way to having a bit of a crush on this car – or at least on the idea of having a small SUV.  I’ve even started looking up reviews, fuel consumption, prices…

So, do I go for a vehicle which is sensible and practical with good fuel consumption which will last a long time… or something rather more exciting…  well, life’s short isn’t it… and the Jeep Renegade advertisement is tempting:

We’ve all got a renegade within us. A maverick spark, a bit of us that wants to cross the line, not toe it. 

David’s the calm, sensible parent – so I don’t have to be.  I remember years ago a friend saying, about a guy I was in love with at the time, that despite his seeming to be a ‘bad boy’, I was the one who was probably going to lead the children astray more… but perhaps that’s to flatter myself too much.  I’m really quite normal and sensible…


A thought I had just before Christmas… (22nd Dec. to be precise)…

I think this whole depression etc. has cleared some of my baggage out. One thing I’ve learnt is to trust a man’s love – not blindly but to have the self-confidence to know that if he says he adores me, he does – he’s honest and he’s doing his best. And if I concentrate on me, my needs, my gut feeling, my creativity, then I am powerful & all will be well.