Saturday, 25 October 2014

Cadbury World!

Last Saturday my cousin (from now on referred to as C-Bear) and I went to Cadbury World in Birmingham. It was magical in so many ways – we had a blast driving up, which took 2 ½ hours from where we live. C-Bear kindly drove so I actually managed to get loads of work done, too (which paid off as on Monday I taught my ‘best lesson yet’ on the CELTA course).

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with the most wonderful, rich smell of chocolate. I don’t know what I was more excited about, getting free chocolate on our walk around, seeing how the magic happens or going to the shop afterwards. C-Bear had definitely sold the tour to me; she told me that, just before the end, you’re given a pot of melted chocolate with a choice of toppings. C-Bear accurately described it as ‘a pot of joy’, which it so was!

Pot of joy time

The first part of the tour documents the arrival of Cortez and the fall of the Aztecs, how chocolate came to England, and, of course, the conception of Cadbury’s. Did you know, in the time of the Aztecs, 10 cocoa beans could buy you a rabbit? The second part is focused on how the factory works, so you see the staff creating and packaging the different products. I admire them for being so focused with hundreds of people staring at them while they're working!

That's right, Cadbury's was originally a tea shop which also sold cocoa

We didn't have time to explore the 4-D experience, but we did wander round the museum on the town of Bournville. It was heart-warming to read about Mr Cadbury's concern for the people of Birmingham and how he improved welfare. I found it particularly interesting reading about how the staff contributed to the war effort, either by caring for injured soldiers, sending chocolate to the front, or actually fighting in France.

Visiting Cadbury World was probably one of my favourite days out this year. I'd recommend it for all ages because the tour is interactive, fun and informative. There's plenty to see but you can explore at your own pace.

Ticket prices and booking details can be found here. It is recommended that you book in advance to guarantee entry!

Cadbury World

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dressage Competition: 11.10.14

I'm sorry I've been so absent little bloggy... I've been super busy on the work and study front. By the end of November things will be much less busy as I'll have finished my CELTA. 

Last Saturday, Ernest and I went to a dressage competition at the same venue as the 20th September - thankfully, it didn't rain, even though it poured on the Friday night. 

Due to a complete mess up of sending me my times, I had to do Novice 30 first. My mistake was not looking at the tests until Friday, when I realised how many canter moves I had to do: change leg across the diagonal, medium, walk to canter. Not in that order. While our schooling session was good, I should have practiced these moves more, and earlier, than the evening before.

It was frustrating because Ernest and I had a successful warm-up, and he was going beautifully, but in the test he just seemed to lose all energy. I then began to ride like a flappy child, losing my composure as I tried to push him on and keep him in a contact at the same time. Overall, I came out feeling irritated and baffled. 

I had an egg on my face, as I acted, quite frankly, like a bit of a twat. I was really annoyed because I felt the test was rubbish and I rode badly and I didn't understand why Ernest wasn't going anywhere. Then, after watching the video, it really wasn't that bad - although I was right about the flappyflapflap. We got 59.62%, which I was happy with as there was plenty to work on. And, after my terrible attitude, I didn't really deserve higher, although Ernest did. I feel a bit ashamed even now. 

So, I got back on for Prelim 19 - the most popular Prelim of all time, according to every time I've entered it and there's been 5000 other people in the class - with a better attitude after apologising for being an idiot. We had another lovely warm-up, and rode a pleasing test. For this, we got 65.45%.

No rosettes this time, but a healthy reminder to not behave like a spoilt butthead when things don't go to plan. Ernest will be getting clipped before our next dressage outing at the end of November, which will make things more comfortable for him as he gets so hot in his excessively fluffy winter coat.

We're hoping to go showjumping tomorrow with some friends from the yard - it's not a competition, just a chance to practice jumping a course. Ernest has a busier social life than me! Since 20th September, he's done two dressage competitions, a sponsored ride, and, if tomorrow goes ahead, a showjumping event!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

D-Day - after

We did it! We did it! 
2 hours 9 minutes...

... and we ran all of it!

So I know earlier I said I wanted to finish in less than 2 hours 7 minutes, but I actually cannot believe we ran all of it (well, I had a 30-second walk up the steepest hill but apparently that doesn't count). By mile 6 I was having some serious issues with my left ankle, by mile 10 Maxx was in agony with his knee, but we just kept pushing on.

I'm pleased that I felt pretty good from the start to about mile 8, but after that my ankle did start to really hurt. The last 3 miles were gruelling for both of us and we are very sore now - I have the biggest blister on one of my toes. I wanted to post a photo of it, but I also like having people read my blog, so thought better of it. 

The highlight for me (aside from running the whole damn thing!) was running up the longest hill - about 2 miles - without walking. I've never done this before, in training and during the half in 2012. It's a real achievement for me, but because I kept a slow but steady pace it didn't feel horrible, surprisingly! Maxx encouraged me when I was tired and I couldn't have done it without him - I'm so proud of him for pushing through the pain and completing his first half in such a good time. He's been a real source of support for me during training and during the race, and I'm truly grateful. Thanks Hen!

I love this half marathon. There were people lining the streets cheering, clapping, offering sweets and high fives and support for all the runners, and it really created a great atmosphere. Everyone who came out today - to support or to help at the water stations - deserves a medal too. It really makes a difference when you reach mile 9, your body is aching but someone shouts 'Well done 966 and 965, you're doing great!'. Four runners actually went back to help carry someone who couldn't weight-bear on one leg across the finish line, and one of the guys shouted 'Come on, give him a round of applause!', which everyone duly did. Now that's sportsmanship. You can see them behind us in the picture below.

We've now raised £425 for Wimbledon Greyhound Welfare, but if you'd like to sponsor us after hearing about our HUGE SUCCESS please go to:

half marathon
Look at those nostrils, sucking in all the air

D-Day - before

Jimmy, our first hound
It's D-Day and I'm nervous! I had a dream about running last night - but not even the running part, just getting ready to go to the race and picking up my number and going to the toilet.

I had a run on Tuesday, which went well (6 miles in 52 minutes), and I do feel confident I'll finish the race, but I'm starting to have stupid doubts, like: what if I can't do it? what if I'm really slow? what if AAAHHH all of the 'what ifs'. I really just want to get going now!

We've smashed our fundraising target, so thank you to everyone who's sponsored us! We were aiming for £300 but have actually raised £400. It's a definite motivator, knowing how many people are supporting us. I'll also be thinking about all the rescue hounds at Hersham today, imagining them waiting for us with wagging tails at the finish line. And, of course, my hounds past and present.

Ultimately, no matter how hard the race is, nothing beats that euphoric feeling when you cross the finish line. Running long-distance is such an emotional journey - you battle pain and exhaustion, and if you can keep going, it's a real achievement. 

We're hoping for under 2 hours, but anything less than my 2012 time of 2 hours 7 minutes would be good. 

See you on the other side!