Feeling good

Feeling good

So this week we have spent four nights in the Lake District, hoping to do some tough hill walking for the first two days and something less arduous for the third. In anticipation, hubby did all the planning and all I had to do was turn up. He felt it was a holiday and I felt it was a training camp. It turned out to be both.

So here are the things I learnt (well, those that are relevant to the Coast to Coast!) :

  1. I felt physically OK in terms of fitness. Hell, we walked up Helvellyn – 3000 feet and I didn’t crumble.  I felt mentally OK in terms of capability. Unfortunately I twisted my knee which made downhill bloody hard going. But am hoping it’s nothing serious. It was helped using hubby’s knee support and Nurofen. Luckily his torn cartilage didn’t play up enough to need the support himself. But we might need to think about carrying a spare….
  2. I felt absolutely fine the following morning – in complete contrast to the previous Lake District escapade. Probably because I did a bit of stretching when we’d finished.
  3. The terrain is really hard going. All those bloody rocks and stones. It’s as if the walking isn’t bad enough, there’s the hills themselves but on top of that is the terrain. The South Downs and Chilterns are just not a remote substitute or training ground. Everything underfoot is uneven and we were doing it in perfect conditions. Given rain the slipperiness would be really tricky.
  4. The weather can be mental – baking sun in April meant we should have had protection that can’t be sweated off. And some kind of headband to keep the sweat out of my face. My little towelling wristband was a godsend.
  5. Even Shellac got destroyed scrambling up rocks. No nail varnish on the Coast to Coast!
  6. Testing out socks gave me a blister on the final day. They were ones without liners so I think I’m going to stick to sock liners.
  7. Look before you leap – obvious but equally applies to cutting what I thought was a toenail that was pressing in to me. Transpires I cut the top off a blister with nail clippers..
  8. Compeed is way better than the generic alternatives from the likes of Superdrug.
  9. I got too hot in my Craghopper long trousers which up to now have been my favourites. They’re only going to be worn if it is unseasonably cold in June.
  10. My new Berghaus long sleeve stripy top and Jack Wolfskin jacket were great. But think I need a top with a collar to stop rucksack rubbing as when I didn’t have the jacket on I could feel it a the base of my neck. Ah a retail opportunity…
  11. And the Lakes own gin, Bedrock, has convinced me it is the drink for me. Ah, another retail opportunity…

There were no tears!

February 23, 2015

The headline says it all. The first walking test weekend went well. The weather was glorious and the walking not too arduous. Yes there were undulating hills over the Seven Sisters but we walked the 12+ miles relatively easily I thought and got back to the pub on the picturesque green in plenty of time for a bath before spending the evening rehydrating with alcohol and refuelling with carbs. The next day, after a fabulous full Sussex breakfast, we set off for a short stroll supposedly with magnificent views after  a bit of a climb.

10855043_10204815869088890_4577714971959697561_o The walk turned out to be longer than planned due mainly to us being unable to decipher the description of where the walk actually started. The book was ambiguous, but eventually we decided to follow the numerous little old ladies who seemed to know where they were going. The going was soft. Squelchy in fact and a good test for the boots. My core didn’t let me down and I didn’t fall over at all, although I may have overbalanced a few times as I slid on the clay. Up to the Iron Age fortification and a panoramic view to the sea in one direction and the Downs in the other.

seven sistersThen our guidebook again confused us and we ended up crawling over and under barbed wire fences, through crops and in to a heavily fenced area with numerous buildings in it. And huge signs saying it was private property and walkers had no right of way. So we strode through to the main road and had no idea which direction we needed to walk. The compass couldn’t help as we didn’t know where we were. There was no mobile signal. So we flagged a van driver down and asked him where the village was and went on our way. Probably had added a good couple of miles on to our intended four and a half mile expedition, but the torrential rain that was forecast didn’t appear until we were in the car heading home. Perfect timing.


After I had written the Top Ten Things  I Didn’t Know Until I Was a Parent (in the post ‘And suddenly you’re a parent’),  I remembered another.  Peer pressure by proxy. Worrying that your child is not doing all the right things at the right stage. It was acute with the first, because that’s the one you learn on, whereas with subsequent ones there was a realisation that actually there isn’t a tick box of specific tasks by specific dates –  it’s all fairly movable. Plus we were so knackered by the time we had three under four that we didn’t know what any of them were meant to be doing or not.

I caveat this post with the fact that we were lucky in that there was no real worry that there were serious developmental difficulties. What I am talking about here are the stupid anxieties induced by seeing the achievements of other children and believing they reflect badly on yours for not doing the same. I hasten to add my husband was not remotely afflicted by this. Only me.


The first time I felt it was when I went to visit the friend who had had their daughter the day before our son was born.  I was poleaxed by the fact that her eight month old was eating by herself using a spoon.  Our boy would grab a spoon if you loaded it for him, but by no means was he independently eating. It was as likely to go on the floor or in his ear as in his mouth. If you let him have the spoon he would use it as a drum stick, sending porridge flying round the kitchen as he banged happily in to the bowl.  I came home from that visit with the first pangs of parental peer pressure by proxy. Although, it wasn’t really peer pressure as my friend had not been gloating or insinuating our son was slow. It was just how I felt. And a bit jealous.Then everyone else’s babies started crawling. Ours didn’t. Just sat. And lay down. No crawling. No standing. No pulling up on furniture. Made it simpler for me as I knew he’d still be where I left him if I popped to the loo or went out of the room for whatever reason. He would flap his arms up and down and bounce on the spot to the Neighbours’ theme as I had become addicted to it whilst breast feeding him so I think it was a Pavlovian response to the music. But apart from that no attempt to move.

Pulling up and holding on. But not yet walking.

For his first birthday we bought him a wooden push along trolley and he dutifully pulled himself up to standing using it. But then flopped down. But he could at least pull himself to standing with something to help him.  By now he would bounce along on his bottom if he wanted to get from A to B. But usually he wasn’t inclined, and would happily sit and play for hours with his toys in exactly the same spot.When he still wasn’t crawling  or walking by the time number two arrived it made it easier for me, although there was some relief when he did eventually start moving. He bypassed the crawling stage and went straight to walking at about 17 months. Fairly late, but got there eventually. Of course, as ever with these scenarios it is easy to overlook the positive things he was able to do and simply focus on the negatives. In fact he had great linguistic capabilities and could comprehend completely what we would say to him by about 10 months. And he was brilliant with his sister when she arrived not long after he turned one.

But of course it was at school where the intense comparisons started. With little girls leaving nursery aged 3 and 4, clutching their armfuls of paintings with their names scrawled at the bottom, I would search for any crayon capability. Any drawing. Any painting. Any writing. Any artwork at all. There was none forthcoming.

All he did was run about outside, sometimes wearing a Batman cape,  sometimes play Lego or Playmobil. No real interest in reading, although we tried and he loved his Dad’s storytelling. But no interest at all in writing or drawing. I did get a bit worried, but I was confident he was bright enough from the converstaions we would have and that he could do basic mental arithmetic with me when we went shopping.

Then he went in to Reception Year. Just four years old and at school all day. At the end of the year the young teacher told us that she thought he may have learning difficulties. She wasn’t sure.  He was in the bottom 25% of the class academically.   I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it, but she was insistent. He could only read a few simple words, and not that well, he couldn’t write , she wasn’t sure he understood what was going on.  I was taken aback.  I could not believe she thought our boy was not the brightest thing known to man.

So I did what any mother would do – I went and told on the teacher to her boss who happened to be his old Nursery teacher and  about to retire. I was near to tears. Bizarre really that I should take any notice of a wet behind the ears newly qualified teacher.

First day at School

The old and wise teacher  was 100% reassuring and explained he couldn’t develop everything at once – things just had to take their turn. So he had been busy developing physical and creative skills with the games he played, building  and mathematical skills with his Lego , linguistic skills with his conversation etc etc. But he wasn’t yet ready to develop the literacy. Reading and writing would come to him when he was ready. She was absolutely sure he was bright as a button. I had been too in my heart, but needed the external expert validation somehow.And sure enough his reading suddenly took off in Year Two and he has never looked back. A faster and more avid reader I have never met.

And I would love to meet that stupid Reception teacher (she left the following year) to tell her how utterly wrong she was for writing him off. And to push his English  Masters degree in in her face and say “Bottom 25% academically? I don’t fucking think so.”

The best ever Christmas present. Aged Four. In Reception Year at School.




I agreed to a few days walking in the Lake District with my husband. He checked with me that I was prepared to do proper walks. I baulked slightly but nodded. We have walked together in the past after all. Little did I anticipate how much harder this weekend was going to be. Perhaps I am that much older, that much unfitter, but whatever the reason I found it tough. I am completely of the mind that you use it or lose it, be it physical or mental ability, so am bought in to the idea that one shouldn’t simply sit at home and watch TV all day, however appealing it is. But I don’t get this ‘challenge’ thing when it comes to physical ability. I have never been a natural athlete. Neither a sprinter nor a marthon runner, but a game-player. Usually involving physical strength and threatening the opposition. But not neccessarily a huge amount of running around. Hockey. Netball. Rounders. That kind of thing. I am not heavy on the endurance sports either. Basically, my games were over in an hour or so, and anyone can exercise for that length of time. In contrast, this weekend’s ‘walks’ have been all day jobs and seemingly nearly all uphill. Not for us a 5 mile stroll around a lake.

Day One brought glorious weather and we set off with our packed lunches. We went up Grey Knotts, Brandreth and Green Gable and on to Great Gable. The views were breathtaking and we didn’t see a soul. Then we had to get off Great Gable. The way down was simply rocks and scree. Unable to find any foot holds at all and using both my walking poles for balance,  I gingerly tried to pick my way down the sheer drop. I topppled sideways, breaking my fall using my ribs. Ouch ouch ouch. I stood up seeing Richard striding downwards, occasionally sliding, very occasionally stumbling. I fell numerous times. My arse padding coming in to its own. Then I hit the sheer scree sction which appeared to be a near- vertical drop. I squatted down and slid on my boots about 30 feet. Surprisingly less painful than the continual stand up fall down routine I’d been doing up till then. It made me think that downhill ski ing could have been my sport. I didn’t care that there were some massive boulders in my path, I just wanted to get down that hillside, and at least I was making progress. Even if my arse was in shreds. I continued downhill screeing. Eventually the scree ended and we continued down the hill in very boggy terrain, boots sinking ankle-deep and no discernible path. My husband tells me I am on this world for comedy value as I am unable to stay upright on any terrain other than a metalled road. We got to a point near the bottom of Great Gable and realised we had to turn round and go back up again to be able to find a path back towards the car. At that  point  I just wanted to be on a London roadside and hail a cab.

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