Who I am and why I’m here

My name is Lis and I live here in Liverpool in the North West of England. Apologies to anyone who’s been here before for this post but I’ve started a blogging course and the task for Day One (today) is to introduce myself and say why I’m taking the course.

Clearly I have a problem writing with any regularity both here and in my endeavour to finish the first draft of my first novel so that’s essentially why I’m here. To develop a daily habit of writing, even if it’s only a short post every day. I need to get back into that habit.

I managed it this time last year and wrote around 25,000 words in November as part of NaNoWriMo but sadly have only written about 2,000 more words in the first draft since then. NaNoWriMo likes you to start with a new draft each November so I’m not participating this year as I really want to finish what I already started (it’s a fantasy YA novel – so far!).

I also love writing but very often just write for the sake of it and then delete it. I plan to delete as little as possible from my scribblings in the next month – again apologies in advance for the nonsense that may emerge – but that’s half the fun, isn’t it.

So welcome to Anfield Girl – please have a look around the rest of the site (lots of links to my other passion – my photography) and drop me a line if you want to say hi!

Seven Words

Blog prompt from https://dailypost.wordpress.com:

October 28 – Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

This is an interesting question. Seven words to convey everything I ever need to, to someone who also only has seven words.

  • Love
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Music
  • Family
  • Generosity
  • Spirit

These words are words I would like to live my life by. I very often fail but they are at the core of my personality, my moral compass and they are the most important things I would want someone to understand about me if I had limited communication opportunities with them. They are also the things that I strive to find in other people – the things I want to know about another person.

These are my seven words. What are yours?

Well done me!

I’ve been here before. 9 weeks of constantly battling with myself both physically and mentally to finish this thing called Couch25K. Last time I did it at the end of six months of constant dieting and denying myself anything even vaguely pleasurable. I weighed 9 stone 6. Looking back I breezed through it, though it didn’t feel like it at the time. I must have done, I weighed nothing and I was living on lettuce leaves and cous cous. I thought I was happy then, the running was an extension of the food denial. I also did it because someone told me I’d never stick with it, that I didn’t have the will power to do it. That’s like a red rag to a bull for me and sheer bloody mindedness pushed me through a lot of those runs and the dieting in 2011.

I ran a charity 5k to celebrate, ran a couple of times on holiday then stopped. Nothing would have tempted me back out after I’d proved I had the will power. Fast forward 3 years. 2 months ago when I started running again I weighed 13 stone 6. That’s a hell of a difference. My knees and back were under a lot of pressure this time.

Mentally I beat myself up for the first 10 minutes of every session whether I was running or walking. Luckily that bloody mindedness is still there but this time I was using it in a positive way – I will finish this run because I owe it to myself to get fitter, to lose weight, to be able to run for 30 minutes. I’m not an old woman and I’m not an invalid – 30 minutes running is a perfectly normal, acceptable amount of exercise for me to be able to do.

I do have chronic asthma – I need an inhaler every day, if I didn’t take it in about a week and a half I would be in bed and unable to get down the stairs. But it’s not a debilitating condition when it’s managed properly and the running is just making me stronger. That first week I thought my lungs would explode in the first 5 minutes. I have to run for nearly 30 minutes to feel like that now. I’ll never be off my medication but I might be able to reduce it.

Running this time is for me. I’m not doing it to prove to someone I have what it takes. I’m doing it because it makes me happy – it gives me an amazing buzz.  I’m also doing it because my health long-term demands it. I have not altered my diet one iota in the last 2 months and I stood on the scales this morning and saw the screen flash 12 stone 9 at me. That’s 11 lbs lost just from exercising 3 times a week. Imagine if I hadn’t drunk all that wine and eaten all that bread 😉 But you know, I might just start having one less glass of wine, and not having sandwiches for lunch because if I can continue to run and lose weight who knows what cutting out the bad stuff will do!

The other reason I know I’m going to stick at it this time is that I really love running. I don’t know why I allowed myself to stop running in 2011. I had a lot of personal stuff going on that year, it was a turning point in my life but I let go of one of the things that got me through a lot of that stuff and that is my only regret – all the hours of running pleasure I missed out on in my hiatus.

I am going to do the obligatory charity fun run this weekend. For Asthma UK – it’s an amazing organisation and the least I can do is rattle a virtual tin for them to pay back all the help and support they’ve given me over the years. They sent me a lovely purple t-shirt to run in too! So here’s the link if you want to sponsor me – https://www.justgiving.com/Lis-Garrett/

So what’s next.  Well running 5K in 30 minutes is my next immediate goal. I think that will take a few months.  That’s enough to be going on with for now, but who knows where I’ll be in a year’s time.

Laura said: “You are now a runner”……

I’ve been waiting for this day for 6 weeks. Ever since I started doing the Couch to 5K training programme. I’d been having a couple of bad weeks dieting – well pretending to diet and not really actually doing anything about it that lasted more than 24 hours. Then one day I arrived home from work determined to use the exercise bike… but my husband had arrived home 5 minutes earlier and beaten me to it.  In a fit of childish pique I thought “Sod you, ruining my plans, I’m going to go out and run.” So I downloaded the C25K app, put my trainers on and went out.

You might think this was a bit of an extreme reaction, but I had successfully completed the programme back in 2011 so I knew a lot about it and with my phone all ready to go I felt like I could do this without too much research.

Now I should tell you that back in 2011 I had just finished 6 months of WeightWatchers and I had lost over 3 stone so I was considerably lighter and fitter than I am right now. I also cycled regularly and walked quite a bit. I did my first (and as it turned out only) 5k race about a week after I finished the programme and I ran it in an amazing (still think the timing clocks were wrong) 32 ish minutes.

Then life and dark winter nights got in the way. I moved house and got myself all loved up and married.  Running was the last thing on my mind. Fast forward to 2014.  I’m still loved up and married, but after 6 short weeks running is ALWAYS on my mind.  It’s an addiction – a very weird, pain inducing, breath sapping, muscle aching addiction. And I had forgotten how quickly it takes hold. I am always thinking about running, reading about it, writing forum posts about it. Not quite dreaming about it but it’s only a matter of time.

Even as I’m struggling to drag my very slow feet around I’m thinking about my next run – what intervals will I be doing, will it be harder than what I’m doing now, will the work I’m doing now make the next run easier… on and on and on. There is no doubt that it’s harder this time round and maybe that’s why the joy at the end of each run, each little tick on my progress chart, each new route mapped on mapmyrun.com is sweeter.

I ran for 25 minutes today non stop. At the end of it the nice lady that has been my virtual coach for the last 6 weeks, Laura, told me I’m finally a runner. A friend of mine commented this morning that I was always a runner and I think she’s right. Once you’ve done more than just run for a bus that seed is planted in your brain and it doesn’t go away – the mental strength that you get from running just 1 more minute than you did last time, or 200 metres further than you did last time is immense. It stays with you all day, through your rest day and on to your next running day, when you layer up a little more strength.

This is obviously a physical challenge, 6 weeks ago I could NOT have run for 25 minutes. So I am getting fitter and stronger, by following the programme as it guides me to a point where I can run for 30 minutes non-stop. But there is a huge, huge mental challenge to this – the runner inside my head is constantly having to tell the non-running part of my brain to shut up – to remember how good it feels when the coach tells you only 60 seconds to go. My internal runner is also running behind me reminding me that even though I have pins and needles in my feet I am enjoying being out in the fresh air, that even though I’m out of breath I love seeing the trees and grass in the park as I run past.

I’m winning this mental challenge now. I have a 5K Big Fun Run booked for August 16.  That’s 4 days after I finish this programme.  And I am probably going to be a lot slower than lots of other people.  But I’ll be faster than all the people still sitting on their couches and that’s good enough for me.

Thanks Laura – I am a runner.

shameless plug

Shameless plug for my sponsorship page. I’m running in support of Asthma UK – as an adult diagnosed very late in life I’m indebted to them for the support and information they’ve given me since my diagnosis so this is my way of giving a little back. https://www.justgiving.com/Lis-Garrett/

And here’s a link to the Couch To 5 K programme.

Blogging Prompts

So I decided to do a quick search for a prompt to kick-start my brain this hot, sunny June evening and I found this:

Share 5 Fictional Friends you’d want in real life. (Movie/Book/TV etc.)

I’m going to start with just one…. I need more time to think about the others…

So because the word Friends is right in there and I tend to watch about six episodes a week anyway, that’s where my brain went first. Monica.  I would love to be Monica’s friend.  Not just because she’s a great cook, though it’s undoubtedly a big factor.  Remember when you started watching Friends and you talked (to your own friends) about who you wanted to be, or who you thought you were like?  Well of course everyone wants to be Rachel.  She’s beautiful, sexy, a little bit self involved but all in all she’s a good person.  She has a generous heart and is fiercely loyal.  They sound like great character traits.

But I always identified more with Monica, with her overwhelming nurturing OCD riddled love for everyone – that’s who I wanted to be and definitely a person I could be friends with.  I have my own little weird OCD tendencies, sadly not so much in the house cleaning arena, but I totally identify with the crazy, mind-blowing annoyance of finding something in your home just slightly out-of-place, and the desperate need to just sidle up to it and restore it to its rightful place.

I love her self belief surrounding her place at the centre of the group – that she is the one that feeds and nurtures everyone, the one that everyone comes to when they need advice or help or pie. I love her practicality, always ready with a solution or a plan. I admire her need to play fair and within a set of boundaries. But most of all I love her capacity to love her friends, even when they are driving her mad and pushing all her buttons. I think Monica and I would be really good friends.

Other people I’m thinking about including in my list: Bella from Twilight (if only to slap her and stop her being so whiny), Juliet from Nashville, one of Trudi Canavan’s heroines, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, going back a bit further in time – Odysseus or Achilles. How about you?

 

 

 

 

Sound City, Liverpool 2014 – Saturday Review

Quick run through of the bands we saw on Saturday. We didn’t see the Tenements as a Bluesy type girl vocalist went on in their place while we were there but it was all running late so we didn’t stay.

We then went to the Bluecoat Chambers garden, where we had a really nice lunch, and a bottle of wine. All very civilised. Got a great table right at the front with a good view.

Dominic Dunn was amazing as always – this was the first time we’d seen him with his band – absolutely superb, three amazing backing singers that really enhances his sound.

Gentlemen Rogues up next and there was just one member of an Austin punk/rock band, they didn’t know it was supposed to be an acoustic set so they just let the singer perform. He was great but clearly didn’t realise that the Bluecoat Chambers gardens is a bit more refined than other venues and his language was a bit colourful for 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when there were old ladies and kids there.. but he was good fun (and a bit drunk). And he gave us codes to download his music and a badge!!! I’ve been listening to it all week and I love it!! I hope they come back the UK soon!

We took a brief trip away from Bluecoat to go to the Cavern to see City Walls – local 4 piece – standard rock stuff – good sound.

Back to Bluecoat for the Hummingbirds who packed the place out as they always do. They were all kinds of superb – but I’m biased, I love them to pieces. I could watch them all day!

We then got a full Silent Sleep set. Great band – really love their stuff – nice and melodic, and a bit chilled out.

After them came the highlight of the afternoon as it turned out – The Splintered Ukes. A ukele band who do cover versions!! They had the crowd up and dancing almost straight away and were brilliant. We had some Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl), Jessie J (Price tag), Kings of Leon (The Bucket), Radiohead (Creep), The Hummingbirds (Back in Liverpool – which we were hearing for the second time that day!!), The Coral (Dreaming of You), Mumford & Sons (Little Lion Man), The Smiths (This Charming Man)… and a bunch of other stuff too! They finished with Come On Eileen and had the whole crowd on its feet!

From here we went to the Duke Street Garage to see Embers. They were brilliant – really loud and raucous, and great guitar playing going on. They did about half an hour, then threw their guitars down and left. Loved the attitude of the whole set – pretty much “listen, don’t listen, we don’t care”…. only spoilt a little bit by the singer sneaking back on to pick up his guitar and check it was ok as we were all leaving, 

We then went up to Studio 2 and unfortunately caught the end of a god awful heavy metal band. Then Famy came on. Wish they hadn’t – they were dreadful, self-indulgent art school nonsense that wasn’t even in tune most of the time.

The evening was saved by our second time seeing Dominic Dunn. Full band again, with drums this time. He did 3 or 4 songs different from the afternoon set, and they sounded even better inside. This young man is destined for greatness.

We headed back down to Duke Street but couldn’t get in to see the Kooks – the security guards were stopping people getting down into the area so that was about 4 venues we couldn’t access. Not sure if they were being over vigilant but I have read reports elsewhere that it was indeed very busy inside the cordon, so will have to give them the benefit of the doubt!

The Gathering 2014

There is a particular weekend that happens every January by which I measure my life now.  The Gathering is a coming together of fans of the band The Alarm in North Wales. I first attended The Gathering in January 2012.  This was Gathering 20 so you can see I was fairly late to the party.  I didn’t know another Alarm fan at that point, and for many years didn’t even know that The Gathering existed.

At some point in the late 2000’s I met my friend JK.  At the beginning I didn’t know he loved The Alarm as much as I did. When we discovered this shared love we hatched a plot to attend the very next Gathering together. Fast forward to January 2012 and having recently moved back to my home town of Liverpool, John and I headed off to Pontins in Prestatyn. An amazing, joyful weekend followed – more music and camaraderie than I would have thought possible and my heart was stolen. I was a Gatherer.

The following year I was by then married to Pete.  Pete is a massive Alarm fan too.  So naturally we went to The Gathering together.  We had a brilliant time, despite the cold chalets, and the dreadful food – it was our first Gathering together so it was special.

This year there was a major change –  The Gathering moved house. To Llandudno.  The difference with Llandudno is that we don’t all stay at the same place – you could pick your own accommodation. Pete and I stayed at the Imperial Hotel – a lovely old hotel on the promenade, just a few blocks from the Venue Cymru where The Gathering was taking place.

The format was very similar to previous Gatherings I’d attended – Friday night is an acoustic set, in the round. A cut back, stripped down version of The Alarm, and yet it is still one of the most powerful, noisy gigs ever.  Part of that is because the crowd lifts the roof with almost every song, the other part is that Mike Peters and the other guys in the band don’t do anything by halves – acoustic means mandolins, violins, drums, guitars and a 3 and a half hour set list which just blew us all away.

We managed to get ourselves a great seat on the edge of the unoccupied main stage directly behind the “round” stage in the middle of the venue. We had a clear view of the stage and I took some (if I do say so myself) pretty amazing photos. I had my 300mm zoom on and a steady seat to reduce camera shake.  I knew from looking around the venue that Saturday night’s gig was going to be manic and we weren’t going to get a seat at any point so I decided to concentrate on taking photos on Friday night because I was almost sure I wouldn’t be taking my camera on Saturday night.

One of the highlights of the gig for me was when Mike invited Dr David Edwards on to the stage to present him with a cheque for £40,000 from the Love Hope Strength Foundation. Dr Edwards has cared for Mike for 18 years and to see him on stage, and playing guitar, was brilliant.  As fans we’ve been allowed to share Mike’s journey battling cancer and read about the ups and downs and it was lovely to be able to add our voices to Mike’s thanks to this man who obviously means so much to the Peters family.

The gig was superb with some of my favourite songs being played and one noticeable exception meaning the anticipation was there for it to be played on Saturday night. We had a late night, following a brisk walk back to the hotel, we ordered room service and browsed through my photographs, putting the best of them up on Facebook straight away.

Saturday morning was a leisurely breakfast in the beautiful conservatory at the hotel and then a quick walk due to the rain and hail back to the venue for the all important Guitar Masterclass.  This is a favourite part of the Gathering for me. I don’t play guitar but I love watching the faces of the fans that get to play along with their hero right there in the same room as him.  This year’s song was Marching On and in true Gathering style everyone gathered round Mike while he went through the chords and gave advice about how to play the song. There was a little bit of banter about round back guitars (the work of the devil) and some reminiscing about how the guitars raised to the microphone stance, that is a given with this song, began.

We had a quick mooch around Llandudno (not being geeky enough to stay for the quiz – I love the music but I sure as hell don’t know enough to answer Mastermind level questions!) then back for Mike’s Q&A. Very interesting session, and two every important pieces of news came out of this session.  The Love, Hope and Strength Foundation which we all support so keenly were informed that there has been a match from our bone marrow donor drives at gigs in the last 12 months. A life saving transplant was taking place as we sat there.  It was inspirational and more than a couple of tears were shed.

Less life changing, but equally important is the news of all the new songs that are being written, and the prospect of Dead Men Walking being reincarnated later this year.  Very exciting news for those of us that never got to see that particular MP offshoot.

Another break for some food, a quick rest and then back into the fray for Saturday night’s gig. Now we knew this was going to be a long one – it’s always that way at The Gathering but this was truly amazing. We got into the venue at about 7:30 and stood near the back. Being not of the tall variety of human there is no point in me standing near the middle because all I’ll see is the back of the people standing in front of me. And even at 7:30 we were still too late to be on the front row.  I’m also quite claustrophobic so the front isn’t my favourite place at an Alarm gig. I know what will be happening later on and I’m not strong or brave enough to be in the middle of it!!

Just after 8pm the countdown began, we get a five-minute warning and the anticipation starts to build. Then there they are, on stage kicking off with what is arguably one of their most best-loved songs. Not a lot of bands do that – they usually save the best till last but there we were dancing and jumping around to 68 Guns right off the bat.

To be honest there is a massive gap in my Alarm musical catalogue so a lot of the first part of the set was new to me, and I don’t mind that. I love the Alarm and even if I’ve never heard something before I know I’m going to enjoy it.  It started to get really busy at the back so we decided to try to move off to the side…. Pete went to do a recce and came back with the news that it really wasn’t that crowded at the front so we headed down and stood off to one side of the stage and got an amazing view.  There were some odd people down there so after about half an hour we moved to the other side which was much better.  The songs just kept coming, and only because I’ve seen the set list (courtesy of LHS man Rob) do I know exactly what was played. It felt like someone had stopped time and we were going to keep going all night.

Towards the end of the night you know all you’re going to get is the good stuff – from Where Were You Hiding, to Strength (an amazing cut down version), to Rain In The Summertime, to 45 RPM, to our very own wedding song Walk Forever By My Side.  This is “our song”. Always has been. We have hand written lyrics from Mike of the song, to celebrate our wedding. I’m happy to share the song though because you know that there are hundreds of other people around you feeling the same way you do right at that moment because of the words of that song.

Then we got One Guitar with children from the local school, including Mike and Jools own two boys Evan and Dylan, up on stage. A lovely touching moment – definitely the next generation right up there.

I forget how many encores there were – three, maybe four. But finally we got there… Blaze Of Glory. The only way to end an Alarm show. And one that has us all there – “our hands are raised up high”…… it’s an amazing moment of unity – you can look around and you know everyone else is standing there, arms above their heads, singing their hearts out for all their worth.  It is our song. It is what the Gathering means to me.

A few hardy souls stayed for the dancing at the after show but we headed back to our hotel knowing there was till more to come tomorrow.  Up bright and early the next day and the wind and rain that had plagued the previous two days were gone, to be replaced by glorious sunshine. Perfect conditions for our walk to the end of Llandudno Pier.  En masse we set off with our flags and our LHS collecting buckets and made our way to the end of the Pier for a sing-song and a bit of a communal hug to remind ourselves how special this temporary family is to us all.

Back at the venue and Mike begins what I think is the most amazing part of the weekend. He stands and has his photo taken with everyone that wants it. And signs things. And has a little word with everyone. It’s amazing and something he doesn’t have to do. God knows he must be shattered after the previous two nights but he’s there. Saying hello, saying thank you, making sure anyone that wants to, gets the chance to shake his hand and have a few minutes with him.  This is why we love him, and why year after year people go to the Gathering, to Snowdon Rocks, to Ben Nevis Rocks, and now this year to Holy Land Rocks.  To walk with Mike, to raise funds, to raise awareness, to give something back.

The song goes “Walk Forever By My Side”… we do Mike. Every step of the way.

A footnote – for anyone wondering (yes JK, I mean you) – during Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke it is customary for everyone to throw a pack of playing cards into the air at a certain point in the song (“All cards are marked, And all fates will collide….”).  Because of where I was sitting on Friday night I managed to throw my cards straight into the head of someone standing in front of me, and on Saturday night I realised I’d forgotten to put the cards into my handbag.  Epic fail on both counts.  I can only promise to redeem myself at the gig on February 14 in Liverpool 🙂