My last post here, a week ago now (sorry) started a few unexpected days at home, with enforced “rest” (i.e.: not running), but that doesn’t mean I was idle. I got a lot of knitting done! And a lot of listening to podcasts, and a lot of reading. I feel like I’m somewhat up to date with world events and current affairs again, now that I’ve had some days where I had time to take in some media on a consistent basis. I don’t know, yet, if being “up to date” …
I had my last trail race of the summer series yesterday morning. It was a bit miserable for the first half, with a nasty case of runners’ trots followed by a cantankerous left calf and then wrenching my right big toe (that last happens relatively frequently, and usually comes good after a while). After the halfway point, though, at 5K or so, I overcame most of the unpleasantness, and with just the left calf twinging at me I picked up the pace and had a lot of fun.
Yesterday afternoon I discovered I couldn’t walk. The cantankerous calf had upgraded to belligerent. Of course, I began prodding at the spot and when I found that the slightest pressure caused alarming pain, I figured I might get myself looked at. The sawbones prodded it, I squealed, he mumbled something about having torn some muscle I’d never heard of, and then he gave me three days off after I told him I typically walk 7-10km in the course of a workday. A ultrasound today revealed that the aforementioned muscle (the plantaris) isn’t the issue, but rather the “proximal aspect of the medial gastrocnemius”. There’s a wee tear. I’ve torn a f@&$ing muscle.
So now I’m under house arrest, and while one part of me (the homebody part) is quite gleeful, most of me is struggling.
I’ll get sooo much knitting done!!: I’ve done one measly round today.
I can bake some more biscuits!!: I’ve done no such thing and suspect that doing so might be detrimental to my health – my habit of EATING ALL OF THE THINGS is fine when I’m running lots, but baked goods being available non-stop when I’m sedentary will set my training back even further than it will be already.
I don’t have to drag my arse out to run!: I can’t run! (Cue inconsolable sobbing)
It’s my left leg, which means I can still spin!!: the wheel’s just too hard to move from its hidey-hole when I’m crippled.
I know! Soup will make me better! Perfect excuse for impromptu soup!!: I spilled the soup. On myself. Seriously – you just can’t take me anywhere.
The current verdict is two to six weeks off running, which will suck especially at the far end of that. I’m confident that it won’t be that long but in the meantime, I’m trying to do everything right.
And stay the bloody hell out of the kitchen.
Aaaaaages ago, in fact, just on thirteen months ago, I posted about how I get a bit panicky when February’s cruel, dry weather rolls around again. This year has been no different, with February going out with a bang here in Perth, logging some seriously hot weather so that no one forgets who’s the real champion of the summer months.
The garden, such as we manage to have here in our little shoebox, has been suffering for it, with a lovely Colourbond fence reflecting most of the day’s brutal sunlight straight down onto the long, potentially useful garden bed that runs the length of our tiny backyard. Nothing survives long in there, except one pestilential shrub thing that nevertheless at least gives the backyard a little shade, and a scrawny bottlebrush that should never have been planted there, and, miracle of miracles, one passionfruit vine that has not yet succumbed. It’s in a slightly more sheltered spot, in the lee of aforementioned pestilential shrub thing.
We are forced to water the garden almost daily, which could be worse, of course. We could have a garden like my mother’s – a massive 1/4 acre around the homestead as well as sprawling grounds and vegetable gardens around the outbuildings a mile away from the house. And they do have to chase hoses endlessly there! Here it’s a once-a-day job, done in an hour and a half or so.
Today, we got a surprise! In one of my pot plants, one I’ve had for ages but that isn’t thriving like I wish it would (creeping ivy, which I tried to train around a wreath), have sprung up the most astonishing fungi. They weren’t there yesterday, when I enthusiastically watered the pot plant. There was no sign of the neon yellow fruiting bodies at all. And then today, when we got home from work and were just letting the cat out to lounge in the sun, Frog found this…
Frog immediately went to Dr Google (the Eminent Mycologist) and came up with a Mushroom Appreciation page, and that gives a nice synopsis of what the fungus is, why it’s so suddenly occurred in my innocent ivy (hot weather plus watering), and how to get rid of it.
“What????” I cried. “Why would anyone want to get rid of it?” It’s so beautiful. I adore surprise mushrooms of all descriptions, even the dreaded puffballs, which are an endless source of fascination to me. I can’t tell you how truly chuffed I am to have this little beauty in my pot plant.
It’s not edible, though.
We became custodians, recently, of an instant cactus collection. I say instant, but it was only instant for us. The person who bequeathed his collection to us, one of our coworkers, undoubtedly spent years carefully curating this assemblage of little – and not so little! – breath-holding wonders.
There’s a rambling scarecrow of a cactus in a terracotta pot so old it’s beginning to crumble and one side has broken off. There’s a pile of little prickly nubbins scrambling all over each other in a frantic, slow-mo quest for light and substrate. There’s a barrel cactus (front right, above) so festooned with yellow, serrated spines fountaining in all directions I’m not even sure how it gets any photosynthesis done. There’s a succulent whose dramatic, slightly obscene five-petalled flowers open to release a hint of carrion odour, such that flies lay eggs in the blooms and soon after, tiny fly larvae wriggle through the deep maroon hairs that coat the petals. Another succulent (middle back, dark green) looks like a sea-star, it has so many protuberances. There are lots of tall, hairy, super-prickly cacti and a total of four of the plants are flowering now. We’ve watered them generously through this cruel back end of summer and lots of them are picking up and growing at a surprising rate, getting greener, plumper, livelier.
Our veggie garden might be a rip-roaring failure, but by gam, we can sure nurture some cacti.
(If you want to see photos of the prickly babies as they progress, follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram – @thorhammer24 on both. I’d like to think I’m not annoying on either platform.)
TL;DR – We moved, it’s small, I don’t like small.
Late last September, Frog and I signed all the last bits of paper and moved out of the rental house that had been my home for five years, and hers for almost three, and into our own place. It was a momentous occasion, of course! Frog’s sister, brother-in-law, and some friends of ours helped us move, which was lovely because the day dawned surly and dull, and right on 8am when we’d scheduled The Great Move to begin, the sky opened and dumped rain on us. It continued all day. The positivity and motivation showed by our family and friends was so helpful. I mean, I know on the inside they were probably thinking “God, let’s just get this done so I can go home and get dry!” (at least, that’s what I was thinking!) but everyone was so cheerful and we worked together to get the move done.
Frog’s Mum swooped in at the tail end of the day, tag-teaming with the sibling-and-friend-types to take care of us with some food and perspective. We wedged ourselves in amongst the boxes and tried to keep a positive outlook through the exhaustion, the stress, and the irritation at not being able to move around the room freely!
I remember that day as the day we moved in, but really the whole process took weeks. Having lived at our old place so long, it was hard to return it to looking how it did when I moved in – after all, gardens grow, don’t they?! The property manager kept on and on at me, saying that it wasn’t good enough, never good enough, take the gardens back to the edges – but don’t hack them! Well, after three return visits to the old house I gave up and authorised them to send a gardener. I’d put a lot of work into nurturing those gardens and cutting so much life out of them was hurting me too much. In the end, we finally got our bond back, less a bit for the bloody gardener.
Then, having closed the book on the issues at the old place, we found a seething nest of vipers at the new one. Not literally – that would have been less difficult. You see, we moved into a little 2-bedroom villa in a set of 17 villas, built in the early 80s, a bit run down but sturdy and straight. The group has a lot of owner-occupiers in it, which is generally considered a good thing. However, one of those (#15) turned out to be owned by a couple in their sixties who are the most argumentative, unhinged, inconsiderate, rude, spiteful pair I’ve met in years and years. They pounced on us soon after we moved in, ranting at us about rules and respect and so on, and one day there was even a shouting match, complete with physical confrontation, out the front of our villa, involving us, them and the two neighbours next to us. It was a very stressful time. Things calmed down after a while, thankfully, and then one day, Frog texted me with the most magnificent news – #15 was for sale!
It was duly put under offer, then the Sold sticker appeared on the advertising billboard on the verge, and then the sign disappeared…but the horrible couple didn’t. For weeks we waited with anticipation, learning that they’d moved about a block down the road into the retirement village (oh, dear, that’s going to result in fireworks!) and eagerly awaiting the moving truck. Finally, it arrived, with Mr. 15 officiously directing it down our winding, narrow, potholed driveway and around the corner to #15. They loaded up, drove out…and we haven’t seen them since. We haven’t met the new neighbours yet. They seem quiet and not liable to get in our faces about anything, so that’s an improvement.
On the whole, home ownership hasn’t changed our day to day existence all that much. It’s lovely to not have rent inspections! It’s not so lovely to get rates bills, or deal with strata issues, or have to organise repairs when someone backs a truck into your eaves, or decided if that tap’s drip is bad enough yet to warrant the plumber coming back. It’s lovely to plan renovations, but not so lovely to try and budget for them, or figure out if the place will pay you back for them. It’s lovely to feel you’ve got the right to go to local council meetings and the like, but not so lovely to feel responsible for the dreary neighbourhood, the lack of care, the illegal dumping, the ugly streetscapes, the neglected, apathetic parks. It’s lovely to have “our house”…it’s not so lovely that it’s not the old house.
I loved that old house. I loved living there. It was where I created my refuge from an abusive relationship. It was where I rediscovered how it felt to be empowered, where I stretched my wings again after having them clipped and then broken, where I learned to stride rather than creep. It was where I revelled again in eating what I wanted to eat and doing what I wanted to do, where I stuck my fingers in the dirt and looked up at the sky and walked the boundaries and picked the lemons and pruned the trees and learned all the creaks of the floorboards. It was my haven after a horrendous period of my life, and I miss the space we had there. I don’t know if “dinky” or “cute” or “cosy” will ever suit me, but I’m trying.
The world got a little darker this week, and that light going out served to rebuke me for keeping my light, such as it is, under a bushel. In case you’ve missed my updates, it’s not that I’ve been idle – it’s just that recording my exploits, and letting others know about them, have not been priorities for me. But now I feel that approach has been wrong. It fosters in me a numbness, a kind of amnesia, and now I think I need to think and share, and hopefully interact with people who are interested in what I’m doing.
It’s not about publicising myself, though that’s not to say I don’t appreciate this being read by each and every one of you. It’s about holding myself accountable for the moments that whip past me, faster and faster the more of them there are behind me, and cramming as much as I can into those moments, since I’m lucky enough to have them.
Maybe I’m a crappy artist, but isn’t it important that I go on making art?
I’m far from the fastest runner out there, but if I let that stop me then I’d never run, would I?
Maybe I kill plants (and they’re all on my conscience, don’t you worry) but that just means I need to me more conscious of keeping the ones I have alive.
So what if no one else eats the food I make? If it’s delicious to me and making it nourishes me body and soul, then it’s worth my time and my presence, my attention, in the moment.
Enough marking time. It’s already so late, and those moments are accelerating. If you’re coming, hang on for the ride.
Image source – that’s the inimitable Hiilary Swank, revelling in the body she’s worked so hard to have.
On the twelfth of August, 2013, shortly before my 32nd birthday, I did a strange, wonderful, uncharacteristic thing. I took up running.
I’ve always been one of those people who scoffed at the idea of running for fun, so this was very much out of left field for me, and to be honest I am still unable to really pin down my reasons for getting out there and running. I’d heard about Zombies! Run! and it seemed like a fun idea – a training app that combines interval training with an interactive, post-apocalyptic story-game – and that played a part. So, too, did my mild inclination to Doomsday-Prepping. I suspect some intervention from my awareness of my age, too.
Whatever the reason, I stuck with it, and I’ve been running once, twice or three times a week since then, and to say that it has changed my life is a bald understatement. There has been so much to learn about this new world that’s opened up to me, and I’ve joined the local Marathon Club in the hope of finding people to talk to about running so I can stop doing it to my friends and loved ones before they all abandon me.
And I still can’t tell you why I run. It’s horrible, and wonderful, and fun, and so godawfully boring, and hard, and then suddenly easy, and it sucks so much time out of my days now but it gives me so much back in the currency that matters – self-respect, empowerment, pride, endorphins, strong limbs and feet and lungs and heart. I feel so much bigger in myself now, even though I’m slimmer than I’ve been my whole adult life. Running has introduced so many delicious contradictions into my life and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Y’know, every summer I live in Perth, I make a Herculean effort to ignore something. Not just any random old thing – it’s the same every year. It gets to the gritty, sandy, dusty midpoint of January once all the insanity of what’s cruelly called the “holiday season” and I get some time to reflect on stuff once again, and I find myself deliberately ignoring the weather.
I just assume, from day to day, that It’s Going To Be Hot, and the only pattern-making I observe with respect to the weather is whether or not it’s my day to switch on the bore-fed reticulation.
I try really hard not to think about how long it’s been since it rained, and how much longer than that it’s been since it rained substantially, and how last rainy season just didn’t yield enough to get us through comfortably, and how it gets worse and worse every year. I don’t let my mind follow that logic chain, preferring to skip ahead to the action step, without entering into the desperate dwelling-on phase of the whole subject.
And then yesterday I made the mistake of listening to the radio. Normally it’s pretty safe because I prefer to listen to Triple J, an eastern-states based station that mostly ignores the presence of us inconveniently timezone-challenged Western laggards. But yesterday the “novelty” feature on one of the newsbreaks I heard told me that some weather statistic had been smashed by the Western Australian summer, once again. Something to do with the least number of days on which it rained in a three-month period (three days, I believe)…I get glazey when meteorologists start talking stats. They’re worse than cricket commentators.
The upshot was that I started panicking about the weather. And I was doing so well, what with all the sand around here wherein I can comfortably stick my head. Admittedly, said sand was getting very dry.
Just quickly…I entered the Royal Perth Show recently. Here’s the goodies:
There were two shawls, a hat, and five skeins of yarn. And all three knitted things and one skein – the novelty yarn – won firsts! I’m quite proud of my results…but intend to do better next year. In fact, I e already started planning!
Warning: Some links in the following post may lead to offensive content. Actually, it’s not so much “may” as “do”. Proceed with caution.
…use the sun to make your food!
After a bit of an involved process, we managed to get ourselves a solar oven – something I’ve been wanting to buy or build for a long time now. This one came to us courtesy of the Rainbow Power Company and it’s the coolest thing! The size and shape of a large, awkwardly-proportioned briefcase, and done up in a brilliant red with a stylised sun glyph on the case, it’s a fun thing to have around.
See the condensation dripping on the cooking pans? It gets surprisingly hot even on a cool winter day.
Yes, that is steam rising off the veggies. And yes, that onion was good enough to eat on its own. With a spoon.
It being winter and all, there hasn’t been much in the way of climatic opportunity for us to get right into it. But we did give it a go to make some roast vegetable soup one a rare sunny day. It works a treat, and now we get to learn how best to use it and make the most of the coming summer. Not having to spark up the oven on a hot day in summer will be great, especially considering that our oven is munted (definition number 5 here) and the door doesn’t shut, there’s only one speed and it barely fits a cupful of sesame seeds in. So we have high hopes for the wonderful solar oven!