24 June 2012

what a ride!

I met up with some fellow couchsurfers last Sunday in Richmond. One of them had organised a bike ride that the rest of us thought sounded like fun and said we'd join in. Down by the river Thames we hired mountain bikes and pedaled off along the path. We twisted our way through the streets to Richmond Park which is huge and a little wild. We entered at Richmond Gate and rode down between the two ponds.

We often stopped for photos or to work out directions and rode casually along while chatting. We took a detour into a field to view some deers who were obviously used to humans being near by.
We continued on to Isabella Plantation that is an enclosed more cultivated garden. We locked our bikes up and wandered around enjoying the nature and the company. Back on our bikes we rode down and out Kingston Gate and there another couchsurfer caught up with us.

After a quick stop by a Tesco Express (mini supermarket) we followed the river again and crossed Richmond Bridge and sat down on the green grass for some lunch. The weather was wonderful. Not too hot and not wet which we were all grateful for after a wet week. Then we continued on west to Hampton Court Palace where we again chained our bikes and went in for a wander through the grounds and rose garden.

Then it was the long ride along the river back to where we hired our bikes from. We had picked them up at 11:30am and had them back at 6:10pm. A long day and a sore butt and surprisingly sunburnt on my hands and face. Maybe not so surprisingly but I hadn't really thought about it as it wasn't that sunny. Not consistantly anyway. It was a fun day though. The people were lovely to meet and the ride was sometimes flat path, sometimes downhill bushland; sometimes easy, sometimes hard. All was delightful scenery and great way to spend the day. All up it was about 25kms so I'm pretty pleased with that.

13 June 2012

relationship gems

I've been reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert--the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love. It's quite different though. This book is not a story but more of her musings on marriage and working through her hesitations about tying the knot again. There are some interesting thoughts going on. The one following is a real gem I'd like to keep in mind.

Liz, worrying about her own destructive ability proven in past relationships, decides to list her five most deplorable faults and make sure her fiance, Felipe, is aware of them and knows what he's getting himself into.


It was not an attractive list. It stung me to read it, and I'd certainly never codified my failings before. But when I presented Felipe with this inventory of lamentable character defects, he took in the news without apparent disquiet. In fact, he just smiled and said, "Is there anything you would now like to tell me about yourself that I didn't already know?"
"Do you still love me?" I asked.
"Still," he confirmed.
Because this is the essential question, isn't it? I mean, once the initial madness of desire has passed and we are faced with each other as dimwitted mortal fools, how is it that any of us find the ability to love and forgive each other at all, much less enduringly?
Felipe didn't answer for a long time. Then he said, "When I used to go down to Brazil to buy gemstones, I would often buy something they call 'a parcel'. A parcel is this random collection of gems that the miner or the wholesaler or whoever is bullshitting you puts together. A typical parcel would contain, I don't know, maybe twenty or thirty aquamarines at once. Supposedly, you get a better deal that way--buying them all in a bunch--but you have to be careful, because of course the guy is trying to rip you off. He's trying to unload his bad gemstones on you by packaging them together with a few really good ones.
"So when I first started in the jewellery business," Felipe went on, "I used to get in trouble because I'd get too excited about the one or two perfect aquamarines in the parcel, and I wouldn't pay as much attention to the junk they threw in there. After I got burned enough times, I finally got wise and learned this: You have to ignore the perfect gemstones. Don't even look at them twice because they're blinding. Just put them away and have a careful look at the really bad stones. Look at them for a long time, and then ask yourself honestly, 'Can I work with these? Can I make something out of this?' Otherwise, you've just spent a whole lot of money on one or two gorgeous aquamarines buried in a big heap of worthless crap.
"It's the same with relationships, I think. People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other's personalities. Who wouldn't? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that's not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner's faults honestly and say, 'I can work around that. I can make something out of that.'? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it's always going to be pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you."
"Are you saying you're clever enough to work around my worthless, junky, crappy bits?" I asked.
"What I'm trying to say, darling, is that I've been watching you carefully for a long time already, and I believe I can accept the whole parcel."
"Thank you," I said, and I meant it. I meant it with every flaw in my being.


11 June 2012

life's bendy path

Have you noticed how life never stays still? Ok, sometimes it feels a little mundane like you're strolling across the Nullabor Plain but other times it feels like you're riding a bus that's hurtling along some windy mountain pass. Whatever kind of road it feels like, life just keeps right on rolling on.

This two year UK part of my journey has sure been full of adventures. And it's not ceasing yet. Recently it's felt like a bit of a winding mountain pass. A number of significant changes are taking place. Some expected. Some unexpected.

Boy two joined the family by planned c-section in mid May. Very strange to know exactly when he was coming but it's been delightful to be a part of this occurance. He's settling in quite well and his big brother is quite happy with him giving lots of kisses and cuddles.

This past weekend has got me thinking about the changing program of my life particularly. I went to a farewell for some friends who's visas are up. It's a coming fate for a lot of us here in London. Farewell and best wishes for whatever life holds for you guys next. Makes me consider the remaining length of my own visa and what do I want to do before it gets here.
I have another farewell in a couple of weeks.

And then there's the unexpected change that's taking place. My boss and her husband have decided not to extend my contract meaning I finish up this job at the end of August. I had assumed and settled into the idea I was here till my visa ran out so it came as a bit of shock. They've been a most wonderful family to work with and I'm sad to be leaving but I agree with them that this is a wise decision for them. They will need a new nanny beyond my visa and changing in September means the mum is still around on maternity leave to help the boys adjust to the change. A little inconvenient for me but at least that gives me a six month block beginning at the start of a new school year. That is probably the second best option leaving me with a reasonable opportunity to find some more work for the remainder of my visa. They had considered this, they told me, also assuring me that it is no reflection on me. Their thoughtfulness towards me has been such a blessing.

This kind of change I struggle with. Though at least this time I have two and half months to prepare for it. But after a talk to mum and a talk with God I came to this conclusion: Here comes another adventure.

These two years in the UK were always intended to be that way. And not all adventures are planned. In fact, some of the best ones aren't.

08 June 2012

these days were bright...on

Anyone would think I took off to the middle east or India or something for a few days.
Nope. Just Brighton on the south coast of England.

It was the Queens Diamond Jubilee extra long weekend recently. It's impressive that she's reigned for sixty years. What a job! And she still works hard. She really is admirable. After a failed attempt at witnessing the Thames River Pageant in real life I caught a cheap bus ride 2hrs south of London central to Brighton where I'd booked to stay a couple of nights. In the light rain I managed to find my hotel and check in and then decided to just stay in. I put the tv on to actually SEE some of the pageant and then got back to my e-book that I was already sucked into.

Monday I started late due to some more book reading. I ate the bit of food I had with me before venturing out to roam the streets. I found a running store that I eagerly stepped into. I've been jogging again lately and my body has been responding. I love it when I get that feeling in my legs like they just want to be moving. (I do a lot of sitting down as a part of my recreation and hobbies.) I found in that store something I celebrated over. Shock Absorber make a run bra! And it works wonderfully. For a girl like me, good support is hard to find. It was definitely worth the spend. I also bought a little bumbag to slip my keys, phone and ipod into when I go out jogging. Okay, moving on.

I continued roaming the streets. Stopped by a mini supermarket to stock up on a few meals--had a fridge in my room. Then on down to the shore. I made sure I stayed out lots this day as it was suppose to be the best day weatherwise. It was overcast and a bit cool but at least it was dry. I walked all the way down to the marina and then back along the shore a bit. They call it Brighton Beach but I still maintain that a beach requires sand. It's just a shoreline, you brits. So I sat down on the rocks, and quite nice rocks they are. Smooth so not uncomfortable to sit on and pretty patterns of various kinds all over them. I ate my lunch--including a jubilee gingerbread--and read some more before getting too cold to sit still any longer. As I wondered back along the shore the sun came out which was lovely. It seems more...right, to be at the seaside with the sun shining.
I had bought two movie vouchers in an online deal and when I received them I realised I selected the wrong ones. They had to be used outside of London. I had two and since I wasn't probably going to get out of London again before their used by date I decided to use both while in Brighton. On Monday I went and saw What to Expect When You're Expecting which I have been wanting to see. I quite enjoyed it. It was more like the movie Valentine's Day with multiple stories going on sort of interlinked but not really all a part of the one story line. Multiple pregnancies obviously but a whole variety of experiences. And a laugh. It has a good cast too. When I stepped back outside it was early evening and the sun was still shining. I quickly ducked back to my room and then went down to the shore again. This time I had music in my ears and my on-the-go art kit with me. After a while I sat on the rocks again and drew. As the light began to slowly fade I walked back toward Brighton Pier. I wanted some night shots. I strolled around the amusement pier. It wasn't very busy but I had fun watching the big spinning arm, especially standing half underneath it where it looked like it flung over the top and would come down on top of me with a splat. I also had a laugh watching three older men ride the Wild River together. One of those rides in the log boat around the water path where you do a huge splash down the hill. They screamed and everything. Ha ha. Then I headed back to my room to eat and read and go to sleep late.

Tuesday was much the same but wetter and included more window shopping. I'd prepurched today's movie ticket based on what I could use the voucher on and what time the showing was. I ended up going with Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart (aka Bella) and Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) and Charlize Theron as the evil queen. I really had no idea what it was about, apart from a vague idea of the fairytale. It was entertaining though. As for Kristen, her Snow White role was very similar to her Twilight role. From the movie I went straight to the bus station to catch my ride back to London and found out along the way I had the rest of the week off. Sweet.

Click on the pics for a closer look. Oh, and that out-of-place building is the Royal Pavillion, a place you can pay to look around in and houses some art and stuff.

02 June 2012

wearing a wire

Seriously. I had fun this week. I was even a little anxious as I headed in because I had to join the Friday night class instead of my usual Sunday afternoon group. Midweek I wonder if I would seriously join the intermediate class next or not bother. But after every session I feel pumped and I'm interested in doing more.

It was great to join another class. The instructor at this class explained things a bit more. He went over the basic rules--which made more sense now--and then when he taught us a new move he got us to do some repetative practise. Even the warm ups helped improve my footwork. It was a more informative and practically helpful session.

And then for the fun part....

This week we got to kit up in the electrical gear. Apparently Fighting Fit Fencing is the only fencing club in Britian or some such place that allow beginners to use the expensive electrical equipment. We put on the usual white coat, then blue coat with mask and glove. We also put on a special silver jacket woven with metallic thread and underneath the blue jacket we wore a wire. The electric foil (sword) has a bit of a different handle and also a button on the tip instead of a tiny ball. We were then connected to a retracting cord at our back.
In all our gear, once we were fencing when we poked the other person the score box would light up. A white light if we hit off target and a coloured light if we hit the silver vest (completing the electrical circut). If you get two coloured lights--hitting on target at the same time--then you still have to determine who got the point. That's where I still get confused. After our new move practise--an attack with a fake (there's a proper term for it out there somewhere)--we had a few matches. The instructor went around all of us and scored a few points to help us out. We didn't really keep score though. We were an odd number thus my opportunity for photos when I sat out. And the poor quality due mainly to my quivering arms after a bout.

I think next week we're having more of a tournament. That will be truly curious.