Sunday, 30 January 2011

Moments, I.

Night time walks through chilly Georgian streets,
a noisy crowded pub on a Friday night,
catching up with old friends, meeting new friends,
midnight snacks, waking to a pair of pale blue eyes,
in bed five hours longer than usual, a bright morning run through muddy fields,
the first snowdrops, singing along to Regina Spektor and missing all the high notes,
Saturday afternoon baking, fluffy basmati rice, planning a summer holiday,
dancing in the kitchen to Craig Charles' Funk and Soul Show,
crumpets dripping with butter, cycling through bleak farming villages,
writing a letter to a good friend, enjoying the beauty of the French language,
carrot cake with sweet cream cheese topping and a cup of tea, a simple yoga routine,
French lentil soup, curling up on the couch together

How was your weekend?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Fill In the Blanks Friday

A four day week but such a busy one. Some disappointment and lots of hope. Forgotten plans, lighter mornings, lovely evenings walks. It's Friday again; cue rocket and tomato pasta salad and some blanks, courtesy of Lauren!

1. If my house were on fire and I could only grab three things, I would grab Mary Ann (a ragdoll I've had since I was a baby), my REM LPs and the jumper I'm currently trying to knit.

2. A smell I really like is that heavy scent in the air just before rain. Absolutely divine!

3. Something you might not know about me is that I'm one of those people who leaves only the stalk, pips and knobbly bit of the apple. No flesh goes to waste!!

4. Some of my favourite websites to putter on are your blogs! I don't do much else beyond checking my email when I'm online.

5. This weekend I will get on my bike for the first time since Christmas Day. I can't wait!

6. Nothing makes me happier than cycling fast down a flat, car-free road with Daniel by my side. To me that is complete freedom.

7. A bad habit I have is leaving piles of clothes everywhere. Daniel calls them my 'little piles'. They might look untidy but they are organized into different genres of wear - 'things to wash', 'things to wear after a shower', 'things I might want to wear tomorrow', 'things I will wear tomorrow'...

Have an awesome weekend folks!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

An Epiphany-Sort-of-Moment

It happens to everyone. A gorgeous pair of trousers, so definitely in your size, simply will not pull up around your thighs despite your best efforts to twist and turn into the right position. Cue a feeling of absolute self-despair, of the world crashing down around you because that one pair of trousers, one pair next to 20 other pairs that fit just fine, will not pull up. Cue a sudden will to change, to do 50 lunges every night and eat only vegetable soup for lunch.

Twenty minutes later that feeling is gone, and will only return when the next pair of trousers in your size won't squeeze around your legs. The irrational burst of self-loathing may be sharp, but it doesn't last beyond the next sweet temptation. Ah well.

Such a thing happened to me on Monday, and I was left in a state of absolute disgust at my pathetic reaction to the simple fact that I am not made of elastic. Why does it seem to be the human standard to measure ourselves up against measurements and averages? I comfort myself with the feeling that I am not the only one. We all feel this way sometimes, and that's ok.

Anyway, I digress. This shallow despair lead me to experience one of those amazing epiphany-type moments, when the world falls into place and you think 'Ah! I'll be fine!'. Walking back home along the river after a relaxed afternoon involving a head massage, hair cut and the biggest hot chocolate of my life (my legs were probably filled with sweet hot milk, that's all), I was struck by the beauty of the world. The evening was falling, to the point where the twilight distorts the light and dark, and so the sunrise in the distance was the only thing I could see clearly. It was reflected on the river, which was rippling yet still as clear and serene as glass. The birds were singing a loud and particularly beautiful chorus, and the air smelt sweet, hinting that spring is on the way.

I had to stop and take in the moment. I had to stand and look, close my eyes and listen. And then, I realized that I am just a fragment of this world, that the size of my trousers creates no resonance anywhere, and matters not in any way. The world is so much bigger than me, I came and I will go. Life is so big and so wonderous, and for now at least, the size of my trousers is simply nothing.

I hope that made sense. What a fuss we make over the small stuff.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Big Moments, Small Moments

It has been a weekend of really big moments.

Shaking the University Chancellor's hand, holding a certificate with my name on it, my parents' grins as I meet them in my gowns; these were all moments that resonated with much more significance than I had expected. A day of celebration, of reunion, of joy about what was and what is now.

The beating of thousands of trainers on concrete, the bright colours stretching out miles ahead, and the absolute agony of 2 hours of repeated motion. My Dad's face as he ran to meet me before the finish line, and the surge of energy as the end approached. Taking home a new personal best, a creaking hip and an unquenchable thirst.

Moments such as these will be remembered for as long as I have the ability to remember freely, but they are always accompanied by something much less memorable, yet still so important. The small moments built around these landmarks also deserve recognition of their own, as without these the big things would seem so much more difficult. Freeing myself of my graduation gowns and taking home the achievement within me, something to carry alongside me for the rest of my life. That first sip of a pint of local cider as we toast the weekend's glories, accompanied by the relief that we can now relax, drink beer and eat pizza to our heart's content. The sudden falling-into-place of my hips, back and knees as I crunch into a forward lift, my joints singing with joy as they realign. A Monday spend lazily in bed, then on the couch, taking time off work to recover and enjoy the recovery. The sun beating down on Daniel's back in the yard, as he fixes his bike on a glorious January morning. The smoothness of Greek yogurt and the sweetness of pear; one of my all-time favourite breakfast combinations.

All of these small things frame the bigger things, putting them in perspective when perspective has been so absent for so long. The big moments occur every now and then, and they are wonderful when they do, but they are not life. Life can't be made up of achievement after achievement, after all, life has to carry on in small steps with the occasional leap into madness.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Fill in the Blanks Friday

Carb-loading is always fun in theory. Note to self: in reality, it's not.



1. My favourite quote is a Zen wisdom: 'Sit quietly doing nothing. Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself'. This isn't quite appropriate however, I never ever sit quietly doing nothing.

2. A bad habit I have is reading over other people's shoulders on the train. A man picked me up on it the other day and it was embarrassing. I know it's bad, but the eyes want to read, and I can't fit my current book in my bag as I bring so much lunch and it's a hefty read!

3. The first time I felt like a 'grown up' was when I went on my first date with Daniel. It was just like in all of the romantic films, and was absolutely perfect. It was actually my first ever 'real date', too! Aside to that, receiving my first paycheque and spending it all on rent, travel and tax was a jolt into the real world, too!

4. Weekends are my own time. I try my best not to plan anything concrete, and prefer to ride with my feelings. I absolutely cherish them as I have no time to do my 'own thing' in the week.

5. When I was a child I wished my name was...I don't rememeber! I used to shorten it to Cat when I was in junior school, though, which I never do now. Only one of my friends calls me Cat and I like it that way :-)

6. I wish that I had more time to myself. It's something that will need addressing at some point, but I would love to live closer to my job and be able to enjoy the evenings as I please.

7. A secret I have is that I wear leather shoes, even though I'm vegetarian - *gasp* (I have my reasons, of course!)

Take part here, and enjoy the weekend! I get a 3-day weekend as I'm graduating and then racing, and hopefully won't be able to move too much on Monday ;-)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cure it with a Cookie

Sometimes things are a bit too hard and a bit too overwhelming, and ther seems to be no reasonable way to get on with things as you should.

Sometimes you can't just sit around and wait, you can't sit around and cry, you can't sit around and think about something else.

On Sunday, life was all of that and more. Unable to sit and wait, unable to carry on as normal. Numb and jittery with coffee, I put on my apron and grabbed my biggest mixing bowl.

Sugar, butter, oats, flour, egg, fruit, nuts, vanilla.

Bake for 15 minutes.

A delicious perfume to fill the house, a warming sweetness to fill the tum. A sugary joy to comfort family, dampening sadness and bringing new conversation ("ooh, what's in it? Is it almonds? Where did you get the recipe?").

It's amazing, what a simple cookie can do for the soul. No photos as we've eaten them all, but imagine a bumpy mound of soft oatiness, topped with slightly burned raisins. Soul food!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fill in the Blanks Friday!

1. I feel happy when I cook, when I knit, when I create. I feel happy when I push myself and feel my whole being reaching its perceived limits and crossing them. I feel happy when I sit at home, on our couch in our gorgeous living room with the man I love. I feel happy when I wake up on a Saturday and the whole weekend stretches ahead!

2. I get silly when Daniel gets silly. I'm not a silly person at all, but Daniel is very silly. Sometimes it makes me impatient, and sometimes it makes me act like a loon!

3. Something that makes me sad is the way so many women, no matter how beautiful they are, feel the need to hide their faces with make up. I am forever surprised by this, and forever saddened. Why?

4. Something that makes me annoyed is car drivers. People who drive with no regard for the route they are taking, or the world they are filling with fumes, or the pedestrians/cyclists they are ignoring.

5. A time that I've been truly surprised was the day I got my job.

6. I am so thankful for my job, my family and my wonderful home. And my optimism; it must be hard being a pessimist or a cynic.

7. I feel loved all the time. That is one amazing thing to write here.

Take part here, and have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Last night I ran.

I came home tired and satisfied from a long and very busy day. I sat down, had a drink and a snack, and resigned myself to not running.

Then, 10 minutes later, I was eager, wrapped up in high-vis and lycra, anxious to move.

It was dark and the passing cars' lights were too bright. The wet pavements shone under the streetlights. Shadows cast over my path causing a couple of dodgy paces. But I ran and ran. It hurt my already-tired body, it troubled my still-suffering lungs. But it was awesome.

Half marathon in 10 days, after almost zero training. I can't wait!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A simply perfect supper!

Daniel and I have taken on a little challenge for 2011 - every month, we will each cook a meal that we have never cooked before. I'm very excited about this - not only will it prompt me to brave some of the dishes that I never try because I never have the right ingredients, it will also put a monthly spanner into our tasty but repetitive stir fry-curry-pasta-chilli cycle!

Tonight was my January dish, taken from my new favourite man: Nigel Slater! I quickly fell in love with Nigel last week, when I watched back-to-back episodes of his Simple Suppers on iPlayer. I then watched Toast, the film made about his life, and cried right the way through. When Daniel arrived home I made him watch an episode, and we decided that three of the episode's recipes combined (and vegetarianified) would make a wonderful meal to start off the year!

So, tonight I cooked:

Puy lentils with horseradish dressing (taken from this recipe)

Lemon roasted jerusalem artichokes

Curly kale

This was my first taste of the Jerusalem artichoke, and it certainly didn't disappoint! With the lemon and a few potatoes for starchiness, it had a very delicate but wintery taste. I haven't cooked Puy lentils since I lived in France, where they are available by the sack-load, and I was sort of grossed out by their mud-like appearance (I made Daniel taste them before I tucked in, hehe), but the first bite reminded me exactly why they're Puy lentils, and not described solely by their appearance! Yep, we were two happy munchers by the end of teatime - a truly simple meal, and more tasty than it looked!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Weekend for Recuperation

Yesterday I ventured out to my local health food store (this happens to be both the best health food store I've ever set foot in, and the closest shop to our house - perfect!), and as I was queuing patiently with my chunky peanut butter and organic lemons (staple cures for all ailments), I sort of lost all strength and toppled backwards. Luckily, I grabbed Daniel before I hit the floor, but it was quite obvious to me and everyone around me that I had fainted. Only very temporarily, but a faint is a faint, however dramatic it may be.

This was scary, and a real wake-up call that now is not the time to start living with full aplomb. Not yet.

So, under Daniel's very watchful eyes, I have had a wonderfully quiet weekend, and I've been ok with that. There has been lots of sitting and drinking tea, a little fresh air, some lazy iPlayer hours and plenty of cooking, and I am very content with how it has all panned out.

There has been a delightful few hours of chatter and tea with one of my most wonderful friends. A Sunday morning walk, arm in arm, where we stretched our cold muscles and really felt the movement of walking; sort of like sitting on a plane for hours, and finally unravelling from the seat. Homemade sourdough bread which was so utterly divine that we ate in silence, savouring every inch of our efforts. A frustrating few hours spent assembling furniture, resulting in calloused hands and tired knees, but the living room is finally how we want it and that begs no compromise.

So, I am ready now to begin again. To set out tomorrow morning with a spring in my step, anxious to feel busy again; to feel like I have a day-to-day to set my week and my energies in order. Weekends are always better when there's a week on either side of them, after all.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


I'm not one for cynicism, but there are some things I dislike intensely and completely irrationally, and sometimes I spend too much time dwelling on these things. Sometimes it's sensible and good to keep thoughts to oneself. Sometimes, but not always.

Things I seriously dislike and would banish, had I the power to banish things

Boil in the bag rice


Ugg boots



Fake 'fashion' glasses


'Healthy living' bloggers who post photos of everything they eat

'Chicklit' and everything it entails

Cling film

Is it just me!?

Friday, 7 January 2011


Bored. This is a word that I really really dislike. A symptom of too much 'stuff'. Too much surplus entertainment that we don't need; too much TV, too many gadgets, too many distractions from real life. Too much existing and not enough living. Not enough getting out there and seeking what the world has to offer; simply waiting (often in front of a TV, despite there being 'nothing on') for something to come along.

There is something really special about just being. Being somewhere, alone, with no headphones, no distraction from surroundings or thoughts. Simply content to walk and think, take in the world and let time pass by with complete serentiy. Of course this doesn't have to be outside; in the kitchen looking out of the window, in a coffee shop watching others pass by, on a train observing other passengers; I see this time alone with my thoughts as some of the most precious time I spend. Sometimes (in fact, often) it comes to me when I'm running - I find myself somewhere, running, without knowing exactly how I got there. One of the (many) reasons why I don't listen to music when I run. I don't listen to music when I cook or knit, either.

After long weekends as a child moaning about being bored to my parents (I lived quite far from the other school kids and day trips to the countryside certainly weren't my idea of fun, back then!), I long since learned the value of time to myself, without distraction. In fact, I am often more uninterested when presented with a distraction now - a film I'm not 100% interested in, a board game that isn't Trivial Pursuit, a TV programme that isn't University Challenge - than I am when given a large space in which I can 'just be'. The activities I really like are those which allow plenty of time for thinking - stirring cake batter, running down dirt tracks, chopping onions, knitting, cycling - and I'm convinced that the reason I'm so passionate about these activities is partly due to the space that they provide, away from the rest of the world.

So, boredom. I'm still here, in bed, peering out through the window into the grey morning. I've admired the terrace mansion accross the way, imagined the excitement of Christmas holidays for the children living there (it looks like a wonderful house to grow up in, it really does). I've admired the gardens and daydreamed about having a garden of my own, as well as considering what to do with our lovely yard once the winter has passed. I've watched the seagulls soaring around outside and seen the beauty of the afternoon sun setting over the houses. I've thought about January, about how beautiful it is and how there is a sense of optimism hanging in the cold air. I've thought over and over about the hills and long roads on which I will run and cycle in the coming months, and the new things I want to cook in the coming weeks. But now I am starting to falter. I see the piles of clothes mounting, the bed that needs changing, the ironing pile that is growing underneath my Bagpuss hot water bottle cover (not a very cunning disguise, I must say). My thoughts are fading and I feel a serious need to act, rather than simply sitting and waiting. I don't know whether it's boredom, or frustration, or most likely a combination of the two. All I know is that 2011 is here and I haven't seen it yet - I'm longing for my fresh start, my head-on jump into a new year packed with hopes and intentions and changes. Hopefully this delay will leave me with more vigour when it comes to finally acting on my hopes for the year; I've had enough apathy for one year already, and we're only one week in!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Good Bits

So, the holiday is over and most of us have returned to work with a bang.

Not me, actually. As my alarm went off at 5:15 this morning I was instructed by Daniel to stay in bed, after a sleepless night involving the most hideous cough I have ever known. So I am still in my pyjamas at 2:20 in the afternoon, wondering if I will ever feel well ever again.

Yet the Christmas holiday is over. We took our tree down with great sadness yesterday afternoon, and I found a home for my new presents (always a task!). The sherry bottle is in the recycling bin, the Marmite nuts have been gobbled up; suddenly there is no excuse to eat chocolates in the morning, or to bake simply because there are no mince pies left. Indeed, I made a very careful healthy packed lunch last night, ready for a great start to my healthy new year (when am I not healthy, I ask? Being extra-healthy in January is especially difficult when your diet consists almost exclusively of fruit, veggies, wholegrains and pulses, but still I must act when my jeans won't fasten after a month of festive habits; it feels like I might be on a diet, and I hate it!): the good intentions have started, Christmas must be long gone!

Aside from the obvious high-points of my Christmas break (both geographically and metaphorically), there have been many many wonderful bits that didn't seem quite that awesome until now, when I have chance to reflect on them. I was lucky enough to get eleven full days off work this year, which is the longest period of absolute freedom that I've had since I was 15. Eleven days is a long time when you have no essays to write, no horrid restaurant jobs to turn up to and no exams to revise for; cue lots of time basking in large spaces all for myself - cue lots of simple joy!

Watching countless films, sometimes in the afternoon! Highlights include Miss Potter, The Other Boleyn Girl and Tsotsi.

Going to bed after 10 o'clock, and staying there until after 10 o'clock

Long breakfasts with Daniel, awake enough to chat

Walking around York, remembering how much I love it

Re-arranging rooms and cupboards; the excitement of moving in all over again

Lying awake, whispering plans for the year ahead

Shopping for fun, taking time to browse the shelves

You see, my weekends are always jam-packed, never-a-minute-to-stop sort of affairs; time is too precious to waste on a film I had no intentions of seeing, to lie around in bed or to bustle amongst the hoards of shoppers. A wide space of time has allowed me to enjoy the weekend activities that I usually have no patience for - a little bit of practise, maybe, to prepare me for a year of being kind to myself and going a little more slowly.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Be Kind

Happy New Year!

All of a sudden it's 2011, and I'm overwhelmed by a sea of good intentions. I've suddenly found millions of things that need adjusting or altering; things I'm dissatisfied with, and so many that it appears as if I'm simply dissatisfied full-stop.

The start to 2011 hasn't been so great.

I woke up in the middle of the night on Thursday with an incredibly painful throat. This cartwheeled into a hideous cough and a sort of migraine all over my body; I just lay on the sofa for hours not moving or doing anything in particular. As if my soul had dissappeared from my body and I was just left with a limp wreck.

I don't really 'do' illness. Not quietly, anyway.

So, plans for live music and fireside ales were squandered, and Daniel kindly saw in the New Year with me at home, in bed. I did struggle out from the duvet at midnight to watch fireworks and paper lanterns soar up into the night, but an early night was chosen with determination to be well enough to go for a New Year's Day walk in the Pennines.

Come 7am I was up and raring to go; I even left my cup of tea in my hurry to be outside, to feel some real air in my lungs. My energy somehow lasted for a good ten-mile hike through blazing winds and soggy sleet; the Pennines really are something, giving us so much bleak space to contemplate both the year behind and the year to come.

We finished up at a micro-brewery restaurant in the village of Marsden. The food was incredible, but after a big meal and a pint my head was starting to close in and energy was waning. After a long train ride home I enjoyed the comforts of a bath, broth and Bill Bailey (maybe all good things begin with B?), but found myself in a worse state than ever as I clambered up to bed.

So, two days in, I feel frustrated and all-round dissatisfied. I say all of this for a reason: these feelings will not do.

I'll never be ready for the half marathon

I'll never find time in the week to see my friends

I'll never get back into my tiny jeans

I'm always so clumsy

I look so scruffy all the time

So what do I actually need from 2011? When hearing of my recent malady, my Mum simply said 'well, you do too much', and I suppose she was right. 2011 doesn't need me to improve my race time or lose half a stone; it doesn't need me to try and be a better friend or to buy more stylish clothes. What I need in 2011 is some kindness. Maybe with a little kindness I will find peace in not doing things. Maybe life doesn't have to be one event after another. I intend to at least try and let time flow by, and not worry too much about the precious seconds that slip past without any real intensity. I might try a little harder to let the adventure find me, rather than heading out to find it for myself.