Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Things I didn't expect

I didn't expect the lasagna to arrive with chips, but the chips were superb and I got over the surprise rather quickly and with as far as I can tell, without sustaining long-term psychological damage.


My current hotel room is opposite a church. It's a rather pretty scene, an old, green graveyard with higgledy-piggledy, lichen-covered stones, a fine tower and an old and rather imposing yew tree obscuring the entrance.

I didn't expect campanologists to strike up at 7:30, but initially, I thought this might be charming - with the window closed, I would still be able to hear the bells, yet listen to the snooker commentary whilst finishing off my emails for the day and the pint of Beck's I picked up in the bar.

After the opening peals, I realised this would not be charming. These must the least coordinated and unrythmical bell ringers in the universe. The simple sequence of six descending notes, repeated time and again was never right. Bells rang simultaneously. Bell four would be rung before bell three. It was dire, and rather painful to have to hear.

I have no idea how difficult bell ringing is. I'm sure it's not easy, but these people are showing no signs of learning from experience. I suppose it's not possible for campanologists to get a bit of private practice, but this bunch are in grave need of a soundproofed room to practice in.

They've just struck up again. Another session of aural pain looms large. I've never previously felt a sense of dread on hearing church bells, but when that first bell pierced the peaceful evening soundscape of birdsong, snooker commentary and the clicking of my keyboard as I typed away, I felt a sense of dread and panic like none I've experienced previously.

I suppose I've never really appreciated just how good most bell ringers are. Church bells ring out all over the place and don't sound this bad. They sound pleasant. Quaint. Charming. Unobtrusive. I'm beginning to think I should thank the bunch of hapless ringers who've just ensured I'll never take semi-competent bell-ringing for granted again. I'd never have expected that half an hour ago.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Leisure time

It’s 8pm. I am having leisure time after having got up at 6:20am to get to Swindon for 9. After a frustrating day at work, I knocked off around five-ish and got to my hotel about half-past. I was in the gym by six, out of the gym by half seven, and with a meal arriving in my room for quarter to eight, I was well on track to be fed and working my way through a pint by 8pm.

It’s 8pm. I’ve finished the mushroom soup and pasta and am working my way through a pint. Flowers best bitter. Very nice, too. It’s the earliest I’ve managed to eat on a work night since I finished working in London a couple of months ago.

I don’t normally go for room service, but this particular hotel requires dressing for dinner. I find that sort of thing all rather unnecessary for a mid-week business stopover, so I’ve opted for the rather less complicated bar menu and the joys of eating dinner whilst wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I’ve chosen the option which more closely resembles what I’d be doing through choice. I stay at this hotel because it has a decent gym with various bits of cardio and weights kit.

I frightened off a teenage lad by shifting rather more weight than him. I didn’t mean to have this effect on the kid, but it’s not the first time something like this has happened. My line manager stopped working out at the work gym after he realised I was outlifting him. Fragile ego syndrome?

Ah, fragility, yes. That reminds me - one of the reasons I’m keen to get back to doing weights regularly is that a recent bone scan revealed that my bones are a bit on the crumbly side of normal, and the remedial action consists of weights, running and extra bonus medication and supplements. Along with doubling the dose of the stuff I was taking anyway, this means I’ve now passed the stage of medication consumption at which it makes good economic sense to pre-pay for my prescriptions. This makes me feel rather old. I’m not even thirty, and I’m taking the same stuff for my bones that my question-marked-shaped osteoporotic grandmother did when she was in her nineties.

I’m also keen to feel well again. I briefly felt well whilst on holiday in the Highlands recently, but the return to work (and to commuting) scuppered that. I’ve been doing about 18 hrs commuting a week recently, which is a fair whack on top of the working week. Worse, it’s all by car, so I don’t even get a ten-minute walk to a tube station and a snooze on the train. Driving’s not really compatible with a half hour catch up on kip on the way to work. I get home late, and tired and not inclined to train. I don’t sleep well if I don’t get a reasonable amount of exercise. It’s a vicious bugger of a circle, this.

I’m staying up in Swindon for most of this week. This does mean that I’m not seeing much (anything) of my boyfriend, but I’m hoping it’ll mean I get some exercise, a few early nights and some decent kip, and may just be able to stay awake past 9pm at the weekend. I don’t hold out much hope of making it past 9pm tonight. Half a pint of Flowers has done for that. I may have leisure time, but I'm going to bed...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Solving Problems

I firmly believe that there are very few problems in life which remain troublesome following a decent run, a large bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. The problem currently bothering me most definitely falls into this category.

My current problem is that with commuting to Swindon and staying in hotels, I don't often get the opportunity to go for a run and follow it up with a large bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine, and thus very many small problems have neither been solved nor downgraded in severity from 'major disaster' to 'less annoying than the mild pains in my legs'.

I've tried to maintain the run, pasta and wine approach to problem solving whilst staying up in Swindon. I can pretty much go for a run anywhere, provided I've packed some kit. Going for a run from a hotel is usually quite pleasant – I stay a few miles out of town and it's easy to find pleasant routes to run whilst mulling through some of the day's issues before returning for a shower and a meal. The going for a run part is fine. Getting the bowl of pasta causes problems. I don't want rich, creamy food following a run. Bolognaise would be fine. Carbonara is pushing the limits of what my guts will withstand. Prawns and tomatoes tossed in garlic and olive oil would be lovely. Sadly, no hotel seems to put anything this simple on the menu, and the few that respond to my requests for something other than their standard fayre don't seem to understand the portion size requirement, leaving me with three prawns and four cherry tomatoes sitting daintily atop a smattering of fusili, and also leaving me a tad hungry.

I've also tried to use the run/pasta/wine method after getting back from Swindon. This doesn't work particularly well, either. Having got up early to get to Swindon, I'm usually hovering between between the hungry and famished border by lunchtime. By the time I make it back to London, it's about 7:30, I'm hungry and tired and probably in need of some kip. Going for a run means eating late (which doesn't work well with the need to get up the next morning and drive to Swindon), and seeing very little of my lovely boyfriend (or anyone else, for that matter), which makes the four hour commuting penalty (home to London and back to Swindon the next day) a rather high price to pay for a poor night's sleep and a correctly-sized bowl of pasta.

Today, this is not a problem. It is a Sunday. I have been for a run, I have had a large bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, and life is good.