Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jumping joyfully into JESC

Apart from working online as a freelancer at a laughable hourly pittance for (mostly) small business-owners for the first two years of living in Geneva, my luck finally changed.




















My CV had languished on a desk at EBU for a week or two but was still fresh enough in their minds to be called in when they found themselves reeling from redundancies and a couple of unplanned 'don't let the door hit you on your way out' firings as well.

A frantic month of making up for the past eleven on a project criminally left idle from a freshly-departed staffer found me doing crazy hours, making up strategies as I went along and somehow pulling it together right at the very end.  It was a 'big' job for a recognisable organisational name that breathed new life into my ratty old resume.  After enjoying every moment and seeing some locally-earned money in my bank account, I went back to life as a humble word wallah and tutor for a few more months.....

.......until I was called in again to "have a chat with Vlad. He's Russian and he might need your help."  Not because he was Russian, but because there was a nearly-dead and much neglected event called The Junior Eurovision Song Contest that he'd been asked to revive. Was I interested in being Head of Press to his Executive Supervisor?  Is chocolate my favouritest food in the entire world and I even dream about it...?  OF COURSE I'd love to help him!
















From July to December we battled bruised egos, passive aggressive angst from the old owners and a lot of 'No' answers to reasonable requests.

In spite of this we had an incredible team of volunteers - Luke, Ervin, Alexandro and Luis, with Jan and Stijn generously offering their help too. Twelve countries participated (up from the seven we started with), and a couple more came along to check out the event and went back home with surprised smiles on their faces.

Being a mother of a (then) fourteen year old stood me in good stead when asked to adjudicate on the Code of Conduct, safety of the kids and the costumes.  "If I don't want Sapphire to do it or wear it, then I won't want any of these kids to either."




















Arriving in the host city of Kyiv*, Ukraine in late November it was freezing cold, dark by 3pm and the Euromaidan takeover of Independence Square was starting.  Our tour bus - available for the children, their carers and the journalists covering JESC - drove past it several times.  Students had lit fires in old petrol drums and were roasting chestnuts.

There was an air of confidence and celebration about it.  Then.  "Ukraine has had sixty seven revolutions in its lifetime," the guide proudly informed us via her microphone. "You are now looking at number sixty eight."  The bright blue and sunny yellow of the Ukrainian flag were hung over scores of apartment balconies and shop fronts, and many of the local crew checked out the happenings at Independent Square at night on their way home.  One even found love there whilst on a romantic stroll with a girl who was helping out a visiting delegation.  

The serious violence had not yet occurred, but a couple of changes had to be made. Ruslana, the revered Ukrainian firebrand singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, was supposed to appear as a special guest.  The one rehearsal that she did attend showed how exhausted she was. Night after night she had been singing, demonstrating, dancing and supporting all the protesters; and decided that the political cause quite naturally outweighed the JESC one.  No-one disputed her decision.

After all, what kid aged between 10-15 would remember who won Eurovision a decade earlier? They were much more excited to meet that year's winner - Emmelie de Forest - who did attend and very graciously and kindly chatted to the kids together and individually for as long as they all wanted.  

The second change involved the then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.  He was going to appear at the concert and maybe hand the winners their trophies.  With the Palace of Arts Ukraina facing huge housing blocks festooned with flags and slogans, we weren't surprised that he was a no-show.  Relieved, yes.

It was ten days of long hours, incredible kids, awe-inspiring parents and teachers, generous local television hosts and friends that I'll remember forever.

Perhaps I'll let the photos do the talking.... 


The Press Centre 'office', or corner of the arts centre that was used for all kinds of USSR big-wig shenanigans back in the day.  Full of underground tunnels and dodgy corridors, with six flights of stairs to run from Vlad's office to mine.  Hence the walkie-talkie I'm speaking into.  The Australian flag was loaned to me by SBS's Alistair Birch who offered kindness, friendship and the best advice ever.


Some of the amazing team. By this stage we were all sleep-deprived, sweaty and had cracked lips from eating crap food on the run.  Operating mostly on joy and adrenalin.  One journo here was so overawed during the tour of backstage that she wasn't aware of the chaos around her and was inadvertently knocked down by a Cossack dancer riding a Segway.  Surrealism and hilarity at its best.  She was uninjured which saved a lot of awkward paperwork.


Any of these people can ask for a blood transfusion, bone marrow or a kidney. That's how close we became.  


The winner for Junior Eurovision 2013, the wonderful Gaia from Malta.  She was a guest at the 'big' Eurovision song contest in Copenhagen last month and it was brilliant to have her call out "KATH!" and share a big hug.


Second place went to sweet Sofia from Ukraine and third to the irrepressible Ilya Volkov from Belarus.  His delegation had their rooms next to mine in the hotel and the boy did. not. sleep. He and his female back up dancers used the luggage carts to race up and down the hallways. His Head of Delegation, Olga, was worried that I was sticking my head out to complain, but I just laughed. "Who WOULDN'T want to do that at age eleven?  Or 45 for that matter?"

Olga asked him, on the last day, what treat he would like to have. "Would you like a scooter or some football gear or a computer game?  It's my shout: you deserve it."
He thought for a moment and said, "A tube of sour cream and onion pringles would be nice."


A selfie taken that was emailed to Sapphire and LC.  The first time I've ever been classified as A1.  It was hard to stop looking behind me: would an enormous shepherd's crook appear from Stage Left, with a booming voice saying "We've found you out. Off you get," and haul me off?


....I did do a bit of work, though, and it was a slight challenge to have the production crew start to pull down the Press Centre - while we were in it - to protest their lack of payment for six months from Yankovich's government.....  Vlad's Russian and natural charm shone through - a hug, some intense discussions over coffee and vodka and a stern letter drafted by me and signed by our Grand Poobah did the trick.


Surreal moments abounded.  Timur (on the left in the photo above) is a huge star in Ukraine and was very confident, funny and polite.  The same goes for Zlata who is also revered for coming third with her song 'Gravity' at last year's Eurovision Song Contest.  Going over the script meant that I was asked to help out with some of the pronunciation of unfamiliar English words.

"So, er, how do you say this - er word - 'hobbit'?"


It was a real thrill to prove the nay-sayers wrong.  The kids were allowed to be kids: why would we want it any other way?


Rustam just HAD to touch the background wall - and why not.


I lost my voice due to cheering during and after each-and-every song and rehearsal.  The talent, the enthusiasm and the genuine happiness that all of the kids had in participating was quite inspiring.


Ewan Spence sometimes had a bit of trouble managing his star interviewer, Terry Vision. No alcohol or illicit substances were permitted at JESC but sometimes too much chocolate and sugar + not enough sleep was too much for a stuffed puppet....






The talent of the adults working hard behind the scenes was humbling.....


.......Not to mention the ability of Russian men to drag out a tired old Aussie lady to drink TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW until the sun came up....!  On the night of the final, my sins caught up with me. I was talking to someone, felt suddenly very queasy and dashed off to have a long loud chat on the white porcelain phone.  Making my way back to the Press Centre, I purchased a bottle of coke (the real stuff, not the diet stuff I'd been used to for the past twenty years), chugged it down and jumped joyously back into the fray again....


Magical things happened.  Here we see a ten year old boy from Azerbaijan spontaneously dancing at the after-party with an eleven year old Armenian girl.

Both countries' legendary emnity has resulted in dropping the alphabetical order method at all international events so that both 'A' nations needn't catch a sniff of the other.  Not at JESC. They danced and everyone clapped along and cheered.  

Sure, there was a lot of careful editing of the thousands of comments that appeared on Facebook the next day, but 99% of them were genuinely moved and very very positive.

The worst thing about JESC was being the last person to leave.  Vlad, the terrific team, the local crew and all of the performers had left by lunchtime, and I sat in the empty breakfast room with stinging eyes.

Until the two darling girls from Georgia - Tamta and Mari - spotted me and gave me one last hug.


Not every kid got to win and some were in tears afterwards but I hugged and promised them all that they would never ever be forgotten. It wasn't just for one night on a single TV show.  We would support them by following them as they grew, did more performances or whatever other news they (with carers' permission) wanted to share.  JESC mothering for ten wonderful days had been an absolute honour and not one that was going to be dropped the second the plane landed in Geneva.  The kids - and everyone working to support them - deserved better than that.  

After they left, I cried a little bit more.

As a footnote, we have indeed adhered to our promise.  Each kid who participated has been in regular touch with us (and via their carers/parents) and have featured on our Facebook site. This page was set up and run by the previous administrators of JESC for five years with 23,000 followers.  Ten months on and the numbers are now edging 75,000.  


* NOT 'Kiev' - that is Russian spelling from the bad old USSR era.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

No wees, please! Running *in* London

With carbo loading, catching up with friends and a sleepless Saturday night in the Royal Borough undertaken, the 6am alarm on Sunday morning felt pretty hard.

Despite the recommendations of many experts, my breakfast was like Rihanna's wardrobe: only half done.  I had in fact remembered to bring along a plastic bag filled with a few handfuls of my familiar 'long run' usual of Swiss supermarket-brand chocolate muesli, but forgot to get any milk.  Instead, I crouched down on the bathroom floor (so that Love Chunks and Sapphire would not be woken up); hastily gulped down three 'protein balls' I'd sampled at the runner's expo the day before and washed the sticky scraps of lingering seeds down with a godawful sample of coconut 'water' flavoured with 'coffee.'  All was expunged with a half bottle of water and a nervous wee.

A shaky couple of selfies were taken - one by Sapph who did get up and insist on a 'full body shot.'  No slim greyhound, me, but my chunky trunks and Achilles bandages were about as ready as they'd ever be.  


A short tube ride to Simon's hotel - his lovely wife (and my friend) Gianna was in good spirits for us; I hid my nerves by goofing around and having ANOTHER wee. In their bathroom.

I'm the sort of person who immediately wants to know where the nearest toilets are: in cafes, on trains, at tourist spots, in friends' houses......  My friend Jill can attest to how many times she found herself waiting as I 'ducked in' for a wee during our travels.  The marathon map had been reviewed at length and it was quite literally a comfort to know that toilets were being provided at regular intervals throughout the route.

 

Simon's sister, Pauline (far left in the picture below), lives in Bermuda and was running in her TENTH marathon, this one as a 'training event' for the ultra triathlon she was doing later in the year. Her daughters Tor and Jessie (both doing their second marathon), were running for the same charity as me: Action Against Pre-Eclampsia.  Less than a year ago, Tor had suffered the condition when pregnant with her baby girl.




A tram ride to Kings Cross station on still-silent streets took us to the train that had been exclusively arranged for the 40,000+ marathoners.  The carriage we were in was lively with chat, jokes and the smell of liniment.  We sipped from water bottles, munched on energy bars and tried not to slide off the carpeted seats in our skin-tight lycra leggings.

Arriving at nine am, an hour before the start, was in no way being anal as the site itself was enormous. Dozens upon dozens of trucks were lined up, all neatly numbered for us to stow away our belongings until we saw them again past the finish line.  My belongings were mostly in my bum bag (hotel key, ipod, headphones, iphone, energy gels and a hanky), and my thoughts were also bum-related: The queue for the portaloos - at our four stations - were each a half a kilometre long.  I needed to stake my spot.  Immediately.

Best decision I ever made. Simon played his boy card and found a tree, but we gals nervously stretched our calves in the line, jiggled our thighs and noted how quickly the time was flying by.  Rolls of toilet paper were passed down the queue to avoid any dripping disappointment when in the portoloo pod itself.

The relief of making it into a surprisingly clean toilet and out just as the overhead PA instructed us all to get ready at the starting line - in the finishing time we estimated - was immense.

An enormous cheer erupted at 10am, but there was no discernible movement forward for us, standing next to the 'Five hour finish' flag.  I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for runners twenty or more years ago knowing that time was ticking even though they had yet to cross the starting line.  All I could do was hope that I'd laced up my own magic individual timer chip to my shoelaces tight enough.

At 10:23am, we shuffled over the starting line.  Simon and Pauline were running alongside me; Pauline leading the way in dodging around the other runners.  There was no clear space to spread out so a lot of ducking and diving was required.

"Go Simon!"  

"Well done, Pauline, you're looking good!"  

Oh, so that's why everyone had their names written on their t-shirts: the crowds that packed every single centimetre of the route were reading them and yelling out encouragement.  Ah well, in my navy and black I'd just have to stay anonymous... "Go for it, blue cap!"  "You can do it, Cappy!"  Bless them: they had made up something to call me, and it was far better than Big Nose or Bubbling Buttocks....

"Bloody poms and their imperial measures," I panted to Pauline.  "Running miles takes FOREVER compared to kilometres!"  Each mile was marked by an arch of red balloons and my squinting eyes were always searching for the next one.  It was with an immense feeling of disappointment to see the beloved balloon display in the distance only to reach it and realise that it was for a charity cheering spot and not because another mile had been covered.

At the six mile mark (around 10km) it was time for me to take my first energy gel.  The plan was to not stop running at all during the event, but of course that was the moment for the zip to bust on my bum bag and my uncoordinatedly sweaty finger tips just could not rip open the top of the gel pack.  So, I stopped, calling out, "See you Simon and Pauline - run like the wind!" before using my teeth to rip the top off, suck down the cola-flavoured ooze, slug down a bit of water and push on again.

Not too much water slugging though.  My biggest fear was having to do a wee (or worse) during the event. "Sip little and sip often," was my mantra, especially when I discovered that the loos on the route now had lines of at least a hundred dejected-looking runners (or, in their case, non-runners) sadly but urgently waiting for their turn.

Love Chunks and Sapphire were part of the charity cheer squad on Tower Bridge at roughly the half-way mark.  However, with the road festooned with abandoned water bottles and surprisingly-deep and frequent pock marks in the bitumen, my efforts to spot them in the crowd were less than the ones to keep remaining upright and uninjured.  They were there somewhere though and I knew it.  Sickly sweet to say, but utterly true.  My heart beat loud and strong for them both on that famous landmark. 

My caution at not trying too hard to spot them in the crowd wasn't unfounded.  A young girl saw her mates in the crowd, whooped a greeting and made her way over to their side of the road to give them a high five when she trod on a water bottle and instantly pitched forward, smacking her face onto the gravel and burning her hands.  My gasp of sympathy was all I could do to help before first-aiders picked her up and carried her, now sobbing, to a chair.

The next ten miles were the cruellest of all.  No cheer squad for me ahead, still completing Mile Thirteen and yet could see the runners on the opposite side of the road returning from Canary Wharf and having the joy of seeing Mile Twenty Three and a glimpse of St Paul's in their (much swifter) sights.  Ah well, there was more plodding to do, each step stickier than the last due to thousands of empty gel packs covering every surface that the water bottles didn't.

After doing all of my training with music, the iPod and earphones stayed in the bum bag during the race.  It seems foolish to write the word 'race' because it wasn't.  It was a Challenge, a Day, an Event, but never a 'race.'  The only victory would be in finishing it.

The calls from the crowd; the music played by fans and bands in pubs, gardens, balconies and roundabouts; the hilarious signs made for friends and everyone ('26.2 miles. Because 26.3 would be stupid'), and the runners around me were all the entertainment and inspiration that I imagined.  And more.  "You are all sexy. You are all people I want to have sex with.  You are sexy runners and you will finish. Sexy sexy sex!" called out one bloke who ended up with a sore hand after receiving more than his share of high fives from laughing marathoners as they passed.

I overtook ten rhinos, one eight foot tall light house, several fairies, a twenty-strong team of ghurkas wearing 25kg packs and boots; a strawberry, the Gherkin building, a karoake singer who carried a cordless microphone and speaker stack as he ran; the armless Black Knight from The Holy Grail and the world record contender doubled over as he carried a Smeg fridge on his back.

I was overtaken by three other rhinos, a bagpipe player, half a dozen bananas and a gorilla.  Sapphire reported later that the poor Gherkin building smacked the top of his head several times on the red final timer screen at the finishing line before figuring out that he'd have to lean to the west and edge in that way.


Thankfully, the imperial measurement sticklers eased off at Twenty One Miles when markers for kilometres also appeared. Thirty Five Kilometres.  This was the longest I had ever run in my life and the calls for "Cappy! Go on Cappy!" and seeing the Millennium wheel on my left and Big Ben up in the distance changed my grimace to a smile.  It was still difficult to believe that I was there, doing it, in my favourite city in the world.  Chubby, daggy, chocolate-addicted old me.

My pace was distinctly slower in the second half than it had been in the first half.  It had been this way in all of my training runs too and was not something that was going to upset me or make me stop. My heart rate felt steady - no uncomfortable puffing, but my legs....!  Numb feet, shins with a pulse of their own and every bone below my waist seemingly on fire. 

Big Ben looked magnificent up close and to run up to him, along the back of the houses of Parliament on a road specially closed for me (okay, and 40,000+ others) was an incredible feeling.  Exhaustion and exhilaration blended into an emotion that is not possible to describe and may not be one that I'll ever experience again.  The faces of LC and Sapphire swirled in front of my burning eyes before my legs dragged me on to Birdcage walk, turning the corner and seeing Buckingham Palace looming up.  

And kept looming....  Was I on a treadmill?  Had the movie stopped running and I was at a standstill? Had I fainted.....?   It was here that they thankfully started counting down in two hundred metre stages....  1,000......  800 ......  600 ....... 400..... 200.....


       
Ducking and diving even as I passed over the line, I burst into tears.  Dry ones, as my face was encrusted in salt powder, but sobs engulfed me for a few moments as a volunteer deftly removed my timer chip and another one handed me a Finisher medal. 

It was a warm day, and this "Cappy" was finally grateful for having man-hands large enough to grip water and glucozade bottles the entire way; be able to smile at the kind comments from the crowds and - even more importantly - not faint like four other people did around her as they shuffled through St James' Yard to meet up with their loved ones. 


  

Four hours and fifty two minutes from start to finish.  Elite runners would have enjoyed their victory, had a long hot shower, completed a lengthy press conference, inhaled a banquet and had an hour long massage in that time but it was 'under five,' and good enough for me.

It was also the longest I'd ever gone - in waking hours - without a wee!   I cried again when LC and Sapphire were spotted.  Maybe it was a pointless and vain challenge, but they had been with me for every sweaty, sticky and slogging step of the way.
















I am so thankful to them both.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Running to London....




















It's amazing what an extra glass of wine will do to your ability to think sensibly at a dinner party.

We were at Simon and Gianna's place and had enjoyed lots of laughs, fantastic food, hilarious conversation and a few bottles of wine.  With our dogs snoozing under our feet and placing a deliciously-stinking cheese platter on the table, Simon said, "I've just got confirmation that I'm in for the London Marathon next year."

We - of course - drank to his health and willingness to run his FIFTH marathon in a decade. We drank again to his bravery and a third time to agreeing to meet him at the finish line in front of Liz and Phil's house at the end of the race. Following those three quick glassfuls, my brain had lost the ability to censor my mouth and I heard myself saying, "I'd like to run it too."

So, on the 5th of October last year, I decided that the best way to make a vague idea firm up into a public commitment was to post it on Facebook:


This could rank up there with one of the dumbest things I've ever done (and it's a long list) but I've signed up to try to complete the London Marathon in April 2014. I'm aligned to a charity so that it not only benefits them but adds a big element of responsibility and risking public shame if I don't do my best - http://tinyurl.com/pcyttyn

Most of you know will know that I'm a plodding old treadmill runner who not only prefers the privacy of staying at home but also the vague attempts at keeping some of the cocoa-butter away from my thighs.  Sometimes, however, yearnings are harder to shove aside than a Lindor box, and this particular yearning to do a marathon was starting to become louder and more urgent. Youth had slid away long ago; family issues in Australia had been hurtful and disappointing; and working (mostly) from home meant that there was no excuse about not having the time to train.





















My little brother David - a marathon survivor and triathlon regular - gave me his timetable of runs, as did my best buddy Jill.  I also searched online to find other 'beginner marathon' lists, averaged them out and developed my own.  Maths, people. Not my favourite subject but useful when it comes to spreadsheets, diary planning and run scheduling.

Each run - the date and distance - was recorded in my little paper diary.  In green pen, so that it stood out among the blue and black appointments.  The aim was to have four entries in per week with the end total slowly increasing.  Every Sunday as I'd turn the page over, I'd (mostly) smile at the achievement.  




















Pointless? Possibly.  Vain? Definitely.  Lonely? Too bloody right!

As the treadmill moved from its locked-state of 6km slowly upwards, maths became even more important.  10.5 kilometres is one quarter of a marathon..... Fifteen kilometres is 5/14th of a marathon... How the hell would I be able to generate the stamina and willpower to run the remaining 9/14ths?  

Trust was key. My trust was placed entirely in the gathered wisdom of the all-holy running timetable, now reverently covered in a plastic slip to protect it from sweat stains.  Some easy runs, some scary long ones; some slightly shorter runs: all helped take the decision-making and potential for procrastination out of my hands. If the timetable had a particular number under a particular date, then that was all there was to it.
Music was vital.  Out on the roads, I'd never have anything clamped to my ears as it would be far too dangerous to not be able to hear oncoming traffic or the world around me.  But when I was staring at my bedroom wall from anywhere between 36 minutes and three-and-a-half hours, it was the songs that prevented my mind from convincing my body to stop and to instead stagger (and fart) along to the beat.

At any given time, there were three layers of blisters on various parts of my feet, but my toenails stayed on. This was NOT the case ten years earlier when I lost two of them during my one and only half-marathon attempt.  That was the same race that had me throwing up at the 15 kilometre mark and swearing never, ever to attempt anything further than a fun run every again......

By the time that half-marathon and twenty-something distances were reached before Christmas, the treadmill died.  It was still under a service agreement and was surprisingly (it's Switzerland, remember) affordable to get a new running belt and motor.  The mechanic was impressed: "It's not often we get a treadmill that's worn out before its warranty has ended."  My vanity level soared sky high until I realised that my stomach rolls were still very evident and still prone to unravelling each time I bent over to untie my shoes....

Despite my distaste and avoidance, it was time to do some 'street' runs.  These were more nerve-wracking than increasing the distances as I worried about looking and feeling vulnerable, uneven footpaths, crossing busy roads, dodging walkers, prams, snogging picnickers and the biggest dread of all - running uphill.

Love Chunks had a route that involved a nice run downhill towards the lake, then along the foreshore, through the park and up towards the Botanic Gardens.  

The horrific hill climb commenced as the track wound past the reindeer enclosure, making its presence more painfully felt when passing by the flamingos and spotting the rebel peacock strutting his stuff by the woodpile.

The hell increased many more times as I staggered my way past the World Meteorological Office to the UN headquarters, wheezing so loudly that tourists taking photos of the flags were given plenty of time to step aside and let the dying lady through.  

It was only eight kilometres back to home, but the height increased as it evilly turned left past the Korean embassy, along the side of the Hotel Intercontinental and a final nasty hill through Petit Saconnex before my stinging, sweat-filled eyes spotted our building in the distance.

We spent Christmas in New York and when booking I made sure that it had a treadmill that I could use....  The Caribbean cruise we went on after New Year's had an enormous gym and using a treadmill on lolling seas added an extra dimension of difficulty.


Love Chunks accompanied me on my first long street run.  He made an absolute mockery of my months of training when he not only ran his usual 8km, but then accompanied me on his bike for the second 8km and then ran the third 8km again on foot.  I was incredibly envious and more than a little insulted.  He was - and is - naturally fit and does ride his bike to work, jogs as often as he can and works out at the gym, but surely he should not have been able to bounce through a 24km session and still be able to cheerily chat to me with barely a wheeze throughout it all?  Cocky little git!

The week after, he was keen to do it again.  This time, he wasn't so lucky, pulling up with a very sore ankle after the second round.  I gulped my water and Gatorade and left for the third round.

"You could have waited for me," he sulked. "I was out there HELPING you."

It was my turn to flare up. "Nope, no way. I have worked my not-inconsiderable arse off for ages on my OWN doing this, and the training schedule is MY schedule. You either keep up or you don't."  I'd never be as fit or as thin or as fast as he was, but the plodding regularity meant that my joints and muscles were used to the distances and could handle it.  It was on that day - although not fun for either of us due to having that argument - that I knew I'd be able to do this.

My beloved running timetable worked and I managed four rounds of his 8km route on three separate occasions.  'Andrew' the peacock was less scared each time I passed by his hangout by the woodpile, progressing to standing in my way during the last lap.

Running 'in the thirties' is only recommended two or three times in marathon training, and even then, no more than 32km.  "Any longer than that and you're just trashing your body," Jill told me. 'Trashing' is a polite way of describing the bone-jarring, shattered feeling of knawing, clawing exhaustion that pounded in every cell of my body after those efforts. The entire day was given to running - and then recovering - from 'the thirties' that resulted in the sweat drying on my face and turning into finely powdered salt to moaning in the bath and wondering just how I was going to lift myself out of it.



Carbo loading used to be a week-long phenomenon back in the 1980s, but these days it is only recommended as a mere three day fest.  Despite this, it was particularly enjoyable to inhale spag bol for dinner on Thursday, leftovers for Friday lunch and bread/fondue entree followed by steak and chips for dinner.  

Apart from the off-putting sounds of my greedy eating, the week leading up to the marathon was a quiet one - only two x 3km runs.  On the other hand, the sweat levels were as high as any of the longer, harder runs.


My heart rate had reached 172-180 BPM and didn't go much lower in the week leading up to my flight to London when I wasn't running.  This was making me more nervous than my wedding day.....

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Bra-less and barfing

I hope that he doesn't smell the vomit on my breath as I open the door.  One thing about Swiss tradesmen: when they say they'll be arriving at 8am, they arrive at 8am.

"Je suis desolee," I apologise, gesturing at my pyjamas and sticky hair.



















"Balcon?"  he points and I walk him through the kitchen to the outdoor area, often called 'the pool' due to its tendency to fill with water when it rains.  Two years of the neighbours below complaining and our landlord has finally decided to get our balcony repaired.   Asking them to make an appointment for another day is too risky: relations with our under-floor friends would not withstand waiting until Qatar hosts the World Cup.

Bzzzzt goes the door again, followed by Milly's barking.  Two more guys for the balcony; two less that speak English.  Our apartment is small enough for them to figure out where their workspace for today is, and I resume my position at the dining table: head propped up in one hand while reaching down to ruffle my puzzled dog's ears with the other.



















A helluva time for Mr Migraine to come visiting.  Just when it seemed that twelve months' of acupuncture sessions had done the trick he decides to make up for lost time by staying for three days in a row.  Lying down in my room while strange men whose language I don't speak come in and out of my apartment doesn't seem like a particularly smart idea despite the painful messages my skull, bowel and gut are sending me.

Might as well put the laptop on and blog.  Either that or vomit again.

Bzzzzzzt!  "No Milly, it's OK."  A couple more fellas, this time for the heating cupboard removal.  This is an expected bonus; another two year-old request that has been granted.  An original installation from 1970, we only once turned it on out of curiosity before it left the apartment choking in dust bunnies and what sounded like The Mother Ship about to land in our living room.

"Er, sorry, monsieur?"  Thank Choc for Google translate: one wants to disconnect the electrics and the other needs a smoke outside before needing to go back downstairs to fetch a trolley...


The radio is now on, French Fogey FM featuring mid-nineties 'classics' and the skull-thumping sounds of tiles and cement being split apart.  The phone is ringing, but it'll just have to be ignored as there's a press need to run into the bathroom and -------

Bzzzzzzt!  I prop open the door, looking even paler but now with minty-fresh breath.

Who'd like a coffee?  They all would, of course.  The Burp Burp Burp sound of the DeLonghi machine just adds another percussive layer to the chisels, chat and chart-toppers.  Edging my way around the six outdoor chairs, wooden table, pot plants and watering cans haphazardly stacked in the kitchen, I feel a sense of gratitude that all of them only wanted espresso and there's no need for any physical feats in reaching for the milk frothing nozzle.




Bzzzzzzt!  "You're a good dog, Milly.  You can trot over and sniff them as they're sticking down floor protector tape, taking out boxes of smashed tiles and bringing up new ones but make sure that they know that you're there and that they don't step on your tail.  But oh geez, the smell of that adhesive is not doing nice things to my system-----

Sod the toothpaste.  They've seen what I look like, who cares about my breath?

Bzzzzzzt!  "The door's open - if you have tiles or cement or a trolley or a spirit level or forms to sign or a beverage request, just come on in already!"  The gut is behaving itself, but Mr Migraine has painted a broad-brush of pain across my eyes, cheekbones and back of my head.  Of course, why not get the upstairs guy to start drilling as well?

Sitting at the dining table, I finally start to see the funny side.  London, Copenhagen,Vienna one day; bra-less and barfing the next.

Milly's already lost interest in the Tradie Traffic occurring inside her home and is instead making the most of my left arm. Why not lie back and enjoy a belly scratch?








Why not indeed. There's a lot to learn from a ten year old dog who willingly lets herself get bitten by bumble bees in order for a good, long and satisfying sniff in the garden bed...


There is so much that I am grateful for.