Tuesday, 24 May 2011

My Big, Fat Biking Blog!

Another Acorn 100k Bike Ride has been and gone. My main feeling, now that most of my body parts have returned to normal: relief! The biggest thing I notice year on year, this being the fifth annual bike ride, is that I no longer do anywhere near sufficient training beforehand and consequently, not only do my legs ache by the end but also shoulders and other body parts not appropriate to mention here. Rest assured, when my beloved took the bike from me in the car park after the finish line had been crossed, I really never wanted to see it again - till next year!

It's funny how the whole event has evolved over the years. The first year we organised it (2007), it was designed as an Acorn Challenge in the same way that we had trained and run the Great North Run and walked the Lyke Wake Walk (42 miles in 24 hours across the North Yorkshire Moors). We had run a half marathon (most of us not even having jogged in the park until we started training), walked through the night and day in horrible wet conditions on what is known as the Coffin Walk and now we were going to cycle.

Some of us (well, me actually) hadn't swung our leg over a bike saddle since 1975 - thinking about it, I expect that is only true of me as I strongly suspect I am the old lady of the Acorn Committee (feel free to disagree!). Anyway, bike borrowed (in my case), extensive training done and off we went. At this point, I thought that cycling was nowhere near as hideous as walking in the dark and the rain with a guide on the moors who admitted at about 4.00am that he thought he might be lost!

The first year of the Acorn Bike Ride, we had some fabulous non-cyclists who donned (or not) the lycra and rode a selection of bikes from tandems to ones with baskets at the front, to mountain bikes to swish road bikes. Some of these non-cyclists raised a phenomenal amount of money - mostly, I suspect, because their friends simply did not believe that they would finish!

Since then, the Bike Ride has evolved into more of a cyclists' event with lycra-clad musclemen and women hurtling round the 100k route at high speed. There are still plenty of enthusiastic amateurs who trundle round and enjoy the day - or at least till the pain really kicks in just after the very bumpy bridge at Aldwark.

Anyway, we had a great day on Saturday and we raised (we being the cyclists, marshals, sponsors, technical and medical support and everyone who cooked, served, washed up, car-parked and registered) £28,000 which is indeed an amazing amount of money. The only thing for me which would have made it even better would be if everyone wore a helmet. I know they're hot and uncomfortable and they give you 'helmet hair' but the roads are dangerous and everyone on the organising team is conscious that one accident involving a rider without a helmet would be one too many.

So back to practising the golf (getting worse), playing tennis (probably getting worse) and doing pilates which I still don't really understand in the 'is-this-really-exercise?' sense. Till next year...!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

It's Murder on the Dance Floor

Last night, my beloved and I went to a ball. Actually it was rather special, not least because we went with dear friends, but also because we went in evening dress - he in black tie (rather than blacked up!) and me in a frock rather than the ever-increasing supply of fancy dress costumes we now own. We were both relieved we could still get into the appropriate gear as we haven't worn black tie for a while and once zipped into my frock, which hasn't had an outing for a couple of years, I suggested that I might try the other frock but my beloved wasn't up to the unzipping and rezipping task so - decision made! The skin-tight fit of my dearest's evening shirt, coupled with various stains (not sure if this is black make-up or red wine or a combination of both) suggested that this wardrobe item might have to be replaced before further outings and, indeed, one of the studs on the shirt gave in during the course of the evening. He claimed it had taken refuge in his underpants but later examinations proved that not to be the case, so new studs too.

The setting for the ball was fabulous - a spectacular marquee in the grounds of a castle, pink champagne, amazing food and a great, great band. I love a bit of brass and all this band lacked was a jazz trumpeter which obviously we could have provided had child 3 not been under canvas doing his Duke of Edinburgh expedition with child 4 and friends.

We love to dance. If there's music at a party, we are up for it so a great band and a disco and we want to be on the dance floor. And although we tend to embarrass our children at every other opportunity, the dancing can't be so bad as even they will dance with us. So as soon as the music started we were on the floor. Now at this point I need to explain that we were slightly older than many of the guests but we can generally hold our own, but once on the floor, I realised that we were dwarfs in the kingdom of very tall people. When my beloved and I got married twenty seven years ago, I didn't think, 'I've married a short bloke", but it would appear that either we have got smaller (a distinct possibility in the vertical though not the horizontal sense) or people have got much bigger. At one point, when I was rocking and rolling round the dance floor with Harrogate's finest dancing solicitor (don't know how good he is at the legal stuff but he is a top dancer!), a very tall bloke commented favourably on our moves so I took the opportunity to ask him how tall he was - six foot seven! And later we bumped into the son of one of my tennis playing friends and he is six foot six. And this is just the men.

On the female side, the physical enhancement may well have had some help. There was a moment when I thought we had landed in silicon valley and I don't remember certain parts of my body ever achieving the sort of right-angled jutting that some of these young ladies were demonstrating. Ah well, gravity will get them in the end and I suppose, as in boxing, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Anyway, great party, great company and this morning my knees are reminding me that no amount of tennis, cycling and pilates prepares them fully for a night on the dance floor in stilettos - till next time.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Golf - or beware of what you wish for!

Each year before Christmas, when I am dashing around buying presents for children - mine and other people's - and wondering whether we can accommodate all the people I seem inadvertently to have invited to stay over the festive season, I write on the blackboard wall in the downstairs loo things that I think my children might like to buy for me. The original idea behind this was that when they were little (rather than nearly all taller than me now!) they could chose something like a tea-towel or tennis balls and know that they had bought me just what I wanted.

Over the years, the blackboard list has evolved somewhat and as the children have got older (and some of them even off the domestic payroll), the Christmas suggestions have moved onto a larger scale. The blackboard list was the reason that child 3 and I have supported Newcastle Falcons for the last few years. The Christmas wish was to see Jonny Wilkinson play and child 2 got us tickets to see the Falcons at Kingston Park and we have been hooked ever since. The fact that it took us two and a half seasons to see the most famous No10 in the world (because he was always injured) and then he decided to move to Toulon (now there's an idea for next Christmas's list!) is neither here nor there. The sound of the crowd singing the Bladen Races when they score a try (so not actually that often) gladdens my heart.

For the last three years, amongst the list of 'Mummy's Christmas Wishes' was golf lessons. There are a number of reasons for this - child 3 plays golf, granny (yes, she of Coco fame) plays golf and one day my knees will finally refuse to career round a tennis court and I might want to take up something other than bowls. I freely admit that I was not really expecting to get golf lessons but the children decided to take me at my word and bought me a course of lessons.

The golf pro who is teaching me has the patience of a saint. I don't find ball games easy although I seem to have spent rather a lot of time playing them and it is sheer determination and stubbornness that makes me refuse to give up. Anyway he is a kind man and compared to the tennis coaches I have paid over the years, unbelievably tolerant. The tennis coach is an altogether different beast. From the churlish red-headed coach who taught me when I first took up the game in my early 30s and announced that coaching housewives was his idea of hell (thank you!) to the feisty, furry Frenchman who is the present incumbent, they are generally short on patience and long on putting you in your place; as in, "Why are you standing there on the court?" Actually the FFF usually suggests that if it is a nice day we could just forget the tennis and have a nice glass of rose and he does have a point!

Back to the golf: lesson 1 involved me learning to hold the club and I can do that now with all my fingers and thumbs in roughly the right places, and attempt to hit the ball. The first lesson also included a video of me next to (though only on screen) Ernie Els. The differences in our swing were pointed out but all I could think was 'when did my bum get that big!' Lesson 2 (golf pro was late and I thought he must have decided to pull a sickie rather than teach me - quite understandable in the circumstances) and I can now hit the ball about 75 yards, but only sometimes.

Each lesson is interspersed with me practising a lot in the garden. The bit of lawn at the front is now full of divots but I have inadvertently dug up a few dandelions in the process so it's a sort of golf/weeding multi-tasking. I hit balls from the front of the house towards the field gate and then back again in the certain knowledge that I can only hit the ball so far. .. until I managed to sky one over the house narrowly missing the conservatory... now that could have been very bad.

Lesson 3 was a marked improvement but of course, subsequent practice with the full swing allowed on some shots demonstrated that actually I was getting worse. So lesson 4 which should have been chipping (no idea what this means but nothing to do with potatoes, I am thinking) was putting right all the mistakes which I couldn't self-correct. Now he has told me that next time I have to come not wearing jeans and with a full golf bag (child 3's not mine) because we are going on the course. I am feeling out of my depth on all sorts of levels - the number of shots it will take me to get anywhere near a hole means we probably won't get on a green in lesson time, I don't know how to chip, putt, get out of a bunker or anything else, and I don't have anything to wear in the trouser department and I don't want to look like Ian Poulter... Help!

Anyway that's the current state of the stationary ball game and updates will be available as we go along - five more lessons booked. Incidentally, I have been tweeting about my golf and people as far away as Australia have felt the need to comment on my remarkable (!) progress. Thank you!