The Jar of Nice Things

Inspired by something I saw on facebook or elsewhere online, last year I put a glass jar on the mantelpiece, and every time something nice happened, I wrote it on a bit of paper and put the paper in the jar. Now it’s time to look back over the pieces of paper and see what I thought was worth writing down. Pulling them out of the jar randomly –

  • 30/07/16 – Ghostbusters!
  • 29/09/16 – the halal butcher gave me a massive bag of chicken offcuts for the cat and didn’t charge me
  • 15/01/16 – client gave me a massive panettone
  • 07/05/16 – weekend in York for my dad’s 70th birthday party
  • 24/09/16 – bought a new piece of furniture from Ikea, assembled it myself, and then covered the top of it in plants
  • 11/04/16 – swimming coach didn’t make a single correction to my butterfly technique (other than a reminder to point my toes) and when I asked why he wasn’t saying anything, he said he didn’t need to because I was doing it right
  • 13/03/16 – lovely cuddle with the cat before getting out of bed (several more of these)
  • 29/08/16- took the cat for a walk in the Queen’s Park and he scampered around in the grass while I read my book
  • 01/12/16 – a client who has been quite difficult at times apologised for his behaviour and gave me a home-made curry
  • 14/03/16 – managed 2 x 15m of full stroke butterfly
  • 22/09/16 – allowed to bring the cat home after an overnight stay at the vet
  • 01/09/16 – saw an exhibition of Royal fashion through the decades with my mum at Holyrood palace
  • 30/08/16 – went through to Dunbar and spent time with my mum, her sister and brother in law, and his parents who are well into their 90s
  • 08/04/16 – student finished placement and left a very thoughtful card and a positive evaluation


That’s a nice variety!

Trying to Get Back Into a Rhythm

For me, the hardest thing about depression hasn’t been low mood, it’s been my complete lack of motivation. I go to work, I come home, and I spend every evening and weekend on the sofa eating carbs. From swimming 3-5 times a week and pilates at least once a fortnight for the past couple of years, this year from January to April I swam twice other than class. I’ve put back on all the weight I lost in the last 2 years, which doesn’t help my dodgy hip, and just urgh. Swimming is very important to me; it’s cardiovascular and strengthening, it supports weight loss, it helps me sleep, it’s mentally relaxing and can be almost meditative for me, it relieves and prevents pain in my hip, it’s something I can do comfortably and confidently, or I can challenge myself to go faster, use better technique, improve my weaker strokes, and it’s something I enjoy. No matter how pissed off I am when I get into the water, no matter how annoying other people in the pool can be, the act of cleaving through the water makes me feel better. So not being able to motivate myself to go has been difficult for me, in lots of ways. I took annual leave the week beginning 13th April, and the following Monday & Tuesday. I had hoped to use the time to get back into an exercise groove and I wanted to swim every day and do one or two classes as well. In the end, I only managed to swim three times. To be honest, I’m disappointed I didn’t manage more than that, but I’m trying to look at it as a good start rather than a fail. Stroke development started again on Friday after the Easter break and I headed up to it, but there was a power cut at the pool and it was cancelled. Owing to annual leave I was only at work Wednesday-Friday last week and I’d aimed to swim at least once on Saturday or Sunday, but I just couldn’t do it. I sat on the sofa with a loaf of sourdough and a jar of peanut butter, feeling that I was letting myself down. I think work is taking it out of me more than I realise, and I think that because I have started to feel better, I’m assuming I’m better than I am and I’m expecting too much of myself. The good news is, a meeting finished early today and I took advantage of that and was in the pool by 1630 and did a kilometre. I also managed what might be my fastest ever 50 metre length, 67 seconds, and my average speed per length was pretty good (for me). Months of eating carbs obviously agrees with me. I might not make it to the pool again this week before Friday, I might not make it there next weekend. But I might. And if I don’t, that’s fine, and if I do, that’s great.


At my stroke development class, we do butterfly maybe once or twice a term, and only for a small part of the lesson. Most of us, me included, have never learned it, and all of us struggle with it. I’m confident with my front crawl now, although there is still lots of room for improvement, and we’ve started doing a bit more back stroke at class and I feel like that’s starting to improve. I’m the only one at class who really likes back crawl; I love how long and stretched out I feel when I’m doing it. But, my butterfly remains nothing like a butterfly and more like a human-sized caterpillar thrashing itself into a watery grave.

I want to be able to swim a reasonable butterfly. Not for any lofty athletic achievement kind of reasons, but because it’s difficult and when it’s done well it impresses people, and I want to be one of those people showing off doing butterfly. I realised pretty quickly that the time we spend doing butterfly in class isn’t enough for me to learn it, so I asked about booking some one-to-one lessons with the Edinburgh Leisure swimming coaches. They don’t have much availability just now, but we managed to get an hour lesson today.

I was expecting it to be tough but I wasn’t expecting to have to sit on a cubicle bench for ten minutes afterwards before I could find the energy to get dried and dressed!

After a front crawl warm-up, I started by practising the dolphin kick, which I find quite difficult because I’m not very wiggly. After lots of kick, I added in arms, one at a time – one way with one arm, back with the other arm. I got a lot further even with just one arm than with just the kick – but butterfly kick is more about stabilisation than propulsion. Then we tried some catch-up arms with kick. Catch-up is a drill we do when we’re practising front crawl – you do one arm, leave it in front of you, then do the other arm, leave it there, do the first arm, and repeat, so that you’re always bringing your arms together in front. Couldn’t do it with butterfly arms at all; I just kept rolling onto my side and couldn’t keep myself stable at all.

So then we tried one arm at all, but trying to keep to the right rhythm. Kick the arm in, kick the arm out, kick the arm in, kick the arm out.That was much easier for me than catch-up so then we moved onto full stroke. Ahahahahaha.

It’s safe to say I won’t be butterflying to Olympics glory any time soon. But, coach did point out that I was too deep under the water and that was making it harder to get my arms out. Being a bit more level in the water made it easier. Once I was getting the hang of that a bit more, we did some work on how to move my arms under the water rather than just flailing them around, and then tried to add in breathing. I haven’t yet got to the point where I can breathe and keep going without losing the rhythm/my stroke/my last tiny grasp of what was going on, so I was going as far as I could without a breath, which obviously made me tire much more quickly.

Coach said I’d improved in the session, but I’m not too impressed by that. When you can’t do something at all, it’s really easy to improve in your first session. The difficult bit is going to be consolidating what we did today, and then improving on that. I think one-to-one coaching time will be in short supply over the next few months but if they can make time available, I’d love to do more. (Coach says she’ll work a bit more butterfly into class but the rest of the class will kill me if she does!)  But, I did come out of the session feeling like butterfly isn’t completely impossible for me to learn. It will be difficult, and it will take a long time, and I will probably suffer in pain and hurt my shoulders and maybe my back, but I think it is something I can learn to do. And I want to.

Another fast swim (well, for me)

I did 1200m tonight in 30m19s, with the first km completed in 25m08s. My average time for 50m was 1m15s, and I think for the first time ever, none of my lengths, not even my last length (always backstroke, always much slower) took over 1m30s. In fact, only 2 of the lengths took over 1m20s. I was taking longer rests between lengths; when I just go at a slow steady pace I try not to stop until I’ve done 500m, but still, I’m getting faster overall.


Just did my biggest ever swim

I did 3050m today (short lengths). Took me 1hr 23min 17s. My average time per length was about 1m20s. I’m pretty pleased I managed to keep a reasonable average over the biggest distance I’ve ever done. Fastest length 1m 7s (I was deliberately trying to go fast, not just doing my steady swim) and slowest was 1m 36s, which was my last length when I was deliberately slowing down. The first time I did a km, and the first time I did 2km I was really tired and wobbly-legged afterwards, but I was fine today and could have kept going a bit longer.

Two annoying men in the pool whose casual disregard for common sense put several people’s safety at risk, but we will not dwell on the negative emotions thinking about them arouses.

I think someone is putting performance-enhancing drugs in my soup

Following on from Wednesday’s post, I swam 900m tonight. I would have done a km but the lane was full of annoying people and I lost patience and got out. But, I did my first 500m in 13 mins something – well under my usual 15 minutes, and my total 900m in 24 mins 49s. I would have been at least ten seconds faster if there hadn’t been slower people in front of me on several lengths refusing to let me pass at the end. My average time was 1 min 22s per length, and several lengths were under 1 min 20s. My fastest was 1 min 16s.

I genuinely don’t know what’s changed to make me so much faster this week, but I like it! 😀

It’s a swim of two halves, Brian

Went for a swim this afternoon and it was a swim of two extremes.

The first extreme was irritation. That’s not much of an extreme really, compared to, say, murderous rage, but you know what I mean. It’s a very British extreme, irritation. And it’s hard to tut while swimming.

I was in the water for about 50 minutes today and during that time 5 different men swam and went in the slow lane. I had checked the medium lane when I got in and the people swimming there were much much faster than me so I didn’t shift over, which I sometimes do if the slow lane is busy.

All of the men were noticeably slower than me. I could give all of them a 15 metre head start and still caught them at the end of the length (25 metres today; the boom was over). One man and I collided when I moved out to overtake him towards the end of the lane to avoid being stuck behind him forever, and then he changed direction and we made contact. We both apologised, smiled, laughed, he let me go ahead and from then on we only ended up at the end at the same time every five or six lengths and he let me go ahead each time and it was fine. We had assessed each other’s relative speeds and adjusted our behaviour to compensate.

The other four men, however, would not let me pass at the end even though I was obviously faster. One of them would occasionally stop swimming and stand up in the middle of the lane, without checking there was anybody behind him. Inevitably, there was. Some people are just so unaware of what’s going on around them, it amazes me they haven’t all been hit by cars. I was absolutely astounded when the slowest of all suddenly decided to head off to the medium lane. I don’t know what happened to him – he didn’t come back, anyway.

But the other half of the swim, oh, the other half was perfection. I had made a conscious decision not to go fast today. My shoulder was sore yesterday and I just wanted to swim slowly, stay relaxed and not push myself. I know some of the people who stop by this blog occasionally are swimmers and they’ll know what I’m talking about. For a good few lengths, when I’d got the slow people behind me and nobody in front, I was able to get into that blissful state of just nothing but me and the water, me in the water. My technique was ok, I was moving smoothly, my breathing was fine, I felt powerful, strong, felt like I was good at what I was doing. You know when you watch someone doing something they’re really really good at – watching Torvill & Dean skate, or George Best cut a swathe through half a dozen defenders, or Cav going for the sprint on the Champs Elysee, or George Michael sing – and they make it look so easy and skilful. That’s how I felt today. My body was doing what I wanted it to do, it felt like it was doing it right and I felt like I could go on forever.

Then some twat in brown shorts stood up right in front of me and I nearly crashed.

Big swim today

I swam 2250m today which is the biggest distance I have swum so far. It took me 1 hr 6 mins. It wasn’t particularly fast but my average speed was about the same as it usually is. I was slightly faster than I usually am over the first km and then slowed down, but not drastically, which I think indicates my stamina and endurance are improving. I promoted myself to the medium lane after 1km because the slow lane was very packed with very very very slow people and the medium lane only had one other person in it who was swimming at about the same speed as me.

I was working hard on my rotation today, for the first km at least, and I think that’s what made me faster. It was 25 metre lengths today as the boom was across, and my fastest 50 metres was 1 min 20 sec, which is a couple of seconds faster than my previous fastest. My slowest was about 1 min 44 sec which is about the same as my usual slowest which is always my last length: my last length is always back crawl and my back crawl is very slow.

What I need to think about is how I should be stretching after a swim. I usually don’t and I’m conscious that my arms and back tighten up. I need to do some googling, I think.