Wheely Loving Life

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At the moment it feels like I am zooming downhill on the road of life, enjoying the wind in my hair with only a few bumps ahead.

Everything is going well and I have finally lost the weight I accumulated six months ago.

I realised I had to do something when I went up a dress size and was forced to bulk-buy so I had enough work clothes, sending me into my overdraft this month.

So how did I lose weight?

I love food but I tried to cut down on sugar, especially after my dentist said I had acid erosion.

I also increased my exercise intensity and frequency. Instead of going to the gym once a week, I went two or three times a week.

I started cycling to work more often. Then I bought a cheap fold-up bike from my local Halfords in the sales. I had not realised how heavy it was and lugging the 14kg box the half an hour to the bus stop was an ordeal.

This lovely little fake Brompton means I can commute to work when half the day is dry and then carry it on public transport when it rains. The bus driver was not impressed but I just smiled sweetly and thanked him profusely. I ensured I kept it secured and out of the way of passengers.

I try to do some exercise every day.

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I have increased the number of netball matches I help out with. I used to play in one every few weeks. Now I play up to three matches a week, actively volunteering rather than waiting for an invite. The practice means I can now run faster and defend better.

I love the game because of its fast pace, the intensity, the fine footwork, the challenge and the thinking involved. Helping to get the ball in the net is such a boost. I don’t even realise I’m doing exercise when all my attention is fixed on the blurry ball as it arcs from player to player.

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On the weekend I go for at least one long bike ride. I am lucky that I live near the Peak District, so I pedal out to local beauty spots or to villages and back.

I love the sense of freedom and admiring nature’s beauty, enjoying the breeze cool your face. When you whizz downhill and lean over the handlebars it feels like you’re flying.

I like to stop at little cafes at the furthest point of my journey as that helps me stay motivated on the hills. Then I take in the scenery whilst sipping lemonade and enjoying a slice of cake. I don’t have to feel guilty about it either because I burn around 880 calories and zero fossil fuels on a 25 mile round trip.

Remember, cars run on money and make you fat, but bikes run on fat and save you money!

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Think about your week. How could you increase the amount of exercise you do?

 

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Liverpool

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Friendly locals, a busy nightlife and intimidating seagulls sum up my two night stay in Liverpool.

One beady-eyed bird even stole a sandwich from a sleeping homeless person and stabbed it eagerly with its long yellow beak.

I did not have chance to visit one of the many museums, such as the International Slavery Museum, but I had chance to sample the nightlife and it was much better than my home town.

Even though it was a week-day, there were plenty of people of all ages in the bar, listening to a guitar player sing. The Cavern Club was small, built with bricks and underground. Opening in 1957, The Beatles played there 274 times. Queen and The Beach Boys also played here, amongst many other famous bands. However, the acoustics were bad and amplified too much.

The nicest part of the city centre was Albert Docks, a regenerated collection of former warehouses, with Holiday Inn Express being the best place we stayed there. I had a view out on to the dock in my room and at breakfast, which made up for the stale pastries.

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August 10, 2019 · 7:31 pm

My First Tough Mudder

I was only doing this in memory of my colleague.

I have raised over £100 sponsorship, so it was worth it.

We set off in the morning with a van full of sleepy colleagues.

I imagined a series of obstacles and mud in between, maybe five, and imagined that it would be over in about 30 minutes.

It took hours.

Luckily it wasn’t very cold as we got soaked in mud-water trenches, scratched by stones from mud which had been worn away, stung by nettles, burned by electricity and got blisters from trying to do monkey bars.

But what made it worth it were all my colleagues pulling together, waiting at every obstacle for stragglers and ensuring everyone got through it.

I soon forgot about my aversion to dirt as I had to crawl through it under cargo nets and barbed wire.

I challenged my fear of heights by climbing a giant cargo net with nothing underneath. My legs shook and I felt sick but I managed it. I could do this because we were supporting each other every step of the way, sometimes literally.

There’s no “I” in team and the group is only as strong as its weakest link. That day we did not have one and the only injury was an electrical burn (that bit needs closing down) and a pulled muscle.

If you would like to donate, the link is here.

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August 4, 2019 · 6:46 pm

Rapa Nui – An Isolated Island

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I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world. Nowhere was as uniquely beautiful as Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui.

The tiny spec on the world map was finally discovered by the Dutch in 1722.

Named after the day of its discovery, the island may have been spotted as early as 1686, by Captain Davis, an English explorer.

Originally named “Davis” island, this was the land mass the Dutch were seeking. It was later visited briefly by James Cook in 1744. He soon continued on his way, declaring that the island had nothing substantial to offer. He noted that there weren’t any trees or animals and few birds. You can read the fascinating diary of the experience here.

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The indigenous people would have looked something like this.

Some twenty years before, the Dutch had killed 12 islanders for coming too close. Perhaps when Cook visited, the natives thought that appeasing these powerful people would enable survival, so they hoisted a bunch of bananas up to the boat as a peace offering.

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Those courageous seafarers must have been glad to arrive – Easter Island is one of the most remote locations in the world. Accessible from just Tahiti or Chile, it is a five hour flight. The tiny airport usually operates one flight each day. If you want to go the old-fashioned way, a journey by boat takes a week and only two operate annually.

We flew business class because it was the same price as standard and it was a pleasant experience, with fully extendable seats. Our flight was as cheap as it gets at £400 return, as we went out of season in June when it is cooler and wetter. However, it was still warm, with temperatures between 18-20 degrees celcius. We were lucky enough not to get rain during the day. 

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Winter is the best season to visit, as there were only a few small groups of tourists at key sites and it did not seem to get hot enough for there to be any mosquitoes.

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The fish was lovely and fresh, with a choice of large tuna, reinata and merluza to name a few, along with squid, prawns and other crustaceans.

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On the last day we swam in the sea, which was luke warm and very pleasant. The island only has one sandy beach and you can admire a row of “moai” statues as you swim. This area of the Pacific must be one of the least polluted in the world, owing to its isolation.

The best way to see the statues is to cycle. This means you can go at your own pace and avoid any pesky tour buses. Most of the sites close at 4pm. We hired electric bikes from a great shop off the main street for about 17 000 pesos, £20 a day. Don’t bother with the bike shops on the main street, most of them are broken and you get ripped off.

Beach statues

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It was this isolation that caused at least three near extinctions of its indigenous population. The Polynesians are believed to have arrived in 700-800 A.D and settled there permanently 100-200 years later. They are believed to have travelled thousands of miles, from the Marquesa Islands.

Those ancient voyagers looked for islands after studying the migration patterns and habits of birds and then navigated using the position of stars. With their large double-hulled wooden canoes, they travelled with basic foodstuffs to help them farm the new land. From 1000-1100 A.D. they also brought sweet potato, perhaps from contact with South America.

painted moai

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Its Polynesian name is Rapa Nui. From the 1400s, the island was so successfully cultivated and well-populated that the tribes started building the famous megaliths with smooth expressionless faces. To this day, no one knows what they symbolise. They have a dramatic and haunting beauty. They tower above you, silently watching over the farmed fields, undulating hills and red rocky cliffs. Built from around 1400 until 1650, they have watched generation after generation flourish and fail.

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Archaeologists found that the islanders all worked together to build and enlarge them, until the tallest statue reached over 20 metres high. They called them moai, which means to exist, and each one is carved with slightly different features. Perhaps they were self portraits of their chiefs. This would explain why only one group of statues face outwards to the sea, the last group to be built. The Rapa Nui tribes had realised that they needed protection from outsiders. The joint effort to build them must have encouraged peace and harmony between the tribes, essential when resources and land were scarce. But the islanders paid a high price for this dedication – they had cut down all their tall trees for monument transportation.

moai facing sea

Popular myth tells a story of self-sabotage, where the people cut down all the trees and then starved, as they had nothing to build or cook with. However, a recent study refutes this. Scientific analysis such as carbon dating showed that the islanders ate a diet rich in fish and that they knew how to sustainably manage their environment, even though the soil was poor. The study’s authors suggest that it was the island’s visitors who were to blame for the lack of trees, as rats could have wiped out the remaining slow-growing palm trees. They had to import them from Tahiti in the 1960s.

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As the islanders could no longer transport their impressive monoliths, they started a new “Bird Man” cult. There is a cave on the island that is faintly painted with bands of colour, honouring their new belief system. They would have competitions to get bird eggs, often laid in precarious places on the cliffs. This shows that they were using initiative to survive.

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Legend has it that deforestation led to starvation and even resorted to cannibalism in the late 1700s. This myth has also been debunked with evidence that the population used innovative techniques to ensure that they could continue growing crops in the dryer soil.

In 1862 outsiders once again brought death and despair. A ship from Peru took half the island there as slaves, some 1 500 men. Disease was rife, and eventually 100 were allowed to return, after pressure from the English and French. However, smallpox spread during the return voyage, and the 15 survivors spread this disease to the remaining islanders, most of whom died.

Those who survived were then forced to give up their indigenous beliefs and convert to Catholicism, which was completed in 1866. In 1870, a French explorer arrived, Dutroux Bornier. He was detested by the inhabitants and most left with a missionary for a nearby island, Mangareva. It was only after he was killed that some returned.

After these waves of foreign interference, just over 100 of the original islanders remained in 1877.

In 1888 the Rapa Nui King was given a deed to sign, giving the Chilean government control of the island. The document was translated for the indigenous people to mean “protection” and “friendship”. Sensing deceit, the King Atamu Tekena bent to the ground and took a handful of dirt in one hand and a handful of grass in the other. He gave the Chilean representative grass and kept the dirt. The land would always belong to his people.

Almost 80 years passed before the Chilean government recognised the indigenous population as Chilean citizens, following a rebellion. In 2014 they submitted a petition for independence which they continue to pursue. Tensions between Chileans and Polynesians was evident in an eco hotel development on the coast, which had graffiti on its fence and black flags obstructing the view.

Easter-Islands

Polynesian descendants look after the moai statue sites, ensuring that their spiritual past is respected. They now have a flag which was first flown in 2006, a red “Reimiro” ornament that was worn by chiefs and others of high status.

Now the population is back to its original size of around 7,000, almost all concentrated in the small settlement of Hanga Roa.

Sadly, locals appear to be making the myth of self-sabotage a reality. It takes three hours to walk to the other side of the island, yet everyone goes everywhere in battered Nissan pick ups and Jeeps. With these excessive and unnecessary emissions, they are contributing to climate change which could eventually submerge the whole island. It has already resulted in coastal erosion which threatens the existence of the mighty Moai statues.

To this day, outsiders continue to damage the island. Seas of selfie-sticks, star jumps and shouting ruin the quiet reflective impact of the moai and some even risk damaging them in their vain pursuit of the “perfect” picture. 

Hundreds of years ago, Easter Island needed protection from visitors bringing death and disease, leading to the creation of the only set of Moai to face the sea.

Now the island is under threat once more.

 

moai by the sea

sunset statues

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July 16, 2019 · 9:23 pm

Horse-racing and Jess Glynn

I’ve never been to horse racing. I’ve seen greyhounds tearing round a track after a fake hare, but never super stallions.

It was a multi-sensory experience, the wind of the pack, the smell of their sweat, the thunder of hooves and the sight of their beautiful muscular bodies.

Both my bets lost – it turns out that gambling on the one tipped to win is not a good idea. But we enjoyed a bottle of prosecco and strawberries – a bottle the same price as three glasses, so it seemed the best value decision!

After we watched Jess Glynn. She had powerful soaring vocals. It was for my birthday and it was nearly ruined by terrible security decisions. I went to the toilet before the start of it and the queue was so slow that by the time I got back, Jonny’s area had been cordoned off and the heartless guard wouldn’t let me pass.

Everyone was trying to get in. The staff had made the main area near the stage look like somewhere exclusive, so of course crowd psychology dictated that everyone wanted to get in. I almost got crushed against the barrier and it was difficult to get out. I remembered Hillsborough – football fans getting crushed to death. I saw how easily that could happen, just from one stupid decision, to pen in an uncontrolled crowd. Eventually security realised that they were creating a seriously dangerous situation and created a gap in the barriers. But I spent my favourite song by myself. I was furious.

The train home was awful, packed in a carriage standing up, which went by every stop. But I’d had such an amazing time, once I’d been reunited with my love.

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The Spring Phoenix

Flowers bloom

as the sun illuminates

gossamer spiderwebs.

Lambs gambol

in the grass

crocuses spring

birds sing

and bluebell hoods

carpet the woods

as the Spring phoenix dashes

from winter’s dark ashes.

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Thoughts on Chronic Illness

Daughter fall asleep waiting her mother in hospital

Recently a friend told me that she might have cancer.

Two lumps had appeared, one small, one big. The doctor immediately sent her for a biopsy. The cells were abnormal and treatment is needed.

The doctor was worried because she used to be a heavy smoker and overweight, two known risk factors.

She said the worse part was the torment of not knowing.

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Once she has a diagnosis, she can plan, but for now she has to wait, thoughts churning around about the future.

We discussed how she could manage it and even speculated as to what the result might be. I tried to reassure her, but there isn’t much I can say or do, other than telling her that I will be there for her, no matter what. She was experiencing an emotional storm of frustration, anger, sorrow and fear. She is a strong woman both mentally and physically, but nothing can prepare you for the shock of being told you have a long-term illness.

My friend is courageously dealing with an uncertain future. She said that her illness had helped her gain more focus and she will now attack her bucket list with a renewed vigour.

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In times of difficulty we need the courage to draw on our inner resources and access support networks. We may need to evaluate our perspective. In Buddhist philosophy, adversity is seen as the best teacher, a chance to learn from experience and emerge a stronger, wiser person.

So what have I learnt from the experience of my friends?

Firstly, the importance of living in the moment.

No one has a crystal ball. If we speculate about the future we only create fear and worry. This destabilises us and prevents us from being fully present to support friends in need. Everything is easier if we take a moment, slow down and just float on the river of life, wherever it takes us. Not accepting our reality is like trying to swim against the current; it wastes our energy and is futile.

Secondly, I need to be grateful.

We spend so much time focussing on what we do not have. We are constantly unhappy with the present and want more. We forget just how lucky we are. There is so much suffering in the world and, whilst we all experience peaks and troughs, somehow we escape the worst of it.

I would like you to take a moment to be grateful.

Be thankful for all the people in your life who guide and support you, your cheerleaders. Be thankful that you have mental and/or physical good health. But most of all, be thankful for the love and kindness of family and friends. Against all odds, love conquers all.

love

 

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