Thursday, 18 February 2010


It was England’s coldest January in 30 years. Last year, it was the coldest year the Netherlands had seen in decades. I am starting to see a pattern here.

The temperatures have dropped again and hover between freezing and a meagre five degrees. I love living in a beautiful old house, but it can be really uncomfortable. I have never lived like this before, and for those of you who haven’t lived in the UK before, I will try to express what this is like.

These old houses have to ‘breathe’ as I have been told by our local handyman. It means there are these vents in all the rooms that allow air to flow through the walls and to other vents on the outside of the house. These vents are permanently open.

There are wall-mounted radiators in every room (including small ones in the bathrooms) and some rooms such as the living and bedroom have two. They work their best, but with the vaulted ceilings in these houses, the air (especially at foot level) remains fairly cold.

I take off my socks when I shower. That’s the only time! In fact, the space heater we bought for the bathroom needs to be turned on and pumped up to 27 degrees for 10 minutes before we can dare think about getting into the shower. Getting out into a cold room was a traumatic experience we tired of quickly. The space heater is an energy-hog (and unlike Vancouver, we really pay for energy here) but it is a necessity.

I spend my days wearing two pairs of socks (yes, one regular pair and one woollen pair) and my warm slippers. I sit at my desk wearing long johns and trousers, a T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt and a woollen sweater. I have a blanket draped over my lap and still, my hands and feet are chilly. I sleep in pyjamas and socks with everything tucked into each other so the air can’t ride up my legs at night.

I love our house, but it is taking a lot of adjusting to get used to this way of living.

Everywhere I go I hear news of the 2010 Olympics and it seems I am missing out on a massive party. I was sceptical as the whining of Vancouverites on the build-up to the games was getting a little ridiculous, but it seems their cries have been drowned out by the deafening roar of the overwhelming majority which have embraced the event.

I am hearing reports that this party is on the same scale as Expo and with all the events happening around town, I think I would have really enjoyed myself. It’s not like I left Vancouver to avoid the Olympics, but I was happy (at the time) that I wouldn’t be there for the mayhem. Now I think I am actually missing out on something pretty spectacular. On the up side, I will get the chance to take part in 2 years when London hosts the summer games. It won’t be the same thing, but at least I will get the chance to experience being in the mayhem of the Olympic experience.

One of the people from the University of Leicester’s Geology department organized a big group dinner at a Chinese buffet in downtown. Everyone in the department was invited and encouraged to bring their significant others. We went, of course, and had a lovely time. It was great to be at a table with a few other non-geologist types as it minimizes the chance of the conversation being overrun with the exhilarating conversation that always surrounds the subject of rocks. I had two separate people come up to me to comment on how snow was being trucked in to the Olympics in Canada! They thought this was as ridiculous as coconuts being shipped to Hawaii. I went through my (now perfected) speech on moderate coastal climate, warmest part of Canada, 2 mountains, only 1 (by the sea) required the snow.

I am wrapping up my work on my workshop as my deadline to finish the presentation is the end of this month. Kevin — the gentleman from the University of Derby’s corporate office who is my contact — is doing his PhD in education while working for the university. We had a great chat 2 weeks back on ways to focus the workshop. He was trying to help me get away from the standard concept of telling the participants what I want them to know. He explained how the more effective (and difficult) approach is to organise my key points and design exercises around them for the participants to do. Then, once they have learned through doing work on the subject, I can strengthen and cement the concepts with theory. This new approach has helped me tremendously.

I met with a business advisor a few weeks back who was a wealth of information. He wanted some background information on how I started my business, what I have done so far, my approach and what my goals are. He gave me some great ideas of how to move forward and attract new clients as well as network and meet other business people. With the workload I currently have, I haven’t had the time to implement any of the ideas he suggested. While working on my workshop I have also been building a website for my brand concurrently. Once those two projects slow down (which should be in the next 2-3 weeks) I will have time to focus on the information from the consultant.

Once I have done that and have some more data for him (he wants me to start taking notes and record how these things are going) I can set up the next meeting with him to move to the next stage. I have to say, I am very impressed with these services and the free support network.
One of the ideas he gave me which I really like is to sell the concept of my workshop to other universities in the UK. As I haven’t signed any paperwork with the University of Derby, I own the rights to everything I have produced since I am the author of the material. I might as well see if I can sell and resell this work and get as much mileage out of it as I can.

Dad and Andrew will be in Barcelona in early June for a conference. I had been talking to them about the idea of flying down to spend a day with them afterwards. Now Marie is also coming along making it into a small family reunion of sorts.

Dad contacted me last week with a proposal. They need volunteers at their conference to help run it and he asked me if I would like to do this in exchange for accommodations, food and drink. It seemed like a pretty good deal to me as the evenings wouldn’t involve “work” and would be time to spend with them at the various social events and dinners these conferences always entail. My only expense is the cost of the airfare (which I was going to incur anyways). So I booked my flight and will be in Barcelona with them for 5 days.

It is highly likely Nina will be on her island (Pantelleria) during that time as well. As the temperatures in the south Mediterranean start to rise dramatically toward the end of June, she would wind down her fieldwork by the 3rd week of June. So it’s my plan (barring anything unexpected at this point) to leave Barcelona and work my way around the Med along the coasts of France and Italy for a week or two and meet Nina on her island in time to celebrate her birthday at the end of June.

In 2004 I took part in the 200km cycle for the BC Lung Association and during the training for that event; I ripped some cartilage in my knee. Without getting too technical or gross, I have a small piece that has ripped off and is still attached on one end. The other end floats around (kind of like a flag flapping in the breeze from a flagpole).

Every once in a while the loose bit gets stuck in the joint and causes me some discomfort. It lasts for anywhere from a few days to a few months and then rectifies itself. I had an MRI performed in 2004 and they said it would require surgery at some point, but it had to get worse first. Well, it hasn’t been bothering me for ages (well over a year) until 4 weeks ago it came back. But this time, unlike any of the other times, it only bothers me while I sleep at night. I spent a few weeks waking up multiple times a night with an aching sensation in my knee which was getting a little worrisome.

I mentioned this to Mom in an Email as well as the fact that I have been working long hours and haven’t been getting out much. She told me her quads are too short and need to be strengthened and lengthened by regular stretching. As well, she suggested my quads might have retracted somewhat from a lack of exercise and are therefore pulling on my kneecap.

After receiving that Email I did some research on different quad stretches. I have been religiously doing 5-10 minutes worth every morning to see if it would make a difference. It has been about 10 days now and I have only had one bad night since starting this routine. I have had a few isolated incidences, but overall, I have reduced the problem by a good 85%. Mom was right, I have short-leg syndrome!

As I work from home I have adapted to Nina’s schedule. She leaves for school around 9:30am and doesn’t usually come back home until around 7pm. For the most part I sit at my desk and work that whole time. I imagine that will change when my workshop is complete and the pressure is relived.

So if you have been wondering why my blogs have become infrequent within the past month or so, it is due to the fact I have been crazy-busy with work. Although it is probably a good habit to be in (working hard) as the next project I have lined up is to start growing my business and attracting more clients.

Best get back to it…