Memories of Finland

0202-2020 until 09022020

I have fond memories of cross-country skiing in Norway. For about 2 and a half months I was based at a hotel at Venabu, in the Rondane hills just north of Lillehammer, and skied everyday. There was one week when I had no clients and felt rather lonely until I made friends with a German – Joachim – with whom I skied part of the Troll Loype, as well as in a blizzard. I’ve written about that elsewhere (and I wish now I’d replied to his postcard sent several months later).

So when Tricia and Helen from my running group – Head Torches round the Tarn – said ‘how about going skiing’, I suggested cross-country skiing in Finland. As it turned out Tricia couldn’t come – she was invited on a holiday to Morocco – but Helen, Penny, Anne and Mark and I booked on.

Christmas came and went and suddenly it was February and time to get up in the early hours and drive down to Manchester airport. Despite being at work so early and having to deal with people’s incompetence (e.g. me driving into the wrong car park), all the airport staff were really friendly, cheerful and helpful.

Landing at Kittila was interesting as the runway was a bit snow-covered. I wondered whether pilots brake more gently and try to touch down earlier, so they can take longer to come to a stop, and don’t skid? We also had an engineer on board – apparently normal when you’re going to ultra-cold snowy areas.

A minibus took us to our hotel, driving along snow-covered roads with deep snow-covered landscape and trees around us. The trees looked slimmer than at home due to the weight of snow on the branches, and they’re more spaced out, in part as they grow more slowly. Even though the sky was grey, the light reflecting off the snow made everything seem lighter than it would on a rainy English day: and of course we felt positive and excited due to our early-holiday-excitement.

Our rooms at the hotel were great, and having unpacked we walked out to visit the local supermarket. I really liked the look of a Finnish skincare range called Lumene; the others stocked up on crisps, nuts and tonic water (Helen and Penny had already bought gin in Duty Free and we had brought wine boxes with us). As we walked back to the hotel Mark and I were saying how surreal Lapland seemed; it still felt a bit like Christmas, or Narnia, in a lovely non-commercial, unspoilt, way. Back at the hotel our good moods continued with pre-dinner drinks and we headed into an early dinner ready, after our long day travelling, for an early night.

Waking up on Monday it was still pitch black and we commented on how short the days were going to be: at home we were just about beginning to feel spring-like – as I walked from the office to the station a few evenings earlier I had noticed that it was only just growing dark, rather than already dark. In Finland – especially this far north, inside the Arctic circle – sunrise was at about 8.30 a.m. and sunset about about 4.15 p.m. Our feet crunched on the snow as we went into the dining room for an enormous breakfast. On the way back we went into the ski room to fetch our skis.

Boots have changed a bit since I skied in Norway – 25 years ago – when I had leather boots, but I was excited to see that the skis were much the same and are still waxed. I love the smell of the warm wax!

Once the skis were ready we walked down to lake Akaslompolo to try them out. I was relieved to find I was still relatively competent – I wasn’t sure if whether, after a gap of 25 years, I might have completely forgotten what to do – and the others were picking it up quickly. After a bit Anne said “let’s ski all round the lake” – so we did, clear blue skies above us and crisp white snow at our feet. We had booked a lesson for the afternoon and so at 2.30 Kimmo, our teacher, took us up and down some little slopes and then out along the ‘floodlit trail’ which goes around part of the lake. We didn’t get far but he told us some good routes to do the following day.

Our final ‘experience’ of the day was to go to the sauna. The accepted practice is to go in naked but, unlike when I was in Austria, at least the Finnish have single-sex saunas. It also seems quite normal to leave the sauna wrapped in nothing but a towel to walk back across the snow to your room (cabin): something we weren’t to try until a bit later in the week, although Anne and Mark embraced it sooner than the rest of us.

It became our daily routine to go to the sauna after skiing and then go back to the rooms for pre-dinner drinks, followed by dinner and then more drinks and cards after dinner. It sounds like a lot of drinking, but in fact there was a plentiful supply of water and juices in the dining room and I found that I was drinking water more than anything else. Despite a glass or two of wine each day and sometimes a gin, and despite an enormous breakfast and dinner of several courses, I felt healthier than I had for ages.

On the Tuesday Mark and Anne said they’d rather do their own thing in the morning than feel bad about holding the rest of us up, so we agreed to go our separate ways for the morning and then meet up at lunchtime. Penny, Helen and I skied along the side of the lake and then took a trail up through the trees, which Kimmo had recommended. It was hillier and prettier than we’d skied before, and included dropping down over a frozen river – where we stopped for photos and realised that it was so cold – minus 28 degrees C – that even our eyelashes were icing up!

Before long we arrived at Navetta Galleria, a cafe which had been recommended as a good stopping point on this trail. We loved it: we made the mistake of not only having a hot drink but also cake. Mine was a doughnut-type thing called a Munkki (one thing I’ve noticed about Finnish is its love of double vowels and double consenants). There were also crafts and artwork for sale, and the history of the building as a family home was told in panels and pictures. Going outside into the cold with full stomachs wasn’t appealing…

We liked the cafe so much we decided that Anne and Mark really needed to come up there too, and we felt sure they’d cope with the shorter return journey as an ‘out and back’; they did love it and Anne bought a Father Christmas/gnome-type felt figure. Helen, Penny and I skied up there, via a different route, the following morning as well.

Dinner on Tuesday evening included a very tasty and quite delicate Elk Meatloaf. Later in the week I had Shoulder of Elk in (I think) a game sauce. I am a complete convert to Elk meat! We also had reindeer, and Arctic Char – a delicious fish which of course in the UK is incredibly rare (it apparently occurs in some Lake District lakes, although has become extinct in some, and also in lakes and lochs in Scotland). In fact the food overall was absolutely superb, and Anne and Helen generally had 3 different desserts each night!

Despite sunset being relatively early each evening, we never quite managed to ski back along the illuminated track once the lights were on – it took until the last day of the holiday, when Helen went out on her own, for anyone to do so. But we were out for plenty of sunsets, all of which were absolutely gorgeous – varying shades of pink looking lovely against the white snow, the hills silhouetted against the pale sky. And then of course we were hoping to see the Northern Lights…

On the Thursday Anne and Mark were planning a long walk (they had only had 3 days of ski hire anyway), so Penny, Helen and tried out another new route in an easterly direction, towards a smaller lake – Kesankjarvi (‘jarvi’ I concluded, means ‘lake’). It was snowing lightly and there was a breeze blowing snow in shallow drifts across tracks, so coming back we had no choice but to go up a ‘red’ trail uphill rather than along a blue. Penny took her skis off and RAN the last bit!

The reward was a glorious, roller-coaster ‘blue’ run straight downhill – until a wiggle at the end where Helen fell over and Penny, unable to avoid her, then fell over too. A lot of mirth ensued and, looking back at them, I then fell over going uphill! Before long we had arrived back in Akaslompolo where we went into a bakery near the supermarket and had – you’ve guessed it – coffee and cake – before going into the supermarket to pick up some presents.

After dinner we played our regular games of contract whist (I kept losing) while one or the other of us kept nipping outside to check whether the northern lights had appeared – we’d missed them at midnight the night before (which was annoying as I’d actually been awake but hadn’t even thought of looking outside). At about 10.30p.m. Mark came back in and said – in a very low-key, calm, English manner – “you may all want to come outside”.

To start with the aurora wasn’t actually all that impressive – it just looked like some wispy white clouds. However as we watched it grew, brightened and moved, even changing colour and ‘dancing’. Helen and Penny both got some great photos; and from speaking to people later it was apparently a really great example of the Lights. We were so lucky to see them.

The following morning – Friday – Helen, Penny and I had booked on another lesson. I was rather hoping it would be Kimmo, our male teacher from earlier in the week, but it ended up being a girl called Elke who English was absolutely excellent. Penny turned back early in the lesson as her foot was hurting, and Helen and I had quite a snappy lesson past Navetta Galleria, over the bridge and frozen river, and back down between the trees.

We’d worked up some warmth and Helen had the sense to have a shower and get into dry clothes when we got back: I didn’t, which turned out to be foolish as that afternoon we were going to a husky farm to go dog-sledding. I had done this one evening in Norway for a short distance, my main memory being of falling head first off the sleigh into the snow and the dogs being so well-trained that they all pulled up short immediately. The others were really keen to go and the experience entailed a 9km drive/ride through the snow. I got colder and colder and so when it got to the halfway point I was more than happy to let Penny carry on driving while I stayed wrapped up in the sledge!

We’d promised the Head Torches bunch at home that we’d go for a run in Finland, and had all packed running shoes, so when we got back from dog sledding Mark, Penny and I headed out along the floodlit trail. I turned back after a short distance but the other two continued and did a short loop. Running on snow, even fairly hard-packed snow, isn’t all that easy (and I was beginning to feel quite tired by this stage in the holiday).

By Saturday Helen and I were the only two wanting to ski. Mark and Anne did a hilly 25km walk while Penny walked to Velhonkta and back: Helen and I skied along some lovely red and blue trails to get there as well, where there was another cafe. In total we had skied about 12 km when we got back again and I was ready for a rest: Helen then went out to the supermarket and skied back along the floodlit trail, this time actually lit up.

At dinner time we had been discussing the best and worst points of each day: over our final dinner we debated the best and worst points of the holiday. There were very few low points. That evening we all went to the bar, where I tried to learn some Finnish – not that easy for an English-speaker to learn as it’s so very different in structure and sound from most of the languages we learn. I think the only word I can now remember is ‘kiitos’ (thank you).

As we eventually took off from Kittila on the Sunday – late, as storm Ciara was raging over England and parts of western Europe – I felt quite tearful. I had loved being in Finland: it’s one of those places where I felt I’d really like to spend more time and live, rather than just visit. However next time I’d like to travel there by train (and bus – the train lines stop at Rovaniemi or Kolari): something which was confirmed when landing in Manchester was slightly hairy due to storm Ciara.

I was glad we landed when we did: storms buffeted Britain for most of February, resulting in endless rain and flooding. And then of course by early March we were facing coronavirus and the possibility of a global pandemic, restricting travel world-wide. We were lucky to get to Finland and back when we did.

Please note – not all the photos were taken by me, but I can’t remember who took them all!

(Almost) the first 10km

Head Torches round the Tarn has been running (literally) a little over a year now.  Last summer the ‘team’ ran the Race for Life in Carlisle in blistering heat – it was probably the hottest day of the year.

Yesterday a handful of us braved the forecast of a mini beast from the east to head down to Cartmel to do the Lakeland Trail’s Cartmel Trail race – 10km option – on what was not the coldest day of the year, but certainly felt like it.  There was a nasty sharp, icy, wind and it was attempting to snow.  Having said that the Grange/Cartmel area has its own micro-climate – much like Barrow-in-Furness – so it was theoretically warmer and sunnier than most of Cumbria.

For some it was their first ever 10km; for some it was the first race in a long time; some were recovering from injury; some hadn’t done much training.  All turned up in plenty of layers (even the ones who get really hot running), and spent the time after registering waiting in cars to keep warm.  At the start line everyone huddled together in an attempt to keep at least a little bit warm.

The benefit of having had cold weather was that the course was not quite as muddy as it allegedly normally is: though there was still plenty of mud to run through and places where you could lose your footing.  The first part of the race seemed to be mostly uphill, but then almost before we knew it we were greeted by a marshall who told us cheerfully that we were about halfway and that there was plenty of mud ahead.

The marshalls have to be really congratulated – they were all cheerful and friendly and cheering us on, while they had to stand around in the cold.  It wouldn’t suit me – I’d just get painfully cold and miserable (and probably rather grumpy).  Likewise TC’s husband stood patiently waiting for us all to cross the finishing line, well wrapped up against the cold but I am sure still wondering why on earth he had offered to accompany his wife and wait while she ran (however I guess if you go camping in Scotland in the winter you’re used to a bit of snow).

The terrain was a mix of trails, stony tracks and some very short bits on road.  There were stunning views of Morecambe Bay and some really nice properties (one house was for sale – but I couldn’t run around the Tarn with this lot if I bought it).  The race ends with a short downhill section, then went briefly through some woods with a slog heading into the wind alongside the racecourse to get to the finish line.  We all did better than expected with times ranging from 1hr 07mins to 1hr 29 mins – well done all!

But sadly, not a Sticky Toffee Pudding in sight!

Penny & me

A Snowy Journey

OK, so I took down Chapter One (London) and I haven’t yet finished Chapter Two (France).  But here is Chapter Three in all its glory for you to enjoy or not… if you want to provide some feedback that would be great…  and if anybody knows Joachim from Munich, please say Thank You for the postcard but I didn’t have an address for him by then – and that I think this demonstrates that some of my best memories from Norway were of skiing with him.   I haven’t even mentioned the stave churches, or Lillehammer… One day I shall go back to Norway.


It was early February.  It was raining yet again in London.  It had been raining in London, it seemed constantly, for weeks.  I gazed out of the office window at the cars, buses and pedestrians splashing up and down Fleet Street and wondered for the umpteenth time what I wanted to do with my life.  Cycling into work at the moment was a pain: one arrived covered in filth and soaked to the skin having narrowly missed death by motor vehicle on several occasions and I was still in a temporary job, having seen no others I fancied applying for recently.

Lack of sunlight always depresses me.  It had got to the point where the rain was making me angry – I was beginning to take it as a personal affront.   Even on the days when life dawned bright and sunny, as soon as got on my bike to cycle home the heavens would open.

So the surprise phone call from the holiday company I had previously worked for was rather timely.  They needed a cross country ski rep in Norway as the rep who was already out there wanted to come home.  In some ways I knew straight away that there was no decision to make: this was my chance to escape.  I had never done any cross-country skiing, having seen people plodding around in circles around frozen lakes in France and having regarded it as rather boring and tame, but as I wasn’t too bad a downhill skier I thought I could master cross-country.  Being the insecure person I was my worries and doubts began as soon as I started thinking I’d probably go, of course.   Would I really manage to cross-country ski to a standard high enough that I could not only keep up with, even guide, the holiday clients but also teach the beginners some of the basics?  I spoke to a colleague who had skied in the police or the army or something before returning to a more sedentary civilian life.  His response was typical of him and put me at ease: “Well, you can skate can’t you?  And you’re one of those sickening sporty types – all muscle and bone.  No problem!”  I hasten to add that he always exaggerates and says I’m built for speed rather than comfort, but in fact I’m not as fit as I was and if nothing else this would, I hoped, be an opportunity to become fitter.

The following day I bought the Bike mag February edition.  Not only was there an article about Norway and how difficult it was to buy replacement inner tubes, but also a brief clipping on how cross-country skiing was excellent cross-training for cyclists.  Apparently Olympic cyclists use it for their winter training.  I had also read somewhere that it was more physically demanding even than swimming, and my worries and fears began to be surpassed by excitement.

For a while at least I would have no more office or tube claustrophobia (there were days when the rain was so off-putting that there was no way I was going to head off by pushbike into the vehicle-splashed-up dirt of the London streets with early morning rain pouring down on me); and, best of all, I would get away from this blasted rain.  I went mountain biking in the Peak District the weekend before I left and both days we had glorious sunny weather.  Oh well.

From the start Norway was different from any other country I had previously visited.  When I’ve been skiing in the Alps I have travelled from greenery up into the mountains, getting higher and higher and increasingly worried about the fact that there seems to be NO SNOW.  From the moment I landed in Oslo I was surrounded by snow and ice.  I had never seen so much snow, and found it difficult to believe that it could continue to fall, sometimes for days at a time, much the way the rain does in England.  A Norwegian woman I was talking to in the hotel one evening said “oh yes: it snows from November to May here.  We get as fed up with it as you do with your English rain!”

The plane came in to land immediately over a fjord on which people were skating, and the sense of anticipation and excitement I always feel to a greater or lesser extent when travelling, but which often diminishes when I reach a half-way point in the journey and am exhausted with the emotion of it all and the sheer movement from A to B, continued unabated.  I had none of that sense of ‘well, I’m in the country, what now?  Where do I go next?  Have I done the right thing?’  Everything was a delight, from the miniscule size of Oslo airport compared to Gatwick, Geneva or Paris, to the easy ride on the ‘Flybuss’ to Olso Central Station, through the wait at the clean and enclosed (i.e. not windswept and freezing) station – where time flew by as I people-watched and which was quite unlike the wait I had had when crossing Paris once, in a grubby station served coffee by a grumpy French waiter – to the train journey along the edges of icy and sometimes frozen lakes and rivers, with a train window sill to rest against which seemed to be heated.  Luxury.

Venabu, where I was to live in the FjellHotel, turned out to be nothing much more than a couple of hotels surrounded by holiday huts in the middle of nowhere, not too far to the north of Lillehammer.  However it was friendly and comfortable and many of the meals were buffets: I could eat as much as I liked and have gravad lax every night if I really wanted.  I do love smoked salmon and this was some of the best…  Alcohol was hideously expensive but what the hell – I was going to be healthy and this was meant to be therapy of a kind.

The basic cross-country ski technique proved to be fairly easy to pick up and I am sure that being able to skate and having strong quads from cycling helped.  What I did find difficult initially was keeping my arms straight and this was where, eventually, being a swimmer as well as a cyclist helped: remember the ‘tricep kickback’ in front crawl?  The other difficulty was hills.  Not the ascents, which just took extra effort (especially with the wrong wax on the skis) but the descents.  Where, oh where, were my alpine skis and boots?  These flimsy, long, thin skis with no heel attachment felt at first as if they had minds of their own!  Braking and turning sharp downhill corners seemed impossible: except I saw other people managing so was determined I would too.  Needless to say one improves with practice until alpine skis are the things which feel odd – heavy, cumbersome and unwieldy.  And I loved the daily ritual of waxing your skis each morning: taking off the old wax, the smell of the wax warming up, and then getting a fresh layer on your skis, the pots colour-coded according to the outside temperature.

Around Venabu there is a wide choice of tracks, cut and uncut.  The ‘railway lines’ not only go all over the plateau but also up into the mountains.  One of my favourite routes went up around Svartfjell (Black Mountain,) from where there was a magnificent view across to the Rondane National Park, and then across the saddle between Swarthammern and Tverrhogda.  From there it was downhill nearly all the way back to Venabu, the first bit down to Fremre Uksan being a ‘go for it whoosh’ – get in the tuck position at the top and don’t stand up until you come to a natural halt at the Fremre Uksan signpost, quads-a-quiver.

It’s amazing how your speed can vary with the quality of the snow (or ice), especially on ‘off piste’ sections.  Towards the end of my stay I sampled different types of conditions just in a single day trip from Venabu to Masaplassen, about 25km along the Troll-loype.

I find I notice small details when I’m away from home, especially when I’m alone.  The time is clearer and more defined; it takes on a new dimension.  There often seems to be much more of it and little details which in the humdrum routine of a week at home and in the office would slip by unnoticed, become vividly alive and important.  Day-to-day experiences somehow have more emotional impact: seeing a vole burrowing in the snow is a moving and memorable experience and I could watch the vole for minutes on end.  At home it would be all too easy in the daily rush to miss the vole completely.  On another day when a group of us had been out skiing in rather misty conditions, we had all jumped out of our skins when a snow ptarmigan had suddenly taken off between me and the skier behind me: it had been so well-camouflaged we had had no idea it was there.  Or there was the time when I was out on the tracks on my own one afternoon, and it was so quiet I could hear a bird’s wings beating as it flew overhead.  The latter was a moment which I think will stay with me for the rest of my life: that sense of absolute aloneness (even though I was hardly any distance from the hotel) and peace, apart from the gentle pulse of the wings.  That was a moment when my worries about what I was going to do with my life just melted away and were completely unimportant: solely what mattered was the here and now.


My trip along the Troll-loype was an opportunity to enjoy these small details and again to forget about my ‘real’ life in England.  It was sunny but bitterly cold when I set off with a German, Joachim, to whom I had got talking at dinner one evening.  He was skiing the entire Troll-loype, staying in ‘DNT’ (Norwegian Mountain Association) huts and some hotels en route.  The hotel at Venabu had promised to arrange for someone to collect me from Masaplassen while Joachim continued along the Troll-loype to Lillehammer.  Needless to say he was far more heavily weighed down than I, with a large backpack of his necessities for staying in the basically-provided huts as well as in the luxury of an hotel.   We’d been out skiing a couple of times, one day in temperatures of minus 15 which with a strong wind must have taken it down to about minus twenty or more with the wind chill factor.  In fact that day not only was it bitterly cold but we could hardly move either because of the wind, and it wasn’t long before we gave up trying to get anywhere and went back into the warmth of the hotel.

But Joachim had to move on, so on a relatively fine day we headed out of the hotel and joined the Troll-loype.  Bamboo posts mark the route as the Troll-loype is not usually cut, although there may well be tracks from other skiers who have passed the same way.  The wind was quite strong and cold as we departed, heading north, and the snow had become icy.  But the sky was blue, the sun was out, and we knew that as soon as we turned east the wind would be more or less behind us and would help us along.  So optimistically we battled around the edge of the frozen lake which Venabu overlooks, then cut away from the tracks and down into the little valley of the Myadalen, one of the many rivers and streams which cross the mountain-ringed Venabygdfjellet plateau.  Joachim suggested skiing up the river valley as it was more sheltered than the route the marked track took along the top of the adjacent slope.  Feeling a little apprehensive in case we suddenly plunged through the snow into icy water, I followed: which was when we saw the first spectacular view of the day.  Some discussion of which words would be used in German or English to describe such views ensued, Joachim summing it up neatly by concluding “I normally just say ‘wow’!”

The river beneath our feet was barely perceptible but the snow-clad valley walls reached above us, startlingly white against the blue sky, the snow folding over on itself like a blanket.  I think the biggest revelation for me in Norway was the sheer variety of the snow: not only the difference between new powdery snow and older stickier snow, but also the way it lies.  Sometimes it can be like skiing on icing sugar, fluffy and compacted all at once; sometimes it is like meringue as your skis cut through a crust into soft powder underneath; and sometimes it is icy, alternating often with powder so that you shoot along faster than you intended and then suddenly and unexpectedly slow up as the powder takes you by surprise and puts the brakes on for you (in my inexperienced case all too often leading to a fall).

The snow also forms all sorts of different patterns.  Some are like waves of drifted sand, and especially when the wind is wispily brushing away the surface you can believe you are in a cold and white desert.  Some patterns look like white semi-buried bones; some like rock strata; and some have a small, mossy pattern.  The same route rarely looks the same twice, as I had discovered even in the short time I had spent in Norway.

We joined the Troll-loypa proper at Brennflya, marked, like all junctions in this area, by a wooden signpost.  In other areas they have signposts accompanied by a map of the entire region and a red circle with ‘you are here’ distinctly marked on it.  To me the latter spoils everything: it makes it too easy, and is far too similar to being a tourist in a strange city.  I enjoyed trying to match up my map to the signpost, which sometimes doesn’t point in quite the direction along the trails one might expect.  “Troll-loypa” the Brennflya signpost said in red on whitened wood, “Osksendalen 22km”.  Oh good – we’d completed 3km of the trip and just had the remaining 22km to do.


Joachim’s ‘real’ map of the area had informed him that we could see a waterfall from the Troll-loypa near the next signpost at Dorfallet (which means, unsurprisingly, ‘Waterfall’).  We could see nothing, and as there is the danger of avalanches due to the snow overhangs on the edge of the canyon which runs south from Dorfallet, we decided to play safe and not to go too near the edge (a brief aside: the canyons were created when a lake went ‘down a plughole’ in the sandstone at the end of the glacial period).

We realised soon after this point that we were not the only ‘explorers’ on this route: a lone skier caught up with us and overtook us, soon vanishing into the distance and leaving us alone again (much to the chagrin of my competitive spirit).  But then he wasn’t carrying a heavy backpack nor stopping to take photos at every ‘wow’ view, but possibly training for the race which was due to take place along the route in a fortnight’s time.

We could see back to Venabu and also across to Kvitfjell (the downhill slope near Ringebu, used in the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics).  We weren’t just out in the middle of nowhere, but explorers in the Norwegian mountains, dwarfed by the white wilderness around us which stretched for miles but which at least had some definition (unlike skiing in a white-out) and reference points in terms of peaks and valleys which could be named and located with the aid of the map.

We stopped at a brook for lunch, with interesting ice formations above the rushing water.  We took shelter behind some trees nearby which were so deeply buried in snow they were more like bushes, and turned our skis upside-down in time-honoured tradition to use as a bench.  I discovered that the thermos flask I had been carrying had failed in its duty of keeping hot liquids hot, and tried to mix my ‘choc’n’orange’ powder into a drink with tepid water.  It was not particularly drinkable – in fact it was vile – and I tipped it out in disgust, feeling guilty at making an ugly dark brown stain on the pristine white snow.   Fortunately my German friend had brought with him that most English of drinks: tea.  And it was hot.

I had provided myself with two bread rolls as a packed lunch, while Joachim had packed a lunch which seemed to consist mainly of dried fruit and chocolate.  Having proudly told me that ‘Milka’ chocolate was German (I always thought it was Swiss), he made the mistake of offering me some.   When has a girl ever said no to chocolate?

Fortified by lunch, we set off once more and we soon arrived at the next signpost which bore the surprising news ‘Masaplassen/Oksendalen 7.1km’.  We had a cold drink to celebrate which tasted to me like a rather nasty form of Lemon Meringue Pie, but which Joachim insisted was orange.  The conversation turned round to a time when Joachim had been staying in a B&B in the Lake District and the landlady had insisted on giving him cornflakes with the milk already on them, so they went disgustingly soggy.  After a brief conversation about various countries’ culinary oddities (going to Munich and being served just a huge slab of meat loaf; baked beans; frogs legs and snails), we set off again.  At the next signpost we joined what in summer is a road.  The snow – or rather lumps of ice – meant that it was bumpy and quite hard-going, but we were rewarded by views across the Gudsbrandsdal valley to the mountains of ‘Peer Gynt’ land: breath-taking.

We turned right and decided that it might be easier to ski off the road rather than on it, only to find that the open ground was nearly as icy.  At one point, my downhill skiing on ice being a little more hesitant than Joachim’s  – or perhaps ‘more uncontrolled’ would be more accurate – I found I was flying down a slope in the wrong direction, moving further and further away from my skiing companion and the next signpost.  It didn’t take long to cover the extra ground, to discover that the signpost only stood about 15cm above the surface and that the writing had faded so as to be almost invisible.  With the help of the map we worked out that one way indicated Masaplassen and the other Pulla.

Turning in the Masaplassen direction we found ourselves on the most wonderful fast but soft, compacted icing sugar track, with deep powder either side.  My pride was somewhat appeased when Joachim, definitely the better skier, suddenly fell over backwards in some deep snow which had taken him by surprise.  It always makes me feel better when the experts fall over too: there must be hope for me yet.  I was also pleased not to fall over in the way I had done a few days’ earlier, when, taking a corner too fast, I lost control of my steering completely and flew off the track head first into a snow drift, just to lie there laughing while several other skiers whistled past, probably wondering what on earth I found so funny.

The track wound its way prettily up and down amongst some trees, until it suddenly came out on a four-lane cross-country skiing motorway which took us up to a road.  After a fairly short and level track you then turn off the Troll-loypa onto a steepish downhill, at which we shot quickly but safely and enjoyably to the bottom and across the road into the café at Masaplassen for coffee and cake.  I felt a sense of achievement at being there, of pleasure at having completed a real tour, albeit to some people a short and non-challenging one.  It was such a pleasant place to end a journey: the wooden buildings snuggle amongst the trees in direct opposition to Venabu’s windswept position in the middle of a plateau.  I liked them both.

But whilst I loved being in Norway and skiing nearly every day, rather than being confined in an office in London, I missed my friends and my social life.  I can still clearly remember the day I was skiing along on the loype near the hotel with a client who happened to be an architect.  I suddenly realised that what I really wanted to do with my life was return home – to London – but that my main purpose for working was that I could then afford to travel to some of the many places in the world I wanted to, and to go on activities holidays.  After all many outdoor sports take place in some of the most spectacular scenery this world of ours can offer: and whilst sometimes progressing up the career ladder has some appeal, what is the point in arriving at the pearly gates and not having done many of the other things you wanted to do?  Someone once said to me that if you don’t experience the wider world then your own world shrinks, and the very truth of that rang clear to me straight away.

Meanwhile whilst Joachim was set to stay a night at Masaplassen and then ski onwards tomorrow, I had Venabu’s Norwegian buffet supper to look forward to.

And at least it would be spring when I got back to England



It’s been a good weekend.  It started on Friday when I had to take Isabella to hospital.  You’d think that wouldn’t necessarily be a Good Thing: but it gave us several hours of mother and daughter bonding.  As she was the last child to be seen in Day Surgery and we didn’t get home until about 7p.m., and the boys were round at David’s having a Boys’ Night, we treated ourselves to a TV supper of scrambled eggs on toast in front of the film Maleficent.

If I’m completely honest I always agree to a film or television programme any of my children suggest with a touch of hesitancy.  For example, they love Sponge Bob Squarepants and I don’t: and there are programmes they will happily watch for hours and hours and which I can’t wait to switch off.  But Maleficent – for those who haven’t seen it – is a different spin on the Sleeping Beauty story and I thought it worked well.  In fact I really enjoyed it.  I’ve always liked the idea of acting one of those strong, rather feisty women who cause trouble… (I have an as yet unfulfilled dream to star in just a single film… any film producers out there, please take note!).

In fact Bella liked it so much she started watching it again the following day, but by then the boys were back, Alex had a friend round and after doing some stuff in the garden and having lunch I decided to take them all out.

I’ve written a few features about Kirklinton Hall in the past and had kept meaning to take the children there and to walk down to the river, waterfall etc.  Unfortunately it’s closed on a Saturday and it started hailing anyway, so we headed to Whitesykes garden centre at Longtown for hot chocolate (with the obligatory cream and marshmallows) and ice cream – or just a cappuncino in my case – and to play on their fantastic climbing frame as the sun had come out again.  The children all ran around playing a version of Tig which involved the person who was ‘it’ being a pirate: when all of a sudden it started hailing again, this time heavily and rather more persistently than earlier.  After hiding under the climbing frame or in the various summer houses and garden sheds, we decided to head home.

Such have been the vagaries of the temperature recently that there was snow on the hilltops when we awoke this morning and then the temperature climbed throughout the day to at least 13 degrees – having been as low as 2 or 3 yesterday.  Alex was saved from having to come with Bella, Edward and me by a friend coming round and inviting him out, so while they headed off to do whatever 12-year old boys like doing best, the other two and I went down to Penrith.  Both were saying they didn’t want to see a ruined castle: but once we got there neither wanted to leave.  Unfortunately we noticed the ‘no climbing’ sign a bit too late… We went in the playground in the park as well and the only way I could persuade the two of them that it was time to leave was to promise Edward faithfully that I’d take him back there again sometime.

Having had lunch with my friend Penny and done some shopping in Booths, it was time to go home.  Bella busied herself picking daffodils and making chocolate cake while I cooked dinner: I think today’s Yorkshire Puddings were possibly the best I have ever made (and I do love having an oven where you can see through the door!).  We finished with some homemade Apple and Blackcurrant ice-cream as well as some locally-made Mint Choc Chip and Vanilla.  Why is it that home-made ice cream takes so much longer to soften enough to scoop than commercially-made ice cream?

It’s been a particularly pleasant and happy weekend.  Inevitably there have been a few squabbles and tears, but very limited: in fact the three of them were all playing amicably together this evening, building a helicopter in the hall out of the dining chairs… my garden is getting marginally tidier and is bursting with spring flowers (every time I look something new is blossoming: I particularly like the delicate white flowers on the damson tree) and my house is full of flowers as well, some from my garden and some given to me.   Spring is here, and whilst the weather may be fickle, snow on the hills glistening under blue sunny spring skies lifts the heart.

A Medley

Edinburgh April 2016 (2)A friend commented recently that the Easter holidays seem to have been quite long this year.  I think she’s right – they’ve also been a bit strange as I hardly saw my children for the first week and then this week has passed a lot more quickly as I’ve been trying to work and do things with the children as well.  My parents have been here, and Alex was up in Scotland, so I’ve been working a bit but also took a couple of days off.

The first was to go up to Edinburgh with my parents and Isabella and Edward.  I hadn’t been to Edinburgh Castle for years, literally, and we spent several hours wandering around and clambering all over bits and pieces.  I’m sure there weren’t any cafes inside the castle last time I went and of course with children it’s almost obligatory to stop for a drink and something to eat.  The cafe stocked some freshly-squeezed fruit juices, which went down well, and a range of rather nice-looking cakes.  However it’s perhaps indicative of the age in which we live that what Edward and Bella have talked about most since coming back home is the Apple shop (as in iPad etc. etc.).

On Friday we then went to Glasgow, in part to meet Alex at the Science Centre, who was being ‘delivered’ there by David’s parents.  Cynthia has recently broken some bones in her shoulder and not been terribly mobile, so it was good to see her and to hear that the repair is progressing steadily: I don’t think she would have sat in the car for the journey a few weeks ago.  When we arrived and saw Alex it was lovely that Edward rushed up to him to give him a big hug – followed by Bella.  They do love each other really…

The children loved the Science Centre and I’ve promised them I’ll take them back again sometime soon.  The ‘explosions’ session in the lecture theatre went down particularly well with Edward, as did the Under-7s water ‘play and learn’ area, and there is loads of interactive stuff all over the place – including a whole floor about the human body.

We’ve also eaten out a fair bit – thanks to the generosity of my parents.  As we were child-free on Wednesday evening we headed off to the Golden Fleece at Ruleholme.  Last time we tried to go there they were closed: this time unfortunately they were full.  It’s great to see a local place so popular – I haven’t eaten in there for ages, but will definitely go back sometime as the staff were so friendly as well as being professional – we were told they were full in such a pleasant, polite and almost apologetic way!  So, having read on Trip Advisor that the food at the Greenhead Hotel was good, I suggested we tried it.  There’s a bar- (almost pub-) style eating area as well as a more formal restaurant area. The staff are really friendly and the portions are generous, and overall it was good value for money.  My Mum’s ‘Sea Bass with crushed potatoes and asparagus and cherry tomato dressing’ looked particularly good.  However we all agreed that the best place to eat locally in terms of the quality of the food is still Capernaum bistro in Brampton.

Having said that, I then was invited out to Theatre by the Lake on Saturday night.  The cafe/bar there has always done good food and I’m keen to go back and try out one of their Lebanese flatbreads – last night we just had wine and ice cream in the interval.  We saw Shepherd’s Life: I’ve read the book and quite enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed the play even more.  The puppet sheep and dogs were brilliant.  I’d done a 7-mile run earlier in the day and seen lambs, so somehow seeing this particular play seemed appropriate… and coincidentally enough, towards the end of the play the lead character (James) states that we sometimes get snow in April in Cumbria.  As I drove back along the A66 from Keswick towards Penrith it was snowing and snow was already lying at the side of the road – and when I drove into Carlisle this morning there was a thick layer of snow on the Lakeland Fells and a slightly lesser layer on the Pennines.

Playmobil garden man


Today was then glorious and by early afternoon it was about 16 degrees, so I’ve been out in the garden planting things – and rescuing a Playmobil man from being buried alive… he’s now in the dishwasher…



Aim for the clouds

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (2)
Snow on Cold Fell

We have fab. skies in Cumbria: you can’t help but stand and stare at them sometimes, and feel your inner self somehow being tugged up towards them, whilst your feet remain on the earthy – and often wet and muddy – ground.  The trees at your side reflect your stance: their roots deep into the earth but their branches reaching up for the clouds.  When I sing I feel the same: my feet are rooted to the ground, giving me a firm base, but my voice and my heart are trying to reach the sky.

The weather has been simply stunning recently and the outdoors has been calling all the more loudly than usual.  Whilst I’m desperate to get out on my bike, I know that I’ll find it uncomfortably cold: and also rather than cycling for hours I do have plenty of other things – including work – which I’m meant to be doing (and have, in fact, done quite a few of).  I have however been out for a run for the past three days.  Each time I’ve run up to the Ridge and to Ridge Woods, my breath short in my chest to start with as it’s so cold, my fingers and toes icy.

Valentine's Day on The Ridge (1)
Looking north

I had my camera with me yesterday and took the photos here: I wish I had taken it today.  As I got to the top of the first hill and glanced across to the north, to the Scottish hills, I exclaimed ‘Wow’.  The white frosted icing covered mounds in the distance shone in the sun under a bright blue sky; and once again I was struck by how much I love living in the countryside, as the scenery changes from one day to the next and you’re so aware of the seasons.

I’ve said it so many times before: my spirits feel lifted (and also calmed) when I’m out running, particularly at the tops of hills.  I feel a strength in me to overcome all obstacles, whatever they may be.  Yesterday all the times I’ve been told I ought to or ought not to do something had been spiralling in my mind before I went out, and whilst I was running I was aware how completely disregarding them had not resulted in complete disaster but often taking what had appeared a risky step had resulted in something positive.

Almost as a poem they listed themselves, the do’s and don’ts which had come sometimes from my own worries and insecurities and sometimes from other people:

“you said I was crazy to switch to music…”  Look at me now – I’m a singer; a good singer…

“you told me I was not to chuck in a well paid job and go to be a holiday rep…”  But I had one of the best experiences of my life, and came back with a calmer attitude to ‘career’ and continued up the career ladder more quickly, confidently and successfully than previously – it got work into perspective

“you worried about me having children in my 40s, even saying ‘was it wise’ when I was pregnant with Edward…”   Look at my three gorgeous, healthy, lively children, who have given me so much self-confidence and love

“you said a freelance lifestyle wasn’t reliable enough; that the income wouldn’t be steady enough…”  It’s scary but it feels like exactly the right thing to do, it feels as if I’m getting the balance right, and I’m convinced it’s going to work

“you told me I wouldn’t be doing mountain biking ‘in a few years’ time’; that I was too old to be entering long runs…”  Well, I don’t see why not.  I’m still trail running and skiing and this year is the year that some of us ‘from the old days’ are going to get back together for a mountain biking weekend – the only question being whether we drag our children along as well.

“you said my husband shouldn’t leave me…”  But he did, and what a gift he gave me: more freedom to be myself and for us both to be happier.

I loathe 9 to 5; what I ‘ought’ to do; what is ‘wise’; what is ‘sensible’.  All too often I get wound up and worried by thinking too much about what I ought or ought not to do – things always work best when I follow my gut feeling, my intuition rather than listening to insecurities and doubts.  I’m not a crazy risk-taker but David and my sister certainly always thought I was more likely to take risks than they were.  Some of the people I most admire are those old people (aged 80 or so) who still run marathons or do parachute jumps.  Many of them are far braver than me and take far greater risks than I ever will: I have no desire whatsoever to do a bungee jump or a parachute jump (the thought of either terrifies me).  However give me an invitation to try out some off-road 4 wheel driving, or to drive a rally car, and I could be tempted.

As I ran home the low winter sun rested at head height and blazed straight into my eyes. “Il cuore ha le sue ragioni che la ragione non conosce” – Blaise Pascal, from my Italian calendar for this weekend.

Follow your heart.  Your heart – not anyone else’s.  And aim right up there – right up to the sky.  As someone said to me on Saturday, “you only have one life”.  Make sure it’s a full one, and live it with as much joy as you can muster.






Snow – rather than rain

Last week the weather finally improved. Driving to and from Whitehaven for work on Thursday was absolutely glorious – and at one point on my way in to Whitehaven there was a stunning view across the harbour to a white-horsed sea and the Isle of Man beyond, thickly and shimmeringly covered in pristine snow.
Driving home from work Thurs 14th Jan. 2016

I had been feeling a lot calmer and more cheerful so had been back to the Doctor to ask how to come off the antidepressants. For almost a week now I have been on half the dosage I was on before, and on Thursday I even forgot to take one, I was in such a rush for work! I have far more energy and am able to concentrate better on things – I’m also eating normally, though I don’t seem to have put much weight back on (my ‘squidgy tummy’, as New Man would call it, is back though – probably because I’ve also been drinking a bit of wine without the adverse after effects I was getting (stinking headaches) before). I can also feel things more genuinely – it’s not as if everything is just supressed.

While in some ways this is bad – I can feel very sad and get very tearful – at the same time I’m glad to be able to feel normally again, and also I’m conscious that I feel sad/get upset rather than being depressed. In fact most of my life is going quite well and moving in the right direction: it’s just New Man who is causing me upset. We haven’t really been ‘together’ since I was first signed off and whilst he said he still adored me and wanted at least to be friends, at times he can appear quite unfriendly. As I’m trying to be friends and not expect anything else it can be rather hurtful, and the lack of communication is frustrating.  A couple of times I have been in floods of tears – and one time, having said I’d pick up a load of stuff for refugees from him, I chickened out and ‘ran away’ instead. Having had such a very, very passionate (and romantic) affair, and having been seemingly worshipped and adored by him, I’ve come to the conclusion that however much I love him and want him, I can only look after myself – concentrate on the things I’m progressing and make sure I don’t get further hurt. As they say, ‘if you love someone, let them go – if they’re yours they’ll come back’. Easier to say when you’re feeling calm than when you’re churned up though!

My singing is, as ever, a palliative though – as is my writing. I’ve just been asked to write a feature about Gelt Gladiator, which I also wrote about last year, and when I get around to doing some pitching I’m sure I’ll get some more commissions. Meanwhile I have got some music I’m meant to be learning off by heart, as well as practicing for the earlier part of the year’s forthcoming musical events. Yesterday I sang in a ‘scratch’ Messiah in St. Cuthberts, Carlisle. By mid-afternoon it was starting to snow quite heavily. When we left the city looked lovely with the fresh snow gleaming under the city lights – some of the Christmas lights were still up, which made the city centre sparklingly beautiful. As I drove up Brampton Road the snow, strangely, suddenly made me realise how many telephone or power lines cross the road – they showed up far more because of the layer of snow on them!

Today I went out for a run up on the Ridge – though I didn’t get up on to the Ridge but only the Moot, as the path up to the Ridge was slippery with hard-compacted snow and also I was running out of time. Loads of people were out enjoying the perfect weather – one even skiing. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the end of all the torrential rain (and flooding) we’ve been having?




It’s five years since I last went skiing.  At that point there was no Edward, and David and I left Alex and Isabella here at home with my in-laws, and went off to Chamonix for a long weekend together.  I think it’s the only holiday we had together without children: partly as neither of us ever really wanted to leave the children behind.

I remember feeling bereft when I said goodbye to him at the bus stop, as he was travelling back a couple of days ahead of me.  I was quite relieved as it showed I still cared about him: in the busy-ness of every day life with two young children it’s easy to feel you are losing touch with your partner.  Perhaps we should have had more weekends away like that: the problem was, of course, that once Edward came on the scene as well and I had no job, we couldn’t afford it.  That skiing trip was paid for out of the inheritance I was given not long after we moved to Cumbria.  This skiing trip was paid for by my mother, out of another inheritance.

The previous time I hadn’t actually been that impressed by Chamonix.  We had stayed in an hotel a bus trip outside the town centre and then in a self-catering apartment which necessitated a walk uphill in ski boots and carrying skis to the main telecabine which accesses the Brevent ski area.  This time my view of Chamonix was completely different.  We were staying in the Club Med hotel, right at the foot of a button lift which provided access to the telecabine, and at the bottom of a beginners’ ski area – perfect for the children.

The Club Med staff were fantastic: friendly and helpful and with superb English for those times when our French wasn’t up to scratch (in fact I spent most of the week in a slightly schizophrenic state, never quite sure which language to speak).  The food was superb as well: and with four buffet-style meals a day (breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner) we could have put on stacks of weight. Skiing holiday Chamonix Feb. 2015 (28) The children loved being able to help themselves to diet pepsi and piles of puddings: the ice-cream was especially popular, Bella loving mango and Edward one he called ‘pink milk flavour’ (actually candy cane: I thought it was revolting – far too sweet and with crispy bits of something sugary in).  Having cake and vin chaud in the last rays of the sunshine outside the hotel after being out all afternoon in the fresh air was a lovely, warming experience.Skiing holiday Chamonix Feb. 2015 (8)

Skiing was probably in some ways the least successful part of the holiday.  As part of our package I could have gone out all day every day with a guided group, but I had only got the children booked in to afternoon lessons and it soon became clear that my plan of spending time with the children in the morning, skiing in the afternoon and my parents being able to wander off and explore in the afternoon, was not going to work.  I think I had one afternoon when I skied on my own, rushing over to Flegere and back again, getting the last cable car back across to the Brevent area.  Skiing holiday Chamonix Feb. 2015 (29)However Alex and Bella got their ‘Flocon’ award and looked pretty confident and controlled coming down the slopes doing snow plough turns.  Edward on the other hand didn’t enjoy his lessons and whilst he went to some, encouraged by a Frenchman called Fabian who was absolutely brilliant with him, I felt that perhaps he was just a bit young to start and that next year might be a different matter.  I know children cry and cling to their mothers almost deliberately to make their mothers feel bad, but when you’re meant to be on holiday and enjoying yourself it’s a bit rotten if you’re being made to do something you’d really rather not do.

We also didn’t explore that far afield.  One day we caught the bus – eventually – up to Le Tour and Alex, Bella and I skied a few green runs up there (I remembered coming down the red previously several times and really enjoying it) but the sun was really hot that day and I just didn’t feel I could keep my Mum and Dad and Edward sitting around waiting for us for ever.  In fact as it turned out it was just as well we caught an earlyish bus back as my Dad was then sick: my Mum and I concluded it was sunstroke.

Skiing holiday Chamonix Feb. 2015 (47)By then (Friday) the snow was pretty slushy at the bottom and quite icy higher up.  We really badly needed a fall of snow, and on Saturday afternoon the weather obliged, Alex turning up for his lesson with no coat and no goggles… I rushed back to the room to get them and it was just as well I did as snow fell heavily all afternoon and then again overnight.  The day we left we woke up to near-perfect skiing conditions.  Typical!

But it was time to go home.  The day we had caught the bus ‘up the valley’ we had met Daniela, a Brazilian lady, and her daughter Naomi, and the first bus we had got on had left my Dad, Daniela and Naomi behind.  Daniela and I talked about how we’d look on it as a bit of an adventure and part of the experience of the holiday, but we also both felt by then that it was time to go home.  Funny how you start to feel like that but then when the time comes you don’t want to after all…  However my Mum had also had a call from my Grandmother’s nursing home saying that she (my grandmother – 103) was unlikely to last the weekend.  In fact of course she proved the doctors wrong yet again (they gave her just two weeks to live when she first had her stroke aged 100) and is still alive, but even so I could see my Mum felt bad about being away and would be keen to head back down to Somerset as soon as she could.

Skiing holiday Chamonix Feb. 2015 (25)We had had a lovely time not only skiing and eating too much but going shopping in Chamonix and to the museums of crystals and of alpine mountaineering.  I wouldn’t do an all-inclusive package again as I don’t think we got real value for money, at least in terms of the skiing (we had to pay for the children’s lessons as extras) and also I’d prefer self-catering so that I could eat in different places and also have a bit more control over what the children consumed: when diet pepsi is on tap and children can help themselves it’s a trifle difficult persuading your 4-year old that really diet pepsi is not a good drink at breakfast time (fortunately there was orange juice and apple juice on tap as well).  It would also mean that the children could eat at their normal tea time and go to bed slightly earlier than they did on holiday, though they all slept well and didn’t wake up too early.  What we did make some use of though was the swimming pool and it was magical swimming outdoors with snow-covered mountains as the backdrop.

As for Chamonix itself: this time I loved it, and I was seriously considering whether I could get a job out there, even if only for the next winter season.  Alex was heart-broken by the idea so maybe not yet.  But I had forgotten just how much I love being in France; and I also had not realised that the young, free and single me who loved travelling and exploring and having few ties, is still there inside me.

Carpe Diem: microadventures!

It’s not so much a matter of seizing the day, I think, as ensuring it hasn’t rushed off so quickly that you haven’t had a chance to grasp it in both hands.  I guess that’s the point of the saying though – perhaps if you try to pack the day too full you end up not being able to seize it.  Even so, I do think that life is for experiencing and it’s a pity that there isn’t more time (and sometimes money) to do all the things I want to do.

What brought this philosophical thought to my mind was my friend Kath being here yesterday evening.  After a few glasses of wine in front of the fire and a lot of putting the world to rights, she slept soundly in Edward’s bed – and when we both surfaced this morning we put the world to rights some more.  She’s one of those generous, supportive people who asks you (well, me) a question and then lets me rabbit: and then denies that I’ve done all the talking and not let her get a word in edgewise.

I started the evening doing a good hour of singing practice after dropping the boys at David’s house (Bella was at Film Club at school so I haven’t seen her since yesterday – Friday – morning).  When Kath turned up she and I went for a run in the dark – a couple of laps of the Tarn.  I was rather hoping she’d change her mind about going as it was cold, wet and dark, but – of course – once I’d got out and run I felt great and was really pleased I’d done it.  Kath asked me why I run – or perhaps why I attempt to keep fit – and the answer is twofold.  Firstly, it makes me feel good, physically and mentally: secondly, I love getting out and seeing the views (which has the same effect.  So perhaps the answer is that  a) exercising  and  b) seeing views  both make me feel good physically and mentally).  Interestingly enough and of no surprise to anyone who knows precisely what I mean, I came across some research while I was writing up my feature on Nordic Walking which said that being outside can help improve mental health.

And every time I run in the dark it feels like a microadventure – thank you Alistair Humphries ( whom I interviewed over a year ago when he was coming to talk at Rheged (

FSnow 18th Jan (6)or children in particular getting outdoors can also mean that they get more exercise.  I was especially pleased last weekend when we had snow that Alex and Isabella spent most of the day outside.  I took Isabella and Edward sledging in the morning, and then Alex, Bella and two friends spent the afternoon building snow walls across the road.  Unfortunately we never got to find out what our neighbours and their cars made of these as the children then started demolishing each other’s walls and throwing snowballs made from them.  Nor did I manage to get photos of the walls before they got demolished!

At least – to my knowledge – the Reivers didn’t throw the blocks from Hadrian’s Wall at each other when they demolished bits of it to build farmhouses.

Most definitely Not a Domestic Goddess

I pride myself on being able to juggle many things and on being quite practical.  However the number of jumpers I’ve shrunk in the wash, clothes that I’ve dyed pale pink, the toaster I washed (which then blew up) and the fact – that David never lets me forget – that I once tried to drill a hole in the wall with a screwdriver, rather belies this.

10th Jan.

As does this photograph.  I couldn’t help laughing when I saw it -foam pouring out of my (new) washing machine as if it was some alien being spawning ectoplasm – but I have to be honest.  I had put too much washing liquid in the drawer and not only that but it was the stuff for delicate fabrics which always seems to foam more anyway.  Of course, because it was for non-delicate dirty fabrics I thought they’d need extra… perhaps not that much extra.

I’m pleased to say that it did neither the washing machine nor the clothes any apparent harm, and that Sainsburys delivered some new clothes washing liquid of the non-delicate variety last night.

The washing machine is now going again as I have, satisfyingly, got out on two runs this weekend.  I did more-or-less the same route both times but the weather today, when I went with Kerry, was at least consistently windy and rainy – in fact the wind was providing extra resistance on the way back as we headed into it, which I told her was good for us.

Yesterday Penny came up and the weather alternated between being sunny and sleety.  It had been snowing around Penrith when she left: in Brampton the sun was out and the skies were blue – until we turned to run back to my house, when it started sleeting.  The great thing about being up on the Ridge is that you can see the weather coming towards you (or going away): we could see snow up on Cold Fell at the northern tip of the Pennines, and the big cloud rolling towards us from Scotland looks ominous…

10th Jan. Ridge woods (1)10th Jan. Ridge woods (2)

Soon the children will be home and the quiet of the weekend will be shattered.  However I’m glad.  I’ve had an enjoyable, productive weekend but when I leave the children at David’s I always leave a little piece of me behind with them.  The fire is burning merrily, the room is warm and welcoming: there will be time for TV and a cuddle before bed.