Friday, January 23, 2015

Show time

Christmas stitchery

Yep, I'm still playing catch-up and I shall probably have to miss things out otherwise I shall be blogging every day!

Whilst reorganising my room and sorting out my craft materials I came across a bundle of tapestry yarn and a needlepoint kit to make some curtain tie-backs. Oh my, that brought a tear to my eye as they had been chosen by me and mum and were intended for her bedroom when we moved to our present house but they were never made. I probably don't need to explain that when caring for my mum in the later stages of dementia, there was little time for needlepoint and so the kit had been put away and forgotten about.

I haven't done much needlepoint for a while and it looked such a fresh and attractive design that I decided to do it, not really thinking about whether I would make them into curtain tie-backs.

I thoroughly enjoyed stitching them and I think they're rather pretty but they don't fit the colour scheme in the spare bedroom so I'm going to be brave and use them for some crazy patchwork. Yes, that's right, I'm going to cut into them (gulp!). I don't know when I'll start this but I've been meaning to make some new covers for the bolster cushions on our bed and I like the idea of a Spring theme.


Or I could take small sections and use them as the basis for a pincushion, or mounted in a frame, or stuck around my pen/pencil holder to brighten it up. I've now got lots of ideas floating around in my mind so I'll need to go for a nice long run as that's when my best ideas are formulated.

Mike's cardigan (at  last)

This should have appeared on my blog ages ago but I've been waiting patiently for Mike to strike some poses whilst wearing it but, as you might have guessed, that hasn't happened. Oh the joys of a camera-shy hubby who doesn't want to be my model!

Whilst waiting I took the marking the button positions shot:

The  folded up shot:

Then last night I gave up and decided to model it myself! 

In the bathroom mirror:

Then the bedroom:

The verdict? A jolly useful and very warm cardigan but most important of all is that Mike loves it. He's actually wearing it today and it really makes me happy to see him wearing something I've made for him, knitted with love in every stitch.

The pattern, I'd saved from an old magazine, had several errors and things that I tweaked because I didn't like how it worked out as written but overall I enjoyed doing it. The stitch was really easy to memorise and, against my better judgement, I liked working with the yarn Stylecraft Life Aran, a 75% Acrylic 25% Wool blend in the Olive colour way. Mike chose this yarn over the more expensive yarns I showed him, mostly because he liked its colour, so it was a very economical knit. The high acrylic content should ensure it wears well anyway.

I'm off into London again tomorrow to speak at the ARUK Supporters' Day for people running the London marathon in April. I'm rather excited as there's a very special person coming along too but I'll save the details for my write-up next week. 

The only downside is that due to the engineering work going on at London Bridge railway station there are a very limited number of trains stopping at my station on the outward journey and the return journey will take 1 hour longer than usual so I'll be spending more time travelling than I'll spend at the meeting! Never mind, I shall arm myself with a new crochet project, my current reading material (A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini) and the newspaper to pass the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A trip into Londonium to talk about dementia

Another day, another trip into London for something concerning dementia. This time it was a workshop focusing on current challenges for dementia research and the guest list was a thing of great beauty with eminent Professors from all over the country. Some of them I'd met before, some I hadn't but one thing I did know was that even if some of the things they talked about were hard for me to understand I would still be able to offer the view of a lay person.

The weather had been vile for several days and there was a chance that the trains would be disrupted and delayed not just because of that but also because trains on our line are not stopping at London Bridge station whilst it is renovated. This meant I had to catch a train which arrived 2 hours earlier than I would have liked as the next one didn't give me any contingency.

When I left home it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale and there was flooding everywhere. I half expected to have to turn back in the valley as the river often floods that road but it was OK and my journey to the station was uneventful thankfully. I tried to take a photo of the station in the rain but my camera decided to misbehave and make everything blurry.

Mike liked this photo as he said it was very Impressionist so I've included it. It makes my eyes go funny looking at it though!

The train arrived on time but was delayed outside London Bridge station due to speed restrictions causing a backlog so I arrived with over an hour and three quarters to kill. Thankfully the rain had stopped and so I decided to take a leisurely stroll through some of our old haunts in the West End and I'm so glad I did.

As I wandered through the streets of Soho I walked past the offices of Private Eye, a satirical magazine, and it made me think about the murders in Paris. Then I spotted this beautiful sculpture on the front of The Nadler, a 'boutique hotel' created in 2010 in the centre of Soho. It is entitled Selene and was commissioned by the hotel to represent sleep. In the details, the sculptor says it was created in the image of a black woman but I couldn't actually see that. It's very interesting though with lots of bits to catch your attention.

Even though I dawdled all the way I was still there far too early so I sat with a coffee and croissant and watched the world go by for a while. I love people watching. You can just let your mind wander as the images flood over you. Then I thought I'd go for a short wander in Regent's Park, known as one of the Royal Parks (on land originally owned by the Monarchy), which is directly opposite the venue and I'm so glad I did.

Regent's Park was used as a hunting ground for hundreds of years but when the lease expired the Prince Regent, who later became George 1V, commissioned  the architect John Nash to develop the area. The park was first opened to the general public in 1845.

This is the first thing I saw when I entered the park - this sweet man feeding the squirrels. I asked him if  he'd mind me taking some photos of him as it was such a charming sight and we chatted for a while. He was feeding them with pistachios and they looked very plump and prosperous. He told me he goes there every day so they must love him! They were so tame.

I love to see a park being used by all ages groups and it was nice to see some toddlers and their nannies coming out to play and run around. I saw several runners and lots of dog walkers, thankfully all on their leashes. I mention that because a fellow runner, Jeff Prestridge, (****warning, do not follow the link if you are squeamish***) was attacked by a dog in Hyde Park recently. 

It was lovely to see the bare bones of the park displayed and what kept drawing my eye were the huge planters and fountains.

The section of the park I was in is known as the 'Avenue Gardens', laid out and planted in the Victorian style. There are lots of walkways edged with evergreen hedges and rows and rows of deciduous trees. This massive planter atop winged lions, known as Griffins or Lion Tazza, make an impressive feature. 

I love the contrasting foliage used - the black strappy grass-like plant is Ophiopogon paniscapus 'Nigrescens' which I use a lot in our garden at home and in the main bowl there's a form of Heuchera, possibly 'marmalade', and a dark-leaved Phormium.

Beautiful cascading fountain

The ground was so sodden it looks as if this bed has got a moat around it!

I loved the shape of this tree and its beautiful catkins
At 10:30am I headed across the road to the Royal College of Physicians which is the oldest medical college in England with a focus on public health and preventive medicine. It was founded in 1518 during Henry V111's reign.

View from the side
This current building was built in 1964 and is considered a modernist masterpiece and is now protected by a Grade 1 listing (a system for protecting building of historical importance).

However, when the building was erected it did not receive a warm welcome from the local residents because they felt its modernity did not sit happily next to the glorious buildings nearby as seen in this photo below.

Inside there is an interesting display including this model of the building. I've enlarged the plaque so you can see a comment from a local resident who obviously did not like the building at all!

I didn't have much time to look around so I just snapped away at anything that caught my eye and I loved these 2 decorative plaques:

There were lots of paintings and busts of famous physicians but it was this stained glass window panel that caught my eye as the bright colours broke up the starkness of the marble tiles.

I met some very interesting people with whom I would love to speak in more depth, especially those dealing with end of life care and those dealing with severe dementia. It became clear that research into the final stages of dementia is virtually non-existent which was disappointing and the other thing that struck me was that no-one seems to be studying the effects on the carer of caring for someone with dementia. I exchanged email addresses with several Professors so it will interesting to see where that leads, if anywhere.

I was interested to hear from some people who are looking at caring for the emotional needs of dementia patients rather than just using a pharmaceutical option (aka 'interventions'), i.e. dispensing drugs. I've always said that the reason we were able to keep mum in the early stages for so long was that she lived with us, had interactions with all age groups, was surrounded by music, animals and plenty of mental stimulation.

It was rather disappointing that within my group there was little enthusiasm for Join dementia research and there were comments such as "theres no way to link researchers with sufferers of dementia" and "there aren't many people registered". Given that when I last checked there are 1421 volunteers and 26 studies on the system I think we might need to do a publicity drive in the Universities to capture these Professors! 

I'm hoping that the National launch will get lots of publicity so that more people will sign up. I am already signed up to take part in a long term trial known as the PROTECT study which will help understand the way our brains age and look at certain risk factors (genetic and lifestyle). 

The trial is open to anyone over the age of 50 in the UK who does not have dementia or any other neurodegenerative disorder. I think this is an excellent study as if we know how and why dementia develops then we can stop it happening rather trying to find a cure after dementia has taken hold. 

All I had to do was answer a series of questions focusing on how I feel I react in certain circumstances compared with 10 years ago (for example, am I more forgetful, less self-assured, problem solving/reasoning powers, that sort of thing). Then Mike answered the same questions based on how he perceived my reactions, not how I perceived myself. The next thing will be to provide a DNA sample using a simple kit to take a swab of saliva.

If anyone reading this is interested in taking part in any research studies, please take a look at the  Join dementia research website and sign-up. There are helplines available if you have any questions and representatives from both Alzheimer's Research UK and the Alzheimer's Society will be able to give you more details. 

Please do join me in the fight against dementia as together we can make a difference.

Unfortunately I missed my train on the way home and had to wait another 1.5 hours for the next one. I used the time to wander round a bookshop nearby and when I got back to Charing Cross station I glanced over towards Trafalger Square and the spire of St martin-in-the-fields looked so beautiful glinting in the sun. You can see some photos of the church and crypt here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A few things

I have some craft things to show but need to get up to date with the end of year stuff first. I know I often say this but there truly are not enough hours in the day. How anyone can be bored is beyond my comprehension as there are so many things I want to do!


Tilly and I spent a lot of time re-organising my office/craft room space too make it more manageable and relevant.

I have a couple of bookcases in my room which have been used for paperwork and business things for many years but are now being used to store some of my craft things. We found these plastic boxes complete with lids for a bargain price and they were a perfect fit for the shelves.

Tilly helped by playing in her cardboard box!
I already had some larger boxes which will remain in a cupboard but it was really inspiring to gather things together in groups with the added bonus of being able to see at a glance what's in each box. I am going to stick rigidly to my pledge to use only things I have already with only charity projects being the exception.

I was especially pleased to be able to group small things such as sequins/beads/buttons together so I can access them  easily
My bunnies sit on top of the lower unit and watch what I'm up to. The rather dog-eared looking peachy-pink coloured one has been with me since I was a baby. I've tried washing him but he still looks grubby. The only one which isn't a bunny is at the back on the left. It's a cat which belonged to my mum and it has a wind-up mechanism to play a sweet little tune - the cat moves it's head as the music plays and I was mesmerised by this when I was a youngster.

Mike made me a medal rack when I first started running but I need an extra one now as I've got quite a few medals! He's promised to make me another one to go above my desk when I've finished re-organising everything.

My custom-made medal rack complete with hearts

Random bits

Our pretty Amaryllis has excelled herself this year with the first spike producing 6 flowers! I think it's a variety named 'Flamingo' as it's a very pale and delicate shade of pink. These flowers are starting to fade now and the second spike is growing daily so I expect we'll get another show soon.

These dried flowers are all from the front garden. When I prune I save flowerheads, seedheads and sometimes just foliage as they are so attractive. There are over 20 different varieties in this vase.

Although very sweet, not all creatures are a welcome sight in the garden, especially when they've managed to climb into the seed-feeder on the window. Tilly brought this young rat to my attention when she suddenly leapt off my lap whilst I was knitting and launched herself at the window. The rat was undeterred and continued nibbling the grain!

At first I was surprised that the rat had managed to get up the wall into the feeder. Then I realised he must have climbed up the branches of a potted shrub nearby. That has now been moved well out of the way.

Right, I think that's 2014 finished so my next post will be about my last trip into London for an interesting meeting about dementia research held at the Royal College of Physicians.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marathon 41 of 60

Here I go again, heading off to another of Traviss's events, the Martello marathon, this time at Sandgate a bit further along the Kent coast from the last one I did in Dymchurch, last December.

My route took me along the coastal road past this array of wind turbines on Romney Marsh. They started operating in 2009 amidst much controversy and you can see more images here. I thought they looked particularly striking as dawn was breaking so I stopped to take some photos.

It was a 2 day event but I only signed up for the 2nd day. Thank goodness for that as on the 1st day there was a really strong wind with heavy rain with a bit of hail thrown in for good measure.

When I found the car park near the start (after a bit of a detour and having enlisted the help of a Council worker in his clean-up lorry to put me back on the right track!) the sun was just peeping over the horizon. I leapt out of the car to try and capture the moment before I phoned Mike to let him know I'd arrived in one piece. I always find Dawn and Sunset magical moments.

Then it was off to register and collect my number before heading back to the car to get my bits and bobs together. You can see Elanor, Traviss's daughter, standing at the aid station but I wish I'd taken a close-up of her hat, scarf and mittens as they had a fab design of owls on them!

People arrived in dribs and drabs, some familiar faces, some new ones. The first people I met were Carolyn & Bonnie together with her friend Rob, seen here with Bonnie. Bonnie always gets lots of attention because she is such a gorgeous and friendly dog and she always looks so happy running along with Carolyn! 

Traviss held a race briefing at the start and although it was still windy we were assured it was nowhere near as bad and that if we complained then we'd probably get a slap from those people who'd run it the previous day!

There was a welcome back to Paul aka Darth Vader who was making his comeback having taken a nasty tumble in December in which he tried to remodel his face and jaw and got rid of a few teeth into the bargain (ouch!) and celebrations of 50 & 100 marathons & 52 marathons in a year for other runners. He also made a presentation to Ruth for whom I made Happy the Hippo to celebrate her 300th marathon. Although her 300th was last year she hadn't submitted her marathon sheets for approval so hadn't received her special medal. Btw, she's now run 352 marathons and is on target to get to 400 by the end of this year.

Rachel, Traviss and Ruth

Not the prettiest funicular railway but you can get a feel for how steep the cliff is from this photo - more info here
The route was out and back along the seafront which was 4 loops of 6.55 miles going from Sandgate towards Hythe. I don't think I've ever been to Sandgate before and all I knew about it was that H G Wells lived there for a while. Apparently we ran past one of his houses.

I won't do a blow by blow account but just show some photos taken en-route. I've had to be selective in what I show because I took 71 photos, many of which were because I liked the patterns or texture of something (to include in my mood boards for craft projects)!

The first short bit from the start took us to this turnaround point - glamourous hey! Then we headed along the sea wall towards the 2 Martello Towers, which we didn't actually pass which surprised me. There's a bit of information about Martello Towers here. Some Martello Towers have been turned into holiday homes.

This  building looked distinctly nautical
There weren't many people about first thing as it was scold and windy. On the outward section we were running right into the wind and it really slowed me down but then of course the way back felt much easier. En-route I chatted with several different runners, one of whom was Brian who I first met last year at Karen's double-marathon in Dover. He was heading towards his 1000th marathon which he 
passed ages ago and is now on 1032 (I think). Amazing.

I'm not sure that this structure is but it was next to lots of colourful beach huts (sadly my photos of them were blurry and not worth showing)
From a distance I thought I was approaching a Martello Tower when I saw this building, seen in the next 3 photos, but it is in fact Sandgate Castle which was built in 1539.

I loved the design of these apartments with the little sail on the side

There had been a high tide which had washed lots of gravel and stone onto the footpath so it was a bit difficult in parts. Not too bad though.

When we started out there were several fishermen setting up tents. They just seemed to sit in them for a few hours until the tide started to come in and then it was action stations as they all took their rods down to start fishing!

 Apparently, when the tide comes right in they stand up on the path we were running alongside which would have made it even more crowded.

Here's Mandy going for an 8 mile training run. She's training for her first marathon in May but was there to support her partner Gary who was running the 2 marathons. Look how quiet the path is - it got really crowded later on with dog walkers (dogs mostly off the lead) runners (not part of the marathon), cyclists (who hurtled along the path) and people just out for a stroll.

I liked the design of this cycle route signpost. It's in the shape of a mermaid's tail as this area is known as Mermaid Beach (or is it 'Bay'?). There was a cafe named the Mermaid Bar but it didn't look very inviting! I was on the lookout for mermaids after that but I only spotted one in a garden - see below.

We ran past a rowing club and I liked that they'd used an old rowing boat as a planter alongside the road.

These apartments were built on a slant so that everyone has a balcony without restricting the light for those beneath

This little fellow was standing guard atop his wall playing at 'King of the Castle'! His master was busy in the garden and we had a little chat at one stage.

I'm collecting seahorse designs for a project at the moment so was delighted to find these 2 houses close by

Seagulls having a morning nap

Another Beacon - I've spotted a lot of these recently

I was taking a photo of this house because I loved the design of the porch with the small windows in its roof to allow light in. Then I spotted the stone mermaid which was a bonus

So how was my run? I was trying out my new Hokas which I'd worn in by using them on shorter distances for about 120 miles. The verdict? Very comfortable with no rubbing and I didn't feel the concrete sections that had aggravated my arthritis so much during my previous 2 marathons. Excellent.

I felt strong throughout and just enjoyed the experience, stopping to take photos and chatting to passers-by who were interested in what we were all doing running backwards and forwards. An elderly gentleman even gave me £1 for my charity which was very sweet of him.

There was such a friendly and supportive atmosphere amongst the runners and the lovely people at the aid station who stood around for hours getting blown about. It's the camaraderie that I enjoyed most of all and it's so nice to watch the speedier runners zooming past.

Here's my lovely medal. If you look closely at the badge on the ribbon you'll see that I've reached 100 miles in Traviss's events as this is my 4th marathon with him. Bring on the next one, that's what I say.

Oops, I nearly forgot to mention my time - 5:00:15. The 15 seconds caused me to utter an expletive (well, I uttered it 3 times actually!!!). How annoying to be just over the 5 hour mark by so little. But then, if I will stop to take photos etc. what do I expect.

Thanks to everyone involved for yet another great event. I'll leave you with this lovely photo of Carolyn and Bonnie. Awwh!