From London to Lincolnshire: Part One – From City Commuting to Country Cycling

Hello friends. It’s been a while. I’m going to blame it on dodgy Internet connections which meant I struggled to find a private space to write for about a year. But I’m back and ready to fill you in!

I have recently moved “home” to Lincolnshire from London and as a teacher I have kind of a luxury in that I have the six week summer break to settle in to my new place, refamiliarise myself with the way of life “up here” and generally relax before the September madness begins.

One way I decided to get acquainted with my new adopted city of Lincoln and the surrounding area was to get out on my bike to explore. I found a cycle route called the Water Railway, so called because the tracks follow what used to be a railway between Lincoln and Boston, which seems to have been finally closed around 1980 (although don’t quote me on that… I’m no expert). If you do the whole thing from Lincoln to Boston, you will cycle 31 miles – not something I think I could achieve even if I wanted to. Luckily there are many stopping points along the way and I decided to choose Bardney as mine, which is 9 miles from Lincoln, making it an 18 mile round trip (and slightly more to get back to my house which, I might add, is right at the top of the hill near the Cathedral).

I started the main route from Waterside South and it was pretty straightforward… all you have to do is follow the path. It runs alongside the River Witham and is more or less flat, perfect after navigating some of the steep streets of Lincoln to get there. Along the Water Railway there are also many places to stop and rest, as well as historical signs, some of which I read, and some of which I just cycled past as I was keen to get to my destination. However it would be good to take more time over it if you were particularly interested; there was information about each place along the path (including Washingborough, Fiskerton Fen, the Five Mile Bridge, Bardney Lock) as well as information about the old stations and ferries that would travel along the river to Boston (taking six hours each way – according to one of the signs I took the time to read).

It was a great place to see wildlife and, along the way, I saw (in no particular order): a hedgehog, a heron, some swans, cows, possibly a kestrel, some martins, dragon flies… this might not seem that special but it was to me, after cycling to work in London and not seeing anything natural (except perhaps an urban fox if you’re lucky).

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There were also several artistic sculptures and pieces along the path which I suppose are there to add interest, as it could otherwise get quite dull; after all, you are more or less cycling miles along what seems to be a straight and relatively even path. One of my favourites was some metal cows, and when I passed it on the way back, there were real cows on the opposite bank.

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One of the most interesting parts of my venture along the Water Railway was my stop in Bardney, particularly at Bardney Tearooms. I admit, I really didn’t know much about Bardney before I cycled there, but I knew I would find a cafe there to stop at. What I didn’t know was that Bardney Tearooms appears to be housed in the old station building and there are what seems to be the original station signage on the front and the old gate which would have been opened out at the level crossing. Inside, the tearooms were very quaint and had a kind of 1940s feel (possibly there was some wartime memorabilia but I might be making that up).

 

 

After stopping there for a cheeky ice cream I decided to head back to Lincoln. I found it somewhat easier on the way back as I had more of an idea of the distances involved, but I was also cycling into the wind which made it harder. Finally, when I came off the Water Railway at Waterside South, I had the ascent to the Cathedral Quarter and admittedly, there was one street where I got off and pushed (but according to the map, the gradient was more than 1 in 7, if you know what that means)!

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After being used to cycling in London alongside the traffic, it was really nice to get out into the open and cycle for a long stretch. In London I would always cycle with a high-vis jacket and helmet and I’m not going to stop doing that as I think they keep me safe, however at points I did feel a bit silly wearing it all, because you could probably get away with not doing that on the country paths. The advantage of London is that it has properly marked cycle paths and I was worried initially that it wouldn’t be as safe in Lincoln, however to my pleasant surprise, some of the busier roads had off-road cycle paths and crossings that you can cycle over when the light goes green. At Bardney Tearooms I also picked up a detailed map of Lincoln which has a key for each road according to its safety for cyclists.

So hopefully before I return to school in September, I will get another chance to try out a cycle path in Lincoln. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and I look forward to writing many more now that I have Internet 🙂

Alternatives to Online Dating: Part 2

Following my venture into Speed Dating described in Part 1, here’s another instalment in the series involving… a Cooking Class for singles.

These seem to be trendy at the moment and I’m picturing the slightly cringe Match.com advert for this kind of event, where a nerdy guy is making two prawns talk to each other and finds love from a girl who doesn’t judge him, but joins in… (isn’t he just living the dream…?)

I found the event I attended on Speeddater.co.uk and my main reason for doing it was that I love cooking and I love food, and I thought it would be a great way to meet like-minded people. Included in the event was a glass of Prosecco on arrival, the meal you cook as a group (chicken saltimbocca) and a chocolate brownie dessert cooked by the chefs. I sort of thought that if I didn’t meet anyone, at least I would get to learn a new recipe and eat a (hopefully) delicious meal. At £38 I did think it was a bit pricey (compared to Tinder for example which is free!) but when I thought about what was included: the drink, the meal, the cooking class, and the opportunity to meet other single people, I thought it was worth a try.

The event was hosted at L’atelier des Chefs near Oxford St and it was a really nice venue. I enjoyed the glass of bubbles on arrival and all the staff were really friendly. There was quite a big group of singles (about 20) but I have to admit I was disappointed to find that there were quite a few more women than men. We were split into groups for cooking, and in my group there were 3 women including myself, and 1 man. This frustrated me, as I spent a lot of time interacting with the other women, and although they were all lovely and it was fun, meeting other women is not exactly what I had come for.

The cooking class itself was run by a professional chef who was good-humoured and coped well with quite a rowdy bunch of people in his kitchen, as well as our (collective) ineptitude (e.g. not following his instructions as exactly as he had hoped). It was a good laugh and I enjoyed learning the recipe; it also revealed to me that the way someone approaches cooking can tell you a lot about their general personality. For example the woman next to me seemed very meticulous in that she chopped things very slowly and finely, and was anxious about following the recipe exactly to the letter. Some people are more laid-back and if something doesn’t quite go to plan, they just brush it off. In general, the entire group seemed to really enjoy the cooking class and it was pretty straightforward, with every group member being involved.

We dished up our own meals, following the chef’s instructions, and we had also individually prepared our own chicken breast, which we then ate ourselves. I liked this as I don’t know how comfortable I would have been eating meat prepared by someone else in the group. I know that might sound really paranoid but it just made me a lot more comfortable that I was eating my own food.

We all sat around a table to eat, men on one side, women on the other, and then we could enjoy the fruits of our labour. It was nice to get a chance to meet different people in the group, and after the main meal, the men moved along one or two spaces so that we got to meet more members of the group. However, I still felt bothered by there being more women than men and I feel like I did spend too much time talking to women rather than men, facilitated by where we had been grouped for cooking and sitting down to eat.

After the event, which finished around 9.30, we had to leave the venue but it was suggested that the group could continue their evening at the pubs nearby. I, however, decided to call it a night… I just didn’t really want to spend any more time chatting to 20 people I didn’t know, and I hadn’t met any men who I wanted to spend more time with. Overall it had been fun, but it really is hard spending a long time with people you don’t really know. Although maybe it’s easier for some people, I’m not sure.

So should you try a dating cooking class? If you like cooking and you want to meet other like-minded singles then, yes. I did enjoy it and I would be keen to do it again, were it not for the lack of a 50:50 ratio and also that towards the end, I did feel like I ran out of steam a little interacting with a large group of people. On the plus side, I did eat a delicious meal AND I got to keep my apron!

The search for love continues…

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Alternatives to Online Dating: Part 1

When my sister got married in November, I suddenly felt truly inspired in a way I never had before. Love is real, love is possible, love is something we can all find (and already have no doubt, in one way or another).

I had reached a point where even the thought of an online dating app made me angry. I just found them really boring, full of profiles that all looked the same after a while, and most of all, it felt that people didn’t even want to meet, that they would prefer to interact behind a screen, and then dispose of you when they lost interest (because it’s easier to do that with someone you haven’t actually met). After trying a number of formats over the years (Okcupid, Lovestruck, E-harmony, Happn, Tinder, Once), I joined Bumble and that really was the last straw… a totally zero date success rate, and I felt as if there were a load of unwritten rules that I wasn’t following and basically felt like a failure.

So I decided to delete all of them. Be free. But then I thought… how do I meet someone now? Is it possible to meet anyone the old-fashioned way? (What even is the old-fashioned way?!)

I did a search on singles events in my local area… surely there would be other people who had also lost faith in dating apps… surely I wasn’t the only one?

I soon found out that there was a regular Speed Dating event about 10 minutes away from where I live. The thought of speed dating made me a bit nervous (remembering a really cringe lock-and-key event I went to a couple of years ago) but I figured there would be no harm in trying it out. January – the time for new year’s resolutions. The time to try a different approach to dating.

On the night it was snowing and I thought about not turning up. But the thought of trying it out was intriguing and the fact it was only a short walk away made it easier to go along. I figured that if it was rubbish I just wouldn’t do it again.

It was a bit awkward on arrival and I shouldn’t really have been surprised about this, but most of the other women there had come with at least one friend for moral support. I hadn’t really thought much about the fact I was going alone until it was actually happening. I tried to strike up conversation at the bar with a guy who had arrived at the same time as me, but he seemed really shy and unfortunately it was like getting blood out of a stone.

Luckily, during the actual event, the conversation flowed much better. There were numbered “stations” at different tables and that was where the women sat. I chose a seat at a sofa and stayed there for the evening while the men rotated round every 4 minutes. It’s surprising how long a 4 minute conversation is and it is definitely enough time to make a judgement about whether the person you’re talking to is someone you’d like to know more about – or not, as the case may be.

In total I chatted to about 13 different people; some I was disappointed when the 4 minutes ended, others relieved… there was also a mix of people, some I fancied but the conversation just didn’t work, others I enjoyed the conversation but didn’t fancy them, and others that I did fancy and wanted to chat to more. One guy seemed panicked by the 4 minute timing and frantically asked me quick-fire questions in a crazed way… one guy kept nudging me coyly throughout the conversation, another guy told me he could decide on the 2nd date if he wanted to marry a girl, then proceeded to ask me to the name the time and place of our next date. There were however some other nice, normal guys who I got on with and could have chatted to longer.

When the speed dating finished, we were invited to stay longer and have a drink, although most people just left. I stayed and talked a bit longer with the other guests, which it was nice to do without the time pressure.

As an alternative to online dating, it definitely has potential. For a start, I met about 13 new people on one night; you instantly find out if you have chemistry, or are able to hold a face-to-face conversation (which might not always be the case if you have only ever talked  on-screen). The downside was that it did get a little boring and that the host company only gave you from 9-5 the next day to upload your score card info (whether you wanted to keep in touch or not, to find out who you matched with) and I didn’t upload my information in time (as I was at work the whole day without much of a break).

However you don’t have to rely on the score card info, you can always be brave and exchange numbers with someone you met on the night and take it from there… 😉

So… my search for true love continues… watch this space!

 

 

 

Home and Away

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Yes… I’ve borrowed the name of the Australian soap opera for this blog post, which fits nicely because I very much intended to write about my trip to Australia on my return, there are so many photos, a couple of videos, and so many experiences I could write about (and probably will, when the time is right). However, since my return I have very much enjoyed all the simple things I missed when I was away and all the things about being at home.

In the couple of weeks since I got back from an amazing trip away, I have actually enjoyed just doing normal things like sleeping in my own bed, and enjoying living in a new area of London, where I do feel a lot happier.

I have also enjoyed spending some lovely days with my family (there is a wedding to prepare for!) and some lovely catch-ups with friends. A few days ago, our family also said a sad good bye to our beloved dog Jet, who had a long, happy (and crazy!) life.

When I get a little more time to reflect, when I can give these things my full writing-attention so I feel I am doing them justice, I will write more about Australia and also I am planning to write a little tribute to Jet.

But for now, I just wanted to write this post to say that whilst I had an amazing time away, I am also happy to be home, and happy that I feel so at home in my new flatshare. I feel that I have returned with a refreshed, invigorated outlook.

Watch this space for the upcoming blog posts… possibly featuring a video of some whales 🙂

 

Rabbit in a Hole

Hello all.

I had a feeling this week. A feeling one morning that I was having a ‘Rabbit in a hole’ day.

That means — I wished that I could hide away. I didn’t want to come out. I would have preferred not to face the world. If the world was different and I didn’t have any responsibilities, maybe I would actually have crawled back under the covers and let myself be a rabbit.

However, feelings come and go. I made myself face the world. I went to work. I got on with things. Sooner or later I had forgotten all about hiding away.

So sometimes when I think about all the pressure and responsibilities, and all the things I haven’t done yet and all the things I still have to do – before I beat myself up too much, sometimes I think “Hey, you went to work today; you faced the world…” sometimes, that alone is an achievement.

There’s a first time for everything…

It seems that the last year has held a lot of ‘firsts’ for me…

  • first year of primary teaching
  • first time living alone
  • first sewing machine
  • lots of first recipe attempts as I learn how to cook…
  • first time assembling flat-pack furniture (with the help of Dad!)
  • and now… first foray into… gardening!

yes, my flat came with a garden that is a little… wild… and although I hacked down some brambles and a rose that was coming through my bathroom window when I first moved in, I hadn’t actually got stuck in to it. The wash-out rainy winter was the perfect excuse to sit back and avoid having to do anything to it… too muddy, too wet, too cold. But now that Spring is springing, the sun has appeared and is shining down on the overgrown grass and weeds. It is a state, and looks even worse next to the tamed, neat, carefully maintained lawn, complete with trickling water and windchimes of the garden next door. So, with a little help from some friends (i.e. lovely auntie), I finally did some gardening today… and now in my head I’m picturing it being ready for summer, with me sitting back and relaxing amongst the scent of the beautiful flowers (that I’m yet to plant) and sitting on the furniture (that I’m yet to purchase)… (maybe I’m getting a bit carried away)…

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Not bad for an afternoon’s work… garden after the removal of hundreds of weeds, dead sticks, brambles and bricks

So  my first venture into gardening involved painting dandelions with weedkiller (with an old paintbrush), wearing gardening gloves that were massively too big, joyfully and aggressively pulling up a huge amount of yellow flowery weeds (like buttercups), and digging up several bricks in the soil. In fact, I unearthed lots of bricks, stones, pottery, and now have a huge pile of junk, including part of a statue of an old Scottish MP – just his face – as it turns out the last tenants were Scottish and apparently liked this Labour MP guy, enough to have a statue of him in their garden (as well as a rusty bike ornament by the looks of things).

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pile of junk found in garden… and all the unearthed bricks

I’m now looking forward to more times when I can get stuck in to taming the wilderness behind my flat and to making it look lovely…I just have to learn how to be green-fingered 😉

 

Mindfulness Update for Educators and Parents

Mindfulness has become political. Never before have I been so glad to see that some of my more “hippy” beliefs actually ARE relevant for all teachers and all those who feel that their working lives are like a treadmill. Since I became aware of what “mindfulness” is a few years ago, I have tried to be more aware of living life in this way. Now MPs are discovering its benefits. I hope this really does begin to inform government policy and those who care for others suffering from stress-related illness, and those who are prone to stress-related illness i.e. students and teachers, and those who need education about mindfulness, stress and all related areas i.e. society as a whole!

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It seems a tipping point has been reached with regard to ‘mindfulness’ and it being a regular part of our national and international conversations. It’s only a few years since ‘mindfulness’ was first mentioned on television or radio, but is there anyone with any curiosity who’s still unaware of what it is and why it’s attracting so much attention?

The importance of mindfulness for a 3D Eye view of multiple intelligences is that it’s an essential component of what we call ‘personal intelligence’ – the realm of insight, knowledge and understanding of oneself. Mindfulness is to ‘personal intelligence’ what empathy is to social intelligence and what intuition is to spiritual intelligence.

The relevance of this to education should be obvious. What are we doing in schools if we’re not paying attention to young people’s developing understanding of themselves – their self-consciousness. self-esteem, self-discipline, self-awareness, self-confidence, etc? These aspects of…

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