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WEEKLY BLOG EPISODE 97 | WRAP UP WARM

Good morning, for it is the morning that I finish off this weekly blog by adding my introduction and sorting out the images, and welcome to another episode of my weekly blog series. It’s just gone 7am, I have my first cup of tea of the day right here, and while I wrote most of this post yesterday, I’m here to get this published before I start my working day.

Writing these posts for more than two-years now (at 97 episodes I know I’ve missed a few), these short passages at the start have become the most difficult to pen. I always feel like I’m saying the same thing. And while that might work in a weekly vlog, from which I borrowed this idea of summing up my week in one post, it doesn’t work when it’s the written word. I feel I should always make an effort to write something different.

Anyway, here I am, still full of fish pie and sticky toffee pudding from our meal out at a local pub last night, a bit sleepy, because I’m always sleepy these days, washed but still wearing my pyjamas, tip tapping away on my little keyboard ready to share something that will hopefully entertain you for a few minutes.

This week I will spend most of my weekly blog talking about a couple of books, a film, and a television series I’ve been enjoying recently. Don’t worry, there’s also talk of getting out in the cold weather, a local nature reserve, “Blue Monday”, and plans to tick of a bucket list experience. Enjoy.

Enjoying the Cold

We’ve been experiencing a bit of a cold snap here in Gloucestershire over the last week or so. Up to and including the weekend, anyway. We had to de-ice the car every morning, and a couple of days the windscreen ice on the cars on the drives opposite didn’t melt all day. It was frost on frost on frost, which made everything look very pretty indeed.

I have really enjoyed wrapping up in my winter clothes and getting out and about. Not much, not far, but out. We’ve had blue skies, icy pavements, frosty trees, and colourful sunrises. I much prefer days like this than dull damp days, the weather has definitely helped me keep up with my aim of averaging 10,000 steps a day in January – just about, it’s close.

I still haven’t made a decision on which new puffy coat to buy (see Weekly Blog Episode 93), and now realise that my winter coat is getting towards the point of needing replacing too (my green The North Face Parka – now that’s an old review post, it was originally gifted to me for skiing back in 2013, oh how I adore that coat). But hey, I’ve got layers, layers are good, and it’s not like the cold in Gloucestershire can be compared to the cold of Norway or Finland, so it’s all fine. Although if I could experience the cold of Norway or Finland sometime soon I would really like that!

Coombe Hill Nature Reserve

Inspired by a new map I received in the post at the weekend – the Great British Wildlife and Environment Map by Marvellous Maps – I headed to Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows on Saturday for my One Hour Outside.

Coombe Hill Canal and Meadows is based around a disused canal. It’s the home of wetland birds, particularly waders and migrating waterfowl, and you can also see birds of prey, including hen harriers, peregrine falcons and goshawks. It’s also apparently the best place locally to see dragonflies, although clearly not in mid-January.

Last time I went (read Weekly Blog Episode 20), the car park was heaving, and the short dragonfly walk, one of two way marked routes at the reserve, was busy with people enjoying some time outside. Saturday was rather different; there was one other car and I saw one other person the whole time. I suspect it was because everyone else knew about the conditions! Actually, the man I saw was wearing waders – I think he knew.

I mentioned on Instagram how it was like playing ice versus mud roulette on the main path, not being able to tell until I put my foot down whether I would find solid ground or a much-deeper-than-it-looks muddy puddle. And the short walking route I’d planned, to head around the north meadows at the reserve, was totally flooded to the point of being a meadow-sized lake. It was still a great walk, I took loads of photos, it was so beautiful, and absolutely worth having to clean my boots and warm up my core when I got home.

I’ll write more about my visit to Coombe Hill, along with the wildlife map, in a dedicated post coming in the next couple of days – it’s next on my list. I shall be giving a map away over on my Instagram feed, too, so do watch out for that.

On Blue Monday

If your social media feeds are anything like mine, I’m sure you had your yearly reminder on Monday that the idea of the “most depressing day of the year” – Blue Monday – was designed years ago by the marketing team for a travel company wanting to chivvy you along into booking an all-inclusive holiday.

A specific day of the year we’re all supposed to feel a bit down in the dumps is a funny idea. But I have to admit, I do currently feel a bit like that. I mean, apart from liking the crisp cold mornings, I’m struggling with the darkness and dampness, the ridiculous political culture in this country, the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and still having a lack of energy and motivation probably linked to the whole B12 thing (read Weekly Blog Episode 91). Feeling blue in January, this particular January, is not weird or unusual, sadly, it seems to be incredibly normal.

I mentioned over on my Instagram that I hope you felt the right kinds of blue this week – blue skies, blue music and blue shoes. I’m doing my best to get outside as often as I can, to use music to help stop the overthinking, and to have things around me that bring me joy (my old blue Dr Martens are being treated to a clean and wax later). I’m also doing my best to look around me for the positives, plan things that bring me joy (Adventure Bike Rider Festival here I come!), eat my favourite food, and enjoy just going with the flow.

If you are feeling particularly blue in the emotional sense at the moment, please do talk to someone about it – just because the idea of blue Monday was the brainchild of a marketing executive, it doesn’t make how you’re feeling any less important. And if you’ve got room to give your self-care habits a bit of a check, this post might give you a few ideas.

That’s Entertainment

What are you watching, reading or listening to at the moment? This week I’ve got a bunch of entertainment recommendations for you – a couple of books, a Disney movie, and a crafty television series.

Ron’s Gone Wrong, Disney+

I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed at the number of Disney movies I’ve watched over the last month or so. Some new to me, some old favourites, some animated, some live action – hours (and hours) of weekday evening and Sunday afternoon viewing, helping me switch off and relax in my lounge.

Of the new-to-me movies I watched, Ron’s Gone Wrong has to be a highlight. The story of Barney, a loner school kid, and Ron, his “best friend out of the box” – a walking, talking, digitally connected device that follows him everywhere. Except Ron isn’t quite right, and the animated film follows the ensuing misadventures.

It’s a film about family, about friendship, about the haves and the have nots, about technology, and about social media. In the same way that Inside Out makes you think about emotions and mental health, and Soul makes you think about your grand purpose, Ron’s Gone Wrong makes you think about living in the social media age. It’s a clever story, well told, good-natured, and heart-warming

I think Ron’s Gone Wrong is one of my new favourites and worthy of a re-watch sometime soon. If you’ve not seen it, I would recommend it as perfect wet-day viewing with a cup of tea and some time to ponder life.

Coasting, Elise Downing

I absolutely loved listening to Coasting by Elise Downing, which I chose as my January Audible book (I was very happy to receive some Audible credits for Christmas, what a great present idea!). I was one of the many people who followed her running adventure on her Facebook page, and think what she did, even if she was quite unprepared for it in some ways, is remarkable.

Coasting is the story of Elise’s 5,000 mile and 10-month run around the coast of Great Britain. She had no ultra-running experience, couldn’t read a map, and had never pitched a tent before – so this was a completely obvious adventure… Don’t worry, there’s no judgement here; I do believe that adventures like this one just need starting; the required fitness, skills and lessons can be picked up and developed along the way. Apart from the map reading, that is, although I know Elise agrees with me on that one.

I loved that she narrated the audiobook herself, it has a real sense of authenticity about it. I’ve heard others suggest this is the Bridget Jones of adventure stories, and I can totally see that. Elise comes across as entirely normal and down to earth, with a wears-her-heart-on-her-sleeve character.

Yes, this is a book about a running adventure, the weather, avoiding going camping, getting lost, facing farmyard animals, and building up fitness. But an adventure story is never just about the adventure itself. Elise learns some valuable lessons along the way, including about self-worth, the kindness of strangers, and how adventure changes a person from the inside.

What I most enjoyed about this adventure story was how real is it, and therefore how real it could be for anyone else. Elise had an idea, and went and got it done. I guess the message here is that I might be able to do something similar myself. Maybe.

Blind Curves, Linda Crill

Having gotten through Coasting in double quick time (a good audiobook really does help me get out on my lunchtime walks, especially on the drizzly, dull days), I had a look at Audible’s Plus Catalogue. This is the free library that’s included with membership; I wanted something to tide me over until my next credit was due. I found Blind Curves: A Woman, a Motorcycle, and a Journey to Reinvent Herself by Linda Crill, and thought I’d give it a go.

Linda is a 57-year-old widow, and she is miserable. That is until she makes an apparently rebellious and somewhat spur-of-the-moment decision; she trades her suits for leathers and joins some friends on a 2,500-mile motorcycle road trip down America’s Pacific Northwest coast on a Harley Davidson. Just one small thing… she doesn’t know how to ride and has only a month to learn.

This book is Linda’s story of how she goes from non-rider (complete with her thoughts and feelings about what motorcyclists are like…) to rider, and how that changes her attitude towards life and fulfilment. This is a road trip adventure, a motorcycling adventure, an out-of-your-comfort-zone adventure. There is so much detail about the journey, woven in with all those predictable-in-hindsight life learnings that come from embarking on such an escapade.

As a biker who has ridden in the places she travels, I was always going to enjoy the road trip element. I found myself nodding when Linda described the amount of multitasking that happens when you ride, which can be overwhelming and tiring, especially when new to riding. She also eloquently explains the sense of mind-clearing meditation that many riders feel when they are out enjoying the countryside on two wheels.

I felt for her in the pit of my stomach when she sat at the bottom of those gravel hairpin bends (I’m not ashamed to admit I regularly have to give myself a talking to before tackling things like that), and I know exactly how she felt when she dropped that bike early on in the trip.

If I’m honest, I found the amount of description a little too much in this book – the number of analogies to help explain the author’s thoughts and feelings were a little over the top in some ways. But even with that, this is a really great listen and one I’m glad I came across. Linda may even have helped encourage me to get my own recent motorcycling adventures written up for my blog, starting with Two Days with Adventure Bike Training, which I published earlier this week.

Great British Pottery Throw Down, Channel 4

As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve really started to enjoy television shows which document people getting creative. The Great British Pottery Throw Down is one of those, a bit like Bake-off and the Sewing Bee.

I just love those who’ve honed a fabulous artistic skill getting a chance to show off what they can create on the telly box. There is something so wholesome about spending an hour watching other people get crafty. I’m not so keen on the competition element, although I get why it’s there, it’s the joy of watching normal people do their thing that I like.

So far, I’m really impressed with the potters in this series (we’ve had three episodes so far – it airs on Sunday evenings on Channel 4), and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the weeks go on.

Pottery Wheel Experience Booked

You’ll be pleased to know that after talking about it for at least two or three years, I’m finally going to give pottery a go myself thanks to an upcoming collaboration with Red Letter Days. I’ve been given a voucher for the Pottery Wheel Workshop Experience at Eastnor Pottery for me and a friend, which I’m really rather excited about. I absolutely expect to learn enough in 90 minutes to be on the next series of Throw Down!!

At first try the pottery was fully booked until May (really good for them, quite sad for me), but I was pleased that they added in some extra availability and so Sarah (The Urban Wanderer) and I will be getting our pottery on in mid-February. The workshop includes attempting to make a bowl or a vase on the pottery wheel, and they’ll fire and glaze it for me if I decide it’s worth that at the end of the session – we’ll see!

If you’re interested, the other Saturday-afternoon-style bucket list ticks I really want to find a way to do this year, as featured in my Ten Buy an Adventure Experiences post last year, are piloting a hovercraft, surfing at The Wave, and some more mountain biking (I have dabbled previously). On my to-do list for early this year is to sort out my bucket list as it’s become a little messy and out of date, you know I’ll blog about that when I’ve got it under control again.

See you Next Week

And that right there is it for this weekly blog episode. I’m not sure I like that this is already the third weekly blog of 2022 – January is flying by. Just me? Here’s hoping this year doesn’t leave me behind and there will be lots of opportunities for adventures, big and small, in the coming weeks.

If you got right to the end of the post, please do take a moment to leave a comment below, I love to hear from you. Let me know what the best movie you saw recently was. And don’t forget to be sure to follow me on Instagram, as there will be a map giveaway over there before I publish my next weekly blog post.

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