justathought

Just the thoughts of a girl.

We Went Away!!

Last week, my mum and I headed over to West Sussex to spend a few days away from home just to say that we’d been on holiday. Everyone else had been away twice with friends or on canoe club trips, but we’d both been working lots and hadn’t been away at all, so decided to just go somewhere – anywhere! – to get away from it all. We had a pretty horrible journey down, as it rained the entire way, but once we’d booked in to our little Holiday Inn and had a bit of a rest, we donned our wellie boots and headed out to some woodland in the national park for a walk around. There was a (slightly damp) map on offer, but it turned out to be rubbish so we left a trail of arrows instead. We still got lost but after covering what seemed to be the entire wood, we eventually found our car just before it got dark.

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We got back to our room in time to have a picnic tea whilst watching The Great British Bake Off. I’m still loving the show, but haven’t really had a chance to try baking anything from it like last year. The picnic included a can of Pimms and lemonade, a last minute buy that we scoffed at and then ended up buying. It tasted gross, but we were undecided as to whether that was just due to the mugs of the hotel room or not.

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The next day, we woke up early but lazily before deciding which of the many places around West Sussex to go and visit. We decided on the Wetland Centre in Arundel, which may seem like an odd place of choice for a twenty year old, but I loved it. It was resident to a huge number of different birds that tottered around the place. We went on a boat ride around the lake and spotted lots and lots of water voles, which was lovely. Everywhere we went, we were followed by a chorus of quacks as a few stray ducks waddled behind hoping for some food.

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Once we’d finished at the centre, we headed into Arundel itself and were greeted by this incredibly stunning castle – isn’t it amazing?!

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We wandered around the town for a while before finding a lovely little cafe to eat paninis and soup in (where we both laughed at the fact that although everything else seemed to be home-made, the soup was obviously just from a Heinz can!). We chatted away and rested our legs before going back to the car in order to go to the one place where I’d been SOOOOOO looking forward to going – THE BEACH!! I just wanted to sit and listen to the roar of the sea crashing back and forth, maybe walk along the sand and paddle in the waves a bit. Only, when we arrived, we found that the sea was so far out and so calm that you couldn’t hear it at all. And it wasn’t exactly a lovely, soft, sandy beach but a beach that had been invaded by seaweed. TONNES of seaweed. We did try paddling, until I remembered that I have a huge hole in both my wellies and my feet got incredibly wet. After that we just walked (well, squelched in my case) along, breathing in the sea air and enjoying the fact that we were AT the seaside.

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I left some casual chalk graffiti and then we headed back to the car so we could drive into Bogna Regis and buy some chips to eat on the beach. These were very good chips and the perfect accompaniment for watching the last of the sun disappear. When it got too chilly to be sitting on the beach, we practically rolled to the car because we were so full and went back to our room with tired eyes and achy legs before falling asleep.

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We woke up a bit later the next day and reluctantly packed up our things after a brioche breakfast. We drove through lots of different towns and villages on the way back and stopped at one that had a nice looking lake in search of some lunch. We managed to buy some things in Waitrose just as it started to rain, so we quick-marched back to the car to eat bread, cheese and maltesers on the back seats with rain pouring down the windows.

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And that concluded our little getaway of 2013. It was VERY nice to be Somewhere Else, even for such a short time, and despite the slightly cold and wet weather, I do like holidaying in England. No, it’s not all hot sun and sandy beaches, but I like discovering little places that are hidden away, usually with lots of interesting little things to do and see. And I like the fact that it really didn’t take that long to get there! I’m looking forward to hopefully doing something similar (if maybe for a bit longer!) next year.

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Tiny Tin Bird’s 1st Birthday Party

This weekend Heather, Andy and Tiny Tin Bird came down so we could celebrate TTB’s first birthday. His actual birthday isn’t until next week, but we had our own little party at our house for him on Saturday. Actually, it wasn’t that little – we had 17 adults and 3 children under two years old, which was a bit of a squeeze but it turned out just fine. The children provided entertainment for the adults, either by playing with anything but the toys, throwing food around the room or being fascinated by the apple tree in the garden.

My mum made an A-MAZ-ING cake. It was just fantabidooby! One large base tier of chocolate cake with a smaller top tier of vanilla sponge. It looked great and tasted just as good. (Apologies for the tiny photo followed by the yellow blurry one!):

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TTB coped amazingly with all the attention. In fact, he lapped it up! Everyone wanted a cuddle with the birthday boy and he was quite happy to oblige as long as it didn’t interfere with the very important business of chewing wooden blocks, playing with wrapping paper or generally pottering about. Talking of wrapping paper, TTB was VERY spoiled with all his gifts. Everyone wanted to make his first birthday special and so he ended up with TONS of presents! It made me happy that most of them were books, but he also got a huge handmade wooden toy box, a lovely circus tent perfect for sitting and reading in, a big rug set out with lots of roads for him to use for his many cars and trucks, and a lovely rocking horse among MANY other things!

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It’s hard to contend with a sister who has a full time job and a reputation for giving perfect presents, so whilst Rachel bought him the circus tent and a very big selection of books I bought a pull along toy telephone, similar to one we had as children, ‘We’re Going On a Bear Hunt’ (awesome book!) and a small toy truck. By the end of the day, TTB was a pro at unwrapping presents and managed to unwrap the truck all on his own!

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It was also amazing to see him walking around on his own for the first time. He’s recently learnt to walk and is still a bit wobbly and sometimes likes a helping hand, but every so often if there’s something he wants, he just gets up and walks right over to it before turning to us and being like, ‘Yeah, I can walk now – problem?’. I love him :) He’s so comfortable around people and he’s really inquisitive at the moment, he’s so fun to watch! You can actually see his thought process about things like windows opening, lights being turned on and where the television’s gone when he’s inside his circus tent.

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It’s very easy to think about ‘this time last year’ and what we were all doing, but I’ll save all that for his actual birthday. For now, it was just nice to see him happy and remembering all of us. He still loves his books and he’ll be excited when he realises he’s got lots of new ones to look at before bedtime. All I can say is, it’s my 21st in a month and a half and now all I’m holding out for is a circus tent of my own!

 

Friends or Chocolate?

One day last week, I went to the canoe club straight after work, just like normal. Now, after a full day of work, I got into the habit of taking something for me to eat before the training session and this time I had a Kit Kat Chunky. As soon as I took it out to start eating, one of the juniors, about 9 years old – lets call her Jane – told me how I was her favourite person at the club. In fact she told me I was her best friend in the whoooooooooole world and didn’t I know that best friends have to share everything? Including chocolate? I thought it through and considered the following facts before I made up my mind a) I’d just come from work and was starving hungry, b) I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to feed her sugar just before a training session without asking a parent and c) I was acting as The Grumpus at that moment in time, and so I decided to explain that I was super hungry and gobbled it up myself. Jane wasn’t very impressed by this and told me that our long lasting friendship was over and she would never share any chocolate with me ever.

The next club training session was my first session after I’d finished my placement, so I wasn’t incredibly tired and I hadn’t brought any food with me. Before I even got out of my car, I saw Jane running up to my door – nothing unusual about this, she often comes and greets me when I arrive. As soon as I opened my door, Jane started talking 19 to the dozen, “Did you know I found twenty pence today and I bought a chocolate bar with it, I ate some and then gave some to Peter (one of my friends from the  club, not actually called Peter), do you know why I gave some to Peter? To make you jealous because you wouldn’t give me some of your chocolate the other day, and do you know, if I ever get a pound I’m going to buy lots of chocolate bars and share them all with Peter and give none to you so you get really jealous!”. And with that, she ran off. Then Peter, who had overheard the whole encounter, laughed his head off at the fact that I was being bullied by a nine year old.

All I can say is, well played Jane. Well played.

 

Edit to add: This morning at training, Jane came straight up to me and offered me a piece of chocolate orange. I offered her half of it but she refused, explaining that she’d already eaten nearly all the rest of it. It turns out her mum (Hi!!) had shown her this post last night and she turned into a bit of a celebrity at the canoe club because of it. I’ve since worked out how children work – Fame > Chocolate > Friendship. 

I’ll take it!

The Grumpus

Hello again, how are you all?

I’m sorry for the lack of posts around these here parts, but lately I’ve just not been in the right mood to write a blog post. In fact, I’ve not been in the right mood to do anything really. You see, for the last few weeks I’ve been playing the part of The Grumpus.

The role of The Grumpus, if you didn’t know, is to be unreasonably grumpy and irritable due to lack of sleep and a busy life. Now I know that most people are tired and busy for most of their adult lives, but for some reason it just completely got to me recently. I finished my 10 week summer lab placement yesterday and throughout that entire period there was not one day that I came straight home from work and didn’t do anything in the evening. Admittedly, it was my choice to do all these things – canoeing nearly every day, seeing my friends, going to the pub and what not but I was already giving up the days of my holiday to work full time and I didn’t want to give up the evenings too.

Another characteristic of The Grumpus is to ignore any important jobs or commitments. Send the modem from my old uni house back? Nope! Write a blog post for the first time in a week? Not now! Arrange to pick the keys up for my new uni house? Sorry, I’d rather hide away and read my book. So I’ve basically been a non-functional, snappy, not-so-nice-to-be-around person recently. It’s been great (where did that sarcastic font go?)! Anyway, I’ve finished my placement now and have three weeks off before uni starts again. And whilst I’m so looking forward to having time to catch up on some sleep and actually do some things that I want to do, I will miss the people at my placement. They’ve been so good to me, spending about two hours going through my CV with me, talking about how to increase my chances of doing a PhD and just generally giving me lots of advice.  I’m so grateful to them.

So basically what I’m trying to say in this post is that I’ll hopefully turn back into some kind of normal person over the next few days and I should return to my usual blogging schedule, whatever that was before exams and work and life got in the way.

Right, I’m off to go and apologise to anyone and everyone I’ve encountered over the last two weeks. Back soon!

My Bank Holiday Monday

Today is a bank holiday in the UK, and boy have I been looking forward to it! After eight weeks of working and training, topped off by a weekend of competing and spectating at the national marathon canoeing championships, I was well in need of a lie in. I purposefully planned absolutely nothing for the whole day so I wouldn’t need to worry at all about waking up at a certain time and could just lie in bed all day if I felt like it. I ended up sleeping for 11 and a half hours and it was absolutely brilliant! Once I’d woken up, I came downstairs, had some breakfast, read some of my book and played a bit of Wii with Patch before he suggested that we go to pizza hut for lunch.

I wasn’t sure if going out to eat on a bank holiday Monday was such a good idea, but it’s been such a long time since I’ve done anything with Patch that I didn’t think it could do too much harm. So we drove the twenty minutes into town and parked in the carpark before seeing that pizza hut was pretty full. Almost completely full actually. We went in to the entrance anyway and stood at the front of the queue, and then we saw that there was one empty table for two. Right next to our next door neighbour who was there with her boyfriend. It was at this point, being the awkward human beings that we are, that we decided maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to eat out. We practically ran from the queue and spent a few minutes deliberating about what to do.

We didn’t really want to just drive home again, and by that point we’d gotten pretty hungry, so we decided to get takeaway pizza and drive somewhere nice to eat it since it was a sunny day. As we were waiting for the pizzas to be cooked, we got a text from someone at the canoe club who’s kind of like an uncle to us, asking us if we wanted to go and play golf with him and his son. Yes, we’d love to, once we’ve eaten our pizza. We picked up our order and walked back to the car, only to find that I had a flat tyre. Oh, great. But then I thought, as flat tyres go, this wasn’t such a bad time to get one. We weren’t in a major rush for anything, I wasn’t on my way to or from work, I wasn’t on my own, or on a country lane, or in the dark. We had food, we were surrounded by shops (with toilets should we need them!) and it wasn’t freezing cold. Those are all pretty good things, considering. So I rang the breakdown people and asked for a big strong man to come and change my tyre for me, and they asked me lots of hard questions like my registration number, whether I had alloys or plastic hubcaps (to which I replied, ‘I think I’ve got plastic alloys’. Erm, I don’t think so Alice!) and if I was in any immediate danger. They said they’d be there within 62 minutes to which I immediately added another 15 minutes onto like usual, and me and Patch settled down for our makeshift picnic in the car.

To our surprise, they arrived in 15 minutes – we hadn’t even finished our pizzas! He found a nail in my tyre and told me I could probably get it repaired, whipped it off and put my spare on before rushing off to help someone on the motorway. The timing worked out perfectly actually, as we were just in time to meet our friends to play golf in the very hot afternoon sun.

I can think of better ways to spend a day off, but I’m just very grateful that I got a flat tyre in these circumstances rather than on the dual carriageway in rush hour traffic and the pouring rain on my way to work tomorrow morning or something. Plus, we got to eat pizza and play golf, so that was a bonus!

How have you spent your bank holiday if you’ve had one?

When Icing Goes Wrong

Last weekend was slightly different from normal, because last weekend it was Fairport. Fairport Convention are a kind of folky/rocky band and two of the members lived in the village where the canoe club is. Every year, they headline a big music festival in the village which attracts around 24,000 people and considering the village itself has little over 700 residents, it’s safe to say it’s a pretty big deal each year! You can read about when I worked in a food van at last year’s Fairport here.  For a few days every August, all paddling ceases at the canoe club due to all the narrowboat traffic, marquees are set up by the canal and the club itself is transformed into a kitchen from which we serve breakfasts to lots of the campers. It’s a great way for the canoe club to get some money, but it does mean getting up at 5:20am in order to help set everything up and start the cooking before the first campers arrive at about 7am.

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The way it usually works is that orders are taken, the adults cook the breakfasts and the juniors take the orders to the cooks, wait for their tray to be loaded and then take the breakfasts to the customers who are sat under the marquees. Other jobs for the juniors include selling dingbat quizzes that my dad makes, and selling cakes just inside the club grounds. Of course, everyone bakes cakes to be sold and my mum was no exception. She whipped up several rounds of fairy cakes to be sold each day, and I offered to help ice the ones for Sunday on the Saturday afternoon. We weren’t really sure how to ice them, as they were quite small but we wanted them to look appealing to the customers so people would buy them. And then I had an idea. You see, Fairport is usually quite a hippy kind of festival – everyone wears lots of bright colours, so I thought we could try and replicate a picture I’d seen on Pinterest. Something like this.

We picked out the colours we wanted to use, carefully dripped them into a piping bag, added the icing and started to ice the cakes. Only, when I added the red food colouring, I kind of went a bit overboard…

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And then it looked like we’d had a horrific accident while icing the cakes; I imagine something along the lines of losing a finger, or maybe a whole hand. Either way, it did not look appealing!

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We decided to scrape off the icing and try again. We also cut off the tops of the cakes as they’d been stained by the food colouring and when we tasted them, they tasted JUST like beetroot, as that’s what the red food colouring was coloured with. So to make sure we got rid of the beetroot taste of the icing, we added a lotalot of cocoa powder to the icing and made it incredibly chocolatey! We then put half chocolate icing and half vanilla icing that hadn’t fitted in the icing bag before, into a new icing bag and re-iced the cakes. AND IT WORKED!! They looked a LOT better than the multi coloured ones and actually looked slightly appetising.

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I really enjoy trying new things, even when they don’t turn out quite right. I definitely plan to use this technique again, I really like the way it worked out and how each one is different, although I think my piping work needs a little practise yet! If you have a go I’d love to see pictures of how it turned out, which you can send to justathought92@hotmail.co.uk. Have fun!

A Visit from the Tin Birds

Two weeks ago, it was my grandma’s birthday and Heather and Tiny Tin Bird came to stay for about a week and a half so we could all celebrate together. My grandma absolutely loves watching him potter around and had carefully taken everything off her small, low coffee table so he wouldn’t get in to anything he shouldn’t do. We celebrated her birthday by eating lots of scrummy cake and chocolate brownies and watching TTB potter around her sitting room, enjoying all the new, mysterious things to explore.

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It was so nice to actually be in the same house as Heather and TTB when they came to visit, even if I did only get to see TTB in the mornings before work and at the weekend. It was quite funny actually, because everyone always wanted to hold and cuddle and play with TTB, but everyone also had to get ready for work at the same time. We ended up playing pass the baby, reluctantly handing him over for someone else to play with while you had to brush your teeth or do your hair.

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TTB has got so much character now – he is SO cheeky! He’ll crawl nonchalantly over to the door before looking over his shoulder to make sure we’re watching, and then crawling away at top speed, giggling to himself all the while. He then tends to end up at the guinea pigs’ cage or Bunny’s cage where he watches with amusement and tries to stick his fingers through the bars. That’s usually when one of us intervenes!

We all had such fun while Heather and TTB were here, and I even persuaded Heather and Andy (who came down last weekend) that Patch and I were responsible enough to take TTB to the park on our own. I think TTB got the star treatment while we were looking after him actually, because we both really didn’t want him to have to, you know, have his leg amputated or something while we were out. With Patch as the sat nav and the drinks operator, I was there to adjust the pram hood and steer him out of any direct sunlight. Then we reached the park and thought, ‘Oh my GOD! How is this safe for a child?! That swing is more than a foot off the ground, what if he fell?! And WHO ever thought a see-saw was a good idea? Do we LOOK like we want to launch our nephew into space?!’. And then we realised that we’re Auntie Alice and Uncle Patch and that those worries are for parents (which I was kind of worried people would mistake us for…) and that we’re meant to be the fun, care-free influence on his life.

So we flung him onto the big, flat swing made of netting and swung him as high as the thing would go. I swear it was almost upside down! Ok, now Heather’s recovered from her heart attack, I shall re-write the sentence as it actually was: We placed TTB as carefully as possible onto the safest looking swing for a baby and rocked him gently back and forth. I’m not sure he even realised it was moving to be honest! He wasn’t particularly bothered, so we took him over to the baby swings and pushed him between us while making faces at him. He seemed to enjoy this a lot more and actually laughed a few times. Next up was the see-saw and this was when I remembered why I was so looking forward to being an auntie – you can play on all the kids’ stuff again!! I sat on one end with TTB carefully nestled between me and the handles and Patch sat on the other end while we went up and down, our feet barely leaving the ground. I think me and Patch actually enjoyed the whole park experience more than TTB, but it was really nice to be out with him on our own too. AND HE SURVIVED!!! No pebbles swallowed, no eyes poked out and not even any vomit. I’d say that it was a successful trip.

We also spent a lot of time playing in the garden while they were here. TTB’s got a push along walker thingy that he loves using – he’s so good at walking with it now! He’s very good at walking while he holds onto someone’s fingers too and I’m sure he even started running a little bit when I was walking him down the garden and he saw Flossy rabbit in her run! I swear, he’ll do anything to go and watch Flossy hop around. He’ll stand by her run and put his fingers through the bars and when she comes up and nuzzles them, he bursts into fits of laughter – it’s the best game ever! He’s so funny. Another thing he absolutely loved was the swingball which Patch got out one day. I’m not sure if it was the noise of the bat hitting the ball, or the sight of the ball flying around but he just could not contain his giggles!

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I do love it when they come to stay and I know it’s only going to get better as TTB gets older. I can’t WAIT to take him canoeing, and bake with him and take him swimming. The strangest thing is, I think the next time they’ll be down will be for his birthday. His BIRTHDAY! He’ll be a whole year old in September – how scary is that?! I swear time goes much quicker than it used to. I’ll have to get some ideas together for some presents!

Neville

A little while ago I wrote a post about Neville, a long time member of the canoe club who was one of the people who first taught me to paddle. Unfortunately, last week, Neville lost his long fight with cancer and passed away. I usually hate talking/writing about this stuff, but it seemed wrong not to say anything like it hadn’t happened.

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The word that best describes Neville, I think, is enthusiastic. When I was about 12, he was constantly telling me that I was good enough to be at the level I’m at now. Completely unrealistic expectations, but he always believed that I could do better. As children, he would always joke with us and we’d never be quite sure if he was serious or not. At one point he genuinely told us that we should eat banana sandwiches every day to go faster. I still don’t know whether he believed that! Neville also always had it in his head that no-one was ever wearing enough layers. When we’d paddle in the winter, he’d go around everyone telling us all that we should put another 50 layers on, along with hats and gloves.

Last year, at the age of 76, Neville would still enjoy going for a paddle – he just wouldn’t let life get in the way of the things he enjoyed, right till the very end. This passion for life was not only present at the canoe club, but every time I saw him. We often have club barbecues and social events, and you could bet every time that Neville would be there dancing right next to the band.  It wouldn’t matter if everyone else was sat down watching, Neville would be there having the time of his life.

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The thing that sticks with me most when I think of Neville, actually, is sledging. There were a few families from the canoe club that live/d in my village and every year when it snowed, we’d go sledging on the big hill at the edge of the village. At the bottom of this hill and over the road is where Neville lived, so every year we’d pop in after a morning of sledging to go and say hello. Most of the time, Neville would have dug something out of his vast garage for us to try out as sledges. One year he even organised for us to borrow some lovely, traditional wooden toboggans from his neighbours. They were beautiful, but actually weren’t all that good – slightly hazardous to us and everyone around us! The most impressive thing though, was that most of the time, Neville would come and have a go at sledging himself! 75 years old, undergoing chemotherapy and overtaking most of the ten year olds running up the hill for another turn. One year he even went face first on a plastic sheet that he’d brought with him.

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After we’d persuaded Neville that it was probably a bit too dark to be sledging any more, we would head back to his house and drink hot chocolate that his wife, Peggy, had made us and then sit and play card games all evening. I think it made their day each time we went and it showed us that no matter what the situation, no matter how old you are, you can always enjoy life. Nothing should stop you doing the things you want to do.

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I know Neville had an impact on a lot of people’s lives at the canoe club – encouragement, advice, a clip round the ear for not putting your boat away – but it was his whole attitude towards everything that had the biggest effect on me.

I think everyone can learn a lot from people like Neville. Just don’t stop doing what you love, no matter what.

I LOVE CANOEING!

I know this may come as a bit of a shock. A bit out of the blue. But, I have some news for you. I love canoeing. I LOVE it! I know lots of people at my canoe club have a bit of a love-hate relationship with paddling, where one month you love it and the next nothing’s going right and you just want to throw in the towel. I can completely sympathise with that! I seem to go in cycles of loving and hating canoeing and it generally ties in with my holidays from uni. The first two or three sessions after I’ve come back, I remember just how much I like paddling and how I miss chatting to everyone at the club. I remember how nice it is to paddle and feel the boat sliding through the water, and I remember that I do actually enjoy doing exercise! However, after the initial ‘Yay, I do still very much like canoeing’ feeling comes the ‘Oh wow, how have I lost this much fitness in two and a half months and why the heck am I so SLOW?!’ stage. This is not a good stage and makes you feel like there’s no hope of ever getting back to the standard that you worked so hard to reach in the last holiday. I like to try and move out of this stage as quickly as possible, because it’s just not very enjoyable at all, which is why I’ve been training so much recently.

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Finally, finally, FINally, I’m just starting to emerge from this stage now. I’ve regained some of my fitness, I’m getting to grips with my new boat and I’m finding the motivation to try harder in training sessions. At the beginning of the holiday, I was debating whether it was such a good idea to train so much when the training sessions just weren’t going very well for me. I had no energy because I was so tired from work, I was slow because I was unfit and I had no motivation to try and beat anyone around me. I thought it was probably best to drop a few training sessions in the week and just make sure that I put lots of effort into the ones I did do and make them worthwhile. In the end, I decided not to drop any training sessions (unless I had other plans, of course!) so I got into the routine of training every day after work. Although some of the sessions weren’t going very well, it set me up so that as I started to do a bit better and actually benefit from doing more training, it wouldn’t feel like such a time and energy zap because I was already there doing it. Does that even make sense?!

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I seem to have fallen back in love with canoeing, which is my favourite part of this whole strange uni/holiday/canoeing cycle. I’ve done two races recently and have really enjoyed both of them, although I haven’t ventured out and raced my new boat yet. There was lots of good competition, which always makes for interesting tactics and just makes for a better race in my opinion. I was talking to one of my friends from the canoe club who also goes to uni, and we both agreed that it’s strange just how much different canoe clubs can vary. He also tried training at a club near his uni and found it was so different to what we were used to, in terms of the type of people there and feeling welcome and generally just fitting in, that it didn’t really make us want to train while we were at uni. I guess that makes it even nicer when we do come home and are able to go to our local canoe club, where we’ve grown up and know all the people there, and just have a right old laugh. It’s the kind of atmosphere that makes you WANT to improve – good, gentle competitive banter and people who care about everything else that’s happening in your life rather than just how many hours training you put in last week.

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Anyway, I just thought I’d get all that canoe lovin’ out in the open. I try not to go on about it too much because I know most people simply couldn’t care less, and that’s entirely fair. But every so often, I just think to myself, ‘Oh yeah, I DO love paddling’ and it sometimes boils over and spills out onto my blog, right here. So, there you go. If you ever get the chance – go and try canoeing!

Note – The pictures on here are of me when I was younger, not some random kids that I’ve been taking photos of to put on my blog!

Second Year

Last week, I met up with two friends from uni after work. One that lives in the town that I live in while I’m at uni, and one that was staying on campus that week to perform at the graduation ceremonies in a choir. We went to our usual pub and chatted and ate some food and just caught up on what everyone had been doing. It was really nice to see them again, but it did feel very strange having the fact that I had to get up at six thirty the next morning playing on my mind, and it felt REALLY strange not being able to just walk home when I was ready. Instead I had to drive half an hour home, and it just made me miss living there and miss living the ‘student lifestyle’ and miss seeing my friends every day. And it also made me realise that I never did an end-of-year-two post. So I decided to do one now.

All in all, I really really enjoyed my second year of uni. I felt a lot more settled, and I think living in a house had a lot to do with that. Living with three people instead of 15 strangely made me feel a lot less lonely compared with first year. They would ask me what my plans were for the week, say goodnight to me each night and we’d all eat meals together (when we were actually all in the house together!); and that made it feel a lot more homely which was great. I loved the house we lived in and I loved my room. Nice and big, airy and light. My favourite bit of it though, was the headboard cover that my mum made for me at the start of the year. The one provided was pretty manky and had a horrible stain on it, so she whipped me up a nice, clean, Cath Kidston patterned one which just made the room lovely.

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Living in a house also meant living in a town. Now, I’ve always considered myself a country girl and never thought I would enjoy living in a town so much! But everything is right at your fingertips. If I wanted to meet my friends, it was just a walk away instead of having to drive to the next village. If I wanted to do my Tesco shop, I could pick up a few things on the way back from the bus stop after uni. And if I wanted Chinese food at three in the morning, I’m pretty sure I could have gotten it.

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Of course, uni is not just about the socialising and the living away from home. Believe it or not, students do occasionally have work to do. Now, the work load we had in first year was just absolutely crazy. Almost unbearable. We were having lectures and labs and tutorials and lab reports organised by two different departments that seemingly refused to communicate. This meant we sometimes had two lab reports in a week and were having 24 or so contact hours per week. That may not sound like too much, but with all the work we had on top of it, a lot of people struggled. In fact, I think the number of people on my course has just about halved since the beginning of first year! However, second year didn’t seem so bad. We were only being organised by one department, so I think our workload was slightly less and we had about half the contact hours, which meant there was more time to spend with friends and have a good time. I was much more prepared for the revision period too, and expected to be locked in my room for a good month and a half. I also changed my revision tactics from writing everything out by hand to typing on my laptop which saved a lot of time. As a consequence, I was a lot less stressed and managed to get a lot more done.

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I had such a good time last year, actually, that I can’t wait to go back! And I would never believe that I would be saying that when I was in first year! I do like living at home, but at the moment while I’m working so much, it doesn’t really feel like I’m at Home. I’m in and out all the time, basically just being at home to eat and sleep. I barely get to see anyone because they’re all out doing things at different times to me, and when I do have spare time I’m so tired that I spend it napping! (I had a three hour nap on Saturday and it was the BEST thing. I felt so much better after it, almost like a functional human being again!). I sort of knew that it was going to be like this though, but I was saying to my mum that I still miss living at home at the moment because it doesn’t really feel like I am. When I’m here I like to have spare time to bake and canoe and make things (coincidentally, all things that I’ve done recently, but in general I’m not doing them as much as I’d like to be).

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Anyway, yes, second year was unbelievably good and I was very sad to say goodbye to my friends, lock up my house and head away for 10 weeks. The worst bit was thinking that we’ve only got one year left. ONE YEAR! I feel emotional just thinking about it. I don’t know how I’m going to cope saying goodbye to everyone at the end of next year. I’m going to be a sobbing heap of tears when the time comes! Still, we’ve got one year to enjoy everyone’s company. And if it’s anything like last year, it will be amazing!

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