Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Great Big Onion

"It's great to see what you're doing Toni, but I don't think you're quite there yet."  So spoke a friend and mentor a few months ago.  At the time I wasn't sure what he was going on about but I kept it in the memory bank as he's one of those sorts that has incredible perception, great foresight and some very handy hindsight based on many years of coaching and listening to people.

And he is right.  The past few years have been interesting times indeed and the path I've taken hasn't been entirely straight forward.  When I first left Microsoft I embraced the freedom of freelancing but a lot of what I did was not unsimilar to the job I had left behind.  Then I had a bit of a wobble that came in part from missing working with others and in part from worrying about nursery fees, and so I returned to working for someone else.  And then I missed the freedom that comes from being your own boss....and went freelance again which my husband greeted with outward understanding and good humour as he internally suppressed a howl of "would you please make up your mind woman!!".  Difference is, that on my return to freelancing I decided that I would do the thing I really wanted to do: write.  And I found that people liked my writing, and would pay me to do it, and I could make a living out of it.

Photo credit: 9gag.com
So that's it, isn't it?  Well no, as my mentor so astutely observes, I'm still on a bit of a path as it goes, gradually peeling away layers.  The writing started off with technical writing, marketing, advertising copy and case studies.  This has given way to helping others to blog and find their voices, creating content together that speaks to their personal opinions and feelings and working with people I feel a connection with.  It's collaborative work and there's something very fulfilling and interesting in helping another person to express themselves.  Along the way I have published my first book, and my first story for children is about to be published.  I am becoming less 'freelancer' and more 'writer' and with each layer that peels away is an excitement and trepidation, some nervous energy and a slightly sick feeling in my stomach.  Could I do it?  Can I do it?  Where will it lead?

I could just chase the money, I could just be content with things as they are, but my need to do it comes from what you find when you go through the mess and tears that come from peeling an onion: the heart.

Soundtrack: The Onion Song - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Friday, 11 April 2014

Wee Rule

After signing up to do the Moonwalk with a group of girls in the village, I received a pack which went into a huge amount of detail on how to keep yourself safe from the rest of the human race (which was slightly alarming, I was hoping for something a little more "yay! go you!" than "avoid quiet pathways...lined with bushes where someone could be hiding") provided lots of encouragement to spend money on branded kit, and contained a plan on how to get yourself to the required level of fitness to walk a marathon in the middle of London, in the middle of the night.  

What it didn't cover was something so crucially important that it was the first question that was raised when we got together to discuss the training - where are you supposed to wee?  You may laugh, mock even, but when you're being encouraged to be out walking for four hours at a time, whilst drinking enough water to remain 'well hydrated', it's likely nature will come calling.

Thing is, the rules for weeing as a girl or woman changes as you age, so which one was going to be right?  

Ages 3-5: Outdoor weeing is facilitated by a red-faced parent trying frantically to brace themselves to adequately support your weight whilst trying not to let your wee go all over their shoes.  Indoor weeing involves being shouted at by your parent not to "lock the door, touch the seat, or 'that blue bin'" and to "make sure you wipe your bum!"

Ages 6-10: Attempts at weeing outdoors 'like a boy' will most certainly result in hilarity and wet shoes.  Attempts at squatting range from the successful 'shake-off' to managing to wet your knickers, legs, skirt and shoes.  Indoor weeing becomes a no brainer.

Ages 11-15: You wouldn't be caught dead weeing outside.  Hold it in and pray no-one makes you laugh.  Indoor weeing may begin to require a friend to go with you so you can have a chat (yes gents *this* is where that comes from!).

Ages 16-21: Depending on location, situation and beverages available you may be found disgracing yourself by weeing in a shop doorway / on a train station concourse / on the toilet floor.  This may also be accompanied by wild laughter / manic crying / the encouragement of your friends.

This is lovely, but where's the sign for the toilets?
22 - onwards:  Hopefully you have enough control of both your behaviour and bladder that the art of weeing does not occupy too much of your mind beyond being a natural bodily function.  Unless you're at a festival, in which case you have the opportunity to develop the thighs of a skiier thanks to the position you must assume to avoid coming into contact with anything inside a portaloo.  To avoid this experience, I did once try a 'She-Wee' - what an evil little piece of origami it was.  I wee-d on my hands, and decided to return to the 'downhill skier' pose.  Far better to feel pain shoot down your thighs than wee run down your jeans.

Then you have children, and the whole bloody circus starts again as your life revolves around someone else's pee and poop when all you wish for is the opportunity to go to the toilet in peace. Just once.  Pleeeease.

But back to those rules, well luckily we are training in the countryside which does offer relative seclusion and privacy, so should nature decide that it cannot be ignored we can re-visit the struggle and hilarity of our childhood, just with the added complication of lycra and a different centre of gravity.  This works out great for our training walks but I just don't know how well that's going to go down on a London pavement - better check the rules...

Soundtrack:  Wee Rule - Wee Papa Girl Rappers

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

If I Could Talk to the Animals

I was out running today near some gallops when I saw a couple of racehorses being exercised.  They were trotting up the bridle way towards me so I stood to one side until they passed.  "Thank you", called out one of the stable hands, "it's good to meet someone who understands horses".  Truth is I only know to stop running because I once got shouted at for not slowing down.  It has since been explained to me that racehorses are very excitable and nervy and running at them in a hi-vis jacket is ill-advised as they might just decide to throw their rider and trample you to death.  
"I'm sorry, I simply don't understand you" source telegraph.co.uk

My track record with animals is a pretty poor one as it goes and it started from a young age.  It began with an incident with a red-setter called 'Rusty' who I thought had the most beautiful tail.  I decided to stroke it and was alarmed to discover that instead of enjoying the feel of its silky red hair, I got a hand full of poo.  My failure to understand Rusty's body language meant that I had stroked him while he was "going for a crouch" as my friend explained through tears of laughter.

A few years after that I went to stay with a family in France that included a trip to a big country pile owned by the grandmother.  After eating a lovely stew of 'lapin' which I enjoyed until I figured out what the translation for 'lapin' was, and after the family had enjoyed laughing at my horror of eating rabbit (something that has since been overcome), I decided to explore the house and found myself in a dusty old room, with what I thought was a lovely, fluffy, friendly pussycat.  How wrong I was.  So bad was my French that evidently my attempt at "here kitty, kitty", translated into something extremely offensive and so it launched itself at me until I found myself cornered.  I stood there shaking as the cat contented itself with hissing at me with its back arched until one of the (still laughing) family opened the door.

There have been bites from ponies and puppies, a knock on the shoulder from a horse, scratches from kittens and my own cat emptying its guts on my feet when I picked it up because it was making a weird noise.  And of course the time when a not-yet-fully-trained Collie called Billy decided it was going to ignore its owners calls to "come back" and my hopeful utterance of "be a good boy" and bite me on the arse.  As a result my body language around animals is shot (and I am up to date with my Tetanus shots).  I do try to get it right and adopt a confident tone but the animals know and see it as their sport to alarm me.

So when near the end of my run a lady approached with a big dog on a lead that was straining at the bit to get near me, I called out "Is my running upsetting him?", she replied "Oh no, don't worry, this one's stupid, just ignore him."  And in there was my moment of clarity - I need to drop the Doolittle - although if someone could give me the pigeon for "stop sh*tting on my car, I'd be very grateful, me and those birds need to have words.

Soundtrack: If I Could Talk to the Animals - Bobby Darin