That time of the year

The next few weeks are going to be really exciting.

Not just because I start a new job and begin the hunt for a new place to live (as I’ve finally got a short list of places to look at!), but because we’re on the run in to the end of the Football season and the start of the F1 season.

Two of the football teams I follow are on for top of the table clashes today. Cheltenham Town travel to Swindon and St Neots Town are at home to Slough. Both huge games. Not to mention Forest Green Rovers keeping the playoff dream alive if they can come away with 3 points at Grimsby.

Meanwhile, with the F1 season kicking off next weekend, fans everywhere will be wondering whether the dominance of Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel will continue. Can anyone come close? Personally I’m hoping that McLaren can build on last seasons form and fight back, but, with all the work the teams have done on the new aerodynamic packages I think we’re set for a turbulent season.

Winter training

A few years ago, I was a regular competitive Angler. I would spend my days on the banks of a river, canal or lake, come rain or shine. Back then people used to tell me I was crazy. That I should spend my days in the warmth and get a new hobby.

These days, I spend my time ON a river, canal or lake. It’s progression, but definitely in the wrong direction! As a rower, we go out in all weathers. Well, nearly all. We don’t go out in electrical storms or when the river is completely iced over!

Yesterday, I was due to train with Huntingdon Ladies as they’ve asked me to fill in for an injury ahead of their Cambridge Winter League race next week. When we got to the boat club, it was -8c and the river was 90% frozen, so we didn’t go out.

Apparently it was -10c in St Neots yesterday at 8.30am and yet the open water swimmers still went out! With the water temperature at 1c, I think they take the prize for being the craziest!

This morning it was a balmy -1c when I arrived at St Neots. We have a Ladies 8 preparing for a number of Head races coming up. The first, the Head of the Trent (6K) is just a fortnight away and they were in need of a cox. Yes, I volunteered.

Luckily with plenty of layers on, it was just my toes and face which felt it most keenly. It was a brilliant outing but with a small amount of ice navigation required. Staying away from the edge, I managed to navigate the boat through the open, clear water but by 10am, the ice was breaking away from the edges.

When we turned near the club house for the first time, there was a strange sound. As we stopped, we realised the sound was coming from the mass of ice next to us. I can only describe the sound as magical. I’ve never heard anything like it before, but as the ice broke up and gently brushed against the block next to it, it seemed to sing.

We’re one of the only clubs near by with a river that isn’t frozen so we’ve had Peterborough and Star Rowing Clubs training this weekend. During the second turn, one of the other crews out shouted to us to stop. I halted the crew and asked what the problem was and they shouted simply, ‘ice’.

We drifted and there was the familiar clunk as we hit the side of a drifting plate of ice. Our coach on the safety launch pulled back and helped to guide us out.

A small amount of careful navigation later and we were clear. As we travelled down the river, there were only one or two plates of ice, but I could see from the thickness that we wouldn’t want to hit them!

Nice cup of warm coffee, boiling hot shower and lots of layers to now warm my poor cold bones.

Here’s to warming up! Summer training can’t come soon enough.

Looking back to look forward

A few years ago I made the decision to leave broadcast. I’d been working in and around broadcasters since I was 16.

I remember my first job. I was answering the telephones for Sue and Pete Wilson on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. The work was fun, chatting to the regular callers and ensuring the phones were answered as promptly and politely as possible. I was just shadowing to start with, but soon I was on my own when the guy I’d been working with, Matt Peacock, moved on to present his own show in the morning.

I had the time of my life at the Radio Station. I put in a lot of hours and listened to everything that went on, learning the ropes and taking up every opportunity to try something new. I moved on to present Sport Bulletins, to help out when the Sport team of Paul Furley and Ian Randall weren’t in and I loved it.

Even better was my stint co-presenting the Summer Saturday Sport show with Richard Atkins. I provided the bulk of the Sport input, including securing an interview with the Minardi F1 team boss Paul Stoddart. Sadly it was the day both cars fell out of the 107% rule and he spent the afternoon with the Stewards!

Over time, my career moved on and with stints at BBC World Service (working for grey bars – 24 hour news) and both Audio and Newsroom Playout project teams, I found myself wondering about the world outside the newsroom.

I don’t regret taking time out. Working as a software developer in Gloucestershire was good, but I must admit I don’t miss the peak time rush of Flamingo Flowers. Working in Despatch over Valentines Peak to help the team get the pallets on to vehicles and out the door was actually a lot of fun, but don’t tell them that.

Around 19 months ago, I got the opportunity to move back into London and back into broadcast. You may have heard of Bloomberg. A Financial and Television company which broadcasts 24/7, with shows out of the US, UK and Asia. As a Broadcast Engineer it’s been almost perfect. My colleagues have been amazing and are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

This week, I resigned.

So what now? Well, it’s time to take a step back into software development but within Broadcast. And sport. Time will tell on the detail but needless to say, I am very excited about the coming months!

Sadly it does mean that I won’t be taking part in the Arch to Arc cycle challenge for Help the Hospices. I plan on taking part in one of their other events, but not this one.

One thing you’ll notice missing from this blog, is my time at University. I did go. Part time, for 2 weeks. I quit after I got a job travelling with the BBC as part of the training team for their digital audio playout system.

Everything I know now, has been through hardwork, determination and passion. I wouldn’t mind attending a course as you always pick up new ideas, but for me, I wouldn’t change a thing about how I got where I am now. I’ve met too many wonderful people and have too many great stories to ever want to change that.

End of the Year – goodbye 2011

So here it is. The end of 2011. A chance for people to claim a new start and how they are glad to see the back of the last 12 months.

Does the chime of Big Ben at midnight on 31st December wipe the slate clean? Does it mean that the memories of attending that funeral of a loved one, those broken hearts/bones/promises are all forgotten on the stroke of 12?

Of course not. Those are the experiences that make us who we are now. Those memories will stay with us, sometimes for the rest of our lives. I appreciate that a new year does signify the start of a new beginning, but then so does spring, or the dawn of a new day.

Perhaps a resolution for the coming year should be to live each day for the here and now. To remember that every day we have the chance to change the shape of our future not just on 31st December. Perhaps not to have the celebrations though….

I, like everyone else, will be cheering in the New Year and hoping that 2012 is filled with laughter and the joy of making new friends. Also I will be hoping its one of cheering on the best team in League Two to promotion.

2011 for me was hectic. It saw the loss of a family member, illness, heartbreak, fun, laughter, regular trips to Cheltenham Town, finding Twitter, meeting some of the best people (via Twitter!) and making a decision to shape 2012 – moving back to Gloucestershire.

My priorities in life changed dramatically in 2011 and when I look back on the person I was, even 3 months ago, I can barely recognise myself. The uptight, stressed person of September/October has gone. The people who filled my days with questions on where my life is heading, have gone. The coming year will be exciting with, no doubt, sorrow and heartbreak, but also laughter, fun and most importantly smiles. One thing is certain, I’m gonna have one a hell of a time in 2012!

Happy New Year!

Obvious but not easy to do

Someone once told me that if I changed my way of thinking to be positive, that good things would happen. I laughed at him at the time. He’d just arrived back from the US where he’d been working as a presenter and participant in Wrestling. His life long dream. T is well known for being positive and that night in Cheltenham he made me realise that if I was to follow my dreams I had to start saying yes and believing in myself.
It didn’t happen over night. I made a few great choices in the following year or two, taking time to remove myself from a relationship which had become toxic (for us both) and a job that I’d taken because I felt it was what everyone else thought I should be doing.
It’s been several years since T and I had that chat. Sitting here, heading to work in London, I realise that I’m doing a job that everyone around me said I would never be able to do. I live in a gorgeous flat just 5 minutes from a football club I adore, Im back seeing old friends in Gloucestershire and training in a sport which most think I’m crazy for doing. Some have even tried to make me quit.
T’s advice is something I’d suggest to everyone. I’ve managed it in my professional life but not in my personal. That’s next on my list. I have  finally overcome my issues over my ‘worth’ in the last 6 weeks or so and I’m sure that will make me stronger. Hopefully it’ll also stop me from putting myself down. I’m not sure how I’m seen by men. I wonder if they think I put myself down to get compliments? It’s not the case. I’ve never known how to accept a compliment. It’s alien to me and possibly what comes of spending most of my life in a male world being treated as one of the guys.
I never realised just how much positivity affects what happens in our day to day life. Ive always thought it was some hippy philosophy taken up by those with no career path or by life coaches who tell you how amazing you are and you can achieve everything just by smiling.
You can’t achieve everything, but you can achieve a lot. The best bit? You feel so much better by the end of the day if you’ve spent it smiling instead of scowling. Try it for a day. I’d recommend that a Monday is probably not the best time to start as everyone will think you’re on something. Or having a breakdown. Depends how grumpy you are normally I guess.

Back in a boat and back on my way

After four months, I finally got back in a rowing boat today. Complete with oars. Having been unwell last week, I was surprised to find how good I felt after dancing on Friday. Late yesterday, I decided that today, I would make my way down to the rowing club for their Sunday morning session.
The 7.30 alarm was greeted with a pained sigh as an arm reached out from the warmth of the duvet and hit snooze. After ten minutes, I couldn’t put it off anymore and got up, reached for the lycra, warm hooded top and breakfast.
Turning up at the club with the overcast sky threatening a drop of rain, I was lacking in happy thoughts, but as I stepped out of the car I was welcomed like a long lost family member.
Everyone had plans for crews as they are competing at Star (Bedford) next week and I was expecting a stint on the ergo for my first day back at the club.
Instead, three other ladies who aren’t racing next week suggested we go out in a coxless quad. I was adamant that we couldn’t do any major work which made me their favourite rower. Im guessing they’d either had a heavy Saturday night or its been a bit full on recently!
Once we’d taken the boat out and placed her on the water, I was put at stroke with M coaching, steering and rowing at bow. Rather her than me!
We set out and I couldn’t help but smile during the 500m warmup as it felt like I’d never been away. It felt so natural although my muscles were starting to wonder what I had planned.
We did a light 2k down to the local campsite with M making calls to ensure we were working together and not rushing the slide. She also called for a couple of handbrake turns as we got a little close to the bank on a couple of occasions!
The boat was fairly balanced and although I was acutely aware that my flexibility as I head to the catch is severely lacking, overall I was really pleased to be able to continuously row for that distance.
We turned and headed back for another 2k, a bit of work on the legs but not much. I found myself desperate to push the rating up as we’d been sat at a steady 16-18 and try some work, but common sense prevailed. As we went past the clubhouse one of the men shouted out at me, obviously thrilled to see me back in a boat.Rowing Club - St Neots
We did some technical work and I must admit it was the happiest I’ve felt in a few weeks. Watching the blades slice into the glass ceiling of the river, rudely disturbing it’s calm facade, on a crisp, sunny (by the end!) Sunday, felt perfect.
My plan to be back fit for Sprint season has been given the boost that it needed. I’m four weeks ahead of schedule with my recovery training, without pushing myself. I have a weekend off next week as I head back to Gloucestershire for a long weekend on Thursday, but before then I plan on some core and flexibility work.
The long road ahead now appears to be lined with tree’s, pretty flowers and a fantastic view. A much brighter prospect than my first attempt to train just two weeks ago.

How to leave the day behind…

Every day when I leave my office, I can’t help but smile. The City at night is a beautiful sight. The tall buildings lit up against the brooding night sky.
One of my fondest memories from my time working in Canary Wharf was at Christmas. The tree branches delicately strewn with blue lights, paving the way to the sky scraper outline which signifies part of London’s financial heartland.
It’s amazing how much this can relax you after a long week or just a bad day. In a similar way to walking out of the office, breathing in the cool evening air, stretching your arms out wide and throwing your head back to stare up at the star speckled sky. Grinning manically is an option at this point. Yes, I’m sure most think I’m crazy when they walk past, but this, like the sight of the city lights helps clear my mind of the working stresses and puts everything into perspective.
My only reasoning on why this is, is that the size of the buildings or the sight of the vast expanse of the sky, put into perspective the days stresses.
Ok, so there are aspects of my day that some would find frightening, but in reality, its TV. Not life or death. If it reaches life and death then I will resign and find myself a remote farm on top of a hill in Wales with no internet or phone signal.
Its just a shame that there isn’t a beautiful view in St Neots as I step off the train or that the throwing arms out wide and staring at the sky doesn’t work twice. If it did, I may have slightly fewer dark thoughts about First Capital Connect. I think I’ve had the slowest journey ever from Hitchin this evening and it’s not helping my happy state that I left London in. Argument for moving into the City? Don’t think so. I’m not that desperate. Give me half an hour and my smiles will have returned. Can’t keep me down for long.

The morning after…

Tuesday ended on a bit of a ‘downer’. I’ve not been feeling like myself for the last couple of days, feeling alone and more than a bit doubtful on whether my life is going in the right direction. I guess seeing the stress that my family is under due to the illness of my Grandfather, is probably the cause. I hate feeling useless and in this situation, that’s exactly what I am. Other than providing support, I can do nothing.

For the last four months, I have felt the same helplessness about my own health. I originally started feeling ill in May and ignoring it cost me four months of rowing training, the entire winter head racing season and could have cost me my long term health.

Last Thursday, I was given the support from my doctor that I had been dreaming of. Despite not having the test results from a hospital visit a few days before, the doctor said, with a smile on his face, that he was happy for me to start some graduated training. I couldn’t believe my ears. Ok, so I have to wait another couple of weeks for the all clear, but this was the best news I’d had in a long time.

I got home that evening on top of the world and immediately started the plan for light/recovery training, from Monday. My plan consisted of swimming, a gentle jog, light ergo (rowing machine) or dancing with at least one ‘recovery’ day in between which is to be completed for the next 4 weeks.

With Monday’s early start I abandoned the plan for Monday and instead decided to start on Tuesday night.

Heading home last night and talking about it with a friend on the train, I realised I was incredibly nervous about doing any exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I walk to the train station most days and at speed, so it’s not completely alien to me, but this was different.

The plan for Tuesday was a 10 minute jog. One minute walking, one minute jogging. In order to do this I had to take my pulse first thing in the morning, when I got home from work and then at intervals during the training. This was to ensure that my body was in the right state to be able to cope with exercise. I had already established that if my resting heart rate in the morning was above 55 or above 65 after work, then I wont train. With my pulse at 52 in the morning and 59 after work, I decided to go for it. I set out and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

My illness over the summer had resulted in some concerns over my heart and it scared me to death. Everyone around me keeps commenting on how I must ensure that I don’t overtrain. To those people, I ask if they think I have a death wish. One Wednesday in July I was left not sure whether I’d see Thursday. I’m not saying that for effect. It’s true. I found myself unable to speak, slurring my words and in a lot of pain, it’s something that I will remember for a long time to come. Maybe this gives an insight to why I was nervous about a bit of a jog.

I had planned for the exercise to be in my cardio zone and after 5 minutes, my pulse was just a little over my target.

When I got home I wanted to cry. I’d never found 10 minutes work so hard. This was the first time I realised just how unwell I’d been and how much work would be involved in getting me back to competition fitness. I just wanted someone to hug me and tell me it would be ok. I’m a strong person, but maybe the summer took more of my strength than I realised.

This morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Part of me thought that I would wake with a headache, as I’d been doing before I got sick, or maybe even feeling like I had flu – a good indication that I’d done too much.

As the alarm went off I felt groggy. But after 15 minutes or so, it passed and although there was the feeling that I may develop a headache during the day, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. And I was so hungry it was ridiculous!

I know the road ahead is going to be one of the hardest of my life, but standing on the train platform this morning, I felt that buzz coming back.

Yesterday may have ended feeling down and unsure of my abilities. But I have definitely come back fighting today!

The usual weekend, with an unusual ending

If you do a lot of driving, you’ll know that (out of rush hour) it can be one of the most relaxing things in the world. You, the stereo and the open road. My trip to Gloucestershire on Saturday was nearly stopped by the less than enthusiastic response from my parents to my impending arrival. So, while driving down the A1 enjoying 5 Live’s Fighting Talk, I was struck with a decision. Do I continue 2 hours down the road to watch Cheltenham Town or turn around, go back to bed for 2 hours and then head 30 minutes down the road to Arlesey to watch Forest Green in the FA Cup?

Cheltenham won and Forest Green lost. Both in terms of my attendance and the result.

I turned up at the ABS very early and headed to pick up my ticket. Plymouth Argyle, currently bottom of League Two, were the days visitors to Whaddon Road. The fans were all in good spirits and the staff at Cheltenham spent their time redirecting those new to the ground, Plymouth and Cheltenham fans alike, to their respective stands/seats. After a short while I made my way into the ground to take up my position in the same seat I’d had for the Hereford game. Surrounded by the same enthusiastic men and with a great view of the away end, packed to the rafters with Plymouth fans.

I sat next to two men I didn’t recognise from my last visit and they both introduced themselves to me. One was a Cheltenham supporter of 40 years, the other a newcomer to the ground. After I had assured the new supporter that although I work in the financial district in London, I am not a Banker, we started to get on well. Which is better than Cheltenham seemed to manage in the first half.

Argyle never stopped in a fast paced game, hassling the Robins into making mistakes and playing the long ball. Going 1-0 down in the first half had hearts sink in the unusually quiet home end and fuelled the passion of the visitors, singing load and proud for their team.

It all changed in the second half. Plymouth conceeded a penalty to take to it 1-1, went down to 10 men and then had 6 minutes of injury time to survive. They couldn’t. An injury time winner by Duffy secured a vital win and most of all 3 points for the Gloucestershire side.

My new found friend Dave and I parted company and I headed out to await my lift home. While waiting in the car park I witnessed a number of different conversations. Including one poor man on the phone to, I assume, his other half explaining why he was late. Most of the conversations around me were Robins fans commenting on how much they hoped Argyle would stay up, complementing the away fans on their support and passion for their side. I have to agree. Plymouth you should be proud of your supporters. Match report.

As for Forest Green… I’ve no idea what happened. Playing a team from the Evo Stik Southern League Premier Division (Step 3), they led in the first half before losing 2-1 and sending themselves out of the FA Cup. Match report.

Sunday was a quieter day, although I decided to get out and take some photo’s around the Forest of Dean. My father and I headed out knowing that we had just 2 hours to take photos, get the shopping and be home before he had to be back in the car to pick up family members for a hospital visit.

Needless to say, we failed.

Our timekeeping as rubbish as ever, left me having to throw all my things into any bag I could find and get into my car just 5 minutes after walking through the door. Sat in my car on the drive and waving them goodbye I felt a bit lost. With nowhere to go and no-one to see, I started a gentle drive back, during which I decided to go to the local pub for the Karaoke night.

My local, The Bulls Head in St Neots, is a fantastic little pub. Friendly, warm and inviting, I had a great time, even inflicting my own version of Whitney Houston’s One Moment in Time on the poor unsuspecting regulars. Eventually and with a heavy heart, I made my way home with the realisation I had to be up in 7 hours for work.

How wrong I was. Just 4 hours after I’d got to sleep (and 2 hours after I’d woken up thinking about work!) the phone rang. It was work with a problem. Through a cloud of sleep and confusion my colleague and I got a workaround in place for the UK to go live (the joys of working on live TV) and in the space of 20 minutes, I was showered, dressed and on my way to the train station.

As I write this now, it’s nearly 6pm and I’m on the train heading home. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been about as much use as a chocolate teapot from about 2pm this afternoon. Plans for this evening? Dinner, DVD and sleep.… Zzzz

Love, Lust and Forgiveness

It’s a well known fact that when things are going well, they are brilliant. Everything looks wonderful and the world is filled with only the good and beautiful things. At the start of a relationship, it’s known as the honeymoon period. But, when it goes wrong, even once, we pick it to pieces. Concluding that it’s not just one slip up but that it’s no longer working and should be abandoned.

In this case, I’m referring to Sport. In particular, Football. When your team is on a winning streak, the fans come out in force. The ‘fair weather supporters’ who jump on the bandwagon enjoying ‘their’ teams successes. As soon as that team shows that they are human and impart a poor display of their abilities or, god forbid, a defeat, it starts.

In your job, if you were told you should be fired for having an ‘off’ day (unless this leads to killing someone or a serious breach of contract!), how would you feel? What if those around you began calling for your resignation…?

It’s my belief, as a supporter you should be helping to lift the team and cheer them on at the next match to help them back to winning ways. Don’t get me wrong, I think a constructive display of disappointment or measured response to the poor game(s) is more than warranted, but not an all out attack.

An example of the ‘right’ kind of support and publicity of this, has been Cheltenham Town. The team had a run of 5 wins in a row, lifting them to 3rd in the League 2 table, boosting the spirit of fans (and no doubt the players/staff) and awakening the belief that they could be candidates for promotion this season.

Tuesday night they played Crewe Alexandra at home. And the run came to an end .

After the game I was watching the comments going around Twitter. There were the usual disappointed people who felt that it had been a poor game, which it most likely was, but the biggest thing for me was that these were coupled with comments on how they were happy at the progress made so far and that Cheltenham could bounce back against Plymouth on Saturday. It’s this side of the fans that needs to be promoted. There are ones that come out of the woodwork and only complain about the result, but all they do is bring the players down and put the team on the defensive.

We’ve had this experience at St Neots Town. After last years promotion winning season from Step 5 (United Counties Premier League), the team have been backed for promotion again this year. The pressure applied from all corners, quickly showed in the first few games of the season. The team lacked cohesion and the results reflected this. The management and staff worked hard on pulling the players together, but on the forums, the back biting and put downs were numerous. Every football supporter has their views on the best formation for a team but game after game so-called ‘supporters’ were calling the management’s abilities into question and would openly lay claim that players were useless. The number in support of the team were minimal. Most of them were supporters who are active volunteers at the club. Constructive? I think not.

St Neots are sitting third in the table at the moment, equal on points with league leaders Biggleswade Town. Is this something that supporters can really claim to be poor, in a league which promotes two teams, one automatically and one via the playoffs?

As a person on the inside of that particular club, I can honestly say that it can really bring you down when you think that fans are going to jump all over the slightest mistake. Yes we have to strive for promotion and yes we are all passionate about going forward, but you have to be sensible in the approach to criticising players, management and staff.

Forest Green, like many other clubs, suffer at the hands of the non-believers. With a poor run of results, numerous draws at home and two consecutive losses (Hayes & Yeading away followed by Kettering Town at home) , the players found themselves subject to derogatory comments about their abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, when my team loses I’m disappointed and if it’s an ongoing situation then questions have to be asked, but is it right to come out in force against a team straight away?

Surely in this life, we can all accept that people have bad days, forgive them and give them the love and support they need to go on and return to winning ways.

The England football team are a good example of how the media helps to fuel the worst response to defeat. They insist on building them up as the next big thing ahead of all international games. Putting them on a pedestal for the sole reason, it seems, of knocking them off as hard as possible at the first sign of a poor game. And when they lose? Well they might as well be on the Coconut Shy at a Funfair for everyone to take a pot shot at.