Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Race For Life

I’m not going to lie to you. This week I am feeling rather smug. Why, you may ask? Well, on Saturday I did the Race For Life. And not the 5km version either. Oh no. I well and truly jumped in at the deep end and went for the 10km.
It was my mate who talked me into it. I was quite happily about to sign up for the 5k version when she convinced me otherwise.
“10k just says a bit more don’t you think? And you can already do 5k.” She argued. And, before I had time to think it through, we had both signed up. Within twenty minutes I was already regretting it, but it was too late. There was no turning back.
That was about eight weeks ago. Since then I have been getting up at 6.30am on a regular basis to meet my partner in crime for a training session in Finsbury Park, the lyrics of Blur’s Parklife running through my head. It hasn’t been easy, but we kept at it, and on Saturday we joined about 1,500 other women and set off.
My target was to finish the course without stopping. It was tricky (especially the last up-hill bit) but I did it. And I did it in one hour, six minutes and twenty seconds, a time that some may sniff at but I am immensely proud of. I also managed to raise over £500 for Cancer Research, which amazes me. Donations of mainly £5-£10 have added up and everyone’s generosity has been incredible.
I have to admit, this week has been a bit of an anti-climax. All that hard work paid off, but... well, what next? A half marathon? The London to Brighton Bike Ride (after a bit more cycling practise)? The Moonwalk? I don’t know. But I think I may have caught the bug. I need a new challenge, a new goal. And, let’s face it, a new reason to get off by backside and do some exercise. However, for now I am just going to bask in the glory of my latest achievement. There is always next year for my next sporting fundraiser.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to make myself a hot chocolate and go to bed. Because tomorrow I am going my first run since the big day. You know, for old time’s sake. Feel free to come along and join in. You never know, you might catch the bug too...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The University of Life - in London

Those of you out there with keen observational skills will see it’s been well over a week since I last blogged. Apologies about that, but this weekend was pretty manic and I have spent the rest of this week catching up with myself. On Friday evening I saw my old favourite Derren Brown in his new show Svengali – as always a fascinating night, and thankfully I didn’t end up on stage this time. Then on Saturday I trained it up to Stoke-on-Trent to go to good old Keele University for its “Homecoming”. Needless to say, I had a good time – a “spooky” tour of the old hall, burger and chips in the Sneyd Arms, two hours of pool followed by a boogie on the dance floor. Needless to say a lot of alcohol was consumed by all but I am pleased to announce that it was I who was holding someone else’s hair back on this occasion.
It was just like old times. And good times, too.
Funnily enough I didn’t really see anyone who I hadn’t stayed in touch with, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. Whilst sitting down after another game of pool (I haven’t lost it!) I chatted to a girl who lived in my halls in the first year. We had recently got in touch again over the medium of Facebook and were soon chatting about our fellow Freshers from all those years ago. She too had noticed not a lot of people had turned up. We mulled this one over as we nursed our pints and came to the conclusion that the people who had come back had not returned to brag about their £100,000 salary, penthouse on the Thames and beautiful beau. The people who came back were good time people. Okay, they might not have set the world alight (yet) but they were happy.
This naturally made me think about the past ten years since I graduated. I moved to London the weekend after the ceremony and haven’t left the city since. I look back at the 21 year old walking into her first full-time job and there are parts of her that I hardly recognise. She is so naive, almost timid and a little bit lost. She has little confidence and is still licking her wounds after the ending of some pretty painful relationships.
It may sound corny, but London has certainly shaped that young woman who, quite frankly, didn’t really have a clue. Moving to a city where she only knew a couple of people made her crawl out of her shell and rebuild her social life. She met new people from every walk of life and saw the world from dozens of new perspectives. Nurturing those relationships that were supportive and based on mutual respect and love enabled her to develop a supportive social network.
Working with vulnerable adults forced her to be strong, to be confident. Her work with those who have found themselves addicted, homeless or on the wrong side of the law has opened her eyes to a side of society that she had never seen before, only read about in the papers. And the buzz of London drew out her curiosity and her desire to learn.
So, has she set the world alight? Maybe not. She never did do that MA in Art Therapy and although her salary is respectable, she still isn’t on the property ladder or bought her first car. But she has been infected by the energy around her. She is exploring her creativity and grabbing any opportunities that come her way. She is still meeting new people and going to new places. Okay, so there have been rocky patches, but she is feeling optimistic. Her life isn’t perfect, but it is headed in the right direction.
And that’s enough to keep her dancing.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Food Glorious Food

It’s Saturday evening and I am sat in front of the telly feeling more than a little bit sorry for myself. No, not because I am stuck indoors rather than out on the town, nor because I have just watched the last in the present series of Desperate Housewives and don’t know when it will be on again. You see, yesterday I returned home after five days down in Devon with one of my girlfriends. Okay, not a particularly exotic location and not even a full week away from the insanity of the city. But enough of a break to leave me feeling refreshed and, sadly, with a touch of the holiday blues.
The thing is, I haven’t been on a proper holiday in quite some time and five days was just long enough to remind me how much good they do me – time to explore new places, read the book that has been sat on my bookshelf for three years, and eat what the hell I like without feeling guilty about it. When my friend and I decided to hit the South West, one of the first things I did was mentally make a list of all the things I would have to eat (and drink) whilst I was in the region. So, on Monday I squeezed in my locally made ice cream (ginger flavour to be exact) within my first two hours in Torquay. On Tuesday I had a Devonshire Cream Tea for lunch – and clotted cream fudge for afters. On Wednesday I got my Pasty in (okay, so they are Cornish, but we were close enough if you ask me) and went out for a fresh fish supper in the evening. As for drink, I not only sampled a Devonshire Red cider but also tried a Bays –and an Otter ale to boot. Phew. Thank God for the five and a half mile walk along the coast or I don’t think I would have fit in the train seat home.
Needless to say, food was not far from my mind for most of the holiday. Which got me thinking, if I was going to do a culinary tour of London, to what delights would it lead? And where would I go?
Whilst considering this quandary I decided it was important to distinguish between London and British grub. Roast dinners and fish and chips are both mouth-watering meals, but do they say London? Not really. For me, if you really want a taste of authentic London, you have to go east. I mean, where else in the world can you buy proper jellied eels? Not to everyone’s taste, but most definitely a London thing. Don’t fancy the look of the slippery sea serpents? Just head to your local pie and mash shop. For the full London experience, go for a beef pie and plenty of liquor. No, not the stuff you find in your dad’s drinks cabinet, but that funny coloured gravy you can only find within the M25.
The delights of the East End don’t stop there. For a unique eating out experience, I would always recommend Brick Lane, the centre of London’s Bangladeshi community – and a bit of a curry conundrum. Okay, so you can probably get a better quality balti elsewhere (Tooting is a popular rival), but nowhere else will you be chased down the street by seven different restaurateurs trying to tempt you with today’s special offer.
Right, so that’s the East End sorted. Anywhere else worth a visit? I’m sure there is, but for me you can’t beat it - apart from at one very well known market next to London Bridge. Borough Market. Oh yes, the place that Jamie Oliver apparently frequents (when he isn’t in Sainsbury’s, of course) to buy his pukka ingredients. And they are indeed pukka – if a little on the pricey side. Ostrich meat? No problem. Boulangerie bread and Parisian pastries? Plentiful. Wild Boar sausages? Exotic fair trade fruit? Oils, vinegars, pickles? Eat your heart out. Then wash it down with a bottle of organic wine.
So yes, I have the holiday blues, but I’ll get over it. And if I don’t, I’ll just hop on the Overground to Stratford for a quick roll mop and a pint of London Pride.
If that doesn’t sort me out, nothing will.