Advent Streak Update

Christmas Baubles

My Advent running streak would have gone just fine if, well, Advent, hadn`t interfered with it.

Advent, that time of year for plays, parties and presents. That time when Christmas exam fever hits the Chook House and even a mediocre Mama Chook will have to hold the fort, calm the nerves and not be trotting off for her hour of running. That time, when the day job catches end-of-year frenzy with reviews, previews and projections.

That time, of too little time or no time at all.

So, yep, I`ve just missed running for three days in a row. I reckon that means my Advent running streak has morphed into an Advent running break.

Not to worry. There`s good news on the horizon. In the form of Christmas break. Yay! I`m off today, and so are the Teen Chooks, and, even though there`s a zillion things to sort between now and Christmas dinner, it will be so much easier to get the trainers on.

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And, peeking around the corner, I see Janathon is homing into view once again. Signing up for that means I`ll have to exercise and blog about it every day. I`m dithering on that one. It`s a brilliant incentive to kick 2014 off to a great running streak. But finding the time for it will be a challenge.

On the other hand, it`s a great way to catch up with jogger bloggers all over the globe and see how they`re overcoming more daunting challenges than my bagload of gripes.

Oh, and it`s not just for joggers. Janathon exercise can be anything. In fact, you`re encouraged to mix it all up-swim, walk or even, build a snowman!

Another plus is that January is very unlikely to present any of the challenges of Advent. If anything, I`ll be full of New Year resolution and vim. And also bored out of my skull for want of things to do, and money to do things with. So yes, that makes Janathon very tempting indeed.

Then there`s the thousand mile challenge. That`s a commitment some folk make to completing one thousand miles in one year through any form of training. I have a page on this blog showing how I bombed spectacularly to (a)keep a proper running log and (b) run enough miles to fulfil 1,000 running miles this year. Janathon would give me a head start on that one.

Dither, dither.

Let me know if you`re signing up for Janathon, please! It would be fun to have a gang of us my favourite bloggers doing it!

Oh, and please tell me Advent has interfered with your training too! Or have you a magic formula that works for you?

A Bibiliophile`s Paradise

On the Shelf

On My Shelf

I love the sight of a shelf full of books. It`s an open invitation to relax and be whisked away into another world or even, another era. And can`t you tell so much about a person by looking at their choice of books? 

I was in a house some time ago that was full of books. It was a bibliophile`s paradise. There was floor to ceiling shelving running along at least one wall in every room, with one room having three walls of shelves.

Peppered about the place were various types of comfortable seating arrangements. The emphasis was on comfort rather than style. Each cosy window seat, or overstuffed armchair, extending that invitation out again

“C`mon, sit a while. Relax. Get lost in a book.”

There were stacks of books on the kitchen table and books in the bathroom-well, that`s a natural place to have books, I suppose. There were stacks in the hallway and on the stairs. I didn`t venture upstairs, but the old man assured me that he had had every room shelved there too, and each was full of books.

There was nothing trendy at all about the house. It was devoid of any other ornamentation. This added to it`s appeal. There was no sense of time or place about the bibliophile`s residence, adding all the more to that sense of escape.

The bibliophile himself was in his seventies. And so, the books were long standing friends running back years, perhaps even into his childhood. All the more wonderful then, because, judging from the vintage nature of some of those books, the vast majority were out of print, and some would more likely be prized by rare book collectors.

All of them were prized by him of course. He plainly couldn`t be parted from them. Books are friends to the true bibliophile, and even though he would never read them all again, he would glean a certain pleasure in seeing an old book, just as one is thrilled to meet a long lost friend.

And what did the books tell of him? From the selection of bookspines I read, he was a man devoted to the study of Irish history, current affairs, politics and music.

One of the thrills of growing up in Bogland was that there wasn`t a whole pile for a kid to do. The chief amusements consisted of exploring woodland or bog. And, in inclement weather, crawl into a very comfortable armchair with any sort of book. There was a lot of inclement weather. And, fortunately, a wide variety of books.

I long to have those days back again. I long to have that endless sense of time, that eternal day where I can get so lost in a book, I`ll emerge hours later and wonder if I`ve had my lunch or is it evening time already.

Of course, with adulthood comes time management and responsibilities, joint enemies of my inner bibliophile.

But I am thrilled at least to see the Teens escaping into books in the same way as I once did. Visits to the bookshop were mandatory when they were little ones, followed on by a trip to café to make the association with reading all the more pleasant. Each has bookshelves in their rooms, and, although digital natives who love their technology, they still prefer traditional books. And they are keen readers/

Caught in the midst of college exams last week, Elder Teen confessed that he dropped his studies to read Dan Brown`s “Inferno”. It was his way of destressing and yes, the exams went fine anyway. He just needed the escape.

And Christmas is around the corner. This week, in our long standing family tradition, we will do battle with the crowds and escape into the glories of our local bookshop. We`ll each do our own thing for an hour or more, thumbing through our favourite genres, savouring the smell of fresh print on pristine page.

We won`t emerge either, until we`ve a very decent pile of books between us. Something to confine us to armchair, or sofa, or bed as we race through torrid adventures, perhaps in other eras and in other lands.

And when the plot unravels and the story ends, the books will be closed but the memories will live on. Before too long, they will have become old friends,  reminders to us of a Christmas past, and of family life, and long winter days by the fire. And they will join the other books, lining the shelves and surely more shelves, lining the wall.

Maybe, one day, this home will be a bibliophile`s paradise.

How the Candy Cane Fairies Stopped My Advent Streak

Little ballerinas

Little ballerinas

The problem with the Advent running streak is that, well, it happens during Advent.

Advent, that time of craft fairs, cake sales and of course, the annual ballet show.

My regular reader will recall how fond I am of ballet. So fond, that even if Bogland Ireland couldn`t fulfil my childhood dream, I made damn sure Teen Girl did.

I highly recommend living through your children. I now have the greatest of pleasure seeing her en pointe and waving her arms about oh, so gracefully, exactly as I would do if I`d had half the chance. Why, I even have tips I`d love to share with her, but somehow, she doesn`t want to listen…

At least I am allowed to attend the annual Christmas show.

There are all sorts and all ages in my daughter`s ballet school, from three to thirty and beyond. Maybe three hundred in all? Anyway, all of them got their turn on stage yesterday afternoon. And repeated the whole darned performance later on that evening.

As you can imagine, this feat requires precision planning, a few professional stage hands and large body of parents insane enough to volunteer to help out. Naturally, I satisfied the insanity clause and was swiftly left standing in front of twenty nine candy cane fairies.

It`s been a while since I`ve even seen a three year old candy cane fairy. Most times, she preferred her princess guise. Occasionally she would dress as a witch but, as she started ballet a whole lot later, at the ripe old age of six, I didn`t have the terror of wondering if she could wait two hours for her turn to stand in front of those hot stage lights and noisy audience.

Now, standing off stage with my little charges, I was terrified for each of them.

I had forgotten just how sweet a little kid is; all big eyes, dimpled arms and innocence. Each wore a little fairy dress with the red and green candy cane colours. And, it being ballet, they had their hair
upswept in buns and teeny tiny ballet pumps on their feet.

Luckily, we got to spend a lot of that wait watching the show. That meant trooping our charges up one of those labyrinthine passageways to the theatre balcony. Oh! how cute that fairy line looked as they stood in pairs. But cute fairy lines could move at speed. I was grateful when other volunteers showed up to shepherd the bopping line along the stairways, through heavy doors, and finally to the safety of their seats.

I can remember my first time sitting in a flip up theatre seat. It was in the new cinema in Bogland and the movie was “Mary Poppins”. Those seats were fun, weren`t they? Well, almost half a century on, twenty nine fairies discovered them for themselves. Soon, some of the smarter fairies found the armrests moved too. And with an even more satisfying noise! It was also another reason for some fairies to need to go to the toilet. Cue more running to and from the toilet area, counting charges and praying aloud.

By now, the sweat was pouring off me. Running a marathon would have been easier. And there was still a whole show to run.

Having been for the matinée performance, I found it trickier to watch the show second time round. Especially with my back to it, counting fairies and fixing fairy costumes. But the fairies loved it. The land of make believe and reality are all one to a little fairy so the witch in Swan Lake is just as real as all the swans. Just a lot scarier and maybe even a little too much for some of my candy canes.

Their concentration spans are different too. An hour into the show, some had forgotten why they were in the theatre and some had even fallen asleep. But we soon got the nod to shuffle the whole troupe backstage again. More seat flipping, more dancing in pairs and back around the labyrinth to a waiting room.

Troupes of princesses, swans, and shimmering jazz costumes move purposefully about backstage, and the little sugar cane fairies stood off stage watching. Two started to cry. All those bright lights and noise just overwhelmed their little fairy sensibilities. And anyway, every good fairy gets tired eventually and crying seems just the right thing to do.

Luckily, the other fairies paid no heed and couldn`t wait for their turn to go onstage.Neither could I.Sure, I wanted to see them dance but I was a very tired old fairy then ( or maybe even a wicked witch), and I just wanted to go home.

Soon their turn came. With twinkling starlight music they tripped along stage to a gasp of Ah! from the audience. And just as suddenly their dance in the footlights ended as their trotted backstage again following some willowy, sweet princess.

With the last fairy off stage and handed over to their proud parent, I was finally free. I tripped out into the cold night air glad to have done a little to help, glad to be among all that innocence for a little while but shattered after all of it.

Oh, I`d love a little fairy of my own again. But not twenty nine. Just the one.

And, even though I should have run yesterday, I wasn`t too sorry that the fairies took all my energy. After all this is ballet and this is Christmas. It only happens once a year.

And it is magic.

Liffey Swim

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Liffey Swim 2012

                                                                                                                                                                    Liffey Swim 2012

Yes, I swam today. No, not in the River Liffey in Dublin. But I have to say, I often think about it when I`m gliding through the pristine waters of my local pool.

I am fascinated by the challenge of swimming through the capital`s murky river. It`s been an annual event since the 1920s, I think. Yes, I`m too lazy to google. I`ve watched that race for the past three years and it just amazes me that hundreds-I think around four hundred, actually-take on that challenge every year. There`s a separate mens and women`s race and they include teenagers we well as seasoned swimmers in their late seventies.It`s over a mile long and they`re stuck out there in the middle of the river, with nowhere to stand and just the hope that a handful of boats will come to their rescue should the need arise.

To qualify for the race, you have to undertake three recognized sea swims first. I`m way off the mark. I learned how to swim properly last year, and even at that, I can only do the breaststroke for any reasonable length of time. I can manage ten freestyle lengths before my rhythm and breathing goes AWOL. I can swim a mile-I did it regularly last year and again before Christmas but just need to do that freestyle.

Yep, a challenge. I`m not committing to a timeframe until I master the stroke.

So,back into the swim again today. Had been scared of all those January gymmers taking over the pool, but I needn`t have worried. There were only three other swimmers there when I arrived.And two of those swiftly left at the sight of me. I`d no idea I looked so bad in a swimsuit but there ya go….

Fear not. This blog is not about to morph into a swim blog though. Swimming just complements the running. Its like a massage for my running weary muscles.And it`s very handy to fall back on should injury set it. And the running definitely gives me heaps more stamina for the swimming.

So I`ll dream on about the Liffey challenge.

Forty lengths done today.That`s half a mile.

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………And not a trolley or bicycle in sight.