I asked “Where’s mine?”

Today I attended the end-of-term presentation put on by the gymnastics group that my two eldest children attend every Monday morning. Having been to one of these before, I already kind of knew that it’s something you go to purely for the sake of the happiness of your children; in terms of showcasing the ‘skills’ they’ve supposedly ‘acquired’ over the course of the term, well, let’s just say that I’ve seen them perform more interesting manoeuvres just walking around the supermarket.

Anyway, they enjoy it and there is something in me – I think it’s the bit that is often seen enthusiastically waving an Australian flag – that rejoices in the fact of them starting the week at 8am with an hour of physical activity, however tame that might be.

But their instructor, oh lordy. Whatever ‘skills’ she has ‘acquired’ in the course of her gymnastics career, banter and personableness are not among them. Seriously. Personality of a dial tone, and a voice like an emery board on a garden paving stone.

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After the demonstration (and much enthusiastic clapping) the children were given their medals and certificates. Next, the announcement that there was to be an extra certificate handed out this term: for children who had achieved 100% attendance. Which mine had, and so they were duly called up.

After photos and whatnot, I wandered over to the coach. She regarded my approach warily; last time we spoke, it was because I was insisting that she re-issue their certificates as she’d mis-spelled their surname. She also knows that I’m friends with another parent, a dad, who’s taken her to task about a non-refundable missed (missed by her, not by the child) lesson.

“So that was fun!” I said brightly. “But, um, the certificates … where’s mine?”

Blank look.

“The certificates? For 100% attendance?” I persisted. “Y’know, because like, who’s the one who’s managed to get them here every week? On a Monday? For 8am?”

I’m joking, of course I am. But her complete failure to get it just makes me perverse. She’s still gawping at me.

“Oh! No certificate! I see,” I say. “So – a discount on next term’s fees then, is that it?”

She actually manages to burble something at this point, a fact that is hardly surprising given her refusal to refund my friend the lesson that she’d cancelled.

Finally I laugh. “I’m joking,” I say. “Goodness! Of course I’m joking!”

She’s off the hook, she relaxes, and says something – I could be wrong, because my ears instinctively turn off when confronted with a displeasing voice – about how parents should get certificates ha ha something. I don’t know, something like that. All I know – and I do know that one shouldn’t take pleasure in another’s discomfiture, so shame on me etc etc – but all I know is that, for the rest of the day, whenever I thought of her expressionless, I-totally-don’t-get-your-humour face, it made me chortle.

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she ran with me

We had some of our favouritest friends coming over yesterday afternoon. They’ve got three children too, so, with a total of six children to consider, you sort of want to have all of the food prep in hand before they arrive; even if the kids don’t require your undivided attention, it’s nice to just be able swig on a drink and chat, without wielding a chopping knife in one of your hands.

So. I’d made Nigel Slater’s chocolate & beetroot cake the previous day, thus using up some beetroots that were languishing, near death, in the fridge, before we go away on holiday (I am fanatical about ‘using up before going away’, perhaps the more so because of the time that we returned from France to discover the aftermath of a power cut in the fridge. Mon Dieu, the smell…) Since preparation is everything, I was also canny enough to make the cake exactly as Mr Slater decrees, ie no paleo tweaks to make it even vaguely edible for me. Like I said, we are going on holiday. There will be the wearing of swimming costumes.

pureed beetroot, ready to be folded into the chocolatey mixture

pureed beetroot, ready to be folded into the chocolatey mixture

We decided on pulled pork on soft floury baps with coleslaw: again, all easy to do before anyone arrived (and all stuff that I’d not even countenance eating. Do I need to I remind you? Holiday. Sun. Fewer clothes.) So, once the pork was doused in cider and slow cooking in the oven, and the cabbage and carrot were shredded and resting, there was little to do except deal with the children asking “When will they be here? When are they coming?!”

Annoying. So: bikes in the back of the car and off to the park we went. I run pretty much every day: it’s vital to my state of mind. But when you have a family, you have to tailor your runs to whatever else is going on; I can’t, in all fairness, be off on a long run on a weekend when my husband’s been working all week and the kids are desperate for us to ‘all be together’ – even less so when there’s a shoulder of pork on the go in the oven.

I wore my running kit anyway; what the heck, the kids are bike-competent enough now that I’d be able to at least jog, if not run, as they rode. It was better than nothing. And, you know, there’s that holiday thing next week.

We got to Dulwich Park and whaddaya know, a fair was in residence. As fairs go, it didn’t look too bad; certainly not along the lines of the ones that my poor friend Steph was subjected to this weekend but, FFS, I did not go to the park so that my kids could spunk their college funds on rides and hot dogs: I went so that they could get fresh air and exercise, goddamit. I went so that they could bike-ride and I could run! I went so that they’d stop bugging me (When will they be here?) – not bug me more! (Can we go on a ride? can we? can we? CAN WE???!!)

Pushy mother, moi? Well, yes. But I am Australian. So it’s okay, right? Besides, it’s an Ashes year. My competitive juices are already rising.

Compromise: once around the park on bikes and then Daddy will take you to the fair while Mummy runs.

When I got back to them, there was dissatisfaction in the ranks (of course!) They wanted another ride (of course!!) on the Ferris Wheel but it was 3 people per carriage and at least one adult to accompany children required. So they couldn’t go on it without me.

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But then my husband discovered that he’d already pretty much ploughed through the college fund spare change already, and could only afford three of the £2.50 (!!) seats.

Suddenly, my daughter piped up. “I don’t want to go on the ride. I want to run with Mummy.”

Truly, I know it’s a fine line: inflicting my own issues surrounding food, physique and exercise on my daughter on the one hand, and guiding her, joyfully, in the love of health, nutrition and exercise on the other. I am not about to buy her running kit or get her out of bed to do sixty sit-ups before school. She is beautiful and perfect, but I shy away from harping on this because I don’t ever want her to feel that she’ll be unloved when her beauty and perfection starts, as it inevitably will, to change. I tell her she is healthy, she is strong, she is lovely. I tell her she sparkles. She does.

But I was delighted that she wanted to run with me; and that she wanted to do so more than she wanted to ride on the sodding poxy Ferris Wheel.

So, we ran. Or jogged. Whatever. It was a peach of a day, and there was no need to hurry: just me and my girl sucking up the sunshine and the blazing rhododendrons and wondering whether the boys and Daddy could see us from the top of the Ferris Wheel? And still the joy and expectation of friends, and pork, and cake, to look forward to in the afternoon.

Dulwich Park rhododendrons

Dulwich Park rhododendrons

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I skipped my run

Ordinarily, this would not make me happy. Anything but! My mantra is: you never feel bad after a run, but you always feel bad if you miss one.

But this afternoon, I was pushed for time. By the time I’d kept my other commitments and had had schedules thwarted by tube delays, fitting in any kind of worthwhile run would’ve been tricky, and overtaken with thoughts of picking up children and sorting dinner. Half the beauty of running is mental emptiness; pressing responsibilities are not invited.

I ummmed and I ahhhed and I agitated. And then I thought: you know what? I ran 22 kilometres yesterday. I can afford a day off. And if you’re a fan of James Duigan you’ll know that stress makes you fat. To quote from p.52 of The Clean and Lean Diet:

“I see lots of … people who are literally running themselves fat. Why? Because if exercising makes you stressed – either because you’re doing too much of it or because you’re running around to squeeze your gym classes in after work – then it might be making you fat because of all the extra cortisol you’re producing…. I tell [new clients] to cut it down to twice or three times [a week] and replace a cardio session with a yoga or Pilates session to calm them down and relax their system.”

So, relaxation was the order of the day, and I got mine by way of an indulgent chocolate mousse. Ha! Ha! Should I say, OPI Chocolate Moose with which my nails are now varnished. Not enough time for a meaningful run, perhaps, but just enough time for an express mani. And when I run tomorrow, I’ll get a flash of well-groomed nails every time I check my Garmin.

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I ran in the sunshine

I had a bit of a disastrous run a few weeks ago: reached about the 4 mile mark and then, whump! my iffy knee totally gave out. Couldn’t bear my weight at all; tried to keep running through it (“Think of Joe Simpson” I told myself sternly) but to no avail. I hobbled all the way home. Via Brockley Market and a Dark Fluid coffee, mind you, so it wasn’t all bad news.

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Anyway, I’ve been wary of running outdoors since then: at least if I’m at the gym on the treadmill and my knee starts to play up, I’ve got low-impact options on hand so that I can get some form of a workout. Man alive, it’s dull though! Not so bad on the short runs, which are done and dusted within 30 minutes or so, but on the longer ones of 90-100 minutes it’s boooring. Which is why they have TV screens that you can plug your headphones into on the machines, I guess. So again, not all bad news: I’ve been introduced to the larger-than-life engagingness of Guy Fieri, salivated over (and subsequently made – I’ve included the recipe and a photo at the end of this post) his Ahi Poke and have chortled over a re-run of Ugly Betty (Wilhemina: “Well, of course I’m worried, Marc. But when someone gives you chintz, you can do two things: A) whine about the fact that it’s an upholstery fabric, or B) turn it into a fabulous bolero jacket.”)

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My knee has been pretty well-behaved on my last few runs and, having done a long one yesterday, it was only a shortish one on the agenda for today anyway. Plus, need I even mention it, the sun, the sun, the glorious sun! Gym, grim. So I ran in one of my favourite parks. It was ace. Golden light, blossoming trees, dappy dogs, happy people. And my knee didn’t bother me once.

 

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That’s a photo of my Ahi Poke, and below is the recipe that I used. I upped the amounts on the macadamias and chilli, and served it over rocket/ arugula and ribboned zucchini/ courgette to make it into more of a ‘meal.’ I’m not sure where you’d get Maui onions from in the UK but I gather they are a sweet onion so I used a red onion instead. Ask your fishmonger (I went to the wonderful F.C Soper in Nunhead) for sashimi-grade tuna.

Ingredients
1 pound fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna)
1 teaspoon finely chopped macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
Salt
1/4 cup shaved Maui onion
2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 cup finely julienned, toasted dried seaweed

Directions
Cut the ahi into 3/4-inch cubes and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the nuts, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili flakes and salt to taste. Lightly toss together. Then add the Maui onions and green onions and lightly toss to combine. Season with additional salt if needed and black pepper to taste. Garnish with the seaweed.

It’s all Good

Nope, I haven’t been perusing the new Gwyneth Paltrow book. It’s just that today is good, Good Friday, to be exact.

Which means no school, and consequently no nagging this morning; kids loafing about in PJs eating fresh berries and pancakes (made with Dove’s Farm gluten free flour because, like Calgary Avansino in last weekend’s Sunday Times Style, in article that referenced – positively -Gywnnie’s approaches to feeding her family, I’m not fanatical about what my children eat but try to balance out inevitable gluttony – well, it’s Easter, isn’t it – with some less toxic choices) until their sparkling insides were so far at odds with the slatternliness of their exteriors that I had to chase them upstairs and into clean(ish) clothes.

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Next, there was the joy of opening yesterday’s post. Not a bill to be seen but instead, the my-wardrobe SS13 Style Guide and best of all, a lovely, heart-warming card from my friend Rachel with some adorable Mibo paper animals for my children to create.

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And the sun is shining! What an auspicious start to the holidays. I’m off out for a run to soak  it up while it lasts – admittedly, I am running to Ayres the Bakers to pick up Hot Cross Buns for our Easter lunch and egg hunt with friends this afternoon. But like I said, it’s Easter. Gluttony is inevitable. And for grain-free me? Would you believe that the lovely, thoughtful people at my local Budgens saved me the last Inspiral raw chocolate egg? I heart them.

Really better go for that run though….

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Not about to buy 2 for 1 supermarket Hot Cross Buns when Ayres are cranking out babies like these!

Not about to buy 2 for 1 supermarket Hot Cross Buns when Ayres are cranking out babies like these!

I went for a run

I really didn’t want to do it today. Every impulse rebelled against it. I was in bed too late and up too early; it’s always a tiresome rush getting the children to school on a Monday morning for an 8am gymnastics session; it was freezing cold, with whirling scurries of snowflakes and a positively Arctic wind. And then there was my general state of mind, a seemingly endless list of Things To Do pressing on my already ho-hum mood and the small matter of my not-great-in-the-cold left knee.

I’ve got a bunch of mottos, many discovered on Pinterest, that I use to whip my sorry mental butt into shape when I’m having one of these days. “You never feel bad after a run, but you almost always feel bad if you miss one.” “The hardest step for a runner is the first one out of the door.” “Yesterday, you said tomorrow.”

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So I stuck on an orange top from Runners Need, as orange almost always makes me feel better and I went, although to my local gym rather than the park, and I ran a perfectly respectable 10 kilometres. And, unsurprisingly, the rest of my day felt fantastic. Albeit still freezing!

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