Wednesday, April 26, 2006

He's OK

*heaves huge sigh of relief*

I knew that statistically he probably was, but of course that doesn't stop you from imagining the worst, does it? After a frantic and tearful 6 hours last night I got a text from him:

"Hi pumpkin. Am fine. Not in Dahab. Diving is great, saw turtles shagging today. Got it on film for all to see, whoo-hoo turtle porn!"

I'm giving him points for making me laugh. After it came in I sat on my floor and cried for 30 minutes from sheer relief. Let me tell you, it sure as SHIT didn't help that the BBC was writing stuff about body parts and blood flying everywhere. That is just not responsible journalism.

Thanks for all your wonderful messages of advice and support; i really appreciate it. Hugs to all and sundry.

I'm back stateside now for a couple weeks. My brother is getting married this weekend. I don't have a date (Hairy being where he is, somewhere in the gulf of Aqaba under 30m of water), so I'll just prance around and flirt with all my brother's single pals and play the part of the groom's hot little sister. Does it sound crass to write that after the last post about missing Hairy? I hope not. I told him my plan and he approved whole-heartedly, so there's not deceit or anything.

Anyways, after the wedding there's a big conference on medieval studies here in Michigan which I'm attending with my supervisor, the head of my department, and one of my colleagues (doesn't that sound impressive? "colleague." love it). So Bristol will be well-represented.

Oh, and I've just learned that I'll get to do some teaching next year. Whoo-hoo!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Out of my mind

Today at 1700 local time in Dahab, Egypt, there was a series of terrorist bombings which killed 22 people and wounded 150, give or take. Dahab is a low-key resort town on the gulf of Aqaba popular with western tourists and divers. The bombs went off in a crowded, touristy part of town near the seaside. Most of those killed were foreigners.

Right now the Hairy Man is somehwere in Egypt on a diving holiday. On the gulf of Aqaba. In a low-key resort town. By the sea side. I don't know if he is staying in Dahab or one of the other dozens of such towns, but I can't reach his mobile and I'm going out of my mind with worry.

How can I not sit here and imagine that he was sitting in a bar having an early beer when a bomb went off next to him and blew him into 73 pieces?! Especially when witnesses are describing body parts flying everywhere and pools of blood in the streets. How can I not sit here and imagine the worst?!

I tried ringing his mobile. I got some pre-recorded message in Arabic. I sent him a text. I don't know if he received it. I havn't heard back. I am sick with worry. I won't be able to sleep until I know he's alive and safe.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

This just in:

Text message: "Have touched down, now in bar drinkin beer, up at 6.45am for diving tomorrow, wooo! food soon, burp!"

It seems the man is alive and well and consuming alcohol. All is right with the world.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

One word:

Hamster porn.

(Ok, maybe that's two words, but it's still hilarious.

...and don't ask me how I found this website.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

He just rang to say "goodbye." God damnit, i know it's temporary, but still...

3 weeks without hot, Hairy sex!!!

How will I survive?

Too much

I have too much on my mind. Too much to write about, too many questions. Questions I can't write, questions I can't answer. I don't like to censor myself, but I wrote, and it looks stoopid, even in my own eyes. I need to chill out. I need to calm down. I need to not be thinking about him every fucking minute of the day. Censory overload? or censory deprivation? I can't even tell. I need to finish writing this paper.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Efiing Genius

The thing is, I have Asperger's syndrome. Basically this means I can't distinguish faces from one another or interpret facial expressions. Given that it's estimated that humans convey up to 80% of their intended meaning through facial expressions and other non-verbal means, this leaves me (and the thousands others with Asperger's) pretty much out in the cold. I miss a fuck lot of what's going on around me, and it's really difficult to interact with people, especially people I've just met. I won't go into the sob stories about how the kids at school would me teasing me mercilessly and i had no clue that i was being mocked, thereby fueling the frenzy. Nor will i ply you with mournful tales of the agonizing social isoloation and years upon years upon years of being FUCKING LONELY. No, i won't do that. I'm only bringing it up now because some GENIUS *snort* at MIT has invented THIS.

Are you fucking kidding me? As if it wasn't bad enough, now you've invented a computer to tell me when i'm boring or irritating people? This is supposed to HELP?!? Like I don't have enough self-esteem issues already. There are pitiful few people on the planet willing to engage in social discourse with me as it is. Now i can have a machine to show me how unpleasant i am even to this small number of people. Thank you. Thank you very much. That's just the salvation I was looking for. Why don't you numnuts go hook up with the neuroscience geeks across the street and do something about jump-starting the dead bit of my brain that is the source of my problems? That would be useful.

*stomps off muttering under breath*

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

cheese on a stick

England truly is the land of cheese. And i don't mean in the chuncky, rancid, mouldy milk sense (though it's that, too). No, i mean in the goofy 2 grown adults on a date that would better suit a couple 12-year-olds sense.

You are NOT going to belive where he took me this weekend.

(After a wind-up like that i'd better deliver the goods, eh?)

Started out normal enough. He texted "Iz going shopping. U wanna be a mallrat 4 da afternoon." (see? my man is down with the lingo.) I knew he needed stuff for his trip (he's leaving for Egypt this saturday), and I also know that he HATES shopping, so i figured he figured my company would make a miserable chore slightly more bearable.

We went out to worship at the Temple of Consumerism that is the mall at Cribbs Causeway and throw our money in the collection plates (better known at cash registers) being attended by those high priests of Consumerism, Sales Assistants. Welcome to Hell, children. Menswear is on the ground floor.

It took about 90 minutes of roving and price-checking, but he finally got the Speedo he wanted. (Smallest one he could find! hehehe.) Upon leaving the mall and sitting the traffic queues to get out of the parking lot he said "Fancy an ice cream?"

"Sure," said I.

Guess where he took me for ice cream? Go on, guess. You'll never guess. OK, I'll tell you...

...the Grand Pier at Weston-Super-Mare! HA!

We drove through the countryside on the back roads as is our habit, then zipped up and down the windy avenues of the sea-side towns, admiring the gardens and the architecture, pointing out places we would like (but will NEVER be able to afford) to live some day. Then he parked the car and we walked along the beach to the Grand Pier.

I have never been to an English seaside resort town, and so had never experienced anything like this. It was tack on a scale I have rarely witenessed in America (and that's saying something). Roulette next to the bouncy castle, slot machines by the bumper cars! Something for the whole family, all illuminated with seizure-inducing neon lights guaranteed to make even Kathy Ireland look like the Cryptkeeper and contained within dilapidated, paint-flaking victorian architecture. Charming.

But we wandered down the pier, holding hands, trying to keep our hair out of each other's faces (the wind had another idea). We stood at the end of the pier, keeping close for warmth and using each other as a wind shield, him with his raspberry ripple and me with my rum raisin. we didn't speak.

3 hours after the suggestion of ice cream we were home.

This, apparently, is his idea of "going for an ice cream." All together now: "Awwww!"

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Longer post

Finally got around to finishing the training camp entry. Would have done it sooner but I wasn't around much on the weekend, and when i was was around i was too tired and couldn't be bothered, owing to a lack of sleep. *cough*

Well, not as long as HC's latest (brilliant) creation, but it's gonna be a long one nonetheless. It's training camp. It's a week's worth of diary entries. Some of it might be vaguely interesting. A lot of it is going to be rowing shit. Deal. Or not - your choice.

Wed, april 5

2 outings in a.m. did a couble with C from mortlake. both outings rubbish. she throws her weight around in the boat like a sack of flour. drove me bonkers. she understands slide control like my ex-bf understands emotions. got back for lunch, which was fab. the hotel has great food. and it's right on the adriatic. proper beach-front palace! rooming with J and A. room has an ocean view. holy fucking shit. is this training camp? from the dirt-floor shed that is the Bristol boat house to this, well, lets just say i feel a bit like Pretty Woman. After lunch went for walk to buy Hairy man a postcard. EVERYTHING is closed. Fucking siestas. instead walked on beach listening to waves and ipod. noticed huge piles of deep purple shells along water line; thought of phoenicians and famous purple dye made from shells. must be these shells. beautifu! if i don't look to the left at the miles of tacky hotels or to the right at the off-shore oil rigs, but only down at sand and shells, i can imagine that this beach looked exactly like this 3000 years ago. i imagine small children running about with baskets collecting the shells to be made into dye and jewelry and all sorts of things. what history! stormy sky was good backdrop for view of oil rigs, which sprout from the horizon as incongruously as mushrooms in a sand dune. got caught in a cloud burst, which did not dampen my mood, and then chased by scary dog, which did. spent most of walk thinking about hairy man, where we are are, where it's going, what do i feel, etc. reached zero conclusions, just know i miss him. went back to lake for 3rd outing of day. did double with J. much better. got on rather nicely. focused on posture, clean finishes.

thurs, april 6
feeling much more comfortable about my standing in the club today. 3 more outings in the double. first one w/ C again. lovely girl, but just can't row! we raced the mortlake women in a 1750m piece and came in dead last against a bunch of lightweight singles. a heavyweight double getting passed by lightweight singles. fucking embarassing. the coaches saw how badly it was going and swapped her out for J. J and i repeated the piece and easily had the fastest time of the day, as it bloody well should be. After a (too) brief rest, i went out with A for a UT2 recovery paddle. both A and J commented on how much i had improved since the banyoles training camp. J said she wouldn't mind doing the double w/ me at Henley. Feeling much relieved.

fri, april 7
fucking cold this morning. frost on the ground. WTF? how is it that the temperature in italy in mid-april is the same as the temp in england in mid februrary? that is just not right. J, A and i took a quad (brand new empacher) out with a mortlake girl, H. She's not v. experienced in a scull, but she's tall, strong, and super-keen. We liked her a lot and got on very well. The outing was productive. I'd never been in an empacher before. I could never understand what all the fuss was about. After 3 strokes in that boat, i understood. It's like if you've been driving Micras and Fiestas all your life, and you just can't fathom why people spend all that money on mercedes and bmws, when your little micra gets you from a to b just as well. and then you test drive a beemer, and suddenly you understand farfegnugen. that's how the empacher was. it was farfegscullin. i want one. i want one right now. the thought of the brand new stelph quad sitting back in bristol no longer makes me quiver with joy. balls.

speaking of things i want, there was a very friendly (as if there's any other kind) newfoundland retriever snuffling around. how cool that the water sports center keeps a water rescure dog around! as it should be! i made friends with him. my team mates couldn't undertand how the sight of a jack russel terrier off its lead can freeze me wth terror, but a newfie large enough to be easily mistaken for a bear makes me all ooey-gooey inside. i dunno. i just like newfies.

J, A and i couldn't be bothered to eat dinner at the hotel (4 courses and it takes 2 hours, besides which we just couldn't face another plate of pasta), so we went out for pizza. it's italy, after all. we also stopped in a baker to buy some sweets, and the woman recognized me from the day before (i know i know, i have a sweet tooth, so sue me) and i indicated that i had brought my friends, and she was so delighted (it was the off season and business was obviously slow) that she gave us free donuts. cool. (stop looking at me like that; we also went to a grocer's and bought fruit.) in the evening H came by our room and hung out with us for a while and gossiped. we're going to try to steal her for a composite quad at henley.

sat, april 8

beautiful weather today. cold in the morning again but clear and sunny and (most important) calm. the water was like glass. oh yeah, baby, let me at it!!! J and i did a 22km UT2 in the double. my body posture is much improved, and i'm beginning to change the muscle memory so i don't have to consciously think about it every stroke. Seeing the video hamish took of me the previous day really helpe. we went through it frame by fram w/ S from mortlake who, instead of just telling me to 'sit up more,' which was causing me to shorten my stroke, told me to think about the angle of my pelvis and to rock forward on my sitting bones, then lead up the slide with my navel rather than my shoulders. it sounds contradictory, but the result is i get a much longer stroke because my compression is better, and i have a much stronger back from which to support the leg drive. i was getting really frustrated, though, because i can't seem to clear my port blad from the water through the recovery. i thought it was because i wasn't tapping down enough with my right hand, so i tried exaggerating that movement, but all it did was make the boat smack down to port. then i realized i must not be tapping down enough with my LEFT hand, which was making the boat go slightly down to port and therefore not giving my right hand room to clear. so i tried tapping down a touch more with my left hand, but that didn't work either. mumph. i don't know what the fuck i'm doing. it's like when i was studying botany and everything i learned only made me realize how much i didn't know. every answer just makes you ask a hundred more questions. maybe it's a sign that i'm becoming more sensitive to the movement of the boat that every tiny thing that i do wrong drives me absolutely fucking nuts. it wasn't a bad outing, but i worked myself into a real tizzy.

saturday afternoon we had off. some people went into ravenna to do some sight seeing or shopping. i needed a beach and some sun. i needed to be beached like a dying whale. i donned the famous purple bikini, grabbed a towel and the pod, and hit the sand. i still have lycra lines, but they're not as pronounced at least. and god did it feel good to just lay there in the sun. i'm going to get skin cancer, i know. but i'm a sun slut. i can't help it.

Sun, april 9

i don't really remember sunday. i forgot to write anything down at the time, and now it's all running into a blur. i remember the weather was nice again. and the theme park next to the lake opened so all day as we were training we could hear the screams of the kids on the roller coasters. nice summer atmosphere. that's about all i remember. i'm sure i learned something about sculling as well, but i don't remember what.

oh, wait, i remember that A and i practices some race starts in the double in preparation for the next morning's scrimages. i was rubbish. i can't get my hands around the finish fast enough, and so i'm slowing the whole process up. i need a LOT of work on this. starts have always been my weak point. (ask anyone who saw my performance at henley in 2004.)

mon, april 10

scrimages. jess's back went out, so i was in her single. it was my first time in a single this training camp, i am not familiar with her boat, i have never done race starts in a single (except for last summer, but that doesn't count because it was only one day, almost a year ago, my sculling technique is miles better than it was, and i crabbed anyway), and the water was absolute SHIT. the wind was ferocious, there were whitecaps on the lake. i was convinced i was going in. i managed to get up to the start, do a (really shit) race start, and finish the piece, but i never even looked to see what my time or standing was. i know i was last. i was absolutely terrified.

now, i'm one of those people who can hold it together in a crisis. i never go to pieces. i do that afterwards. when the shit hits the fan i do exactly the right thing, keep it cool and under control, and get it done. it's why you want me around in a catastrophe. i'm great. it's just after it's all over that i fall apart. even when i was in primary school and there was a fire drill, i would always be the one assigned to make sure that the lights were off, the windows in the classroom (and cloakroom) were closed, hold the doors for the rest of the class, yell at anyone who was talking, and do the head count to make sure everyone was safe. (you're probably wondering where the teacher was in all this and why was it the job of an 8-year-old to take a head count. i'm wondering the same thing.) after the principle announced the time it took to clear the building (a minute 41 secs was our school record) and gave us the all-clear to go back inside, i would file in silently with the rest of the class, take my seat, the teacher would put the lights on and begin the lesson, and i would suddenly be a pile of weeping, blubbering, hysterics. once the crisis was over (and i was terrified of fire, so i treated every drill like a crisis), i fell completely apart. it took my second-grade teacher a while to get used to this, but she had known me since i was 3 and knew i wasn't nuts, it was just my way of releasing the pressure behind the valve.

Firefox just crashed me out. I had completed the post. was, in fact, typing the LAST SENTENCE when it crashed. this is all i had saved. i'm too annoyed right now to rewrite the rest, so i'm going to let it hang for now. i'll finish it up tomorrow. sorry.

Hi, by the way, and thanks for all the great comments to other posts. it was nice to have notes to read when i got back.

And now for the conclusion...

So there I was in J's single, having finished the worst piece of my life in absolutely lycra-shitting, nerve-shattering conditions, and I was alive. Moreover, I wasn't in the water. The crisis was over. Can you guess what happened next? Oh yes, mis amigos, that's right. I cried. Not just a little sniffle, mind you, but full-out, snot-dripping, chest-shaking bawling. For the first time that morning I was grateful that I was no where near another boat.

And then of course Hamish Coach found me. Came zipping up in the rubber duck, and just for good measure, J and another bloke were with him, you know, to watch. Cuz what i needed most right then was a fucking audience. Hamish totally ignored the waterworks. He just said "that piece wasn't much to look at; i know you can scull better than that. Ignore the conditions. Sit up, tap down, and just put the blade in the water. Good, now push." And he kept on me like that for 8k. Every single stroke a correction, every single stroke it was "let's get some more squeeze on. that's it, squeeze with the legs, squeeze your bum. Squeeze! good, now..." and he never let up. he was fucking relentless. It was all i could do to get my breathing under control and listen to what he was saying (tho i badly wanted to just tune him out). By the end of that outing I was taking the best strokes I'd ever taken in my life. The boat just fucked off. I could feel the lift, the run. It just moved. I took 10 of the cleanest, strongest strokes of my career thus far and he said, "well done. you can go in now."

I know they say that a kick in the ass gets you farther down the road than a pat on the back, but i've always been one of those people who responds much better to encouragement than abuse. On this occasion, however, Hamish managed to do exactly the right thing. I don't know if he was oblivious to my state when he found me in the launch, or if he saw how poorly i was and didn't know how to cope with it so he just ignored it, or if he somehow knew that the absolute best thing he could have done for me at that moment was to make me stay out there until i got it right, but whatever the reason, I learned a lot about myself that morning, my abilities, and my demons.

H took a video of my work that morning. Apparently that last minute or so is stunning. If I can ever get him to email it to me, I'll try to find a way to post it on here.

Tues, April 8

Last day. We were supposed to do 3 race pieces in the a.m.: a 500m, a 1000m, and a 1500m. We got out to the lake. Conditions were horrendous. They were actually worse than the day before. Strong cross-head wind, whitecaps. Now, there is a difference between nuissance conditions and flat-out unsafe conditions. These condidtions would have been a serious nuissance for an 8, but for small craft they were simply not safe.

I know my coach. I didn't even ask if he thought it was safe. I knew what the answer would be. I just got my blades and carried them down the pontoon. While I was untieing (untying? how the fuck do you spell that?) J's boat from the rack, P, the head coach at Morlake approached me and said, unsolicited, "If I were you, I'd develop a sudden back injury and tell your coach you're not going out."

Apparently he shared my assesment of the conditions. I asked him, "Having seen my progress this week, in your professional opinion, do you think it's safe for a sculler of my experience and abilities to launch in these conditions."

"Honestly," he said, "no, I don't. But i'm not your coach."

I then proceeded to find Hamish and have the predicted conversation. At least he let me out of doing the pieces. Instead I had to paddle across the lake to the leeward shore where there was a slight wind shadow and do a 12k UT2. When I came in (cold, wet, and annoyed), I discovered that the far more experienced Mortlake scullers never even went out. Grumble and mumph. After that much de-rigging and loading ensued, followed by lunch at the hotel, followed by a sight-seeing trip into Ravenna. (we had the afternoon to kill as our flight didn't leave until 10 pm.)

Here are the highlights from the sightseeing excursion:
* It pissed it down with rain
* so we hid in a cafe' and drank coffee and ate chocolates
* then we went lingerie shopping, and i didn't buy anything because i'm not willing to pay 12 euros for a pair of knickers that contain less material than a roll of dental floss and if my team mates think i wear really big pants well then they can either cough up the dough for the outrageously expensive panties or just deal my comfy cotton flowered skivvies. grumble and mumph.
* i'm told there are hundreds of stunning, well-preserved mosiacs in ravenna from the byzantien empire or something. i wouldn't know; i didn't get to see any of them. we didn't go to any cool museums or churches because we were busy dragging me through expensive, high street, italian lingerie stores and mocking my underwear.
* i bought a bottle of olive oil for the Hairy Man. with chili peppers in it.
* we ate gellato.

bus ride back to hotel. dinner, bus to airport, queue, flight delayed, wait, more queueing, bumpy flight, no sleep, land, queue at passport control -- for almost 2 hours! -- get luggage, find car, have wee in car park (it was 3 am by this time, no one was around), drive back to bristol from stansted airport, discover that M25 is CLOSED, take detrour through downtown london at 4 am (got from the tower bridge to buckingham palace in 10 minutes!) passing all major landmarks, arrive in bristol at 6 am having been awake for 24 hours. (and not just any 24 hours; 24 hours following a training camp when i really would have preferred to sleep for 24 hours.)

well, there you are. that's training camp. might post some photos later. sorry for the delay. even sorrier that you waited all this time for that, which was not terribly interesting. will make next post more entertaining, i promise. (spend weekend with Hairy. loads of material.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From one adventure to another

Spent another lovely weekend in the company of the Hairy Man. "Petal," he calls me. Awww! Drove down to Glastonbury on Sunday and clomb the tor. Great views from up there. Then we walked around the town gagging on the omnipresent smell of patchuli oil and laughing at all the new age hippie freaks and the crystal stores.

I'm leaving in a couple hours for Italy. Training camp. Will bring you the usual obligatory photos. I'll be back wednesday next. (that's arpil 12 for those of you without calendars.)

See you then! BYE!!!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy April Bitch Day!!!

(Since the Bitch is a total fool, she has decided to claim this holiday for herself. Henceforth, you must all celebrate by acting like a Bitch Fool, that is, excercising ludicrious amounts but never getting thin, checking loads of books out of the library but never read them, and repeatedly fall in love with idiots you know damn well will never return your feelings.)


i reckon HC was right; my slump the past couple weeks was due to an endorphin withdrawl, brought on by a distinct lack of excercise. this past week has been the absolute pits. i've had no energy, i felt really fat, i havn't gotten any work done (even though i've had loads of time), and i've been sulky and whiney and complaining every 10 seconds when the Hairy Man doesn't text me. In short, i've been behaving like a moody teenager.* God help us.

Salvation arrived yesterday in the form of a new 1100 mAh batter for my ipod. I can't do fuck all without music. I love to run, but i can't do it without music. And preferably a body of water to run beside.** And I flat out cannot erg without tunes. (I know people who find silent erging meditative and shit, but frankly they are freaks of the hightest magnitude.)

I must say, I was rather impressed with my ability to dismantl my own pod, remove the hard drive, change the battery, and put it all back together again in working order, thereby FUCKING apple. *pats self on the back*

So last night after the pod was charged I donned the ol' Nikes and spandex and took to the river bank, where I had a lovely, long moonlight run. It was the first excercise I'd had in almost 2 weeks, and the first endorphin rush from something other than, erm, well, you know...

And my GOD it felt good! I left the windows open and slept in the fresh air, relaxed and happy. I woke up this morning feel charged, not groggy, so I put the shorts and sneakers back on and DID IT AGAIN. I know I know. But think of it this way: if you give up chocolate for Lent, do you not immediately gorge yourself on cadbury eggs and chocolate bunnies the moment you wake up on Easter morning? Oh yes you do.

Now, the purpose of running (besides a chance to sing along to Billy Joel at the top of your lungs in public) is to develop cardiovascular fitness and endurance. I have found that the best way to achieve this is always to do a full out sprint at the very end of the run. In this way it mimicks a race, where the fastest and hardest part is the sprint in the last 400m.

So this morning I ran a few miles (in the sunshine!!!), and as I reached the city centre, a prettyish paved area with fountains and container flowers and people selling newspapers and coffee, i wound it up. In the space of about 12 paces or so I drive my pace up from my usual jog to flat-out run-for-your-life there's-a-Trex-on-my-tail gold-medal Flo-Jo-can-kiss-my-ass sprint. People standing around, innocently perusing their papers and chatting with the coffee merchants, look up as they hear my goliath feet thundering toward them and scatter like so many pigeons in my path.

Now that's an endorphin rush.

*me acting like a moody teenager is a bit like watching a full grown male silverback gorilla swing from the trees like a lemur on crack. Behavious which are tolerable in small animals are just not acceptable in something 10 times the size. So when I act like a moody teenager, bear in mind that I'm acting like a 5'11", 81 kg teenager. It's just so utterly unseemly. [hangs head in shame]

**give me an ocean beach of smooth, hard sand, a breezy sunrise, and the theme to Chariots of Fire playing on the pod, and I will run for hours, joyfully filling my lungs with the salt air and scattering seagulls in my path. Heaven!