Fitness Ow

I’ve been a little lacksadaisical about exercising regularly in lockdown, and so this week has seen a concerted effort to at the very least get my step count back up by going on walks round the block – about thirty-forty minutes depending on pace – with Lady M.

View over the M3 motorway

Today my body has decided to register its protest by twinging at the base of my spine across my hips; so I am currently sitting carefully, reading and writing while I let a hot water bottle ease the spasmed muscles. Later, I shall slowly shuffle to the shops to get some painkillers, and a few minor groceries – and count that as today’s exercise.

Back to the walking tomorrow when everything is a bit more sensible. A pity really, because it looks really nice out there at the moment. On the plus side, I’ve been getting some nice snaps on the phone as I’ve been walking about – so that’s another reason to keep doing it as there really are some hidden gems locally.

Whether it’s local plantlife, or views across the horizon, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re right on the edge of London, just where the countryside starts to open up into parklands,woods, and farming but still also relatively urban. It makes finding signs of spring both easy, but also easy to overlook because it rarely takes the form of woodland clearings covered in snowdrops and daffodils. Instead there is blossom on trees and bushes, thick verdant foliage, and the sound of birdsong – all of which do surprisingly well at pushing out past concrete and asphalt – albeit sometimes quite discretely.

Right, I can feel my muscles easing – so I shall change to go out, and try not to look like my spine is fused.

Spring is coming

It might be hard to believe, with snow and Siberian winds thrashing large parts of the country, but I’m quietly positive the season is changing.

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We decided to go walkabout today, resisting the urge to hide under the duvet. We’ve not been to Bushy Park for a while, so it seemed as good a time as any.

Bundling ourselves up against the biting wind coming across from the Thames then, we went in from a slightly different angle than usual, so we didn’t get caught up in the hordes of visitors we saw off in the distance.

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It was a great contrast to the rushed and crowded week we’ve otherwise dealt with. We were half expecting a wilderness even in the more formal parts in the garden, but instead were pleasantly surprised to find buds on the trees beginning to blossom, and spring bulbs starting to explode with colour.

So, come on Spring, you’re nearly here!

Registrars and Bridesmaids

Well, we’re getting into tying up loose ends now. This last week or so has seen the chasing of Registrars to see that they were okay with the chosen readings and music. I suppose I should explain: here in the UK, if you are having a civil ceremony, you are not permitted to choose religious music or readings of any stripe or denomination. Personally I think this is a bit of a shame as some of the most amazingly uplifting and poetic language can be found in religious texts and in music and song inspired from the same sources – in particular when you start to look at classical music or arrangements for church organs (and that’s just in the Christian tradition). Whether you profess faith in any higher power, are agnostic or are of firm rationalistic conviction, it doesn’t subtract from the beauty of those pieces. I can however, understand the rationale behind deciding that a non-religious ceremony should have no religious decoration. I just don’t agree with it.

Having chosen our two readings and decided on our musical accompaniment, we bundled them off to the Registrars and to the venue for vetting and duly got a thumbs up from the venue and deathly silence from the Registrars.

(A note here for US readers: Here in the UK you don’t apply for a license in advance of your wedding ceremony. You have to have a Registrar present at the ceremony for the signing of the legal documentation. Parish priests are also Registrars, and have to submit the Parish Registry as a regular return, which is why (at least in the Church of England), you don’t have a collection of officials there hovering at the side of the priest while the paperwork gets done.)

With the cutoff date for letting the Registrars know about these details therefore, a small degree of trepidation was felt (at least by t’other half) that we hadn’t heard anything – so in the end I did some chasing and – after some confusions with wrong numbers and callbacks – had a confirmation from them that all was well. They just had a policy of only contacting people if something was wrong or objectionable – and seemed somewhat surprised that this might cause concern.

The bridesmaids in the shop, side by side in teal and ivory
Here Comes Trouble

On a more entertaining note, my daughter and niece had their final-final-final fittings for their bridesmaid dresses and they are looking gorgeous. The simple elegance of the design and the bold, rather than brassy, colours mean that they are going to make quite an entrance on the day.

Seeing the pair of them positively glow and come out of their shells has been wonderful for all of us as parents as this is the first time  they’ve done anything like this and there was, to be fair, a certain degree of trepidation about whether they would be comfortable in a strapless dress. Finding a design that flattered without putting anything on display (these are, after all, twelve year old girls) was absolutely essential; I can only applaud Jo for her choice here as I have to admit that before seeing the dresses I was extremely cautious. I’m chalking that up to being a protective dad and wanting to be sure that neither of the girls were put in a position that they weren’t comfortable with. I know that my brother and his wife were also a little unsure until they saw them too – and when we saw them side by side it was definitely one of those shared ‘my daughter is growing up’ moments.

A chilly day in Staines, A Wedding Dress in a bag
The Dress! In A Bag!

Oh, and in the same trip, the bride’s dress needed some work doing on its beading, which necessitated it being taken in to the Bridal shop in its bag – and my being banished to the warm embrace of Waterstones to browse and lose myself in the printed word.

Watching Jo wander through the crowded Saturday shoppers, knocking aside anyone who got near with the sheer planetary mass of The Dress was a joy to watch. Listening to the grumbles under her breath as she bore down on clusters of hapless pedestrians like a valkyrie locked on to a fallen hero was a lesson in restrained invective that left a trail of devastation swirling in her wake…

A Girl and Her Dress
Still, she seems to be looking forward to the big event...

I’m not quite sure what the good folk of Staines made of it all, but it was certainly fun to watch the crowds part in the street market, and the occasional double-take from women suddenly clocking what it was that was being rushed through, raising smiles that I suspect went entirely unnoticed by the bride-to-be

Tides, Family and Forests

We’ve had grey days and sunny days and everything in between really – but it’s been a very relaxing break and now the joys of settling back into some kind of routine are upon us. Having dusted off the spiders that have recolonised the window sills and the balcony, and disposed of unexpected mould colonies in an unattended glass of water the household is returning to its usual semi-shambolic natural state where the unready are startled and the unwary easily tickled.

I’ve even been able to catch up on writing up some of my scribbles, revise my plot for the main story and start a number of short stories that I’ll start posting here I think – if only as somewhere to flesh out characters and locations that I may return to in the wider writing, and, well, who knows where else they may lead.

The short story for Critical Miss should be published soon – and I’ll post links to it as appropriate when that happens. In the meantime, here’s a short piece I did for a competition earlier in the year that sank without a trace:

A Shaggy Fire-Breathing Demonic Chicken Story

If the answer to your question is: “a fire-breathing demonic chicken”, then you may want to ask a different question.

The words were emblazoned over the door of Professor Tarry’s study in a complex curling script that almost made the viewer’s eyes water. Roberta often found her questing fingers brushing their outline while scrubbing the ancient oak timbers clean of various unnamed, slightly scorched and thankfully unidentifiable substances every other week.

Quite why the surface of the door got covered in bizarre and frankly disturbing substances and objects on such a regular basis was something of a mystery that she usually ignored. This was largely down to how easily the things tended to scrub away, the dire warnings muttered by the feral cats in the eaves of the building, and the regular payment of a handful of fresh gold coins each time.

Roberta was nothing if not dutifully pragmatic where money was involved in the equation.

On this occasion, the summons had been curtly delivered by Tom, the stable boy:

“Hurry up and get your bucket – looks like the old fool’s exploded a paint-dipped squid this time.” She rather doubted that was what had actually happened – even if some of the stringy coils hanging from the lintel of the door had looked like they were trying to wave to her when she arrived.

She’d asked, almost despite herself, what had happened, but the grizzled wizard merely pointed to the words above his door.

Well, it made me smile – and it may get reworked into something else down the line – but given the 200 word limit it was worth a go…

Oh – and the forests part of this post’s title? Well we had a wonderful trip up to Grizedale Forest while we were away – and took lots of photos, some of which I’ve been turning into little oddities like the picture below – I’ll post some of the more general and unedited shots later as its one of those walks that has sculptures and oddness round all sorts of corners, twists and curves in the path…

A tree's genius loci
Genius Loci

A bit of a Yo-yo week

…and not just emotionally but physically too – with my partner losing her voice and getting a chest infection – working from home and sounding like a hoarse Minnie Mouse; and then the zip up to Middlesborough and back Tuesday night/yesterday afternoon for the funeral – in which we seemed to hit every diversion and roadwork possible along with several cloudbursts and inclement weather fronts – and then tomorrow evening up to Royston for my brother’s wedding – so we’re all feeling a little punch-drunk at the moment.

On the plus side – its a wedding and we always manage to make them a damn good knees-up so I’m really looking forward to it. I mean, this is the wedding of a man who let us dress him up like this:

The Meganick
You should see him after a couple of pints

Well that was a Stag Night and a half…

My legs ache; I still have spasming muscles in my left calf; blistered feet and a worryingly detailed set of twittered updates through #meganick and #stagnight are reminding me that saturday (yes, most of it) saw the London-based stretch of my youngest brother’s stag night extravaganza.

We dressed him up as a dinosaur/dragon, wore LARPing costumes and beat him up with plastic swords through most of the streets and pubs between Waterloo and Tower Hill.

The author and the meganick in costume on a back street
A Quiet Moment Before The Carnage

We had a good turnout, and no major casualties – the sun even shone for us, which considering how grim the days before had been for rainfall was something of a relief. The police had been consulted before-hand and it was rather strange to be told that we had written permission from the Sherrifs of London and had a copy on hand just in case.

I suspect that our walk along the South Bank, inviting tourists to slay the dragon – and offering them our swords to do it with – wasn’t quite what they had in mind; but there were several small children who took great delight in taking a swing at the (by now really quite drunk) “dragon” that was weaving along the concourse – and as no one got hurt or out of hand I think we got away with it.

And then we went to a medieval banquet. As you do. Hugely enjoyed it, and although I had to leave sharpish at the end to get back to Waterloo for the last train home I understand that those who stayed on continued to party for some considerable time.

So yes… a good bash – looking forward to catching up with people next weekend at the wedding itself.

Picture of something that was not meant to be… (worksafe)

You know how it is, you’re randomly browsing a while and then click on something to see a picture that makes you go “What? No really? What? Why?”

I had to share:

Expensive car with trailer and bike on roof
Uh...What Were You Thinking?

While I have no doubt that the muscle car in question has more than enough horsepower to handle the load, it does beg the question – “Why would you do that?”