Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stormy waters

Recently has been a rough time. Work has been manic and my standard response to tasks being sent my way of "Sure, I'll get that done" have led me to places I don't want to revisit.

A set of circumstance so elaborate that you couldn't make it up have meant that I had 3x as much work to do, even before 2 of our 5-woman strong team buckled with various ailments and 2 rock-solid volunteers got jobs and hence disappeared as support. I knew it was going to be a hardcore period before all this took place but my work load weighed deeper with each person dropping.

I've felt a strain, a tightening in my heart, my stomach clenched, shoulders tense. I've been lonely in nondescript hotel rooms, missed my friends and family, not had the energy or time to put in my training runs, felt tired and stressed. I've had enough of this. Saturday marked 9 workshop delivery days in March, and I have a further 3 to go before I'm released into the calmer waters that is April.

Day off tomorrow. Gorgeous. I reckon I'll sleep in, go for a run, bake something and go do my yoga. 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Reflections in a friend

I wonder, sometimes, whether the people I know are people I have got to know because of this, or that.

Because of coincidence or one of us daring to smile to a stranger or because of good chemistry? Because of joint interests or similar ways of thinking? Or because of a desire to understand ourselves and how we sit in the world? Whether I like them because they are reflected, or they me for the same reason, I wonder whether they reflect more because I share my reflections or because together we reflect? Whether the way I think and talk affects the way they think and talk?

What's apparent is that all the people I call 'friend' think long and hard about their life. And I can tell that through years of thinking, and in some cases acting on learning from their thinking, they are moving slowly towards an understanding of what eluded them before. I am proud of them. I am proud of the progress they make, and of the progress I make and of the progress together we make. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A path less trodden

That moment
When a busy mind quietens

A silent moment dives into the void
Of gnarly feelings like roots from a plant
Growing in a too-tight space
Restricting their light into glaring spikes
Instead of a solid glow

Red bricks and wooden flooring
Warm candles and home made bread
A steady moment with my one-time twin
Then she says:
You are treading a path less trodden

And tightness lessens and spikes soften
Departure is imminent

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Recent happenings

In St. Paul's Cemetery: A tail-less squirrel, lovingly and regularly kept an eye on by an elderly woman.

Cycling up towards Highbury Barn: "You're going fast!"

Out running this morning: Rain and sun and clouds and people in their own worlds meeting on the Heath.

Trialing a gym club: A crazily energetic yoga teacher pushing my flexibility to new limits. My own yoga teacher wouldn't do that, she lets people follow their own speed.

Culture: A pop-up cinema in Hackney Wick, watched Requiem for Detroit. Awesome movie.

t-10weeks: Have run 91km already this month as part of my prep for the Berlin Marathon.

Work picking up: Just booked tickets to visit Edinburgh, Cumbernauld and Newcastle over 5 days in September.

Bike: Realising how bloody heavy an iron-frame bike is and how much I'd like to replace it with a lovely new (light!) model.

Italian goodness: Off to a wedding this week, and looking forward to chilling on the beach.

"Freelancing": Copy writing a book for someone I hardly know whilst working, trying to maintain a social life, training for a marathon.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

District to home


Went to visit my lovely friends in Richmond today. They had a baby last autumn and since moved to the other side of London. I don't see them as often as I used to. My friend's sister was visiting from overseas with her daughter. The two girls are just 6 weeks apart in age. Needless to say, this visit involved a lot of baby focused activities.
I'm on the tube, heading home. I'd forgotten it's Saturday night, damned be my recently incredibly aged ways.

There's a middle aged coupled snogging the tongues out of each others faces, a waft of alcohol breath drifting past now and again, an elderly man sleeping while wearing a remarkable fez, a posh man in a blue kilt holding a balloon and a young woman with sparkles on her heavily made up face, in line with her incredibly orange fake-tan legs, tiny miniskirt and brash red lipstick. I feel like a weird transplant from another world.

Friday, April 01, 2011

25 September 2011

I've decided to run Berlin. A good friend asked me a few months ago, and in my winter-induced laziness I said, "Mhm, yeah, well, maybe not". Now, after running more or less consistently for a month or so I'm thinking that it just might be possible. Watch this space :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Action

I've started running again. It's been so long and it feels so good. It's like spring has finally decided to peek out and has brought with it a bit of energy and clarity.

Things are moving so rapidly these days. Work is immensely busy, I'm moving house within 6 weeks, days fly by with activity.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ode to the Chestnut

’Ode til Kastanjen’

af Louise Albers og Stina Mott

While browsing around this morning, I came across an article on the Magazine KBH's website (the magazine has been threatened with closure, and seems, sadly, to be folding) on a book about the impact of the new metro works on one of the historically working class areas in Copenhagen. A 114-year old chestnut has been removed from Enghave Plads, a central square in an area which has recently developed from being a neglected, socially challenged place with strong internal community links into fancy cocktail/pricey caffe latte/poncy posing land: Vesterbro.

To be honest, my friends are doing what they can to contribute, having moved in with their highly educated selves and partners, dragging the latest design items, expensive hair-dos and healthy living values with them.

The contrast between them and the experience of the area of 15 years ago is marked. I haven't lived away from Copenhagen for that long, but the changes that have happened in that time span, and in particular the time I have been away, have been remarkable. I too love the new, clean Vesterbro, where new cafes and bars and cool clothing shops pop up, but I can't help but think that there in gentrification is very little respect for the values and qualities of what was. And indeed that the people who have lived in the area for ages have not seen their lives improve by the changes - can they afford to go to a cafe where a coffee costs 30kr? I don't think so. Do they feel welcome in their own 'hood?

I loved this quote from the book:

Engang var det sådan, at man på Vesterbro ikke behøvede at trække maven ind og tvære sorgen væk fra øjnene.” Præsten Mette

”It used to be, that in Vesterbro you didn't have to pull in your stomach and rub the sorrow from your eyes.” Mette, the priest

I hope there is still room for emotions in Vesterbro.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Yoga

I've just done my Monday yoga; every Monday, following a thinking session straight after work, I head to my yoga class. I love it. Some times I have to drag my mentally refusing brain by the stem, but I know that my body will thank me. Every single time. It's amazing what an hour and a half can do for your well-being. And it's amazing how many times my brain just doesn't feel like going. But I do go.

My teacher is lovely. She has that calm air about her that you'd somehow expect in a yoga teacher, warm, tender almost, and has with gentle adjustments since I started coming to class in January this year taught me a lot about my body.

I've learnt to activate muscles I have never been aware of before. I stretch and twist my spine with an awareness that leaves my muscles sore and used. Tuesdays I really feel my arms from holding them outstretched to the tips of my fingers, shoulders released, or from reaching them straight above my head as high as I ever could. When I bike to work my legs remind me of the mental space and the stretch and use they experienced Monday evening, and I feel a certain satisfaction.

It's a respite, in some ways, from the busy bustle of my daily work, from my hyperactive brain, from my emotional cowardice. It's just me. My body. My breathing, my muscles. It's so incredibly healthy for me.

What do you do for your mental and physical health?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When good things end

When you pass on something good because it's 'for now', rather than 'for longer', are you then grown up? Mature? A sorry sod? A killjoy? Realistic?

One thing that's for sure is that I did.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Lucky star

I didn't know it could be like this. I had hoped that it didn't have to be a long, weary drudge, that there might be opportunities for a sparkle in there, but I had no idea that work could bring such a feeling of being impressed by others, of having walked a shared journey, and of pride in the people continuing when our involvement in the project came to a close. I just had the last session with a community group and I'm feeling a little teary-eyed. I know they will go on to build an amazing building (probably with their own and the community's bare hands!) and I can't wait to visit them in their shiny new building in a few years. It has been a remarkable journey from a meeting with two people who wanted to have a building, to seeing the involvement of the community and the engagement of tens of people over a period of months. They truly have impressed me with their aspirations and dreams, and with being willing to take the chance and challenge that this project is.

At the end of the workshop today they all chimed in, saying how the process of working with us had given them confidence that they can do this, that it seems manageable now, that they feel empowered, that they have learnt so much, and all just beamed with the knowledge that they are so on the right track.

This is the joy that my job gives me. I feel so extremely blessed and lucky to have the opportunity to work with people and within a field that can give me a feeling like this and such a sense of contentment. Few dare even dream of having it, and even fewer have the luck to live the experience.

I'll be looking at the stars this evening to see if I can suss the lucky alignment I'm living under.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jack of all trades

I'm reading a book by Haruki Murakami called What I talk about when I talk about running. Although he's a prolific author and a well-known one, I have never managed to read any of his books before.

I used to read with the thirst for letters on a page like a lonely soul in the desert drinks after reaching a long desired oasis, but that slowly wound down to a drawn-out trickle. In my high school years, and indeed university years, my reading was almost entirely focused on curriculum and research texts. I was going to write 'factual literature', but perhaps due to the nature of my studies a lot the texts I read were manifestoes and creative interpretations of buildings, spaces, cities, and the lives of people. I did read for pleasure, and often much more than necessary, but only extremely rarely a literary piece of fiction.

These days my reading echoes my intake of fluids: I drink only when I need to, or am reminded to by a dull-feeling brain that needs input to clear it up and get it flowing again. I am much focused on doing these days, a capacity that I haven't really felt that I have had a grasp of (ever?), and which I have spent much energy in pursuing. I am succeeding in some ways.

His book is about running, and writing, and his life as a running novelist. He draws parallels between the physical training he needs to run and to run well and the mental training he puts in daily in his concentrated efforts at writing.

A very good friend gave me this book recently, I think as a sort of celebratory gift after I ran and completed my first marathon last month. I had seen the book researching literature whilst in the preparation phase for my race, but never got around to buying it. Symptomatic of me, really. And this brings me to title of this post. I have throughout my life been fairly good at a variety of things. Some have come fairly easily to me (like reading, maths, climbing trees), and others I have had to work very hard and intently at to reach a level that was acceptable to me (like basketball, designing). If I get involved in something I want to be at least decent at it.

I have recently been understanding a bit more of which tasks I am good at and those which I am merely adequate. I think I may have had some sort of subconscious awareness of it (because I am not utterly surprised, rather I am experiencing more and more calm clarity). It is more and more, although there is still a pretty intense ink cloud shrouding my skills from my consciousness, but floaty obstacles are disappearing and I get glimpses of strengths and, perhaps more importantly, areas which are not my forte. Who knew reading about running could help you think about life?

When I run I have time, calm clear time, to contemplate the challenges and contradictions I'm facing. I spend my running time with a certain freshness and clarity that tends to evaporate when I stop running. My runs give me space, a sense of achievement, and connect my otherwise un-noticed body to my over-thinking brain. I had no idea how important running would become for me when I started. I needed to do some exercise, I needed to create space for me, and that's just about it. Now it forms an important side of my mental health and of my self image and understanding in addition to those initial goals.

I wonder if I will continue to run always. Right now I think it'd be a good idea.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Long-distance friends

The weak sun warmed our bodies as we walked and chatted today in East London. The darker bits where the sun didn't reach us felt chilly and were endurable because we knew that in a moment there would be the novel sensation of spring and warmth on our faces again.

The things we talked about were the usual - boys, jobs, flats, sickness and health, family things. It's funny how the topics are the same as ever, yet we all felt a marked "grown-up" feel to our chat. I think we today simply noticed that eternal morphing that takes place as time passes and we change, feel, grow, learn, overcoming challenges and pursuing hopes. How lovely to have friends to share life with!

For some reason or other I was reflecting on the friends I have across the world, and how lucky I am to have strong bonds with such a variety of people, all incredibly talented in each their way, lovable, amazingly warm and caring. Knowing that love and warm thoughts last even when there is no direct contact pleases me to no end.

I miss all of you out there, but I of all understand that where you live simply comes down to how your life plays out. I appreciate the friends who live nearby for the daily love and care, and my far-away friends for the enduring bonds that may change, as we change, but which seem built to last with a bit of care. Thankfully, friendships that emerge as paths cross in a moment of our lives can be as strong as friendships developed over years, even over distance.

I may be terrible at staying in touch, even with people I love dearly, but the moments when people appear in my thoughts at the most random of times remind me that we have something enduring.

I miss you all, but with a smile and a warm thought.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Race report: Barcelona Marathon 7 March 2010

Better late than never, I hope.

I never set out to run a marathon when I began running, but the idea grew on me, and I signed up for Barcelona because my running buddy moved home to his beloved Girona.

My prep for this marathon was imperfect, to say the least. New responsibilities at work combined with tight deadlines meant that I did not get all my running in - missing my longest planned run of 30km (achieved 25km as a maximum), plus several others in the last 3-4 weeks. I was stressed, didn't sleep well, and worried that my training wasn't good enough. I didn't eat well either while travelling for work. Due to all this, I lowered my initial goal of 3:45 to 4h, as I didn't think it was realistic to achieve 3:45 with this kind of preparation.

After 3 days on the road delivering training, I got home late. I hadn't packed, of course, so when I woke up I threw some things in my bag (I had laid out my running shoes, and a bit of kit), and hit the road. A little pep-talk with a friend, and off to Girona! D picked me up, and we ate and had a lovely couple of days staying in a house in the mountains outside Girona (there's a point in this seeming excess information, wait for it :.) ) D kept pushing me to run together with him - to a 3:30h pace, and to be honest it stressed me out a fair bit, although I decided to stay with my 4h goal. I did walk a bit too much the days before the marathon.. We flew through the expo (D ran last year and was slightly impatient with me, the first-timer). Another good friend moved to Barcelona recently, so we needed to catch up, and my parents flew down to cheer me on, so a bit of chatting and walking was due. Train back to Girona, car up to the house in the hills, and a last pasta meal before the race. We were both getting jittery now. I packed and checked and double-checked my bag before climbing to bed and falling asleep when my head hit the pillow.

The alarm went off at 5, and it took a bit of cajoling by my friend to even get me up. "This is not a good idea, is it? I don't really want to do it.. Ok, I guess I signed up for this - UP!" Off we go, rushing out and walking to meet his cousin, who is driving. The rushing stayed the rest of the morning until we started racing - D and his cousin knew what they wanted to do, and when, and I didn't really feel I had any choice but to follow. I won't do that next time. Didn't really settle in at the expo-building, and didn't manage to warm up properly. Darn it. Rush to the corrals, only to wait for 15 minutes in a t-shirt in the cold. Darn it. I have to pee. Darn it. We wish each other luck and as people throw their long sleeved clothing and bottles we start moving. We pass the start line after 45-55s and D warns me to be careful of the dropped stuff. I start my ipod - now what's this - why is it measuring in miles? - and as I look at the *stupid* ipod I step on a bottle, twisting my right ankle! DARN IT! It hurts and as I mention it to D he nods and slowly moves ahead. I'm on my own for this one.

The first 5km are slightly upwards, towards Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's stadium. I'm running slower than I normally do, confused, disappointed - will I have to stop because of my ankle?! I grab a gel and start the fuelling. I feel my left hip and glute as expected - sciatica, sciatica.. After about 7km my feet go numb as they do fairly often (apparently because of my sciatica probs) and after I nearly twist my ankle again because of the numbness I stop and stretch to lessen the tingling. It helps a bit, but I know that it will pass if I just keep going. Another gel. I have had to pee since the start, and get annoyed at seeing all the guys stopping to water the cars. I look around for portapotties at 10km, but there are none. In the end I run into a bar and relieve myself, sprinting out again to join the race. Ahh, I feel better!

My parents are meant to be at Passeig de Gracia, just before 15km, so after a couple of Gaudi buildings I look around for the blue and gold (nice sign, mom!) and spot them before they see me. Yay, a little boost! I'm feeling better after the toilet and the cheering, and the next 5kms are better - past Sagrada Familia, loving the sightseeing! - I catch up with the 3:45 balloon - wow, that's really good! I even see D on the stretch where we run opposite each other, and as I pass the half marathon mark I'm in good form, albeit a bit slower than expected, 1:51 I think. I need the toilet again - ah, there's the Calatrava bridge! I continue to calculate my pace in miles and kilometres, fractions of completed race, and spotting others that are at about my pace to keep my mind busy. My left hip is starting to bother me more, and at about 25km I begin to feel the right one too. They have fruit at the 25km station and a quarter of an orange proves extremely successful (unlike the not-quite-ripe banana). My running style is shifting to a weird canter to accommodate the pain in the hips, and I'm moving very, very slowly. I need a toilet and decide to crash a bar again. This time I apparently take longer than 2 minutes (I'll spare you the details!) because my ipod stops, which I only dicover after a while back on the road. Damn, now I don't even have the a total time to go by.

I run to the Torre Agbar, where my mom has positioned herself unannounced - she sees me, but I miss her. People along the course cheer us on with our names, they're printed on the race bib, so I think she's just some random person. At 30km I pick up another orange, water and some powerade - I'm feeling well fuelled, but aware that I need to keep eating, so I grab a gel too. I pass Forum at 30-31km and remember D's cousin saying at about 6.30 that morning that when you reach Forum you'll be very tired. And I am. But I can also see the end of this - just another 11km! I can do that! I cross a bridge to reach the beach - and there's D, walking?! I yell at him "Vinga, D, vinga!", but he shakes his head and walks on slowly. I can't stop running now, so I continue. I'm proud that I'm going on, but also feel sad for him.

We're running along the beach front now, and more and more people are stopping and walking. I affirm to myself that I will not walk, I will not. So I keep moving, only stopping once to stretch before moving out again like a cripled horse. At least I'm 'running'. My parents are waiting at the Arc del Triomph, just before 35km, so I hold tight and keep going. I turn onto the parade, and there they are! Yay! They smile and cheer me on - my mom chases me with the camera as I slow down to grab some more orange, nuts and powerade. Then I'm off again - through the arch. We turn left and enter the old city centre - there are so many people here now, cheering, music playing. I'm going very slowly now, and I have to dig deep to keep it up. I very, very nearly trip on a loose tile - there's an audible 'pheew' from people who see it, and I stagger on. I'm really tired now, but there's less than 5km to go, I can do that!

There are many Danish runners with red t-shirts with 'Denmark' on the back, and for some reason I decide to cheer this one of them on. I say "Come on!" in Danish, and she turns and looks - my god, we know each other.. Where from, where from, we're both thinking through our tired minds. She manages "Basketball..?" And I nod and give her a "Keep it up!" before moving past the girl I used to play against in the Danish league, at my slightly faster pace than hers. Colom, 40km - more food. I stop to stuff my face for a few seconds with more nuts and orange before forcing my tired legs to move out again. 41km takes a long time to reach, and 42km keeps hiding... At about 41.5 the Danish girl passes me - no, you've gotta be kidding! I pull the last reserves and shift from the weird traipse to what feels like a proper run (but doesn't look it in the videos, I must say!). I overtake her again and as I run through the 42km arch I see 3.59.55, 3.59.56... OH NO! Over the Placa Espanya from where we also started, turn into the last 195m - the arches are confusing me - where's the finish line?! What's with the time?! I sprint the last hundred meters (or so it seems, really it's a slow-mo movement, but it's enough to overtake 8-10 people) and cross the line with the time at 4.00.45 or so. I'm so disappointed, I didn't make it under 4h. Man... I grind to a pained walk, and move through chip-removal, I get a medal.. Ok, 4h isn't bad... Darn it! I wanted UNDER 4h! I even bang a table with refreshments with my fist! But then - didn't I cross the START line at about 0:00:55 or so?! It just might be! I grab some more orange, nuts, water, muesli bar, powerade, and wander up towards the expo building. What were they thinking when they planned this - stairs?!

I pick up my bag, call my parents to have them come meet me. Then I see everyone looking at some print outs on the wall..? I search, and I find - 3.59.41! Wohoooooo! I made it!!!! I go find D's cousin, and then I feel my ankle and go out to find a red cross ambulance with some ice. D's cousin ran 3.08 - amazing, and a total inspiration. My mom saves the day with a fantastic fruit/nut/chocolate mix, eaten as D's cousin drops D and me back to the house in the hills outside Girona. We grill a load of lamb and potatoes and veggies, and wash it down with wine. Poor D has to go back to Girona, he's got a sports therapy client in the morning. I settle in on the couch in front of the fire with a few more snacks before dozing off. I wake at 8 o'clock with snow outside. Snow?! I was hoping for sun on the terrace! Oh well. I cook myself some more hearty Spanish food and go back to sleep. At 11am D is on the phone - panicky - "Pack your stuff, you need to come down from the mountain!" Hm. Ok. I make myself another sandwich and start packing up. In the end D has a friend come bring him up in his 4WD, D's car couldn't make it through the worst snow for 20 years. We slowly descend in at least a foot of snow, avoiding the trees bent or broken over the road. What a couple of days! We make it down, and I feel so happy. Just so happy. My muscles have been remarkably quiet, although all of the joints in my legs are painful, and my left instep and the right ankle are hurting.

I'm already thinking of when to do the next one.