Posted in Family, Travel

Say Swiss Cheese!

Graphic of a smiling DaddyIn the gloomy month of February, it’s easy to slump into a state of inertia. If that’s how the shortest month makes you feel, don’t despair! There’s one easy-to-learn technique that will help you conquer even the most daunting task, at home, at work, or anywhere else: the Swiss Cheese Method.

What is the Swiss Cheese Method?

My husband just explained it to me, to spare me from despairing over my lengthy to-do list. All you have to do is tackle any big challenge by eroding it one tiny hole at a time. Disregard the larger task and focus instead on smaller, more manageable chunks. Need to spring-clean the whole house? Start by cleaning just one window. Overwhelmed by the state of your garden? Focus on weeding a single flowerbed.

Stick at it, and before you know it, you will have eroded so many holes in your apparently insurmountable task that it now looks like a Swiss Cheese – full of holes, and about to crumble to nothing before your eyes.

Do enough of these small tasks and you’ll have no cheese left at all.

Which suits me perfectly, because, as my friends already know, I really don’t like cheese.

Postscript

HU5K Run logoThis system also applies to training for a long-distance run, such as the HU5K Run on Saturday 14th June. You’ll find more ideas to help you prepare for this famous Hawkesbury Upton Fun Run its website at www.hu5K.org, where you’ll also be able to register for the 2014 Race which will take place on Saturday 14th June.

(This post first appeared in the Hawkesbury Parish News, February 2014 edition.)

Posted in Personal life, Reading, Writing

In Praise of Community Magazines

Sample copies of Hawkesbury Parish News & Tetbury AdverEvery month, I write columns for two local magazines – the Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. Both of these publications are lovingly put together by hugely experienced volunteers for the benefit of the local community.

The papers combine articles by local people and community groups with affordable advertising opportunities to help local businesses attract new customers. Both publications plough back any profit into local good causes and charities. They contribute significantly to the well-being of their local communities, both by enabling effective local communications accessible to all (and not just to those on the internet) and by improving local facilities and services – factors which are particularly important in rural areas such as ours. Such magazines may also be significant and much-needed customers for local print companies.

Serving The Whole Community

Impressively, they manage to keep the cover price of both papers low – Hawkesbury Parish News costs just 40p an issue (which includes free delivery by hand to your home) and Tetbury Advertiser is free. Thus not even a housebound pensioner on a small fixed income with no internet access need ever miss out on feeling a part of their local community. Even if they never get out to take part in any of the many local activities featured in these pages, they will still feel like they are part of the community. If I were in charge of the New Years’ Honours List, the volunteers who dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and effort into putting out these publications  would not go unrewarded.

Every Household’s Favourite Read

One might be forgiven for wondering whether in this internet age, which threatens the viability of so many local and national newspapers, such magazines might be on the wane. A few years ago, working for a local private school that was trying to discover the most effective advertising media , I undertook a survey of the school’s current pupils parents to discover which were the best read newspapers and magazines in their households.

I expected to learn that upmarket newspapers and glossy magazines were their favourite – The Times and the Financial Times, perhaps, plus Country Life, Country Living and Tatler. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the papers of which they were least likely to miss an issue were local community magazines such as Hawkesbury Parish News and the Tetbury Advertiser. It’s not surprising that both of these publications have been gaining size, strength and readership year on year.

As you’ll have guessed, I’m proud to support and write for both of these great publications. To make my articles available to a wider audience, including the Hawkesbury and Tetbury diaspora, I post them up on my author website a week after each print issue will have landed on people’s doormats. To suit the interests of their readership, these articles usually relate either to the time of year or to local activity in our part of rural Gloucestershire.  So here’s my first column for HPN in 2014, which manages to do both at once.

New Year, New Strategy

In an old notebook, I recently discovered a list of New Year Resolutions that I’d written down about 15 years ago. Although I don’t remember making the list, the resolutions were familiar, being pretty much the same ones that I make every year.

Why the repetition? Because like most people, I never manage to keep my New Year Resolutions beyond the end of January – though as an optimist, I never fail to make some.

But this year will be different, because I’ve hit upon a cunning plan: my 2014 list will be comprised of things I DON’T want to achieve. That way, by breaking them early on, I’ll reach my true goals. Thus:

  • “To spend more than I earn each month” will enable me to amass regular savings
  • “To consume more calories each day than I burn off” will precipitate steady weight loss
  • “To avoid training 3-4 times each week to prepare for the HU5K* Run” will ensure that I’m able to run it with ease, in a respectable time

Writing this column mid-December, I see no flaw in my lateral thinking, but will it actually work? I’ll tell you on Saturday 14th June as I cross the HU5K finishing line…

Happy New Year to you all, however you resolve to spend it!

* HU5K is the Hawkesbury Upton 5K Fun Run which I help organise to raise funds for the village school. It takes place the Saturday before Father’s Day each year, and 2014 will be the third annual event. For more information, please visit its website: www.hu5K.org.

My Previous Years’ Posts About New Year Resolutions (which, by chance, all have a connection with running!)

Posted in Personal life, Travel

What’s in a Name? Plenty, When It Comes to Gloucestershire Sporting Events

Runner in the Tetbury Woolsack race
It’s an uphill struggle at the Tetbury Woolsack race (Image: http://www.tetburywoolsack.co.uk)

With the end of May heralding the Cotswolds’ most idiosyncratic sporting events – the Tetbury Woolsack Races and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling –  I’ve been thinking about the inextricable link between event and setting. These two ancient rites would not attract the same following if removed to other places. Hefting a Woolsack the length of Chipping Sodbury’s level high street or rolling a cheese through Bourton-on-the-Water would be nowhere near as exciting. 

Artist's impression of the first every Marathon runner
The original Marathon – not a happy ending for the runner (Image: Wikipedia)

You can stage a marathon anywhere in the world, but it will never be the same race. Ask anyone who has run in London, Paris, New York, or, er, Marathon.

This fact first dawned on me when, in my pre-baby running days, my husband and I signed up to enter the Cheltenham 10K.

This will be a sedate little number, we thought, passing elegant Georgian facades and corporation planting. We warmed up with a few shorter runs: a pleasant 5K jaunt around Bourton-on-the-Water, followed by the Chippenham River Run, both events equally defined by their setting. The post-race refreshments left a bit to be desired, but we were looking forward to Cheltenham’s more genteel offering: cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey, perhaps?

Running for Our Lives

Reconstruction of a fire service rescue scene
Where’s the fire? (Image: http://www.fireservicecollege.ac.uk)

But it was not to be. A week before the race, a letter announced that due to unforeseen circumstances (a row between the Town Council and the event organisers), the race would now take place at the Moreton-in-Marsh Fire Service College. Ok, we thought, Moreton-in-Marsh is pretty too. Not a problem.

Only on arrival did we discover that the College is set well away from the town and offers quite a different scenario: surreal mock-ups of emergencies in which firefighters may hone their skills. We ran past crashed aeroplanes, burnt-out buildings, overturned railway carriages and motorway pile-ups. It was like fleeing from the apocalypse. Well, that’s one way to cut minutes off your personal best.

Introducing the HU5K Run

Photo of the stretch of the Cotswold Way that will be part of the HU5K route (Photo: Steve Green Photography)
Follow HU5K’s Yellow Brick Road

Which is why I’m particularly pleased to be organising a race this month in a much more peaceful setting: what’s dubbed by local runners “The Yellow Brick Road” – the level stretch of the Cotswold Way that skirts Hawkesbury Upton, with fine views down to the Severn Valley. On a clear day, both Severn Bridges wink back at you in the sunshine. The HU5K Run will take place on Saturday 15th June, starting at 10am, giving woolsack-toting, cheese-rolling racers a couple of weeks to get their puff back first. All ages (7+) and abilities are welcome. Leading the way will be former Team GB Olympic runner Nick Rose, veteran of the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. Now there’s a man who can tell you what a difference a venue makes.

Former Olympic runner Nick Rose and Dave of the Hogweed Trotters
Former Team GB Olympic runner Nick Rose is an inspiration to runners of all ages

Registrations in advance are preferred, to make sure we’ve got enough medals to go round. For more information, visit our the official HU5K website or call 01454 238401. I’ll race you to the starting line!

This post was originally written for the Tetbury Advertiser’s June 2013 edition.