Archive | August, 2010

Back on the Road

28 Aug

IMPORTANT (well perhaps not in the grand scheme of things) The following is not a typical bantics post but a bit of a rant/rumination on a personal fitness goal- if that doesn’t sound like the sort of thing you’d like to read don’t worry, from now on posts of this nature can be found at my new blog about fitness goals, and it will be banter and antics as usual on this site.

Today the Warriors Run takes place for the 26th time and I’d imagine that even the fittest of folks descending on Strandhill are a wee bit nervous. The run is a 15km race with a difference- though it starts on paved terrain at the beachfront in Strandhill runners soon find themselves struggling through fields and heather all the way to the top of Knocknarea and back down again! Personally I’d find 15km on flat surfaces to be challenge enough. But hearing about the race has gotten me thinking. There was a time when I was fairly all right at distance running… I never hit 15km but I used to clock up about 6km four or five times a week. This was three years ago and since then I’ve made various attempts to return to running (the most recent attempt being this summer where I spent about 3 weeks only reaching about 3km a day and then went on a few trips and never got back to it, depressed at my loss of pace and endurance) but as of yet it has failed to stick.

I really do miss it though. Reading about the Run and the recommended training involved has pulled at something. I want to get my fitness up to that point again. I want to experience that gorgeous feeling of elation after a really challenging run, when you’re fully charged and energised and endorphins are coursing through you, your body grateful for the chance to show what it can do. So I am going back to it. Today will be my first run in about two weeks. I am not expecting much and I may have to walk about. I’ve looked online for guidance on getting back to running properly and hopefully this time I’ll be able to keep at it and get up to my old distances and even build on them.

Of course in two days I’m heading to Vancouver, so new terrain will have to be found and explored. Ideally I would love, when I’m starting to gain pace, to try some uphill running, maybe here

and who knows, if I keep going, perhaps I could be one of the nervous people warming up in Strandhill this time next year?


It’s never too early for soup like

9 Aug

Ok so I know it’s warm outside and the evenings are still managing to stretch until eleven but I think it’s about time we considered the Autumn. Sooner or later scary signs are going to begin to appear. First it’ll be the odd brown leaf on a tree, or a miserable breeze that makes you wish you’d brought a jumper. Then before you know it the bikinis are gone from Penneys, replaced by coats and fleece lined boots. We can ignore it until we get stranded in a crazy rain shower wearing shorts and flip flops but the not so sunny season has arrived, at least according to the calendar (although really the weather is doing a pretty good job of killing the summer myth too with all the furious rain/sun presto changeo indecisiveness….stop it weather!). Before you go getting all depressed about what this means for you though, consider the up side to this shift in temperature- you know what I’m talking about, it’s soup season lovelies!

Yep for those of us self consciously sipping soup all summer, being ridiculed for our loyalty to that delicious hot food and feeling wretched for not embracing the season and eating salads and corn on the cob and things made of yogurt our time has arrived! At the first opportunity ie. when a lot of veg that we were unlikely to use had built up in the fridge I set about throwing together a soup so thick and warming that cold days would have nightmares about it. Here is the recipe for that day’s attempt, it’s rather spicy so do reduce the level of curry powder if  you’re more into flavour on the mild side :

1 fairly large sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

3 Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

2/3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 white onion, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 tbsp curry powder

thumbnail sized chunk of ginger, grated

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp cumin

1l chicken stock

tbsp oil

Start by heating the oil in a sauce pan, then throw in the garlic, onion and leek. Fry until soft then stir in the cumin, ginger and curry powder. Add the sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and stock and bring to the boil then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for twenty minutes until the vegetables are tender. At this point either allow the mixture to cool and puree it in a blender or leave it in the pan and use a hand blender. All going well you should end up with a lovely thick, spicy soup which you can keep in the fridge and reheat.

dun laoghaire festival of world cultures, the joys!

1 Aug

Entirely wrecked and zapped (as my mother says) after the adventures of the weekend. It’s all the fault of a festival of course, this time the Festival of World Cultures (FWC) in Dun Laoghaire. A friend and I had applied to be volunteers, the idea being that we could spice up our CVs and enjoy ourselves simultaneously. The latter part of the plan certainly came together nicely- being a volunteer is DEADLY. Our first shift was at half ten on Saturday and before we could begin we were kitted out with everything one needs to help out the festival goers: swish orange FWC tshirt (so you are easily identified from a great distance) ; poncho (nobody wants to be assisted by a dripping wet person); lanyard with a wee map of the area; and a Nutri Grain (can’t answer questions if you have no energy!). Then it was off to our appointed spot- the Global Village on Carlisle Pier- to meet our supervisor and some of our fellow volunteers. On arrival we had a good chat with the rest of our team and got nicely acquainted. As you’d expect at an event like this everybody was positively lovely. Once everyone was accounted for we were given our instructions and the work part began in earnest. Fortunately, for us at least, the work part was fairly relaxed- our job was simply to wander around with programs and copies of the Festival Times newspaper and hand them out to people. And to appear cheerful and welcoming of course.

We were delighted with our lot- the Global Village, a market selling food and crafts from all over the place- was on our must see list anyway. Now and again when we felt there wasn’t much for us to help out with there we were free to take  a wander towards Queen’s Road, where the majority of the outdoor festivities were taking place and spread our programs and welcomes there. On such jaunts we got to see plenty of what the festival has to offer: street theatre on the sea front; parades in the People’s park; and world music on the main stage.

The festival was of a different nature to others I’ve been to. For a start it was a family event, at least during the day. On Sunday my job was to man various games on the sea front, I got to blow giant bubbles, spin for families playing Twister and admire children’s artwork before sticking it up on the railings (funny, adults didn’t seem to want to paint themselves, I’d love the excuse!), it really made a nice change of pace from sitting in a campsite drinking cans (not that that’s not a lovely way to spend an afternoon). It’s a long time since I’d hung out with anyone in the under ten bracket, I’d almost forgotten how mental kids are. Or rather I’d forgotten that kids are just as mental as people my age but they get to act all that out in play or paint. As the day wore on we ran out of paper so the little folks started painting the footpath, really gorgeous stuff so it was. All of this already had me feeling pretty sentimental so my heart almost broke when I saw a Dad admonishing his son for getting some paint on his knees. I mean i can understand that keeping the clothes of a child clean can be an immense chore. I remember my mum constantly giving out to me for the mud and grass and marker and paint and tar that decorated my clothes when they greeted her in the wash basket. But the thing is now my clothes are hardly ever stained (and if they are it’s with something dull, like toothpaste): you grow out of building huts and jumping over streams, finding shortcuts, spilling poster paints and picking blackberries as quickly as you grow out of those stained clothes. Getting your clothes dirty isn’t like pulling someone’s hair or telling your brother there are snakes in the garden: it’s not something you did with malice that needs to be punished. Stains are evidence of the fun you had that day. So while I wouldn’t recommend a total laissez faire approach (things like Sunday best should be respected) I reckon that kids shouldn’t be sent off to play with the idea that they have to limit their actions to ones which will keep them clean. There are only a certain number of years when immersing yourself in mud is an acceptable (or an appealing) activity. Eventually the days when kids come home looking like they’ve been dragged backwards through a ditch made of ice cream will pass and you know I reckon those are days that most parents come to miss. So if you’re reading this Dun Laoghaire man, ease up on your son. He won’t be painting footpaths forever.

Of course children tire eventually and as it got darker the games were cleared away and we made our way to Purty Loft to check out a group called Jah Wobble and the Nippon Dub Ensemble. As is typical of the musical events you encounter at FWC we had no idea what to expect of Mr. Wobble and friends. In the event we were provided with an interesting and very mellow set consisting of fairly fantastic dubstep bass laid over with traditional Asian vocals. In general most of the music I saw over the few days had something of the surreal to recommend itself, and while I may not have been mad about every single act, at least you were going along to something entirely different, a band whose album you hadn’t had on repeat since February so they still had the power to really surprise.

Unfortunately for Mr. Wobble, while we were certainly impressed with his musical abilities it wasn’t the perfect soundtrack for 5 young volunteers who were fresh from a 6 hour shift on their feet. We needed tunage that would compel us to dance, shaking off our fatigue in the process. The heat in the Purty Loft wasn’t helping our eyes to stay open either so as soon as the gig was finished we made straight for the Kingston Hotel where there was a bit of a party for the volunteers. It turned out to be an excellent auld evening, great chats with everyone AND we got free beers!

Looking back the volunteer experience really was jammed full of little perks and pluses: free entry to gigs; free food at the lovely volunteer canteen (or voluntainer as some clever folks called it); exceptionally lovely people; and the chance to skip the odd queue and get asked for help and feel useful, I’ll certainly want to be getting involved again….