So, I arrived home from Bermuda at the beginning of November, straight back to Southampton, to basically be dumped. Fantastic news to come back to. Fortunately had already planned to go home for the weekend to see the parentals, so had some much needed mummy hugs and home-cooking :) Managed to time the trip home with Bonfire Night, so went to the local fireworks and bonfire display with mummy B, and we drank mulled cider and bought toffee apples. New cycling shoes had arrived for me too whilst I was away, which was exciting, but not all that useful seeing as I hadn’t replaced the bike I sold in Bermuda in July! Needless to say that’s pretty high up on the list of priorities!
Things on the boy front have got a lot better since I got back, it would appear that it was a temporary blip in the boy’s relationship mind-set, so things are a bit more normal. It’s prompted me to get off my arse and make more time to see my friends more often though, which can only be a good thing. Back to PhD work with a bump after that, which was a bit of a shock after nearly 2 months off. Lots of labwork on the cards in the near future, which is a good thing as it breaks up the monotony of trying to read journals and write science things. Have submitted an abstract to the ASLO conference in Puerto Rico in February, so that’ll be my next (short) trip abroad.
I also made the decision to go back to rowing competitively for the University club. Basically I just can’t stay away........ and I realised that in reality I don’t do much with my weekends, apart from the odd trip up to London to see friends up there. Especially if the boy is busy working (which he quite often is, not being very good with deadlines.....), I find that I just sort of potter around and waste my weekend. I’m not a massive fan of lie-ins, or the prospect of being a bed-pig (thanks to Stephen Fry and my sister for alerting me to this amazing phrase), so I figured that actually going back to rowing would give me something to do, and also ensure that I went to the gym regularly again. I love exercising, and hate it when I’m unfit, but I’m a fundamentally lazy person, and I need the motivation of training partners, or being part of a team to really get the best out of me where sports is concerned. The only thing I find I am happy going out and doing when I’m feeling half-hearted about life is running. Which is weird considering I used to hate it. I hate to say it, but I find a peaceful sort of solace in long runs on my own. More so at home, where I can run along the river, and through fields and countryside, but I guess I can’t really be choosy in Southampton! Pavements or nothing........ especially if it’s dark.
Sure enough, winter arrived pretty quickly in the UK once I was back. I’d sort of forgotten that I’d missed autumn, as places like Bermuda don’t have seasons that you can see in the trees and the leaves; just the amount of sunshine and rain varies. First notable thing to do when I was back was get back into running pretty quickly, as I’d entered Hellrunner again. I ran it last year with my then housemate, and loved it. It’s a cross-country run, advertised as “between 10 and 12 miles” on an army base in Hampshire and it includes the Hills of Hell and the Bog of Doom. Last year it was unusually warm considering it was the 3rd weekend of November, with blue skies and sunshine. No such luck this year. The thermometer on the car read -1’C when we arrived in the morning, after a week of near zero temperatures, and extremely frosty mornings. However, with some clever office plotting, my enthusiasm about the previous year, and my office mate Katie’s enthusiasm for doing mental things, meant that there was a group of 7 of us running. Anyone who’s spent any time doing outdoor sports, or endurance races or anything like that will be very familiar with portaloos, and the pre-race queues that go along with them. The joys of minus temperatures meant that the flushing mechanisms had frozen, so they couldn’t be flushed. Needless to say we very quickly migrated to trips to the bushes for pre-race nervous wees.
This year all the early puddles were frozen, and the ground was hard and dry, so we actually stayed completely dry until the first mini-bog about half-way through the race. Then you hear the squeals coming through the woods and you realise you’re getting close to the Bog of Doom. I swear it was deeper this year than it was last year. Out of the 7 of us, 3 of us were running out in front, and poor Anya (an orienteer and extremely quick runner!) practically disappeared under whilst we were trying to get through the bog. Even sticking to the sides of the bog I was struggling, and ended up having to put my hands under to try and stop me falling over when I tripped over a log underwater. Eventually finished, and despite everyone’s varying stages of exhaustion and hyperthermia, everyone agreed that they had enjoyed it which I was extremely glad about – had nightmares that everyone was going to hate me because I’d raved about how much I’d enjoyed the previous year! (Photo below from RandR Photos)
The cold weather carried on into early December, and we all woke up on the morning of the 2nd to about 5 or 6 inches of snow in Southampton. We are right on the South coast of the UK, so for us to get thick snow that actually settles and stays is extremely rare. Obviously I took a snow day and went to play on Southampton common. Found the boy and his housemate sledging on an estate-agents sign that worked surprisingly well. I didn’t even try and drive anywhere, so poor mini just sat where she was for a few days. Then we got to the stage where everyone is fed up of the snow because it stops looking pretty, gets slushy and icy, and generally just makes life annoying. I couldn’t drive anywhere as our road was sheet ice and on a hill, and I couldn’t cycle anywhere, as I only own a racing bike with pretty slick road tyres. Not a good idea. Went to visit the sister in Calne 9 days or so later, and there were still small patches of snow in sheltered areas of hills around the Wiltshire countryside. Nice little walk followed by a pub lunch :) Got into the winter baking spirit that week, made some Christmas muffins (with lots of mixed spice, cinnamon, nuts and berries), and then the first batch of mince pies (homemade pastry but not mincemeat I’m afraid!). Even got around to doing some of my Christmas shopping (online of course, I got cross with all the people wandering around at super slow speed in town....)