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System Not Responding

  'It doesn’t owe us anything,’ we told each other, when our teenaged tumble drier conked out earlier this year. We said the same about the very cheap and very old toaster which gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service, but we weren’t best pleased when a relatively youthful coffee machine ground to a roaring, spitting halt. When, one by one, the appliances we purchased when we moved here ten years ago - including a couple of big ticket items - mutinied and left us for good, it started to feel personal. But on a brighter note, we’re new best friends with the delivery men from  as they’re such regular visitors here. Three weeks ago, I was having the time of my life at my ninth Llanelli Half Marathon. I love this challenging course which which leads down to and follows along the scenic waterfront. It was cold, it was wet and a hail storm almost flattened me, but it’s always so exhilarating to be out there in such wild elements. The exceptionally windy conditions,
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The Thrill of the Chill

  ‘Let’s buy a paddling pool for the grandchildren this summer,’ we decide. And this is how it begins. Here, on this thinly populated edge of the west Wales coast, we are fortunate to have a large garden which wraps itself around the house so that even a large paddling pool doesn’t make much of an impact on the lawn. We set it up and rather than wait for the grandchildren, who do arrive, and a summer that lasts one week, we try the pool out just to see how it feels.  The water’s unheated so my first few attempts are torture as I ease in millimetre by millimetre whilst Tom - who takes the short sharp plunge approach - shouts, ‘In! In! In!’. I quickly realise that the shock of the cold is almost instantly followed by pure bliss; there’s the silkiness of the water, the novelty of the frog’s eye view of the garden and the sheer silliness of lying in a giant paddling pool which makes us both laugh. I’m not known for my love of the cold - I have Raynaud’s, for a start - so Tom is a bit sur

A Bump in the Night. And Beyond.

  Bedtime. I turn on my side to switch off my bedside light and the underside of my right forearm presses against something solid, something to do with my left breast. Something odd. I lie back and reluctantly prod at my breast. My fingers immediately find a large, solid mass. I explore the other breast, looking for its twin. Nothing. I return to the lump. Still there. Not true, surely?  Tom leans in for a goodnight kiss. Then he sees my face.  ‘What’s up?’ ‘Can you just,’ I ask, lightly, ‘see if you can feel a lump here?’ ‘They’re different,’ he confirms. We lie there in shocked silence. In my case, hoping that the next time I put my fingers to my breast, I won’t be able to find anything. Surely I would have noticed a solid lump sooner? Still there. I spend most of the night awake wondering something or nothing? Typically, with Covid regulations beginning to ease, we’ve made arrangements to catch up with family, but my trip to the GP the next day means these plans will now have to be

Fly Me to the Zoom Book Club

I have to admit to feeling a teeny bit nervous when I’m invited to join She Runs: Cardiff for their Zoom book club to chat to them about my running memoir/guide, Running Kind. This brilliantly supportive women-only social running group based in Cardiff deservedly won the Run Wales Group of the Year in December 2020 for their fantastic efforts to encourage and engage their 1.1k followers. Their lockdown activities, with a strong emphasis on health and well-being, have included virtual couch to 5k, themed runs, monthly challenges and a book club which has attracted great runners, popular authors and now, gulp, me. Zoom’s new to me so my daughters break me in gently with a rousing game of family unicorn bingo. Tom and I wear our unicorn headbands and there are tantrums - bingo cards upturned, a sin-binning - laughter and tears, not least mine when it’s over because it’s both so lovely to see the family and so painful wondering when we’ll see them for real. So I’ve Zoomed, I’ve prepare

Milestones and Moments

  Snowflakes swirl around me as I battle up the hill towards home at the end of a six mile run. I look up as shapes appear in my snow globe world. A young woman is leading her small daughter, who is seated on a pony. I stand aside to let them pass. ‘And that lady is also breathing oxygen,’ says the woman, with a smile. The little girl regards me solemnly. ‘Like my horse,’ she says. ‘Yes,’ the woman agrees, ‘like your horse. Now what else can you think of that breathes oxygen?’ It’s lockdown in a moment; permitted exercise, home schooling, a certain wariness of other people and - in the back of my mind - the appalling loss of life, of last breaths taken. T here have been days when I’ve physically ached with missing my family. January includes several birthdays; littlest grandson was one and we’re all very sad not to have seen more of him. It’s overwhelming at times, but I’m keenly aware that there’s nothing to be gained from wishing things were different - we just have to be patient. L

Preserving Memories

  ‘But Nana,’ five-year-old Bee says with some concern, ‘how did Father Christmas get to be so old?’. Never mind Father Christmas, I think, looking at the photo of my four-year-old self, where did all those years go?  Slowly - and very carefully - we’ve been catching up with our loved ones and as joyful as each of these reunions has been it’s incredibly painful to say goodbye again in these very uncertain times. Perhaps that’s what’s behind Bee’s request to ‘look at all your pictures, Nana?’ Perhaps Bee, like so many of us, is looking for patches of solid ground? Although seeing the change in me from the little girl I was to the great age I am now seems to have given her a bit of a wobble! ‘ Who’s this then, Mum?’ asks my daughter, Rose, a few weeks later, looking through my box of loose photographs, and it’s then that I realise I should probably do something with them. I’m not someone who often needs a rear view mirror, I’m much happier where I am now or looking ahead to what’s next.

What Must We Do To Be Saved?

My previous Home Thoughts happened in another world; a world where enjoying a meal in a restaurant, taking part in a real half marathon or casually hugging a dear friend were all possible. The shadow of coronavirus was there, of course, but we clung to some semblance of what was normal, hoping against hope that the unthinkable wouldn’t happen. Less than two weeks after I posted my blog, we were in lockdown. Like so many of us, my first response was to try to organise my way out of the pandemic, to try to maintain some sort of sense of control in a world of uncertainty. I emptied and sorted drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and cleaned the house to within an inch of its life. And then, when - oh, how cruel! - the loveliest weather we’ve had in this part of Wales for years arrived, Tom and I began clearing and tidying the garden. (Fortunately, I had an epiphany one evening and realised the garden will always be a work in progress and that’s absolutely fine!). Quite early on, I also