The elephant keeps walking

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Life is a car crash – a complete disaster from start to finish.

Life is also the most wonderful amazing thing.

You are amazing. Remember that you were the one sperm in millions who won the swimming race – you were the one that fertilized the egg in the womb! You were born an Olympic Gold Medalist.

But boy does the crap come at you on so many days. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

I’ve just got back from a holiday into a very busy week. I’m going through this busy week with all my emotional baggage having its own stroppy session. To be honest, I’d be happy to have another holiday – maybe 6 weeks more holiday!

But I can’t do that. I’ve got commitments.

In fact this weekend, I’m doing some public speaking up North.

In one survey, public speaking was voted the number one fear people have. Number 1.

Death was number 2!

So basically people were saying that at a funeral, they’d rather be in the coffin that having to do the eulogy!

But you know what? I’m going to go and do my public speaking and meeting people and sharing my books with people, and I’m going to try and enjoy the whole thing.

Sometimes, I feel we just have to plough on and do our best.

A wise teacher from India shared this insight:

“The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking.”

The elephant doesn’t yell at the dogs for barking. It doesn’t go to a store to get muzzles to shut the dogs up. The elephant doesn’t veer off its path to waste precious energy leaving endless Facebook comments clarifying its position, or attempt to “take the dogs down.”

It just keeps walking.

Right now, I think that’s what I’m doing.

I know at other times, I just need to get away and rest, have solitude and silence.

Life requires us to sometimes plough on like the elephant, and sometimes to stop and be still.

One thing I have learned over the years is that we have to work on our self-care. Some of us are so quick to be there for others we forget to be there for ourselves.

We are all a bit broken – everyone of us. I’ve never met anyone with all the dots on their dice. But last time I checked, broken crayons still colour.

While you plough on like the elephant, or seek stillness and calm, there are 4 things we should do to look after ourselves:

Ask for help.

Be kind to yourself.

Embrace imperfection.

Try new tactics.

Progress

I pray that any dogs barking at you get tired or distracted and stop.

I pray for fresh peace and understanding for you.

I pray for you to colour some new pictures with your broken crayons so you can bless the world with your creativity.

Peace.

 

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Kings, dragons, and picnics

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Miles walked 2018: 345 / 1,000 on the 1,000 miles in a year challenge.

Another Bank Holiday weekend came and went. As we are trying to create a pond and seating area in the garden, Saturday and Sunday was spent trying to make some progress on that but, due to the heatwave, it was just to hot to work outside for long.

I also had an appointment at 2am Monday to drive the eldest daughter and grandson to Luton Airport as they were flying out to see our youngest daughter who is living in Iceland for a year, working with the Red Cross.

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I’ve been a bit ‘between books’ recently in my reading but took up Bill Bryson’s Road to Little Dribbling again. After reading Notes from a Small Island many years ago – which is laugh out loud funny – I thought I’d laugh as much at Bill’s second travel journal around Britain. But I had struggled with it a bit at the beginning and moved onto something else. But now I was back into his journey and warming again to his description of our eccentricity and, at times, nonsensical approach to life.

As I tried to settle down for a couple of hours sleep, I got to the chapter where Bill Bryson visits East Anglia, where we live. He writes about Sutton Hoo – a place we have visited a couple of times but no for a while.

His take on Sutton Hoo stirred my interest in the story of King Rædwald of East Anglia.

Rædwald reigned from about 599 until his death around 624. Sutton Hoo is of primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history that is on the margin between myth, legend, and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held senior power among the English people and played a dynamic if ambiguous part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England; it is generally thought most likely that he is the person buried in the ship.

I got back from the airport run around 5am and tried to get a bit more sleep.

After breakfast I suggested to Mrs E that we should go out and perhaps visit Sutton Hoo. I knew if we stayed at home it was way to hot to work in the garden and if we stayed in I’d just doze all day in the chair trying to catch up on sleep.

So we packed a picnic (but forgot the picnic blanket!) and headed off to Sutton Hoo.

The place was heaving and we eventually parked in the overflow car park. After showing our NT passes to get in free we took the free map and decided to do a perimeter walk as we hadn’t done that before. Also most people stay near the burial mounds and the museum and don’t venture further afield.

But first, I wanted to see the amazing helmet – or a replica at least – of King Rædwald.

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Soon we were on the walk and, sure enough, we had the woodland walk almost to ourselves and escaped the crowds.

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We met a dragon and walked through peaceful woodland.

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When we got back to the centre we found a couple of free deck chairs and sat in the shade of a tree as we ate our picnic.

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The day’s total was 5 miles of walking – not a huge walk but a bit more than my average day, and all eats into the 1,000 mile target for this year.

To date I have walked 416 miles – that’s 6 miles further than the length of the A1 (which is 410 miles long).

416 miles is exactly what I should have walked by the end of May to stay on target so that’s reassuring.

Right, I off now to go and collect daughter and grandson from Luton as they are returning shortly from their Icelandic adventure.

The vine and branches

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I’m currently reading a little book by a monk – Finding your Hidden Treasure by Benignus O’Rourke, an Augustinian friar. The book is about silent prayer and meditation and discovering ourselves and God in the process. The chapters are very short, which make it ideal as a sort of daily reading book. Here’s today’s thoughts:

Jesus told his disciples: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ (John:15:5). In our time of silent waiting we are allowing the sap, the life that flows in the vine, to flow through the branches. We are not seeking union with God. We already have that. Our task is to remain close to him and enjoy that union. ‘It’s not that God comes to us, as if he were absent,’ Augustine reminds us. ‘or even that we “go” to him. God is always present to us but we, like blind people, do not have the eyes to see him.’ In order to see God we have to enter a new relationship with him, enter into a new place. ‘It was in my inmost heart,’ wrote Augustine, ‘it was there, Lord, that you made me begin to love you, and you made me glad at heart’ (Confessions 9.4). The awareness of our union with the life-giving vine, the unknown sweetness that we find in our inmost heart, is not achieved without a struggle. It is a struggle between our surface-self, the person on show to the world, and our deeper self.
Benignus O’Rourke
Finding your Hidden Treasure

Ghost Train

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Miles walked 2018: 345 / 1,000 on the 1,000 miles in a year challenge.

Ah… Bank Holiday weekend AND – Good Lord – the sun was out in full force!

We spent Saturday and Sunday in the garden, as we have a thousand jobs that need doing.

But as Monday approached we thought we should get out and about.

Mrs E suggested we go out for breakfast. When Monday dawned it was another beautiful day. I messaged the eldest daughter to see if she wanted to join us for breakfast. She did, and suggested we could follow it with a walk somewhere.

We long to get the whole family back together but the youngest one is still living in Iceland for a few months more.

So a very pleasant breakfast was had by the three of us at Hollow Trees Farm, in Suffolk.

After breakfast we decided to drive over to Clare Castle Country Park and do a little walk there along the old railway track.

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It’s a beautiful place and what was once a noisy steam railway has now been almost completely taken over by nature.

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The track has been removed and the old track bed forms a linear walk for a nice stretch.

It reminded me of the old railway station at Clayton Bridge, in Manchester, where I went to watch the trains when I was little.

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We’d never heard of Dr Beeching  (or Suffolk for that matter!) but I do remember going down to the station to watch the last steam train go through, back in the 1960s.

In Manchester, the track is still there but the station buildings have all gone. The track is part of the Manchester to Yorkshire route and still used to this day.

Meanwhile, in Suffolk, Clare station is the opposite – the station is still there but the tracks have long gone.

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Clare Station was closed in 1967 and the land was eventually sold to make Clare Castle Country Park. The old station building now houses a cafe.

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There are so many places in England where the ghosts of the old railway network can be seen.

For me, a sort of ghost train, rattles and chuffs past now and again, bringing memories of childhood holidays, the smell of steam, the glorious noise of a steam engine, and fond memories of when my life was all about buttered toast and trains.

I was never a proper train-spotter – I never wrote down numbers or anything – but there is something about the railways of this little island that still transports me back to the halcyon days of childhood – even in places where Dr Beeching nicked the tracks.

 

 

I’ve walked the entire length of the London Underground!

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Miles walked: 253/1,000

Things have calmed down a bit since last week and the trip to Iceland, to see the youngest, and then the London Landmarks Half Marathon, to support the eldest.

Although the temperature has increased a bit and the snow is a fading memory, Spring is struggling to arrive.

The week has been very wet but I have managed to get a few miles of walking in each day.

I’m gradually eating away at the 1,000 mile target for this year.

There are various encouraging milestones along the way but this weekend, I passed 250 miles.

That’s equivalent to the whole length of the London Underground!

In comparison, it’s 204 miles overground from Hull to London – so 250 miles of Underground Rail network is impressive for the Capital City.

Also, 250 miles is a quarter of my 1,000 mile target, so as the first quarter of the year comes to a close, I’m on target to complete the 1,000 miles by the end of December.

Walkies!

London Landmarks Half Marathon

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Miles walked: 237 of 1,000 target for 2018

No. I didn’t run it! Sunday morning was an early start driving to Redbridge tube station to go into London, where our eldest daughter, Beckie, was running the London Landmarks Half Marathon. We’d lost an hour’s sleep as the clocks had gone forward for British Summer Time the night before.

There was an app that tracked each runner so we looked up Beckie and had a live visual on the map of where she was.

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We wanted to cheer her on at several points so we spent the day walking briskly between various points on the track to catch up with her.

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A great day, with a fantastic atmosphere. Beckie was running to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital (G.O.S.H.), where our son, her little brother, had died in 1987. She’d been to visit the house where we lived in London the night before, and memories of her little brother flooded back, making it an emotional time.

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As we chased about, we passed some of the bus stops and train stations we used to use when we took him on hospital visits when we lived in London in the 1980s. Quite and emotional day.

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Beckie exceeded her target and raised about £600 for G.O.S.H.

We clocked up 7 miles of our own chasing Beckie around the 13+ mile track!

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A lovely atmosphere and lots of £ raised for many charities. Great day.

Ice, Ice, Baby…

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Miles walked: 225 out of 1,000 mile target this year.

It’s been a busy March and thankfully it included some walking to get up to the 1,000 mile target this year.

On the 18th or March we flew out to Iceland to visit our youngest daughter, who is living there for a year, working for the Red Cross.

Ironically, the day we left the UK the ice and snow moved in, and I was uncertain if we’d make it to the airport in the very early hours.

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However, over in Iceland they had 8 degrees of warmness and most of the snow had thawed in Reykjavik.

We arrived on the Sunday and met up with the daughter and had a wander around the town.

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Our eldest daughter had been out recently as well as my younger brother, and it was interesting to recognise buildings they had put up on Instagram.

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On the Monday, Mrs E and I went for a wander around the town and then met up with Heather.

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Everything is expensive here but we found a little cafe and I had some rather nice eggs and bacon that cost me £19 (19 GBP = $27 US). Very expensive but there are few alternatives here in Reykjavik.

We’d already had quite a walk but Heather had planned a walk for us so, in the afternoon, we visited the coast and found a volcanic beach. My feet were beginning to ache a little as I didn’t bring my walking shoes. But no problem! Heather took us to a natural foot spa on the beach! Water as hot as you’d have a bath, bubbles into a stone pool. Although the weather was very cold the water was nice and hot. Bliss!

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We walked over 12 miles that day, so hopefully I’m getting ahead with my daily average.

The next day, Heather was working so we entertained ourselves exploring more of Reykjavik but it was a bit of a rainy day.

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So we paid a visit to the iconic parish church or Hallgrímskirkja as it’s called here. We were staying just across the road from here but it was nice to go inside. It was much less cluttered with the barnacles of the past than many English churches – probably due to only being built between 1945 and 1986. If IKEA built churches, they may look like this.

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We sat inside for a while and, even with the tourists coming and going, there was a sense of peace here.

That evening we went to a jazz bar, which was busy but had a great atmosphere. It was good to see the town at night all lit up.

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On Wednesday, Heather hired a car to drive us out to see waterfalls and geysers. What a day! Driving through blizzards, snow, ice and rain, through to clearer skies.

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On the last day, it was our daughter’s birthday and she came over to have breakfast with us before we left for the airport.

Including all the airport walking, our little Icelandic adventure clocked up 40 miles to add to my running total towards my target of 1,000 miles in a year.

Walk 1,000 miles in a year!

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‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Chinese philosopher Laozi, Tao Te Ching, chapter 64

I’ve decided to challenge myself to walk 1,000 miles in a year – by 31st December 2018. It only amounts to an average of 2.7 miles a day, so it’s achievable. But it will require commitment.

By yesterday I’d completed 53 miles. I’d have got further but my decision to attempt the 1,000 miles in a year coincided with my right knee playing up. Nothing too serious but sometimes a bit too painful to walk very far.

I only made the decision to walk 1,000 miles a few days ago but fortunately my Apple Watch has been tracking my walking distances since the first day of the year.

As you can see from the table below, some days I fell short of the 2.7 daily target but other days did more.

As the days get longer they’ll be more opportunities to walk further.

I’ll be posting pictures and thoughts about my journey through this year.

DATE DAILY MILES YEAR TOTAL
01/01/2018 3.4 3.4
02/01/2018 1.6 5.0
03/01/2018 2.8 7.8
04/01/2018 2.0 9.8
05/01/2018 3.3 13.1
06/01/2018 3.6 16.7
07/01/2018 1.7 18.4
08/01/2018 1.4 19.8
09/01/2018 3.4 23.2
10/01/2018 5.1 28.3
11/01/2018 2.9 31.2
12/01/2018 2.8 34.0
13/01/2018 2.9 36.9
14/01/2018 0.9 37.8
15/01/2018 2.7 40.5
16/01/2018 1.9 42.4
17/01/2018 3.9 46.3
18/01/2018 2.0 48.3
19/01/2018 2.4 50.7
20/01/2018 2.9 53.6

 

Help line?

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Phoning our energy company. Deep joy. If I’m honest, I don’t like phoning anyone. I prefer email or text message – less room for misunderstandings when something is in writing.

But we got a letter with some words in red!

Apparently, energy companies now have to inspect your gas and electric meters every two years to check they are safe.

I’d ignored the first letter because, well, another regulation passed by disconnected politicians who are totally unaware of the chaos they cause by passing blanket laws.

At least I understood that this one could save lives for some people who live in housing with a dodgy landlord or a dodgy energy meter.

Unfortunately, our energy company can’t even get my name right – everything is addressed to ‘Mr D L Egan’. It’s ‘D J’ as in Trump, unfortunately.

Oh the hurdles!

First hurdle: three bars of Vivaldi on repeat, followed by patronising recorded-voice-woman – ‘Did you know we have a website and you could probably do what you’re trying to do without bothering us on the phone? Go to www…’

Nobody types the ‘www’ anymore! And… the letter said to phone you, with no mention of being able to do this online.

So that goes on for five depressing minutes as I lose the will to live.

Second hurdle: Over friendly human asking about my day. Look, were not friends, we’re never going to be friends. We’re probably never going to speak again after today. Let’s just get this over with as quickly and efficiently as possible. (If you really want to know, I’m sat here in my PJs just before I go and shower. I want to get this over with before I start my day because I hate phoning large companies).

Third Hurdle: ‘OK we’ll just check your details are correct. Name?’

Why? The ‘D L Egan’ has grown on me. At least I know communications are definitely from you when I see this error. But OK, lets correct my name. Let’s even lose the middle initial.

‘It’s Don Egan,’ I say.

‘OK Dan, I’ll just change that.’

‘DON Egan,’ I repeat.

‘Yes, Dan, I’ve changed that now. So, Dan, can you give me your house number and postcode?’

‘It’s Don. With an ‘O’ for orange.’

‘Sorry, I missed that Dan. Could you repeat your address?

‘No. My NAME! It’s Don.’

‘Yes, I’ve got your name Dan. I need your address.’

‘My name is not Dan?

‘What?’

‘My first name is ‘Don’ – DELTA OSCAR NOVEMBER.’

‘Oh, I see, sorry Don. OK I’ll correct that.

We get through the address and then update the email and check the mobile phone number.

‘OK, Don, I notice you’re over sixty,’ (Actually, I’m just sixty if you don’t mind!) ‘so you qualify for our free ‘Vulnerable person package.’’

To be honest, by this point I was feeling like a vulnerable person being forced to jump through hoops for the amusement of others.

Twelve minutes I was on the phone before we got around to booking the meter inspection.

‘They’ll be with you Monday between 1pm and 4pm.’

 

Monday at 3:55pm the man came. He checked the meters were safe – well they had only been installed about two years ago so I hope they are! It turned out I’d only been booked for the electric meter check. Arrgh!

‘I’ll log that I’ve checked the gas meter as well,’ said the young man, typing something into his iPad.

He also read the meters, even though they are Smart Meters and are linked direct to the company 24/7. Well, the meter reading was part of the inspection.

 

Two days later, another man came to read the meters from the same company! No scam – they both came in company vans, with boiler suits with company logo and full ID.

We never saw this many meter readers before we got the Smart Meter.

For some reason, I’ve taken to sitting in a dark room in the afternoons rocking backwards and forwards.

Tomato & Basil Sauce – sugar free!

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In any supermarket the shelves are stacked high with ready mixed cooking sauces in jars. They are very convenient and that’s why millions of jars are sold every day.

The downside? Many of them have a high sugar-content when really most of us are trying to cut down on sugar intake.

When it comes to Tomato and Basil Sauce, not only does it not need sugar – it actually tastes loads better without it!

This sauce is REALLY easy to make in a couple of minutes.

You will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • Small carton of passata
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Dried basil
  • Stock cube
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients in the pan, as follows, before putting on heat.

  1. Pour a glug of rapeseed oil in a saucepan.
  2. Crush and finely chop the garlic clove and add to oil
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to pan.
  4. Pour on the passata.
  5. Add a stock cube – chicken or veg cube are fine.
  6. Sprinkle over with the dried basil.
  7. Add a few twists of ground black pepper.
  8. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  9. Put the pan on the heat and let it start to bubble.
  10. Turn down to a very low simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Pour over chicken breasts or pasta for a great taste – sugar free!