Stay awhile and listen!

Warning: picture heavy. Mobile users beware.

Today the family unit took a trip to Riveaulx Abbey. I saw it mentioned on Twitter a while back and realised it was fairly close to where we live, so we decided to go. It was such a nice day for it, as well, it seemed a shame to spend the day moping and playing rock, paper, scissors over who has to do the chores.*

So, we drove up to Helmsley. Well. We drove up to Malton, got diverted by a closed road and went in a big circle but eventually we got to Helmsley. Lots of narrow roads, lots of 14% inclines – before we did anything else I had to go sit in the cafe.


After a spot of rejuvenating tea, we made our way out to the abbey itself.


It is massive. Even with all the drawings and plans mounted around the place, we struggled to imagine what it would have looked like when it was complete. It’s just so big! There’s an exhibition centre off to the right of the path that starts off talking about how the lives of monks were austere and spartan at first, but after a couple of centuries they just went wild. Wild for a Cistercian monk, that is.

The audio guide was good, but I was so disappointed to discover that no-one had slipped a Diablo gag into it. Not even a whiff of impeity!


Aoife was so impressed.


Yeah. So she’s a bit young for it just yet. I was impressed. Everything about the place just screams “epic sword fight AND/OR spooky ghost location”.


Ghosts! Sword fights! Inexplicable inclusion of kung fu and parkour moves! Lightning!


We even found the remains of the stairwell from the Kurgan/Ramirez fight from Highlander.


Bonus Aoife picture!


I thought it was unusual that the website listed the cafe as one of the high points of the giant ruined abbey, but it was. Giant pot of tea! Chutney and brown sauce made at the abbey! Local bacon and sausages! One of the staff coming out of the kitchen and taking Aoife for a walk so that we could eat in peace! Brilliant stuff.

As a special treat, Lisa bought me a notebook that I intend to use as a bible for all the random fantasy novel worldbuilding facts that I think up.


Just look at it! Notebooooook. So exciting.



So, yeah! Lots of fun. Next time, Castle Howard!

*spoiler: me. I do.

Important thoughts on space and boundaries.


I know it’s controversial to say this, but kittens are not welcome in bedroom space. Bedroom space is a sacred, protected area where I should feel able to sleep and not have to chase kittens out of and down the stairs every three hours because they want to wander up and down the bed in search of a good sleeping spot.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Some cats know how to behave in the bedroom space. Some cats pad in silently and snuggle close in the night. Some of them even purr, in a comforting and peaceful way.

But these cats are in the minority. Is it worth it, I ask you, to welcome cats into the bedroom space when they are given to indulging themselves in such behaviour as door-scratching, pulling up the carpet in the corners of the room, chewing through headphone cables, fighting with one another and sometimes themselves, digging under the duvet in search of treasure, and noisily licking a plastic bag from Waterstones?*



Kittens. They need to learn to respect my boundaries.

This message is brought to you by a less-than-restful night’s sleep.

*seriously, what is with that?

On new beginnings.

So. On Wednesday my partner gave birth to our daughter, Aoife Eir Toshiko. I’m loathe to bury either Twitter or Facebook in pictures of her (although part of me wants to) because, well, it doesn’t seem the done thing to spam people, even if I do think she’s fantabulous.

Birth was a long business, with days of minor contractions leading up to the main event. By the time we got into the actual process of full-on labour, Lisa had had very little sleep and was generally extremely unimpressed with the situation. Several times up to that point, we had considered dumping our birth plan for something a little more intervention-y, but we handed over our birth plan to the midwives anyway to see what they could arrange.

After a check with the registrar, she was allowed to get into the pool, which was a big relief. The midwives were very understanding about our desire for less interference, so after making sure she was okay they left us alone in the room and only appeared to check pulses and temperature every 15 mins. It was great.

Lisa was in a lot of pain throughout, and it was very intense (and vocal!) but there were very few shifts into distress sounds. I think the worst part was when, exhausted, she feel asleep between contractions and was surprised awake by the pain. Other than that, it progressed well and she ended up birthing in the pool and – as an extra bonus – catching Aoife as she was born.

Seeing someone actually born is a very odd experience. It’s a bit abstract while the baby is still inside, like it’s not really there. Even with the head partially visible it looks a bit like…well…a doll or something coming out. But then suddenly it’s out in seconds, after hours of waiting, and it’s an actual person blinking and looking straight at you.

So weird.




With me!


With mum!


With her fetching Space Invaders cardie!

Owl-stretching Time

For Lisa’s birthday, I bought her – amongst other things – a half day’s owl handling at the Falconry Centre near Thirsk. Lisa likes owls, which means that every birthday or Christmas she gets at least one owl-themed thing from someone in her immediate family. Obviously I had to get in on the action.

Warning: extremely picture-heavy post follows. Mobile internet users beware!

Continue reading “Owl-stretching Time”

We should’ve named one “Buck”.

Today, we drove down to Outgate Poultry and bought ourselves some chickens. It had to happen, really. We had already spent almost £400 on an Eglu, and God only knows how much else on bedding, feed, grit, diatomaceous earth and other chicken-keeping necessities and sundries that would have made not buying chickens a financial disaster.

The smallholding we bought them from was a little bit far away, but it was really worth making the trip down there because the guy running the place was very experienced and very helpful. We arrived nice and early, and he was able to give us lots of advice on settling the chickens in and looking after them – much of it both of us had read already, but it was nice to hear it confirmed and to get the chance to ask questions.

What I wasn’t aware of when we bought our three birds is that they are self-packing:


The Blue on the right is called Kerrigan, Queen of Blades. The Black, below and on the left is Commander Shepard. The youngest bird, the Ranger at the top, is Alexstrasza the Life-Binder.

Yes, we are that sad.

When we got home we gave them a quick chance to run around a little (an hour in a cardboard box can’t be good for anyone’s nerves) and then picked them up (took one or two goes to get hold of Alexstrasza) and put them in the run. They need to stay in there for a few days at first so that they become habituated to living in the coop and run. Eventually they’ll get command of the whole garden but this first bit of captivity is essential, apparently.

I might let them out for a little bit later on, though.


Kerrigan and Alexstrasza check out their new house. I went out to check on them a few minutes ago and discovered Shepard squatting obstinately in the nesting box, Kerrigan trying to take all of the bedding out one piece at a time and Alexstrasza trying to devour the same leaf she had been picking at three-quarters of an hour earlier.


Shepard staring intently at a piece of completely featureless land trying to find something of worth. Kind of like the mining in Mass Effect 2, really.

Back from Croatia.

So, last week I went on holiday with Lisa and her family to Croatia, a holiday to celebrate Lisa’s father’s 60th birthday.

The destination was the island of Pag, and we stayed in a beach-side apartment complex about 9 km from the town of Novalja.

If you’re looking for a holiday away from the bustle of everyday life, then there’s a lot to reccomend in a trip to Pag.  There’s not a great deal there, and the principal sights could be encompassed in a single day if one were so inclined.

Personally, I have a limit to which I can sit out in the sunshine doing not a lot.  I can’t read for long, because the glare makes my brain start to feel loopy, and if I run about I invariably injure myself, and I worry constantly and intensely about how many more moles I’m going to have to have the doctor cut out of me (two to date).  So, naturally, I went off on my journey with no small amount of trepidation over when, exactly, I was going to crack.

Continue reading “Back from Croatia.”

Newark Air Museum. Oh, and a short Sunday run.

So, we went down to Newark this weekend for the half marathon.

While we were in town, though, Alistair was quite keen on seeing the Air Museum.  And when I say excited, I’m not kidding.


At a little over six quid to get in, it was somewhat pricey, but nevertheless a very interesting wander round was had.

Continue reading “Newark Air Museum. Oh, and a short Sunday run.”

Another weekend, another race.

It’ll be a while before my next one – 8th of August for the Newark half marathon, I think?

I think so.

Anyway, today I’m off up to Newcastle (or near enough) to see my brother and to take part in the Sunderland Great North 10k.  The weather should be good for the run – bright but cool when we set off, with a chance of rain later on, and the course is apparently very flat and quite fast.  Also it should be a pretty nice view along the course: it starts at Wearmouth Bridge, goes down to the Winter gardens, back across the bridge, along next to St. Peter’s church, up along the shore past Roker Pier lighthouse, round Roker park, then back down the same way to get to the Stadium of Light for the finish.

The Stadium of Light always confuses me.  The name suggests to me something a mothership should be permanently hovering over, offering access for the believer to a cosmic world of magic across the galaxy.  You know, something like that rather than a football ground.  Maybe it’s a clever ruse and the mothership is on its way? I can but dream.

As for how the race will go, I have no idea.  I had a bad race two weeks ago and I really wanted to improve for this one, but I’ve been experiencing a lot of pain in my left foot from what is most likely just poor running technique making me run like a pigeon-toed loon on my left side.  It’s also, apparently, the probable cause of my stomach cramps mid race, although that could also be me chucking down water too fast at th water stations.

There’s a thing – only one water station for this race.  I was getting used to the 3/7 split from the others, it was a nice way to pace myself that didn’t involve looking for the tiny km banners, almost indistinguishable from corporate sponsor banners and some roadside debris, that they used in Hull and Leeds.

Anyway, I’ll try my best.  You can’t ask for much more than that, and hopefully I’ll be focussing enough on how I’m running that I don’t put myself out of action for a week afterwards again.

While I’m here, I thought I’d put this in for some interest.  My grandfather on my father’s side of the family was a runner, too.  When Alistair was up in scotland last weekend,  our uncle (also Alistair) hunted out some old photos and memorabilia from the world of Scottish road running clubs circa 1930.


A fixture card from the 1931-32 season.


The inside of the fixture card. 5-7 km seems to be their usual race distance, and I particularly like the note at the bottom – we don’t care if it’s raining, you’re still bloody running.


My grandfather is apparently second from the left, but it’s hard to tell. Alistair and I were unconvinced simply because he’s got a smile on his coupon, but since every single runner is skinny and has sticky-outy ears at least it gives him a distinguishing feature. Note the race marshal in his lovely hat, who has taken the day off from running a speakeasy to start the race. The place where they started looks like this today.


The 30’s version of a medal/t-shirt/race pack. William Dunlop needs to sort his pen nib out, I say. Sadly, there’s no time on there for us to try and beat but third place…not bad at all.