Showing posts with label Costa Coffee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Costa Coffee. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Break Point

I have actually ground to a halt. My best intentions to write 500 words per day for my thesis are foundering in slack-jawed apathy. The dissertation is growing - in fact, it's probably growing too much. My latest chapter (so nearly completed!) is now over 52,000 words, and it's going to need some heavy pruning before submission. But it's nearly one-thirty on Friday afternoon, and here I am blogging - not doing academic stuff, carelessly frittering the remains of the day away.
My elderly parents came round this morning and regaled me with tales of their holiday in the Italian Lakes and I started to feel restless and very twitchy. I need a break, preferably abroad for a few days, but I have a feeling that just ain't going to happen this autumn. It's the financial climate, I guess. That, plus the rowing club fees are due for all for of us (and NO direct debit facility - ridiculous!), Daughter #3 wants to go on a residential school trip, the car needed taxing, new school uniforms, birthdays...the whole routine. Nor did we manage to get away this spring either as Daughter #2's second baby was due near the half-term holidays and I was on standby for minding the delightful Bouncing Babba #1.
It really aggravates me how hotel prices shoot up in half-term holidays (cynical or what?) but we are practically threatened with excommunication if we take the kids out of school in term-time. I did think about going to Rome for the weekend, taking them out of school for the Friday and claiming it was a pilgrimage. Well, it would have been - to the Tazza d'Oro coffee shop near the Piazza Navona as much as to go to St Peter's!
The weekend looms with all its usual activities. I just can't imagine what 'normal' (i.e. non-rowing) families do. Just lately, Saturdays consist of the rowing-convert Husband cycling off to the rowing club for 8am, hopeful of calm conditions, and me walking into town later to meet him for a much-needed latte and listen to his exploits.
Sundays usually start early again with me accompanying him to rowing and helping him out with the boat, boating up etc., or with me arriving an hour later (9am) with Daughter #3 and the Bright-Eyed Boy for the junior rowing training session, where I'll either coach singles from the riverbank (trying not to slip on the goose-shit and fall into the water) or cox a quad (getting noticeably chillier by the day).
Last Sunday the river was high, so the Husband and his cronies opted to stay in the gym (ffs!). The juniors put them to shame by blithely boating up and paddling off, although it was a bit 'exciting' on occasion, judging where to land etc. This again is followed by a welcome hot drink, coffee and rowing chat at the local Costa, which I surely must have shares in by now (that's probably where all the money's gone!).
Both Saturday and Sunday afternoons see us two adults (and occasionally children, too) down at the recreational gym near our house (much nicer than the boathouse gym), trying to fit in the weights sessions that we have failed to do during the week (more correctly the guilt-wracked Husband has failed to do - I'm a goody two-shoes and get there most days before I start my work). Into this we must fit the usual colossal school/work clothes wash and iron, prepare and cook food, homework (for the Husband too, sadly), and shop for the forthcoming week's packed lunches etc. Housework and gardening doesn't get a look in, not that I'm really that sorry, but I'm increasingly aware of disapproving glances at the fluff-wads and overgrown grass and weeds. Sunday night and we're knackered -slumped with a pile of food and glass of wine having a marathon sport-watching session of stuff we've recorded whilst out.
So yeah - I could do with a break, a complete break from the routine. We're going to tot up the air miles again and scan RyanAir and EasyJet. I seriously doubt it'll be on the cards...and if it is the only cards it'll be on is the Mastercard. I might have to live with that. Seize the day etc. Autumn on the banks of the Tiber....lovely!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Full Stream Ahead: Again!

The view from the boathouse
 Our river, the Yorkshire Ouse, is a ridiculous river. Having spent most of the summer at such a low level that we were practically scraping the fins through the silt boating up, we are now in overnight flood season. The levels go up and down like a 'bride's nightie'. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure(?) of coxing the J15 boys upriver in against a stream so rapid that it took them all their time to make any progress at all. Again this week after a torrential thunderstorm on Friday night (both in York and up in the feeder hills), the levels rose steadily. Sunday morning at the juniors training session, the tow path was covered, annoyingly only by two or so inches of water, which made boating up a real problem. If the levels are higher it's fine to plop the boats in the water just at the bottom of the boathouse steps -the fins and rudders won't catch. But because there wasn't quite enough clearance under the hulls, we had to (very tentatively) paddle through the water and put the boats out just past where the towpath ended. Very cold, especially for those without wellies. I had my Crocs with me, so I wasn't too bothered about the getting wet, although the getting cold was a bit unpleasant! Some of the juniors, who hadn't been out during such conditions, were a bit phased about taking their shoes and socks of and paddling about, but that's what seperates ruffty-tuffty rowers from ordinary mortals (as I pointed out to them). Because there was a fair bit of stream on the river (but not too bad) the younger ones went out in quads and the older in doubles. I had a crew of J13s - quad scull novices - including my own Bright-Eyed Boy (some quad experience under the belt) and one lad who'd never been in a quad before.
It was a bit optimistic asking them to warm up in pairs 'arms only, body lean, quarter-slide' etc. Feeling the flow of the river I swiftly called for full slide and asked for a bit of a squeeze to get us through the arch of the railway bridge where the venturi effect was evident. Rounding the corner to St Peter's Straight, the onslaught eased a little and we made reasonable progress upriver until we reached the turning point before the next bridge. Spinning the boat was a doddle: just paddling a bit on bow allowed the current to drift the boat round and we easied (well actually, we didn't, we had to keep backing down slightly to remain 'stationary') as the coach shouted out instructions to me. Start rowing, then stern pair (the slightly more experienced pair) to square blades, then back to feather, then bow-pair (including the new boy) to do the same. It was the usual rocky old business, although I did (briefly) get all four on to square blades . Spinning the boat for the upriver leg by the boathouse wasn't easy: we had to turn earlier than we would normally and even then there was a bit of a hairy moment when we drifted slightly sideways nearly under Lendal bridge.
Another circuit, same stuff. The new boy coped, and kept up, remarkably well given that everything in a quad scull happens much faster than in the single tracers that theclub normally starts them off in. As they were true lightweights, and the river was high, their session was a bit shorter than the normal one-and-a-half hour's stint. Landing the boat was rather tricky too - I couldn't quite see where the edge of the tow-path was, and not wanting to damage anything, had to shout to a rower in wellies for directions. I was a bit worried about plunging off the invisible edge of the path on getting out too!
All safely landed, I had to co-opt the Husband to help carry the boat up the steps and, after washing it, help slot it back into its rack. The little guy at bow just wasn't tall enough to be able to half-turn it without dragging the gates on the floor. Aww! My feet, which had just got wet again were freezing - I felt that I'd never deserved a steaming latte and sticky-toffee muffin as much.....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Restless in the Sunshine

I am feeling particularly restless today which can, for the most part, be put down to the weather. The sun is shining in a clear, pale blue sky and there is not a trace of the horrendous snow/rain/fog that has dogged us since before Christmas. It's picking out the smeary Dog nose-prints on the windows (where she stands on the back of the old sofa with her nose pressed to the glass awaiting our return) but I've also noticed that there are bulbs poking through the soil and every thing feels.....full of potential.
I've also reached a natural break in my chapter and don't feel (today at least) like striking out in a new mental direction, so I am going to wait until the post is delivered - I'm expecting a copy of The Travels of John Mandeville from the Book Depository - and then take a trip into town to find a suitable coffee shop to sit and read it.

I am a great fan of coffee shops, and enjoy the sense of pseudo-community that they engender. This has been late coming to British shores and really has only arisen since the appearance of Starbucks, Nero and Costa on the high street. When I was doing my OU studies, I used to go to the Cafe Nero in the centre of town when smoking was still allowed upstairs. the ambiance was slightly bohemian and it was not unusual to see people jotting in notebooks or working on papers. When smoking became a no-no, there was not much to keep me going there - it was a bit grotty really, so I decamped to the Starbucks situated upstairs in the large (now defunct) Borders store, and that became my regular haunt. This was slightly more upmarket: men in suits held informal meetings there and smart ladies with laptops availed themselves of the free wi-fi. I got to know the staff reasonably well and quite often preferred to work there, amidst people, rather than at home alone. When I travelled to Leeds University on the train, my penchant for arriving early meant that I could call in at the Nero en route, and one of my most enduring memories of this time is the day when I'd gone extra-extra-early (it was exam time and I was paranoid about being late) and watched the morning sun gradually turn the building opposite white-gold as I sat entranced, latte and croissant to hand, my revision notes laid out in front of me.

Since the demise of Borders and its Starbucks, a new Nero has opened and has recently become the place where, if I feel the need of caffeine, I end up. I can never understand women who won't go for a cup of coffee on their own. I was surprised by a survey done recently (by Woman's Hour, I think) that revealed just how many women feel uncomfortable on their own in public, which seems to me a shocking indictment of their autonomy. Why would you NOT go for a cup of coffee if you wanted one? Why would being on your own make you feel awkward? Are you so self-obsessed that you imagine that you are constantly being scrutinised, or judged as lonely or on the pull? Oh, get over it! I actively enjoy having the time to myself, to sit down, read, people-watch,'s one of life's pleasures. And one I think that I am going to indulge in later, I think.