Inflation

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:20 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Yesterday I was flicking through a favourite book of mine from my childhood: an A to Z guide to Welsh castles. The book kindly quotes entrance fees, specifying that these are the 1972 prices, allowing one to make interesting comparisons.

Take Harlech Castle, for example. 10p in 1972. And what is it now? £6.50.

What else can I find from 1972? I can't be bothered to scour through all my books searching for likely candidates, but I've found a Puffin Book published in 1971, priced at 25p. By that rate of inflation, children's paperbacks nowadays should cost around £16. (Modern day price: generally 5.99 and 6.99)

At Junior School, the crisps sold at the tuck shop were either 7p or 9p - I can't remember which. (These were spicy tomato flavour: those type of crisps that melt on the tongue. I can't remember the brand name.) If these went up at the same rate as castle admission, they would today be costing £7 or £9 per bag.

Also at Junior School, when I briefly flirted with collecting stamps, first class stamps costing 9p. If stamps were as Harlech Castle, it would be costing us £9 to send a swift letter.

Has anything (except perhaps for houses) gone up in price more since the 1970s than castle admission? Yes, I know I could probably Google this and find all sorts of tables, but it's much more fun to piece it together from dimly-held memories of What Stuff Used To Cost.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
After I finished my Thief series re-read, the month was dominated by Jasper Fforde, pausing only for some undone Victorians and an angry chef"

Books read in June )
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Some weeks ago, I was complaining here about the fact that three of my staple food products had been discontinued. One of these was M&S tomato and basil soup. Well, a few weeks ago, entirely by chance, I happened to notice some familiar-looking tins in a rack at knee-level underneath the fridges that contained various ready meals: more precisely, underneath the Gastropub range (which I initially wrote as Gastropud and then corrected to Gastropug.) I went back to the soup section to double-check, and there was still no tomato and basil soup there, not even a shelf label to denote where it should have been. This has continued to be the state of affairs in the weeks that have followed. Tomato and basil soup has not been discontinued, after all; it has merely been reclassified as Not Soup, as has sweet potato and butternut squash soup. Instead they are things whose natural home is QUITE OBVIOUSLY an inconspicuous rack underneath over-priced pre-prepared meals.

I am at a loss to understand the logic behind this. I can see the sense in putting SOME tins of soup near the ready meals, in the hope that people are prompted to buy an additional and unplanned starter, but why on earth would you house all but two of your soups together, while banishing all tins of two flavours to the other side of the shop? It's a bit like evicting Weetabix from the cereal aisle and housing it instead with toilet rolls, or banishing strawberry jam to the shoe section.

Maps!

Jun. 16th, 2017 05:57 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have a well-worn map rant. I will put it behind a cut, since it is so well-worn that everyone has probably heard it before.

Open Wardrobe of Outrage, take down Rant Hanger no. 5, take up well-worn rant )

Well, yesterday I bought an orange 1:25,000 map of the Winchester area... and discover that once you've bought a map, you can now get a free electronic download of the same map. This is excellent news! You see, the other problem with printed maps is the need to actually carry the printed map. Carrying it in your hand is inconvenient and awkward. I've got one of those plastic map holders that you dangle around your neck, but they're horrid and annoying and flap around, and the slightest breath of wind causes them to leap around like a demented terrier and try to strangle you with its lead. So if I'm walking on a path I more or less know, or a path I expect to be well signed, I leave my map in my rucksack, ready to consult it only when needed. But extricating both myself and the map from the rucksack is a hassle, so when Doubt begins to strike, I tend to put off the awful moment of actually checking the map, and carry on doggedly, hoping that everything will turn out well. This does not always end well.

But when walking, I carry my phone in a belt pouch, so it will be the easiest thing in the world to pull it out and check the map. This is excellent! I'll still carry the printed map in my rucksack just in case, and for when I want to quickly view a wide area, but I'll have an easily-accessible version, too. Now I can buy a new orange map of the island and have an up-to-date map on my phone, without needing to wrestle with any octopuses! I am quite ridiculously thrilled by this. :-D


By the way, I noticed that although 1:25,000 maps are now available for the whole country, only some of these maps have been designated an Outdoor Leisure map. Aren't you allowed to do outdoor leisurey things in an area that hasn't been designated thus? I notice that I'm allowed to do outdoor leisure anywhere on the south coast between Eastbourne and Weymouth. Most of Hampshire and West Sussex are joyous, leisure-filled places, but in Dorset, leisure only goes as far north as Dorchester. Somerset and Wiltshire are Right Out, and here I must be sober and industrious.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have never worked out what is more annoying: having a favourite food product vanish without trace from the shops, or seeing those dreaded words: "New, improved recipe."

But I do know what is far more annoying than either of these: having not one, not two, but THREE of your staple products disappear AT THE SAME TIME!

I have checked frequently over the last month, and have seen no trace of the following products:

- My joint-favourite soup. This is a Big Deal, since I eat a tin of soup every day for my lunch at work, and I used to alternate between my two favourites. By favourite, I mean that they have the perfect combination of lovely taste and low calories. Others are equally nice, but provide 100 extra calories. Others provide the same calories, but aren't as nice. I've found a couple more which are similar calories and ALMOST as nice, so all is not lost, but, still...

- My favourite frozen supermarket pizza. Or, to be more accurate, the ONLY frozen supermarket pizza that suits me perfectly. This is even worse than the soup, since I spent 10 minutes today scouring every since one in the shop, and nothing else fills me with any real excitement at all, or else are Too Big or Too Small to be shared between two people as the main component of their dinner.

- My favourite yogurts. The second half of my work lunch is yogurt, but I am VERY fussy. Most yogurts are too sweet for my taste, and only ones labelled as "organic" have proved to be sufficiently unsweet (or, rather, sufficiently lacking in hideous sweetener) for me to accept. This one is less disastrous, since I only discovered this particular 4-pack a few months ago, and other acceptable 4 packs exist, but still...

Yes, I know that these are pretty minor worries, as worries go, but still...

GRUMP!

Book grrs

May. 17th, 2017 06:36 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
1. The long-awaited new Megan Whalen Turner, out yesterday: "usually delivered within 1 to 2 months." WHAT?

2. My Kindle is refusing to charge, and I'm off on holiday on Friday, on a holiday that will probably present a lot of reading time, and I won't have space in my luggage for many books. Waaah!
ladyofastolat: (Default)
How can a book be called "The untold story of..." something or other. You have written the book, Mr Author. It has been published and is sitting on my desk. The story is now told. When you first had the idea, you might have been entitled to call it an untold story, but once you'd finished writing it, the title was now a lie. Unless "telling," like communicating, is something that requires an attentive listener? If you recount a story in an empty forest, are you still telling it? I think you are, but I will be charitable to Mr Author and allow him to argue that his story remains untold even after he has typed the final full stop... but only as long as nobody has beta-read it, proof-read it, edited it, helped him with the index or listened to him expounding on the subject while gesticulating with a wine glass at dinner parties. Well, unless these people are only allowed to glimpse snippets of the completed book and are kept by force from even glimpsing the rest of it. But, even so, the minute it's published and somebody reads it, the title is now a LIE!

(Which reminds me of the award Pellinor recently received for being an unsung hero. I argue that the second he accepted said reward, he became sung, so was duty bound to hand it back. Whereupon, of course, he became unsung again, and the award-giver was bound to give it back to him, and so on and so on, for a never-ending eternal loop of politeness and pedantry. Although at least somebody would probably give in eventually and say, "Just take the damn thing!" so we wouldn't be stuck in a true never-ending loop like the case of the buttered toast strapped (butter side up) to the back of a falling cat, which, logically, can never, ever land. This is known.)

But, anyway, back to books, I always smile when I see "unnumbered pages" on the catalogue record, although it's always in the context of "24 unnumbered pages," or the like, which just seems wrong.

I might have mentioned this before, but books called things like "A practical guide to keeping chickens" always make me chuckle, since I invariably imagine the companion book, and sometimes spend a happy few minutes imagining chapter titles and diagrams and suggestions. Impractical chicken-keeping. Impractical bike maintenance. Impractical yachting. Sometimes I want to draw the pictures, which, for some reason, often end up involving balloons, and, occasionally, bananas.

"...of the world" books, on the other hand, always cause me to declaim them out loud, as a rallying cry, often adding "unite!" to the end. "Frogs of the world," unite! There's a section in Sainsbury's called "Breads of the world," where I always want to rally the ciabattas and pitta breads and urge them to throw off the chains of the Chorleywood overlords.

Back

May. 13th, 2017 10:48 am
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Very fed up today. I've had to miss Walk the Wight for the last 4 years, due to being away in various places, but was able to sign up this year. It's tomorrow, and I REALLY want to do it. But I've hurt my back. I don't know how I've hurt my back. If I knew, it would be less annoying. I've probably damaged a muscle somehow, but the pain came on gradually during Thursday while I was at my desk at work. My longest run yet was on Tuesday night, and I had no back problems after it, or on Wednesday. Although it hurt yesterday, I was more or less functional, but had to heave lots of boxes around in the afternoon. But it was a 4 bottle pack of lemonade in the supermarket that finished me off completely, and now I can't stand up, sit down, turn over or move without sharp stabs of pain. Unless I have a miraculous recovery, walking 27 miles tomorrow will not be happening. Even if I DO have a miraculous recovery, walking 27 miles tomorrow would be really unwise, since it would probably lead to a sudden reversal of said miraculous recovery.

So, as I said, very fed up. Grump! And, Ow.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
So we're still running, after finishing Couch to 5K in mid-March. We're keeping up with 3 runs a week. The only ones I've missed was when I was due to run on a day when I'd walked 35 miles of coastal path, on the grounds that I'd done more than enough exercise already, thank you very much.

I definitely find it a lot easier to do my runs in the evening, about two hours after dinner. I never seem to struggle at this time. When I've run during the day, I've always found it harder. There are some good reasons for this. The weekend runs have sometimes been after a late night the night before, and some have been in hot sunshine when thirst was an issue. Sometimes I've gone out after getting in from work, before dinner, but I think I just don't have enough calories inside me at that time of day to keep myself going. However, I'm also beginning to worry that I'm developing a bit of a mental block about non-evening running, and there's a risk that I'll find the runs hard merely because I expect to.

Then there's the issue of speed. At the moment, my comfortable pace seems to be about 6 mins per km. I can maintain this steadily for long periods without getting particularly out of breath. Increase this to 5 mins 45 seconds per km, and I really struggle. It seems crazy that such a tiny increase in speed should make such a big difference to my ability to cope with it. Although, granted, all these faster runs have taken place just before dinner, when, as mentioned above, I might be struggling for other reasons.

We did 10k on Tuesday, not entirely intentionally. I'd done 8.5km by myself when Pellinor was away the other weekend, so wanted to go to 9. Pellinor measures his runs in miles (I walk in miles but run in km) so when we reached 9k, he pointed out that he wasn't that far off 6 miles. So we kept going... whereupon I pointed out that we were now close enough to 10k that we might as well carry on until that. We did an hour and 30 seconds, with a pretty constant speed. So far, the best I've managed for 5k is just under 29 minutes.

I don't know what goal to work for now. Pellinor's faster than me, and much more interested in speed - specifically, speed while wearing armour. I'm not that fussed about speed, but would like to increase my distance. But I'm worried about possible hot weather, so I might have to keep things fairly steady over the summer, and add more distance next winter. We'll see.

I can't say I actively enjoy running, especially when I'm by myself. But the 10k on Tuesday was fun, since we were coping well enough to be able to chat, and we had loads of cat encounters to keep things interesting. But I enjoy seeing the improvement in my abilities, and I like feeling like "a runner." Perhaps my next goal should be to take part in a Park Run or something similar, and actually engage with other runners.
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
So, I did it. 71 miles in two days, with surprisingly little rain.

A very long ramble about rambling )

Plans

Apr. 28th, 2017 10:21 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Last year, when Pellinor was away during the late May Bank Holiday weekend, I walked the coastal path. Naturally, this one occurrence is enough to make this a thing. So this year, knowing that he would be away during this first May Bank Holiday weekend, I decided to walk the coastal path again. Because it's tradition now, isn't it? I always walk the Coastal Path when he's away for a Bank Holiday weekend. It is known. It's a little more challenging this year, since I have got to* fit it around getting up at 3.30 a.m. on Monday and tromping around on the Downs watching Morris dancing. Also, for various reasons (bus times, a later finishing time, less daylight than in late May), I don't think I'll be able to do what I did last year, and get a dozen miles under my belt after work on Saturday, so it must all be done on the Sunday and Monday. But I think that's doable.

The trouble is, the weather forecast is turning more and more rainy every time I look at it. The following conversations have ensued.

Everyone at work: Of course, if it's raining badly, you just won't do it.
Me: No, if it's raining badly, I'll just get wet.
Everyone at work: But WHY? It's not as if you HAVE to do it.
Me: YES I DO! *pause* Okay, no, no I don't, but... but...!
Everyone at work: But what?
Me: I've planned to do it! If I don't do it not, I'll feel all disgruntled and disappointed and grumpy with myself.
Everyone at work: Why?
Me: Because it was The Plan! So I'm doing it, whatever the weather. Because it's The Plan!

I don't think any of them understand. I should probably talk myself round to their way of thinking, but... but... it's The Plan!

* To be fair, there's no "got to" about this. It's not even my dance team that does the dancing. It's Pellinor team, and is he going? No, he's not. He's up in a field near Stoke on Trent smiting evil. I'm just going as a spectator, and an eager participant in the post-dancing cooked breakfast - good fuel for the 30+ miles that will lie ahead of me. But this, too, is The Plan. I've done it every year for at least 15 years, and will feel equally disgruntled and disappointed and grumpy if I miss it.

And, hey, if I get up at the crack of dawn and get soaking wet, I can feel all the more virtuous and deserving of post-walk chips. :-D
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I really should post more. I will attempt to make up for a silence of many weeks by posting trivia. So here goes...

I bought a hoodie today. Part of me feels that this should fill me with the urge to loiter suspiciously in the park looking disaffected and suspicious.

However, said hoodie was bought from M&S, so...


Not entirely unrelated to the above: never believe anyone who says that running is a free hobby that involves no specialist equipment. To date, I have bought: 1 pair of alarmingly-coloured running shoes that fit my rolling-in gait (£100), 1 fleece, 2 pairs of mid-calf-length leggings for running on hot days, 1 pair of jogging trousers for colder days, 1 hoodie, 2 confusing sports bras (£25 each), one pack of low-cut socks to go with the leggings (probably unnecessary, but I felt embarrassed about the happy smiley tigers on my ankles), 1 cheap top with wicking technology, just to see how it worked, 1 belt pouch to hold my phone (an excellent buy, since I use my phone to track my running, and it was very irritating in my pocket: I use this all the time for walking now, too) and one small water bottle to attach to said belt.

To be fair, the fleece has become my indispensible default extra layer to wear around the house, on walks, and pretty much everywhere, and the jogging trousers (which have an elasticated cuff around the ankle) are really useful for walking in, since they get much less muddy than my usual flappy trousers. Also, whereas I am in pain after walking just 2 or 3 miles in normal shoes, the £100 running shoes have given me absolutely no pain at all while running almost twice as far, so were a Good Buy. But, still, that must surely come to over £250 by now. And I've only been doing this for less than 4 months, and haven't yet run for further than 5 miles...

EDIT: I've just discovered that my hoodie has little slits in the cuffs which allow them to become sort-of fingerless mittens! :-D Granted, I had some fingerless gloves back in the 80s, when they were In, and found them a particularly rubbish item of clothing. However, that was mostly because the knitting splayed out at end of each truncated finger, which meant that I had to go around with my fingers ever so* slightly spread, as if half-heartedly casting a tiny cantrip. However, it turns out that semi-partial-half-hearted suggestions of a fingerless glove, masquerading as a normal cuff, are really kind of awesome. At least they are when you've drunk a couple of pints of cider. :-D

* Whenever I say that, I remember my Mum saying that a neighbour of hers in Edinburgh in the early 70s once said, dismissively, of somebody else that she was "the sort of person who says 'ever so.'" I have never worked out what sort of a person this is, but ever so often, when I notice myself saying it, I wonder who is nearby, judging me.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Posted one day early, since I'm going away tomorrow and won't have finished my current book before then. Quite a lot of books this month, but a lot of them were short, quick children’s books.

Books read in March )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I had a day off yesterday, and headed off to south Wight for a lengthy adventure through varied terrain.

Here be many photos )
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
Yesterday was gloomy, but undaunted I set off on to walk from one end of the island to the other in search of fabled poo. Pellinor met me half way to partake of some delicacies supposedly obtained by poachers, which we ate in a place guarded by pirates, and then we headed on together, where we were successful in our quest.

A long and gloomy journey to the shrine of poo )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
So we finished Couch to 5K last night. Since the last week, like most other weeks, consists of repeating the same run three times, the final day was no different from the 2 runs that preceded it, which reduced the sense of Yay! Achievement! Nevertheless, it felt good to complete.

Weeks 8 and 9 )

So that's that. I can't say that I actively ENJOY running, but it's tolerable, and I like the sense of achievement of finishing, and I like being able to get some good exercise without having to commit too much time. I don't want to mentally mark this as "done" and just stop, so I think I need to keep on with the structure of 3 times a week on set days. I'd decided that my next goals were to run 5K in 30 minutes or less, and to work up to 10K. The first goal shouldn't take that long to achieve, since we're already at 30:50. The second will take a lot longer, of course. Actually, rather than 10K, my aim is to be able to run to work, which is probably more like 8 or 9km. I won't actually run TO work, since there are no showers, but want to be able to run to my work place on a day I'm not working, just to show myself that I can do it.

We don't want our weekday runs to take up any longer than they currently do, so the current plan is something like this:

Tuesday: Under 5km, but concentrating on gradually getting faster. Pellinor and I might do this separately, since he wants to go faster than I do, since he wants to be able to run down monsters while wearing armour, and I do not have this need.

Friday: 5km, taking as long as it takes and not fussing overmuch about timing

Sunday: Gradually upping the distance

We'll see how it goes...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
These two weeks took rather longer than planned, with days missed due to excess Morris dancing and illness, but we’ve got there eventually.

Weeks 6 and 7 )

Overall, one thing I've become very aware of is the effect of very small slopes, wind direction and tiredness. Running has led me to discover small rises on roads I've walked hundreds of times without noticing that they're anything other than flat. Unless it's a howling gale on a hill, I've never noticed wind direcetion making walking harder or easier. I've also never noticed my walking endurance being affected by the amount of sleep I've had the night before. I've actually done some of my longest walks on days when I'm very sleep deprived, on the grounds that at least it will keep me awake and stop me from getting dopey and useless on the couch. With running, though, we've both found our Sunday runs generally harder than weekday ones, and these are the most likely to take place after a late night.

After the first 25 minute walk, I felt a bit dizzy as soon as I stopped. I thought this might be due to hunger, since I’m very prone to hunger-related dizziness, but it went away after a few minutes, even though I hadn’t eaten anything. Since then, I've felt briefly dizzy after every 25 minute run, even those just an hour or two after dinner. I see online that this is fairly normal, but it's a bit annoying.

I've also concluded that I find it harder when I don't know how far I've still got to run. I find it quite arduous and stressful to be running along hoping against hope that the voice to pipe up in my ear and tell me that we've done 10 minutes (or whatever.) Mind you, I would also find it stressful to be reminded every minute that I still had a long way to go. At the moment, the best thing for me is to do exactly the same route each time, since I know that I've just got to keep going until I reach that point there. It's the same with walking, really. If I think about the time or mileage, it takes forever, but if I know that I'm walking to a certain place, even one that's a very long way away, I just get on with it and the miles and hours melt away. For future runs, after we’ve finished the programme, I think I'll need to map out a carefully measured route along familiar paths, and then just forget about times and distances until I reach the known location that marks the end.

28 minute runs next week...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Okay. Here is something entirely trivial which started bothering me when I was walking the other day.

When I walk briskly, my arms naturally want to swing along as I walk. The arms want to be more or less straight as they swing, only bending slightly when they come to the front point of their swing. Since then, I have watched loads of people walking briskly, and everyone who swings their arms - not everyone does - does it this way.

When I run, even a slow jog, my arms naturally want to swing with a 90 degree bend at the elbow. The instant I go from a walk to a run, those elbows bend, with no conscious thought involved on my part.

I have tried holding my arms bent when walking, and it feels very silly, and also involves more muscular effort.

I have tried swinging my arms straight when jogging, and it feels very silly and awkward and seems to make running harder.

The actual speed difference between a brisk walk (4mph) and a jog (under 6mph) is not that great. Why do my arms want to do such different things?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We spent most of Sunday at an intensive Morris dancing workshop: many hours of virtually non-stop dancing, much of it involving jumping and leaping. By the end, my muscles felt like limp spaghetti, and my left calf in particularly was particularly painful and shaky. Sunday was also one of our scheduled running days.

Now, obviously the sensible thing to do would have been to say, "we've done hours of exercise today already and are shattered. Let's not run today." However, Monday wasn't available as an alternative, and I was aware that by the following day, my legs would have stiffened up, and everything would feel even worse. So out we went. In my slight justification, I did at least resolve to abort the whole thing if my calf hurt when running, but it didn't really, not much. The whole run - on paper, a much easier one than the previous one (5 minutes, 8 minutes, 5 minutes) - was HARD, though, and I struggled for breath and struggled to persuade my legs to keep going.

I slept badly, due to sore legs and a left calf that kept on twitching just as I was about to fall asleep. Yesterday I had the day off, and the weather was lovely. I get quite disgruntled and unhappy if I don't go out for a walk on a sunny day off, so I did about 6 miles in the morning, came home for lunch and a reassessment of the state of my legs, then went out for a further 10 in the afternoon - just a fast, flat walk along the seafront and cycle path. I had no problem with my calf, once I'd got over the initial stiffness of the first 20 yards or so.

Last night I had dance practice, and soon discovered that I couldn't even do the easiest, least stenuous of Playford dances (essentially walking, with occasional bobs), let alone anything more vigorous.

Today even walking across the park at lunch time involved hobbling, and today, unlike yesterday, it doesn't get any better once I get into the swing of things.

I doubt I'll be running tonight. I have only myself to blame. There is probably a lesson in here somewhere...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This looked like being the scariest week of all. While previous weeks had consisted of the same workout, repeated 3 times over the week, week 5 had three different workouts, culminating in a 20 minute non-stop run. Given that the week started with no run longer than 5 minutes, this seemed like a huge and very sudden increase in difficulty.

Run one was on Saturday. We were at a do on the mainland on Friday night, and had intended to spend the day doing something touristy over there (probably the zoo, since that's where we were staying), but the weather didn't look promising so we headed home. (Naturally, the weather turned lovely as soon as we were on the ferry.) Pellinor had to head back to the mainland in the late afternoon, so we did our run in the morning, before lunch. It was 3 5 minute stretches of running. While I didn't find them TOO hard, I was relieved when each one finished. The first half of each run was the worst, when it seemed as if I'd run for ages but the voice in my ear STILL hadn't announced the half way point. With every step, I hoped for that announcement - although once it came, the second half of each run was a lot easier. I ended not at all hopeful about my ability to run 20 minutes in 6 days' time.

Tuesday night was 2 8 minute stretches of running, and I found it a lot easier than the 3 5 minute stretches. Maybe some additional fitness had developed in the intervening days. Maybe it was about attitude, since I knew that the halfway announcement would be a long while in coming, so stopped worrying about it. Maybe, also, I was just not at my best on the Saturday. I'd had a late night the night before, and had slept very badly. I'd also spent a long time dancing very energetically, and although the stiffness hadn't yet developed, it would develop later in the day, showing that at the time of the run, my leg muscles had already been weary. I ended up a lot more hopeful about the 20 minute run, and actually eager to do it, to see if I could.

Last night we did the 20 minute run, and it was absolutely fine. We chatted throughout. I had no aches and pains, and only a small amount of stitch, which soon went. I was breathing faster than I would when walking, but wasn't struggling for breath. When the end was called, I felt that I could happily have carried on for quite a bit longer. We worked out afterwards that we'd run for 1.83 miles in that 20 minutes, so we were keeping it pretty slow, but more speed can come later. I actually really quite enjoyed it, and am eager for more.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Week 4 has involved 3 minute and 5 minute stretches of running, two of each, with much less walking in between - 90 minutes after the 3 minute stretches and two and a half minutes after the 5 minutes. I'm still not getting stiff or massively out of breath, although my legs have been getting quite weary while actually running. I've also started getting a bit of stitch, although nothing too bad - mild discomfort, really, rather than pain, although it was a bit worse today during the first 5 minute stretch.

I realised today that I've had no shin pain this week, despite getting very mild twinges of discomfort in my right shin in the first few weeks. This could be due to the new shoes. However, for the first few weeks, I was learning a Cotswold Morris jig on Monday nights (officially a rest day, but hey...). Cotswold Morris is more boingy than the types of dancing I normally do, and the dance I was learning involved a lot of capers, in which you leap off your left foot and land with all your weight on your right leg. We didn't do it at this week's practice, and there's no practice next week, so it remains to be seen whether the (very slight) shin pain was caused by dancing or by ill-fitting shoes.

Weather has been one of the themes of this week. Sunday was really quite wet - although I waited until the worst of the rain had passed - and also quite windy. Just as I had to start my first run, I rounded a corner and got hit full in the face with a strong headwind, bearer of horizontal rain. Not nice. Tuesday night and today involved no more than hints of slight drizzle, and were also noticeably milder than last week's runs.

Pellinor was still ill last Sunday, so I went out alone. He joined in again on Tuesday, and although he'd missed 2 runs, he concluded that he was fit enough to continue on without filling in the missing runs. We're away tomorrow night, so brought tomorrow's run forward. Pellinor has dancing practice tonight, but for once, he was home on time from work (6.30) so we were able to go out immediately, before returning to eat the dinner I'd mostly cooked before we left. The timing is challenging, though. I'm always desperately hungry by the time he gets home, so am reluctant to do run regularly before dinner. However, after-dinner runs end up being fairly late, since we need to leave sufficient time for the meal to go down. We have fairly small meals, but now we're running for a bit longer, I was beginning to feel as if I was running too soon after dinner for my liking. However, I found today's run harder than Tuesday's, so maybe running while hungry isn't the answer, either.

Week 5 next, and that looks terrifying. I am very dubious about my ability to do it. This time next week, it's going to expect us to run for 20 minutes without a break. :-O
ladyofastolat: (scribe)
I enjoyed writing reviews of everything I read in 2016, but the reviews had become too long and arduous. I've decided to keep up with the reviewing in 2017, but keep the reviews much shorter. That's the intention, anyway. We'll see how it turns out.

Books read in January )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
So I took everyone's advice and went to the running shop on Tuesday, where I bought some new running shoes, ones designed to support feet like mine. Why do running shoes all come in lurid psychedelic colours? "These ones are on sale," the chap said, "since they're in last year's colours," but I couldn't see any obvious difference between this year's cornucopia of psychedelia (band name?) and those that were SO last year. I tried on many, and chose those that were by far the most comfortable - ones which the chap said supported my feet properly. Unfortunately, they're fluorescent turquoise with fluorescent orange laces.

Week 3 diary )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I joined Habitica last week. Habitica allows you to turn your life into a roleplaying game. You tell it about tasks you want to do and habits you want to develop or avoid, and you get xps and loot if you do them, and lose health if you don't do them, or if you indulge in a bad habit. (It does, of course, require honesty.)

I am always ridiculously motivated by meaningless gold stars on a computer screen, so I've often considered giving it a go. (I used this same reasoning some years ago with the Wii Fit, but while it works perfectly at first, once I'd got 5 stars on an exercise I lost all interest in ever doing it again.) In the past, the main reason for my not joining was the fear that I would get too obsessed with earning points and it would ruin my life. However, I decided last week to take the plunge. At the moment, the "Dry January" switch and the "lose that pre-Christmas weight" diet switches are firmly switched on in my brain, and I'm not having any problems at all with resisting temptation. However, once the time comes to flip that switch away from January mode, things get harder, so I thought I'd see if the promise of xps would help, especially with regards to parties, dinners, weekends away and holidays, when good intentions often disappear after the first glass of wine or sight of the buffet table. I also wanted something that would encourage me to finally get on with certain non-urgent household tasks that have hanging around for months, even years, with me occasionally saying, "I really should do that one day," but never doing it.

So far it appears to be working pretty well, although the site doesn't always do what I want it to do. There are 3 types of tasks you can set: "habits," both positive and negative; one-off "To-dos," with or without a deadline; and "dailies," which don't have to be daily, but can be on specified days of the week or every X days. I wanted the ability to say I'd do something, say, 5 times a month, or 4 times a week but without specifying specific days. Pellinor is doing it, too - we're busy fighting a boss together - and he wanted a reminder to do some things roughly, but not exactly, once a fortnight. But with some trial and error, we're gradually finding ways around the limitations and are getting things more or less sorted.

So far it's definitely helped me remember a few trivial tasks that I need to do regularly but keep on forgetting, has inspired me to do more exercise, and has prompted me to get the sewing machine out to tackle some of those "I really should do that one day" tasks. But the true test will come when January ends, since we've got several parties coming up in February, but I'm hopeful that it will allow me to set reasonable goals and stick to them. We'll see...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
So we appear to have accidentally started doing Couch to 5K, a 9 week programme endorsed by the NHS, which aims to ease couch potatoes slowly into running. Two weeks ago, we had just finished a game of Defenders of the Realm (which, by the way, is a far more satisfying game when you include a few of the optional "make the game a bit harder" rules) when Pellinor commented that he should probably try Couch to 5K one day. "Why not start it now?" I said, and within half an hour, we had located suitable shoes and appropriate technology, and were heading out the door.

While in some ways I'm not a couch potato - I regularly do brisk walks of 20 miles plus and Morris dance twice a week - I am rubbish at running. If I do have to run to catch a ferry, I flail like an ungainly flappy thing and am shattered after 50 steps. (Pellinor's a lot better, due to his habit of running down monsters while wearing armour, but wants to improve his stamina.) I kept up a programme of workout DVDs for most of the winter a few years ago, doing them as soon as I got home from work, and have done them occasionally since them, but I always really disliked doing them, and they well nigh killed me in hot weather. When my work moved and I started coming home a little later, it was easy to use that as an excuse not to do them. I love walking, but it does take up a whole day, and in winter you have to get out at first light or you run out of daylight. Getting up early isn't a problem for me, but getting out is, since I love reading in bed with a cup of tea for an hour or two in the morning. So while I have no intention of stopping walking, I wanted some additional form of exercise that would take a lot less time than a 20 mile walk, and could be done on a week day, too.

With Couch to 5K, you run just 3 times a week, for half an hour at a time. So far, "run" isn't really the word for it. In week one, you walk briskly for 5 minutes, then alternate 1 minute of running with 1 and a half minutes of walking, keeping this up for 20 minutes, before another 5 minute walk. I was pleasantly surprised to find it not remotely arduous. It turns out that running in running shoes is a LOT easier than running in town shoes, while wearing a flappy coat and carrying a bag. Week 2 lengthened the running segments to 90 seconds, and was a little harder. Tonight we start week 3, which will include some 3 minute stretches of running. There is a terrifyingly steep learning curve ahead of us over the next few weeks. Whether I'll be able to do it, I don't know. I might need to get special shoes, since my feet roll inwards and this causes me problems when I walk more than a few miles without my boots. I don't want to splash out a lot of money if it might be a whim that I don't stick with, but on the other hand, if I hurt myself due to NOT having the right shoes, then I'm less likely to stick with it, so... well, it's a bit of dilemma at the moment. But for now, I'm not having any problems.

I understand that for many women, the main thing that scares them about running is embarrassment about being seen. "What? In PUBLIC?" is the reaction I've had from most women when I've told them I'm doing this. No man has said that. Doing it in the dark helps, and doing it alongside Pellinor helps even more. At the moment, I'm really enjoying it. It's just a nice half hour walk and chat, with occasionally bits of running added in. I fear this will change once the running gets harder...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I never thought to be writing a post about handbags, but I just need to say how awesome the Handbag of Holding is - although at 15 X 11 X 4 inches, I'd hardly call it a handbag. I wanted it to carry books and lunches to work. I've previously had several nice fabric bags, with a long strap to wear cross-body, but they got grubby and worn out over time, and they also were limp and floppy when only lightly loaded. I then had one with more structure to it, but absolutely no capacity. It struggled with just one book and a tin of soup.

But this handbag of holding is awesome. It's made of sensible grey canvas, which won't show much dirt. (Other versions are available, though. You can even get it in bright orange dragonscale.) It has structural integrity and stays upright even when empty. It has lovely broad carrying handles, allowing you to carry it by hand without the handles digging into your palms. It has a nice broad (detachable) shoulder strap, long enough to be carried cross-body. It has loads and loads of pockets and compartments of many different sizes, allowing you to play the fun game called, "I know it's in here somewhere, but where on earth did I put it?" The zip tag is made of a metal d20. And it really is a Bag of Holding. It eagerly accepts anything you give it. Today I fed it with 5 books, 3 tins of soup and 4 yogurts, and it was still eager and hungry for my 6 apples, although I kept them away from its grabby hands, lest the soup tins bruised them.

Should anyone feel inspired to buy one - and it's one sale at the moment - I should add the warning that it's quite a heavy bag (2lbs even when empty) - but I still think it's awesome.

Boot grump

Jan. 9th, 2017 03:48 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
When my old walking boots literally started falling apart, a year of boot-related angst ensued: six months in which I clung, whimpering, to my old boots, and insisted on wearing them even though they were becoming more hole than boot; several weeks of trying on every pair of boots on sale on the island, some of them twice; then six months of hating the new boots merely because they weren't my old ones. From the start, they never gave me blisters, but the heel was a bit bigger, and I resented it bitterly for this.

Once I got over this somewhat irrational hatred, I realised that actually these new boots were rather awesome: comfortable, far more waterproof than the old ones, and exuding an air of indestructability. Despite this, the day will doubtless come when they need to be replaced, so I recently decided that I'd avoid a repeat of the trauma of a couple of years ago by buying another identical pair. This would also allow me to keep a spare pair in the mainland car, to avoid the need to ferry boots to and fro over the Solent when we go on holidays.

This leads me to the following points.

- Why don't shoes and boots have the name of their style clearly written inside, to aid people who want to rebuy them? By careful comparison of pictures, I deduced that I was looking for a Bergaus Explorer Trail ladies' light hiking boot, as opposed to a Bergaus Explorer Trex or a B. E. Trail Plus or a hiking boot (non light) with a similar name, or a walking shoe with a similar name. It would have been nice to have been told.

- It's very annoying that boots stay on the market for only a year or two before disappearing. I expect the company wants to have a constant flow of new products getting reviews, and they can go on about new improved designs and new technology and the like. But it can be really hard to get boots that feel good, and chances are, the "new improved" version isn't going to work for someone who was utterly content with the old model. It would be lovely if you could buy a boot in 2014, secure in the knowledge that you can reasonable hope to replace it with exactly the same version in 2017.

- It is very annoying that when, following many failures, you eventually find a website that - yay! - has the boot you want and it lets you select its size and its colour and add it to basket... only to reveal, when you click "checkout," that actually the boot is out of stock. If the product is unavailable and never likely to be available again, please remove it from your listings. If it's unavailable and likely to come back, at least put "not currently available" in a nice prominent location. If only some sizes are available, at least let us know when we try to select our size. Don't raise our hopes, only to snatch them away and laugh.

Grump!
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This Christmas, our new board game was Defenders of the Realm, which I bought largely because it's a co-operative game that takes about two hours to play, and I felt the lack of a game of that sort of length.

It can be very broadly summed up as Pandemic in a fantasy setting, with added dice and Larry Elmore art work. I found it fairly enjoyable, and it would probably make a good game for a gaming party, since it's pretty easy to pick up and only takes a couple of hours. I don't think it's as cleverly designed as Pandemic, and it's definitely less stressful and easier to win. But it's not at all bad.

Defenders of the Realm )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
122 books. Quite a lot, given that the vast majority of my reading takes place in bed in the morning before getting up for work.

I've bolded those titles that I particularly liked.

All books read in 2016 )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Nearing the end of 2016. This whole "write a review of every book I read in 2016" thing fell apart rather in the summer, although I think I managed to track down all the titles retrospectively and write at least a few lines about them. I do quite like having the record to look back on, so might continue this in 2017, although I'll probably write less about each book. Or try to. I'm not good at being succinct.

Anyway...

Books in mid December )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Just in case anyone's interested, here are the answers to the picture quiz I posted yesterday. I've included all the original pictures, should those who didn't fancy doing it as a quiz want to browse a gallery of incongruous angels, bad puns and even worse noses.

These turned out to be a lot harder than I'd thought, which is a shame. It took me AGES, and left me with a bad back, but I'd consoled myself with the thought that I would be giving my family a fun, quick quiz, which would raise a few laughs and a few groans, while being nice and easy to solve - my last year's quiz was criticised as Too Hard. But it seems that I've given them a quiz that is actually just as hard as last year's, which will get complained about. Oh well...

Ping-pong Merrily on High

02carol

Click here if you can bear 20 more like that )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
On Thursday I had a stray idea. Said stray idea - for a quiz I could present to my family at Christmas, since it is traditional to come armed with such a thing - was one that would involve "a small amount of drawing." Three days later, and about 105 million hours of wrestling with recalcitrant noses and night scenes, I have a badly aching back and neck, have watched far too many episodes of Dave Gorman's TV show (on the grounds that you don't have to look up at the screen much) but - finally - have a result.

All of these are Christmas carols with one letter changed. The answer I am looking for is the revised version of the title, not the real one. Some are blatantly obvious, and some less so. All but one are very well-known songs. The one that is less known is one of the most obvious pictures, so the exact wording of the title isn't necessary, just the gist.

Warning: this quiz contains:

- mild irreverence - angels etc. doing silly things. If such things will offend you, don't read on.
- badly drawn noses, hands and feet, and rubbish night-time scenes
- bad puns galore

Carols/songs do not necessarily appear just once.

I'll screen comments in case anyone wants to treat it as a quiz, but feel free just to cringe at the pictures and the puns. :-D

The Jingle Bell Mock )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
How big does a group need to be before it is acceptable to give Christmas cards to only some of its members?

Yes, I know there are many groups where everyone decides not to give cards at all, or to only send electronic cards, or whatever. But let's confine our musing to groups where the dishing out of physical cards is the norm.

A company with just 6 employees, or a book group with just 8 members. People would almost certainly give cards to everyone in the group, even those they barely knew or didn't like. Giving to only half would seem like an insult to those you'd missed out - and you'd almost certainly find that one of them gave a card to you, thus causing that whole "oh no, I got a card from them and it is not Too Late to give them one in return" angst.

But a large open-plan office or choral society with over 100 people in it? That sounds Too Big for people to be expected to give to everyone, and it's also much more likely that there are people in the group you've never met. Is it socially acceptable to give cards only to a hand-picked selection of people you know and like, while missing out the others, or is it necessary to devise some other justification based on sub-groups: "I'm only giving cards to the brass section," even if you absolutely hate Erica on second trombone, and had a great time with viola-playing Lily in the pub last week?

So, how big does the group have to be before it stops being the norm that you give cards to everyone?

I ask only out of idle curiosity, not because I'm facing any card-related dilemmas of my own.

Sagas

Dec. 4th, 2016 11:59 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Earlier this year, I inherited responsibilities relating to the purchase of adult stock. Instead of just considering hamster fairies and snot monsters, the usual subject matter of my book-purchasing decisions, I have had to learn all about crime and sagas, the two most popular genres. (Crime generates FAR more issues, but there are far more crime books around. In terms of issues per item, sagas are ahead.)

Sagas interest me. Supposedly they're "family sagas," a name that suggests lengthy epics following the same family over generations. Most of them aren't like that, but they are instantly recognisable at a glance. At 20 paces in twilight with your eyes half closed, you could tell a saga and never be wrong.

On sagas and downtrodden women in shawls )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I decided that it would be nice to have a few days in Bath to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, what I failed to realise was that Bath has a famous Christmas market, and half the population of the south-west of England would be there. Apparently there was barely a hotel room to be had in the entire place, so travelling there for the weekend is a thing. Had I known, I would have arranged the trip for the previous weekend. Oh well. We still had a nice time. Here are some pictures that - unusually for me - are NOT of comical medieval animals.

A few days in Bath )

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