Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Walk to Work Week

Three posts in two days... Don't worry - this outpouring won't last!

This week it is Walk to Work Week (there was a reason for me mentioning that I had walked in in my post yesterday...) - an effort to get the country walking rather than sat in traffic queues.

The intentions are very sound - show people how easy it is to walk a mile or two, and they might do it more often, rather than driving in.

And I have walked twice - this morning's walk was slightly quicker - bang on an hour and a half, rather than 1 hr 36 mins, and slightly shorter (5.73 miles instead of 6) as I cut the corner off...

However, part of the way the site works is to calculate how much carbon you have saved by walking instead of going by car - this doesn't help as a motivator for me, as I come in by train, and that train will run whether I am on it or not!

It also gives you a calorie counter, which is just depressing - so far this week, according to it (I did sneak in my walk to the station last night as well), I have burned off 1278 calories, which is only 6 and a half cupcakes. Doesn't really seem a lot for three hours of exercise when you put it like that!!

I also get a bit frustrated with the site, as I use a website called Map My Run to measure how far I travel (it also does lovely things like calculating calories based on your weight, height and age, rather than the rough calculation that W2W gives you...), so I *know* that I travelled 6 miles on Monday - however, as the W2W site only lets you put in a time, rather than a distance, and it then calculates an average distance from the time, it stole a whole 0.7 miles from me as I walk faster than the national average! So I have to then recalculate a time compared on the distance I've walked {sigh}.

I did find this morning's walk interesting, though - the sun shone, which instantly meant that it was nicer than yesterday, but today, I knew how far I had to walk. Yesterday, I knew the map, but not what it would feel like, nor the landmarks along the way. Today, my brain knew how far it was, my muscles knew how far it was (and were already yelling from yesterday), and the blister on my foot knew how far it was (indeed, it invited a friend to join it, so I now have matching pairs!)

However, I still really enjoyed it. I will try to walk in tomorrow and Thursday as well (I can't on Friday, as I have to be in work early in order to leave early for TKD), depending on whether it is sunny or not (I'm not doing an hour and a half in the rain again!) and on whether my legs will actually walk that far...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Blog Rally

I would actually have a blue ribbon picture here, but blogger has decided that it will freeze every time I try to upload something from my desktop, and that it doesn't want to actually put anything into the blog when it tells me that I have successfully linked to an online picture... Even manually adding it doesn't work {sigh}

The blue ribbon is here, though...

I've freely pinched the content for this from Notes of an Anesthesioboist - I am not a political animal (my general status seems to be "mildly outraged but how can I do something that will make a difference"?)

Whilst I'm afraid I can't think that this will make much of a difference to the Iranian regime, the least that we can do is raise awareness, and show that we are proud to be living in a society where (at the moment at least!!) we can blog and write without fear of losing our freedom.

I have never been a person who would stoop to self-censoring and I never will be. I'd rather not write at all if I have to stop being frank and honest in my words. -Omid-Reza Mir-Sayafi, who died of an overdose in an Iranian prison in March this year, whilst "he was serving a two and a half year sentence for allegedly "insulting Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader Khamenei" and posting "seditious" materials on his blog."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."

Journalist Roxana Saberi has been incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she is spending her birthday on a hunger strike. Around the world, people continue to face similar violations of their rights to freedom of expression, free speech, and a free press. Let's show the international community that we won't be silenced by intimidation and tyranny - that we won't stop believing in and fighting for these rights.

Freedom of the press is not a luxury. It lies at the heart of making this world healthier and more just. People without a voice and without a clear line of sight into the things that would threaten or corrupt their societies cannot hope for equitable growth and meaningful change.

A group of bloggers is holding a blog rally in support of journalists, bloggers, students, and writers who have dared to express their thoughts freely only to be imprisoned, abused, or killed.

Please consider "wearing" a blue ribbon online this week on your blogs, websites, and facebook / myspace / twitter pages, and invite others to do the same. Get the discussion going, and keep it going.

Sorry it's been a while

I do keep on meaning to post, but things have been manic, again! I even start posts that get about half a paragraph in draft, and then I get called away / distracted...

The last few weeks have been fantastic for friends, family and laughter. The Easter weekend was brilliant - there were ten of us round the dining room table (immediate family (including my gran), plus other halves), we had roast turkey with all the trimmings, and then played some very silly games - it's like having a second Christmas (including the crackers!) but with chocolate instead of Santa Claus...

I've had a hockey tournament, which was great fun - a hockey team is supposed to have eleven a side, and we managed eight from our club... We managed to persuade one of the organisers that she would like to play for us (and I really don't know how she did it - she was running around organising, then refereeing a match, then coming straight off and playing for us. She has to be in her late forties at the youngest!), so we were nine, with most of our team older than 30. We were playing full teams, where most of the players were under 18. In our heats, we won, drew and lost one game apiece, and our loss was only by one goal - this got us through to the semi finals, where we were soundly trounced! But we were very impressed overall - it's a good start to the summer season which starts next week.

I've also had two fantastic social gatherings - John and I went to a friend's post-wedding party - a slightly delayed reception (by a year...) - we met up with a whole gang of my school friends - the first time for two years that we've all been together. In that time, there have been two marriages and three babies born - John and I are the last of the group who are in a long term relationship who do not have a child (no, that isn't a hint at all - not till we get to NZ and I've then qualified for maternity pay!!). It was brilliant to be able to chat to everyone, progressively getting more and more random as we worked our way through the very generous free wine that Steve had provided...

Then yesterday, a group of us went down to Glastonbury for the afternoon. It was my first trip since I climbed the Tor as a child, and definitely my first into the town itself. Sadly, I wasn't overly impressed - the hippie shops were all very much a copy and paste of each other, though they were all trying to outdo each other with the amount of incense that they could burn... We did find a lovely cafe for lunch, and a fantastic Tea Room that did the most gorgeous scone tea. Plus, it was a wonderful chance to chat with friends, which again got more random (though this time no alcohol was involved!), and did culminate in a discussion of a radio show which included an ongoing sketch about Chicken Man...

I've also made some more attempts to up my fitness levels - I've gone for another couple of runs, and I walked in to work this morning (6 miles, because I took a slightly wrong turning, in 1hr 36 mins...). I'm still hoping that I'll be able to run the full 5K without stopping - six and a half weeks to go! I've also been amazed at the generosity of my family and friends - with only a few donations, they have already met and exceeded my target for fundraising (and my increased target!) I've definitely got a lot to live up to now!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter!

Yes, it's a few hours early, but I thought I'd get in before the event and wish everyone a happy Spring Festival :-)

We are spending the holiday with my folks; four days of relaxation, with drink and food abounding (and chocolate tomorrow...) I've still managed to get out for a run, though - just twenty minutes, but I covered two and a half miles, and I'm feeling very pleased with myself!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

In the hands of bureacracy

Well, I thought it very fitting for my 100th post to say that we have hit the next stage of our emigration plans; we have dispatched our application for a Skilled Migrant's visa to Immigrate New Zealand...

After a mild panic at the weekend (I've lost my degree certificate, but still have the transcript), and absolutely destroying my eyes on Tuesday scanning all the documents (I wanted to have a complete record of everything we've sent, and most of them, due to photos being stapled in odd places, couldn't be auto scanned, and had to be done page by page), and then spending about an hour printing all of the copies that they needed (every original document needed a photocopy behind it), I finally got my bundle of about twenty trees over to the post office, and didn't have to have too much of an argument with the lady behind the counter about why I wanted to have a pre-paid special delivery envelope inside for the return of my documents (the last time I tried to do that, the post office employee got really upset that I wasn't going to be posting the stuff back to myself then and there!). Then it was whisked out of my hands and into the lap of bureacracy...

What happens now is that we wait...

and wait...

and wait...

The INZ London processing times web page currently reads:

"Once the pre-populated application form is returned to the London branch it should be allocated to a visa officer within four months. As an example, for the week ending 3 April 2009 we are allocating applications submitted up to and including 29 December 2008.

After your application has been allocated to an officer they will generally take between one and three months to make a final decision on your application. Processing times largely depend on whether you have supplied your visa officer with everything they have requested in your Invitation to Apply, or if there are any other issues (such as medical conditions) we need to follow up on."

So basically, we won't get a case officer until the beginning of August. If all goes well, then we should get a result by the beginning of November, but we will need to have an interview as we don't have a job yet, which might delay everything.

But that is a good thing, really, as we've now got a lot of saving to do (I'd like us to have another £4K in the bank as a minimum), and a lot of organisation!

And in other news, I am now the proud owner of an accordion! (and it didn't really bite into the £4K - it was from the Family Centre, and, despite me offering more, she only charged me £25 for it!)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Let's Go... We Can't....

We went to see "Waiting for Godot" last Thursday with Sir Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in the main roles of Estragon and Vladimir, and Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup as Pozzo and Lucky. These were tickets which we bought a long time ago - hitting redial for about half an hour to get through to the Theatre Royal box office, and even then, we got some of the last tickets remaining (seated, at least - when we arrived at the theatre, almost every available space around the back and sides was filled with people standing!).

It was worth both the panic at the buying stage, and then the long wait, though. The performance was amazing! The stage setting was very sparse, and appeared to be deliberately ambiguous as to location and time; this could have been set at any time from late Victorian through to any time in the future. There were some glorious lighting effects (the moonlight was particularly beautiful, throwing lacy patterns onto the stage).

Of course, the stars of the show met and exceeded expectations. SIM as Estragon was a thoroughly believable tramp - I spent a good chunk of the first ten minutes peering forwards wondering if it really was him! The range of his emotions, and the complete bewilderment when he was being reminded of something he'd forgotten, sustained throughout the two and a half hours on stage, was fantastic.

PS as Vladimir was always going to be PS - he has such a powerful personality both on stage and off that it is slightly difficult to adjust to him portraying someone else. However, once I'd got past the "Squeeee, I'm watching Patrick Stewart!", I really enjoyed his performance as well. His mood swings were just wonderful to watch, and you really got caught up in the emotion.

The double act was even better than the two performers on their own. You really got the sense that these were two people who had been together for half a century, and who knew each other so well that sentences didn't need to be finished. Their genuine affection and joy for each other radiated out from the stage.

Both stars are approaching 70, and, as such, are exactly the same age as the characters they are portraying - apparantly the actors would usually be a lot younger due to the physical nature of the show (Estragon's character appears climbing over a wall at the start of each half, and the byplay with Pozzo and Lucky, particularly in the second half, gets very active), and I was incredibly impressed that both of them were doing this night after night for what is (round the country) a very long run! Yes, I know that they are actors, and this is their job, but they are both coming up to five years past retirement!

One of the pieces of production which I loved happened right at the start of the second half; there was one tree on stage, and at the beginning it is bare and dead. As the curtain goes up after the interval, there are a few leaves on the tree. The change was so subtle that I looked at it wondering whether I had just been inattentive and missed the leaves, and they had been there all the time. This played brilliantly with the whole theme of memory which runs throughout the play (but is much more prevalent during the second half); of doubting whether your own memory is correct, and whether an event actually happened or not.

I also really enjoyed the fact that I could understand what was happening. This might seem a given for going to the theatre, but I knew that Beckett is a bit random and wasn't entirely sure whether I'd be able to follow what was going on! (Particularly since I'd got completely lost at the Ionesco a couple of years ago) (John had offered to show me the video that he has beforehand so that I'd get an idea, but I'm very glad now that I didn't - some of the jokes relied a lot on the suprise of what was said, and I'm glad that I didn't know what was going to happen in advance). The meaning of the play - well that is a different matter; there are so many interpretations as to what was going on, who Godot is, why they are waiting for him, that I could keep on thinking about it and realising something new till next year, and still not have covered it all. Which means that I get extra value from the play! ;-)

Overall, the play was amazing - I thoroughly recommend anyone who can to go and see it (though I understand from my little sister that the cheapest seats now available in London are £50!)