Thursday, 27 October 2016

A (dog) walk in the park - Mouldon Hill

The lake at Mouldon Hill Country Park
We've not lived in the area long and had a dog for an even shorter period, so I thought it might be useful to highlight some of our dog walking locations for anyone in a similar position, or anyone who is visiting Swindon with a four-legged friend.

Swindon has a number of country parks dotted around its edges, Mouldon Hill Country Park is the closest to where we live and so a fairly frequent haunt. It's easy to find and parking is free, but there are no facilities such as toilets or a cafe.

When Barney was little we used to just do a circuit around the lake, but there is plenty of other land to explore, tracks heading out through wooded areas, grassed areas and of course the walk up to the hill. Nowadays, we tend to walk three quarters of the way around the lake and then head up the hill so that Barney can have a good run off lead. The area around the lake is usually busy, with anglers, pedestrians and lots of other dogs. There are usually several loose dogs under varying levels of control of their owners, and sometimes dripping wet after a plunge in the lake chasing ducks, so we keep Barney on his lead initially until we know whether it's a good day for recall. 

There are some other paths around the park, including some leading down to the canal and the steam railway line which we have yet to try out. There is plenty to keep Barney sniffing around for some time yet.
The view across the fields from the top of the hill
Trying to resist the urge to go and meet the ducks

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Lava shell massage - tried and tested

When Bloomin Beautiful invited me to try a lava shell massage in what turned out to be a very stressful week, I couldn't have been more delighted. I go to their salon in Swindon regularly for HD Brows and Shellac treatments but this was something new. They're always really friendly and do a great job, so I was really looking forward to it.

I've had massages before on spa days but they've always been aromatherapy massages to this was a new experience. When I arrived, the therapist showed me the shells and explained that they have a teabag-like package inside when means that they warm up by themselves when they're not being used. I was asked if there were any particular areas which she should focus on and left to get undressed. I stripped down to my pants and lay face down with my feet under a heated throw (so cosy!) and placed a towel over my back, well at least as well as I could.
When the therapist returned, she dimmed the lights and pulled the throw up to cover me and keep me warm. She uncovered a section of my body at a time, first my legs and feet, one at a time, then my back and upper arms. I then turned over so she could do the fronts of my legs and upper chest and arms and hands. As she worked on each area, she applied some massage oil and worked over each area using both the lava shells and her hands. When the stones started to cool, she'd set one aside to reheat, they're warm but not too hot, just nice and comforting really. The shape of the stones means that when the therapist is working a really gnarly area (like my knotted shoulders!) she can use the edge of the stone to get into the muscle better. I usually get a bit anxious about having a massage, but being covered by a warm throw and just having one area uncovered at a time was really comforting and preserved my modesty; I just tried to clear my mind and almost dropped off. When I was lying on my back I was given a wheat bag to cover my eyes which was really helpful as I have these silly translucent eyelids which always let light in, it meant I was able to relax fully.

After my hour's full body massage I was left alone firstly whilst the therapist brought me a glass of water and then afterwards to get dressed. The treatment had worked wonders, my stresses were forgotten and I felt completely relaxed from the warmth of the shells. I'd certainly recommend it as a pamper treat and will be back myself next time I fancy an hour's time out which will leave me feeling blissfully relaxed.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

September round up

There goes another month, Autumn is well and truly here. It's been a really nice Summer but I'm ready for evenings in front of the fire and getting wrapped up in boots, scarves and jumpers. We celebrated the arrival of Autumn by heading out for a Sunday roast at the pub in our village. It was incredible, we really must do that more often.

We've been taking Barney to puppy school since he was about ten weeks old. We started with puppy playgroup, which was mainly socialisation, with a bit of obedience thrown in. After that we moved onto the next level which was the Kennel Club's Puppy Foundation course. It was based more on training (sitting, staying, walking on a lead etc.) and after four weeks, Barney passed. Hurrah! We've now moved onto the intermediate class at school which may lead to us achieving the bronze level, we'll see how that goes though!
I passed, Mum!
We've also started going on dog walks organised by the puppy school. I have to admit I was massively fed up after the first walk, Barney was jumping up at all the other dogs and was pulling so hard to get to them that he couldn't breathe and was making himself sick. Just a few weeks on (thanks in the main to bribery by sausage) he's much better. He still jumps all over the other dogs given half a chance, but he's not pulling as much and will focus on us rather than his four legged companions if we persuade him enough.
We try not to walk Barney too far whilst he's young, but we took a trip out to Barbury Castle and walked around the site of the Iron Age hill fort. It helped blow the cobwebs away and we'll be back in a few months to do a longer geocaching walk around the area. 
I'm feeling a little windswept
Andrew used to work at Aardman (animators, best known for Wallace and Gromit and their other claymation work) and as a result we were invited to their 40th birthday party. It was held at Colston Hall in Bristol and soon filled up with hundreds of employees, former employees and friends of Aardman. Tim Vine did a slot and there was an incredible live version of Sledgehammer accompanied by the video, animated all those years ago by Nick Park. It was really good to catch up with familiar faces and Aardman always put on a good party.
Happy birthday, Aardman
I've been having physio on my ankle over the last couple of months as it's never really recovered from me spraining it about nine years ago. The physio has been useful but they referred me to a podiatrist which has really helped. They've given me inserts to put into my shoes to make me walk with proper form and exercises to work the muscles which haven't been working together as they should. I can already feel the difference and I'm hoping it'll make walking (and running in due course) much less painful. Hurrah!

I'm still really busy at work, but starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. We've managed to find time for a few interviews to bolster the team. It's been a full on but we've found one really good candidate, hopefully we'll find another to bring on board soon. 

We're still doing jobs around the house, we had a wasps nest destroyed and have ordered a new cooker. Our current one is dying a ring at a time, so hopefully the replacement will arrive whilst it's still partially working. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Now onto my progress against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
I had a day off work in the middle of the month with a streaming cold and fancied curling up on the sofa with a book. I picked Raven Black by Ann Cleeves which had been on my Kindle for a few months. It felt a bit like relevant work reading as Shetland comes up a lot at work, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was just what I needed at the time, enough plot to keep me interested, but nothing complicated.
Find one hundred geocaches
We're still at 534 finds, 46 for the year to date. We normally do a lot when we're on holiday but as this year's holiday was peternity leave it's thrown our numbers out a bit. Hopefully we'll make up a little ground over the remainder of the year. 

Try three gym classes
No progress on this, with the physio and podiatrist I think this will need shelving until next year.

Meet up with an old friend
We saw a few old friends at the Aardman party which was really nice. I've also exchanged emails with a couple of other friends, hopefully we'll be able to coordinate diaries and catch up over the next few months.

Blog once a month
September was a bit of a bad month, with my only blog being my August catch up post. I've got a couple of blogs planned for this month, so hopefully I'll do better in October.

Watch a new film once a month
After watching Divergent last month, we watched Insurgent next which again I really enjoyed. We also watched Super 8, I wasn't sure what to make of it, I didn't even know it was sci fi when it started, but it was better than I expected once it got going. 

Take six day trips
No progress on this one, I think this may need to wait until next year, but you never know!

October has been busy so far (as you can tell by the fact I didn't get around to posting this in the first week of the month...) but I'm hoping things will settle down. I'm looking forward to a few movie nights in front of the fire and walks kicking fallen Autumnal leaves.