Friday, 22 July 2016

Pandora's Summer Holiday Box

So last week, just as the holidays started, I asked the twins what they'd like to do over the summer break.

In about five minutes flat we had compiled a fairly decent looking list of all the things they wanted to do, including all the usual suspects like baking, painting, bike riding, picnics, trips to the park, oh you get the idea. All the things that we can never quite be arsed to do after school and at the weekends, except now we'd have all this time to be able to do so.  Perfect.

I felt quite excited at this point.  Like a child on Christmas Eve, full of anticipation of what was to come.

There was also my hope of the use of a National Trust membership that we had bought back in January and have so far only used twice.  Yep, the summer holiday was looking to be OK at this point, dare I even say, fun filled? Bring it on, I thought, I'm totally ready for this.

Fast forward one week.  The Pandora's Box of the summer holidays has been well and truly opened, and all the evils of the summer holidays have flown out.

Over the weekend we'd caught up on all the sleep (seriously, are my kids the only ones that are so tired they practically go into a coma for 48 hours at the start of every holiday?) and were raring to start on our holiday plans.

Monday was spent crafting after I'd found an old jar of Hama beads in a cupboard, and painting, play doh, playing in the garden (which did eventually descend into three children bashing the sh*t out of each other with badminton rackets - I knew it was too good to be true).  They are now banned from being in the back garden at the same time as one another.

Tuesday, at the park for 9.30 am for an hour, followed by a trip to the sweet shop on the way home and a picnic in the garden at lunchtime.

We were the only people in the park.  I reckon everyone else was still in bed.

Wednesday, bicycle riding for one, colouring in Pokemon printables for another (the third child had been lost to mobile phone gaming at this point, but at least he seemed content and who am I to complain?).  The teens arrived home at 1.30 pm from their last day of school, and immediately one went back out while the other spent the remainder of the day in a Snapchat/Instagram haze.

Thursday was the day I first heard the immortal words "I'm so bored!".  Which resulted in one feral teen and another sulking in his bedroom.  Also more Hama bead creations and a lot of TV.

And here we are at Friday.  Surveying the scene so far I have two bored children, two sulking teens and one well, I don't really know what he's up to but I haven't seen him for a while and he's not complaining so I'd say he's happy in his own company.  For now.

I also have a kitchen worktop full of Hama bead creations on their little plastic boards waiting to be ironed (I haven't done it, because who gets the iron out in the holidays when there's no uniform to be ironed, or is that just me?). Piles of colouring in/paintings and play doh stuck to the soles of my slippers (it turns out that six year olds aren't all that good at sweeping up the crumbs, no matter how brightly coloured and obviously still there they are).

Pretty sure this was a task on the Krypton Factor.
Try to get a piece of bread in the toaster without destroying the Hama beads.
It's impossible.

Not forgetting the fact that while we've finally had some summer weather, it's been so hot this week that none of us have been bothered about anything else bar eating large amounts of ice cream to try and cool down.

I'm also yet to tackle the things that I usually do when the children are at school, like housework and planning meals properly (I must be the only mum who goes to the supermarket every day to replace the vast quantities of food they all eat, oh and loo roll, don't get me started on that!).  That and the small matter of being part way through my half marathon training which I'm having to fit in around DH being at home.  I have resorted to running with the sunrise some mornings, which sounds very dedicated and also feels like it should be quite a beautiful thing to do, (it is, and it's been nice to go out when the proper runners run, I feel like I'm one of them.  Not the cyclists though, they still blank me, the meanies) but after two consecutive days, I've admitted defeat for now.  I'm dead on my feet by lunchtime, who's idea was an Autumn half marathon anyway?  What an idiot I am.

Black and white,
because nobody deserves to look at my 6.00 am bloodshot eyes, bleurgh.

After eleven years of this, you'd think I would know the drill by now, wouldn't you?  The truth is that I'm just not very good at keeping the kids entertained, and I think it's almost impossible to do that every day for seven weeks anyway.  It's safe to say that the optimism I had a week ago has gone already.  It's the same every summer.

I don't remember my own mother ever planning out activities for me in the holidays.  I don't ever remember being bored either for that matter.  Why do I feel so guilty then for not coming up with exciting things for my lot to do all the time?

One week down and another six to go (yes six!  The Tour of Britain has added an extra day on the end because this town is one of the stages and every road is shut that day, bloody cyclists).

Maybe it's time I said to my children that sometimes they are going to have to make their own entertainment this holiday?  

Either that or they'll just have to get used to being bored.

I'm sorry, kids.  Really I am.  But rather like Pandora, there's still one more thing in the box on our list, a visit to the National Trust place down the road.  I will use that bloody membership if it kills me (and it may).

You see I'm still clinging onto the hope that this might turn out to be a fun filled summer holiday after all.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The A-Z of Teenagers

Finally it's the summer holidays.  If there's one thing this time of year lends itself well to is that it's a good time to reflect on how much my family has changed over the past year or so.

But don't worry, this isn't going to be one of those wholesome posts where I talk about how good their school reports are and what a proud mum I am. *yawns* No.

Last year I felt that I needed some kind of instruction manual for the teenagers as they had unexpectedly upgraded themselves overnight into well, erm, more teenagery teens.  It was a difficult thing to handle.  This year however, I feel that I might finally know how the teenagers work.  Finally I know enough, having observed their sub-culture at length, to be able to write about it, so that nobody else with new teenagers has to concern themselves with such questions as "Is it possible to exist on a diet of pot noodle alone without getting scurvy?".  Don't worry folks, it's all normal. Or something.

So here I present my definitive* A-Z of teenagers...

A is for Always Right.  Because they are.  Parents are just stupid.  So stupid in fact that they are often heard asking the question "Do you think I'm stupid?"  This proves it. See?

B is for Bedtime.  Teens do not need a set bedtime.  Because who needs sleep when it's a far better use of time staying up on Snapchat/YouTube until 3 am?  It won't make me grumpy/too tired/late for school tomorrow.  If in doubt see A.

C is for Coats.  WTF is a coat anyway?  Outside the temperature could be comparable to Siberia.  There might even be a force ten gale and yet the teenager will shun any mention of wearing a coat (even a Jack Wills/Hollister/whatever the latest fashion is).  They would rather freeze than wear a coat, and frequently do. The good news is that this is possibly the only area where the parent of a teen can save money by simply not buying one.

D is for Drama.  Everything in the life of a teen is a drama. No, actually, it's a Drama, with a big fat capital D. Have they lost their favourite nailpolish or homework planner?  Worse still, have you tidied their room? (OMG you monster!) then expect a world class performance complete with door slamming (because whatever it is that they can't find will be exactly where they left it, guaranteed).

E is for Eyeroll.  To accompany the Drama, or just in general.  The eyeroll is the universal communication tool between all teens and their parents (this is the reason that Apple made it into an emoji). At least if they do the eyeroll it means they are listening though.  #findthepositives

F is for Floordrobe.  It's just like a wardrobe but you can see it better because it's all laid out on the floor for easy access.  Except when half of it is dirty and screwed up under your bed with sweet wrappers/your homework planner/a half eaten sandwich.  But it is still better than putting your clothes away. 

G is for Grammar.  Teens ignore all the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation.  See example below.

H is for Hotel.  They treat your house like one.  Either that or annoy you so much that you feel like moving into one until they leave.  *looks up number for local Travelodge*

I is for iPhone.  "Everyone else at school has an iPhone 6s apart from me, I am a social pariah because you are so mean and won't buy me an iPhone.  Why are you so mean?  You must hate me and want to ruin my life!" on repeat until you give in... #FML

J is for Just Go Away!  A favourite phrase, to be yelled in relation to one's siblings for maximum impact.

K is for Kill Me Now!  Another teen phrase, used when they've got double maths first thing, have been asked to do their homework, they don't like what's for dinner, or just any time really.  Often used with the eye roll for further impact.

L is for Lynx.  The teen boy's scent of choice.  It's either that or eye wateringly bad armpit odour.  While deodorant might sound the preferable option here, do be aware that once applied it has a similar effect to a nuclear disaster.  Hazmat suits and breathing apparatus necessary.  Does anyone even know whether a can of Lynx has a half life?  I'm calling the manufacturers...

M is for Money.  Do you have any?  Can your teen have some/all of it?  What do you mean "you need to do some chores to earn it?".  Don't be daft, this is a hotel and parents are the ones who do all the jobs around here.  Silly.

N is for New.  Never old.  Don't ever make the mistake of trying to fob a teenager off with anything that's a hand me down.  The fallout will last for years, mark my words. (All I did was ask if she wanted her brother's barely worn and outgrown Converse, which I had washed.  What's the problem with that?)

O is for OMG.  Oh My God.  As in "Oh My God, stop going on about homework!", or "Oh My God, why are you being so mean?", or "Oh My God, stop having a go at me!".  It's like they've got their own personal religion or something.

P is for Possessions.  The simple rule here is what belongs to your teen is theirs and what belongs to you is also your teen's (like make up and other toiletries).  Unless you are offering it up as something that you no longer need but that they might like. See N for further clarification on this.

Q is for Quality Time.  Teenagers love spending quality time with their parents and family.  You can tell by the fact that when they do they will walk five metres behind or infront of the rest of their family at all times.  Don't think this is because they don't want to be seen with you, no.  It's because they want to admire you from afar.  Honest.

R is for Repeat.  With teens you often need to repeat yourself several times before any request sinks in (see E for signs of acknowledgement).  I myself have been repeating requests to tidy bedrooms/stack the dishwasher since 2013 to almost no avail.  Sometimes visual cues work better with teens.  Like leaving a days' worth of their dirty dishes on their bed.  Simple.

S is for Squad.  Or for anyone who uses the English language, friends.  Teens and their squad are connected by Snapchat, Instagram and text.  This is why you should never forget to top up their mobile phone, lest they be disconnected forever, like some kind of social outcast.

T is for Taxi.  Because you'll be expected to provide a taxi service (for free, obvs.) at the drop of a hat. Never mind whether it's Friday night and you had plans (plans?  Imagine that!) of your own.  The teenagers always come first.

U is for Units of Time.  Teenagers invent their own units of time.

V is for Vegetables.  Does your teen eat them as part of a varied diet?  "Well, potatoes are vegetables, and like, my McDonalds burger had like, ketchup and onions in it".  Plus Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle. Tomatoes are a fruit, so there you go, varied diet.

W is for WiFi.  It could be the most expensive and up to date internet service available in the area, but chances are, your teenager will still tell you it's crap.

X is for XBox.  Because shooting aliens is a better life skill to learn than say doing your Science revision, so that you might actually pass your GCSEs.  On the flip side, confiscating the power adapter is a rather good bargaining tool for getting said revision done. 

Y is for YouTube.  The trouble with regular television is just so... old, and only old people watch it.  It's probably why parents don't understand the internet at all, because we're all too busy watching the Antiques Roadshow or something.  And probably also why we don't understand why our really fast broadband speeds are still crap, because we don't watch Zoella or whoever icing cakes on YouTube.  I mean, who needs Bake Off anyway?  Also, all teens at some point think that they are going to make a career through YouTube, I'm blaming Zoella and her pals for this one too.

Z is for "Zoe's mum let's her have house parties/stay up after midnight/buys her 37 pairs of new trainers a week".  Somewhere there is always a much cooler parent than you, and their teen is bound to be friends with yours. Always.  Also, you will never be the cool parent, at least not in the eyes of your teen.  Don't even bother trying.

See, it's so much easier once you understand your teen, isn't it?  And all this observed from two children who have met all their targets at school for the year and have pretty amazing reports.  I know, I know, I did say that I wasn't going to mention that, but I do wonder how the teachers get the best out of the kids and we get whatever *this* is despite bending over backwards to try to please them.

It's also made me realise that maybe we can't always know our teenagers and how they work at all.  Now, where's the number for that hotel...

* May not be that definitive.  After all, they change their minds more often than Taylor Swift changes her boyfriends.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The End of Term Inventory

It's the end of the school year next week.  No more school runs, no more uniform to iron, no more packed lunches, yipeeeee!

But, when the holidays start I realise that once I've dumped the book bags in the corner and forgotten about the routine for a few days, there are things that suddenly need organising for the new term.

Uniform suppliers email me their offers and gently remind me of the lead times for blazers and sports kit, the kids wave lists of things they absolutely must have before the start of the new term under my nose (yes, thank you for letting me know about your GCSE English reading list 36 hours before the new term begins) and I swear this is getting worse each year.

So.  Much.  Stuff. *adds to list*

So I've started to make my own lists of stuff that they all need, before the new school year.  They are long, long lists.  Before I can go and get any of the new things I need to take stock of all the old.  Another list. It got me thinking.  What does happen to all the missing school stuff?  Is it on a planet somewhere next to the missing sock planet and the place where all my earring backs end up?  And why isn't all school uniform black, and stretchy so that it grows with the kids?  It would be so much better than this...

The End of Term Inventory


  • 40+ polo shirts of various sizes/shades of white.  Name tapes missing (washed away, or maybe I didn't bother last year, who knows?). Several demonstrating how the twins artwork has come on over the course of the year in various media.  Presumably there are so many because I didn't make a note of the 20 odd hand me down ones we already had last year.
  • 2 school logo sweatshirts (2! I thought I bought more of these...) both too small, with yet more black marker pen to the fronts.  Why does this stuff never wash out? Obviously a ploy by the school outfitters to make more cash out of us unsuspecting parents.  They must give them to the teachers for free...
  • 2 plain red jumpers.  One aged 5-6 like the rest of the twins uniform and one aged 6-7 (not ours)
  • 2 red cardigans with stupid heart shaped buttons that hurt my fingers to do them up.  Who thinks of these things FGS?  I bet it's someone who has never had to dress children in a hurry.
  • 2 Blazers.  Still fit but wrong colour for next year.  FFS. (Another school outfitter trick - why does one school need two different colours?)
  • 6 pairs of boys trousers.  Various sizes. All too short.  Just stop growing will you?
  • 2 standard issue high school skirts.  Still correct length.  Not replacing. *watches as teenage girl has meltdown because she's not as swaggy as her friends whose mums buy supermarket pleated skirts* Although quite why this makes a difference is anybody's guess, I just follow the uniform list.
  • Shoes and trainers. 10 pairs. All need replacing. It's no wonder they treat me so well every time I go into my local branch of Clarks. 

Book bags 

  • Three Biff, Chipper, Kip books (or whatever the hell they're called.  I must have read them all by now).  Must return these this week.  I'm not reading them again.
  • So.  Many.  Drawings.  Do they ever do anything else in year one?
  • Several party invitations for parties held in the past six weeks.  Oops.  I am crap.  This also explains the death stares I've recently been getting from other parents in the school playground.
  • 2 School holiday diaries. Not again? Just no.  I hate this side to the holidays.  We all know that our children are going to split their time 50/50 between the iPad and the TV so why do I feel so guilty that I have to do wholesome things and diarise them for the teacher to judge?
  • A flyer for the summer reading challenge.  This might be wholesome enough to balance out the guilt from iPad time?

Lunch Boxes

  • 3 potential biohazards.  Although they could make a nice little science project?  I could spend time cleaning them?  No.  Nobody has time for that sh*t.  In the bin they go.

Other School Equipment

I'm too frightened to look.  I mean, is it too much to ask that the teens could keep their maths sets in the bloody tins they came in?  Maybe then they would be able to find their sodding protractors at 8.20 am on a Monday morning when they have double maths first thing.  And calculators?  Pens? Art equipment (oh my god the cost of this stuff, the cost!).

All of this does make me wonder how on earth we have managed to even get through the school year in one piece.  But, we have.  And once I've distributed the contents of my current account between the shoe shop, uniform suppliers, WH Smiths and several large supermarket chains, we'll be ready to do it all again next year.

It's just never ending isn't it?

God, I love the holidays.

Friday, 24 June 2016

#EnjoyMoreWater with Robinsons

I've written before about how I find it tricky to get my children to drink more, especially during the summer time when keeping hydrated is really important.  We had some fairly good results with the Infruition water bottles we reviewed last year however, now that the summer is here and we will be out and about a bit more, carrying five bottles filled with fruit and water requires a suitcase in itself!  So when I saw that BritMums were running a challenge with Robinsons to get children to drink more water I decided to sign up and give it a whirl!

Which one to choose first?

We received a selection of Robinsons Squash'd (six flavours in all) and a chart to track the kids' progress. We were all set!

Teeny, tiny little bottles for taking everywhere!

The little bottles of Squash'd are perfect for taking with you on the go so that you can add to any bottled water that you buy or to your existing drinks bottles too.  I like the fact that I can chuck a couple of the different flavours in a bag to take to the park, or to just have at home so that little hands can help themselves. So much less messy than a big bottle of squash and really convenient.

Easy for little hands and no mess!

A quick after school pit stop with Squash'd

My older children liked taking the squash'd to school with them so that they could add it to their water bottles and keep them topped up using the school water fountains throughout the day.  I have to also confess that I added a squirt of Squash'd to the water bottle I take when I'm running once or twice - it made a nice change from plain water.  Squash'd isn't just for children!

BritMums asked us to share some tips and tricks for keeping children refreshed with Squash'd and here are mine:

Keep drinks bottles made up with water and Squash'd outside where the kids are playing for quick access to a drink. The twins like playing on their bikes and scooters at the minute which is thirsty work, so over the past few weeks I've made up and left a couple of bottles of Squash'd on the doorstep for them to have while they are outside. It means they are less likely to forget to ask for a drink if it's already there.

Biking is thirsty work!

Decorated bottles and nice cups are a must for encouraging children to drink. Twin girl likes foxes and so we have a drinks bottle decorated with foxes which she prefers drinking over all the others we have (and let's face it we have hundreds of plastic cups - they seem to breed in my cupboards!).

The fox cup

Buy some straws! My children are obsessed with straws in cups. This always makes them want a drink - it must be the novelty I suppose.


Novelty ice cubes also go down well with my children. The idea of having Darth Vader's head floating in their drink is a real hit with them and has the added benefit of cooling them down too of course. They also like slices of lemon and orange added to their drinks. Making up their drinks on their own is also a lot of fun for them - they like making "potions" to try at the moment.  Hours of fun...

This is a Stormtrooper, honest.  It may look like a big blob of ice but
the kids think this is great.  May the force be with you...

I sometimes use fizzy water with our Squash'd as a "treat". I know it doesn't sound like much of a treat as it is just water, but the twins think it is the same as having cola or lemonade, except it's a lot better for them as you don't need all that much Squash'd in the glass to flavour it. A little goes a long way!

Making progress with Squash'd

On the whole we have really been impressed with Squash'd.  As you can see from our star chart, the twins have been drinking plenty of water.  Thank you Robinsons and BritMums for letting us try it!


This post is an entry for BritMums #EnjoyMoreWater Challenge, sponsored by Robinsons

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Number Practice

"Somebody's been writing on the shed!" grumbled DH a few weeks ago.

"It must have been one of the twins," I said, "they had chalks out there the other week."

"Oh no, this isn't chalk, it's pencil and it won't come off the wood."

"Ah, I'll ask them then..." 

*takes back everything I've said recently about them being old enough to stop vandalising our home*

"Twin Girl, did you write numbers on the shed?"

"Oh no, not me Mummy, I would never do that, it must be Twin Boy who wrote on the shed in pencil!"

"I never said that it was in pencil..."

"Um, but it still wasn't meeeeee!" *does innocent face*

No, of course.  Not you.  Well at least it wasn't inside on my furniture I suppose.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Six Unwritten Rules of Sports Day

It was sports day at school yesterday.  I reckon that this was about the thirteenth one I have attended since I've had school aged children and this in turn made me realise something else.  It made me realise that no matter how many sports days you go to, no matter if they are at the same school or different ones, they are all essentially the same.

So, here are my six unwritten rules of sports day.

1.  Weather

Not the usual sort of summer weather.  For some reason, the minute that sports day starts the weather will go one of two ways.  Freezing cold with a force ten gale and 25 cm of rain in ten minutes or the hottest day on record in the last twenty years.  Whichever it is you will of course be dressed for/have prepared for the opposite. Pack a sou'wester and sandals just to be safe.

2.  Sportswear 

What colour is your child's team?  Red, blue, green, yellow?  These team colours seem straightforward enough and yet, you will never have the right coloured t-shirt to hand.  This in turn necessitates a thirty mile round trip at 9.00 pm the night before, to the largest supermarket you can find with a clothing section, to buy the most oversized and/or overpriced t-shirt in the correct colour.  If that wasn't bad enough some schools like to really test the parents by having a stripy team, a spotty team and a brown team or a combination of them all. Nobody in the history of forever owns a child sized brown spotty top.  Fact.  I know because it was our team one year.  FFS.

3.  Timings

The email says 9.30 am - 3.30 pm. The email says be there early to get a seat/good viewing spot.  What the email doesn't tell you is that this is based around a new unit of time called the primary school hour.  The thing about the primary school hour is that it can be as long or short as it needs to be.  In other words even if you think you are going to be on time you won't be.  Conversely if you have anywhere else to be afterwards then you may be waiting a while to get there.  I have no idea how it's all supposed to work but I do know that Harry Potter had the right idea at Hogwarts with that time-turner of his.

4.  Seating

It's an often forgotten fact that all available types of seating that lie within a primary school are the most uncomfortable thing known to man.  It's also a certainty that all of these options will be available for parents to use on sports day.  Lose the sensation in your bottom as you sit for three whole primary school hours on one of those low wooden benches in the gym, and then shuffle slowly outside (you can no longer walk) to sit on a ridiculously tiny plastic chair next to the running track for another two.  After which, you won't be able to feel your legs.  There are always a few parents who bring those foldable camping chairs with armrests and cup holders.  Smug sods.  Who the hell has time to remember these things anyway? #icantfeelmyfeet

5.  Parent's Races

Do you have a mum's race or a dad's race?  Oh you do?  Do you actually enjoy them?  The parent's races are usually at the end of the day, when everyone is a bit fed up and wants to go home.  How many people actually volunteer willingly for them though?  Hardly any.  There is always one sporty sort of mum who leaps up at the merest mention of a race (she is the mum who wears a running club shirt on the school run most days) and she desperately tries to get other mums to join in so that she can beat them and be the best.  The other mums always look a bit embarrassed when they agree and it's a forgone conclusion who will win before the whistle even blows.  But I think that schools are approaching this all wrong.  What we need is an incentive.  I bet if there was a trophy for the winner that would change things.  At the very least there should be a medal and a finishers shirt for all the participants.  In addition to your sou'wester if you want to be in the mum's race then a sports bra and trainers are essential attire.  Time to give sporty mum some serious competition.  #thismumcan 

6.  The Buzz

No matter whether you are looking forward to the sporting day ahead or not, when you arrive at school (wearing your sandal/sou'wester combo and feeling inadequate about not carrying a camping chair) you will feel the undeniable buzz in the air.  At this point you realise that all of the above doesn't matter.  What matters most is the excitement of the children, the sense of belonging and the enjoyment of seeing your children doing their best.  First, last, it doesn't really matter as you wait eagerly in the crowd and shout,


You've got to love sports day, it's the highlight of the school year!

* but, please can we be in the red team next year?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Half Marathon Training Begins

Today's run.  Just an average sort of run.  7 kilometers.  Not looking forward to this.  I never do.  The best bit is always the end.

I run down the street, out onto the main road.  Cheesy pop tunes in my ears.  I've done this route (or a variation of it) a hundred times or more.  Running past a neighbour who is walking her dog, I smile and wave.

S Club 7 blaring through my head, I speed up in time and mouth some of the lyrics to urge myself along.  My Garmin bleeps and looking at it I suddenly slow.  Because this isn't a normal run at all.  Today's run is a training run.  Pace and distance planned and dictated, to help me reach a goal.  A 13.1 mile goal.

Not unsurmountable but I do wonder why I have decided to run a half marathon in 18 weeks time. Possibly I am mad?

I think that a lot of it it's partly my age.  What most would describe as a midlife crisis, but it's just getting older really.  Realising that I'm running out of time for doing stuff.  Doing big things.  And this, to me at least, is a big thing.

I check myself and slow down and realise that I haven't run this slow in quite a few months now.  I like it though because it's easier, the only problem is that as one song ends and another begins I allow myself to focus on the music, the lyrics and I realise that I have all this time to think.

I think about why I'm doing this.  Who I'm doing it for.  I think about writing it all down when I get home.  I realise that if there's one thing that the people I know don't need, it's another rambling blog about how I've taken up running.  Nobody that I can think of has ever written an interesting or amusing blog about how they've taken up running*. Running blogs are inherently boring unless you are a fellow runner.  They even have their own humour which only appeals to other runners.

Runner humour

I'm running for charity, of course.  That's what people do when they decide to run a really long way isn't it? It's not my usual sort of thing, charity.  But this is a bit different.  I'm running to fundraise for a hospital.  The one which diagnosed my late father's cancer.  The one which attempted to treat him.  The one from which he was sent home to die.  I don't talk about this much, but it goes without saying that we all miss him.  I wish he could see me doing this.  He probably wouldn't approve.

I think about a friend of ours who lost his life to cancer two weeks before Christmas.  We didn't even know he was ill.  The first we knew about it was an invitation to his funeral.  He was the same age as my husband and like him had a wife and young family too.  We haven't heard from them since the funeral and I often wonder how they are.

I think about my blogging friend Becky and her very brave husband.  She is one of the nicest people I have ever met.  Always smiling.  Her family simply don't deserve this, but cancer doesn't choose.  It's a bastard like that.

As I run I think about making a difference, albeit a small one.  This is why I'm running this half marathon for The Christie.  A one off.

The other reason?

The booking page on the Manchester Half website promises all finishers a nice big medal.

And runners (for that is what I am now) are a bit like magpies.  We all love a nice shiny bit of bling (and a free finishers t-shirt).

I'm running up a country lane now.  Out of town, and instead of hearing Gary Barlow wailing "Cry" at me and feeling all lumpy throated, I find myself running faster, grinning like a fool.  Girls Aloud "Something Kinda Oooh" reaches the chorus and I wink at a passing tractor driver.  I have no shame...

The tunes** just keep coming after that.  My pace settles again and I realise that my run has begun properly now.  I'm no longer dreading the distance ahead but willing myself to beat it instead.  It goes like this:

Can't Stop the Feeling - Justin Timberlake (Yeah, I love running!)
Hot Right Now - Rita Ora (yes, very.  I might be melting...)
Salute - Little Mix (I'm too old to be listening to this, aren't I?)
Shut Up and Drive - Rhianna (*resists temptation to wink again, this time at a lorry driver on the main road*)

Only 600 metres from the end now (I know this, I know how far everything is from my house these days since I got this running watch.  So much so that I'm even boring myself as I write about it. God, I'm so dull...).  "Larger Than Life" by The Backstreet Boys comes on and I treat a waiting queue of traffic to a sweaty faced performance, half running, half dancing, complete with jazz hands.  There are several people I recognise in their cars but I don't care.  I like to think that as well as all this serious training, I am also providing entertainment in the community.

I pause the watch and fall through the front door.  One run down, approximately 79 other runs or rest days to go AND a really long race.  Don't forget the race.

See, I told you all running blogs were dull.  Are you even still reading this?  And I haven't given anyone a running related laugh yet, so here you go...


*  and yet here I am attempting to hold your interest.  Keep reading there might even be a joke.

** I never said I had good musical taste but these are designed to keep me moving and anyway there really ain't no party like an S Club party.

***  I defy anyone, runner or not, not to laugh at this ridiculous word.  It's a running term by the way****.  It means "speed play" in Swedish although I strongly suspect that it doesn't and that hundreds of Swedish people are in fact laughing at us for believing that.

**** See, I told you runners have their own humour.
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