Monday, 24 April 2017

My First Swim for 10 Years

Every moment of the build up to swimming scared me.

From the first moment I chose the compulsory university swimming session the furthest time away I started panicking. Panicking because I had not entered a swimming pool for 10 years and had no clue if my limbs even knew what to do anymore. Not that they had been coordinated and fishlike even then. I worried that I would splash uncontrollably and ultimately sink. I would do this in front of my classmates and me a PE specialist. I worried what my body would look like in a swimming costume. The thought of anyone seeing my scars and being that exposed. So I just put it off.

But things far in the future have a habit of creeping up on me quickly. And now it’s only 2 weeks away. I didn’t own a swimming costume and my limbs had no more idea how to move in water than I did.

The first bridge to cross, and a scary one, was something to wear. Having not owned even a bikini for the beach in 10 years it scared me. It scared me that my body would be that on show. Shopping is always an ordeal and this promised to be worse. But I found something, shaved my legs and got in the car.

Which found me sitting in a swimming pool car park just before lunchtime on a Tuesday. Watching cars move in and out and having to call my friend. Just to calm me and encourage me. It found me at the reception desk bumbling over my words and the receptionist thinking I wanted to swim outdoors! Hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I know and immediately bumping into someone and having a polite conversation as I innerly squirmed.

Then I was in a very small changing room worrying that everyone in this pool would be amazing swimmers. I would be lapped and laughed at when I couldn’t even float. What if I panicked, embarrassed myself and had to be rescued by the lifeguards? I paused. Spent just a little too long organising my clothes. Willingly there to be more time before I had to get in the water. I fumbled with the lock on the locker. Wanting to rush it, but my hands not responding. The walk to the pool was the longest of my life even though the steps in were just by the door. You are exposed. I went in by myself and I felt that all eyes were on me, but honestly I doubt they were.

Once I got in the water I could look around. There were a few children taken swimming by grandparents happily bobbing about and playing with toys. A lane set out at the far side with nobody in it. I started and tried. Front crawl seemed like the place to start. With my head in the water my arms and legs seemed to know what to do. That was until I needed to breathe. The lifting of my head made me sink and I had to put my feel down. Breast stroke was next and equally as unsuccessful.

But then I remembered how as a child I had always preferred backstroke. I moved into the lane to prevent colliding with any children and began. I did my first length. And then realised I could do another. I didn’t need to stop to breathe or worry about my feet. I was conscious of my fingers propelling myself through the water. My feet hardly splashing but kicking much more strongly than I imagined. I had a rhythm. 3 kicks between each stroke. Counting carefully and breathing deeply I continued.

At one point a ten year old boy joined me in the lane. They had a quick front crawl and I was happy to let him go first and lap me. I could focus on me. As my body remembered how it was supposed to move it needed my attention. It was a conscious movement and left me little space to think of anything else. Few moments to worry of the enormity of what I was doing. I kept this up for 45 minutes. Much longer than I had imagined.

Before I knew it I was home, with the smell of chlorine still clinging and my hair dripping slightly. Clinging too was the sense of achievement. Of overcoming something that had held me with fear for so many years. The worry of incompetence mixed with fear of exposure had stopped me enjoying exercise for so long.

I tweeted and the response was phenomenal. I had tweets from people that shared this fear or those that had also overcome it. But what struck me the most were the cheerleaders. The people who I had never met, but were so proud and encouraging. So thank you, because that kept me on this river of emotional high for even longer.

Now I’m ready to tackle the university swimming session and I would encourage you to swim too. Or do that thing that you’ve been wanting to do, but fear has held you back. I have found that the trepidation before the things is so much worse than the moment you throw yourself in.

Guess what? #thisgirlcan

Kate xx

Friday, 21 April 2017

Yellow is the Colour of the Moment

Right now there's great big splashes of yellow all over the countryside. They liven up the usual green and brown crops. The oilseed rape seems to me the sunniest of the fields. Right after the last hit of yellow from daffodils, primroses and celandine the fields come into their own. Despite Spring being a time of pastels, it is yellow that I really associate with the season. 

Recently I've taken to picking up a book and finding a location to just read for an hour or so.

This weeks reading: Following On by Emma John (a memoir based on Emma's teenage obsession with the England Cricket team). A wonderfully, relatable book about how a fan follows a sports team and the foibles of cricket. She looks back and interviews players from the time, contrasting her youthful naive views with that of the players.

This week's location: Right next to this beautiful yellow field in beautiful sunshine.

This week's outfit: The comfiest tshirt under my dungarees just rolled up at the cuff for springtime sunshine.

Kate xx

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Wonderful Wednesday #56

Welcome to another of my wonderful Wednesday witterings. This week you find me relaxed. Chilled as my Grandma puts it. She really does think she's down with the kids! As I'm still at home, I have spent most of my time just pottering. Doing bits and pieces here and there. Spending time with lovely people and generally just appreciating how magnificent this place I call home is. Whether it's my lovely family and friends, the gorgeous scenery (which I fear I took for granted for years) or the spaniel one, it's been lovely in a slow way.

1. Norwich. This is another place I took for granted when I lived here. Take my day there on Thursday. t comprised of cheese scones the size of my head from an independent cafe, watching the amazing Kinks musical, Sunny Afternoon and then happening upon an LGBT protest. Not to mention the hour spent happily in the new library surround by calm and lots of books!

2. Just the best frites. Another day, another catch up meal. It seems to be the talk of these holidays. This time the most amazing frites (cos I'm so down with the french lingo) were coupled with chats about religion and love and loss and belonging. I'm astounded by the intellect of my closest friends and how important our deep chats are.

3. Blossom. The tree that sits halfway down my garden has just exploded this week. The cherry blossom was threatening it all of last week and today it sits in the sunshine a complete riot of pink, the tree bursting with blooms.

4. Just a little thank you. Just a small boy after his first cricket session ever rushing over to me to thank me, with the biggest smile on his face. Closely followed my his mum who thanked me for even letting him join and taking the time to help him. Those are the first steps on his journey and it's why I coach.

5. Training for myself. This week I have been spending time working on myself. An hour bowling on my own on a completely deserted field (until 3 teenage boys turned up and were complete idiots, but less said about the better). An hour spent improving myself for me.

6. Talented others. My friend is a pretty marvellous musician and spending Easter Sunday evening in a country pub with a cider and her acoustic/ folky tunes was lovely. She played a real mix of songs from 80s classics all the way to Taylor Swift all adapted in her style. But it was her rendition of Songbird that got me. A beautiful song, played to perfection. I wanted to weep, but you know packed pub and all...

7. Sunset walks. Rounding off a lovely bank holiday weekend with walking Ben with my brother. We went just as the sun started to dip below the horizon. I go on about sunsets a lot, but they really do bring me joy. I never get tired of how they change and are unique. Plus spending precious moments with my brother is special too.

And there we have it for another week. By the time I write next week's post I will be back in Plymouth and am highly likely to be a lot more busy, but for now I will spend the last few days here taking it easy. For more head over to the rest of the gang: SallyJoHelenMichelleSarah, CatSamEl KerriMimmiMartina , Peta, Kelly and Emma.  Let me know if you are also #wonderfulwednesday - ing and I'll add you to my list. Let me know what has made your week a little bit special by commenting or getting involved on twitter. We're such a friendly bunch, promise!

Kate xx

Friday, 14 April 2017

My First Wicket

I remember the first wicket I ever got in a boys match. The team were short, so incredibly short that both my brother and I had been called in. My brother 3 years younger than the others and me a girl. The first time a girl had ever played in the boys teams for my club. But this game could help decide the league standings and the manager wasn't going to concede for no reason.

Lingo, our manager, who I never saw out of his shorts and flip flops even in the cold evenings of junior cricket, was young. Must have been younger than I am now. But he had faith in this muddle of youngsters that we called our team. He got us on his side with a wide grin, banter and a kick about before our cricket match instead of the normal warm up.

I had been training with these boys for a few months. The club had decided that to extend the girls we would be in the nets with the boys. There was no question of whether we should be welcomed there. The boys saw as other players, but this was not true of our opposition. That evening as we arrived at our home ground the opposition were less than impressed that they would be facing a girl. In fact their chests puffed as if they knew they already had the game in the bag.

It wasn't until late into the game that I was called on to bowl. Just when the game was getting tight. When the match could have swung either way and either side could sense victory. The pressure was on. As I stood at the end of my mark I felt everyone watching me. That's the funny thing about cricket, the individual performance within a team game. The limelight being on you even though you stand on the pitch with 10 teammates.

The moment of watching myself bowl it etched in my brain even now. I can remember the batter standing ready and the long, deep breath I took before I ran in. The keeper and first slip clapping their hands together in encouragement then settling themselves into position. The ball looping through the air and the twitch of movement as the batsman made his decisions just the split second too early. Bat curved upwards and away from his body so the ball jumped into the air. The dive forwards the fielder made to clasp his hands under the ball just before it hit the ground. As he rolled to protect the precious ball from spilling I had realisation of what had happened. I had the scoring batsman out. I had the opposition out and I had won the match for my team.

Then with the elation that hit so did my teammates. Boys who I only vaguely knew. Had met only a few times in my life came running towards me with grins gripping their faces. The rain of high fives and hugs came quickly. Players running from all parts of the field to converge here. To share the celebrations between me and the catcher. And in that moment I was accepted. I became part of the team. I had proved that I could do it.

These boys became my teammates for the next 4 years and beyond. I trained with them and played games every week. I could recognise each one by the way they stood from the other side of the field such was our closeness. I grew up with them, they became my other brothers.

But then life happens. People drop out of cricket for all sorts of reasons. School work too much, real work takes priority and some lose the love for the game. I left the club for another and now I hardly speak to my former teammates. But I have a bank of wonderful memories both on and off the pitch that all started from this moment and this wicket.

Kate xx

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Wonderful Wednesday #55

Well aren't we the luckiest of duckies with the weather we are having right now? I have spent most of this week basking in the sunshine and appreciating days when I don't have to take a jacket with me. This week has been a busy one of making the most of being home. It's lovely to see so many of my gorgeous friends and family. We've packed lots in, but it's also lovely to not be on a time schedule. I'm really in the holiday vibe of relaxation. Therefore this is a bumper massive list of happy things. Some big and some tiny moments that make me happy.

1. All of the food. Oh my goodness I have had the most delicious food since being back. It seems that all social occasions involve food. I've been for some yummy meals and cake dates. Think pulled pork burgers, baked camembert, chocolate calzone and too many cakes to name.

2. The best company. This links to the above point. This week has been all about catching up with friends and family. To spend hours catching up on life. To laughing out loud over the silliest things. To reminiscing with my oldest friends. To talk over life plans and getting excited.

3. Sunshine. Long afternoons have been spent out in the sunshine this week. Whether I have been studying, chatting or playing with Ben being out in the sunshine makes me happy. My freckles are exploding and it really lifts my mood. Also it means you can sneak in cheeky beach trips!

4. Reading. I was given a late birthday present this week of The Art of Being Normal. It's been so long since I have sat down and read a book cover to cover. This was a book that I could not put down. I had tears in my eyes as I read parts of it. It's an amazing book that will make you stay up until 2am to finish it if you're not careful. Also quick shout out to libraries for being amazing places filled with stories and welcoming and free.

5. Ben. Is the cutest spaniel ever. Sorry Michelle, but I'm biased. I've been soaking up all the time I can with him recently because I miss him so much at university. He's wants attention all the time and is prepared to give so much love. Even if that does mean him sitting on you when you're reading in the garden.

6. Accomplishment. This weekend was one of DIY. My brother's new house needs a bit of work and so it was all hands on deck this weekend. My dad drummed practical skills into me at a very early age (I wasn't allowed to drive until I could change my tyre)! So now I'm very happy to get involved and use my skills. By Sunday lunchtime I had hung 2 doors and stacked 3 trailer loads of firewood and was feeling accomplished. Even better was the gentle family banter going on all day and watching my dad fall off a treadmill.

7. Piglets. Back in January my best friend had piglets. Even though they are bigger now they are still so cute and I had my first visit to them. They all have their own little personalities and when I fed them they all reacted differently.

8. Rolled up jeans. I am of course the height of fashion and by that I mean I wear exactly what feels comfortable for the weather and what I'm doing. This week has been all about rolled up jeans when it's not quite warm enough for a pair of shorts. I love my shorts but rolling up my jeans just that little bit feels like a good halfway house now that Spring has sprung. It does however mean that my Grandma keeps asking me if I have grown and need new jeans!

So that's my little list of happy this week. For more head over to the rest of the gang: SallyJoHelenMichelleSarah, CatSamEl KerriMimmiMartina , Peta, Kelly and Emma.  Let me know if you are also #wonderfulwednesday - ing and I'll add you to my list. Let me know what has made your week a little bit special.

Kate xx

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Spring Sunsets

Quarter to 8 on a Sunday evening found me pulling on my Dad's oldest, most comfy jumper over my dress and sticking my wellies on ready to chase the sunset. A peak out of my window as I was working showed me the colours of the sky changing and I just knew I needed to be outside. Down the drive and along the road armed with my camera. As I nearer the footpath that opens out into the biggest of skies, the view unhampered by buildings or trees, I broke into a jog. Keen not to miss anymore of the sky's performance.

The sky was painted in pinks and blues. The clouds rushing like brushstrokes across the sky. And I simply stood. I watched the clouds change and the dark sky behind me gradually sweep forwards. There was nobody in sight and the gentle wind billowed at my skirt. The only sounds the tweetings of the birds as they went to bed.

The stillness is important to me. I have written so many times on this blog about taking time to be quiet and still in nature. It calms me and makes me feel peaceful. My mind is calm too. My thoughts still as I concentrate on the small changes around me. Much has been written about mindfulness and I'm not sure I fully understand the concept, but this is what it is to me. Being still, watching nature and using all your senses. Being aware of the small changes around you and in this I feel calm.

This is so important to me and I must remember to make moments like these a regular part of my days.

Kate xx

Friday, 7 April 2017

Every Person's story: The folded newspaper

This is a poem written in response to a moment. A moment and a person that I saw on the tube. Every person has a story to tell and I am hoping to capture these moments in a new series of creative writing.

She held the paper clenched in her hand.
Paper folded neatly into squares
which she had unfolded and folded so many times
edges feathered and frayed.

As the newspaper opens again
I saw the face of a man widen
The article based solely on him
an obituary or maybe a profile.

But why the fascination with this mystery man?
emblazoned across the newsprint and her heart
as she tucked the square inside her jacket pocket
Checking it was safe and patting twice.

Could this man be someone she longs for?
A former lover or a long lost family member
Or someone she despises?
Someone she is looking for.

She smooths the photo over again and reads
looking for clues in the writing
and as her tube stop arrives she safely stows
ready to find the meaning from the words.

Kate xx