Try a Tri?

Standing in a pen with four strapping men in Lycra might – in other circumstances – be the stuff dreams are made of, but when you are also dressed head-to-toe in Lycra and these are the people you are racing against, it’s pretty much the stuff bad dreams are made of.



Back on a sunny day in June, my good friend Mel asked me if I would like to take part in a triathlon with her; her to swim, me to cycle and Petra to run.  It seemed like a good idea at the time – especially as it was two months away…but before I knew it, the day dawned.  And I mean dawned – we had to be there at 0730, which meant my poor babysitter had to get up with the Larks too!

The five relay teams were up first, which is how I found myself in a small pen, in a school tennis court, with four strapping men, in Lycra.  One-by-one they disappeared into the rising dawn until I was the sole occupier of the pen; then suddenly like a scene out of Baywatch – minus the coiffed hair and liberally-applied make-up – Mel was streaking across the tennis court in her red swimsuit.  A few moments of fumbling ensued, as we tried not to lose precious time transferring the soaking chip timer from her ankle to mine.   The next part seemed to go in slow motion – and probably was in slow motion – as I had to recall the correct sequence of when to put my helmet on my head, when to remove my bike from the stands and where I could mount the bike.  Anything out of sequence and we incurred a time penalty.  Given that I am renowned for forgetting just about everything: school parents’ evenings, school photos, school socials… this was no small feat!

I had previously practised this 12-mile route with my husband barking orders at me and achieved a respectable 17.4 mph, but was worried that without my pseudo-sergeant major shouting at me, my time might slip.  I needn’t have worried:  as I  set off on a couple of busy roads, before reaching the quiet country lanes, my competitivity kicked in.  I knew that the boys had a couple of minutes lead on me and there wasn’t much chance of spotting them, let alone catching up with them, but what surprised me was my determination to equally not let anyone catch up with me.  Part of this, I should admit, was due to the drafting rules, where if someone overtakes you, you have to slip back a certain distance.  Seriously, I would have to temporarily fall back…is that really fair?

Confession time: I had not told my team members that I can’t remember how to mend a puncture and so had to scan the roads and lanes ahead of me for broken glass and visible thorns.  As I approached the end, I was so relieved that I had managed the whole route without a puncture, as well as not tumbling off my bike, remembering to smile [grimace] at each Marshall managing junctions and succeed in no-one overtaking me.   For the final part of the route, some comedian had chosen a hill and so I found myself panting as I entered the school grounds and only-just noticed a guy yelling at me to dismount my bike before the finish line.  Practically falling off my bike, so as not to incur a time penalty for the team, I then saw Petra yelling encouragement [determination to get started] from the pen and had to run with wobbly legs – pushing my bike and putting it back on the stands first, with my helmet – so that we could do another fumbling transfer of the chip timer.

Watching Petra run off into the distance, I could finally relax!  And sitting on the grass banks afterwards with a bloke who had completed the whole thing, he told me how the previous year he had been just like me and cycled as part of a team and did I think I would be like him and do the whole thing next year? Um no, I did not!  

The good news is that out of five teams we came fourth, which, as the only all-girl team, we are quite proud of!  Would I do it again?  Absolutely; as part of a team, as it was working with such an inspiring couple of girls that motivated me and made the triathlon fun!

Confession time (sent in by anonymous)

I love this confession sent in by an anonymous blogger!  Have you any funny, or embarrassing, or cringeworthy confessions you would like to share?  

Calpol confession….

I love the slot on the Simon Mayo Radio 2 show where people confess their extremely funny and sometimes cringe-worthy past sins. In homage to Simon Mayo’s confessions, here is mine.

Regimental life in the army is demanding on the soldiers, but also on the family. Whilst my husband was commanding his regiment in Germany, the battalion organised a wives exercise as a morale boost. For the uninitiated, this is where the wife becomes solider for the weekend and the husband takes on the children. When the training team approached me with the proposed date I enthusiastically gushed that although I would really love to come, I would sadly have to decline as I was taking No. 1 son back to boarding school that weekend.

A couple of weeks later, back came the news…. the weekend had been changed and what’s more, they had checked with the Commanding Officer and I was indeed free that weekend! The fixed grin, that I had learned to adopt, when I became the Commanding Officer’s wife, was fully deployed, as I gushed my appreciation at their thoughtfulness. 😀

I immediately set about recruiting some other wives to come along; after all, if I was doing it, then I was going to make sure others would suffer too! The day came, rumours had been abounding about the weekend: apparently we were going to be searched when we turned up, raided at night and all sorts of other delights. This was going to be grim! However, with the game-for-a-laugh friends I had recruited, I thought we would get through it alright; especially if I packed a morale boost for the long, cold night ahead of us.  Although chocolate normally works for me, I felt the occasion required something stronger and searching the house, I came upon a bottle of home-made sloe gin; perfect, although as the bottle was so huge, I would need something to decant it into. Time was short and the only thing I could find was a bottle of out-of-date Calpol, with some dregs in the bottom. Rather pleased with myself, I rinsed it out, and filled it with sloe gin, wrapped it up in a pair of socks and packed it in my bergen (army speak for back pack).

We turned up at the exercise with some trepidation and to a lot of rather amused soldiers who were unable to stifle their smirks. Off we set in the minibus, to a weekend in the wilderness. All my fears were unfounded and the weekend proved to be great fun. We embarked on off-road land-rover driving, we fired rifles in the laser range and we built our bivouacs – although there was the option of a tent – we decided to really go for it! My favourite part was the army survival expert, who had set up a stand of food he had collected in the wild: elderflower cordial, rabbit stew, and various types of insects he had prepared in interesting ways; such as caramelised crickets and meal worms sautéed in brandy etc. Nobody could stomach the thought of the cooked insects, so I thought I should lead from the front and tried meal worms and then cricket: apart from the legs, which were a bit weird, it was not as bad as I had thought! That evening, an amazing spread appeared, as if from nowhere, food and wine flowed in abundance. And my little bottle of sloe gin remained in my rucksack; largely forgotten…

Despite being full of food and wine, none of us got much sleep, as we had a snorer in the bivvy. So by the end of the next day, after mounting an infantry attack, complete with camouflaged helmets, rifles, and two magazines of blank rounds, we were all pretty tired. When I got home, I had a lovely bath and shunted the rucksack to one side. On Monday, my soldering experience was a happy memory, it was back to the routine of being a mum, and getting sons No. 2 and 3 ready for school.

Lovely Barbara, my domestic assistant, arrived for the morning and being so amazingly helpful, unpacked my rucksack and sorted everything out. The Calpol bottle was restored to the medicine cabinet, and forgotten.

Some months later, I was in London for the weekend, at a study day for the degree I am trying to do whilst juggling everything else. I had also met up with some university friends and we were having a great time, apart from the constant calls from my darling husband; who being a big tough soldier, has never really played much of a part in the day-to-day running of the children’s lives.

The ‘phone rang again. What drama now? Well, apparently this time, No. 3 was ill. I was a little sceptical, as No. 3 can sometimes magic up a sore waist (which is apparently totally different to a sore tummy) when mummy is going somewhere he doesn’t want her to go. I advised my normal practice would be to shove the electronic ear thermometer in, and try and persuade No. 3 that there was nothing actually wrong with him, unless the thermometer told me otherwise, in which case to give him a dose of Calpol.

The phone rang 10 minutes later. There was indeed a problem.  No temperature, but apparently the Calpol was off, as it had made No. 3 immediately vomit. Lots of ranting ensued about the quality of Calpol and how ridiculous this was.

The cogs started to whir in my brain.  I had never heard of Calpol going off before….. and suddenly the penny dropped. He had given No. 3 a spoonful of sloe gin rather than a spoonful of Calpol…. aaaaaaagh! I remained largely silent, not wanting to exacerbate the situation by suddenly confessing it was all my fault.  I made the odd sympathetic muttering, and suggested the Calpol should be disposed of, so that it didn’t get mixed up with the good medicines.

So my confession is now out there. I will beg forgiveness from No. 3, when he is a little older, and he will hopefully see the funny side. However, I will not beg forgiveness from darling husband, as really, by child number No. 3, he really has no excuse for not knowing what Calpol smells like!!




The benefits of playing the non-native speaker card!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you say something in a foreign language and then realise, by the reaction to your words, that you have made a major blooper?

On a school French exchange several [okay, many!] years ago, I stayed in a lovely household with a mum and dad, two children and a grandma.  One evening, the mother asked me in French if I would prefer to eat dinner in the kitchen or the living room.  Delighted I finally had the chance to use an expression I had picked up in a guide book, which apparently meant I don’t mind, I very proudly stated: ‘Je m’en fous.’  I was rather taken aback to see the grandma’s chin hit the floor and the children collapse in a fit of giggles.  Assuming it was my accent, or some grammatical gaffe, I asked my French teacher the next day why it was such a shocker.  You can imagine my surprise to hear that I had said the French equivalent of ‘I don’t give a f**k.’

The moral of the story? Make sure you refer to a reputable guide book!

Stem Cell Research – what do you know?

Stem Cell Research – what do you know?

Today on Pirate FM, at work, I talked about Stem Cell research.

My brother Martin before he died

Just before Martin died from AML

I know that harvesting blood cord can help The UK Stem Cell Foundation with its research – did you know that?

And whilst it does cost money to privately bank cord blood, it can also be donated – but only in 8 x UK hospitals.

I was gutted I couldn’t do anything to save my brother and it has shaped my future, and that of my family.  Will it change yours?

Find out more.

The outlandish world of holiday complaints

Not many people can claim (or would want to!) they have been sent a photograph of a poo for their job!  But if you have ever worked in the customer relations department of a major tour operator – as I did for my first ‘proper’ job – it would seem that anything goes!

Poo-gate, or more-tellingly the ‘who dunnit’ photograph was accompanied by a letter detailing that when they [the holidaymakers] returned to their room from a day out, they found someone else’s poo in their toilet. To prove it wasn’t theirs, they took a photo and sent it to yours truly! So how do you go about investigating that one?

From murky stuff to the we-need-our-hands-holding: ‘I can’t believe we got bitten by mosquitoes: we were not warned in the holiday brochure.’ And yes I am referring to far-flung, exotic locations, not a beach in England! To people who like to examine the neighbouring tables’ breakfasts: ‘The table next to me had three sausages with their breakfast and I only had two.’ Or:  ‘The people on the other side had three teabags in their pot and I only had one!’   Whether absurd, suspicious or downright implausible, I had to politely answer them all; including that ‘good’ old British attitude of expecting everyone else to speak the lingo: ‘I can’t believe the taxi driver in Prague didn’t speak English! This has totally ruined our holiday.’

Don’t get me wrong, amongst these, there were some serious issues which were truly awful and which you would stop at nothing to resolve, but funnily enough it is mostly the preposterous ones that stick in your mind!


It’s Monday and I find myself drawn to the blog instead of my real work 😯

To start the week with a smile, I wanted to share this letter and article with you that I found in The Week magazine this year.  IMG_2321 from The Week magazine

I love The Week as not only do they bring you little gems like these, they also condense the news into highly-readable, bite-sized pieces from across the world and top it all off with a fabulous cartoon on the front cover depicting one of the week’s major news stories.

Harvest Festival

Live Simply so others may simply live Mahatma Gandhi

Live Simply so others may simply live
Mahatma Gandhi

Today at the Harvest Festival service in church, the shocking statistic of 22,000 kids dying every day from poverty concentrates the mind.  And here’s the phrase that stood out for me:

“Live simply, so that others may simply live.” Mahatma Gandhi

Curate in a tent - Rev Caspar Bush - spends a week in a tent

Curate in a tent – Rev Caspar Bush – spends a week in a tent

Having taken the obligatory items for the food bank collection to the service, and with the vicar undertaking a week of hardship in a Shelterbox tent to highlight the good work done by the Helston based charity and RELEASE international supporting those persecuted for their Christian faith, I felt rather churlish for our lack of effort.

I had tidied out the cupboards to find the food bank items – tomato sauce, pesto jar, jelly, chicken soup.  But really, with the freezer full of food and plenty to keep us going, we really are beyond lucky.

So the family challenge this week is to use up everything in the fridge, the cupboards and not waste anything and can we do it for less than £20.  Can we do it? Well it will take some effort but we’ll give it a go.