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Blog: A rolling series of articles from our correspondents, wherever they are...

Luce Smith

Cake And Mindfulness

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 27th Mar, 2015 | 5:25pm
birthday cake photo by jamieanne
birthday cake photo by jamieanne
What happens if you don't follow the Lent rule 100%? Did it happen in biblical times? So I've given up chocolate and bread. Today's stress levels have meant that I almost broke the no chocolate rule. I saw the chocolate cake sitting on the spare desk. It was brought in by a staff member and offered to all. No thanks, I said cheerily, I've given up chocolate for Lent, but thank you.

My smile faded. My mouth watered. I watched everyone tuck in. I tried to stare at my computer screen as a distraction. The cake was watching me. If you really listened carefully, it was calling me. I got up and walked past it. It looked soooooooooo good.

I sat back at my desk and tried to work out what I was to do. If I eat it, it will be delish, and I will enjoy it. But, I will have failed to remain true to myself, as I have given it up. Not just for any reason, but for Lent. Which should mean something. I weighed up the options in my head. Nope, keep off the cake. I looked over, and showed the cake my hand, 'cos I ain't listening.

You can tell I am missing my choc fix! I'm giving something else up too. At the end of this month, I shall cancel my gym membership. I can't do it. I have been going, but not enjoying it, especially of late as it's been nice outside. I've surprised myself once on the treadmill, and have done a good (ish) workout. I don't like the lack of fresh air though, and I don't want to get fitter or faster. I'm every personal trainers worst nightmare surely? What would you like to achieve during our session today Lucy? Well,I would like to smell the fresh air, see a bit of wildlife and move about a bit.

I'm flabbergasted at the 'breaking news' this week. Not a natural disaster or the usual terrible news that fills our front pages. Nope, the news to be prioritised, is that of a member of a boy band, is leaving. Shocking. How did we get to the point where news got this ridiculous? I mean, I think it would be great if newspapers printed a positive story on the front page and another on the back page. This way it makes people more hopeful that there is some good around. I'll mention it to a few editors.....

How do you communicate with spotty loud mouthed teenagers, who speak rubbish, use rude words, and forget that some of us have had a long day at work and just want to be peaceful? I'm thinking smiling sweetly may make them feel sorry for me and they'll hush. It didn't work. Shall I stand up and scream as long and hard as I possibly can? Bearing in mind my lung capacity is huge? No, I daren't. I shall pretend it's not unpleasant.

This week I attended a mindfulness taster event. I read a book on it last year, and found it fascinating. All about living in the now, and enjoying 'the now'. The book taught me to stop, look and listen, even if I wasn't learning to cross the road. It really is very simple, yet so sad people have lost the natural ability to do it. We have to make time in our days to switch off.

The room was full, which I wasn't expecting. There was a mix of ages, but not a great mix of gender. We all sat around the room, apprehensive to be honest! Two hours was set aside for this session. The trainer introduced herself, and explained what we would be doing/learning. We then did a basic mindfulness practice. It was so calming.

I have to admit, my mind wandered and I started thinking how I could rearrange my furniture to give more space in the lounge, but I returned to the calm state. It was only 3 minutes, but felt a lot longer. She said we would normally do that for at least 10, minutes. Some mentioned their thoughts wandering and the trainer asked where we thought the thoughts would go. I said any longer in that state and I would have done all of my Christmas shopping!

It was a great session, and good to see new faces. There was one lady who, I think, thought it was a load of rubbish and turned her nose up. That's fine, we are all unique individuals. Thank goodness! So next time I wish for the out of bounds chocolate, I shall instead, stay calm and focus on my breathing. Then dive into the bag of Revels? The heat is on, is it much longer until Easter?
Fri 27th Mar, 2015 | 5:25pmmore...
Luce Smith

New Coat

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 20th Mar, 2015 | 8:33pm
Raspberry coat photo by Jessica Spengler
Raspberry coat photo by Jessica Spengler
This is a first. Since doing this new commuting regime, I have had zero problems with the trains. Today, there is a delay. Please await further announcements. Fine, but you tell my mouth it may have to wait even longer before it gets a cup of tea! I'm also beginning to cross my legs too, but I think this is because I know I have to wait!

No explanation is given as to why the train is delayed, just that it's late. Well, brains, I can see that. The clock on the station clearly has gone past the time the train was meant to depart. Nearly ten minutes later, the train appears. I have to stand up, but it's ok, you can see a lot more when a little higher!

There's an announcement on the PA system. Welcome to the delayed train.....the voice then tells us why it's been delayed. Problems in the loop. There has been an incident of trespassing. Is that all? I thought for an awful moment the driver had decided he had worked too many hours and stopped to have a break. The announcement then continues to tell us where the incident occurred, and that if the train stops..........we know why.

In this case, I'm now having words with those trespassing, in my head. I'm telling them that if they don't get home in two minutes they will go straight to bed without any tea. Would that work or don't parents use that threat anymore? I guess it's more like they can't go online, or play that game.... I sincerely hope they have run fast, I would not like to be on a train if it hit someone. Yuk. Doesn't bear worth thinking of, although, sadly, it happens.

I shall change the subject quickly, and look forward to reaching my station stop! It's been an odd week. It's been a bit plain, lots of studying, handed an essay in, started a new module, and .....oh my word. I object. In a big way. A lady, wearing a good branded jacket, has just gone and sprayed deodorant under her armpits. On the train, in the main carriage, with other people around.

Trains have toilets? Couldn't she have gone and done it in an appropriate place?

It didn't help, that it wasn't even a particularly nice smelling deodorant in my opinion. Which of course is all that matters. I really force myself not to turn and stare at her. I grit my teeth instead. Have people no manners? Or respect for others? I want chocolate. Clearly a mood eater, and as Lent is still going on, I shall grit my teeth again. Who needs chocolate......who needs it? Me! Maybe I could buy that non dairy chocolate, does that count as actual chocolate? I guess I set the rules. I would probably only be disappointed.

I am actually a bit of a coat freak this week. I want a new coat, and can't decide whether to get a winter warm one as it was -3 the other day, or pretend warmth is on its way and go lightweight. I've been looking at all the ladies' coats in town and on the train, and nothing's jumped out at me as yet.

Shops on the high street seem to think you can wear zero layers in this country at this time of year, and I'm not young enough to live with that! I'll wait another week. What's the difference anyway, between a coat, and a jacket. Is there one? It's like the difference between test and exam. What is the difference? I like to know these things! Answers on a postcard please......
Fri 20th Mar, 2015 | 8:33pmmore...
Luce Smith

Lent, Frogs and Parties

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 16th Mar, 2015 | 3:40pm
Busy frogs photo by Raphael Quinet
Busy frogs photo by Raphael Quinet
I am a grumpy hungry person. I didn't even know it! However, this was discovered when a table wasn't booked and we turned up to a busy restaurant on a Saturday night. This was 8pm, and a table was promised in an hour. I can wait an hour. I can. It was close to 10pm when we got sat down, and luckily, vodka had curbed a bit of my hunger, so I was almost not hungry at this stage. We ordered our food, and the waiter then came by with a basket of fresh bread. It looked lovely, and smelt even better. However, I have given up bread for lent. So I could only sit and look at it. What a mean trick! Or perhaps a real test of my commitment to Lent?

Talking of which, the first week without chocolate was pretty tough, but I'm ok now; chocolate? What's that?! We finally got fed, and my mood went from grumpy to happy by the time I was half way through. Phew!

The gym has been fun this week. I have done a few classes to add a bit of variety, and they've been good. It's been funny to watch someone do their stretching and warm-up; in the changing rooms? Yes, not in the areas of the gym where this potentially could take place, but in the changing rooms where space is limited in between naked ladies, towel clad ladies, and ladies armed with hair straighteners! Still, it's a free country....

Another interesting moment in the gym was seeing a man working out with his guide dog. It was a beautiful thing to see. The guy was doing some resistance upper body workout, and the dog was stretched out on the floor beside him. I've never seen a blind person and dog in the gym before, but really hope to see more of it.

Home times have been ok, and Percy is liking his new lazy routine. I actually found a busy train yesterday, and found myself standing up for most of the journey! It's been a while since that's happened. I got home one night, and went to get my bin from the back yard. I almost put my foot on something, until it moved. I shrieked! What on earth is it? I got my torch out, and pointed it towards the moving object. I then got my phone out and started taking pictures.

Looking at the photos on my phone, I realised I had almost trodden on a frog! A bloomin' big one at that! On further investigations, I was disgusted to realise that I had been taking photos of not just one frog, but a double decker frog! It must be mating season, and I felt bad for interrupting! I apologised out loud (and hope the neighbours weren't listening), and went back indoors, closing the door with a bang.

I keep getting political leaflets through my door. Voting season. Who to elect? I don't like to be cynical, but what they pledge to do, how often do they actually happen? I mean really? It was NHS change day yesterday and there were heaps of pledges thrown out via social media.

I kept having to delete my automatic reply of 'when will we see this?'. Was I born cynical, or is it something I've picked up? I don't even know what cynical really means to be honest, but it's a word people have used to describe me in the past. Let me Google....mmm, distrust of other people's motives. In that case, when it comes to leaders of society, I'm very cynical!

However, I will do my research on the local electees and come to a decision, and vote accordingly.

I wonder if I look like I vote a particular political party? Do I look green? Or labour? Or Tory? Yikes! Is there a website that compares political parties, like Go Compare? That would be mighty handy for people like me! I shall check it out and if it doesn't exist, I have found a new project to work on!

Bring it on!
Mon 16th Mar, 2015 | 3:40pmmore...
Luce Smith

Personal Trainer

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 9th Mar, 2015 | 3:13pm
Treadmill photo by Farhad sh
Treadmill photo by Farhad sh
The start of the treadmill workout begins, and always makes me feel I can't do it, and that I will only last 5 minutes before admitting defeat and jumping in the hot showers.

Music pumping, lots of people in using the equipment, but am just not feeling it! However. I show willing, and set off with a speed walk. The girl next to me jogging, plugged into earphones, and looks like she's been there a while. I start to relax, wake up, and feel a bit more in gym mode, so I turn up the speed.

Turns out that the girl next to me is jogging about the same pace as me, so it's easier to keep going. Phew, I can do it! I then turn quickly to look at the girl as she attempts to slow down her treadmill. 'You can't stop!' I say, 'you're keeping me going!' And so she gets back to 'our' jogging pace. I smile. I actually said that out loud! It was really keeping me motivated though, knowing I wasn't on my own, so I was grateful.

Soon, it was my time to stop, but the girl next to me was still jogging with me. This could be awkward, what if she asked me to keep going too, and I declined? Would the emergency stop button work and I end up as a heap on the floor? Not a good thought! Luckily, she started slowing down, and I didn't stop her this time. As she left, I thanked her again.

I spent most of the afternoon in the public library. I haven't been for quite some time, up in the study area, so was intrigued. It was very quiet, but a peaceful quiet. The room was full, with all the computer stations being used. I was definitely the youngest by far, in fact I'd say at least 20yrs! I sat down, got my studies out, and set to work. It was such a productive few hours! No mobile phones went off, no one spoke loudly, and I was left in peace. Brilliant. It also meant that I wasn't distracted like I can be at home. I sit down to study, then think, oh, I'll just put the washing on, or, I'll just have another coffee, or, I'll just send that email.......I think it's the future, as long as the councils don't close them down I suppose.

I'm about to embark on a half hour fundraising activity. As usual for me, no training or planning has occurred. I've agreed (& I wasn't drunk), to cycle on the station concourse ( I have no idea what a concourse is, is it like an agility course? Race course? Who knows?),for 30 minutes, to raise money for a charity I volunteer for. It seemed ok at the time, but I wasn't expecting it to be windy, 3 degrees or busy! I'm sure 30 minutes will fly by, and I will only peddle as money flows into the bucket, no donation, no peddling. That's fair isn't it?

The train driver's wearing sunglasses. It's 6:30am. It's March, pre clocks going forward. By no stretch of the imagination is it sunny. The sun's not even rising yet. There's no excuse, and I need to have words. I also need to have words with a fellow gym buddy.

He's one of the gym guys who wears a woolly hat, his weights belt loosely around his tiny waist, and his pants sitting neatly under his bum cheeks. I wonder if the pants are there by accident, and that he hasn't the strength to pull them up properly after lifting a personal best? Bless, he must need another steak or two to get more strength. I would say he hadn't had his Weetabix, but that doesn't seem to be popular at the moment! Oh no! I've just seen him actually adjust his pants so that they are properly at the base if his bum cheeks. Gosh this guy needs a personal trainer. I put my hand up, I can get this guy into shape simply by grabbing the waist of his pants and pulling them up to where they should be. Just saying.....

Talking of personal trainers, the girl I used for motivation earlier joined me on the treadmills today. I daren't look at her as she may be angry, or not want to gallop further than necessary. She took me by surprise by saying hi. I said 'don't worry, I'm about to finish, so won't be bothering you!'. She laughed, then went on to say that she had just come back to the gym after a hip operation. She was just getting back into exercising again. Gulp. I felt awful, and selfish. I'd picked on the wrong person to keep me going on my jog! She chatted away and said 'where were you when I needed a personal trainer a few weeks ago, you would have helped me!'.

So that's it. I'm now going to change my career goals and become a personal trainer. I'll probably end up training people on the Olympic team with my knowledge and experience. Oh, but I need to lead by example, and there is more to life (my life anyway), than working out, so, perhaps I won't follow her advice. I'll just be me, because I'm quite good at that! Now, where are my sunglasses.........
Mon 9th Mar, 2015 | 3:13pmmore...
Luce Smith

I May Have Been Banned

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 9th Mar, 2015 | 1:55pm
The Yoga Master photo by Beverley Goodwin
The Yoga Master photo by Beverley Goodwin
I had a conversation on the train journey! I didn't start it either, it was offered to me! So of course, I grabbed it with both hands and squeezed every second out of it I could! It was jolly lovely, so much so, that I've decided that this half car, half train and a little gallop commute is the way forward.

Although I may have been banned from the service if I'd done what I wanted to do, but it wouldn't have been my fault........I was reading some posts on the book of faces, and one popped up that I liked. It was a few yoga stretches to do, to get you in the right frame of mind for the day ahead. It's only 6:13am, so most are still asleep, or at least at home!

It was posted from a couple I have followed for a while as they make me laugh. I commented on the status, saying I would love to do them (never done yoga in my life and can't think I would be able to be that flexible or patient), but was on the train to work. I also said that I would love to get the train carriage passengers to join in with me if I did! They replied saying I should, and that I would be a YouTube sensation. I giggled. Dare I? I'd love to, but don't think I have it in me, and the train's nowhere near full.......next time.

The commute this week meant that I was able to attend a dinner I was meant to go to in January, but, due to a signal down on the trains, I was delayed and had to miss out. Not this time. I picked my friend up in town, and we got ready at my house.

My friend came out of the bathroom and said she had never showered with a butterfly before! Oh? I thought everyone had a butterfly in their shower.

I explained.

In August, two butterflies decided to take residency in my bathroom. They didn't ask, they just moved in. After a few weeks, they were still there, clinging on for dear life. Are they alive? Hibernating? On the run and in hiding? Months passed and they didn't budge. A few weeks ago, the sun came out and there was fluttering to be seen. One clever butterfly flew out, I say clever, it was near freezing so it may not have lived too long after the great escape.

The remaining one decided to move into the shower cubicle. I didn't think it would stay long as I like a very hot shower, and one that takes forever, but it must like the tropical atmosphere! I'd forgotten to tell my friend about it, but luckily I don't think she minded, or thought I was weird. I didn't ask it to be in there! It's when I get the flower press out that she should worry......!!

I was so delighted with the week, that I celebrated by taking Percy the Punto, for a hand wash and dry.

I've never done it before, so I'll be honest, I was a little nervous. I also have no idea how much these things cost, and whether you need to pay by cash? I stopped at the cash point in preparation. £10? £20? Yikes!

I drove into the yard, and expected signs of instruction. Nothing, so I put my window down, and the nice man in the hi-viz came over. 'Wash and dry?' Oooop, can I ask for a perm? It's ok. He was European and possibly my humour wouldn't have been appreciated, so I said yes please. '£6'. Really? Ok, so I handed the money over, and was waved to the first stage.

Exciting! I watched him hose me down, and tried not to giggle like a girl. I moved onto stage 2 for a sponging. The muck coming off little Percy was quite something. Would they charge more for it being so filthy? They didn't even look at him when they told me the price!

Stage 3, and I was a little slow at this transition as I was busy thinking what other people did in their cars whilst having a hand wash and dry. Another hose down, with a different shape nozzle and a different spray shape. Then under the wheels and by the mirrors! This is good!

Next up was a bit of a rub down which I found quite fascinating for some reason! I especially like the part where the chamois cloth went through the press to dry out, and be reused. Simple things.

I got the thumbs up, and drove away with Percy, I hope, feeling like a new car. I certainly feel like I've just stepped out of a salon.

Such fun, but what if I hadn't shut my window properly......
Mon 9th Mar, 2015 | 1:55pmmore...
Luce Smith

He Is Wearing New Shoes

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 25th Feb, 2015 | 6:15pm

He is wearing new shoes.

So new, I wouldn't be surprised if the price label was still stuck on the soles. They look very comfortable, very smart, and very mean to the credit card.

This commute has a very different passenger type to the one I have been used to, even though I upgraded to the luxurious London number towards the latter part. In fact, you'd think I was in a different part of the country!

These commuters dress differently. They speak differently, and they behave differently! These talk to one another face to face.

They do crosswords on a paper newspaper, with an ink pen.

They read broadsheet newspapers, the paper version.

They have laptops on their knees.

Phones aren't used for the duration of the journey, they can sit upright and don't seem to need to be texting someone about a colleague's choice of sock wear in the office today.

It's very quiet, and dare I say, civilised?

The rush hour train isn't like it used to be either. We aren't all sat down unable to breathe out. We actually still have spare seats! No 'can you move down please we're trying to get on', or, 'take that bike out of the toilets, what a stupid place....'. It makes me a bit weary to be honest.

I daren't put music on in case my ear phones leak and I am judged by my choice of music. I daren't look round the train to see who's onboard. I sit very calmly, and like a lady. Only with my skirt and trainers on, which I'm sure isn't the done thing.

The commuter bags are even different! All lovely leather laptop cases and briefcases. All matching gloves and scarves. I might try and brave a conversation soon.

I could start off with introducing myself as Lady Smith, purveyor of fine observations. I quite like that. Then, I could continue and ask how they are finding the train journey, and if it meets their needs.

I don't think this is the type of train for me to get out my can of gin and tonic, although, to see the reaction, it may well be worthwhile. I'm spending an hour of my day with these commuting people, I wonder if a sense of belonging will come to me by the end of the week?!

It's also week 3 of gym membership and despite not wanting to go. I am enjoying it. However, it does give one a mahoooosive appetite, so it's a good job I'm not on a weight loss program!

I have given up chocolate and bread for lent, and stopping eating it has shown me, rather disgustingly, how much chocolate I do eat, Yikes! The first two days were awful! My only saviour is still having a hot chocolate everyday. I haven't been tempted to eat the dry powder by the spoon yet, but give it a couple of days......

I have worked out how to use the treadmill without veering off when texting someone (part of my workout/time management), can use the cross trainer for 15 minutes, resulting in a sweaty mess, and have done a few classes, which has made walking a very difficult task for days afterwards!

Such fun!
Wed 25th Feb, 2015 | 6:15pmmore...
Luce Smith

New Routine

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 23rd Feb, 2015 | 9:04am
Fitness studio photo by Sten Dueland
Fitness studio photo by Sten Dueland
I am going to do something quite extra ordinary.

I'm going to have the best of both. Having a car is great, and my days are much better for me. Although I have to be honest and say that my studies have suffered. As far as I'm aware, it's ok to use your mobile phone whilst driving, to eat yogurt with a spoon whilst driving, and shout at sat nav. However, I have yet to see someone studying whilst at the wheel, so I haven't.

I have been thinking about how to get round this, and have come up with a genius idea. I will drive to a station, and do a shorter train journey. This will allow Percy to get out every day and meet new car friends. I can study for nearly an hour on the train in a day, and still get to the gym! Best of both, Hovis are right! Or if I say 50/50, then Warburtons win. See how I'm not promoting any particular brand there.....

Last week whilst on the treadmill, my motivation had stayed in bed, and I felt rubbish, so instead of going for a long shower and coffee before hitting my desk, I decided to pick someone from the treadmills in front of the gym, and do what they did. I tried to be selective over who I chose, but failed, as I ended up running for half an hour, which I don't do! What made it worse, was that as I left the gym, they were still running. I have now obviously named them Forest!

I have seen so many different types of people at the gym. There are obviously the hardcore muscle people, who lift a weight, make lots of noise, then walk out looking extremely proud of themselves. Then, there are the people who always go to the Gym and look like it. There are then, of course, a few who just come in for the classes, and leave straight away. Next, and the ones I like the most, are the ones who genuinely want to keep fit and get in shape. I have a lot of time for these people as they are real! They have a good balance of life, and are just making a few changes to keep going, so doing a bit of exercise. These people generally look knackered, but always have a smile in the depths of their sweat!

Wow, I am on a train, with new people to soak up, and new stations to stop at. I haven't done this journey for so many years. What if they don't like me and I'm seen as a scary person who looks ready to chill out all day? I might look like someone who doesn't work, and I'm just blagging it. I've never been on a train in gym wear, carrying my workwear! Ah well, no one judges on appearance do they? I did brush my hair.......

I have no idea what platform it will land at, or how far I will have to gallop from the station to the gym. I hope it's a reliable service though as I have a strict time schedule to keep to today. I can't afford to hear a 'we are sorry, but.....' announcement. Please.

Here goes, let's see how this works out!
Mon 23rd Feb, 2015 | 9:04ammore...
Luce Smith

Red Lights

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 22nd Feb, 2015 | 2:23pm
Tail lights photo by Cori Redford
Tail lights photo by Cori Redford
This cannot be beaten. I don't know whether to laugh, or to cry. But first, let me say that I am sensitive and I am awfully sorry that there has been a severe accident, and I do hope that those involved are ok. However, let me shed some light.

I'm flying down the Otley road, thinking how wonderful it is to be doing so, and now appreciating half term! I am about three quarters of my way home. I see red lights. Brake lights. A long steady row of them. Uh oh.

I think of alternative routes. Let me say that again, I said, I THINK of alternative routes, I don't google, or satnav, I engage brain. Found one. Once able to, I indicate, and slide off merrily, glad to be moving again. La la la, lots of us doing this route, we're like sheep. One by one, by one. La la I shall be home for 6:30pm, dinner in the oven, pyjamas on...what a pleasant evening it shall be.

Brake lights appear. One, by one, by one.

Until the whole back road is choc-a-block with vehicles. Mainly travelling away from Leeds. Mainly. There's always one, isn't there. This particular 'one' is causing a tail back of traffic, already delayed, and we are at a stand still.

Various things happened next. Passengers got out and talked to each other. Car to car communication. One decided to be the leader, and suggested we all, reverse. All the way. I snigger. He just said that out loud! I mean, it's a single track country road, and it's muddy. This plan won't work, let's be realistic! Don't get me wrong, I am good at reversing around these types of roads. "Why", I hear you ask? Well, where I was living during my learner plate years, was about 2 miles up a single track lane, in the middle of nowhere. However, you often bumped into someone, and they would have a blank look on their faces, so, it would be your turn to reverse and find a passing point. I can do reversing! But, 4 miles of reversing, in the dark, with a trail of cars behind and in front, was, in my head, a very bad idea.

Engines switched off. I put the local radio station on. The main road had closed due to the bad accident, no news on smaller country roads. Apparently, the police had been informed.....,.

One car, about 4 in front of me, decided to do a 13 point turn, and face the other way to the majority of us. No idea why, but it blinded me with the head lights for the next 45 minutes.

Yes, that's how long it took for someone near the road entrance, to engage brain and reverse out, to let the huge flow of traffic out.

Yippee! 1st gear, 2nd gear, bring it on! Wooohooooooo! And yes, I shouted that out loud!

I finally got home, had tea and went straight to bed! I know how to live!

It can't get much worse than that can it?

Luckily the next morning whilst at the gym, I got a bit of entertainment, when someone came off the treadmill! It's ok, I didn't laugh out loud.

Definitely made my week!
Sun 22nd Feb, 2015 | 2:23pmmore...
Luce Smith

Commuting In A Cold Climate

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 12th Feb, 2015 | 5:33pm
Dancing Green III photo by Nilsson-Ehle
Dancing Green III photo by Nilsson-Ehle
I'm trying a fancy commute, aka a coach tour, in Iceland. Full days worth, and so far it's going ok, the guide is giving his spiele with lots of attempted humour and information. We were picked up at 8am, and now 10am, it's almost daylight. We're in the highlands now, and it's most odd: ice, snow, mountains, power stations.

Icelandic people, before geothermal heat was used, kept warm by burning birch trees. But in the late Middle Ages the forest was gone, and mini iceage happened. They lived in houses made of turf and rock, which were cold. So, they made small rooms to preserve heat, then introduced sheep. Until 1850's. Bringing sheep in generated heat for the home. For fire food they used peat and dried sheep dung! See how I can listen?!

Anyway, knowing this has not made me think of buying a sheep myself to cut down on heating bills. But I will bear it in mind if I start struggling! One good thing about going to a cold country in winter, is that coming home, our winter will feel warm! It's really cold, but I came prepared! I wasn't prepared for the grim smell of sulphur though! You put the shower on and get the amazing aroma of sulphur, which may sound ok, but if I tell you it smells of eggs, you may feel sorry for me!

Strangely enough, despite it being so very cold, the inside of shops and cafe bar restaurants, were really warm. No log fire in sight. Perhaps their walls were filled with sheep? It worked anyway, whatever they did.

We did the touristy things on our four days. We did the city tour, unguided, but fun, the Golden Circle, which was incredible, the northern lights which were, am I allowed to say, disappointing? The experience of going up into the middle of nowhere was fun, with the guide giving us the science behind the lights etc.

The buzz of about 4 coaches parked up, and everyone piled out, adding layers of clothing where possible. We all stood patiently with many setting their tripods up. No way was I getting my hands cold, I was going to see the lights, not photograph them. It was so very cold, with a strong biting wind. I decided to go round the other side of the bus, thinking how funny it would be if the northern lights were having a party behind our backs! I got back into the crowd, and all of a sudden, we were shouted to the other side where the lights could be seen. It was an amazing atmosphere, but nowhere near as picturesque as suggested by the inter web. Fun though, and an amazing green glow. After 50 minutes I couldn't do any more star jumps so hopped back onto the coach. I wasn't the first one to admit defeat to the cold!

The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon

Our final tour, was to the Blue Lagoon. I was apprehensive, thinking if photos in the brochures had been like that of the northern lights. It was -3, and I couldn't imagine removing my thermal layers to get into my swimwear and dip into the pool. We arrived at the location, and walked through the modern building, getting a wrist band to scan lockers and buy drinks. I went into the changing room and spotted a lady who had been in the lagoon. Is it warm? I asked, half hoping she'd say no and I could keep wrapped up. She beamed a big smile at me and said it was lovely. Ok, remove layers and shiver. I grabbed my towel, had a shower, and stepped out onto the veranda.

It was snowing. I hung up my towel, and made a dash for the pool. Oh my word. I defrosted immediately. Incredible. Being cold for 4 days was well worth it to experience this! The steam on top of the water was really atmospheric, but it did mean I had to swim for about 5 minutes to find my partner! It was an amazing experience, and a must do for anyone visiting Iceland.

So that's an item off my bucket list for 2015. Think it was more difficult than last year's bucket list, the triathlon! It was everything people said it would be, cold, amazing, and expensive. It was odd in that there weren't any big chains, like Maccy D's, but we did spy a few Subways. I didn't eat whale, horse, or snails. I did enjoy their chocolate though, which is always with liquorice! They like it, so every bar of chocolate you see, has liquorice in it! It was odd to see local shops/supermarkets selling a wide variety of things but absolutely no alcohol. I had to behave and go without having alcohol in my room. I even resisted the mini bar in the room, as I'm a true northern person, and don't pay the extortionate costs!

Back to reality though, work, studying, the hectic commute by car......I feel like I have had an amazing experience, and feel very lucky to have been able to go out there and see some culture.
Thu 12th Feb, 2015 | 5:33pmmore...
Luce Smith

End Of The Week

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 8th Feb, 2015 | 3:54pm
fuel guage photo by Sean MacEntee
fuel guage photo by Sean MacEntee
How can 5 days be so stressful?

I mean, really, I think I miss being able to fall asleep on the commute! Instead, it's been replaced with singing so loud, that I may have to get double glazing on my car, for the protection of others! It's been such fun digging out old CDs to listen to in my car. I'm very traditional, and my car is a gadget free zone and always will be. And yes, it is new enough to have a USB and CD player.....

I remember my first week of commuting though, and found that exhausting, so hopefully I will get a rocket up my bum next week and feel alive again!

Not literally, obviously, that would be unpleasant -a bit like the gym class I thought would be fun this week. It was bums, tums, and flabby bits. It was a mad 45 minutes, but so much for the little black dress figure I was hoping for, it's turned out that the real effects of the class are being unable to walk upstairs, and finding bending down difficult!

Ouch indeed! All I can say, is that I hope the other class members ache like I do, but as they were probably 10 years younger than me, I guess they won't be affected. But, they were probably still drunk from their student night out and just feeling rough from the shots, why else turn up at 6:45am to do multiple squats with a hardcore group trainer?

So the drive into work. It's fab. I don't have to wear waterproofs, or wear multiple layers. I have mastered the frozen windscreen scenario, and worked out where to put my car at night. Now, car naming, feminine girly waste of time, or essential? Discuss.

I'm not a materialistic person, if I was, I would say that naming a vehicle was pathetic and unnecessary. However, my vehicle is my key to freedom and independence. It's also my key to reducing my pennies.... This new addition to my worldly goods, serves a purpose, and is with me for nearly two hours each day. If I am going to spend this time singing to my vehicle and allowing words to come out of my mouth when other drivers are simply, inexperienced, then I feel we at least should be introduced.

Should the name of the vehicle be a human name or an odd name? The first car I ever drove as a full licence holder, was Betsy. A yellow 340 Volvo. I still remember the reg number plate! I think if I have a named vehicle, it will look after me better. It also means I can shout abuse when it shows me the yellow light on the fuel dial. I thought I would test this out and see just how thirsty the car was. However, I wasn't able to, as two minutes into my journey home, the car beeped, and the words came up on the dash board telling me the fuel was very low. It didn't offer to fill it up for me. Rude. So, I took the car for a drink. It got me home, so I can justify that I've named this vehicle. I had to be careful, as it's a Punto, and a rhyming word may not have been appropriate! I've named him Percy, with the help of my 5 year old goddaughter. Phew, as I was ready for a name from Disney's Frozen to be suggested, as this is the most important thing ever to a 5 year old right now.

Percy is having a break though, as I endeavour on a 5 day adventure. I am, as we speak, treading on old ground, and on a train. My, what was normal, commute into Leeds. It's mid afternoon and I have the carriage to myself! Except I want people to look at my bag and wonder where I am going! Maybe the train will fill up at the next station. I'm also ready for a can of alcohol, and wonder if I have time to nip into the shop before getting my connecting train to the airport.....

I'm aware that I can't sing out loud on this commute, but was busted earlier. I was walking through town, music in my ears, lyrics coming out of my mouth, when someone joined the pavement unexpectedly. 'Someone sounds happy!' they said. Does that mean I should apply for X factor? Or that I should really practice miming? When will I learn?!

The gym class from mid week is affecting me worse today, with the most difficult task being, erm, going to powder my nose? It's a struggle, so maybe I will leave off the fluids so that this doesn't happen too much! I think gym classes should have a 'possible side effects' leaflet to accompany it, I could certainly name a few! But, positive thinking missy, no pain no gain and all the rest of it. I'm hoping that a long soak in the Blue Lagoon will fix me. So excited about this adventure that, because I have no idea what to expect, I'm a little bit apprehensive. Most unlike me, I love an adventure. I've even bought a silly hat for the occasion. Ready? Let's go to Iceland!
Sun 8th Feb, 2015 | 3:54pmmore...
Luce Smith

All Change

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 5th Feb, 2015 | 8:54am
traffic photo by Matthias Ripp
traffic photo by Matthias Ripp
It's all changed. Too many changes and so little time! Wowsersaurus, who would have thought that the end of two routines, would create such a different set of replacement routines. It's confirmation that I'm a true Brit, and possibly an old(er) one at that.

What did make me chuckle this morning, was seeing a guy enter the gym, whilst on his run. Surely a double door, and electronic turnstile would get in the way of a work out? No no no this guy is a machine, a guy who won't stop for anything, other than perhaps..no, he's a machine. Or is he today's entertainment? Maybe to ensure gym goers keep going, they ask a member to make an entrance to make people smile. It worked.

My swimming days, for now, are over. No more Mr Speedo. No more sharing showers with the opposite sex. No more waiting for the clock to get to bang on quarter past, before we can jump in. No more galloping across the fields to get to the pool on time.

My train commute days too, for now, are over. No more 'welcome to the Leeds train', or, 'we are sorry, but the 5;56pm train home, has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience', no more earwigging on public transport. No more giggles at that sentence the lady said out loud.
No more 7 mile walks in my day. No more passing a high street supermarket when they have just put fresh bread rolls on the shelves, no more free newspaper! No more window shopping to pass time when I miss a connection. No more cans of gin and tonic.

Oh no! What have I done!

Two of the things that became part of my life have expired and I have been very brave and made some adult decisions. I have made small changes to hopefully improve the life I have and possibly be financially sound. I have had to rethink and readjust my timings for tasks and be quite logical. It's been challenging for my poor small simple brain! I admit it!

My daily routine is now thus: up, coffee, out. Defrost windscreen, drive.
Arrive in town after a clear road and radio on. Heaven. Quick skip into the gym, and do an hour, this is where I saw the guy run in. I might try it tomorrow. Now, I'm not a gym bunny, I love the outdoors, and walk a lot, but.......it doesn't make you gym fit! Day 1, was a bit strange, but I was keen, until I realised I was the oldest there, and possibly the one who ate all the chocolate buttons. It won't deter me, I can do this! At least it's not January where people will think it's a New Year resolution phase that will end after 15 days or so. This is it! I've joined for a month to see how I get on. I know where the stop button is on the machines, and I don't have to clean the shower cubicles. It's a win win, I just need to adapt. I miss the fresh air though, so don't laugh, but I drove home with my window wide open, knowing it was 2 degrees, but actually enjoying it!

I have enjoyed listening to the radio this week without earphones, but haven't found a station that I could listen to for both outward and return journeys, do such stations exist? Maybe I get bored. I get impatient, I know that, and sitting in traffic is not healthy. It makes me create words out loud that don't exist, and reminds me of how much like my Dad I am! Noooooooo!

I don't get it, why do people insist on leaving work at the same standard time, which creates tail-backs, frustration, revving of engines for no reason, and me yelling at the driver in front to get on 'cos he could have got a bus in there!! Why? Why do it daily? Why not stagger the end of the day? Make the roads less of a nightmare at, what I hear, is rush hour? I've renamed it mush hour. These people's brains are just mush if they think it makes sense to sit in a car, not moving, for minute after minute. Hence my early start. Hence my...no, I won't give away the return, otherwise you may follow suit and that will mean I have to have a rethink my daily routine, which on only day 3, I'm definitely not ready for!
Thu 5th Feb, 2015 | 8:54ammore...
Luce Smith

End Of The Line?

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 2nd Feb, 2015 | 3:02pm
photo by Ambernectar 13
photo by Ambernectar 13
It's very exciting, very scary and I can't sit still or concentrate. Nothing to do with being blonde I hasten to add!

The London train is delayed, I say delayed, what I really mean, is that it's not moved from it's original starting point. So, I've got the Local train, which was setting off 12 minutes after the luxury number. It's so busy! I hope they don't feel they can't get the luxury train due to their residential postcode, I mean, if I can get on it and drink alcohol out of a can in public, with no shame, anyone can.

Reason for the London train's delay? Breaks stuck on! Ah well, good timing if you ask me. I have braved it, and gone and made a car purchase. Which ties in very well with the final date of my train pass being today, and my swimming membership also expiring this weekend. It doesn't however, tie in very well, with the small issue of the White stuff that has been failing from the sky and causing chaos on the roads. It's winter, it's snow, yet us great humans go into panic mode. It was odd yesterday, as it was snowing early morning, then a small thunderstorm? Don't think I've ever experienced that before, most odd! Almost magical.

I was meant to collect the car last night, but I was very grown up, and made an adult decision. I was wise and decided to delay it until today, to remain safe. I hear it's not acceptable in society, to actually wrap up your car in cotton wool any more, so, I've had to attempt being patient. It's possibly not worked out well for my colleagues and partner, though. I'm like an annoying kid, who is waiting for something very exciting and new to happen. Words keep randomly coming out of my mouth, in no particular order, and my face keeps displaying a silly smile and big eyes!

I will, like a kid, be exhausted by 7pm and need a nap!

The car buying decision was quite a process, and in-between that, I also had an essay deadline to meet. I think stress occurred in my life for a few days, but it had to be done right!

This then, is potentially my last commute. Unless petrol prices go up stupidly and I have to resort back to the train. I guess I could use my car as a caravan though and just sleep over in the works car park. That's safe isn't it? I'll make sure I have a thermos of tea, and a sleeping bag. It will surely be character building...

I am a little concerned regarding the ongoing costs of a car; how do people manage on a basic wage, and a car and bills, and food and drink and social life.....urgh.

Ok, this is now absolutely crammed full. I guess there are two trains worth of people all packed into this one. Deep breath, it's not the time to get anxious.

I want to stand up, sing hallelujah, then sit back down and pretend I haven't done that, I need a grand finale of some sort don't I?

I might be famous on YouTube and not have to worry about whether or not I can afford to fuel up my little car. Do you get paid for funnies on YouTube like you used to on you've been framed? I shall research.

Fear not though, my blogs will still go ahead, as I am about to sign up to a new thing for a month, and I am quite sure I will have comments to make about it, and......next station stop...
Mon 2nd Feb, 2015 | 3:02pmmore...
Luce Smith

Platforms

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 26th Jan, 2015 | 9:23am
photo by Matt Buck
photo by Matt Buck
Why is he coming in on this platform? I wonder if he's been told to by the other driver, that'd be right.

Well, I don't see why we have to come in on 8, that's just typical, I mean for goodness sakes mate, why can't we come in on 6 like we always do?

That's right, send us along to 8 and right down at the other end of the station. I don't believe it. So now we've got to go all the way along, up and round to get to the other east coast platform.

I tell you, it's like the train has done a naughty! I try not to stare, but not sure if I cover it up as well as I ought. It's not like I'm on a classic train journey, it's the normal commuter train. Ok, so it's the London luxury but still, I class that as 'the norm' now that I'm a, what I call, posh commuter. I couldn't possibly travel on something with no leg room, or somewhere to plug in my phone to charge it up. Actually, today was a first as a ticket collector came round to inspect everybody's right to travel on this train. I showed mine, and didn't get a rude response as I had last time. I haven't seen the drinks trolley come round for a few weeks, I wonder if I'm not sitting in the right carriage, perhaps they only go a carriage a station, in which case I need to sit much nearer the buffet car. Silly name for it hey, it's not like a car in any shape or form is it? Where did it get its name? I know, back in the day, when trains didn't have any catering facility, they used to get to a place on the tracks, where they'd stop the train. A car would drive up to the train, and would pass the buffet onto the carriage where the buffet food was sold. Hence the buffet car being named.

I'd laugh if I was right!

So this couple who also travel on this London luxury, were obviously slightly disappointed to see that we were not only a few minutes behind schedule, but also slowly pulling up to the wrong platform. I wonder if they'll contact the company and ask for compensation? For the huge inconvenience caused? I'd love to have to reply to a letter like that. I'd take it proper seriously and perhaps reply to suggest that, to make these types of situations slightly easier to deal with, that they travel on a few different trains to and from Leeds, so that they can fully familiarise themselves with the station as a whole. That way, they wouldn't be deterred should the London luxury pull in on a different platform, as they will be able to navigate their way to the next platform of choice. Perfect.

What's worse, was coming home, I got the commute everyone likes to get, only I got lucky, and got a seat. Lucky, until I got a fellow commuter wedged in next to me. With, is there a nice way of putting it? Yes, there must be, hang on. Ok, with a rancid infused aroma spilling over every time she opened her mouth, which happened a lot when her friend sat opposite her and they got chatting. I know I sound like a right old mean cow and feel terrible for speaking so negatively of someone, but it was awful. Still, it did make me more determined to give up the commute, to grow up, and buy my first car. Well, I may not grow up as such, but will be brave and enter the world of car ownership!

After the bump last week, I still feel a Freelander is necessary, but well aware of the chuffing high tax and maintenance costs. Such decisions to have to make, I had no idea looking for a car would be such hard work! I'd find one I liked, then watch a review on WhatCar, be totally put off, and search again! First thing I learnt, set yourself a realistic budget, and prepare to barter!

Would I miss the commute? I think I would, but not as much as I would back in the day. When people sat down and had a conversation. When people knew how to socialise and greet people. When people had a long journey ahead, no technological gadgets to play with, and only the faces next to them to have to potentially make the journey fly by! I would have been a great train passenger in those days. Hate being with so many people yet not having a conversation. Such an opportunity to learn about different lifestyles, communities and cultures. Driving in a car on my own just means I get to sing out loud, and not have to always have my waterproofs in the bottom of my bag, just in case.

There will of course, be times when I question why that car moved into that lane, and didn't use indicators. I might actually raise my voice in places, depending on whether it's a woman driver or not......... Why have they done that? I now have to navigate around the ring road and back up.....yikes!
Mon 26th Jan, 2015 | 9:23ammore...
Luce Smith

Boom

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 22nd Jan, 2015 | 8:53am
M6 Sunset photo by Henry Burrows
M6 Sunset photo by Henry Burrows
Driiiiiiiiving along in my automobile......
Dum dum. Dum dum dum, de dum
My baby beside me at the wheel.....
Dum dum du dum
Cruising and ....... BOOM!

Blood stained Dave decided to get up close and personal in his big wagon, without telling me.

Let me start from the beginning.
Picked up my hire car on Friday afternoon, to begin the journey down to Devon, where I visit my Grandad. They kindly upgraded my hire car to a bigger car, better engine. Thanks!
Picked up my travelling companion, and hit the road. We went via a garage to test drive a car I had seen, but more about that later.

The hire car was lovely. Powerful, not too sensitive, and knew how to handle the road. Radio on, snow on the windscreen, and away down the M1 we went.

The weather soon improved and the sun was shining. Which was nice. I was cruising along in the slow lane, after getting frustrated with middle lane hoggers. Why do they do that? Insist on cruising along in the middle lane when the slow lane is empty. Is it a status thing? Is it a code of road conduct only car owners know about, but one I shall learn in time?

A lorry/wagon, actually, is there a difference between a lorry and a wagon, or is it just which word you were brought up to say? Or is one used in one context....bear with, I shall Google....

How boring, it says they're interchangeable. Lorry, wagon, truck, no particular difference to write about. If I was Google, I would want to make something much more adventurous up, such as, 'wagon, a large drive-able vehicle which can be used for a variety of purposes such as transporting WAG's to see their footballing hubbys/partners, (which brings me to ask, what's the difference between having a boyfriend and having a partner?, I'm digressing.....). 'A lorry is the abbreviated name given to a lorrysaurusauto.......' See?

So this big vehicle is in the middle lane sliding up next to me. I see it, and think he should really be in the slow lane. Silly though in hindsight, as he must have over thought me, as he then pulled into my lane.

The next bit is a bit blurry, although I do recall asking in a loud and raised voice, what does he think he's doing? It honestly felt like we were suddenly, after the initial smash, connected by a mismatch of metal, and cruising along. He finally let go of me, and we both slipped onto the hard shoulder. Where I have to ask, where did that term come from, hard shoulder? Why isn't it dumping lane, or emergency lane? Or, 'oh knickers, my tyre's flat I need to ring a man to rescue me' lane? I will enquire, but shall finish the journey story first.

I stopped the car, and got out, shaking like a leaf. Really shaking, but still got a pen and paper out of my bag. The driver of the vehicle jumped down from his cabin. He was wearing white overalls, which were horribly blood stained. He got his bag and pulled out some papers. I looked at the side of the vehicle, and discovered the reason for his blood stained attire. He worked for a butcher/abattoir. Big gulp. Am I his next victim? Yikes! His name was Dave. It's not, I changed it for data protection and security, but let's call him Dave. He admitted it was his fault, and gave me details of his employer, registration plate etc. I was still shaking, but now wondering if the contents of his vehicle were dead or alive, or in between. Will go veggie this weekend and celebrate the legumes.... He told me to watch out when getting back on the motorway as it wasn't easy. Great, I can hardly wait!

I gave him my details, and hopped back into the car. To get back onto the motorway meant going along the hard shoulder right to the next junction, as they were doing work on it. My kind passenger had to ask a man in a yellow hat, if we could pass by, moving the gates across the way. He chatted to his walkie talkie and agreed. Slowly we went along, smiled sweetly at the yellow hat wearers, and eventually made it to the junction to the service station. I pulled up, switched off the engine, and rang the hire company. All good, and I decided to get back onto the road before I questioned it. The rest, so they say, is history. We made it to Devon, and I enjoyed a weekend of warmth, seaside, and swimming.

More importantly, was the test commute by car this morning. I set off, it was -3 degrees. Time was spent defrosting the car, but it was good to not have to walk to the station! It took the same time to drive to work, as the train takes. And was door to door, with the opportunity, which I took, to have tunes pumping, and me singing out loud. Brilliant.

Returning the car was good and bad. It had been badly damaged, paint and body work to the back driver side door. There were numerous forms to complete, but I was able to walk free from my nice car, and my adventure with blood stained Dave.

Sitting on here on the big blue-ish train
Dum dum de dum, dum dum de dum
Wondering whether or not to buy a car and risk accidents or keep commuting.

Poor blood stained Dave, hope he made it to his destination without wiping out more innocent hire cars! Boom!
Thu 22nd Jan, 2015 | 8:53ammore...
Luce Smith

Car Searching

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 15th Jan, 2015 | 9:48am
For sale!!! photo by Vetatur Fumare
For sale!!! photo by Vetatur Fumare
Ouch! I have just shown my season rail card to the lovely conductor.
It's valid and up to date.
The response was not expected, you normally get a 'Ta'.....
Today, I got, 'well you don't look very happy on there now do you?'

I smile and put my pass back in my bag, in the designated pocket.

Happy? Indeed, and if you care to view the windows open on my mini iPad, you will see that the mad car search is active! Last week's adventures on the tracks have definitely pushed me to keep searching auto trader. Although it's not easy.

There are so many cars! But, I have narrowed it down somewhat.
Can't be red
Can't be a Skoda (yes, I know they're VW but until the badge on the car says that, I can't shift my brand image ideas just yet, sorry)
Must be no older than 5yrs old
Must have done under 35000 miles
Must be in my budget, which will not stretch. Unless I see the old classic Saab convertible then, and only then, might I reconsider my finances!
It must have 5 doors, and I would like a CD player. Then, I can bring all my CDs out of storage, and into the boot. Fantastic. I shall also store my secret collection of shoes which I keep hiding in various places around the house. Otherwise, you get 'have you been buying shoes? Again? How many pairs do you need?'

So a car will serve many purposes.

I was impressed with the trains yesterday, as I walked to the station looking like a snowman. Would trains be running, or does snow on the line stop traffic? All on time and running smoothly.

Bless, he hasn't eaten today. Only two small cereals, and a banana. Oh yes, he forgot about the muffin he had as he left the house. He'll pick up a takeaway on his way home. Man talk going on over there, and I got bored listening to the remainder of the conversation as it was about films and TV programmes. Can't contribute or comment on either as I am rubbish with films, and don't have a TV, so on with my music......

I had to stand up! But I did it like a commuting pro. I edged my way down the carriage when they told me there wasn't any room. Says who?!! I like a challenge, which is just as well as the conductor came through after 5 minutes! I tried to get out of his way, but it wasn't easy! I asked those on the 6 seater if they would mind if I sat in their knees, they thought it was funny. I wasn't kidding. I edged my way in to allow the guy to pass.
It's ok, I refrained from sitting on knees! I behaved and stood all the way to the first station, where a seat then became vacant, so of course, I jumped in :)

I didn't recognise anyone, because this was the delayed train I wasn't expecting to get. For once the train delays worked in my favour!

So far this week, my commuting has worked out fine. However, I have booked a test drive tomorrow, so that will be fun. Never test driven before, are there some key phrases I am meant to use? Because so far, I can only think of the one spoken in Pretty Women, which is hardly a WhatCar review film! Not sure how appropriate it is for me to come out whilst chugging around the car park saying "this baby corners like it's on rails!"

I will behave and take a guy with me, in case they spy the blonde hair and think they have themselves an easy target. No chance, they will probably wish, by the time I leave, that they had put 'sold' on the car I am going to look at!
Thu 15th Jan, 2015 | 9:48ammore...
Luce Smith

Dark Friday

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 12th Jan, 2015 | 8:51am
photo by ume-y
photo by ume-y
True. The train has stopped. Lights off.

This is a test.

Car 5 - train 1

First week back and I have gone from ring a commuter, to booking a test drive, more times than I would like as an already indecisive person.

On the Friday night train home. It approached the first station stop. The lights go out. Shortly after, the train stops. It's not funny. Pitch black and you can see scary faces lit up from the likes of an iPad or mobile. It's ok, I am wearing a smile. It's gale force out there. Definitely not ideal as I am what I call bursting for the loo, but dashed for the next train instead of going to the loo in the city.

It's been a good 25 minutes and I'm pretending it's all cool. It's Friday night, who would want to get home and start the weekend?

Lights still off, girls giggling. Guys pretending they're not scared of the dark. Two men in fluorescent jackets rush through with a sturdy torch. A few minutes later, they go the other way.

Then we hear an announcement, the driver is going to reset the train, and hopefully we will be on our way. The fluorescent guys go by again. And then the other way.

Lights still off, not even any fire escape lights. Weird

Another announcement. The driver really is sorry and is going to reset from the rear. Sounds painful. The train starts up, but not for long and we're still in the dark.

Then, the announcement no one wants. The train has broken. They have sent for us to be rescued! What an absolute adventure! Until they say it will be 'considerable time' before it arrives. No air. Still need the loo. It's hot, and unpleasant. Two guys have cracked open their beers. Why, oh why, did I not grab a g&t?

I might sleep and hope that when I wake up, I'm in my house. I remember actually, when I was about 6, we came up on the train from Devon, and I had fallen asleep. My dad had the bags, my mum had my sister so the train conductor carried me off the train and into the car! I wonder if he would do it again! That's put a smile on my face!

I guess we should be grateful. With the awful news coming in from Paris about hostages and shootings, a broken train is hardly anything to grumble about. The good old British. Oh my. Some, am I allowed to say, knob, has forced open the door and gone into the line. Really?

Are we that blooming stupid. I have heard of two incidents this week involving suicide on the tracks. Grrrr that's disgusted me. Ok, so the breeze was nice but what a knob.

The train guy came along asking if someone had got off and if it was a young lad. Yes. He thought so. I hope he's got to safety that's all.

On a lighter note, the giggling girls are asking what colour train we're on! It's red apparently. There is a grey one and a yellow one. Really? I go for brands myself, maybe that says something about me though!

Is this really happening? How to give Lucy a hint over whether to quit commuting and buy a car! In the year of commutes this week alone has been the most eventful! Or trying,

Deep breath. I want to engage with the commuters, should I suggest a game of I-spy? Or maybe we could start singing appropriate songs, such as....why are we waiting......

I'm actually slightly concerned that we are going to be bodged out of the way by another train. Yikes.

Maybe I could start doing some train speed dating? Now that would be fun, oooo. Lights on, just the safety ones. They work then.....

So my track dating as I will now call it. Bear with me on this, but if I am doing something, then the wait won't be so tedious and I will feel like I am managing my time effectively! To be fair, everyone's very subdued. Are they scared? Maybe I will sing a lullaby.

Thought, how do we get from this train, to the next? Honestly, that's a good question! Do we get a train that connects at one end and we all shuffle through leaving the broken one stranded? Poor thing, someone on here will be making a note of it in the old trainspotters notepad won't they?!

If the new train slides beside us, that could be a mind the gap challenge! Oh, sadly. And yes, I am a little disappointed, but it's going to tow us.

Boring.......

It's odd as it's so quiet. I don't mean in terms of capacity, but more of how quiet everyone is. Think they fear the worst and that if I am made to keep silent for much longer, I will commence with silly talk just to pass time, and I can do that quite well!

Who said commuting was a hassle and a strain, it's such fun! I've exchanged looks with lots of people, shared my wisdom, used Twitter to get updates from northern rail, and crossed my legs so tight that I think I've forgotten how to walk!
Mon 12th Jan, 2015 | 8:51ammore...
Luce Smith

Triple Time

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 9th Jan, 2015 | 6:25pm
photo by Polycart
photo by Polycart
You know you're tired, when you put your earphones in, press play, but don't hear tunes. Then you see that you haven't plugged the earphones into said device.

It's going to be a long journey home. Strange really how the same journey can seem to differ in how long it takes, when in fact, it remains the same. 45 minutes is 45 minutes, but seems 85 minutes when I want to get off, and seems even longer when I'm tired. Weird.

I have got the busy commute train as Mr Tesco are kindly bringing me the contents of my basket tonight. I say basket because that's what the website calls it, but I would love to know how even the best packer can fit my goods into a basket, several maybe, but a trolley would be better. I wonder when they'll offer that as an option, 'basket or trolley madam, for your virtual shop?'

In fact, that would be awesome wouldn't it? To actually go down the aisles virtually and pick the items you want from sight. Brillo, will tell Tesco to make that change. They may even allow me to go round the store in one of the children's trolleys they peddle? Oh yes, that's much better, Mr Tesco?!!,

Sorry, the train has stopped, and I can of course see that it's dark, but I don't see a platform. People start shuffling, and getting their communication kits out (ok, mobile phones.....). What did I miss whilst singing along in my head to the soundtrack of Beaches? They're all at it now, so I feel it necessary to pause Bette Midler, and speak out.

Turns out there are overhead wire issues, but an engineer is on his way.

The engineer arrives

My journey has doubled at this point.

The engineer is working on it

The train will be terminated at Shipley

It gets better. We can stay on the train and return to Leeds, or wait on the platform for the diesel train they have requested. I opt to wait. Stupidly. My journey time in my head, has now tripled. It's dark, cold, wet and breezy. No shelter. No guidance or information.

Lights finally appear, and we all move towards the forbidden white line.

The train pulls in.

The train isn't one specially brought in for this. This is the delayed train that was meant to set off 25 minutes after ours left. This is a train that's already......full.

Glad to get off the cold wet platform though.

Such fun this is! After a few station stops, a seat becomes available to me, so of course, I take it. Not expecting the next part though. The person I sat next to, murmured something, got up and stood by the doors for the rest of the journey! What? I put perfume on this morning, after my shower. Didn't I? Gosh, was it something I said? Something I didn't see? Tell me, please? I ask the couple sat opposite. They don't think I said anything wrong. The lady on the seats opposite smiles, reassuringly, I think.

Ok, fine. Will possibly go and get some advice on what perfume to wear that's commuter friendly. Such hard work. Hope Mr Tesco is late, and not offended by my perfume choice. Or my cauliflower choice for that matter!!
Fri 9th Jan, 2015 | 6:25pmmore...
Luce Smith

Right?

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 8th Jan, 2015 | 10:56am
Mobile User photo by Santos
Mobile User photo by Santos
Ready,,,,.steady,,,,,CHARGE!

Stride out into an almost trot through the barrier, locate train platform, speed past those you may be taking a seat from. Forget values and beliefs, and being kind to others. You haven't sat down on a train seat for about 9 hours, you deserve it. You're worth it. Getting a seat on the busiest commute out of the city is essential, so yes, I do deserve it. People seem to be walking faster, think I need to do some 'power walk passing others', training. There's a skill to it, and being slow, or clumsy in crowds, isn't helpful.

Never mind yoga techniques being all the rage, I need platform dodging skills. It should be a thing for 2015, to enhance commuting techniques to get higher up in life. It's a core skill.

I have that skill. It's all down to time management, being prepared, and focusing on the outcome. 45 minutes of sitting on fabric. Instead of 30 minutes standing up in the doorway, shuffling round when at a station to allow other people off, practising core resistance skills when the driver decides to brake, and having 20 minutes to recover before exiting the train. Sign up for lessons below.....

I've decided not to continue with my train snobbery, I can get northern rail or metro trains. The London train is nice, but it's not worth galloping for. It is of course, but I'm trying to convince myself that it's ok on lesser quality trains. It is, I get to listen to people on their phones, which is a bonus I know.

A lady is chatting to her boyfriend/husband as we speak. It may of course be her fancy man, but the conversation has yet to develop before I can decide. Oh my, he's done her ironing. What's he done, he must be after something......what've you done wrong? Hang on, done my ironing and you've made a start on dinner? Well, I hope this is a genuine dinner and not a guilt trip dinner?

She's gone quiet. Very quiet indeed. Oh, we're in a tunnel, she's lost signal. She's snotting I can hear her. Hope they're not tears, couldn't cope with that......oooop, almost back in signal land of 4G, the call will be resumed. It's not tears, definite snot, and cough. (Sorry, I didn't plan to write this content, but to say it as it is, live, in the now. I promise not to give more info though, totally not necessary)

Dinner is legitimate, but he is going out with the boys at the weekend, and she isn't invited. I just hope there's pudding and a bottle of wine, then it's ok!

Another girl is telling her mate how this one time right, she had got on the train, and right, it had been a really long day at the desk, and right, she was really tired right. So she was a bit like tired right, on the train on the way home you know, so had a Mars Bar (there are other chocolate bar brands, but this was her favourite, you could also substitute this for a Double Decker, or a Picnic, but not the hamper type, that would just look stupid). Anyway, so, she had the chocolate treat and it just didn't pick her up at all right, so she texted her mates and must have drifted into a nodding sleep. She kept waking up but was so tired right, that she didn't really pay attention to where she was right, so she like woke up, but guess what right? She had gone past her station! But she wasn't bothered right, coz she has loadsa friends in this place so she just went round to her friends house to get a lift home. She said there was a bit of an argument coz her friend had just stormed out of her boyfriend's house in a mood as he wouldn't tell her what he'd bought her for her birthday so she got into a right strop. She took her home anyway.

Phew. That was exhausting just listening to.

So good to be back in the land of commuting, but, with rail fares going up, would the comfort of my own four wheels, my own timetable, and my own smells and germs be more financially viable?

Bear with........
Thu 8th Jan, 2015 | 10:56ammore...
Luce Smith

The New King

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 25th Dec, 2014 | 2:44pm
Born in a Stable photo by Keith Williamson
Born in a Stable photo by Keith Williamson
Door 23. The new king is in a stable with sheep and cows. Health & safety would love that wouldn't they! It doesn't mention anti sanitiser sprays, or signs of where to put what type of rubbish. It doesn't even say anything about visiting hours, or the maximum number of visitors per bed.

The shepherds knew that this 'ere baby, was going to be their new king. Did it ever cross their minds that the baby would not be able to make any adult decisions for at least the next 18 years? I'm guessing therefore, that they shepherds were young and knew they had another 20+ years ahead of them. What were they expecting this new king to do I wonder? Just replace nasty King Herod? Who was before King Herod anyway, does anyone know? My historical knowledge definitely doesn't have that information stored!

Gosh, the luxury London train must have taken annual leave. It has left in its place, a slightly older version, in fact, it almost looks like it's from the 80's. Maybe it's a reminder of how lucky commuters are at this time of day. Ah well, any thing's better than a donkey ride to work I guess. On with the show.......

Door 24 Is a huge door! I know some advent calendars bizarrely go up until New Year's Eve now, not sure why? I'm also a tad confused. Door 24 says that the shepherds were poor, and that they smelled a bit. Not too judgemental then! It then says that the wise men were rich and important. Again, not at all judgemental! It didn't matter how smelly or clean the visitors were, the main thing was that they were all there for the same reason. To see baby Jesus, the new king. No pressure Jesus, but if you don't turn water into wine, and aren't able to feed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, then you're fired. Just saying. Plus, you need to be rebellious and turn tables up in anger in your teens, then also, just for the funnys, walk on water. It doesn't matter if you fail at this last task, as you will be able to swim a little, so not to worry, but do try your best.

The story then tells us that tomorrow is Christmas. When we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the part where the two main characters, Mary & Joseph, fade out into the background. They aren't mentioned any more. They've done their bit. They trotted along on a donkey, then went to be counted, got tired, and slept in a b&b. The wise men aren't mentioned any more either. So being rich and important still doesn't make you appear in the front of the newspapers. The smelly shepherds became part of the furniture, and possibly didn't have an issue with the smelly stable, or the smelly sheep and cows. It doesn't make a reference too if baby Jesus was smelly. Maybe the gifts from the wise men hid this aroma. Bloomin' hope so.

And that, my friends, is the advent story ending. So if you get stuck for conversation around the dinner table tomorrow, whilst eating your tofurkey (great food name as mentioned by Jonathan Ross to John Bishop as the tofu version of Turkey), just ask what happened to the bright star they'd were all following. Or if there was any frankincense lying around. You could also ask if the Angel Gabriel ever sat down! She appeared awfully busy flying around!

I didn't read anything about elves, or Santa, or reindeer, so the story told, is very different to the visual story we see everyday! Maybe after the water turned to wine, the cows turned into reindeer, and the wise men rolled into one big Santa. Who knows, but jingle bells, let's go and celebrate the fact that there will be no commuting for me for two full days! Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!
Thu 25th Dec, 2014 | 2:44pmmore...
Luce Smith

Angels On The Line

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 24th Dec, 2014 | 4:11pm
image by fanfreluche_designs
image by fanfreluche_designs
I'm on chocolate number 17 already, and still enjoying the flavour first thing.

Commuting this week has been most odd. I don't know if any of the wise men have been of some use, but I was delayed one hour. The delay was due to a technical/engineering fault. However, not having any communication from the staff, meant I stood on the platform, waiting, with the wind gusting through like it was a wind tunnel. Once finally on my way home, I was ready to follow that star!

Now in a dream, an angel told the 3 wise men to not go back to King Herod, and to keep following the star to Bethlehem. Good choice of instructions angel, he sounded like a meanie. It doesn't say who the angel was, and it would have been nice to thank them personally.

The next two days were disappointing for Mary & Joseph. The donkey finally got them to Bethlehem to be counted, but there were no rooms left. This I find a bit weird. They were told to go back to their home town, so did their house get taken over by squatters? Why was this home town so busy? Joseph begged. He would probably have put word out on Facebook to ask for help, but no such luck back in Roman times. Someone offered him a stable. Joseph wasn't overly keen, but I bet the donkey had a cheeky smile, thinking, finally! My prayers have been answered and I get to rest in the comfort of my own home!

Day 20. I got a picture of an angel on my chocolate. Never eaten an angel before and not sure how ethical it was, but the angel appeared in the hills, where there were shepherds. Did these shepherds not have the instructions to go to their home town to be counted? Or did they want to fight the system and stay put with their sheep. Naughty Shepherds, avoiding being counted.

The next night, an angel appeared. My 21st chocolate was a pair of wings this time, so not too controversial. The angel didn't fly in alone this time, there were a group of them. What's the collective term for a group of angels? A cohort of angels? A flock of angels? Apparently, they lit up the sky (am guessing they did this with their high-vis uniform, and head torches). They sang to praise the birth of the new born king. A bit early weren't they, it's only door 21, were they ahead of schedule?

Why isn't my train moving? Stopped at the station, people have got on, and.......we're not going anywhere. Are there angels on the track causing disruption? I wouldn't put it past them; a group of angels, possibly full of myrrh, and all giddy and excited? Anything is possible. I see the lovely man with the treats coming along the carriage, and the train finally lets its brakes go. Phew, don't want to be late today thanks. I can smell strong coffee, and that in itself, is enough to wake me up. Just as well as its not payday yet, so a cheap caffeine fix is always welcome.

Whilst eating chocolate number 22, I forget to look at the picture. I forgot, because I was appalled at the fickle shepherds behaviour that followed. They said they must go and see the King, so they left their sheep unattended, and legged it down the fields towards the light of Bethlehem. Rude! I don't think that was in their training manual, and I'm quite sure that it was never discussed at their last team meeting.

Maybe the sheep were pleased to get some peace and quiet for a while, and to enjoy the fields without having to be rounded up every now and again. I hope they had fun anyway, naughty shepherds. Did the angels warn them of this? Or were the angels in on it as well? The plot thickens, but bear with. Only 3 more days to go, and if today is anything to go by, it looks like everyone's just getting up and going! To a stable. To see a donkey, happily grazing in the comfort of his own home.

I cheated when I got home. I had a chocolate urge, I needed to fix, and without opening a wrapped gift for my friend, to indulge in some Cocoa based chocs, I opened door 23 and ate the chocolate. Well, if the shepherd was going to be naughty, so was I! I didn't even look at the picture on the chocolate, I didn't care. I just needed chocolate, and was very grateful for my advent calendar! Roll on New Year's Day when I can set myself a New Years resolution of eating chocolate before breakfast. That's definitely one resolution that won't be broken anytime soon!

2 more doors to go.......
Wed 24th Dec, 2014 | 4:11pmmore...
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