Quelle cliché : life’s a marathon.

VLM2015Today the annual London Marathon is held and thousands of runners are lining up as I type. The publicity, the PR set off in me a sense of excitement: only a year ago, I was prepping to run marathon in Edinburgh and the runners vibe brings back the adrenaline. Not that I would be able to run one now, mind: yesterday, I struggled through my first 5K in a long while. The first run, after six weeks if not two months, when I pushed myself to run a hilly 10K just under an hour… by 12 seconds. Haha, it doesn’t matter. Like writing, running is something I enjoy going back to. (Yet perhaps like running, I would get better or more practised at writing if I made time for it more often. Now there is a thought for Sunday morning.)

Source: Twitter - hard to track, sorry.
Source: Twitter – hard to track, sorry.

Despite the buzz and despite a very tempting offer to accompany the boy on his job photographing charity runners this morning at 8am, I have decided to join the crowds later for the very last bit and cheer them on to the finish line. That moment is magic. I have already considered going back on my ‘once and never again’ but the awful amounts of training, the Chris Hoy thighs (ok, perhaps not quite) and the unsexy moments half-dressed in an ice-cold bath eating a protein bar, do flash back and dissolve that nostalgia once more. For now. (What is wrong with 10Ks? Half marathons?)

The marathon was an amazing experience, a transcending one almost; I now tackle all life’s challenges as a metaphorical run. The discomfort, and there is discomfort when you are schlepping across 26.2 mile, proves to be only temporary and the euphoria of the finish line is worth every effort. I have felt the physical equivalent of  ‘this too shall pass’ and as I am wading once again through a foggy patch, at 3-0 I know it will all work out ok. Good luck to each runner: enjoy the ride, I’ll be cheering each and every one of you!

The Universe Calling. (Well, Ryan Gosling. Sort of.)

In the never-ending undulation of life, riding the wave upwards has been amazing but suddenly I find myself slowly losing momentum: the wonderful workshops are coming to an end, a side blog project finishes soon and the paid-job shifts seem to be becoming suspiciously quiet at the moment. Thus I find myself in the seemingly contradictory position of bathing in glorious Spring sunshine while staring at A Big Black Hole that is thundering towards me with the speed of a Pamplona bull in July.

It’s that moment, when you’re making yourself some tea in the kitchen, you tilt your head to the Universe and shout in Jeremiah-ic despair: “What do you want from me?! Send me a sign!” For your housemate to walk in, grab some cereal and enlighten you: “Listen, this is what the Universe is saying…”

This is what I imagine the Universe looks like.
Note: Not my housemate. This is what I imagine the Universe looks like.

Starting to write. Again.

After having recovered from last week’s challenges, it was time for a change. So here in new format, the same blog: same-same but different. I got annoyed with the ads, so I decided to buy my domain name and add my portfolio – for those who wonder if I do anything else but whine about wanting write for a living. (“Like, ohmygawd, why doesn’t she like, like, write for other people?” Ohmygawd, she so does…)

While updating this blog, I found a forgotten draft from 2011. I can’t remember why I started it or why didn’t finish it but here it is: it’s short, it’s contradictory but it made me smile!

2011

1. The strong must look after the weak.

2. Just because bad things happen – a lot, doesn’t mean they are acceptable.

3. Be generous, share what you have.

4. If you need to fight, don’t kick a man when he’s down – but kick him hard enough so he doesn’t get up for a while.

5. Don’t be afraid to love.

Madiba

In 1990, I was five-going-on-six but I remember the moment I first saw Nelson Mandela on television. He came walking out of prison with Winnie, fist up in the air, smiling. I didn’t know who he was, of course. In fact, I was completely confused why people were cheering on this old man, whilst holding posters and pictures of another, much younger guy!

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...
English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was my first image of the man, at that point already an icon and who would grow into a legend in his own life time. A couple of years later, when I understood what he stood for, I listed Nelson Mandela as a hero in a primary school exercise ( I was a precocious child).  He also strangely reminded me of both my maternal grandparents. It had probably to do with standing tall in the batik shirts (my granddad) and the open smile (my grandmother).

In the next few days, people will mention that some current politicians who praise the man now, were previously against the ANC and Mandela. I don’t know about that as I was too young but I remember being shocked when, in secondary school, a teacher told us that Mandela previously had held pretty radical views himself. That he will remembered for his peaceful reform says a lot about the man himself, rather than just the ideals of a movement. If we struggle with a grudge against those who find themselves on the wrong side of right in history regarding Mandela, wouldn’t that be slightly ironic too?

Let’s not hold grudges then but overrule hypocrisy by simply living a good life by our own moral compass, rather than aim for a movement’s ideals. In Mandela’s self-deprecating style, keep the praise in perspective by remembering as him as a man, who married thrice and had five children: I doubt his wives and kids will see him as a saint.

Still, to get to 95, pass peacefully and to be mourned by all layers of the world population, to be remembered with so many funny anecdotes by those who met him: that is something to aim for, kids.

A Hero in A Pizza place

It was busy, I was hungry and decided to go for pizza. It was a craving I had been having for weeks but never quite gave into. Today was going to be the day. I was hungry to the point of ‘hangry’: the state of upset one gets if food is not consumed soon enough. Walking around the food-court, I discover an amazing stone-oven pizza place Franco Manca, with a pizza for the price of a luxury sandwich. Had I not upgraded to buffalo mozzarella that is, which I had. Now it was just the price of a pizza. They had oil and chili flakes on the side, which was just great because I didn’t have to ask for it.

I carried my tray with the steaming hot pizza to a table and hangry as I was attacked it with my hands. Folding the gorgeous chewy dough to keep the melting cheese and tomato in place, I inhaled the slices. It was amazing. Suddenly, I felt watched and there was indeed a lady at the opposite table, feeding her baby in a high-chair and looking at me. First I thought she might be upset at the way I ate but then I recognised the look. She too was hangry. The baby got fed in double-time and her partner, a man, who was sitting behind her was clearly unaware of the situation as he tried to distract the baby. I think everyone should be taught to not distract others when eating. The lady barked something at the unhelpful man and he backed off. Franco Manca's sourdough pizza

After the baby was fed, the lady got up and walked to the pizza place. The baby was crying for his mother. The man ignored it for a good few minutes, then started imitating the baby to distract it. Hm. The lady came back upset, clearly too hangry to make a decision. The man looked at me and asked with a strong East European accent that sounded like a demand: “What is that ?” The lady smiled apologetically. I smiled at her and said it was the tomato cheese one, the second one the list. I omitted the buffalo mozzarella bit, it seemed too complicated to explain from such a distance. The man looked at the lady as if to say “See, easy”. He didn’t get up though. Nope, she walked back and queued to order. The baby started crying again.

The man lifted the baby out of the high chair and let it loose in the food court. Hm. The baby couldn’t find his mother so wandered off. The man looked at me smiling as if sharing a joke, I was hoping he would walk after the child before it reached the corner. Eventually the man did, he walked after the child – leaving all their belongings: bags, pram, coats and all unattended at the table. When the lady turned to see where her table companions were, I saw a moment of panic: stay in the queue or go back to the table? I tried to make eye-contact. I signalled the two were off on a wander and that I would keep an eye on their stuff. Luckily, this is really easy to do with one hand.

A few minutes later, this Franco Manca is really fast too, the lady came back with two pizzas. Then the man showed up and put the baby back in the high chair and started eating his pizza. The lady peeled a satsuma and gave a bit to the baby. She then cleared the table of all the baby debris and put it back underneath the pram. The man kept eating. The baby offered the man some satsuma. The man kept eating. The baby offered his mother some satsuma, who exchanged it for a new part.

Finally, she started her own pizza, with the same urgency as I had just 15 minutes before. Two bites into her pizza, the man deposits half his pizza on her plate and tries to take half of hers. The baby waves around a bit of satsuma.

As I am watching the heroic lady help him shove half a pizza on his plate, I get up and realise that if this glimpse of a possible future: I am perfectly happy to wait.

Ode to a Teacher

There is a memory that has been playing on my mind lately: I was six I think and my Year One teacher (if that’s what the English equivalent is, it was the year where you learn to read and write) asked me to stay after school because he wanted to discuss something with me.

Blackboard
Blackboard (Photo credit: rickerbh)

I was, quelle surprise, a precocious child and he had recently discovered that, while everyone else was mastering words, I could actually already read full sentences. He was a very popular  teacher; our school quite hippy-ish in its approach anyway (No, not quite Steiner 😉 ) and had the policy to address teachers by their first name, except for the preschool years in which we could address them as “Miss” (or “Mum”, if you forgot where you were).

This teacher would actually effectively kill off “Sir” and “Mr” by theatrically shouting “NO! “SIR” IS DEAD!” when a new student slipped up. He might have done a death-scene, but I might have made that up. Sometimes he would tell one group of pupils to clear their desks and he would make his way, stepping on and over desks towards the door. The class-clown was our teacher and he noticed I could read.

Obviously, people were aware before: my mother was. Though she was not the Tiger-mum at all, she didn’t discourage it either, using the motto: “She’ll use it one day.” My well-meaning preschool teachers thought I should play a bit longer (yeah, hippy can backfire) and insisted I kept calling the capital T in my exercise book a “parrot-stick”. (It got playfully introduced to the children with a parrot on top.)

Book Chaos
Book Chaos (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

Now, this happened a long time ago and I am not sure what happened first. Possibly my Year One teacher started by getting me books for a higher level to read and then made time to teach me writing exercises for the year above to get me up to speed. One day, he asked whether I was right-handed or left-handed and came back with my very first fountain pen! He showed me how to use it, the cartridges – one to click in the top, one upside-down in the lower bit of the pen and how to clean it. The rest of the class was still working with pencil, so this was a big deal.

Again, I can’t remember the order of things, extra spelling, extra maths (suddenly I had to learn times tables, where previously only adding and subtracting numbers up to 10.) Looking back on it as an adult, it seems so amazing that one person made such an effort for one child.

The biggest and best thing my teacher did however, was on that day he asked me to stay behind. When school finished that day, my friend (I still know exactly who it was) tried to pull me out of the door but I said I was asked to stay. So she left and the teacher and I sat at my desk, he sat on a pupil’s chair, which made him look silly but put us on equal level. Kind of.

Then he asked me whether my mum had already told me about his proposal, I can’t remember what I answered but I do remember what he said next: “We know you can read and write, and I think you could move up a year but the question is: Do you want to? ” There it was: I was six and I was given the power of decision-making. I could choose to move or stay, both presented as perfectly acceptable choices but being the one who made the final decision influenced my life and how I perceive myself greatly.

It truly is a wonderful thing to have someone championing your corner, to support you and to guide you, but a teacher really surpasses himself when he gives the gift of trust, responsibility and power so his student can confidently walk her path alone.

The problem with…

(Yes, yes hashtag firstworldproblems and all that jazz. Whatever.)

…buying a waterproof running jacket is that you no longer have an excuse when it actually rains.

…opposite problem when buying fancy clothes, you just want more excuses to wear them.

An aisle displaying packages of instant noodle...
Heaven. Of Some Sort. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…lapsing and eating instant noodles is that the MSG (because those are the best ones, living life on the edge) make you instantly crave more. And they are only £1. For 3. It’s like crack but cheaper.

…having your eyes lasered is that you are constantly using artificial eye-drops because technically your eye has been fried to a crisp.

…working from home is that there are no colleagues to go out for a drink with on a Friday evening.

…working a shift pattern means that there is no such thing as a weekend really. You just do bits and bobs every day.

…getting a plant as a present: it gives you the responsibility to keep it alive. You only have to water it, how hard can this be – right?

…getting older is that since you no longer can leave a beautiful corpse, you better find something to do with your time here on earth.

…being a compulsive writer, you feel like you have to make up the word count in a blog. Even though the initial thought, moment of inspiration can be summed up in a sentence, namely that…

having your life mantra tattooed on your body, means that you will have to keep on going – no matter what life throws at you and how rocky the road ahead might seem.