Monday, 29 December 2008

Week 8/24: Men Are From Mars......etc

Trevor and I share some interests, but since we started our marathon training, never have our differences been more obvious. The man I am sharing my life with is, I am convinced, an alien from Mars or more likely, Uranus. It's ironic really, that one of our similarities, a desire to run a marathon, should expose his cover as an Earthman. Please don't misunderstand me, I am passionate about my husband. Whatever species he is, there's no denying that he's got fantastic legs and his kisses are out of this world.

Our 24-week marathon training plan was obtained from the Flora London Marathon website. I'm running a bit less now than I was before the training started 8 weeks ago! I figured out that the person who wrote the plan (Tim Rogers) must know what he's talking about. Not wanting to wear out my joints I decided to take the cautious and sensible option of following an official training plan. At Week 8, the running schedule includes 2 x 30-minute, 1 x 10-minute and 1 x 10K (6.2 miles) jogging sessions - spread over 7 days with 3 rest days in between - easy peasy (apart from the cold weather!)

Trevor on the other hand, has taken matters into his own hands and decided that training should be far more gruelling. He likes to run twice a day EVERY day and now an old sports injury (damaged and stretched knee ligaments which meant 6 weeks in plaster) has come back to haunt him. I don't know how many cans of 'freeze' spray and tubes of anti-inflammatory gel he has used but as soon as the pain subsides slightly, he runs. A very attractive knee support has become a permanent part of his attire.... in fact I think he may need to get it surgically removed some time in the future. I do admire his drive and determination but who is right? Well, it doesn't really matter but the point is, we are so DIFFERENT in our approach to things.

Enough of us... I hope you had a great Christmas. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

From Annie &

(Martian for 'Trevor' )

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Week 6/24

At the start of Week 5 of our training last week, I suffered a bit of a crisis. Too icy and dangerous to run outside in the morning, I stepped onto the treadmill and discovered to my dismay that the running board had collapsed! Trevor was working out of town and this is an imaginary conversation between my inner selves, Annie 1 and Annie 2:

A1: What a catastrophe!!! I can't possibly train without the treadmill! I'm not running outside on my own... It's too icy and dangerous! Trevor was the last person to use the treadmill... I should never have let him near it.... he's too heavy......

A2: Calm down... you have to blame someone don't you? The treadmill has taken YOUR weight for 18 months. Trevor has only used it a few times. It's a basic and inexpensive treadmill and was probably not designed for excessive use. It's 'run' it's natural course and is ready to join that great white gymnasium in the sky.

A1: You're not making me feel any better, I'm having a crisis here! We can't afford a new treadmill - we're desperately short of furniture. We'll have to do our training outside in the horrible weather but I shan't enjoy it :(

A2: Oh come on Annie - in the big scheme of things, it's hardly a crisis - you do catastrophise!! There have been many reports this week of child abuse, cholera in Zimbabwe, suicide bombings, terrorist shootings, financial chaos and people losing homes. A broken treadmill hardly qualifies as a crisis....

A1: Well now you put it like that....

A2: And no-one desperately needs furniture....Come on, you're lucky that you are healthy enough to run. This marathon was never meant to be a bed of roses anyway. You're running for Carers who would LOVE the freedom to run, instead of working long hours for no reward.

A1: Yes (sigh) I get the message, there's no need to go on...I'll run outside later when the ice has melted.

A2: That's the spirit...

We decided in the end to buy a new treadmill then discovered that the first one was repairable! (We've ordered a new part for £15). The new machine is faulty though! Sigh, such is life but we are
ahead of schedule with the training plan... so far so good... or in the more positive words from our friend JK from India, "All far, all good". (Thanks JK and bless you for your prayers and support).

Monday, 24 November 2008

Twenty-Eight Days Later....

My husband has arisen between 5.30 and 6.30 am for 28 consecutive days to go running for an hour. I've taken a gentler approach for the last few days, preferring a shorter (and less early) 30-45 minute jog on our little treadmill. In the comfort of the spare room, window wide open, music blasting out to all who happens to walk past, I'm as happy as Larry. Who IS Larry, does anybody know?

Test results from ECG and blood tests: I'm happy to report being normal.. I know, I know, it's a matter of opinion. Well the old ticker is normal, so are cholesterol, glucose levels, liver, kidneys, um.. maybe something else I've forgotten but anyway, whatever it is, it's normal- yeehaa! Blood pressure was even normal on Friday but it's a bit high again today. The nurse advised me to buy a BP machine to keep a frequent check on it.

Right, enough of me and my hypertension and on to the more important business of carers. What do carers do? Well, this silent army of people give much to society and are valued at around £87 billion a year. Without them the NHS would collapse! Many carers face financial hardships and isolation as a result of giving their lives to care for ill, frail or disabled loved ones. Carers UK is an organisation working to improve the lives of carers. They provide a voice for the 6 million people who provide unpaid care and they campaign for changes that will make a difference to carers' lives.

In his 35 years of working for the NHS, Trevor had some involvement with Carers UK. In fact, we were invited by the Chief Executive, Imelda Redmond, to attend a ceremony at the House of Commons, to celebrate the launch of the 'Carers Equal Opportunites' Act in October 2005. Back then we pledged our help to Imelda and are grateful for the opportunity to run for Carers UK in the London Marathon.

Hywel Francis, MP, and Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK
October 2005

I met Guy Fawkes at Parliament. Unfortunately I got too close and set off the security alarms!

This was taken in the Strangers Bar at the House of Commons
October 2005

Trevor leaving Parliament

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Specs Reunited

Trevor and I were up at 6.30 this morning to go for a 3-mile run and those petunias sprang to mind again - see post below. We ran uphill to the local "One Stop" store and I did wonder why we were putting ourselves through this discomfort when we could have been snuggled up in our warm bed. However, as we raced home, downhill, with the smell of grass surging through our nostrils, I remembered why.... because it was exhilarating! Even the local horses nodded their heads in agreement.

We have just completed the first week's training from the marathon plan - so far, so good.

During an eye-test a couple of weeks ago, the optician advised me to get my blood pressure checked because my eyeballs indicated that it may be too high. After a visit to the local GP surgery and confirmation that it IS too high, I borrowed a BP machine and have checked it twice a day for the past week and a half, and it's repeatedly above normal. Yesterday I went for blood tests and on Tuesday I'm booked in for an ECG (electrocardiogram) test to measure the electrical activity of the heart.

Golly, I only went for the eye-test because I'd lost my glasses.... I wasn't expecting all this!

On a happy note, the diet is going well. I have lost 12 lbs (in 10 weeks) and Trevor has lost the same amount, in just 2 weeks!

I was reunited with my lost glasses last week. I don't really need them because I've bought 2 new pairs but it was a joyous occasion to see my familiar frames again - I've missed them.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Start

Fans of The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy will be familiar with the immortal words, "Oh no, not again". They were the words that went through the mind of a bowl of petunias as it fell to the ground. I could empathise with those petunias because "oh no, not again" were exactly my thoughts when the alarm went off at 6.30am yesterday, SUNDAY, for the 5th consecutive morning, to go running.

Week One of our 24-week marathon training officially starts next Monday, 10th November, but Trevor thinks it would be really good to do some pre-training running. Yes O Wise One, it's a great idea but at 6.30 on a Sunday? What would Jesus do? Mmm, he'd probably just get on with it with quiet determination.

I have a feeling "oh no, not again" will come to my mind often in the next 6 months though :-)

Monday, 27 October 2008

The Busy-ness of Life

I'm afraid I haven't got any good excuses to explain why I haven't published any new posts since August. Fellow bloggers will understand that sometimes other things have to take priority in the busy-ness of life.
The last few months have been quite good on the whole. Trevor and I have just finished a contract facilitating training workshops for the NHS in various locations between Oxford and the Isle of Wight. Other work is taking its place so our working lives are ticking along.

The last contract helped us to afford a new conservatory. It has a dog-flap into the garden and is an ideal room in which to leave the dogs when we're out. As we can't afford furniture yet, it means no chewed chair legs, and the canines have outside access to pee.

As keen runners, Trevor and I applied to run in the Coventry Half-Marathon in October. Unfortunately, due to a calf-muscle injury in July, I missed several weeks training and didn't feel fit enough to attempt 13 miles. However, we recently took part in Cancer Research's 10K (6.2 mile) run in the beautiful grounds of Coventry's medieval Coombe Abbey.
The following weekend saw us looking after Trevor's grandsons. 3-year-old Sebastian and 1-year-old Reece were placed in our care from 8.30am Saturday until 5.00pm Sunday. On Saturday, we took them to Hatton Farm Village in Warwick where Sebastian enjoyed feeding goats, pigs, sheep and donkeys. There were a few attractions for kiddies and the highlight of Trevor's day was a ride on a teacup, though it wasn't designed for big grandads and it was a bit of a squeeze :-)
Referring again to our running, Trevor and I are delighted to have secured places in the Flora London Marathon, 26th April 2009. We will be running for the national charity, Carers UK and we hope to raise a minimum of £3000.
Within the next couple of weeks I will be renaming this blog, RUNNING FOR CARERS and will concentrate on our training: the triumphs and the pain for the next 6 months. I will also set up a 'Justgiving' fund-raising page and keep you informed of our progress.

See you soon.

Best wishes

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

More Photos from "Cloudstreet" (Summer Theatre School)

Here are some pictures, taken by Andrew Dyer of the Riding Lights Theatre Company
Me as Dolly Pickles in the floral dress on the left

A drunken Dolly tells her daughter that she shouldn't hate her

Dolly Pickles get chatted up in the local bar

Dolly is not impressed by the big old rambling house where she and her family have to live

The girls next door chase after Dolly's son with a pair of scissors. He has just shown one of them his "thingy".

Trevor, as Sam Pickles, pleads with his daughter to visit her estranged mother, Dolly.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Riding Lights Summer Theatre School

Cast and Crew

We're back from a one-week residential summer school with the Riding Lights Christian theatre company. What a week it has been! There were 7 courses on offer at Harrogate Ladies College in North Yorkshire: 3 for 14-18 year-olds and 4 for the 19-90s. These included scriptwriting, musical theatre, storytelling (traditional and digital) and the largest course with 24 participants, a staged play. Trevor and I were involved with the latter, where we went through the production process from the initial read-through to a public performance at the end of the week.
The play was Cloudstreet, adapted from Tim Winton's award-winning novel. It follows the lives of two dysfunctional families sharing a large old rambling house in Perth, Western Australia, between 1945 and 1965.
During the first part of the week, both Trevor and I struggled with it all as we felt so utterly out of our comfort blanket. It was more than 5 years since I had performed on a stage and it was Trevor's first attempt. However, as the week went on and we made friends, we did get caught up with the "buzz" of summer school with its theme of 'living in hope'. Performances by the other groups were awesome and we were particularly impressed with the 3 youth groups. With these kids being our future, then our future looks promising.
Cloudstreet, brilliantly directed by Bridget Foreman and Peter Hutchinson, was a huge success and we received some very favourable comments from members of the audience. It was a joy to work with a team of lovely talented and enthusiastic people!
Praise God for a wonderful week, Amen.

Trevor and his "daughter" rehearsing. Peter, the director is on the left.

Trevor checks his lines

More info and pictures can be seen on the Riding Lights blog... click here

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Rain For Life

Two and a half thousand women braved the wet weather last night, to squelch round the 5K Race For Life course at Coombe Abbey Country Park in Coventry. This was my 4th consecutive year of running at this event, and it was definitely the wettest! Having poured down all day, the rain held off during the 'warm-up' before the race and for the first 5 minutes or so from the start line. After that the skies opened up again and it bucketed it down, making the muddy terrain quite hazardous at times.
It was brilliant though!!
The woman were split into 3 groups:
1. Runners
2. Part runners/part walkers
3. Walkers
As a runner, I belonged to the first group to start the race, and I completed the course in 31 minutes, 40 seconds.
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me in this worthwhile fund-raising event for Cancer Research UK. My fund-raising target was £150.00 and I've so far raised £252.00!
The warm-up before the race

I'm clasping my hands here because a woman next me rapped me on the knuckles with a litre bottle of water!

Drenched, at the end of the race!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Coventry to Slough

On Sunday, Trevor and I ran in the 4.5 mile Coventry Fun Run, starting and finishing at the War Memorial Park. It was exhilarating! I was especially pleased that after I reached the finish line, there was an announcement to clear the exit as there were several HUNDRED runners yet to finish!! Ahem, I'm a (nearly) 48-year-old ex-smoker with a few pounds to lose, so hey, I could have done a lot worse! Trevor struggled at one point so being the selfless, supportive wife that I am, I left him gasping for breath and carried on without him! I do feel mean now. Oh well, ho hum, it might encourage him to do a bit of training. He came in 5 minutes after me so he still did really well, for a man aged 55 years, 364 days.

On Monday Trevor was 56 and we celebrated his birthday by working in sunny Slough, in Berkshire. My fellow blogger (Steve) might cringe at this because it is not is favourite place. Sir John Betjeman was not enamoured by Slough either. The opening line of his 1937 poem is "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!" Click
here for the full poem.
It was my first visit and I was expecting something much worse. The word 'slough' is most unappealing. Slough (pronunced 'sluff') is also a white creamy discharge found on infected tonsils. It's like calling a town 'Snot'. Anyway, I thought Slough was rather pleasant but then the sun was shining and our workshop was a success :-)

Monday, 2 June 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes...

Following a 'difficult' workshop in Oxfordshire on 16th May (see post dated 18th May), the following week couldn't have been more different. We delivered 4 'Trust Me I'm a Patient' training workshops in 3 counties: Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and the dreaded Oxfordshire. Living in Warwickshire, we found ourselves up and down the A34 like a yoyo.

Monday 19th May was spent in Basingstoke, Hampshire with a delightful and appreciative group of participants. I'd like to have adopted a couple of them and taken them with me to other workshops as they threw themselves so enthusiastically and passionately into their roles.

Trevor chats with 3 of the 17 participants

Tuesday 20th May was spent at the Culham Science Centre in Abingdon in, dare I say it? I'll whisper it, Oxfordshire. Getting in was like trying to get in, or perhaps out of prison. Met by security guards, we noted that they lacked any charm or personality.
The workshop was great apart from a bit of negativity from one frontline NHS staff member. She said that she hadn't learnt anything and wished she hadn't left her important work with patients to come to our workshop. I asked her why she had attended, to which she replied, "It was a tick box exercise for the PCT (Primary Care Trust) to say that I've been on a course." Mm... any comments about that?

Ready to go home at the end of a long day. It took several hours finding our way out....

.... and even longer to get in

Wednesday 21st May was spent preparing workshops for the next 2 days ...

Thursday 22nd May saw us in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. The workshop took place in the local Anglican church and the people were responsive and utterly delightful.

Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

Friday 23rd May was spent in Eastleigh, Hampshire. It was a small workshop and it all went smoothly. We ended the week by presenting DAFTA awards to participants.

Eastleigh, Hampshire

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Imagine this.....

Imagine that you go to the theatre one evening to see a play in two acts.

Imagine that the play opens with a narrator to set the scene, during which some people come into the auditorium, late and noisily.

Imagine that the first narration is over and the first scene appears to go quite well, creating laughter and a round of applause at the end of the scene.

Imagine that the second scene is interrupted by two people from the audience. The first one says that the first scene was completely false and unrealistic. The second person stands up to say that he is offended by something in the script.

Imagine that the scene continues, somewhat slugglishly because the success of the second scene is dependent on a response from the audience.

Imagine that one of the actors remains composed and professional, though inside he feels embarrassed. The other actor becomes hyper-active in an attempt to win back the audience, but does manage a degree of control.

Imagine that a couple more people in the audience interrupt by stating that the play was different from what they were expecting and had they known what the play was about, they wouldn't have come. They leave the auditorium.

Imagine that the curtains close before the first act is finished.

Imagine that the second act proceeds but it is difficult to follow, without having seen the first act in its entirety.

OK that's enough imagination for one day! This highlights one of our role-playing training workshops for the NHS, last Friday. Trevor and I have facilitated many of these events and apart from a little bit of negative feedback a few months ago from one, the response has been warm and positive! We wouldn't have been contracted to do a series of 25 workshops with one health authority if they'd been that awful!

I was the one who went all hyper and humiliated myself. I feel so sorry that we failed, and that the majority of the audience were short-changed.

Sigh, we have 4 more similar workshops this week. Lamb and slaughter spring to mind. I'd better pop a jar of mint sauce in my handbag.

Here's me, after the workshop... attempting a smile!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Knowle Fun Run

What a busy couple of weeks we've had!! Trevor and I have been bombing up and down the motorway, facilitating role-playing training workshops for the NHS. We've spent much of our time in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. The beauty of where we live in Warwickshire means that nowhere is a million miles away.

Speaking of high numbers, Trevor was on Cloud Nine Million yesterday. His beloved Manchester United became the Premiership champions for the 10th time in 16 seasons, under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. I'm still trying to bring Trevor back down to earth!

Trevor and I had our own small achievement to celebrate as we participated, for the 3rd year, erm.. running, in the 5-mile Knowle Fun Run in Solihull. With a steep hill (run twice in the 2-lap course) and temperatures higher than in Spain, it wasn't the easiest of races. Still, we did it!

Me before the race. Oh look, a balloon is sticking out of my head!

Trevor looks longingly at the sausages...

...and I'm tempted by the ice cream van but manage to resist

after the run...

...sweaty but smiling with relief!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Fabulous Lampshade Boys

Our dogs, Bertie and Rusty, were castrated on Friday. I feel so TERRIBLE, making them endure the discomfort but Trevor and I took the advice of experts that dogs live longer and happier lives when they are without...... According to my dog training manual, only expert breeders should leave their dogs intact.

I feel humbled by how incredibly loving they are to us still. I am reminded of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice & Men" when one of the migrant workers, George, explains that his friend Lennie, who has learning difficulties, thanks George profusely for rescuing him from drowning in a river when it was in fact, George who made him jump in the first place!

The 'lampshades' prevent the boys from interfering with their stitches

Aw.. this photo was taken on the first day after their 'op'. A recommended dinner of lightly scrambled egg is served.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Race For Life

It's almost that time of year folks, when thousands of pairs of breasts will be bouncing their way along the women's Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research UK.

This will be my 4th consecutive year of running in the RACE FOR LIFE. Unlike my previous years in Birmingham, I shall be racing around around the medieval Coombe Abbey in Coventry, Warwickshire on 9th July 2008. My running number this year, 1348, is not a particularly lucky number, at least it wasn't for the Black Death victims in 1348.

However, let us not brood over plagues and pestilence. Let us ponder on our pockets and purses and on how many pennies pounds and ppp.. I mean dollars, euros, and ruPees we can donate to this worthwhile cause.

Please pop along to my fund-raising page (click here).

I'm dedicating this years' race to my friend Margaret Griffiths, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Following surgery, radio therapy and chemo therapy, she is here to tell the tale. She recently released a CD, 'The Essential Spirit of Edith Piaf' and the CD is available from Margaret's website,

Friday, 11 April 2008

It started with a click........

It is 4 years today since Trevor and I met ‘virtually’. Our first 'actual' encounter was on 11th July 2004 …in Tesco Supermarket just off the M42 in Solihull!

4 years… crikey. 4 years and one day ago, neither of us had any idea of each other’s existence. At the time we were both unhappy with our lives and by the love and grace of God, we were brought together by one fleeting moment in cyberspace that could so easily have been missed. Amazing!

How our lives have changed in the past 4 years! Trevor gave up his 35-year career with the National Health Service and moved from Devon to the Midlands. He became a grandad to 2 boys, now aged 3 and 6 months. We set up a business, married, moved house twice and last but not least, we adopted 2 puppies.

We haven’t had a crossed word in 4 years, not one. I can honestly say that there is nothing about Trevor that annoys me, other than the fact that he’s a Manchester United supporter but that’s nothing a frontal lobotomy won’t cure :-)

I love my husband deeply and will be eternally grateful for the happiness he has brought into my life.




Thursday, 3 April 2008

What a load of balls.........

......and this picture just proves that 55-year-old grandads aren't too old to be big kids again (even though Trevor was reprimanded by an attendant and sent to the naughty corner).

Soft play area at Torquay Zoo

Phew, it's been a busy week. We've travelled all over the place, on our Workshop World Tour ..... Milton Keynes (twice) and Nottingham (twice).... where else? Er.. that's it actually. Today I'm at home manning the office while Trevor is at a meeting in Huddersfield (what's that poem? "There was a cow from Huddersfield, whose udders simply would not yield. The reason that they would not yield? She didn't like her udders feeled" - or something like that!)

The highlight of our week was spending 2 days in Torquay, where we visited Trevor's family. Trev's daughter, son-in-law and 2 grandsons took us to the zoo. 'Twas lovely.

This is Trevor and young Seb wearing a very large space helmet. Actually I'm not sure what you call it but it's a perspex semi-sphere for observing small animals.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Birds and Bugs

Easter Sunday was fabulous.

Trevor and I drove down to London's O2 Arena to see the Eagles perform 30 brilliant songs. Around 20,000 people were in the audience... not bad for a bunch of nearly 60-year-olds eh? (the band that is, not the audience, though we did spot quite a lot of silver hair!)

It was not our first Eagles concert as we saw them in June 2006 at the NIA (National Indoor Arena) in Birmingham.

Pure magic.

Trevor at the O2 Arena

The O2 Arena - formerly the Millennium Dome

Before the London trip, in the morning, Trevor and I performed an Easter drama sketch at church. We played 2 Cockney (appropriately, seeing as we went to London later that day) caterpillars and you probably think that we are extremely eccentric! The message was that we were green, fat and ugly but that we were going to shed our skins and transform into something beautiful, ie. be 'born again', which is exactly why Jesus died for us on the cross. It is the essence of Easter and the foundation of the Christian faith.

So, from caterpillars to Eagles, Easter Sunday was a very good day for us.

How was YOUR Easter?

Trevor and Annie as caterpillars

(This pic was taken from a previous performance in 2006)

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Tony Benn: Birmingham Town Hall

Trevor and I attended 'An Evening with Tony Benn' at the Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday.

The retired Labour politician talked about his life in politics and his thoughts on changes in the Labour party.

He held the captivated audience of approximately 900 people for 90 minutes. At the age of almost 83, Tony Benn is a remarkable man.

The evening was spent giving frank responses to questions from the audience and also entertaining us with political anecdotes.

I didn't take a photo on Thursday but below is a picture taken when we saw him at the Birmingham Conservatoire in October 2007.

Trevor meets Tony Benn - October 2007
Going to the Town Hall was also a big wow! for me. It is my first visit since before it's closure more than a decade ago. It has been beautifully and tastefully revamped (at a cost of £35m!) and it re-opened last October.

The Birmingham Town Hall as it is today