Sobering thoughts

11 Jun

100 days ago I started the 7th challenge on my 40 Before 40 list – to go alcohol-free for a year.

I had several reasons to add this to my list. The first reason was related to health reasons. I’d happily drink pint after pint without any issue. The problem is not only the affect on your liver and internal organs but also the affect it has on your waistline. Drinks contain more calories than you realise. As I am trying to get fit, it made sense that this had to go.

The second reason was because I realised how many days I have wasted in my life because of alcohol. My hangovers last for about 3 days now depending on how much I’ve had to drink. Weekends have been wasted and plans not followed through because I felt terrible. Avoiding alcohol would mean being more productive, at least in theory.

And, I suppose, the final reason was because I have given up alcohol in the past for about 3 months. I gave up one January because I was running a half marathon in mid-March and managed to smash my PB. I know this wasn’t 100% due to giving up alcohol but it was a postive contribution to it.

So, here I am at just over 100 days into my 365 challenge and, therefore, in unchartered territory. It was always my intention to start the challenge on 1st March 2020. I didn’t realise it would coincide with a global pandemic. I’m not sure if the timing is a blessing or a curse. The temptation of going out to pubs and restaurants has been completely removed but I have a feeling that when the world reopens (whenever that may be) the biggest party known to mankind will happen and I will be sat in the corner nursing a tepid tap-water!

If I’m being brutally honest, I haven’t missed drinking at all. There are so many alcohol-free alternatives on the market these days that I’ve had plenty of options to choose from. Many of them have a similar taste to the *real* stuff so I haven’t been yearning for that unmistakable hit of hops. However, I can’t say I feel super-duper fantastic for my efforts. I’ve not lost any weight and I don’t feel any different to when I started. But I’m happy to blame this on COVID-19.

I have also been surprised at how many of my friends have suggested drinks and brands of non-alocholic drinks to try which has been a big help and a great source of support!

Even though I’m about a third of the way through this challenge, I have a feeling it’s might get tougher as time ticks on. But I’ll let you know my progress along the way.

One of my favourite non-alcoholic beers – so far

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Farewell May

1 Jun

I normally write my monthly round up on the last day of the month but everything is being postponed or cancelled so I decided it wasn’t so bad to post this a day later.

May seems like it has gone on forever. Lockdown has started to ease in Switzerland but we are still being asked to remain cautious and work has said we will be working from home at least until the end of July. I guess a decision will be made once the effect of the easing measures has been assessed as to what the next steps are for returning to work.

I must admit I enjoy working from home far more than I do slepping into the office every day. It’s quiet at home so I can concentrate on my tasks more and, even though there is a lot of flexiblity in my team and job, I’ve found it great to be able to pop out for a run or a walk while I’m waiting for information from another team. You can’t do that when you work in the office!

Despite lockdown I have managed to have an action packed month. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

  • I’ve started tennis lessons. Tennis has to be one of the best sports to be able to maintain social distancing. The last time I picked up a tennis racket was when I was about 14. I’ve only had a few lessons but I’m enjoying it and learning a lot at the same time.
  • This month I ran 115km. My goal was to beat last month’s total which was 91km. So I smashed that. I had hoped to run more than 120km but the last few days I decided to skip running because I was feeling tired. I’m not sure if I will set myself a June running goal because I’m hoping to go back to the gym and carry on with my PT training which will mean I’ll definitely be too tired to run.
  • I’ve been on a few nature walks over the past few weeks. Just wandering round on the local pathways. You can see one of the photos I took below.
  • I’ve had online quizzes with my family and the netball team which have been great fun.
  • I’ve also written my first ever one act play thanks to the drama course I’ve taken during lockdown. I am hoping that the play will one day be performed live. I’m very excited about that!
  • I’m also in the middle of creating a solo performance with the same drama group. We should be ready to perform in (online, of course) next week so I need to get cracking with that rather than just thinking about it.
  • I’ve also finished another one of my challenges. This is a big deal for me and I can’t believe I’ve done it but I have. I will reveal all later this week in a separate post!

So that was May. As I said I’m hoping to get back to PT training in June and get back to some reading which has gone off the boil slightly in May because of the other creative projects I’ve been up to!

I hope you have been productive and well in May as well!

A family of ducks I saw on a nature walk

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!

Lockdown Positives

13 May

I started to lose track of days, weeks and months a while ago. I don’t know when the current crisis will be over and things will be back to normal. Although what we knew to be normal might be something different in the future. I’ve been thinking recently about what positive things have happened since lockdown was introduced. Because there are definitely some.

Here is a list I put together of things I’ve been grateful for which I definitely wouldn’t be if there was no coronavirus:

  1. I’ve realised how stressful I find travelling on public transport. It’s very reliable and clean but trains in the morning and evening are packed with noisy, rude people who reserve seats with their bags and play music too loud so everyone in the carriage can hear it. People have video calls without using headphones which is so inconsiderate. I hate listening to someone wittering on to a relative when I’m trying to read my book in peace. I’ve been so grateful to have no commute (more time in bed for one) but I feel relatively calm when I sit down to work rather than feeling harrassed.
  2. I’ve spoken to my niece and nephew more over the past few months than the rest of their lives put together. I’ve been doing ‘lessons’ with my friend on most weekdays which I would like to think we both enjoy. I’ve also spoken more with my brother and mum as well. We have weekly family quizzes which are so funny they should be televised.
  3. I have also had contact with friends who I’ve not seen or heard from in a long time. With not being able to go out, I’ve finally found the time to give them a call or write to them. These are things I’ve overlooked and taken for granted for a long time. It’s starting to redress the balance a bit.
  4. I’ve been able to bring some projects forward. For instance, I’ve started writing a novel. I’m probably about 40% of the way into the first draft. This is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember but neither never got round to it or started it and soon given up. I’ve learnt from my previous mistakes and feel like I’m making real progress. In the time I would have spent commuting I have been able to invest time into my writing project. Fingers crossed the first draft will be ready by the end of May.
  5. I’ve been taking photos every day since the start of lockdown as a record of what I have been doing during this time. It’s a good way to see that it hasn’t been so bad even though I’ve been stuck inside most of the time. I’m not sure when to finish the project. I might start taking one photo a week until things are back to normal.
  6. My drama classes have moved online which has been great fun. I’ve met some new people in a virtual sense and learn a lot. I’ve also been able to use some of the exercises and activities in my writing. My drama teacher is hoping to put on a performance of the pieces we have created live when it’s possible to which would be very cool.

I could probably go on and go about the positives. I think there are a lot of them if you look hard enough but I know not every one feels the same. I quite like pottering around the house, reading, starting projects that I have been meaning to for ages and I like not having to think up excuses of why I don’t want to go somewhere or do something. No one is doing anything at the moment so I don’t get any invitations!

Wherever you are stay safe and try to find some positives, no matter how small they seem to be.

Adios April!

30 Apr

It’s been a funny month. Today is the 44th day of Lockdown in Switzerland but things are slowly, slowly beginning to reopen.

I have heard people saying they have lost motivation to do anything during Lockdown but I’ve managed to keep myself busy over the past month, despite the restrictions. I’ve been quite productive. Being stuck at home has meant I’ve had time to re-organise my bathroom cabinet, take better care of my house plants and other small things I keep meaning to get round to doing but end up forgetting or being too tired when I get back from work.

However, aside from these little jobs, I have been busy with quite a few other things. Firstly, I set myself the challenge of running 70km this month. I’ve only done one long run (which was 11km and that’s not all that long really). The rest have been shorter. I’ve managed to run my 90th kilometer this afternoon! I was so surprised that going 6 times a week and doing short distances would add up to such a large total. I guess my goal for next month should be to run 100km or more.

Of course, I have been baking more than usual over the past 30 days so this might be a motivation to my running success. I’ve baked hot cross buns (2 batches), crumpets, scones and a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even though I’ve only done this, I now don’t think applying for Great British Back Off is just a pipe dream.

I’ve also been reading a lot, although over the past couple of days I’ve not been as interested in it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the book I’m reading or because I’ve reached my fill for April.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing and I’ve been dabbling in screen writing for the first time since being at school. This project came about because I signed up to do an online drama course with the drama teacher I studied with at the end of last year. In one of the sessions we looked at home to write a theatre scene and now I am trying to finish it. It will hopefully be a short 3 act play. The drama course has been great fun and I have learnt so many things that I can use for my fiction writing as well.

I’ve also decided now is the right time to sit down and start the first draft of my novel. I am (almost) 5’000 words in and it is interesting to see where the book is going. It seems like it might be a Young Adult novel or a children’s book which isn’t what I thought it would be like when I sat down to write.

Aside from all of this, I’ve been playing online board games with friends and virtual quizzes with family and the netball club. It has possibly been one of the most productive month’s ever for me so I am sad it is over.

Let’s see what May will bring and what I will find myself doing if they let us outside again!

Fitness Goals Update

24 Apr

2020 was going to be the year that I got fit and ticked more of my fitness goals off my list. Unfortunately, it looks like Coronavirus has put a stop to my modest ambitions for this year.

Two running races I was going enter have now been cancelled which has left me at a bit of a loose end. I find exercise a lot easier if I have something to aim for. With these races off the cards, I decided to set myself the target of running 70km in April. Just to be clear that this means literally putting one foot in front of the other. I’m not trying to break a world record or anything! Today is 24th April and I’ve already surpassed 72km. I guess I’ll keep going and see how many kilometres I can get in total.

I have enjoyed running more than normal I think because this is the only reason I leave the house. I feel a bit like a dog let off the lead and I end up running further than I had planned to. But not every single time. It just goes to show that doing something little and often adds up to a big difference.

Having to put off the races I was planning for this year, means that I might not make my target of running an Ultramarathon this time next year. To help me get fit for my 50km race next year, I had also started personal training sessions to get me into shape quicker. I was 2 weeks into a 12 weeks plan when Coronavirus shut my gym.

On reflection it is far better to have stopped 2 weeks from the beginning of the training plan than 2 weeks from the end. I will have to restart the programme again when everything is back to normal and the gym is reopened.

I’m currently deciding what my fitness goal should be in May. I might try and beat the amount of kilometres I ran in April or I might switch to the bike for a change. Or I might do something completely different. I have a few days to decide yet.

I think at the moment the best thing to do is make sure you’re getting enough exercise for physical and mental well being. I think I’m probably doing enough at the moment. If anything it is a good excuse to get out and enjoy the amazing weather we’re having.

Films I’ve watched recently

20 Apr

I watched another bundle of films in my quest to watch the top 250 films on iMDB. Admittedly the majority of these I watched before lockdown. Perhaps you might find a suggestion of something good to watch here. These are the latest ones I’ve seen:

3. The Godfather: Part II

The carried on the story from the first part that I’ve also watched for this challenge. I think one Godfather movie was enough for me. I know people say that this is one of the greatest films of all time but I don’t see the appeal really.

53. Sunset Boulevard

Weird, weird and weird are three words that I would use to describe this film. A struggling writer ends up being kidnapped (sort of) by an aging actress who is desperate to get back into making movies. He sneaks off in the night so that he can work on a script with a woman he has fallen in love with. The actress finds out and is enraged by jealousy. It reminded me of Psycho but with a female lead.

64. Princess Mononoke

This was another Japanese anime film. These films actually remind me of a cartoon I watched as a child – The City of Gold – which is why I think I quite enjoy them. It was typical in the sense it had enchanted forests, a romantic theme and demons. Good film!

67. Witness for the Prosecution

The more I watch black and white movies, the more I wonder if I was born in the wrong era. I loved the character of Sir Winfrid Robarts, the barrister whose health is failing but he still manages to successful defend his client in between sips of brandy and a handful of ills. I didn’t see the twist at the end of the film coming which made it even better.

86. Your Name

Another Japanese anime on the list. I can’t make my mind up if I like these styles of films or not. I don’t love it but I don’t hate it. The story is about a boy and a girl who switch places with each other when they dream. They work out this is happening and leave clues for each other on their smartphones so that they know what the other one has done while they have switched places. There is a twist in the story when the boy finds out that it is impossible that they could have switched places. The ending reminded me a little of the Butterfly Effect.

89. To Kill A Mockingbird

I’ve read the book this film was based on so it wasn’t a surprise what happened. I thought it was well acted and I would happily watch it again.

92. 2001: A Space Odyssey

This was an odd film. Mainly because it was made years and years before 2001 and, having lived through the 2000s, I know that the scientific things in the film are unrealistic. It was a bit like watching one of the old Star Trek movies – dated and a bit corny. 

107. The Apartment

I loved this film. It was about a man who works at an insurance company and rents out his apartment to his superiors at work so they have somewhere to have affairs. Considering it was filmed in the 1960s, it could easily be remade set in the present day and would be just as relevant now. It was a comedy but also deals with some more serious themes.

117. Some Like It Hot

This is the first film I have ever seen starring Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know how I managed to let that happen. I thought it was very funny and had a Shakespearean quality about it in that the two main characters dress up as women to join a band after witnessing a mafia hit in Chicago. They don’t look like convincing women but obviously no one realises that they are men in drag.

141. Bladerunner

The weird thing about this film is that it is set in the year 2019 (the year I watched it in). Like the 2001: A Space Odyssey there is something very weird about watching a film set in the future when you are living in that future and it is nothing like it was predicted.  Overall it wasn’t really my sort of film to be honest. 

160. The Deer Hunter 

This was such an interesting film but another film about the Vietnam War. Even though the film is 40 plus years old the themes in the film are still very current. I can see why it has received such high praise from critics and fans. 

169. Logan

I haven’t seen all of the X-Men films and I was wondering if it would spoil my enjoyment of this film. Everything is explained so not knowing what has happened in the other films didn’t matter. It was a sad and emotional ending which I wasn’t quite expecting. Having watched it, it hasn’t made me want to rush and see the other films in the series though.

186. Wild Tales

Beautifully bizarre is how I would describe this Argentinian film. It depicts 6 individual stories about people in distress. It was wonderfully macabre and tragic but also funny. I would happily watch this again and again. 

205. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In essence this is Robin Hood set in the Wild West. I normally get confused watching Westerns because I can never work out who are the goodies and who are the baddies. It was fairly obvious in this!

248. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

A very odd film about the relationship of two sisters who found fame on the stage. It starts off innocently enough and then gets weirder and weirder and turns into a Hitchcock-esque type film. Disturbing!

Only 70 more films to go!

Challenge #38 – completed!

13 Apr

Lockdown has gifted me with some time to crack on and try and complete more of my challenges. One of the challenges I never thought I would be able to complete was Challenge #38.

I have never been able to touch my toes. I’ve always used the excuse that my legs must be too long. I had heard that it’s possible for anyone to be able to touch their toes by stretching each day. That was why this challenge was on my list – to see if this theory was true or no just fake news on the internet.

As I have been trying to exercise in some form each day I decided I might as well throw in some stretches and see if I would be able to tick this off the list. I found a 30 day programme of stretches on the internet (working up to 5 minutes of stretching a day) and decided to do this after every run or workout that I’d completed.

Drum roll please…. I did it!

It’s an awful picture but it proves that I did it! I managed to touch my toes after 13 days of doing the stretching programme. I’m still amazed I was able to do it. It seems like it is true that anyone can touch their toes if they stretch every day. In fact, I am sure stretching every day is beneficial even if you don’t want to touch your toes!

I have now completed 19 out of the 40 challenges on my list. Almost half way there!

Great News

7 Apr

I got some great news yesterday and right at this moment in time it’s important to focus on the good!

I found out I have been shortlised for a short story competition I entered last year meaning my story will be published in an anthology later this year.

I had very low expectations when I entered the competition and still can’t really believe it. This is the first short story I have ever entered into a competition which I would say is a very good sign.

While we have been locked indoors, I have been writing more and this news has given me a real boost to carry on going with it. I feel like I’m making progress in the right direction. It’s now a case of getting my head down and write more and, if possible, better.

The longer we stay confined to our houses, the more likely it is that I will write my first novel so maybe something positive will come out of this after all.

I have no idea when the anthology will be published but I will let you know when copies are available in case you want to get your hand on a copy.