Week eighteen: swimming with the fishes

It’s Sunday afternoon and here I am feeling pleasantly relaxed after a successful swim this morning, at Redricks Lakes – about 20 minutes’ drive away between Harlow and Sawbridgeworth. I say ‘successful’ as this was my second attempt at completing the induction. Two friends and I went on Wednesday evening as well, and they finished – and I didn’t. I was bitterly disappointed as I love to swim and had been really looking forward to it, but I think so many things put me out of my comfort zone that I felt quite ill. If you don’t have a wetsuit, you have to use a tow float and I found it very restrictive, creating drag behind me and preventing me from floating or swimming on my back; it was early evening so the sun was blinding me through the condensation on my goggles; and the instructor was quite firm about using front crawl which I am no good at. He also made us put our faces in the water and blow bubbles. I really, really hate getting my face wet! Other people in the induction group raced off at triathlon speed and…. I floundered. Luckily there was a lovely lady on a paddle board who talked me through, encouraged me to come back and try again when I felt better, and generally boosted my confidence. Thanks Siobhan! I emailed Phil, who books the induction, and asked if I could try again today and he was very helpful.

So today I tried again! My fabulous friend Sue came with me to be my support swimmer and she was quite determined that I was going to finish. This time we had wetsuits so I didn’t need a towfloat, and I knew what to expect when we got in the water. It was a much larger group this time, and they divided us by ability – swimming club speedy types in the first group, and family groups, slower people and juniors in the second. Bobbing about in the wetsuit was great, I felt confident enough to take the goggles off when they steamed up and swam without them. I put my face under water and blew bubbles. I LOVED IT. Now we can go whenever we like, and I suspect they’ll be seeing a lot of us. I feel really good that I didn’t give up after the first time, and overcame the panic.

Not the most flattering of photos but look how happy I am!

The only thing I’m disappointed by is that you don’t get a certificate and a badge to sew on your swimming cossie afterwards…..

British summertime?

As you can see in the photo above it was a bit cloudy – at one point we were swimming in the rain but it passed over quite quickly.

Unlike yesterday which was an exercise in soggy social distancing. For the first time since lockdown began a group of us decided to get together for a coffee in my garden, so the kids could run around and we could catch up, provide counselling and eat chocolate biscuits. And the heavens opened in truly biblical fashion. Being from Wales, Yorkshire and Ireland we are all quite used to the rain, but this was quite ridiculous. There was only so much room under the tree, so we huddled under umbrellas while the kids got absolutely drenched playing ‘back to base’ in the rain and swooping on the chocolate digestives as they ran past.

It was so lovely to see my cronies, however bad the weather was – it’s easy to forget how much support we get from our friends, and how sharing problems and issues with them can change our own perspectives. This is particularly true at the moment!

We still nattered for two hours, and – of course – the rain stopped and the sun came out minutes after they had all left.

Cooking with Kevin

Kevin the sourdough starter is still alive, and currently I am baking every other day or so – he has spawned two junior Kevins who have gone to new homes with friends, and every so often he makes a break for freedom from his Kilner jar after he’s been fed. I’m now onto my second 16kg sack of flour since April.

I have started using the cold bake method, using a cast iron casserole dish with the lid on and not pre-heating the oven – this gives a chewier crust and a lighter colour. You can take the lid off for the last five minutes to crisp it up a bit but I don’t always remember!

Cold baked sourdough loaf

The most successful thing we have made so far, however, is sourdough pizza using this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It comes out like a ‘proper’ pizza, according to the kids, and they love adding their own toppings. We had ours with ‘nduja, red onions and mushrooms last week, and it was delicious. I’d like to try sourdough pretzels next, as I do love a pretzel! Ideally fresh from the oven with cinnamon sugar, but Marmite butter is a good alternative.

Fabric frenzy

I have been positively wallowing in fabric this week, delving into the shed stash to retrieve fat quarters and playing with prints. My initial plan was to use some Totoro panels and various Japanese prints together, but couldn’t decide on a block to use. I really liked the look of a Bento Box block, but my fabric was already in squares and some of the prints wouldn’t work in a thinner strip so that plan is on hold. I did make a test block out of polycotton scraps and I really like the effect so will be going back to that at some point!

And then I found a package of fabric in the stash with a space theme – astronauts, planets, galaxies, flying saucers – and some black/marbled black solid fabrics so at some point I must have been thinking of an Attic Window quilt. That made the decision pretty easy, but I have been playing with the blocks again and can’t decide on a random scatter of prints or to make blocks of four together. I quite like the random scatter but also the idea of blocks of four smaller ‘windows’ with sashing between them.

I finished the Disappearing Nine-Patch quilt too, although I forgot to make a border and just ended up using the backing fabric to bind it. It was hard to manipulate that much fabric so I didn’t do much quilting on it – but even with that managed to get a giant tuck on the back. It’s ended up about 5 feet long and about 4 and a 1/2 feet wide, so it’s definitely the biggest thing I have ever made. Here it is in all its glory – as you can see, Lulu was not keen to move when I was trying to take photos of the quilt on the bed. As soon as I put the camera away she came to inspect my handiwork, of course. Cats. Cats are nice.

The denim for my Morgan jeans finally arrived yesterday, so I cut out the paper pattern ready to start on the jeans tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get the fly right this time!

The other thing I have tried to do this week is a bit of sketching. I am not handy with a pencil – the peak of my drawing skills came when I was 12 and Mrs Allan gave me a B- for my pencil sketch of my mum’s avocado plant. I would love to be able to draw, and one of the things I’d like to do is urban sketching. I love artists like Michael Powell, Phil aka @maltzcreative and Kate Lycett, particularly their buildings and streetscapes. I started with a photograph of Aberaeron that I took when we were on holiday in 2018, as it’s a place I know well, but I need to work a lot more on proportion and perspective! I suppose its another one of those things where practice makes perfect.

I think I need to put in guidelines with a ruler first, and then fill in the gaps. Still, I am enjoying the learning process!

I had better go and feed Kevin and think about dinner….

See you in week nineteen!

Kirsty

What I’ve been reading:

V I Warshawski series (yes, still – but I’m on the last one!) by Sara Paretsky

Last Act in Palmyra – Lindsey Davis (Falco series – Audible)

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