Saturday, 4 July 2020

Hitting the road

I've got a great road route that I rarely run. There is not any specific reason why I don't run it more often. Perhaps it is because I don't think about it, can't take Rusty (too long for her), I need to be dropped to collected... And every time I run it I swear that I need to do it more often.

What works well is for my mom to take the dogs to our favourite trails while I run from home to the property. By the time they are done walking, I reach the gate and she gives me a lift home. The route is about 11 - 12km from home of tar, a dash of dirt, little traffic and rolling ups and downs.

Great being out to enjoy the warmth of this winter day. 

With load rotation scheduled today from 1pm to 3pm - and the day a beautiful one, my mom came to collect Rusty and I set off on foot.

As I've mostly been on trails for the past few weeks - shorter distances of 4 to 7km - I didn't have any high hopes for this run. I was very chuffed to have had a really good, comfortable run that was 15-minutes faster than I'd estimated (including three wee walkies). 

The road ahead. 

My running has been a bit off kilter too. My trail shoes are totally trashed so I've recently been wearing a pair that I bought on an online sale some years ago (same brand, different model to the ones that I do like) but for which I have little affection. They are hard and have less flex. My old shoes are essentially like racing flats with little cushioning, almost zero drop and they primarily serve to protect my feet from thorns. This style works for me over all distances. There isn't much else to them. These other shoes have a thicker midsole and seem to restrict movement of my feet. My legs have been feeling heavy and my calves very tight. This is certainly due to how the shoes alter my biomechanics. 

My road shoes are a few years old and they too are flat as a pancake, but I like the tactile feel and freedom of movement without much restriction. My feet are used to this and they like it too. My feet felt great on today's run. 

I'm thinking of a personal challenge to give myself a kick in the butt: running this route every day for a week, starting on Monday and alternating directions (to or from town). Yeah, I think this is a great idea! 

No good reason not to.  Bomb's away! 

Friday, 3 July 2020

Round and round with load rotation

South Africa has had power issues for many years. Lack of power, lack of infrastructure maintenance and development. Our town has taken this to new levels. Forget load shedding and welcome load rotation.

During COVID lockdown, we had no power issues or cuts. Of course, businesses and fscoties were osed so there was no load on the available capacity. With the lifting of restrictions on work and movement came restrictions in power. In Parys, we were dealing with unscheduledoad shedding and the start of a new system called load rotation.

Apparently our municipality made a deal with Eskom like 20 years ago for a certain quota of electricity each month. Well, we not only exceed this requirement, but our municipality is billions of Rands in debt to Eskom. Not only do they not pay the money across to Eskom from our pre-paid meters and also the funds collected for non-pre-paid usage, but they have not been very good at collecting money from residents for electricity, water and rates.

As it turns out, the municipality only collects funds from 40% of the residents in Parys! I'm not talking township here. No, this the figure for our town! No wonder our electricity money has disappeared. 

Eskom have put their foot down and have limited daily electricity quota to Parys. So, the town started with load rotation a few weeks back. The town (and township) are divided into four zones. Loadshedding starts at 5am and each zone is disconnected for two hours at a time. Load rotation ends at 10pm. This means that we are without power for at least 4hrs a day - or five if you get the last 7pm to 10pm slot. Your zone shifts on the schedule each day so everyone gets a turn during the week in each slot.

The schedule is a blessing and it is with thanks to the movers and shakers in town that we have this. Until the schedule came out, about three weeks ago, we never knew when the lights would go off. 

At home you can manage between lights candles, laptop battery and running errands or going for a run for two hours each time but when you run a manufacturing business... This is no fun! 

Celliers runs the factory side of our business and every day brings new problems. Yes, we're running a generator but this costs a fortune to run for 4, 5 or more hours a day. Electricity on and off plays havoc with machinery and equipment. And, the generator gets tired and has to be serviced and repaired - which happened this week. When the power goes down, the factory goes down. And every time we have an unscheduled cut or when the power turns off before it should, we risk losing a boat by moulding rejects. That's gas, materials, labour and time down the drain. These are very costly. 

Waking up in the morning means that the day must be faced. I think that is why more and more I like nights. The day is behind me, any crises have been dealt with and I'm as free as I can be. Morning brings with it a host of opportunities for disaster. 

I don't have to deal with too many of these directly right now but I know that this is what Celliers walks into every day. There isn't too much he can do other than to solve problems caused by factors outside of our control. And even though I do not have the ability or skills to fix things on the factory side, the weight of this is always around because it affects our business. 

There isn't much light on the horizon where power is concerned. We don't know how long load rotation will be around for. Of course, we plan work hours, adjust shift changes and lunch breaks but the gremlin is on our shoulders. 

We are blessed to have work - a lot of it with tight time frames - at the moment. We have got good relationships and partnerships and we're putting in the hours to improve and really get set up for the coming months. 

We hope that we'll see a turnaround, but this may only come with the return of warmer weather.. Or by some miracle we wish for Eskom to bypass our municipality to supply to our town directly instead of using our municipality as a middle man. Or that agreements can be reached to increase our quota - afterall, Parys is a lot bigger and more productive than it was 20 years ago.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Paddling in winter

I've had two successful paddle outings recently. 

The first was a two-day trip on the Vaal River, almost from my doorstep, with Celliers. Our boats have been gathering dust and we've been a bit all-work, no-play for weeks. It was time to get out to celebrate our products.

I've never been on this section before so it was a revelation. I printed off Google Earth images so that I could follow along and really get a feel for our location - twists, turns and distances on rivers can be a blur. It was spectacular!

Day 1's section of about 15km was mostly flat sections with clumps of islands, channels and class 1 rapids. There was only one class 2. We stopped, got out, scouted, chose our lines and then hit the water. It was a piece of cake on my trusty Marimba.

Day 2's section of 13km was all flatwater but the hills of the Vredefort Dome area made up for the lack of excitement on the water with the move lovely scenery.

We had good sightings on both days of fish eagles and Goliath herons and even a big likkewaan (monitor lizard). 

We paddled for around 4hrs each day, enjoying the sights along the way. We camped on a small island in the late afternoon, setup and got to enjoy the last of the day's warmth. I'd packed a home-made hearty soup, which we heated and ate for dinner before dark. By 18h15, we were in our tent with plush sleeping bags, warm jackets, beanies, headlamps and books. Like this, you don't feel the cold.

We had a leisurely morning making tea, coffee and instant oats for breakfast before packing up camp and our kayaks. We were in no rush with only 13km ahead of flatwater and our pick-up at 2pm.

We had spectacular fish eagle sightings on this section and a lovely warmth. To our advantage, this trip was a few days before the real cold set in. 

Celliers last paddled this section more than 20 years ago. It was my first trip down here and I'll definitely be back. If you're looking for exercise, it can easily be done in a couple of hours. If you're looking to have a break, the two days is superb.

I made a 2:30 video with photos and two video clips.

My second paddle outing was on Sunday afternoon. 'Top Section' is a stretch of whitewater above town. The water level was up on Saturday but unfortunately it was down again on Sunday but we still decided to go anyway. I have only done Top Section three or four times and this was my first time taking the right-hand channel.

I paddled my Pungwe whitewater kayak. I got in quite a bit of paddling before lockdown so my skills have much improved and my roll is getting more solid in current. But in the cold winter water?
Before going down the weir (there is a 'slide'), I did a roll. I figured that it was worth a planned dunking to get it over with rather than a surprise dunking in a rapid. I was very pleased that the brain freeze wasn't as bad as I'd expected and that my dry top and spray deck had kept me warm and dry. This was good for my confidence - to know the bad is not really as bad as I'd imagined (which is usually the case!).

Start of the section - weird in the background. That's me in the blue kayak.

I did pop a Valoid before heading out. Generally going straight down river is no issue for my weak sea stomach but any kind of playing in rapids makes me queasy. I find the whole experience is better with my equilibrium chemically balanced so I'm getting in the habit of taking a tablet at least 30 mins before getting on the water when I paddle whitewater.


On this outing it was me, Gideon, Celliers and Ruben. Gideon and Celliers have paddled this side a lot and there are loads of channels and options. At such low level, everything looks different and the paddle was very crunchy with lots of rocks. We had to get out only once when a channel was obstructed by rocks, we snuck under some low branches and I slithered my kayak over barely-covered rocks. 

It was stunning and I loved it. Looking forward to the next one.

Winter in all its glory.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Droopy drawers, I'm 44

I'm hoping that this bingo call for 44 is not a reflection of the state of my drawers!

Today marks my 44th year of existence. I find myself in a bit of a mixed mood.

I've been quite off the last two days with the cold and rain and an abundance of load shedding, load rotation, blown power substations in our town... It has really gotten to me of late for the ongoing and massive disruption to everything.

My annual 'Days of Running' hasn't been fantastic. I've been fairly consistent but had a wobbly when Rusty injured her paw (her state really affects me psychologically) and these last two days with rain and cold I've been totally pathetic. Willem's Badger Hunt was great because I loved getting out to find the clues and I got in some nice longer-than-usual runs.

I decided that I rather felt like postponing my birthday until it was warmer, sunnier and we had electricity.

But, this morning dawned with a flash of sunlight, the power was on and calls and messages from friends and family have brightened my mood substantially.

Like other 'lockdown' birthday celebrants, I haven't got big plans. No tea parties, no group runs or paddles...

I've got work to do this morning and then lunch with my mom and a run with the dogs.

A pretty fair day it i going to be.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Putting myself out there in video

I'm not shy at all. I love a stage and I'll gladly speak to large groups of people. This is usually within a sporting environment. I also enjoy radio - whether speaking in studio or over the phone. And I do enjoy a dash of tv too. This is usually in the interview - interviewee environment. Of course, I write. From this blog to magazine articles, and website and social media content. And I have done a dozen shows, speaking to strangers about products.

This is all familiar ground and I'm comfortable in these environments.

And then there is YouTube. I have done very, very little in this sphere despite having had a few years of working in the tv industry where I have been behind the camera as a camerawoman, an interviewer, and scriptwriter. I have sat in on hundreds of hours of editing and voice-over sessions.

We have needed to make videos for Vagabond Kayaks since we launched. Aside from being too busy, unfocused and distracted to get around to it, I've got tech limitations with my computer really not able to handle the Adobe editing software that I bought a number of years ago. Making videos has been on the back burner.

About two weeks ago we finally started shooting video, beginning with the many fittings and features that make our kayaks so exceptional.

A few days later I got a lockdown haircut :)
I found the desktop version of a video editing app that I have had on my phone (Filmora). After a test run on my computer, I purchased the annual licence, which removes the watermarks.

The editing is going well and I'm enjoying the process. My computer can only just handle these short videos. I can't watch the videos in the program as I edit so I'm winging it a bit, drawing on my editing experience all those years ago to get a good outcome.

In some of the videos you see me talking to the camera. In others you just hear me and see my hands.

As much as I tried not to do funny things while we were shooting, of course I did. I'm out of practice and as we progressed, I warmed up.

There are so many people putting their faces in front of cameras every day. From How To and singing videos to a whole lot of nonsense. It really is quite remarkable how 'normal' it is.

As with any art - painting, sculpting, acting, singing, photography, and even writing and sports performance - you open yourself up to criticism when you put yourself out there. What you say and what you do and how you do can be replayed a dozen times and commented on. That's the way of social media. You can be placed on a pedestal or hung up to dry. Sometimes, you just have to do it.

Our focus is on short, to-the-point, informative or instructional videos. They're up on our YouTube channel, Facebook, Instagram and embedded on the relevant pages on our website. These are just the start - we have a long wish list of videos to make. Celliers will be in front of the camera for some; I'll be in front of the camera for the rest.

This is new 'putting-myself-out-there' journey. As my old running buddy Jason would say, I've just got to take a spoon of cement and harden the f-up. Yee-ha!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Badger Hunt clues and locations - half way

We've got a really fun running 'game' happening in Parys at the moment. One of our local guys, Willem, a cross-fit trainer, created a super game for May. It is called the Badger Hunt.

Every night, the people who have signed up are sent a clue on Whatsapp for the next day's location. The clue could be a few lines - cryptic / poetic - that relate to the location or there could be scrambled letters or, like this morning, a word in Morse code that gives a hint as to the location. At the location, Willem leaves a badger footprint tag to confirm that you have the correct spot. You have to take a selfie and Whatsapp it to Willem to verify that you were there.

He is also collecting kilometre submissions - not only to the location but your distance run for that session. I haven't been logging any mileage so I won't be part of that aspect of the 'competition'.

That's the thing with living in a small town - the whole town is the play area. It is really fun puzzling over the clues.

I began hunting locations a few days after it started. I knocked off the first bunch of clues in three sessions to catch up. Most days, I just do that day's clue with an extended out-and-back to extend my distance run if the location is near home. It is fun seeing other clue hunters around the area.

I've created an album on my phone for clues and selfies so that I can keep track. I've got quite a collection now.

I'm missing the one from this past Saturday as I didn't go out and I'll miss tomorrow morning's one (I haven't solved the clue yet either!). Rusty cut the side of a toe this afternoon so I'll do a yoga class at home with her instead. I'll catch up on these when I can figure out where they are.

Willem will be dishing up 30 days of clues. Today was Day 15 so we're halfway.

I've told Willem that he'll need to do this as an annual activity (but maybe 10 days instead of 30 so as not to exhaust the clue locations) because it is such great fun! He and his wife Lelane are really doing so very well with this.

Here are some of our selfies (I couldn't get Rusty in all of them but she was with me).

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Morning time warp

Level 4 lockdown regulations permit walking, running and cycling between 6am and 9am. Only.

Just getting up in the morning has been a struggle for me from as far back as I can remember. I remember my poor mom, a (very early) morning person, trying to get me up for school. Whether I sleep four hours or eight, mornings have never been kind to me. Sure, I wake up, get up, smile and face the day, but if I can avoid getting up until the sun has warmed the earth, then I will.

As for exercising in the morning... I generally avoid it. Of course, I have crawled out of bed on many an early morning for events, races, and hooking up with other people. It is not my preference but it just so happens that all but a handful of events (odd night races) start in the early morning, not in the afternoons (how screwy is this!).

When I'm up, I appreciate the morning, listen to the birds chirping and the cooler morning temperatures in summer are great. But, for me, mornings are the exception and not the norm.

My usual routine is to go to bed late (midnight is common - sometimes I do very late nights but they do nail me), wake up by 07h15, jump up, get changed, wash my face, make tea and turn on my computer. Boom! It takes me 10 minutes to be at work and so my day begins.

My days are non-stop and crazy; emails, calls, admin, errands. In summer, I aim to be out of the door by 17h30 to run. In winter, I love the warm afternoons and try to get away by 16h00. Either way, I get back, put dinner on the go, shower and then I put in another few hours, which could be anything from another two to six hours. If I don't work extra or I only do a dash more, then I settle in for Netflix or an audiobook and my current crochet project.

The bonus of training in the evenings is that I'm awake, I'm warm, I'm go-go-go from the day (most of the time), my body is ready for the action after sitting a lot in the day, and it helps me to destress, loosen up and to put some of the day behind me.

The downside to training in the evenings is that it can be hot in summer (draining) and the work day and last minute invites can get in the way. This can result in shorter sessions or cancelled sessions through cuts in time and lapses in motivation.

With these Level 4 restrictions, I have no option other than to run in the mornings.

I get out between 07h30 and 08h00 (or by 08h30 for a quick 30 minute of I'm really struggling) and get back by 09h00. A guy in town has created a clue-based location hunt where we get daily clues that take us to a location where we must take a selfie with the tag. It is good fun. I started it a few days in so now I'm catching up.

Me and Rusty at a tag.
Once back, I have a shower, make tea and start up my computer. The thing is - I'm slooooowww in the morning, easily distracted and time seems to fly past. I feel like I lose too much ground when my day starts at almost 10h00. Sure, I catch up at night, but daylight just seems to burn away. I've also found that residue from lockdown is that I really like being outside in the day and not tied to my computer - so I'm a bit resentful of being confined.

Of course, you are wondering why I don't just wake up earlier to get my run done and my day started? It is colder and darker and totally unattractive to me. And if I get up at 6am, then in all likelihood, I've only had 5hrs of sleep. I've been there and done that way too much and it hurts. 07h30 is palatable.

Then you're wondering why I don't go to bed earlier to make sure I get 7hrs of sleep or more so that getting up is easier? Well, I've learned from experience that regardless of when I go to sleep and how much sleep I get, I just don't do mornings. I've always thought that it would be nice to wake with the birds and embrace the rising sun, but it just doesn't work for me. And as for night, I love this time of day. Quiet, peaceful and I get a lot done. With my midnight routine as it stands, I still get 7-8hrs sleep, which is fine.

I've often wondered whether the people who have run out of cigarettes and are experiencing an enforced 'quit smoking' will go straight back to it again when they can buy smokes. Some will, some won't.

For me, when we are permitted to exercise at any time of day, I'll certainly go back to my afternoon and evening sessions. That said, now that I've had however many consecutive number of morning runs at the reasonable hour of after-07h30, I would definitely do it outside of lockdown, especially if my morning has less urgent work pressures and I have other activities planned for the evening.

Monday, 4 May 2020

So this is how it begins

Last year, I read 'A Handmaid's Tale'. I haven't seen the tv series. While the book left me with more questions than answers, the premise is that human fertility is substantially reduced and women, like the main character, are 'hired' by rich, barren, couples to bear them a child. In the space of what was only a few years, a male-run society has developed and women are constrained to defined roles and hierarchies, their freedom of movement is restricted and life as they knew it is a thing of the past.

I couldn't figure out the time period that it took for things to change from 'normal' life, same as like our pre-covid existence, to that of the book, but it seems like it was only a few years. I don't know whether it was the whole world or just the whole of the USA but I get the feeling it was a specific area / town. This aside, when you consider the change that took place, within a short period of time, I found myself asking, "How could they - regular people like you and me - have allowed this to happen?".

And then you look at history - genocides, concentration camps, cults - and you see that it can indeed happen in a very short space of time.

While we're all behind the sound reasoning for lockdown, other restrictions don't make too much sense - but we're following them.

As far as no alcohol sales... Well, sure, domestic violence could be worse in an alcohol-fuelled environment aggravated by lockdown conflicts so preventing alcohol binges would help to reduce domestic violence. But domestic violence happens without alcohol too. Murders and the like are down - the murder rate certainly affected by alcohol. But that people are not grouping and gathering and ganging during lockdown probably had a greater positive impact on reducing murders. With fewer alcohol-induced incidents, there is a lesser burden on emergency wards and hospital resources - to make more space to deal with coronavirus patients. 

Of all the restrictions, this is one that I can reason but these alcohol-related social issues are everyday problems that always needed this level of consideration. Personally, it doesn't affect me either way but this restriction is nonetheless a control element over the behaviour of people.

No cigarette sales? I abhor smoking but again it is another restriction that has no bearing on coronavirus. Not having access to ciggies during lockdown has no effect on transmission of the virus, especially considering that social distancing should be adhered to and that people are locked-down at home. As for being forced to stop smoking... Some may come out of this as ex-smokers, but others will jump right back into puffing. Are smokers a high risk group for greater severity of covid-19 illness? Yeah. But this is for damage done to their lungs prior to lockdown and having no smokes for two or three weeks is not going to change their risk profile.

Now that we're in Level 4 restrictions, we are permitted to exercise outdoors. Walking, running and cycling only. Between 6am and 9am. Only. It makes absolutely no sense. But, we're sticking to it and even changing our exercise patterns to do so. Online, people vehemently support the restriction - it is better than not being allowed out - and those who speak out about their displeasure are told to stop moaning and to be thankful for this concession.

Consider if, to reduce congestion and increase social distancing during this three-hour window, the exercise time frame was split into something like women on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays and men on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Or even women from 6am to 7.30am and men from 7.30am to 9am, alternating shifts on alternate days so that each gender got a chance to enjoy the early or later time slot...  Would we just adapt to this, thankful to still be allowed to exercise outdoors?

With these examples, it is quite easy to see how a greater population of people can be controlled by a smaller group through restrictions and fear and threats and allowances. And then, it is a hop, skip and jump to 'A Handmaid's Tale' situation.

I do not think that the regulations we are abiding to have been derived with malicious intent, but while out running (before 9am), I did think about the book and how life can be changed - in an outrageous way - just like that.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Lockdown activity tally

Reflecting on five weeks of lockdown my activity tally looks something like this:

  • 3.5 days spent weeding and gardening.
  • Two weeks spent doing not-very-much where getting out of bed before 10h30 was uncommon
  • 10 very full days spent sewing face masks (part of week 4 and all of week 5).
  • A good six litres of lemon cordial made - this equates to around 60 lemons picked and squeezed
  • Around 16 jars of lemon marmalade made - that's a good 30-40 lemons cleaned, sliced and processed, jars sterilised and bottles handed out.
  • Four audio books completed plus one finished off and another started. That's around 59 hours of listening.
  • Three paper-and-ink reading books completed plus a couple that I started and dumped and a fat one currently in progress.
  • One lap-sized crochet blanket completed for Rusty. Also two slipper versions attempted, and a pair of wristers completed. I made half a beanie, pulled it out and I'm now halfway through another pattern.
  • A bunch of stuff watched on Netflix. My favourites include the limited series 'Unorthodox', the doccie on Bill Gates, and the doccie 'Pandemic'. I've done one season of The Blacklist, six episodes of Messiah, and about six episodes of Bloodline. I got halfway through two movies that I gave up on. I don't recall watching any other movies. 
  • I've spent about two full days on work admin and then big chunks of hours on image editing for Vagabond. It takes me a couple of hours per kayak and I've done 10 plus another 5 other kayaks for another chap. I've got one more of ours to complete and two angler versions, which I'll nail today.
  • A bunch of dog training session with Rusty, based on superb videos by 'Happy Dogs' dog trainer Karis Nafte. Rusty is so smart and I love spending this time with her.
  • A couple of high-intensity circuit training sessions in my garden and some great Ashtanga yoga classes following videos from Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube. Almost daily handstand practice and drills. I've watched dozens of YouTube videos on handstand drills and tips. My handstand is strong and decent but I'm just not getting the sustained hold yet.
  • A couple of afternoon naps - not as many as I planned to take, but a few enjoyable naps nonetheless.
  • I'm almost done with two modules of the Science & Cooking (chemistry) online course through I've wanted to do this course for a couple of years and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.
  • A number of grocery shopping outings, two visits to the factory, one visit to the paddling club (alarm going off issues). Two shopping outings in week 5 to our local fabric store for more facemask material. Quite a bit of time spent with my mom before we started sewing.
  • In the first three weeks of lockdown, I spent a lot of time online following coronavirus stats, reading news articles and keeping an eye on social media. I don't do much of this is anymore and I've limited by time on Facebook significantly. Every couple of nights I splurge and watch BGT videos and a dash of stand-up.
  • The usual housework, composting etc.
  • Email answering. My work emails are quiet but I do get some email, which I like to respond to promptly.
  • Whatsapp and Messenger and calls - comms with friends and relations. Certainly more than usual and catch-ups have been fantastic. Quieter on this these later two weeks.
  • A couple of blogs written. I've missed writing in recent years. Writing is easier and more enjoyable when the mind is free. I write all the time - but that's for work. It is nice to write here for me - for my own memories and recollections in years to come.
This time has been good.

When in Rome.

I've never enjoyed getting up in the morning, even if there is a whole lot of excitement in the day ahead. As a child I struggled, as a teen I struggled and things did not change in my adult years. Of course, as I got older I dealt better with always feeling like I'd be hit over the head by a sledgehammer whether I had the misfortune of only getting four hours of sleep or the pleasure of 10.

As a result, if I can avoid waking and getting up before the sun has warmed the earth, I do. My preference is to run in the cooler evening hours in summer an the warm late afternoons of winter. Of course, I do mornings where I have to for events or meet-ups with other people, and I enjoy being out once I'm up.

With lockdown restrictions lifted to Level 4 and exercise permission granted only from 06h00 to 09h00, morning running is my only option. When in Rome.

These near-winter mornings are brisk but very pleasant by the time I'm out of the door just before 8am. And the skies! Sparkling, clear and deep blue.

Rusty, like me, enjoys the comfort of her bed in the morning but the moment I start lacing my running shoes she bounces into action.

Rusty in her basket.

The best view ever. Rosy and Rusty.

My Rusty girl this morning next to the river.
With Parys being a small town, I enjoy shouting hi to friends and parkrunners when I see them out-and-about. What I have seen very little of are children and teenagers! Exercise would do them a lot of good. Maybe they'll get out during this coming week? I think the optimist in me is going to be wrong...
Exercise permitted has been limited to running, walking and cycling. Paddling and other watersports are currently prohibited. Like many other regulations, this makes little sense but it is what it is - for now. The real bugger is that for the past five weeks, the river has been running higher than during most of summer. It has been brilliant this weekend after last week's rains. Oh well.

This easing of lockdown has come just at the right time for me. On Wednesday, my annual pre-birthday 'game' starts and this year it is '44 Days of Running' and my 10th consecutive year of doing this. I'm ready!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Is post-lockdown going to be your second chance?

Opportunities abound and too often we don't use or appreciate what we have until it is taken away from us.

Around the world, people are in lockdown and they are restricted from going outside to exercise. For the runners, walkers, cyclists, paddlers, gym-goers, dancers and others who participate in individual and team sports regularly, they have made do with exercising at home by doing online classes, body-weight exercises, indoor equipment and running circles around their homes.

As restrictions begin to lift, there is an all-encompassing worry that thousands of people will now 'suddenly' become runners and walkers and cyclists and thus exploit the lifting of restrictions.

IMHO - Good. For. Them!

In the years when I created and organised the FEAT adventure speaker annual events, I was always quite intrigued by emails from people (looking to speak or for sponsorship) that told of great losses and how this changed their life and that now they were going to run across continents, climb mountains, swim oceans... Before the loss, they were neither runners, mountaineers or swimmers.

As someone who has done sport and exercise daily or almost daily for the whole of my conscious life, I can come up with many reasons why people don't do any activities but I just don't get it.

Too much work. Too little time. Get home too late, leave for work too early. Stress. They are overweight so exercise is an effort, difficult and uncomfortable. They have never found a sport or activity that they love and that fuels their self-motivation. Young children and no partner or an unsupportive partner so leaving children alone to go run is not an option. And dozens of others. I've been intermittently caught by a bunch of these over the years and they severely curtailed my motivation and activities.

But then, the person survives a terrible accident that leaves them wheelchair-bound and having to learn to walk again. Or, they are clear of cancer after rounds of chemo. Or they recover after a heart attack or kick a drug habit.

Then something happens. The outdoors, adventures and expeditions beckon and they go on to live a second life where being fit and healthy and active and outdoors is so much a part of their existence.

It seems silly that we need a wake-up, shake-up to tell us how important our health is and how rewarding (mentally and physically) being active can be.

While I don't get it, I also figure that it is better late than never for someone to discover a new passion and to live a life so much richer for these new experiences.

Is this global coronavirus catastrophe and severe lockdown going to be a wake-up, shake-up for some? A figurative bash on the head that shouts, "GET OUTSIDE NOW!".

I hope that the expected surge of new runners, walkers and cyclists is not just a 'New Year's Resolution' fitness spike but that it really is a second chance for them. The chance to incorporate outdoor activity, learning new disciplines, discovering lovely places to be active, and embarking on expeditions into this second chance at life, and to share this with their children, partners, families and friends.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Lockdown loops may adjust circuit race perspectives

During lockdown, people are walking or running loops around their apartments and gardens to keep fit. Some of these loops can be as short as 25m, often in the 100m range and could be up to 230m. Even so, these are small loops to run around and around and around.

It got me thinking about running circuit races, where you run the course loop as many times as you can in the time available - usually 12hrs, 24hrs and up to 6-day events!

I've run two 12-hour events and I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences of these. I also did a trail circuit race in the Parys area unofficially in 2010 (I didn't stay over so I'd popped in to run for a few hours and then headed back to JHB).

In April 2006 I did a 12hr circuit race in Randburg on a 1km route. This one was run from 19h00 to 7am - through the night. It was superb! I clocked 98km and was the first lady and 3rd overall.

Dawn2Dusk in August 2015 was run in the day and it was swelteringly hot but a great experience nonetheless. For this one you had to reach at least 80km within the 12 hours available. I clocked 80km in about 10hrs and then retired to the shade and to shoot the breeze with friends. I was an idiot though because I was first or second lady at that stage and running well so I should have stayed out there walking and running to log more distance and an official placing. As I hadn't run more than 12-15km in months before this, I figured that 81km was just fine for me that day.

Runners (and non-runners!) will generally laugh when you tell them about circuit races with their response usually being, "And why would you do that???".

It really is fun!

I would reckon that right about now there are thousands of people that would see a 1km loop as a blessing. haha

You can argue that lockdown loops are run by necessity, because there is not another option. Circuit races are entered by choice, even though you have other options of running A to B or long-distance route.

Of course, circuit races are about mental fortitude but they're also far more of a 'party' that standard events and those that go through the night are quite special. You've got spectators, music, cheers and a great vibe from the company of other participants. This is really what circuit races are about.

For the sake of the circuit races out there (there are not many), I hope that after lockdown more runners will give these events a try.

With their lockdown-adjusted perspective, a one-kilometre, two-kilometre or three-kilometre loop will not seem such a ghastly thing anymore.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Stone in the pond

Back in my previous life when I was in the medical research academic arena, I wavered between loving science and considering that I really should rather be in medicine - more people orientated. At one such junction, I remember very clearly a boyfriend saying to me that when you're a doctor, you help people one at a time. He said that in research you have the ability to change the lives of millions.

As things happened, 20 years ago I left that life and ended up in writing and media because of my passion for adventure racing and trail running.

As I've often thought about apocalypses, I have been under no illusion that most of the work that I've done in these two decades - writing about events, writing articles, doing public relations writing for companies, running and editing websites, creating events - has been a 'frilly' occupation. When an asteroid hits the planet (or a virus spreads throughout humanity!), those websites and articles and words don't matter. My sewing, crochet, cooking and gardening skills are more valuable. People with skills like mechanics, plumbers, electricians, builders, medical... they are really critical.

One thing I am really good at is building communities and bringing people together.

The first website I ever built back in 1995 was one called, "Underwater Hockey Tourist", a website that listed underwater hockey clubs, venues, training days and times, and contacts around the world. I'd been playing for a year by then and much of the world's interaction was through an email group list. I saw so many emails by people writing that they're travelling to XYZ and did anyone know if UWH was played there... The idea behind the site was to provide a directory so that a travelling underwater hockey player could hook up with a team to enjoy their company and a game. One big friendly and welcoming family. I passed this website on in about 2002 and it still exists - although in a very different format to the HTML coded one (every page was hand coded) that I built all those years ago when the web was young.

In 2001 I built the adventure racing website, which I ran and edited for 15 years (the site has another owner now), and then a year later created AR Club. By the late 2000s, I'd created AR Gaiters. I ran dozens of navigation clinics over 15 years. In 2010 I created FEAT, an annual adventure speakers event, and Forest Run. And then there were the Metrogaine events, annual Winter Spruit run, Summer Series events... When I moved to Parys in December 2015, I was immediately involved as an Event Director of our Parys parkrun. In 2017 I launched YOLO and in 2018 we launched Vagabond Kayaks.

All of these, with the exception of YOLO, which has a bit of a community element, are all sport and activity related. Great for health and wellness and fitness, but hardly useful in an apocalypse.

Despite my 'realistic cynicism', I am aware of difference that, an article that I've written or a workshop that I hosted may have had on the lives of individuals. Indeed, there are dozens of people that attended the annual FEAT events for whom a speaker's talk touched and changed their lives, which lead to a cascade of events.

I received a "How are you doing?" whatsapp from a dear friend yesterday. We've been good friends over many years although we haven't had much interaction in recent years, especially with me living in Parys. His life changed direction a number of years and much of his work focus is as a running / trail / fitness coach. He is good at it and it so very much suits him. His message was so special and it brought tears to my eyes - of warmth and appreciation.

He wrote:

"You've been on my mind.
"I think you've been in my thoughts especially now because I'm putting my trail skills course online and I have been remembering how valuable was to me when I first started racing.
"I turned up to race with three guys I'd never met before. I had all the right gear, I knew all the language. I was this fountain of AR knowledge and it's because in the two weeks leading up to the race I had read everything you'd written.
"You just never know the impact you have by putting stuff into the world. It's the stone in the pond; ripples go out.
"I have 50 clients who I have managed to keep fit and motivated to train to a greater or lesser degree during this time [lockdown]. I get glowing feedback from some on having helped them to get through this. They all have stronger immune systems right now. I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if your writing hadn't helped my start on this path.
"You have touched a lot of people with your words and your example. Thank you."

It is the frilly things that bring joy to our everyday existence - to go for a run, music we listen to, movies we enjoy and a kayak that we paddle. These give us a lot of reasons to wake up in the morning and contribute to making us who we are.
They're not the same as caring for the sick or building a water purification plant but they actually are just as important. A life lived is one filled with interests and activities.

'Frilly' has its place. I've saved this message in this post so that every time I despair and ask myself yet again "What am I doing with my life!", I can be reminded that frilly has a place in the world, even in an apocalypse.

Stone in the pond indeed.

A new product: AR Face Gaiter (face mask)

On Wednesday, I received an urgent request from a dear friend for a batch of face masks for her 50 staff at a company involved with medical testing.

I quickly checked with my mom, who makes all of our AR Gaiters, to see whether she had enough cotton fabric on hand. She uses lovely cotton prints to make little pouches for the gaiters. She did and so we got cracking on Wednesday afternoon.

Making face masks is a perfect re-purposing of our AR Gaiters production line. Face masks are very much 'gaiters for the face': they protect your face, are made from fabric and they require the same skills (sewing and attention to detail) to make. We've now got a new product in the AR Gaiters line - AR Face Gaiter.

We found a bunch of recommended patterns online, selected one and made a prototype to check fit, sizing etc. We then made some modifications for a better fit as well as the addition of a third layer and a more comfortable and adjustable tie. Our version also has a 'pocket' that can accommodate those regular hospital masks for yet another layer.

I was tasked with cutting out the pieces from the various fabrics -  a labour-intensive task. My mom began with the pinning and stitching.

There are easier masks to make, which are fine for popping into the shops. These masks are for people who will wear them most of the day at work. With the two masks that I've been using, I find that my glasses fog up and the one, which is a good shape, has slightly too-tight elastic squishes my nose and is too close to my mouth so I can't talk properly. The experience of wearing these helped to improve the one that we were to make.

We put in a good 6 hours on Wednesday afternoon and into the night and then a solid 12 hours on Thursday. As we were using materials on hand, we didn't have enough cord for the ties. I turned tee shirting into tee-yarn, which I think I prefer to the cord because of the stretch it offers. But cord is definitely much easier and faster to cut to size!

We recruited help from a local friend on Friday morning and the three of us got the production line working beautifully, from assembly to sewing, ironing and threading. Once my tasks were done, I got promoted to sewing.

By 2pm on Friday, the masks were boxed and ready for delivery to a branch of the company in Potch, kindly taken by a friend who had to go through to fetch meds.

The box has already been delivered to my friend in Jo'burg by their driver and the masks are already being handed out to the people working today's shift.

I made contact with our local fabric shop in town and will be able to get fabric and other supplies from them on Tuesday morning. There is a great need all over as the wearing of face masks in public is now compulsory, which makes sense.

We'll also do a less labour-intensive version of face masks - the pleated design. I've had one that my mom made for me a few weeks ago. We'll make a few improvements to her original design first. This style is much faster and easier to make so it will be cheaper. This makes it great as an item to buy and gift to other people, especially if the mask does not have to be worn all day for work.

Liz, the AR Gaiters elf

This is my mom, Liz aka The AR Gaiters elf.

Liz wearing a pair of AR Hiking Gaiters over her hiking boots.
I started making my own mini gaiters back in 2003 and here and there I would make a pair for friends.

After the AR Mini Gaiters came the AR Desert Gaiters (a few different versions tested at events in the Liwa Desert of Abu Dhabi and the sands of Namibia). My mom jumped in to help me sew for teams. I then needed to replace my orienteering gaiters and I had design improvements to make on those I had bought overseas... Thus the AR Adventure Gaiters. By the early 2010s, Liz was doing all of the sewing and she later took over handling orders and enquiries.

I just help with media stuff - my mom really is everything behind AR Gaiters, including the AR Hiking Gaiter, which she created because she often wears hiking boots and she had requests from friends.

With coronavirus lockdown, events may be cancelled or postponed for months to come but your opportunities to get outside and to go walking, running and hiking are still there (once activity restrictions are lifted).

Let the bright fabrics of our AR Gaiters not only lift your mood, but protect your socks from seeds, and do their work in preventing grit and trail debris from getting into your shoes. Once you've worn a pair of AR Gaiters you'll wonder why it took you so long to adopt something so fundamental to improve your outdoors experience.

Love your feet like I love my mom.

(Visit AR Gaiters on Facebook xxx)

Sunday, 19 April 2020

My lockdown message: walk your dogs

Deon TerBlanche is a local photographer, artist and journalist based in Parys. He is very involved in our community and has done a number of special projects that have been great for our town. I first met Deon when he created the Parys Arts Festival. He created the Yellowfish art installation that hangs under the bridge (a shout-out about water pollution following the death of thousands of fish in our river) as well as the 'dinosaur eggs' at Egweni. I loved his photographic portraits and write-ups on incredible women in our town during women's month one year. 

A few months ago Deon painted a substation next to the main road on the way into town with an #imstaying mural. It has become quite the selfie photo spot for locals and visitors. 

Deon most recently planned, organised and did the fundraising for the painting of a bland, 200m wall on Boom Street. 

Deon is now capturing lockdown stories to preserve images and experiences. His message reads:

"I'm an accredited photojournalist (essential service) documenting Parys History by taking home portraits to show how the people of Parys are coping with the #lockdown. I'm also asking the participants for a message of hope and encouragement that they want to share with fellow citizens and people all over the world.

All photos to be featured in a photo book that will be donated to the Parys Museum to become part of the forever history of Parys."

Rusty and I have been featured. These are my answers to Deon's questions along with the two photographs that Deon took. 

Meet: Lisa and Rusty

What is your message from Parys to the world?: 
During the lockdown, we have the experience of being confined to our homes - with or without gardens - for five weeks. This is what many pets experience their whole lives if their guardians are people that never take them out for walks or to run in a park. And, it is not just big dogs that need to get out. Small dogs also need the stimulation of exercise and seeing something other than walls and fences and the same square meters of their homes. Pets are loving lockdown because their people are home with them all day. Talking to them and doing activities together. A big difference to being left alone on an empty property from 7am to 6pm. The boredom! It is little wonder that dogs, especially smart working dogs, are surrendered to shelters and rescue organisations with behavioural issues. I hope that this period of lockdown has given some pet owners something to think about and that they will take the opportunity - this second chance - to do right by their pets and themselves.

How many people are part of your lockdown?: 
Two. I live in a cottage on a property with a house. My landlord is here too.
What is your biggest challenge during this time?: 
No real challenges are other than concerns over our business, 
workers and saving all of these.
What do you miss the most ?: 
Going running with my dog! I do yoga and exercises in my garden but I do miss being out every day with my dog. She isn't crazy about doing exercises in the garden that we are fortunate to have.

Have you learnt anything about yourself or your family during the lockdown?: 
Not really. I work from home, alone, anyway so this is no different. I'm in contact with friends and family around the world on WhatsApp and Facebook. What is nice is that now I have time to sit down to talk to them and not to be in a rush. I do see my mom during the lockdown. She is high risk being late 60s and with emphysema so I do her shopping. We speak on the phone and Whatsapp between grocery drops.
What do you enjoy most about the lockdown?: 
This is the best rest that I have had in longer than I can remember! My business, sport, club and organising activities have always very email intense. This is the first time in more than 20 years that I can do very little work (or none!) and that there are not emails piling up. I can barely cope on a normal day and even if I go away for a few days, which doesn't happen often, I get so stressed and frazzled by all the communication and tasks that lie waiting for me. It has been worse in recent years with not only email but also WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Instagram. The whole world is quiet and I have had the time to rest, read, nap and take my time to focus on some work projects. There is absolutely no other time that I can remember, not since early high school perhaps, when I have been so at peace. I am 43.

Without who/what would you not have survived the lockdown?: 
I've enjoyed the isolation and not having to go here or there, do this or that. And work is quiet for me. It is probably having internet access that has been most critical. I use it for work, communication with friends and family, for news, DIY and information, and for entertainment - online courses, audiobooks and Netflix.
What would you do differently if this had to happen again?: 
I wouldn't do anything differently. Or, I'd consider staying at a friend's property just outside of town where I would have trails and space to run lots. With time in abundance, the lockdown has been a perfect opportunity to focus on training that I never have enough time for. And it would be nice to work on bird watching and identification out there - I'm very bad!

Any you want to add?: 
I went into lockdown absolutely exhausted. The last few years have really given me a beating. I was a zombie for almost the first two weeks of lockdown. I didn't do much other than reading, garden, nap and hang with my dog.

This time has been bonus time for being more productive with online courses and the like. I started one but haven't made much progress. If I'd not been so exhausted, I could have been way more productive. That said, I never get downtime so I'm taking it for what it is and for what I need and I'm loving every day. While the extension of two weeks is bad for business, it is good for me and will put me in a better space when we go back to work.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

How many daily dead will create a pile up of bodies?

For weeks already, Italy's structures for dealing with the dead have been under strain. Caskets have had to be stored in make-shift structures, halls, and churches as crematoriums and cemeteries have been unable to keep up with the increased volume in cremations and burials. In early March, satellite images of a cemetery in Iran showed the fresh excavation of burial trenches, presumably to cope with their growing number of dead.

I've kept a morbid eye on the daily death numbers recorded, wondering how many dead, above the normal daily average, does it take to create a crisis in terms of disposing of the bodies?

Let's take Italy. Italy's death rate is around 10 people per 1000 of the population (currently on 10.6/1000). Italy's population is currently at 60.48 million.

Based on this, if 1% of the population are going to die this year through natural causes, illness (excluding coronavirus) and accidents, that's 604,800 people. This is 1,657 people per day in a normal year. Most people will be buried and fewer will be cremated. The country's infrastructure can handle these numbers, and, presumably, have capacity for additional numbers on busy days.

2017 figures showed that only 24% of the dead in Italy were cremated (approx. 400/day countrywide). Italy's current cremation rate is not listed on Wiki's cremation rate page, but it is probably similar or less than that of Spain at 35-45% (cremation is on the rise).

With coronavirus, the crematorium in Bergamo, the hardest-hit city, is currently experiencing 50-60 cremation requests for every 100 dead - this explains the overload on capacity and why bodies are being transported to other towns for cremation.

Cremation is the preferred method for dealing with someone who has died from coronavirus as you can be sure that the 950°C furnace temperature will incinerate the body as well as every trace of the virus it contained.

Bergamo's crematorium is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they cremate 24 bodies a day, which is more than double their normal maximum.

I read online that the cremation process takes two to three hours per body and that only one body is incinerated in each oven at a time (because of the law and space inside the furnace - same in South Africa). Crematoria would have more than one oven - maybe three or four of them.

Looking at Italy's coronavirus numbers... Since 10 March 2020, Italy has not reported a daily death count below 100.  They have  had more than 600 coronavirus deaths a day for the past three weeks with many of these days logging over 750 deaths. This would be on top of the 1,600-odd usual daily deaths.

If 1,200 -1,400 of these are to be cremated and at least 1,200 to be buried each day (mostly in Northern Italy), infrastructure far greater than what currently exists is needed. There are 79 crematoria in Italy. They would all need to do at least 15 bodies a day to keep up - and the small-town ones would not even have this capacity. This explains the three-week waiting list (and limited cold storage!). With every day, the numbers of caskets in the queue just keeps building.

In the USA, the average cremation rate is around 53%. This varies widely from 20% to 76% depending on the State (New York is 40%). At approximately 2.8 million deaths/year (~7700/day), the US should have better capacity to absorb the >1500 daily coronavirus deaths than other countries because their infrastructure is geared for a higher number of cremations overall. Nonetheless, it is still up to 20% more bodies to deal with each day!

South Africa's population is 57.78 million and our death rate is 9.5/1000. That's 1500 people/day. In Cape Town, the cremation rate is 40%. This will vary around the country with varying preferences for cremation or burial. My search has revealed no other numbers for South Africa with the exception that we have 33 crematoriums that are already overburdened with some these facilities in frequent need of repair. Available land for burials is already limited.

Any day-after-day, significant increase in the numbers of daily dead will put any country's infrastructure under strain. I can see why grave trenches are the most feasible and timeous method of dealing with a pile-up of dead. But, in the case of coronavirus it is not the wisest method of disposal because of the uncertainty around how long the virus may linger. That's why cremation remains the recommended and safest method to ensure that all trace of the virus is incinerated along with the body.

Monday, 13 April 2020

What if you forgot the last 10 years?

One book that I thoroughly enjoyed and that I finished listening to this morning is "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty.

The base theme of the story is around the main character Alice who falls during a step aerobics class, hits her head and forgets everything that has happened in the past 10 years. She comes round on the floor of the aerobics studio not recognising anyone and wondering what she is doing in a gym (her younger self didn't go to gym or exercise at all).
She goes back into her life not knowing her three children (she had them withing the forgotten years), not knowing why she is in the process of divorcing her husband, who her 10-years younger self still loves dearly, and nor why she and her sister are somewhat estranged. So many things that her older self does, her younger self does not.

If you forgot the last ten years, would your younger self recognise your older self? More importantly, would your younger self like the person that you have become, shaped by your experiences, activities and interests? Would your younger self like to be living the life that you currently have? 

Our lives can take such a different direction to what we may have envisaged, especially when you have the freedom to open the door to opportunities that arise. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

A good story. I've read The Husband's Secret and I enjoyed the TV series of Big Little Lies. 

Reading in the time of lockdown

We are 18 days into a five-week lockdown (the initial three weeks was extended by another two weeks). I'm yet to be bored. Something that I am enjoying is reading.

I read mostly at night before bed (as usual) but also in the mornings for an hour or two. During the day I listen to audio books if I'm doing tasks with my hands that allow me to concentrate on the audio book at the same time.

I've completed three paper books (I started another two that I didn't continue to read) and three audio books (about 40hrs of listening). Also, at the beginning of lockdown I finished listening to an audio book that I'd been working through for weeks.

The branches of my mom's lemon tree are bowed under the weight of hundreds of lemons. 

I've been turning them into lemon marmalade and lemon cordial. Lemon chopping or squeezing takes time, which whizzed by while listening to an audio book. 

I have not had this abundance of time to enjoy immersing myself in stories and being able to just read and read and read. 

On the entertainment side, I enjoy an episode or three of something on Netflix at night, while crocheting (I completed the crochet part of a blankie for Rusty last night). Highlights have been the series on Bill Gates and a doccie on glaciers and glacial retreat.

We've still got 2.5 weeks of lockdown - more time to revel in reading and activities I don't usually get to enjoy in such abundance.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Taking a loooonnnggg weekend

When lockdown started on Friday I figured that I would take a much-needed long weekend with Friday, Saturday and Sunday being completely work-free and guilt-free (because I can't do anything about this situation) days to do a lot of nothing.

I spent hours in the garden weeding and listening to an audio book. I napped. I read. I crocheted. I watched Netflix at night (currently watching the doccie series Pandemic and the Finnish detective series Bordertown). Rusty and I are doing some dog training too. She is as bright as a button.

I also kept an eye on the coronavirus status and read loads of news articles on the virus around the world. The latter is a complete time gobbler! And then there is Facebook, messaging friends on whatsapp and general catching up. Boom - the hours disappear!

And then Sunday merged into Monday... and then Monday into Tuesday and we're now on Wednesday afternoon and I haven't done much work at all.

I have so very much needed the rest.

I'd like to say I'm looking better for it but I still have dark rings under my eyes and I feel dead tired.

You know how it is when you're 60 hours into a race with little to no sleep and you're awake and focused and navigating and making decisions. And then you finish and sit down and you fall asleep on the spot. I've been in an endurance race for a few years and now that I've climbed off the treadmill, I'm literally just lying there on the floor, unable to move.

Early on, I had aspirations for lockdown with a list of things that I'd like to do with the expanse of time - like an online course or two - in addition to my work project. I have subsequently taken all pressure off myself and will just aim to complete my work project because once the wheels of life start turning, I won't have time  to do it.

After waking up, I have been spending an hour or two - or more! - reading, mostly coronavirus articles. Now that I'm giving this up in my new 'recovery phase', my general aim is to be out of bed by 9am. Then, to spend at least half of the day on image editing and the rest of the time with reading, napping, dog training, gardening and the like. I also do an hour of exercise whether a circuit session or yoga (or a bit of both).

This time is to be treasured and used. But not all of it has to be productive. In an athletic training programme, rest is part of training. For me, lockdown is an opportunity to rest, scale back my activities, reduce pressure, compartmentalise stresses and to just be.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Lockdown is tough on dogs

Rusty is used to going everywhere with me - to the hardware store, shops, visiting her granny and my friends. Every evening we go for a run or walk, often heading out of town to run on neighbouring farms.

For the past four days (we're on Day 5 today), we've been stuck at home. We play a bit of ball in the garden, I get her to run with me when I do circuit training and she hangs outside for a lot of the day if I'm out there gardening or reading. We did have an outing on Sunday when I did shopping for my mom, but for the rest, Rusty's 'normal' is completely disrupted.

With people, you can tell them what is going on. For a dog? They don't know what is happening. My mental state is fine but I think there are a lot of regularly-walked dogs that are going to take strain.

This morning, I let Rusty out of the gate and we went to the corner of our block and back. I think I'll do this with her once or twice a day.

We're also trying some dog training and I'll keep up with activities with her in the garden that I am so fortunate to have.

Rusty looking a big glum this morning.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Settling into lockdown

The silver lining to the coronavirus lockdown is that there is bugger all that we can do about it. I made peace with this as I saw my business prospects plummeting - and just when 2020 was finally looking up for us after three years of very hard slog.

This lockdown is an appreciated break that is even better than a holiday. On holiday, the rest of the world continues as usual. Right now, everything and everyone that we deal with are shut-down too. As Mark Manson writes in his 'Motherf-cking Monday' newsletter, "And never in my adult life have I ever had more time and lack of obligations than now".

I've got no shortage of work to do but I decided to take a long weekend to do a lot of very little. I've tended to my new veggie garden, planted seeds, tumbled my compost, listened to an audiobook (while gardening), read two books, napped, done house cleaning, and I've exercised. I've allowed myself to awake without an alarm and I've lazed in bed drinking tea an reading - books or coronavirus articles online (I'm reducing this latter activity tomorrow!).

Breakfast on my patio on Day 1. I've been living here for four months and this is the first time I've had breakfast out here instead of in front of my computer. Every day during lockdown I will be eating breakfast outside.

My big work project involves intense image editing. I haven't had time to do this in the past 18 months because it is very time consuming and needs chunks of hours. I've got these now in abundance.

I am enjoying not having to go anywhere or do anything. I am just being. I haven't had this indulgence in a very long time. I've got lots of blog posts juggling around in my mind; but I haven't been drawn to turn on my computer even to write, from which I get great pleasure!

I count my blessings that I live in a cottage with a garden, I have running water and electricity (and gas), internet, and I have food in my cupboards. This makes lockdown very pleasant. I feel for those who do not have these luxuries.

I've been tired, exhausted and burnt out for so very long. Lockdown is exactly what I need to recovery and to be strong enough to deal with what life is going to throw at me again.

An afternoon read and nap under the blanket I made last year.
I have the pleasure of living in a place with a reasonable garden. When I open my driveway gate and that of my landlord, I can run a loop of about 90 metres. I've resurrected circuit training -  activity sessions with a variety of activities 'connected' by running loops between sets. I wrote about circuit training back in 2010 (OMG - 10 years ago!).

In short, you pick 5-6 exercises like burpees, squats, lunges, push ups, sit ups, mountain climber, tricep dips, stair climbs, jumping jacks, weight lifts. You assign these activities to stations. You can connect the stations with movement like jumps, skips, runs, backward-runs and the like. The completion of all activities with connecting element is one round.

I work the activities in a pyramid round. For example: the first round I do each activity twice. After completing say the sit-ups, I run a loop and head for the next station (can be in the same place or another location in the house/garden). I do the next activity - say burpees - for two repetitions and then run again. After completing each activity and run loops, I've completed a round. For the next round, I increase the reps by two - so in the next round I must do each activity 4 times i.e. 4 x burpees, 4 x sit-ups. The next round will be 6, then 8 and then 10. If I have the energy, I can bring the pyramid back down again.

If you don't have space to run, the connecting element could be skipping or running on the spot for a set count.

Circuits are great for cardio and strength. I've done two sessions and I can feel it! I get ideas for different activities from the internet - there is no limit to the amount of variations you can create.

I'm also committed to doing yoga daily - either a class or some stretching postures after a circuit. I love yoga, especially Ashtanga, but I haven't had space in my life for much of it for too long.

A few years ago, I discovered Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube and downloaded a bunch of her videos for Ashtanga classes. I think I did two or three of them and then lost the plot to self-practice. I'm back and I loved her 50-minute Ashtanga class that I did yesterday. She has posted tons of videos since I first downloaded a couple and I look forward to exploring her channel. I also have other videos saved from a variety of sources that focus on balance elements - I look forward to progressing with these.

Fixing forward head posture
I've become increasingly aware of my forward head posture - too much time spent on my computer and looking down at my phone. I'm not bad, but I could end up that way if I don't do something about it. I found this video two days ago. I have not doubt that it will prove useful to you too. I correct myself throughout the day (plus it helps not being on my computer much too!).


Rusty training
If there is one thing I've let Rusty down on, it is dog training. She is smart and learns quickly. She would have loved to be an agility dog or to do dancing with me. I just haven't had the time to commit on this. By chance, I discovered dog trainer Karis Nafte yesterday. She is posting daily videos on Instagram with training tricks to do with your dog. Rusty and I started with weaving - where she weaves between my legs. Fortunately Rusts is very food motivated. I'm so impressed with her progress in our three short sessions today. We'll pick it up again tomorrow.

Foot off the gas
While I have aspirations to do an online course and to accomplish other tasks during lockdown, I am also cautious of doing what I've been doing for the past 20-plus years: filling every waking moment with work, tasks and obligations.

For lockdown, I'm taking my foot off the gas: doing only what I need to. I'm not thinking too much (yet) about how to go about picking up the pieces of my businesses when lockdown ends.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Combating sea sickness (on rivers)

I don't have a very strong constitution when it comes to the sea - I feel queasy just at the thought of bobbing on the swell. When it comes to rivers, I'm fine going down, but my stomach can't handle too much in the way of catching eddies, ferrying and surfing. Watching that water flowing towards me, the deafening sound of the water, and the bobbing and weaving leaves me feeling very green after a short period of time.

These past weeks I've been working on my whitewater skills - paddle strokes, nailing a strong roll in current, eddy catching, ferrying and edging. I'm getting better but my tolerance for spending any duration on the water doing these skills is low.

Welcome Valoid!

I have successfully taken Valoid for paddling on the sea in the past and as I was intending to hit the Gatsien rapid for some drills, I headed to the pharmacy.

My session last Sunday left my head swirling for hours after getting off the water. My Valoid-assisted session on Thursday evening had me feeling quite normal on and off the water. I put in some better ferries in stronger current and even enjoyed a dash of surfing as I learn to feel the water.

As we have a factory of kayaks, we paddle a bunch of them. My personal kayak has been my green Marimba but now I'm proud to add one of our whitewater kayaks to my personal collection. On Thursday I climbed into my own beautiful blue Vagabond Pungwe. This paddle is also a new one - Celliers' new CEKR whitewater paddles (I've got one of his touring ones too). Beautiful paddles.

In my Vagabond Pungwe kayak.
I've still got a way to go until I feel really competent, but I am improving and it is rewarding to be able to do things now that I couldn't a month or two ago.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Making makataan jam

Makataan? As an English-speaking South African, I had never heard of 'makataan'. This hefty fruit is a 'wild melon' - one of 1000 varieties of watermelon. It is similar in size to a large watermelon but the inside is white / very pale green. The taste of the raw fruit is bland - not much flavour although you can tell it is of the melon family.

I processed the makataan that I received at night so I didn't take any photos. This image from
The makataan ended up with me after being bumped down the line. I was the one to say, "Ok, I'll make the jam" - and this was before I'd seen the fruit!

The preparation of makataan jam is quite laborious, from chopping up the fruit to soaking in slaked lime, rinsing, blanching, syrup making, boiling and bottling. I found recipes online and did a bit of this and that.

It took me a while to chop the fruit. The part used for the preserve is the pith - the equivalent of the pale section of a watermelon. The peel and seed part is discarded - these went straight into my YOLO Compost Tumbler. Many recipes use big chunks. I went with smaller cubes (approx 1cm).

The first part involves soaking the fruit pieces in a solution of slaked lime, which can be purchased from a pharmacy as a powder. Calcium hydroxide is a preservative that can clarify raw juice and is used in the pickling of cucumbers. I'm not sure, but in the making of this jam I think it contributes to keeping the fruit crunchy.

After soaking overnight, I left the fruit to rinse in clean water for a few hours before blanching the cubes in boiling water. This is done in batches and took a long time to work through. I had the company of my friend Sylvi for this stage (she was tasked with grating ginger too and making the syrup).

The colour of the blanched cubes was amazing. The pieces looked whitish when pulled from the water but within seconds started turning this amazing translucent lime colour.

Raw fruit on the left and blanched cubes on the right.
While the cubes were being blanched, we started on the syrup -  a general sugar-water mix. We put grated ginger and lemon slices into a muslin bag to boil in the syrup - the juice from these went directly into the syrup. The only error we made was not putting in enough lemon juice - the pectin is needed to thicken the syrup.

With the syrup boiling, we added the fruit and left to boil for about an hour before bottling in sterilised jars.

The verdict - from a culinary lass who knows her makataan - is that our jam is superb. The fruit is crunchy with great texture and the taste is deliciously gingery. It is very tasty drizzled over vanilla icecream.

We made 13 jars, almost all of them have gone to new homes. I would definitely make it again.