justathought

Just the thoughts of a girl.

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!

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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!

Cheeeeeeeeeese

I mentioned quite a while ago now that I was having trouble uploading photos to my blog, but because I was revising for about 90% of my time at that moment, I couldn’t really do anything about it. Since then, though, I have talked to Heather, also known as ‘knower-of-all-blog-things’ and she told me that she uses Photobucket to store photos on and then links them to her blog from there. So, being her younger sister, I completely copied her and am now able to have photos on my blog again! Yay! Actually, this all happened a little while ago (as you may have gathered from the photos that have been appearing on here), but I’ve been a bit of a rubbish blogger recently and never actually told you about it.

ANYWAY, the point of mentioning all of that was because I’ve actually taken some almost relevant photos this week and thought I’d do more of a visual ‘bits of my life at the moment’, as opposed to a ‘let me ramble on for ages and tell you lots of insignificant details about my life’ post. Both types are good, but at the time of writing this post, the first will work better for me. I have a bedtime to stick to people!

So, here we go:

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The aftermath of nine month old Tiny Tin Bird’s lunch. It was not a pretty sight.

Heather, Andy and TTB came for a very impromptu visit on Saturday evening and stayed till Sunday afternoon. It was a very lovely, if brief, visit and it was good for everyone to know that impromptu is possible again, now that TTB is a little bit older. Many cuddles, and tickles and chuckles were had before we all had to say goodbye.`

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The view as I woke up from a much needed nap under the apple tree.

Once Heather, Andy and TTB had left, I decided to curl up on one of the blankets we’d put out for TTB to crawl on and had a bit of a nap. I slept wonderfully and afterwards I just kind of lay and looked up through the leaves of the apple tree while I woke up a bit more.

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My pretty worn out canoe kit drying. Again.

I’m not really sure why I took a photo of this, but I can say that my canoe kit has been pretty much in constant use. It’s either being worn, washed or dried and is actually looking a bit worse for wear!

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Rediscovering Jamie’s Awesome Potatoes.

Last year, I found a recipe for some amazing potatoes by Jamie Oliver. They were done as a substitute for chips and they are SO good. We remembered them the other day and they were just as scrummy.

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Part of my walk to work (after the hour drive!). Not so bad, huh?!

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The only frustrating thing is that you can see the hospital about 5 minutes in to the walk, but can’t actually get to it because there’s a stream that runs alongside the path. It’s very pretty and all, but if it means I have to get out of bed 15 minutes earlier, then I can do without it.

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The path then comes out along the road leading up to the hospital and I have to walk back along the other side of the stream to the hospital building. I have mixed feelings about this walk, as it is lovely, but having to do it twice a day before or after driving for nearly an hour can reduce its appeal slightly. Still, if I have to walk in, then I’m glad it’s a walk like this.

And this ends my small collection of photos from the week. I’ll admit that I seem to have taken photos of all the boring things in my life at the moment, but they’re still photos dammit!

My Placement

I’ve completed two weeks at my summer placement now, so it’s about time I told you some more about it! I’m based in a lab in a hospital, working on diabetes research. I don’t know how much I can say about it on here, but it’s basically looking at how weight loss improves the health of type two diabetes sufferers. It is really good to think that stuff that I’m helping with might actually make a difference to real people with real lives who have to live with diabetes. I’m partnered with a PhD student and the first week basically consisted of him showing me everything he was doing and letting me have a go at a few things myself. As time’s gone on, I’ve been doing more and more things in the lab and have even done some of the simpler stuff on my own while he catches up with entering data into the computer and doing lots of the boring stats and things. It feels much better to actually be able to help rather than just slow him down, as I’m already so grateful to him for giving up lots of his time to take me through all his work.

All the people at the placement are brilliant and I get on so well with them. It’s just like one big group of friends and there are some hilarious conversations at lunch time! It makes all the difference really. I thought I would really struggle with, well, everything, actually but when I’m there I do enjoy it. Most of the time anyway. There are some bits that can be really boring and I struggle to find stuff to do, but I guess any job is boring at times and I’m learning that there are other things that I can fill my time with.

The thing I AM struggling with is being so tired all the time. I guess I am bringing it on myself a bit as I’m canoeing pretty much every day after work  to try and get a bit of my fitness back from before I barely moved from my desk for two and a half months at uni. I just hate having to get up so early every day! A typical day goes something like this for me:

6:30 am – Wake up, go to the loo, get dressed.

7:00 am – Make and eat breakfast, make lunch, take a concoction of hayfever medicines (this is my first year of ever having hayfever and I suddenly see why everyone was making such a big deal of it before!), pack my semi damp canoe kit that hasn’t dried properly from the night before.

7:40 am – Leave for work in my car, become a Commuter Driver that has to be much more aggressive than my normal day to day driving self, get annoyed by other aggressive Commuter Drivers.

8:30 am – Arrive in a residential street as I’m not allowed to park in the hospital car park, fight amongst parents for parking spaces as there’s a school on the road, sit in the car for a few minutes so I’m not too early.

8:35 am – Start the 20 minute walk through a little wooded area with a nice stream running through it that comes out on the main road and walk through several car parks to the hospital building where I work.

8:55 am – Sit at a computer and waste time read appropriate papers and articles until everyone else arrives.

9:20ish – 1pm – Carry out lab work/attend meetings/write up results/go on the computer etc.

1pm – 2pm – LUNCH!! Listen to hilarious conversations with people who have known and worked with each other for years and know exactly how much teasing they can take. There’s also sometimes some kind of scientific debate involving guessing how many calories there are in a large McDonald’s milkshake (3000!!!!! kcal, apparently, although I haven’t looked it up for conformation so don’t trust me on that) or something.

2pm – 5pm  – Slightly less lab work and more writing up results and what we’ve done that day, reading papers and willing the time to go faster.

5pm – Walk back to the car, which seems to take twice as long as it does in the morning.

5:20 pm – Drive through lots of nasty traffic to the canoe club.

6 pm – Arrive at the canoe club, have a snack, get changed, sort out my boat etc.

6:30 pm – Train.

8 pm – After socialising a bit and sorting some things out, leave the canoe club.

8:20 pm – Arrive home 12 and a half hours after I left in a hungry, tired, smelly, wet heap.

8:20 pm – 9:30 pm – Eat tea, have a shower, dry my hair, wash my canoe kit, hang my canoe kit up to dry, flick through Facebook etc.

9:30 pm – 10 pm – Get ready for bed.

10 pm – Sleep.

Sooo, you can see why I’m a little tired at work. But I see that I choose to be tired by going training so much, so I can’t complain too much. It is pretty bad though – I actually have fallen asleep a few times at work! Don’t tell anyone!! It’s not like I’ve had my head on the desk, snoring, but more that I can’t keep my eyes open and I jerk awake when my head starts to fall forwards. We had a seminar yesterday when someone came in to give a talk on something or other and I was just having so much trouble staying awake. After my eyes closing a few times, I felt them go again and started to think that we should be given a lecture on how to stay awake in times like these. In my semi-asleep state, I began to think about how they might teach us to stay awake and I thought they would most likely tell us to recite something that we know in our heads over and over. So, I decided to start reciting the alphabet song. I got to ‘D’ and my head lolled backwards, instantly waking me up with my heart racing and me looking around slightly to see if anyone had noticed. I was thinking that the alphabet song was actually very soothing and sleep-inducing and I just realised tonight that that’s because it’s sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I essentially sung a lulluby to try and keep me awake. GOOD ONE, ALICE! I found out afterwards that it wasn’t just me that had been struggling, I think pretty much everyone had drifted off at some point or other!

Yes, my life’s pretty non stop at the moment. And will be for the next eight weeks. BUT I am meeting lots of new people, ‘networking’ with the right sort of people if that’s what I want to do after uni and am learning a tonne of stuff. And to be fair, I do prefer it when my life’s a bit on the manic side, but just maybe not THIS manic. I don’t really seem to get a rest – even my weekends are pretty choc-a-block. Take this weekend for instance, I’m meeting some juniors that I’m mentoring at the canoe club in the morning, then training, then going home and showering, then going to a barbecue to see lots of friends that I’ve seen for about 2 hours in the last three months, then coming home. On Sunday, I’ll be training in the morning then maybe seeing my Grandma in the afternoon. That gives me a few hours to recuperate for the next week of work.

So, anyway, that’s my life at the moment. Full to the brim. Hence the sparsity of the blog posts at the moment. There’s lots of stuff I’d like to write about, I just literally have no time to write it! And I’d actually like to congratulate you for getting through this mammoth post right here. Well done! You’ve earned yourself a chocolate biscuit. 🙂

The Fancy Picnic

It was such a lovely day today that after training at the canoe club, lounging in the sunny garden and seeing my Grandma, my mum and I decided to pack up some food and head to the canal to have a picnic in our favourite spot. Here’s last year’s post when we did the same thing. This time though, we decided to make some super nice summery food to take with us. Rachel gave my mum a Moroccan style cook book and the weather’s just turned good enough for us to try out some of the recipes from it. We actually had a similar meal last night, out in the garden using our nice new garden furniture:

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It gave my mum a chance to use her new griddle pan to cook some AMAZING courgettes marinated in lots of yummy stuff. We also had butternut squash, cous cous, peppers, garlic bread (thanks to my old housemate who left it in the freezer after she left), pitta bread and houmous.

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Anyway, this is about today’s picnic. We cooked all of the food, drove down to the canoe club, hauled our Canadian canoe out and set off on the mile long paddle to the next lock along. The weather was gorgeous and we chatted briefly to a few of the narrowboat owners who were sat along the tow path enjoying the evening sun.

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We reached our little spot in no time, but it was a little more overgrown than last time! We waded through the long grass, not thinking about what might be lurking in it and made it to the wall that would become our temporary picnic table and seating.

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We lay out the contents of our cool bag and dug into our summery feast. We had: grilled courgettes and asparagus, roasted beetroot and carrot slices (they tasted just like the vegetable crisps but it’s so much cheaper and healthier to do it this way!), boiled potatoes with philadelphia, garlic and herb soft cheese and chives, pita bread and houmous. It all tasted really good and was still really healthy too – how often does that actually happen?!

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For pudding, we had strawberries, grapes and watermelon, delicately eaten with cocktail sticks that my mum had packed.

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Once we’d eaten, we packed up, launched the boat and paddled back, chatting to all the people on the way back again. It was such a nice evening and when we got home we sat outside with Pimms and a box of chocolates on our new seating again.

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It’s so nice to have some proper summer weather, and I’m very grateful that it’s nice this weekend while I’m not at my placement! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the weather as much as we have, and here’s to the next weekend when it’s meant to be just as nice!

In The Last Four Days

In the last four days I have:

1. Packed all of my uni stuff into my tiny car and cleaned the entire house almost single handedly (as my housemates moved out a few days before me and despite all our attempts at cleaning early, there’s always so much to do that you forget about).

2. Said goodbye to my uni friends after seeing Despicable 2 (amazing!) and going for a meal. I ended up getting back home from uni at half past midnight!

3. Been to watch a canoe race on the Sunday, whilst having to explain to about 20 million people that I wasn’t racing because I’d barely moved from my desk in the last two months, I’d only paddled my new boat once and I’d got back late the night before after a whole lot of manual labour cleaning the house. I don’t think one person thought any of those reasons was acceptable.

4. Started my placement in a lab at a hospital. I wrote about this ages ago when I’d just applied for loads of placements, but I never followed up and told you all that I managed to get the funding so I could do the placement and improve my C.V. (yay), but also give up 10 weeks of my 12 week summer working 9-5 five days a week in a hot lab, along with having an hour and a bit commute (not so yay).

5. Had my first experience of driving in rush hour traffic. I’m not a fan.

6. Paddled my new boat in a training session with everyone else for the first time. Yes, I fell in. Yes, I might have swallowed a small amount of water and then seen a dead shrew floating by. No, I don’t regret buying the boat – IT IS FREAKING AWESOME and I love it to bits and after I fell in it was just so much better than my other boat. I think I’ve found true love!

7. Had such a busy schedule that I hardly know whether I’m coming or going. I left the house at 7:30 this morning and didn’t get back till 8:30 this evening. Since then, I’ve eaten tea, put my washing on, watered the garden, had a shower, rung my mum, written a blog post and now I have to hang my washing up before going to bed. I aimed to be in bed by 10pm, but it’s now ten past so I’ve had to lower my expectations to 10:30pm. Oh well…

So, sorry for the rushed post! I’ll try and update you a bit on what I’m actually doing in my placement soon, but for now I must go to bed!

A Girl and Her Boat

When I started canoeing, at seven years old (wow, that’s 13 years ago now!), I was able to paddle one of the small collection of boats that the canoe club owned. We were a pretty small club back then, and most of the members were much older than me – there were about eight or nine juniors (and my family accounted for most of them!) and we had to paddle bright coloured plastic boats that could withstand a bit of bashing and crashing. A few years later, and the number of juniors had increased a bit. We had to give up our gaudy plastic boats for the new juniors and we progressed in to some very old (and seemingly very wobbly) carbon kevlar club boats.

More and more people started joining the canoe club, and more and more boats were bought by the club to try and satisfy the demand. However, the club only bought boats that were for a certain standard, and rightly so, in order to encourage people to buy their own boats that they could keep set up for themselves and not worry about other people damaging them by paddling them. It worked well, and lots of people did end up buying their own boat which freed up the club boats for newer members. At this point, though, I was offered a boat to paddle on long term loan. It wasn’t a fancy pants, expensive, lightweight, colourful one like some of my friends had, but it was all mine to paddle for as long as I wanted. And, boy, did I paddle it for a long time! I must have been paddling this boat since I was about 13 or something, and it saw me progress through the canoeing world. It took a few bumps and a few scrapes, and ended up having repairs repaired. I think it’s probably more repair than original boat now!

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As I got older, fewer and fewer people were paddling the older style boats like me and lots of people splashed out on the newer, fancier versions. The canoe club bought two of these new, fancy boats called Vajdas in the two person version (a K2) so that people could use the newer style boat when paddling with another person. And I just absolutely fell in love with these boats. They seemed to glide through the water and move so much more easily than other boats that I’d paddled. And that was when a little dream popped up in my head. I wanted one of these boats for myself. A one person boat (K1), that was new and shiny and glided through the water just like these ones. From then on, if anyone asked me what type of boat would be me ideal boat, I would answer without pause for thought – ‘I would LOVE a Vajda K1’. I planned that if I ever won the lottery (which really would be a miracle, considering I don’t buy any tickets…), that’s the first thing I would buy.

As I got my first proper job at the age of 17 as a primary school cleaner, I started saving up all the money I could. And then I learnt to drive. For those of you who don’t know, driving is EX-PEN-SIVE. All of my birthday and Christmas presents were driving lessons, and the money that I was earning slowly started to dwindle away. Once I passed my test, I was left with a very hard decision. I would only really have enough money to buy a car OR a boat. I thought about it, and then came to the conclusion that I already had a boat to paddle, whereas I didn’t have a car, and I would be using my car a lot to drive down to the canoe club to paddle. So I bought a car. And I’m so glad I did, because it really has been invaluable. When you live in a village where it costs £6 for a return bus journey into town and there is NOTHING to do in the village, a car can make a huge difference. For one thing, it allowed me to continue working and earning money at my job, because I had to drive there and back for it.

So I continued to paddle my comfy, old boat, watching it wear through in places and being careful to treat it well, scared that one more bash would be its last. I got my student loan when I went to uni, but that barely covered living expenses. A bit of money came in from various places and a bit more when I started to work at the vegetarian burger van at a few festivals last year. And that was when I made a decision. I decided that I had waited long enough for a nice, new style boat and that if one happened to come up for sale that was less than £1000, then I would buy it. It was a very long shot, as these boats, if bought new, can cost up to £3000 if you design the colours yourself and get it custom made. Second hand ones do come up for about £1000 – £1500 fairly often, but they’re usually heavy in order for people to use them for sprints (where your boat has to be a certain weight). As I mostly paddle marathon races, I wanted a light weight one, so had to keep my patience for a very long time.

And then on Friday morning I saw it. On one of the canoeing Facebook pages, someone was selling their lightweight Vajda K1 for £700. £700!!! It looked in good nick on the photos and so after frantically consulting a few members of my canoe club for their opinion, I decided to travel to the sprints that were up in Nottingham that weekend to try the boat out. Lots of people had shown interest in the boat, as it was such a good deal, so I was worried that it would be gone by the time I got there. Against the odds, though, I was the first one there and jumped in it straight away to try it out. I paddled it up and down the lake several times, asking everyone from my club their opinion on it. It felt SO good to paddle. The fittings were lovely – a nice shiny wooden seat, and just fell in love with it. It is a little big for me, but I figure I’ll just have to eat a lot of biscuits so it fits better. I told the guy I’d buy it, wrote a cheque, and that was that!

It was brought back to the club for me and I drove down from uni the other day to try it out again. It is just the nicest boat, and I still can’t get over the fact that it’s MINE! And I paid for it all by myself (who needs money to eat?!). I’m so looking forward to getting fit over the summer again and learning how my boat works in different situations. I can’t wait to race such a light weight boat too! Although, if anyone gets anywhere near me and my boat, they may just get a swift clip round the head with my paddle.

I am one happy girl! 😀