Saturday, 6 October 2012

Mountaineering with Greyhounds

It sounds like a quirky book title, in the same vein as Salmon-Fishing in the Yemen or A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (both of which I own, one of which I have still to read).

But today, 10 legs and 3 creatures set off up a big hill.

My new house (or hoose now I live north of the border) is at the bottom of the Campsie Fells. For a while I thought I lived at the bottom of Meikle Bin, but thanks to my recent purchase of an OS map, I discovered it's actually Cort-Ma Law.

I've wiggled up the Crow Road a few times in the car, trying to establish just how hard it will be to cycle up, but today, having consulted the map, we stopped at the car park and headed up. And up, and up some more.

We've (and by we, I mean the three of us) done a little hill walking before (once, near the Carron Valley Reservoir the week we moved in). I hadn't really considered the practicalities of 8 speedy-but-spindly legs on 2 leads, and navigating through bogs, round sheep poo and across rocks.

Ronnie is the self-appointed Team Leader (so named by one of our previous dog walkers due to his enthusiasm for everything, he is always at the front charging on) and is always first. Today was no exception. He hesitated for a split second when confronted with the first slope, but was then straight off.  It's quite entertaining (and very energy efficient) being pulled up a slope by two greyhounds.

Ronnie led us up, Wendy taking her turn following him and following me. She was a little hesitant on occasion, but realised we weren't changing our minds. We picked our path around various obstacles, and as we got higher, I started to question the wisdom of this operation. Just on the other side of the slope on the picture, there were sheep.

Walking two recently retired greyhounds with a strong chase instinct/prey drive can be quite entertaining at times. I am constantly unwrapping and stepping over leads, pulling in either dog from lunging after cats/birds/squirrels/crisp packets/cyclists. I have never yet been pulled over, but 65kg of greyhound vs. 55kg of girl, well it wouldn't end well if the hounds set their minds to it.

I started to understand why many dogs are off the lead on mountains. We managed going up, but gradually I realised that what went up would need to come down at some point, and I was afraid.

There was no need to worry. Ronnie, although keen, was very gentle coming down, and didn't pull at all. Mostly he pushed on carefully, waiting when necessary. The only difficulty we had was when he spotted some crows (hence Crow Road). Fortunately this was on a relatively flat bit of grass and no damage was done.

He was also, rather curiously, very interested in the cars passing on the road below us (which you can see in the picture below). But then gradually I realised, these were high contrast brightly coloured moving objects, and as a sighthound bred to chase first and ask questions later, he wouldn't have understood that these were not lures, or rabbits, or Westies, or Jack Russells.

In the end we made it safely down. It was a good day for many reasons.

While we all enjoyed our walk, I will look for something a bit less demanding next time, as the risk of a fall was quite high. When leads and the urge to chase are weighed up, safety has to be the main consideration.

We had our first proper journey into the hills surrounding our new home, one of the main reasons for moving to this particular place.

I saw a plane landing at Glasgow Airport, which is 20 miles away. I saw the hills even further south than this.

I realised how much I love being in this environment, although the rock climbing aspect no longer really appeals.

I realised that my days are now much less structured, and outside of lectures and lessons, I can walk/cycle/run around here to my heart's content.

I realised my general level of fitness is much better than I thought (despite recent illness), and certainly much better than 15 years ago when I made my first tentative ventures into the mountains. This bodes well and I am now looking forward to some more serious hillwalking/mountaineering and even some fell running.

I realised just how near the hills are, and how lucky I am to live here. Our walk took about an hour, and the whole trip took an hour and a half. This is easily doable as part of an afternoon, or a morning. When the summer comes, well, as Eddie Izzard would say on the advert, the opportunities are endless.

I realised just how easy it can be to leave things behind when you want to.

I wished there was someone to share this with, but realised I am ready to start looking again, and realised that loving being outdoors will be a requirement fairly near the top of the list.

I realised that the lovely Wendy has come a long way on her rescue dog journey, and even when 2 unfamiliar dogs ran right up to her, she did not bark or flinch. She stood patiently as I reassured her, and when the dogs went away we had a huge cuddle and lots of fuss. I am SO proud, as she was obviously scared.

I was also proud of Ronnie, who although very bouncy and boisterous on many occasions, turned out to be super gentle when I needed him to be.

Overall, a good day today.


Apologies to anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram, as today my tweets and photos have been particularly dog-related...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Best foot forward....

My first post in WEEKS.

So much has happened, I knew it would be a crazy time but I didn’t realise just how out of control it would feel at times. At the worst, I’ve had a pounding heart, stinking headache, tight chest, even chest pains. Sometimes all at once. At the best, I’ve looked around my new locale during a sunrise or sunset, and have felt incredibly blessed. I’ll take all of the former (although not too often!) if the payoff is the latter.

I’ve finally started at the RCS. My journey started several months ago, back in March. Just over 6 months to the day that I registered.

I met my new teacher, auditioned, jumped through many hoops on the finance front, renovated an old house, cleared out years of junk, cut back on my material possessions, left full time employment, abandoned my beloved harp pupils and Brownies, upped sticksand eventually moved 420 miles North West of tropical North East Essex.

I have left the (normally) suited and booted world of business and finance.

I am now a fully paid up creative type, and a performer and artist of the future. The first time someone referred to me in this way, it was more than I could comprehend. And yet, when I looked around the packed theatre, I was indeed surrounded by many, many more performers and artists. Actors, film makers, producers, composers, opera singers , classical musicians, jazz musicians, in fact disciplines far too numerous to mention.

We had a fabulous lecture yesterday, about Higher Education and what it meant. Initially it was one of those clichéd “turn to someone you haven’t met and discuss what Higher Education is to you” moments. But then we were introduced to a wonderful creative manifesto, courtesy of Bruce Mau - Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. I had been inspired by many other words in the past, but this was a great one for the moment we were in.

As well as this, a wonderful quote was read to us, from On Lies, Secrets and Silence by Adrienne Rich. This was about Claiming rather than Receiving an Education. Frustatingly I can’t find the words on line to share here, but I will be exploring these much more in the future. Claiming being an active, empowered, entitled activity, as opposed to the passiveness of receiving.

I’ve met an inspiring composer, many wonderful guitarists, a lovely bassoonist, a gorgeous actor.  I’m struggling with a lack of tea, and can’t say I’m enjoying the bus journey to and from college.

But the practice sessions I’ve done over the last couple of days have had a new purpose. It’s a cliché, but I feel more free and yet more purposeful. I can’t say what the end result of the next four years will be, but that’s all part of the journey.

The course starts properly next week. I am performing to my guitarist friends in a performing class next week. My first concert is in less than a month. I will be playing some old and some new material. I’m sure the pressure will come, but for now, everything feels good and I am more excited about my future than I have been for a long, long time.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

On a more colourful note

I found this blog Plenty of Colour a little while ago and it's an absolute joy.

I have loved bright colours for a long time, but have often been a little afraid of using/wearing them.

So what better than a beautiful website designed to celebrate colour, organised by palette as well as by use?

I've gradually got braver in terms of the colours I use in my house and those that I wear, and am looking forward to having a very cheerful colourful new house. I've loved exploring Plenty of Colour, with a thirst for inspiration and a real sense of appreciation.

Here is one of my favourite finds from the blog. It's an installation created from coloured sewing thread, by Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe. When I first saw these I thought they were constructed from light or laser beams, but no.... stunning and very uplifting.

Out of control

Moving day is getting closer, many many things on the house list are getting done, but it's an unbelievably expensive time and there is a high level of panic going on.

I've spent most of the last week feeling thoroughly under the weather, having had two colds on the bounce, but have had to keep going because of the volume of stuff that needs to be done. People helpfully tell me to rest (bluntly in some cases), and to find time for myself, and I know they mean well but at the moment it's like a red rag to a bull.

In a way all I am doing is spending time on myself. I have a finite deadline, the classic cliche of an immovable feast, and apart from a lot of practical help from my parents, I really am on my own getting everything done. There is no other option. I can ease up once I've moved and once Fresher's Week is out of the way, but until then there is not much choice. Moving from one end of the country, from a huge house to a small house, does not just happen.

I've just taken 2 sick days from work. I have felt so ill that I have had to give in. I have tried to shut myself off from stressing about everything and sleep when I've needed to but my head is pounding so it's been difficult. It's scary being ill and managing my asthma and trying not to panic as it makes it worse. I drove my car across the road today to leave my drive free for the floor fitters, and felt very unsafe. Because I have handed my notice in at work, I am no longer entitled to sick pay. I frightened myself today by calculating that the money I have lost is equivalent to 3 months' food money. I am quite frugal on food for me and my pooches, plus I am not very tall, but even I can't exist on fresh air. That money will have to be found from somewhere.

Life is about to change in a huge way. It's completely what I've signed up for, but I am genuinely starting to panic. I'm completely overwhelmed. I think I feel worse about everything because I am ill, and am hoping I feel better on many levels very soon. People close to me are and have been much more ill, and I do know I am lucky to be generally healthy, and I am grateful, I really am.

I have a lot of clearing out to do - several years worth of accumulated clutter from a couple of previous live-in relationships, plus a LOT of sheet music and a LOT of bank/debt-related paperwork. Lots of clothes I don't wear, although I have been gradually getting more brutal on this front.

Once I have packed the things I want to take with me, I am moving into a new house, where I know no-one, and I am starting again. No security of a day-to-day work routine. Other than getting up, going to bed, eating and taking my dogs out, everything else is unknown.

It's a tremendous opportunity to build a whole new life, but I am under no illusion how hard it's going to be, and at the moment I am feeling very alone. This really isn't a pity party, although I know it sounds like it. I am excited too but also very bogged down right now.

I've taken some comfort from the fantastic FlyLady - all concept of housework/home management went out of the window a while ago but I don't want this lack of control to carry on into my new house.

I have to dig my harp out tomorrow as I have a wedding on Saturday and I need to practice. I haven't played since the last wedding I did 3 weeks ago. I feel guilty about it but haven't been able to spare any time for practicing.

I feel better this evening than I have done for days, so I am optimistic that tomorrow I will be better still, and I can start making things happen again.

Friday, 17 August 2012

It started with a kick...

I was face down in the swimming pool, fighting for breath enough just managing to co-ordinate my arms and lungs before it came. Thump. A sharp kick, a man's hefty heel made contact with the outside of my right ankle. A glancing blow that caught half of the metalwork in my leg, and left me struggling to understand what just happened.

Physically what just happened was an unfortunate, unlucky blow to my leg, seemingly a regular occurrence on this particular swimming session. It briefly winded me. I was so shocked I didn't know what to do. I wanted to cry out because of the pain and the shock of it all, but my head was about to come out of the water which meant I needed to concentrate on breathing in. I wasn't far from the shallow end, and managed to get myself to the safety of the end of the pool while I pulled myself back together. Mental note to self, it's impossible to swim and cry at the same time.

Emotionally it was so much worse. Next Tuesday would have been my second wedding anniversary. A racing friend is off to fulfil a long held ambition of mine and race at the Manx GP this year. I am in the process of moving my entire life from one of a wage slave to one of a girl who follows her dreams. There is so much going on for me at the moment that until last night, I didn't dare contemplate the extent of it because, frankly, it was all a bit much.

Somehow I managed to keep swimming (see, there goes Dory again!). But in the car on the way home it was a different story and I couldn't hold it in. I rang a very dear friend when I got back to my house, and was grateful when she picked up.

I got home from work today and a running vest had arrived in the post, sent from the charity I am fundraising for. I was excited as my triathlon kit is frankly a bit substandard, and had expected it to be purple as this is the Lymphoma Association's main colour. The vest had purple flowers on, but was bright, lemon yellow. My ex fiance was obsessed with yellow and during our relationship, yellow had gradually taken over my house. I have tried to avoid it as a colour, not consciously because of any hatred towards him, but just because it was his choice not mine. I love sunny, neon, acid bright colours, just not yellow.

Time to reclaim yellow as a colour I think....

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

2 months to go!

Tonight I realised that in 2 months, I will have finished my first day at music college in Glasgow.

I found out last Thursday that my appeal re. the tuition fee loan was successful, meaning I can accept my place. In fact, I just did - I had forgotten in all of the excitement over the last few days, that the closing date was August 1st.

I've handed my notice in at work, and currently everything feels very strange. I will be stopping full time work as I know it in 7 weeks, and even if I get a normal 9-5er after I finish college, that will be a minimum of 4 years away.

It has been a huge decision, and has taken a long time to make (even before the complications of finance made it even harder!). I've accepted that while life hasn't quite worked out as I'd wanted, that's no bad thing.

The strangest feeling of all, though, has been that I will be moving on, and at last I feel ready for that.

I haven't told my little harp pupils yet, or my Brownies, and this will be very hard indeed.

My racing friends are used to this statement as it was frequently uttered/typed, but I really am so excited I could go pop. I'm looking forward to starting a completely new life, a long way away geographically, musically and emotionally.

To quote a phrase much-used in recent weeks - Allez!!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bruce Lee - harpist?

I came across this via the BBC News site this morning, in an article citing Bruce Lee as the father of MMA (mixed martial arts) fighting. This was all very interesting, however.....

I was rather struck by Bruce Lee's hand position - perfect thumbs up and fingers down, with the exception of the little finger which isn't used on the harp.

I shall be digging out my copy of Enter the Dragon and studying it in great detail.