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Yoga

Hobby butterfly though I am, my one constant over the years has been yoga. Through self-absorbed singledom, snatched lunchtime sessions near work, the smug stretches of antenatal yoga (first time around) and postnatal yoga co-opting baby, ending with the cheap convenience of an iPad app. Yoga reminds me that I have a mortal body which can be stressed, stretched and coaxed; sessions can be mundane or moving.
So, to review some of these approaches:
In Hitchin, the class I went to before motherhood made it difficult was Club Yoga led by Sarah. The lessons were unique and thoughtful. Feelings of frustration at being stuck in the same place for over an hour would subtly subside to quiet pleasure and focus. The classes hit a spiritual note that could feel uncomfortable for sceptics, but this was preferable to ‘keep fit’ yoga class that bang on about body-tightening benefits.
Second, I ordered the Tara Lee Yoga For You and Your Baby DVD to do with Babycub. This now appears to be unavailable. In any case, it is not a routine I would recommend. The short section focusing on yoga that includes your baby was gruellingly slow, and for every interesting move demonstrated (swing your baby from side-to-side, held by the ankles in a cross-legged pose) another bleeding-obvious one would be shown (holding your baby, dance gently around to some music). None of the other sections amounted to a great deal.
Third, I have recently used the Yoga Studio app to practice yoga at home. I love it: a calm voice describes the moves, a bendy lady demonstrates clearly on an uncluttered screen and sessions can be short or long. I went through a phase of doing short sessions when Babycub woke me pre-dawn, with the little mite kicking and cooing on a mat next to me, and felt very proud and relaxed for it. But I think I was in the crazed-new-mother phase then, and have now settled for bleary-eyed playing on the carpet. So now the odd session during naptime suffices. And gosh it’s good value for money.

I made something: Breton top

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Goofy photo credit to my friend Polly.

Once, on guide camp, I grossly exaggerated my horse-riding skills so I could go on a bracing hack with the experienced riders, instead of being led around on a fat little pony at snail-speed. I recall the darkening faces of the horsey girls as they realised that my total lack of experience had put the kibosh on their afternoon’s fun, meaning a trot was the fastest we’d ever go.

After signing up to the Thrifty Stitcher‘s Breton top sewing workshop (some mastery of the sewing machine a prerequisite), I worried that I would yet again be holding up a team of competents. My sewing sessions tend to end a bit tangly. However, friendly tutor Melissa put me at ease and helped me out when I got stuck, and the other sewers were sympathetic, lending the day a companionable glow.

The workshop was held in a small sweet sewing room inside a scary studio complex in Stoke Newington. First, we chose our stretchy stripy fabric. Then we pinned and cut out our fabric using paper patterns. We used an overlocker (special machine for stretchy seams and very exciting) to join shoulders, collar and sides from cuff to waist. At different points in its genesis, my Breton was mentally consigned to ‘nightwear only’ or ‘layering only’, but eventually ended with triumphant ‘workwear if I wore my hair down to hide the wonky collar’ status.

I enjoyed this workshop, taken with my sister as advance reciprocal Christmas gifts, and recommend it (though at the time of writing I can’t see any future classes advertised). If I had my time again, I would have done horizontal stripes on the collar (vertical looked a little clownish) and remembered to increase the overall length (nothing as unfortunate as a short top) as well as the sleeve length.

Real ale and cider appreciation

I know this sounds like the easiest of assignments, investigating a local pub’s (the Half Moon) Best of British Beer festivals. But, one, leaving a fractious 6-month-old for the evening is tricky. And, two, I don’t much like beer.
The first was sorted by a lovely friend babysitting who didn’t mind watching Questiontime with the grizzly and very-much-awake Babycub.
The second, well, I may have learned a little better what to avoid. Hoppy? Yuck. Roasted? Ick. Mild? Yes, that’s about all I’m good for. It was also jolly to be out among the beery of Hitchin (mainly male, disappointingly few beards, surprising number of cyclists). My naive tasting notes follow:
Plateau (Burning Sky): golden beer, bitter, grapefruit, zingy
Blackberry Cascade (Saltaire): pale ale, blackcurrant, blackberry, yummy
Orchid (East London Brewing Co.): mild beer, weak, vanilla, spicy, my favourite
Decadence (Weird Beard Brewing co.): craft stout, hoppy, bitter, chocolate, too harsh for me
Lilly the Pink (Abrahalls): pink cider, like apple juice, easy to drink.

A is for Art (life drawing)

How I had been looking forward to this! Apart from one embarrassing session as a sixth-former and the odd candid doodle of Mr Latebloomingleo, this was my first experience of life drawing. The evening was run by the Art Nest in Hitchin at the Victoria pub’s barn and cost £12 with a glass of wine. I found getting started difficult and felt very self-conscious that other people could see my rubbishy sketches (didn’t help that I sat next to a retired life-drawing teacher), but a series of quick poses (1-5 min) loosened me up and I began to really enjoy myself with the longer poses. Results below. I’m quite happy with them but need to work on hands, feet, legs, arms, faces and foreshortening. Lucky I have another session next month to improve! IMG_2110.JPG

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R is for Rock (choir)

Finally, this project has forced me to leave the house and do something that scares me. This was Hitchin’s Rock Choir “The Ultimate Singing Experience” which generously offers free taster sessions. I harassed my friend Jo to go with me.
The choir appeared to be about 60 strong (95% female) on the evening we went and everyone seemed very cheerful. As newbies, we were welcomed into our row and I relaxed quickly. The talented and confident Hazel led us in some fun warm-up exercises (singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow making only a ‘ng’ noise while furiously mouthing the words). Split into bass, upper/lower alto and upper/lower soprano, we started learning the piece for that evening: Fall at Your Feet by Crowded House (weird lyrics when you scrutinise them). We sat in lower alto which seemed to have the most straightforward, if ploddy, job of singing the main bit while sopranos added vocal embroidery. While singing Man in the Mirror we did some hand-clapping and synchronised swaying like a real choir. The website talked about the natural high of performing as part of a bigger group.
But here’s where my ego interferes. If I had felt like a rock star during rock choir — think Mick Jagger dancing on his cherry-picker above stadia audiences — I might have been tempted to join. It turns out performing a small role as part of a choir, a team, didn’t do it for me, at least on this occasion. So, I have not found my interest, but a lovely evening nonetheless.

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M is for Management

Studying for an MBA you’re not sure you will use, with 2 children under 3, is either brave or stupid. Ok it’s stupid. But to explain my blogging absence and sneak in another ‘hobby’ to tick off (Newcastle uni has a management soc): I have just submitted a piece of coursework for my latest module Sustainable Creative Management with the OU. The assignment was to suggest ways of increasing innovation at my organisation and, although it seemed somewhat farcical to do this while at home on maternity leave with Babycub, I decided to do a Sheryl Sandberg, lean in ever so slightly and send my proposals to a few colleagues. Done. This week I shall be going to Rock Choir which is much more in keeping with my project, i.e., 100% out of my comfort/talent zone.