Post-parkrun Saturday in Toronto

Canada part seven…

 

Returning from parkrun on the Saturday was a lot more relaxing than getting there had been!  A couple of friendly fellow parkrunners gave us a lift back to Whitby train station, and we got on the GO train to head back to Toronto.  I like the GO trains because they’re double-decker, like the trains in Italy:

Double-decker train
Double-decker train, complete with lots of Toronto Blue Jays fans going into the city for the game!

We had some lovely lakeside views going back into Toronto.

Lake Ontario from the train
Lake Ontario from the train.

Once back in Toronto, there were lots of interesting things to see on the way back to our hotel, including this insanely tacky dog-themed fountain:

Tacky dog fountain in Toronto
Want plastic dog statue?

After we got back to our hotel for a post-parkrun shower, we headed to Panera for a coffee and a pastry, having missed the window for breakfast at the hotel.  The pastry was delicious and I can still taste it now.  After tomorrow’s weigh-in, I may have to put aside some syns for something similar!

We then went shopping – Geth for shorts (which he couldn’t find in the right style at the right price point, so we gave up) and boxers (trusty ol’ H&M did some Star Wars ones!), and me for tops (H&M again) and underwear (on a good deal at Victoria’s Secret Pink, but Geth was not impressed with how expensive bras are these days).  Geth’s habitual ‘Valleys boy’ reaction to spending a lot of money in the shops is to go and find a pub for a stiff drink, so we went to one of Toronto’s many ‘British’ bars and watched the sport on the TV again.

Me with a Somersby
Somersby cider again! I probably drank more of it in Toronto than I have done in the UK for the whole two and a bit years since Resistanz Festival stopped running.

In the evening, we went out for Mum’s birthday meal at the Pickle Barrel, joined by Malcolm and Steff and Steff’s parents Mike and Antoniette – it was lovely to catch up with them.  I skipped the starter this time so that I could be sure of fully enjoying the Brown Cow cheesecake!

Toronto continues tomorrow.

parkrun tourism: Edinburgh

When Geth and I were in Scotland this weekend, we went out to Cramond on the Saturday morning to do Edinburgh parkrun.

I’m in Edinburgh fairly often for obvious reasons, and so I’ve done Edinburgh parkrun five times now – second in quantity only to Newcastle.  It’s a lovely flat out-and-back course with a lollipop loop at the halfway point, and on a good day you get fairly spectacular views of the Firth of Forth.  They also have an infamous ‘parkrun weather window’ – so although I’ve often been there on days when it’s been pissing with rain before or after the parkrun, it’s never rained during the parkrun itself!

This last weekend, the conditions were particularly good – not too hot, not too windy, could have been less crowded but it wasn’t too bad.  I went out fairly fast, and I found I was able to keep it up.  I knew I was doing well, ’cause I was knackered most of the way round – but it wasn’t until I got to the finishing straight and Geth was standing there shouting ‘PB is ON’ that I allowed myself to hope.  I couldn’t pull off a sprint finish, ’cause I didn’t have the energy left, but I was able to speed up just enough to get a time of 30:52 – which is 54 seconds faster than my previous PB from April!  I doubt I’ll beat that again for a while!

Looking forward to being back at Edinburgh parkrun around Christmas time.

Days spent in the house

Two days in a row without leaving the house!  I can’t remember the last time that happened.

To be fair, I was meant to go for a run this morning, but I’ve decided to push that to Friday, largely because the jetlag is still ongoing and I had a lot of other things to do today.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got a lot of work on for the next month.  It includes projects for about five different clients, which keeps it nice and interesting.  I’m also still trying to work on the house – today I at least got it tidied up, which makes it a much more comfortable space for working in.

SP day today to try and shift that holiday weight before Slimming World weigh-in on Thursday!  Doing another one tomorrow.  I had all-day breakfast for tea tonight, but I actually found it to be a bit heavy, so I might try something more salad-y tomorrow night.

OOTD 31st July 2018
OOTD: hoodie Sonar (2006), t-shirt Katharine Hamnett for Help Refugees (2017), trousers Christian Siriano Runway Style (2018), shoes 1st Position (2018).

parkrun tourism: Whitby

Canada part six…

 

On the Saturday in Toronto, Geth and I got up very early, and went to Ontario’s only parkrun, Whitby parkrun.

We walked for about forty-five minutes to get to the train station, bought tickets, spent another forty-five minutes on the train, and arrived in Whitby shortly after eight o’clock.  It was at that point that Geth realised he couldn’t really remember how to get to the parkrun.  I’m not leaving him in charge of directions in future!

After a bit of a saga involving asking lots of people at the train station and the nearby leisure centre for directions, we made it to the parkrun start line with just a few minutes to spare, and met a few other Brits who were also parkrun touristing.

The parkrun itself was a really nice route – a simple out-and-back course through a lovely quiet park with nice wide paths.  There were only twenty-odd people taking part, and so Geth and I both came first in our age categories – something that I doubt will be repeated any time soon!

parkrun sprint finish
A rare running photo where I actually look like I’m running! Photo by Whitby parkrun.

I got my standard-for-now sub-33, which I was fine with considering I hadn’t run for two weeks.  I’m really pleased to have done some international parkrun tourism at last!

Whitby parkrun
Far-flung parkrun souvenir photo! Photo by Whitby parkrun.

2018 Ciders #43: Brickworks 901

This was the first of the two ciders that I had while out for drinks with Mum at Pogue Mahone on the Tuesday in Toronto.

I was pleased to find that a plus point of the Pogue Mahone management change is that they’ve started serving Brickworks 901 in a regular pint glass, because when I was in Toronto two years ago, they used to serve it in a jam jar!

Unfortunately I did not escape the jam jar, because I found they were still using it at the Elephant & Castle three days later:

Brickworks 901
Brickworks 901.

Anyway, the cider.  Brickworks is one of the most prominent cider companies in Canada – they make a good few different ones – and the 901 is probably the most common on draught in bars.  It’s got a lovely medium sweetish taste – you just have to try and avoid the ‘jam jar as glass’ thing!

Back to work and other routine things

I have a lot of work to do this August.  A LOT of work.  Along with a lot of other things to do.  But after a couple of weeks of non-stop travelling, it was so nice to be able to sit down and just have a normal day at work today – no trains, no planes, no cheesecake temptation.

Geth was back in work today as well, so I was able to spend the afternoon (I started the day later than I would have liked – I’m still not over the jetlag yet) plugging away at various projects.  I’m now having a relaxing evening of reading, with the pleasant background sound of Geth’s videogame.  It’s good to be home.

OOTD 30th July 2018
OOTD: Duran Duran classic lineup t-shirt eBay/Fruit of the Loom (2018), jeans Miss Selfridge (2018), glasses Emporio Armani (2017).

Quieter days in Toronto

Canada part five…

 

One of the good things (and also one of the bad things) about being a freelancer who works over email is that I can take my work everywhere I go.  The negative side of this is that I’m never truly on holiday, but the positive side is that I don’t miss out on work when it arrives, and it’s still important for me to take every work opportunity that comes my way, because of the specific way in which my business is growing.

This is how I found myself sitting at a desk working all day on the Thursday of our Toronto trip.  As work spaces go, though, our hotel suite wasn’t bad – the desk was really nicely set up, and that gorgeous view from the window was a lot more interesting than my usual work surroundings!

In the evening, we all met up at Kalendar, a restaurant just down from Geth’s favourite boardgame cafe on College Street, and I had pizza and blueberry cheesecake.  Geth informed me that there was a red phone box next to the toilets downstairs, but my excitement was dashed upon finding this not-at-all-a-classic-British-phone-box:

Telephone kiosk
Most definitely not a K Series.

Also, when I was spinning around confused with my phone camera, looking for this phone box, I got a very strange look from a guy finishing his business in the gents’ facilities, which were in full open view of the hallway.  Awkward.

Afterwards, we went back to Malcolm and Steff’s place for a couple of drinks and to meet Sushi the cat.

On the Friday morning, I did a bit more work (and finally finished my Now! marathon!) before heading down to the Elephant & Castle pub to meet Geth, who had just delivered his conference paper.  On the way, I did the irritating tourist thing of holding up pedestrian traffic at a crossing to get this nice CN Tower picture:

CN Tower from downtown Toronto
Pretty skyscraper shot! I like the serendipitous placing of the bird as well.

Readers with good memories might remember the Elephant & Castle from this Phone Box Thursday post about their red phone box.  The pub is still a good stop with lots of sports on the TV and good cider on the bar, and Geth was finally able to have some decent chicken wings:

Chicken wings
Definitely not Chicken McNuggets!

I also really like the stained glass windows – the patterns are lovely and retro.

Retro stained glass
I had T-shirts with this sort of pattern on back in the ’80s.

After a couple of pints, we headed outside to make sure the phone box was still present and correct…

Red phone box
Still there, still standing!

…and then went to the Black Bull for some arctic air-con, a very talkative guy sitting next to us at the bar who was telling us about all the gigs he went to in the ’70s (and is apparently friendly with Martin Gore from Depeche Mode!), and Geth’s new favourite pint, a beer called 8th Sin:

Hop City 8th Sin
Hop City 8th Sin. Geth went back here the following week, after the rest of us had already left Toronto, for some more 8th Sin and some even better chicken wings.

In the evening, we met up with Mum and Dad for another meal of delicious pizza and cheesecake in the Holiday Inn.

More from Canada tomorrow!

Book Review: Password To Larkspur Lane

Something that has really surprised me in recent years is that when I pull a book out of my childhood collection for a quick read, there is a 90% chance – even if it’s a story I revered and loved as a child – that the book will be utterly, unbearably terrible.

Password To Larkspur Lane, the tenth entry in the series of Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene, is no exception.

Password To Larkspur Lane
I know this cover says it’s actually the twelfth entry, but I’m going by the Goodreads profile for the book.

I grabbed it off the bookshelf for a quick bedtime read a few weeks ago, after I’d put up the bookshelves in the bedroom.  I thought it might be quite fun to read through my Nancy Drew collection again, as I’ve not done so for over twenty years.  After reading Password To Larkspur Lane, however, I’m not sure I can stand to read any more.

First of all, the main character is ridiculous.  Nancy is absolutely, unrealistically perfect.  In the course of the story, she wins a flower-arranging competition, saves a child from drowning, knows the details of the American homing pigeon association off by heart when one happens to land in her garden, manages to escape from a completely dark and sealed cellar by climbing the wall with her bare hands and a scrap of broken wood, knows how to drain a plane’s fuel tank, and in the end solves two cases that – of course – turn out to be related.  She hardly ever involves the police in what she’s doing, because she doesn’t want to worry them.  When she does, they are – of course – laughably inept.  Despite the fact that she is a teenage girl meddling with the plans of dangerous criminals, her lawyer father just lets her do what she likes, bows to her wisdom regarding the police, and seems to spend his time supporting Nancy’s efforts and buying her new cars rather than actually being a lawyer.  I don’t like the term ‘Mary Sue’ because people in online fandom throw it around to mean ‘character I don’t like’, but Nancy is a Mary Sue if ever there was one.

Pretty much every other female character is utterly useless and petrified of everything, except for Nancy’s friend George, and that’s only because the latter is an extremely two-dimensional tomboy character.

The story is insanely unrealistic too – clues just fall into Nancy’s lap out of nowhere, and she always just happens to know someone who is an expert in whatever she needs to know about next.  Usually, however, this isn’t necessary, as she’s an expert in most things herself.  At one point, a character is declared by a doctor to have suffered a ‘slight heart attack’ (he’s perfectly fine and up and about the next day), which is the moment I nearly threw the book at the wall.

At the end, when the criminal gang is rounded up, they just explain their whole plan in front of the police, in true inept villain fashion!

Terrible as this book is, I will definitely read at least one more of these when I feel up to it, because I have to know if the others in the series are all just as bad.

Scotland, and a hen do

Geth and I just got back to Newcastle…again.  We’re back for a good while now though!

We’ve been in Scotland for the weekend, for the respective hen and stag parties of our friends Lisa and Kieran.  We headed off on Friday afternoon, just a couple of hours after Geth’s Canada luggage finally showed up, and managed to beat the ridiculous UK train chaos caused by the thunderstorms by getting on an alternative train and sitting on the floor of the doorway section.  Not hugely comfortable, but at least we got to Edinburgh around the time we were supposed to.

After a quiet evening at Mum and Dad’s, we had an uncomfortable night’s sleep (it was REALLY hot and muggy) and then got up for parkrun, which I will post about later in the week.  On returning to the house, I grabbed the world’s quickest shower and got ready to be picked up by my friend Fi to travel to the QHotels Westerwood Spa near Cumbernauld.

Now! #1, #10 and #100
I also had just enough time to snap a photo of my two new Now! albums with their ancient cousin, because I am super lame.

Having also picked up our other friends Gemma and Sarah, we headed along the motorway to the spa, checked in and spent a pleasant few hours in the hotel bar, during which Steph, Lisa, Nikki and Becky also arrived.  At five o’clock we went downstairs for the treatments we’d booked.  I’d never been to a spa before, so I had no idea what to expect from my face and back treatment, but it turned out to be a lovely massage with lots of oil and exfoliation and so on.  It was so relaxing, I nearly fell asleep!  The only downside is that two showers later, I’ve still not been able to get the oils out of my hair.

After the treatments, we were taken to a relaxation room, where we were able to chill out on daybeds with glasses of water for a while, and then we all went for a swim float in the warmer, shallower part of the pool and a soak in the jacuzzi.

Dinner was at eight, but unfortunately, because the service was really slow and poor, we were in the restaurant for three hours, at which point they still hadn’t served our desserts and we ended up having them brought through to the room where we were booked to have a cocktail and DVD night.  The poor service from the waiting staff didn’t spoil our evening, but it was very frustrating, especially as we kept having to go and chase up our orders (and when they billed us for exceeding our food allocation when we hadn’t!).

Still, we had a good time watching Moulin Rouge! and Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and I had two delicious cocktails – the second one was especially good, as it came with a drumstick lolly dipped in it, and I’ve not had one of those since I was a kid.

After a good sleep, we went for hotel breakfast – I resisted the bread table, as I’ve got to lose my Canada holiday weight this week, but the scrambled egg was amazing (much better than the egg in Toronto – sorry, Grand Hotel), the mushrooms and tomatoes were very welcome, and I got to have a tattie scone, which I never get to do as I’m rarely in hotels in Scotland.

We spent a good couple of hours chatting in the hotel bar again, but decided to skip the lunch we’d booked, as most people were too full for lunch/needed to get home.  We headed back in Fi’s car again, this time with added Steph, and got back to Edinburgh in plenty time for me to go back to Mum and Dad’s and repack my stuff.  I also caught up with Geth, who had enjoyed Kieran’s stag yesterday (they’d spent the afternoon and evening boardgaming – what else?).

We had a much more straightforward train journey back to Newcastle, and are now relaxing with the World Series Triathlon on BBC iPlayer.

Not a perfect weekend, but that massage was so good that I’m definitely interested in going to a spa again!

OOTD 28th July 2018
Saturday OOTD: comfy travelling outfit. T-shirt Lauren Ralph Lauren (bought at vintage fair in 2018, but still available on the website so probably not that old), leggings Primark (2018).

 

OOTD 29th July 2018
Sunday OOTD: my current favourite day dress, in a colour I’ve never worn before but quite like! Dress Primark (2018), terrible hair due to the aforementioned spa oils!

The Toronto Islands

Canada part four…

 

On the Wednesday, Mum and Dad came to meet me and Geth outside our hotel, and we all walked down to the lakefront to meet Malcolm and catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands.

The ferry itself is a really nice journey – I always love being out on the water, and it was a gorgeous day for it.  Once we got across to the islands, we stopped at a bar for a drink (yet another new cider that I will log soon!), and then went for a walk around the islands.  We found a small, pretty beach where Dad went for a quick swim, and then walked along the boardwalk to the next island (they’re very easy to walk between).  At the far side of the island, we could see right across the lake to the United States.  I think Geth was more interested in a nice sit down though.

Geth
Geth on his bench.

We then walked back towards the ferry terminal, through a lovely park full of fountains and trees.  At the north side of the island by the terminal, you get a gorgeous view of downtown Toronto:

Downtown Toronto from the islands
I love that perfect water!

I could have stayed on the islands all day – it’s such a beautiful atmosphere.

Dee on the Toronto Islands
I miss that sunshine. We’ve just had a weekend of thunderstorms in the UK and you forget so quickly what the sun feels like!

Instead, though, we decided to get back on the ferry, and headed back to Toronto for a drink.  The bar we went to had run out of cider, so I had a tasty cocktail – then Geth went off to pick up a boardgame he’d ordered from a shop earlier in the week, and I headed back to the hotel to relax with a book.

In the evening, Geth and I met up with Mum and Dad again, and went to the Pickle Barrel.  We ate far too much food, and I forgot to take a photo of my cheesecake.  It all tasted great though.

Part five tomorrow!