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 edx.org. 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!