A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the category “Gentle movement”

From Back to Front

Potential frustration: the sun was actually shining but I’ve been struggling with a real lack of energy reserves lately. A tandem ride would knock me out too much. So, what to do?

The sun kept tantalising me by stretching its rays over the patio outside the back door. It was the first time this year the sun had been high enough in the sky to reach this far. I couldn’t ignore this moment!

So I stole outside with my little gardening bag containing all my tools and began digging about in the earth. I did a little planting and some leaf collecting and, as I did so, caught the smell of the soil as it was churned up fresh in my hands, and listened to the birds, twittering loudly but largely invisibly from the hedge.

It did me the world of good.

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a daffodil peeks out into the sun

Later, a friend popped by and we had a good old catch-up. It was great. However, afterwards, I could not stop thoughts from whizzing about my head (nothing untoward, just non-stop). They seemed to be ricocheting around like balls in a pinball machine. It was starting to undo my lovely day.

I looked outside and the sky was still uncharacteristically blue. I went and sat on the front step and breathed. I listened to more birds chatting and heard the distant sound of aeroplanes. The odd person walked by, enjoying the day.

Then, feeling slightly daring, I closed my eyes. I began to concentrate more thoroughly on my breath. I started doing some yogic breathing, filling my belly, then breathing up into my chest and lifting my shoulders. Slowly, I reversed the movement, and continued. Gradually, I could feel my mind clearing, fewer thoughts were circulating. When I opened my eyes again, I felt stilled.

The feeling stayed all evening:  a sense of calm and of my body and mind having been completely refreshed. And I’d only travelled from my back door to my front door all day!

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Rain!

I walked to a puddle today. It has continued to rain or promise to rain ever since the Boxing Day floods. There has been no hope of a tandem ride – and anyway, the canal is not fit for cycling at the moment after the flooding. The skies have matched the mood round here at the moment – gloomy and despondent.

the puddle

the puddle

That’s not to say that people aren’t pulling together – they are in spades! But you just look at the amount of damage and the cost, and can’t help but wonder whether the Calder Valley will get itself back together any time soon, and when Hebden Bridge will be back to its bustling colourful self.

There are some very positive signs: the cinema is open again – upstairs only and you need to bring a blanket! A few shops have been able to open their doors and two of the flooded schools are hoping to open again this week. However, one school’s pupils are having to decamp elsewhere as their building won’t be fit for months, and there are rumours of some businesses saying they’ve had enough.

So, all you want to do is get outside in some cold bright winter sunshine. Except there hasn’t been any. Zilch!

sodden field

sodden field

Anyway, I really had to leave the house and feel some outdoor air on my face. I got my coat and my walking poles and walked to the nearby field. I got wet. I got blown on – and it felt pretty good. Even if I was looking at a puddle. But I wasn’t looking at raging flood water coming down the hillside and the sodden view summed up these holidays rather well!

Taking the Air

I was feeling sorry for myself. I was exhausted and had gone straight back to bed after a very brief early morning appointment. My legs were refusing to take me anywhere. I was forced to lie down and rest, and rest, and rest. Sooo dull, with little sign of any positive effect. And the skies were grey – again.

There was something of an explanation for this. I had spent a good deal of time the previous day in the garden, weeding, cutting back branches and uncovering walls that had become clogged up with moss. It had been lovely and very rewarding – much more of the garden was now visible again.

I suppose this was the down after the high, but it was no fun.

Eventually, I had a brainwave: to force myself outside with a cup of tea and a book. If I could pull myself up some of the steps in the garden, I wouldn’t need to go anywhere else all afternoon. I didn’t even need to read, just have a change of scene.

reaching my garden perch!

reaching my garden perch!

The minute I got outside, I knew I had made the right decision. I made it up to a seat a little way up our unhelpfully steep garden, now knowing that it would definitely be worthwhile.

I sat down and breathed in the air. It was so much lighter and fresher than inside. I could feel it spreading through my head, clearing it, refreshing it. It was remarkable. So simple, so effective; literally, a breath of fresh air!

I sat drinking my mug of tea, watching the birds flitting about, never stopping, hopping from hedge, to branch, to feeder, then off into the next garden.

Later, when I looked up from my book, I caught a squirrel watching me from a fence post. He didn’t move. We stared at each other, motionless.

being outstared!

being outstared!

I haven’t decided if I like this squirrel – he is very cute and his agility is amazing. But he is quite partial to the bird food which we put out for … the birds! Not squirrels!

EMpowerment

You may remember that last year I took part in a cycle event round Anglesey, organised by a charity called EMpowered people. One of the things they do in order to help people with disabilities to cycle is to arrange Taster Days where you can come along and try out different types of bike and see which is most suitable.

One of these days took place locally at the weekend and I got myself along. Unfortunately, Pete’s (other) knee has been playing up so I went on my own and without the tandem.

spoilt for choice!

spoilt for choice!

It was great to see Simon, who set up the charity, and some of the volunteers who had come along with a couple of vanloads of bikes, as well as some possible new recruits for the next Anglesey trip in May.

There were hand cycles, trikes and even a four-person bike, as well as a bicycle for two where you sat side by side (a bit like a pedalo!). It was also explained to me that one of the hand cycles could be partially dismantled and reattached to another bike so that power and support could be supplied by a second rider. There was some very good kit on display, as well as some lovely helpful people to assist.

... and more!

… and more!

If anyone found a particular bike suitable, they could take it for a turn in the park then out for a little tootle, supported by someone from EMpowered People. Some people simply used an electric bike, or had toe clips fitted to stop their feet from falling off the pedal – that is distinctly a problem I have without a clip.

I spent most of the time chatting! I caught up with people I’d met on last year’s trip and a local chap who is aiming to come this year, having recently obtained a hand cycle through the charity. Look forward to seeing you there, Chris! He loves the bike but is very aware of the extra effort to pedal using his arm muscles rather than his legs.

I had a go on Chris’s bike and struggled even to steer it! I didn’t get chance to appreciate the extra effort needed as I could barely control it. Fortunately for all concerned, I was tightly supervised and, indeed, barely actually steered it since I would have cashed it several times if Richard hadn’t simply moved the steering column for me! There is clearly a knack to riding such a bike, something akin to learning to drive a car using hand controls.

side-by-side cycling

side-by-side cycling

I decided that it was much simpler to sit on the back of the tandem and let Pete and the electric motor do all the hard work! Though, I hasten to add, my legs do go round and round and provide me with quite enough exercise anyway!

It was lovely to be in touch with everyone involved in the charity again and it sounds like there will be at least double the number of EMpowered riders in Anglesey this time. In fact, we are completely taking over the hotel! I can’t wait … I may even have to do some training!

Bright Skies

What a beautiful end to November! We had experienced three solid days of fog and I was beginning to despair of ever seeing the sun again. Then Sunday dawned: the mist had lifted and the sky was clear blue. Even better, I was off to archery!

It was wonderful to be outdoors. I was even too warm in my carefully put on layers as I sat, putting my bow together, bathed in sunshine.

archery under blue November skies

archery under blue November skies

It is exactly a year since I completed the beginners course and decided to become a member of the archery club. I’m so glad I did. It’s such a friendly place and provides a wonderful setting to spend some time outside.

and surrounded by woodland

… and surrounded by woodland

It was quite odd to see the new members setting up on the field, having just completed the course themselves, and thinking that that was me a year ago. I’m not sure I’ve improved greatly in that time, but that wasn’t ever the main aim. Others certainly have improved, and I’m sure the new people will too. But I’m mainly enjoying mixing with new people, learning something new, and not dwelling on what I used to do.

my archery chair

my archery chair

I’m very pleased to say that I’ve been able to go to archery for three weeks on the trot – I think it’s January since I last managed that! That is definitely the up-side to having had a quieter life recently.

However, I’ve been quite disappointed with my form week on week – instead of improving, I’ve got steadily worse! Experienced members have been really supportive, though. I think it’s a known ‘thing’ that people put pressure on themselves and so get worse (apparently!). They also reassure me that the important thing is to enjoy coming. That it so true … though I’m going to try a heavier bow next time just to see if that helps!

a perfect sunset to end the day

a perfect sunset to end the day

I have started to notice that I’m less wowed by the feeling of happy fresh air tiredness that I get from archery or tandeming or gardening. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really appreciate it, but it doesn’t take me by surprise as much as it did initially, when it stirred a memory from some time before. Now, it is something that I experience relatively frequently and it feels more of a continuation of the outdoor part of my life, which had had a blip in it for a while.

Swings and Roundabouts

I’ve been swimming again, and it was so lovely. I find it very relaxing to gently make my way up the pool, rest, then gently make my way back down again.

I found myself trying to work out how long it was since I’d last been swimming … how long since I last felt that I had the spare energy to go swimming. It was definitely before my last fatigue-filled relapse in February, and could well have been some time before that as I’d not been on great form for a while.

Anyway, it made me feel doubly pleased to be in the water again as it meant that I was still on an upward direction from that time, I was still improving, and hopefully this energy level was going to remain for a while.

I felt on a high all day and couldn’t wait to go again, though I was waiting for the inevitable collapse the next day … which didn’t really happen! Granted, my legs were reluctant to do much for the rest of the day I did go swimming but I didn’t expect them to and I was just buzzing inside anyway so it didn’t matter!

I think that my body is having a bit of a chance to get its act together because it’s had more time to concentrate on doing that recently instead of holding me together through various significant events that I’ve had this year.

It really has been quite a year – full of fab things! It was such a pain that the severe fatigue relapse kicked in just before it all began.IMG_9323

First, there was my parents’ Golden Wedding celebration in March, which was a wonderful opportunity to chat to people I’d not seen in ages, and to enjoy seeing my parents having the chance to share their day with so many people they’d known for so long.

My sister came over from New Zealand to be part of the celebration, and she stayed with me for a few days too. It was great to catch up. I think that we also both appreciated being around someone else who was in a similar position to the other; we didn’t need to explain, our MS is reasonably similar for each of us. I could take her around my town at my pace which was perfect for both of us. (It actually took us three days to do justice to the shops and, in particular, the cafes!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A couple of months later, our eldest turned 18. Another lovely occasion, as well as a bit scary!

Then in the autumn it was our turn, with our Silver Wedding and a trip to Scotland in early September and a party at home at the end of the month.

In between, I took part in a tour of Anglesey on our tandem, when I was still feeling somewhat below par, and enjoyed a trip to Scarborough, again using the tandem.

So, it’s no wonder my body hasn’t had the strength to take me swimming as well! It’s taken a quieter few weeks, with no big events to plan on the horizon, to give my body the time to rest.

Even though on the outside it doesn’t look like I’ve had to plan much – just turn up in a suitable dress with my family, consider presents appropriate to mark these significant events, invite friends to our party to celebrate with us  – behind the scenes, I’ve had to do some serious micro planning, especially to manage my energy levels.

Arisaig, Sotland

Arisaig, Sotland

The fact that I’ve had to think so much about these events in advance, and the difference that I’m now beginning to experience now they are over, just goes to show how much nervous energy was taken up with planning anything vaguely significant.

As I say, it’s been a fab year, and I seem to have got safely the other side of the extreme fatigue relapse. It feels like an exchange I can live with to have had all these great events which I was able to fully enjoy, but to have had less energy for swimming, archery, canoing or as much tandem riding as I would have liked. At least, it does now that, as life has quietened down, it looks like I’ll have more energy for some of these activities again – remembering as ever the MS mantra of pacing, pacing, pacing!

my anniversary roses

my anniversary roses

Lighting up November

We had a lovely shared Bonfire Night on the terrace at the weekend. It’s the perfect way to coax me outside after dark once the clocks go back. As soon as the nights grow longer I don’t want to leave the house. I just want to snuggle inside, keeping warm.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I’m always glad that Bonfire Night comes along when it does. It reminds me that the dark is not an encroaching blanket but is vast and open, especially when lit up by fireworks; and that you can enjoy a winter evening as much as a summer evening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year, there was a well-stocked bonfire with neighbourly contributions but we had to admire it on the move somewhat as the wind changed direction every few minutes, so we had to keep moving pretty sharpish too. All good fun! Gradually we settled to a comfortable distance and could enjoy the flames lighting up the sky.  We still managed to let off a good variety of fireworks, from the soft and gentle to the very loud; and mulled wine kept us warm.

keeping watch

keeping watch

Then, with our ears reverberating with bangs and our clothes full of wood smoke, we all retreated indoors, to continue our evening with chilli, parkin and pear cake – yum!

 

Step by Step

garden steps

garden steps

Our garden is completely wrong for someone with MS – it is full of steps. Some days I look at those steps and know that they are a climb too far.

The situation hasn’t been helped by the garden growing increasingly wild over the last two years as neither Pete nor I have been able to manage it. Then it started to feel like a really big task, so it became even more unattractive. However, this summer we’ve been at home more than usual and the weather’s been pretty kind, so we’ve been tempted to tackle the undergrowth.

I found myself tending the steps. It was partly a necessity: unless I could clear them I couldn’t climb them. They are made from railway sleepers with grass between them, and there’s a hedge to the side of the main flight. The sleepers were covered in moss, the grass was overgrown and you had to fight the hedge to walk past it.

my first success

my first success

I sat down on the sleepers and began to attack the growth. It was very soothing. As I worked, I could hear birds singing in the hedge, and could smell the earth as I pulled up the weeds. Though I’d brought gardening gloves, I discarded them in order to enjoy the feel of the dirt between my fingers.

Once one step was cleared I could climb to the next and repeat the process. Sometimes I was watched by our curious rabbit, not sure about someone encroaching on her territory.

Time passed without me noticing. That first day, I found that I’d been outside all afternoon and it felt wonderful! I’d had oodles of fresh air and had been doing something useful and satisfying. When I looked up at the steps I was amazed at the difference – the steps were actually visible once more, and it was lovely to see the railway sleepers, fixed with much effort by Pete, back in all their glory.

I was now hooked. I headed up the steps when time and energy permitted, cutting and scraping away at the layers of growth, getting gradually higher. Around me, Pete fought back pernicious brambles, so that shrubs that I’d planted several years ago, reappeared suddenly as mature plants that looked like they belonged there.

being watched

being watched

Being fully involved in the uncovering of our garden has given me extra energy. I’ve not thought about not being able to climb the steps. I’ve just done it because the desire to be in the garden has been strong enough to get me up there.

I struggle severely getting down the steps again – I have to take care not to fall. Clearly I am exerting myself, despite thinking that I’m just pottering with my hands. I do squat on my haunches and tug at stubborn clumps of grass, and I can feel my stomach muscles working as I use the secateurs. It must all add up. That my legs are complaining and I collapse exhausted on to the settee show that I’m doing some exercise.

a step too far ... for next year

a step too far … for next year

I’ve also noticed something else – when I have a break from yoga over the summer or at Christmas my body usually stiffens and aches so that I’m forced to do some exercises at home. However, this summer that didn’t happen. Maybe steps aren’t so bad for someone with MS!

Gannets Galore!

Bempton Cliffs

Bempton Cliffs

Pete and I always enjoy a spot of bird watching and, whilst on holiday in Scarborough, we had a day out down the coast at Bempton Cliffs, an RSPB reserve. We hoped to see some gannets, having been impressed by the beauty and size of the odd ones we’d spotted on past Scottish holidays.

The reserve was tucked away down an ever-narrowing country lane, surrounded by wide green fields. Once at the site, from the car park we followed a pleasant path which headed towards the sea. The first part of the path was amply wide enough for a wheelchair and, although made of a gravelly surface, it was fine for being pushed.

immature gannets

immature gannets

Suddenly we found ourselves at the land’s edge, confronted by the most amazingly dramatic cliffs! (There was a wooden fence which protected you, without getting in the way of the views.) There was a cacophony of noise and we started to focus on the masses of birds wheeling about, circling over the sea then turning back to the cliffs where hundreds of them were perched precariously on rocky ledges: we had found the gannets!

gannet landing!

gannet landing!

There were more than we could possibly have hoped to see and we just stood (or sat!) for some time, simply enjoying the amazing spectacle. It was incredible to see that so many gannets came to this one spot to nest, that these sheer cliffs were exactly what they wanted.

gannets with young

gannets with young

An RSPB man was at the viewing area and had his high-powered binoculars trained on the cliffs. We were able to look through and saw kittiwakes nesting on a very small ledge. As we grew more used to the swirl of birds we could distinguish the black wing tips of kittiwakes amongst the many gannets.

We decided to go further along the cliff path as there was another viewing platform not far away. The path became a little more ‘interesting’ for the wheelchair. The gravelled part of the path was more of a groove with higher grassy sides. It required either the wheelchair user or its pusher to have strong muscles. Fortunately Pete was able to cope!

narrow path

narrow path …

It was a lovely path so I’m glad we were able to manage. It followed right along the cliff edge, with hedgerows to one side and blue sky above, which grew to a summery haze as it headed out to sea.

with beautiful views

with beautiful views

The view was worth the effort too. We could see back along the cliffs which curved in and out along the coastline, and were able to look down on to a large ledge where gannets were nesting. They flew back and forth, and we were able to see younger ones, with black plumage, as well as adult gannets, sitting by their nests.

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Over the front edge of the cliff we seemed to be right above the gannets and were able to look straight down on them, tracking individual birds as they wove their way around on the air currents.

looking south

looking south

We knew that it was too late in the season for puffins (they are gone by the end of July) but we did hear that odd ones were still about. We looked more closely and, way down below us, we suddenly noticed that some of these birds genuinely were smaller, not just further away, and were doing a suspiciously puffin-like furious flapping! That was a lovely added bonus.

We found a bench where we could munch our sandwiches, and were in no hurry to move. The day was surprisingly restful. There weren’t many people about, the sun shone over a stunning coastline, and it was very relaxing to sit and simply let your eye follow the flight of the birds.

Getting My Hands Dirty

Last night, I lay on the settee, utterly exhausted, my legs lying useless in front of me. However, I felt totally content: I had spent the weekend gardening. Obviously, I hadn’t been ‘gardening’ to the extent that most people mean by the term but it had sure jiggered me probably more than it does most people – and I’ll bet I got at least as much pleasure out of it!

I love geraniums!

I love geraniums!

This summer, Pete and I have been around more than usual for one reason or another and we have turned our eye to the garden, or the jungle that it had rather become. We were lucky to have more time at the same time that there has been less rain (unlike two years ago when it never stopped) and Pete’s Knee wasn’t playing up (unlike much of last summer).

more geraniums

more geraniums

So, armed with new tools, we have been able to fight back the brambles, grass and next-door’s ever-encroaching hedge, and parts of the garden that I’ve not seen for three summers have now reappeared! It’s been marvellous, and we’ve even had sun to enjoy it with.

I content myself with smaller amounts of clipping but have many bramble scratches to attest to my efforts! I’ve also been eyeing up a space close to the back door that has now appeared thanks to Pete’s major attack on a particularly virulent section of hedge.

This weekend I had the chance to go to the garden centre with a friend and I went armed with a list and plans for the new corner! It was lovely to be able to buy some plants again and work out what would work where. (I have learnt through trial and much error over the years but am very much still learning!) Once home, I set out my wares on the garden table.

my purchases

my purchases

Then I sat for a while in the lovely shade, deciding whether I could brave the sun and do some digging. Eventually, I broke cover and managed to dig one hole and plant one plant before retreating, beaten by the heat. I did manage to find a home for the owl I’d not been able to resist though!

garden owl

garden owl

On day two, I was in the garden before the sun and made the most of the actually rather fresh and breezy (and rather pleasant) day, and got all the other plants bedded in before allowing myself to take any notice of my body’s loud complaints. When I did sit down on the garden chair I couldn’t move from it for a considerable time. It didn’t matter though, as I had no desire to do so: I had a cup of tea in my hand and was in a good position to appreciate the extra splashes of colour that had appeared.

Verbena and Diascia

Verbena

Veronica

Veronica

Later, having shuffled inside to the settee, I watched the conclusion of the Tour de France. Since all those riders had made the effort to cycle round Yorkshire, I thought I’d make the effort to watch them on the television as they continued their Tour in France. It was crazy to keep on thinking, after one week, after two weeks, after three weeks, that these were the same riders who had cycled down our local roads – and were still cycling in the same race! Madmen! It was good to see Vincenzo Nibali on the winner’s rostrum, having first won the yellow jersey at the end of the day on which we saw him (I use the word ‘saw’ very loosely!).

As a bonus, when I woke up this morning I discovered that it had rained in the night so I reckon I don’t need to water my new lovelies today … possibly! Which is fortunate as my legs are still refusing to play ball. Now that’s not allowed – I’m much less keen on another day of immobility! I’ll just have to take another cup of tea outside and remind myself that it will be worth it: this will pass and the flowers will stay.

Diascia

Diascia

I Can Stand the Rain

I have been sitting in a field again and it was great! I was actually there to do some archery but that seemed a secondary consideration to being outside … for a whole afternoon!

I hadn’t planned on staying for long, especially as I wasn’t sure I’d still be able to remember what to do! I thought I’d be able to just shoot a few arrows and watch everyone else while I supped my flask of coffee. But, no, a score sheet was thrust into my hand and suddenly I was doing maths again and trying to do some consistent shooting. Let’s just say the results were a bit mixed.

It rained too which was also lovely – honestly! It was a very fine drizzle but it just seemed to wake me up and it also underlined that I really wasn’t sitting inside for the first time in a while!

Okay, I’ll admit that we did all have to retreat into the club hut for a while but that provided an opportunity for a chat about the Tour of Anglesey. Funnily enough, two members of the archery club are also coming along on the Tour, as essential refreshment providers. I learnt some useful information about how more opportunities for shortcuts have been incorporated into the route. I think I’ll be availing myself of those (as well as the refreshments!). I’m getting excited about it now, especially as my energy levels are rising all the time (thankfully!).IMG_1024

As I left the archery field, I paused to appreciate the allotment on the other side of the path. I particularly like that there’s plenty of appropriate seating!

Stretching Myself

One of the best pieces of advice I received around the time of my diagnosis was to try out yoga. I decided to give it a go, found a class and turned up one day, a little nervously. I was slightly intimidated by everyone else who seemed to know what they were doing and effortlessly moved their bodies into a myriad of intriguingly named positions (eagle, sphinx, triangle …). I was not sure that I would be able to do any of that!

Several years later, I still attend Caroline’s class regularly. Her soothing voice and relaxing manner are a part of my life. I have moved with her from Methodist hall to Anglican Church hall, to fitness gym to an actual yoga centre, but, through it all, the movements and sense of calm (apart from the dance music thumping through the floor at the gym!) have remained constant.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I have actually improved over the years! I started very cautiously, missing out postures that looked too ambitious or where I needed to rest and regroup, but I gradually found that my strength and stamina were improving and my fatigue was reducing. (My balance isn’t all it was these days and the wall is a useful friend, but my body remains much more supple.)

I also find that yoga chimes in with the advice given about exercise and MS: to listen to your body, to do what exercise feels right for you, to go at your own pace. The best bit is that there are regular inbuilt rests – I love curling up into child’s pose! The weekly practice builds up gently, then before you know it you are standing firm in warrior posture or upside down in dog. It all feels perfectly balanced too: an even numbers of stretches and twists on each side of the body, and equal concentration on forward and back bends. I lie down for the relaxation at the end of a class feeling thoroughly stretched in all manner of ways and very glad not to move for a while!
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I have recently discovered, however, that yoga has not just become an enjoyable part of my life but an essential part of my life! After observing how my body stiffens and complains after a few weeks away from the class over summer or at Christmas, I have realised that a few (gentle!) stretching exercises have to be incorporated into my life at regular intervals.

Yoga has kept me sane(ish) during this most recent envelopment in a cloud of exhaustion. Although I’ve not been able to go out on the tandem or keep up with my swimming, I have been able to straighten my legs into the air whilst lying on the bedroom floor and breathe gently. Which reminds me, must dash! (Or move with awareness down to the ground!)

When the Wind Blows

Fresh air has been in short supply recently. This has been caused by a combination of exhaustion, rain, a recurrence of Pete’s Knee and more rain.

The tandem is sitting forlornly under its covering and the archery field is probably a quagmire (I admit, I’ve not been able to get near it in the last couple of weeks). The nearest I get to nature is peering anxiously over my imperceptibly growing spring bulbs.

hopeful signs of spring

hopeful signs of spring

So, any dose of fresh air has consisted of the few yards from house to car on the way to work or, more acceptably, to meet up with a friend in a cafe. Mind you, today those few yards were quite exciting enough! The gusts of wind and slaps of rain were definitely refreshing!

At least the wild weather has coincided with a bout of enforced rest. Not that you really care when you’re too tired to move; when the walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea is a walk too far and the top of the stairs feels like the top of a mountain.

The trickier bit I find, though, is when you’re starting to feel that little bit better, and you start being tempted to do some mild activity. My downfall was to think that baking some buns was a good idea. It wasn’t. Back to bed!

the hibernating tandem

the hibernating tandem

So I am watching the rain batter the windows whilst sitting safely behind them, and listening to the wind howl round the house whilst pulling my cosy cardigan round me and huddling up close to the fire. I do not wish to be walking on the moors, no not at all.

Fingers of Ice

I’ve actually been having withdrawal symptoms from not going to archery over the Christmas period! So, when the day dawned bright and clear I leapt (slight exaggeration) into life.

However, when I had to scrape the ice off the car windscreen I started to have slight doubts about how cold I’d get. I shook them away and drove to the archery field. I had further second thoughts when I struggled to screw my bow together because my fingers were already reluctant to work. But, I had got there and now my equipment was ready, so it would have been feeble to turn straight back. And the field did look rather beautiful with its covering of sparkling frost.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I agreed to take part in a short round of two dozen arrows at thirty yards and two dozen at twenty, thinking that would be fairly quick. Well, that thinking turned out to be wrong! Although the ends were quite speedy, I hadn’t factored in the loss of arrows by all shooters. I don’t know if more went astray due to the cold (and freezing fingers) but those that did skidded madly across the frozen grass and (so I am informed!) were very hard to find.  There were plenty of people shooting at eighty and a hundred yards too and they had a particularly large radius to search.

So, there was more stamping of feet and desperate warming up of hands than I had been counting on. It was bitingly cold and the bright sun faded very disappointingly. As someone said, it was a lovely day for a walk … less so for archery.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All around us, people packed up as quickly as they could, hauling targets away very smartly. The field was suddenly hugely depleted. However, at our target, the two of us who remained were determined to finish. It became a race against the cold. Would my fingers seize up completely? Would my brain, eye and hand coordinate sufficiently to be able to shoot? Could I add up my score? Did I care?!

Once finished, I scuttled off as fast as I could, with hurried goodbyes to those even hardier souls still remaining. I have a vague recollection of a mediocre score but that doesn’t really matter. I am far more proud of the fact that I actually managed to complete my round and provide a score! I did get frozen to the bone in the process but felt amazingly awake when I got home.

I persuaded Pete that a fire during the day was justified and spent the afternoon curled up in front of it thawing out, and felt suddenly rather exhausted!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Things Are Starting To Add Up

archers by the river

archers by the river

Archery involves maths! Who knew?! There I was, sitting quietly and waiting for my arrows to be returned to me, when I was handed a score card. Then the scores were shouted down the field to me and I had to insert them into the relevant sections. No problem – but each set of half dozen scores has to be added up, then each total has to be added to the next half dozen total and so on until you get an overall score for a set of three dozen arrows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, I’m quite happy to do a little bit of mental maths … but I was less so after having been shooting for half an hour or so already. I suddenly realised how hard it is to combine physical activity with mental activity when messages aren’t getting about the body as efficiently as they might. However, I wasn’t going to admit this (!), so I took a deep breath and forced my brain into action!

Actually, having a scorecard and a score to aim for – my first badge was at stake! – made it a whole lot more fun and I am way too pleased to report that I earned that badge! I think the last time I was awarded a badge, I was in the Brownies!

my first badge

my first badge

No sooner had I reached this goal, than I was set another one … shooting from thirty yards rather than from twenty as I had been doing. Boy, is that a whole lot further! You can see the arrow quivering through the air as it decides where to land. You shoot from the further distance, then bring the target closer, and shoot again from twenty yards – which suddenly seems reassuringly close!

There are other targets scattered about the field, and I asked how far away they were – up to eighty or a hundred yards! Well, I shall just ignore those for now!

I realise that my posts have been predominately about archery recently, but we are hoping to get out on the tandem over the Christmas holiday period. In the meantime, archery is a brilliant excuse to sit in a field for a couple of hours without anyone thinking you are odd!

the packhorse bridge which leads to adventures

packhorse bridge leading to archery field

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