And another volcano erupts when I’m not there

I’m missing out on lava AGAIN!

Yes, another volcano in Iceland has erupted and yet again I miss out on seeing lava. I was close to this volcano when I was in Iceland a couple of summers ago. I skidooed over the glacier that covers it, though I was further south. I also came close when I did a trip into the interior of Iceland which is pretty much closed to everyone in the winter. Because of distances and difficulty of getting transport in this region this Grimsvotn volcano isn’t as easy to get to as Eyjafjallajökull would have been when that erupted. 

One of these days one will erupt when I’m either already nearby or when I’m in a position to get on a plane (assuming they’re still flying) and head straight over to see it. 

Car Valeting

Experiencing the joy that is a clean car

I did a first this afternoon and even though it’s not on my list of things to do before I’m 60, I’m still going to write about it.

I got my car valeted.

I always thought this was something people with too much money do. I love having a clean car but rarely have one. My car gets used to transport muddy boots, plants, leaky bags of grout, camping gear – I won’t go on – but rarely gets cleaned, a) because I don’t have time, and b) because it’s not very often I get the chance to park right outside my front door and when I do it’s usually raining so I don’t want to go outside with my vacuum cleaner. So my car gets dirtier and dirtier and well, with the cost of petrol these days, I really can’t afford the price of the extra fuel I’m having to buy to cart all that dirt around.

I decided a few weeks ago to go to the valeting place near my house and emptied my car out into my living room. I baulked when I found out that prices started from £50! But then a colleague told me about a place in East Didsbury that does an amazing while-you-wait job, inside and out, all for a tenner. As I was in Didsbury today anyway for college and I have to drive past the valeting place I stopped to get it done on the way home.

It’s truly amazing. They washed, sprayed, wiped, scrubbed, hoovered, and even put something on my tyres to make them really black. Then they gave me a nice smelly thing to hang over the mirror. Why have I never done this before???

Now I can get rid of all the car junk from my living room. Hopefully when I sort it out more of it will go in the bin than back in the car. Then I can get on with other jobs, feel organised, and free up time to work on my list. And I’ll have a nice clean, fresh smelling car to go to Exmoor with.


I’m planning a half-term trip to Exmoor and want to start walking the South West Coast Path from the beginning.

The weekend after next is the start of half term. I’m planning to drive down to Exmoor to spend the week walking. Usually when I go to the south west I feel as though I have to go as far as possible and always end up down near Land’s End. But this time I thought I’d stop and see some of the places I usually speed past.

I’ve found a cheap but nice sounding campsite near Porlock. So I’ll use that as a base and walk some of the South West Coast Path. I’ve walked some of the Cornish bits before, but this time I’ll start from the beginning and walk from Minehead. I’m hoping to spend about four days walking on the coastal path. As the walks are linear I’ll be partly reliant on public transport and this limits me quite a lot. I’d like to leave my car at the end of the walk and get the bus back to the beginning so I’m not clock watching towards the end of the day. But, because of bus times, this would mean that on some walks I’d only be able to start walking in the afternoon. So I think four days will be enough of juggling bus timetables and on the other days I’ll do circular walks on Exmoor itself. 

I’ll have to remember to write up my walks each night for my log, as this week will ensure I get one of my three areas of the country covered for my walking group leader’s qualification. It’ll also be a good test for my dodgy knees to see how they hold up to a week’s walking. I’d like to walk a long distance path in the summer so I need to know how physically possible that’s likely to be. 

I’ve researched and printed out my walks for the week, so all I need to do now is book the campsite and pack.  


Thinking about NaNoWriMo

I’m not disciplined enough to write a book. But I would like to have a go. If I ever do write one I don’t think it will be fiction as I’m not imaginative enough. It’ll probably be more like a fictionalised account based on a true story. Because I think this will be very hard for me to achieve I’ve included ‘writing a book’ as a separate challenge to actually being a writer on my list. If I write a book but never write anything else, I’ll only tick off the book task. If I write and get published regularly, but don’t write a book, then I’ll only tick off the writer challenge.

I heard of NaNoWriMo recently on another blog. I had no idea what it was about but a bit of googling soon sorted that out. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place each November. It started as an American thing, hence the ‘national’, but is now global.

Basically you register, and then spend November trying to write a 50,000 word novel. By the end of the month you have to upload your novel to their site and their special counting machines do a word count. If you’ve achieved the magical 50,000 you get to copy and paste an online certificate. So no big prizes, but then it is free. And it gets people writing. The best reward of course is that by the end of the month you have 50,000 more words than you had at the start and so have something to play around with and try to turn into an actual novel.

When I was a student and had to write essays I always struggled with the traditional ‘make a plan first’ approach. I agree, this is a very sensible and practical approach and I can’t fault it. But I couldn’t do it. I would write my plan and then stare at the page not knowing how to turn it into an essay. So I came up with my own technique. After doing some research around the subject area, so I at least had a bit of a clue about what I was doing, I would sit down and time myself for one hour. In that hour I had to write my essay. This killed two birds with one stone. It was great exam practice and it meant I had something on paper that I could then edit and turn into an acceptable essay. After reading it through I’d have a good idea of what I could actually do with the essay, what changes needed to be made, what needed to be added (or left out), and so on. Then I’d make my plan and write my essay in the conventional way.

With NaNoWriMo I’ll have to use this technique. There’ll be no time for edits, drafts, research, plans, or any of the other stuff that you’re supposed to do first. Sounds perfect for me!

So depending on my workload, and how my college courses are going, I’ll be giving this go. Hopefully this November, but if not, then the one after.

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Why I don’t want to go camping and walking this weekend.

The Duke of Edinburgh group from school have their camping and walking training expedition this weekend. It’s something I’ve been keen to get involved in ever since I’ve been a teacher but has never happened. As soon as the call went out for staff to help out this weekend I volunteered. Then I didn’t hear anything. I had been looking forward to it and it will be really useful for me to be involved in this as it could be relevant to my future plans (so I wasn’t volunteering just to be altruistic!) …

… then just before Easter I got the chance to do a free post-grad course that is relevant to my teaching and could widen my options later on. Great, except the one day Saturday school clashes with the Duke of Edinburgh weekend. I thought I could still manage both if I went straight to the campsite from college on the Saturday evening. At least I’d still get to spend the night camping and be involved with the walks and orienteering on the Sunday. But now I have so many other things to do, I’m actually hoping everyone has forgotten that I volunteered and I can spend my Sunday catching up on other things instead. Things like marking, doing my homework for web design, reading and planning for my uni assignment, gardening, ironing, cleaning, sorting through paperwork, and so on.

Not as exciting or as much fun, but I’ll feel a lot better to have it done. Especially as I’m planning to go down to Exmoor the following weekend for the half term week. I really need to get my life under control then I can relax and enjoy my free time.

The Ramblers

Joining the Ramblers and finding out their office staff aren’t very good at map-reading.

I’ve recently rejoined the Ramblers. I was a member a few years ago and although I only ever went on one walk with them, I did like the magazines and I like the idea of supporting them as a pressure group. They do a lot of good work keeping public footpaths open and fighting for rights of way. When my membership expired I couldn’t afford to renew it. I’ve always intended renewing but never got round to it. Now that I’m getting serious about walking and a future life involving the outdoors I thought it a good idea to rejoin.

My welcome pack has just arrived. I’ve got the latest magazine and a note saying I should receive the new handbook in the next few weeks. Unfortunately they seem to have signed me up to the Upper Wharfedale group. From what I can make out the walks all seem to be aimed at people living in Leeds and Bradford and their surrounding areas. There must be a group closer than a couple of hours drive away! I can’t remember which group I was assigned to last time; maybe Stockport or Derbyshire? So I’ll have to contact them and ask them to find me a closer group. It’s a tad concerning though that a national association involved with maps, distances, areas and so on doesn’t seem to know that Manchester isn’t a suburb of Leeds!


Why do people pay to have hairs ripped out of their skin by the roots? I really want to know.

Waxing might seem a strange thing to have on a list of things to do before I’m 60. Not much of a challenge, some people do this regularly and have done for years. But I never have. I’m quite intrigued by this aspect of personal grooming and why people would pay to have hairs ripped out of their skin by the roots. It’s a cross-cultural phenomenon, though in some cultures other substances such as sugar are used instead of wax. What exactly gets waxed (and how much of it) is both culturally and fashionably determined.

This really seems like something I should experience for myself, yet I’ve never tried it. Partly this is through fear of physical pain, but also it’s because of the fear of financial pain it will cost my bank account. Waxing is not cheap.

Each time I go to college to do my web design the walk from the car park takes me past the hairdressing and beauty therapy department where there is a functioning salon. I had a look online at the treatments and prices on offer and it is cheap. There are two prices depending on whether you have a junior or senior trainee. They also offer other treatments I’m interested in such as eyebrow and eyelash tinting and massage. So it’s convenient and cheap – really no excuse now to not get this done.

I’ll start with my legs and will probably just get my lower legs done first. Then I’ll assess and decide whether this is enough to complete this challenge or if I should do more and get other bits waxed as well before I can count it as complete. I’ve just found a video on youtube of someone having a Brazilian bikini wax. It took ages, looked even more painful than I’d imagined, and her ‘bits’ got redder and redder as the procedure went on. So I don’t think I’ll be going that far. But who knows? Watch this space …

Hathersage Walk

A circular walk from Hathersage

Jean, the mother of a friend from Kent, has just spent the weekend with me. She wanted to see a bit of Manchester, but most of all she wanted to do a walk from Hathersage as she missed out on a trip there with her walking group earlier in the year. We planned to do the walk on Saturday, but changed it to Sunday when we saw the weather report. This turned out to be the right decision as we got a wonderful day, whereas on Saturday it had rained heavily for most of the day.

One of the tasks on my list is to get my walking group leader’s qualification. I would like to start on this fairly soon and to do it I need to log walks I have done in 3 different areas of the country. The Peak District will definitely be my main area as this is my regular stomping ground. I haven’t walked for months though. Firstly because I’ve been incredibly busy and secondly because I had an accident involving a car and a house that put me out of action for a while. So as it was my first time walking seriously in a few months we didn’t choose a particularly strenuous walk.

We started off parking in Hathersage and buying sandwiches (oven bottom muffins) and eccles cakes in the local bakery to have for our lunch. Jean was surprised to see signs on the local pubs and cafes saying ‘muddy boots and dogs welcome’. Muddy boots and dogs are usually not at all welcome in Kent!

Our walk took us across fields to join up with the River Derwent, which we then followed for a while. Our walk book did a slightly bigger loop, but this would have taken us away from the river and it was so nice walking along the bank it would have been a shame not to. We walked through a wood alongside the river with bluebells to one side of the path and wild garlic to the other. This meant lots of stops for photos and to munch on the wild garlic flowers. We crossed at the stepping stones and had fun taking more photos as we jumped across them.

We then headed up away from the river. When we came across a field of cows with a sign telling us we could buy ice cream from these very cows we felt obliged to take the slight detour involved to get to Thorpe Farm, home of Hope Valley ice cream. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? Especially when they’d gone to all the trouble of putting signs up. So after choosing our cow we strolled down to the farm. The ice cream (or hot chocolate if it’s a cold day) is made on the farm with milk from the cows. What a great example of diversification! After enjoying a very large cone of panacotta, chocolate and coffee ice cream it was with heavy legs we set off again. Really, it seemed to have gone straight to my legs. 

We continued walking to get to the northern most point of our walk which was near Green’s House. A local artist called Lyn Littlewood has a studio here and she had signs up saying she was open. I last did this particular walk 7 years ago with Louise, Jean’s daughter. We called in the gallery then and Lou bought a painting for which we later had to call back to collect with the car. It was only when I went in the gallery this time that I realised she only actually opens her studio one weekend a year. What a coincidence that both times I’ve done the walk it’s been when she’s been open! The garden was also open so after a look around the studio we walked round the garden so I could pinch ideas for my own tiny yard and garden.

When we left Green’s House the walk headed south more or less in a straight line all the way back to Hathersage. When we stopped to look behind us we could see the magnificent Stanage Edge outlined against the horizon. We dropped into a wood and found a well-placed bench by a foot bridge where two small, but speedy streams joined. The whole area was full of bluebells and dappled by the sun. And we had it all to ourselves. We knew we wouldn’t find a better place to have lunch so stopped to eat our oven bottoms.

As we continued our walk we passed more of the halls thought to have belonged to the Eyre family. We’d seen some earlier on in the walk too. This was the family from whom Charlotte Bronte borrowed the name for her most famous character and novel. They owned seven halls – they’d had to buy them for their children. No-one’s exactly sure which seven they are now, but they have a pretty good idea. Although these halls are nice and fit in with the area we did pass one on our right that can only be described as a monstrosity. It was a collection of over manicured gardens, precisely placed over-large Italian style vases, a long (very long) drive with horse head sculptures on the over-large gates … everything stood out like a sore thumb and was a total blot on the landscape. The only thing that could be said to be good about it, is that it is a good example of how money can’t buy taste! 

Rant over …

Towards the end of our walk we called in at Hathersage Church to have a look at Little John’s grave and to have a cup of tea and a slice (ok, a wedge) of victoria sponge. There are quite a few Robin Hood connections in the area, the Little John grave being just one of them. It’s thought feasible (if he existed at all) as in 1784 when the grave was opened a thigh bone that could only have belonged to a man over 7 feet tall was found. 

This was our final stop and after our cake we walked back into Hathersage and to the car. We’d walked just under 7 miles and it had taken us 6.5 hours! This was because of all our stops. We’d had a great day though and felt like we’d done much more than just a walk.

Volcano Book

Getting some inspiration for my lava quest.

I had to go into Manchester for the dentist after school and as I had a bit of time to kill I popped into a remaindered book shop. I was quite excited to find a hardback book full of colour pictures of volcanoes for £2.99.

I first got interested in volcanoes when I travelled in Indonesia a couple of years ago. I saw several steaming, grumbling and smoking volcanoes but no actual lava. The nearest I got was Merapi which is really active. You have to go with a guide if you want to go into the danger zone (very Top Gun) but even with a guide it’s not possible to go to the rim which is in the forbidden zone. The morning I was there it was spewing lava. I could hear it grumbling. I could feel it rumbling beneath my feet. But did I see lava? No. The morning I was there the lava was pouring out of the other side! So now I’m on a lava quest.

In recent years both Merapi and Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland which I saw the following year, have had full blown eruptions. I missed both. Just to rub salt into my wounds I got stuck in Antwerp over Easter last year because of the Eyjafjallajökull ash cloud. Not that that was such a bad thing. I got an extra week off work and got time to explore Antwerp. But both times I missed the lava. One day I’ll see it, I know I will.


Making decisions about a writing course.

I’ve always liked the idea of being a writer – work when and where you want to, write about things you’re interested in, get to do things that other people don’t, and so on. However, I realise that I might not like the reality as much as I like the idea. Having constant deadlines, having to write in a way an editor wants me to rather than the way I want to, trying to sell my work, and so on. But unless I try I’ll never know. A few years ago I started to think more seriously about this and managed to get paid £100 for a 200 word article I wrote for the Times Educational Supplement. Then life got incredibly busy again and I never got round to writing anything else. I’ve always kept travel diaries, but haven’t really written anything else. So if I do get seriously involved in writing I think it would have to be travel writing in some form or other (I would include outdoor activity type writing in with this though).

A friend who lives in Bali has been writing for her local paper for years. She’s written on education in past, but mainly writes a review and what’s on type column these days. She’d like to get more involved in writing and has found a correspondence course with the London School of Journalism that she is interested in doing. I had a look at the course online and there is a travel writing version of it which sounds really interesting. I don’t necessarily think a course would be a guarantee for me becoming a wonderful writer, but it might focus me and give me some direction in styles and markets.

I was fully intending to apply for this course in the summer when my web design course finishes, but then I got the opportunity to do a post-graduate certificate in specific learning difficulties which is paid for by the TDA. After a bit of thought I decided to go for it. How often do you get the chance of free education these days? And it’s an area I’m interested in and may open up more job opportunities for me in the future. It’s an awful lot of work on top of everything else I’m doing, so now I have to decide whether I can really take on the travel writing course as well. There’s no point doing it if I’m not going to do it properly. But I don’t really want to postpone it by a year. So in the next month or two I have a big decision to make.