End of an era.

It’s an emotional time. The house I called home for over 20 years since I was 6 months old has now been sold. I visited for the last time last weekend, so I’ve said my goodbyes, but I’ve been thinking about it as the parentals move out this week.  You’re probably thinking that it’s just a house. I moved out 12 years ago. Why is it emotional? Because it’s not just a house to us. It’s home. It was built by my parents and we’re the only people to have lived there. Even though I have my own home now, and I’ve lived in 4 different places since I moved out, it will always be home, and was always the place where I could go and raid the cupboards, run up and down the stairs and lounge around no matter how old I was.

I moved there as a 6 month old baby, and we (my parents, me and my brother) lived in a caravan for 4 years while the ‘big house’ was being built. And so began a wonderful childhood which, when it comes down to it, was centred around a couple of houses and an orchard in the middle of nowhere. But it wasn’t just a house. It was the place that may have just had 4 walls and a roof (eventually) but it was what it was filled with, surrounded by and what we did that made it our home.

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Like the orchard and ponds where me and my brother built dens, treehouses, rope swings, jettys, rafts, bmx tracks, and golf courses. Where I climbed trees and picked fruit. Where I fell in the pond (miraculously only once in all those years) after trying to walk on the ice in winter when it had frozen over. No wonder I’m a tomboy when this was my childhood playground.

Or my nan and grandad’s house next to the orchard where we spent many hours playing with marbles, reading Noddy and playing cards or dominoes, listening to the tick tock of the clock rescued from a bonfire that is now underneath my bed waiting to have something done with it.

And the yard where I learnt to ride a bike (after crashing into the hedge a few times) outside all the sheds with helpfully descriptive names; the engine shed, the black shed, the workshop, the rabbit shed/big shed and the shop. Including the shed that my brother climbed on the roof of so we could play a game, only the game ended shortly after because I shoved a drainpipe in his face. Accidentally of course, although I’m sure he loves the scar in his eyebrow he still has now from the stitches he had to have.

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My Dad’s workshop was where I’d go and sit on the black stool and chat to him. Where he’d tell me as a kid I could do anything in life if I wanted it and worked hard enough. And where as a teenager I’d go out and share sneaky cigarettes with him because Mum didn’t know I smoked.

The house for years had pink plaster walls because there were so many rooms to decorate and the parentals couldn’t do it all in one go. It was great though as it meant we could write on the walls, especially around the mirror in the kitchen near the phone (in the days before cordless phones) for phone numbers or doodles.

The flood/leak we had which meant all the furniture in the front room had to be moved into the dining area which I liked because it was all squashed in and I liked small rooms.

The death slide that my Dad made for us from the front bit of a bike and a rope tied from the roof of the rabbit shed to the garage. Between that, all the tree climbing and bike riding I am still amazed I didn’t break any bones. The rusty swing that Dad put up for us which we’d swing round and climb up. The tent he made from bits of wood and a bit of tarpaulin.

The gauntlet runs I’d have to do past the chicken runs to my grandparent’s house where I’d get chased by the mad cockerel. And going over there in the pitch black just with a torch. As a kid it used to shit me up something chronic that I could only see into the trees with a small circle of light. Used to be convinced there might be a axe murderer hiding in the orchard, but only when it was dark.

The fact we had no neighbours meant that we could be as loud as we wanted. And I mean LOUD. I used to have screaming matches with my friends over the fields (fuck knows why). Matthew used to play his rave music as a teenager on full blast through massive speakers outside.

Having my wedding reception there was just brill too. OK I know I’m divorced now but it was a cracking day. Really relaxed and chilled. And I still love the fact we had wedding photos taken in the big shed with all my Dad’s crap furniture waiting to be restored. Lasting memories and evidence of how much shit used to be stored in the sheds.

The garden wasn’t always a garden. In fact for years there was a massive hill in the middle of the garden from the earth that was excavated for the footings, which as a kid was great in the winter as we used to sledge down it, and in the summer we’d bike up and down it. After that was cleared it stayed a field for a bit because I had a donkey for a few years. I actually wanted a pony but I looked after a donkey over the winter as Dad wanted to see if I actually would do all the work needed. I didn’t, so I never got one. Clever man. I had so much fun with the donkeys though. And so did Dad, as they were escape artists.

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When we were younger we used to get snowed in properly, and I remember listening to the radio with mum in the morning to see if the little village primary school I went to was closed. And being very excited when it was.

IMG_20150831_112058 IMG_20150831_112048But of course it’s not just the house or the orchard or the trees or any other stuff. Of course there was all of that but what it all comes down to is the people. The people that filled the house. Our family. Small but perfectly formed, I think we’re pretty ace. We were lucky to live next door to one set of grandparents and have the other a few miles down the road and saw them every week, bringing my cousins with them most of the time too. My parents welcomed all our friends and quite often there was a houseful. Or an orchardful. Christmases were especially ace, everyone would come to us and there would be a week or so of mayhem, big trees and cat carnage. Oh, and I can’t forget Dad’s Christmas treasure hunts which would take us all over the house and out to the sheds, mainly to keep us out of the way for a bit and tire us out. I loved these so much I actually made Dad do one only a few years ago, haha. We were very lucky to have my parents around when we were young. Dad worked for himself at home in the workshop and so was always around to take me somewhere or help me with something. Mum was in and out too depending on when she was working.

Everything changes though. There’s been so many changes there, over all the years but especially in the last few years and the last few months. My grandparents house is gone now. The orchard is all but gone. All the sheds are gone. There’s more lawn that you can shake a stick at. Walls were added, fences were taken down. The yard doesn’t exist. The ponds have been filled in. The house was done up and dressed to sell. There’s a stable and a paddock, built years after the pony-mad youngster in me had moved out (thanks Dad).

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Where the orchard and pond used to be

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Where the yard and worksop used to be

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It’s not the same now, and so it makes it easier in some way to say goodbye. It’s not our home any more. But now, it’s real. Those contracts have been signed and I’ve had my last visit. I can’t go back and drive up the driveway any more, or run in and sit on the kitchen worktop. But, the memories will always be there. Many happy memories and that’s what I’ll remember.

There are so many, what’s above is just such a small percentage. And yes I know I’m massively lucky. So thanks Mum and Dad, for creating the best home ever for us. You should be mega proud of yourselves for all you achieved. Look at the pictures above. You took it from an overgrown field back in the 80’s to the home and gardens you’re leaving this week. Well done. That’s all you that is, loads of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. Including the bastard job of removing all the stones from the field by hand – still not quite sure I forgive you for making me do that yet.

It’s the end of an era and sad, but also exciting as it’s the start of a new chapter for you. Lots of exciting things coming up, and also time for you to have a rest for a bit.

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Runs around the world #20

San Francisco, USA

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Where I’m staying in San Francisco is really close to The Golden Gate Park. As I’ve found everywhere, parks are [mostly] a runners heaven, and tend to be full of people doing all kinds of fitness-ey things. This one was no different; lots of walkers, runners, cyclists. OK, so there were also a lot of homeless people and people sat smoking weed, but this is San Francisco, where that seems to be normal pretty much all over.

If you know anything about San Francisco, it’s probably that it’s hilly. Now, when back in the UK, I didn’t mind hills really. I’d got used to running up them. I used to run home, which was up the top of a hill. I used to do hill sprints up Steep Hill in Lincoln (not easy, but I used to do them). I’m not as fit as I was, I’ve mentioned that before. I’ve not done as much running, and although I climbed a fair few mountains in New Zealand, it doesn’t mean they were easy (or that I enjoyed them). And I certainly didn’t run up any mountains in NZ (although I did run down one). Luckily for this temporarily lazy runner, the park is pretty flat.

So, I did a lovely little round route of 4 miles. From where I was staying, I ran down the hill (oh yes, I’m staying on a hill) to the park, through and round a bit of the park, then back up the hill. I hadn’t actually planned on running back up the hill, but I was nearly at 4 miles and I needed to get to a round figure on my runkeeper stats. I’m sure most runners can identify with this slight OCD-ness.

The famous San Francisco fog was around this particular morning, but there was also a bit of sunshine. But not too hot. Perfect for running really. I’d not run for probably about a week, and I’d been a bit lazy in Auckland and dipped out of going for a run with Ross one morning, and so really had to force myself to go here, but once I’d got going I remembered why I loved running. It felt great and I just enjoyed the pure beauty of running in a new place, not really knowing where I was going, just enjoying the new views and surroundings.

Whenever I run in a place with a lot of other people, especially people going the other way, I always feel tempted to high five them. I thought about it a lot on this run. I was in America after all, surely out of all the places I’ve been, this is the place for it? But, I chickened out, despite feeling mildly hyper/giddy/hysterical (it’s those endorphins you know) as everyone coming the other way just looked SUPER serious. Still should have just done it. I did chat to a bloke who offered to take my picture when he saw me taking a selfie after I’d finished. He then told me about some more trails up in the hills where there was poison oak. Not sure there was the need to lift his shorts up to show me where it had got him, but hey, this is San Francisco. Everything and anything goes.

I’m still surprised I can run 4 miles. I feel like I’ve hardly run at all over the last few months, so I’m glad there’s still something left in there. I feel really quite unfit so it’s always a nice feeling to have churned out just over 4 miles quite easily (including ending a run on a bloody steep hill). As I come to the end of my trip, I CANNOT wait to ramp it up now. I’m chomping at the bit. I do need to sort out my damaged shoulder though, but hey, I can still run, and that’s enough for now.

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Runs around the world #19

Christchurch, New Zealand

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When I first got to Christchurch at the beginning of March I couldn’t run because of my broken rib. I was staying right next to Hagley Park, the massive bit of green space in the middle of the city which is a runners playground. I was sad. I watched everyone else with envy as they trotted round morning, noon and night. All at a great party that I wasn’t invited to.

But! Fear not! I had to come back to Christchurch, and when I did, I was healed! I could run again! So, first day back and out for a run I went. Well, probably more accurate to call it a jog. I’m not as fast as I once was (temporary glitch, when I can get back into proper training I’ll be back on it like a moth in a light box).

So I managed to do 5 wonderful miles in the early morning autumn sunshine. Easter Monday (yes, Easter in autumn, really quite odd), joining what seemed like half the population of Christchurch all burning off a day of chocolate. My favourite season, especially for running, I missed it in the UK last year so I’m so chuffed to experience it here. And, dare I say it, Autumn in NZ is a lot better than the UK! Amazing colours, lots of sunshine, not a lot of rain and crunchy leaves underfoot – perfect for running!

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I don’t feel fit at all any more. I’ve got a little layer of travelling fat and just not feeling mega healthy, so I actually surprised myself that I could do 5 miles. And it was 5 fairly easy miles really (at just under 10 mins per mile, so not too bad I guess) so I was pretty chuffed with it. Maybe I’m not so unfit after all. I’m pleased I’ve not lost it completely. It was never an option to give up running, I still can’t live without it, but I’m at ease a bit more now about not running so much (compared to the panic I felt in Africa when I thought I wouldn’t be able to run for a month). Maybe because I’d ramped it back up in Australia so I knew I still had passion for it, or maybe it’s because I know I’m not that far off coming home and will be ramping it up again then. But it’s been good to keep at it all year, even if it’s just once every couple of weeks. It’s still a run, and it’s still on my mind when I’m not doing it so much. The fact that I’m still able to run a 10K after all this travel, food, drink and transient lifestyle makes me very bloody happy.

People reading this who don’t run, you probably won’t understand. People reading this who do run (and love it) hopefully will know exactly what I mean.

And it’s amazing how good everything is after a run. How it makes me feel alive and just, well, great. Makes me happy and lifts my spirits. Reminds me that there’s nothing I like better than putting my trainers on and getting out there in the fresh air. I was so perky I nearly started high-fiving the other runners I kept passing, but they all looked a bit serious for that. Just went for a big grin instead.

The air was a little cold, just how I like it. My favourite condition to run in. The kind where you can feel it in your lungs when breathing (or at least to start with). Where you have little goosebumps until you get going but you don’t overheat. Where the air is fresh and when blinking it feels a bit like its cleaning your eyeballs. When the sun’s out but it’s not too hot (although this being NZ and no ozone layer means that it’s stronger than the World’s Strongest Man).

Sometimes when I run, especially after a little while, it’s like resetting myself and the world. Suddenly everything is all right again, even if things weren’t ‘wrong’ to start with. Running is good for me. Fact.

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Runs around the world #15

Melbourne, Australia

First things first. HELLO cooler non-humid weather! Oh, how I’ve missed you. You are wonderful. Let me give you a kiss, you are that wonderful. You’re a little bit cold, but I’m not complaining. At ALL.

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Pretty much as soon as I landed in Melbourne I was raring to go out for a run. I didn’t go the first day though. I was a bit tired from all the flights and lack of sleep, plus I needed to go and buy some new clothes seeing as though the laundry place in Sihanoukville had lost half of mine. Including a pair of my running socks. Not that I’m still a little pissed off at that, oh no.

But the next day was a different matter. I woke up all excited, desperate to get my trainers on and get out there. So I did. For over 6 and a half miles. The longest I’d run in a long time. Since Hong Kong I think, which was the beginning of September. A long time ago. Whoop!

I didn’t plan to run that far. I didn’t actually plan to run any distance, I just wanted to go out and run. So I went to the end of the road and down by the creek, and just ran and explored. That’s the best way for me to run sometimes, not knowing where I’m going. Just running to see what’s round the corner, or just turning round and trying somewhere else if you find a dead end. You see all sorts by doing this. So, I got a good bit of exploring of Ivanhoe done on that first run. 

My legs didn’t like the last couple of miles, that’s for sure. I kept it nice and slow though, and I could actually breathe for once without feeling like I was breathing through a wet towel. I was pretty surprised how green it was around here and down by the creek. Loads of trees, grass and green stuff. My first taster of realising what a green city Melbourne is. There’s trees and parks and grass everywhere. Even in the city centre, most streets are lined with trees. 

I loved this run. It was great to be back somewhere it didn’t seem odd to be running. It was great to be somewhere I could run ‘easily’. It was great to be able to run somewhere where there’s clearly loads of different places to run (that aren’t on roads). I’ve got a feeling I’m going to like Melbourne for running.

I told you I’d be back on it when I got to Australia. Yes!

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