the campsite shower block

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We shuffle across the dewy grass,

Flip flops sinking, lost in depth

Our toes so cold they crackle and burn.

Our towels are tucked with gawdy washbags

Underneath our youthful wings, we laugh

And shush each other as we slalom through

The tents and ropes and rounders bats.

We reach the block, the smell of bleach

Heavy in the strip lit air, flourescence

Lights our naked bodies locked in cubicles,

She sings next door to me

As soapy water swishes past, like rapids

That we ride in rubber dinghies.

Scrubbing at our reddened skin

We balance on one foot to dress,

Flamingoes in our native land,

But with our sodden socks we cut

A saddened, greyer version in the camping world.

I have things I like about camping, and things that I really hate. Last time I camped I had to sleep in my jeans every night because I was so cold. I must have slept for about three hours a night as I tossed and turned on that inflatable mattress that slowly deflated throughout the night.

However, I may be in the minority here, but I really love going over to the shower block each morning. I know that a lot of people probably find it a bit scummy, but having slummed it for a whole night, I love popping on my flip flops and trekking across the campsite with my towel under my arm.

I remember when I was a kid, loving putting the 20p into the timer and then racing to get washed before the water cut off.

And then there’s something so refreshing about walking back to your tent with your hair freshly washed and the coutryside air on your face. It feels very wholesome.

I was just taking a shower today and my ankles were really muddy from going on a run on the trails, and I just had this little memory bubble up, of being all mucky when camping, and enjoying scrubbing myself clean. It inspired me to write a little something and I kind of felt it necessary to explain why.

Much Love

Rachel xx

just let me do my job, please

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I’m here to do one thing,

That’s what I’m paid for,

That’s what I’m trained for.

So why are we talking about things

Irrelevant and useless,

Draining the life from me?

We can all do better,

So stop with the sniping

And let me get the result that you want.

We have the Commonwealth Games going on in Birmingham at the moment and there has been a bit of a fight between the Australian press and the swimmers which I have found really interesting.

It is Kyle Chalmers, the Australian 100m freestyle champion, who put out a statement on Instagram asking the Australian media to just back off if they really want the team to perform to their best.

Now, I haven’t done too much research into what has happened but I think a lot of the attention that has been stirred up has come from the fact that Cody Simpson has joined their team. He is an ex-pop star who toured with Justin Beiber and dated Miley Cyrus and and one of the Hadid sisters.

I’m kind of torn about how I feel about the way press intrude on athletes, because Chalmers has a point – they are there to swim, and the press are riling them up and making that difficult.

On the other hand, these guys are professionals and I think that everybody in the world has a responsibility to manage how they react to others. These swimmers are trained to get on with the job no matter what is going on in the outside world, and I’m actually quite surprised that Chalmers has got so upset about it.

I’ve never had the press intruding on my personal life though, so I can’t really comment and say that I would handle it any differently. I do wholeheartedly believe that people should be respected though, and perhaps the press need to back off and just judge these guys on what they are paid to do.

Much Love

Rachel xx

when is the correct time to quit?

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When should you quit?

Is it onmy before the halfway mark

Or just when it starts to hurt?

Do you carry on crawling on hands and knees?

Do you stop whenever you please?

I doubt there’s an answer that simple,

No equation; no one size fits all

That’s part of the final story

As you leave the race in a blaze of glory.

I have a friend who was doing a continuous deca Ironman last week. For those of you who are not familiar with the the world of ultra, that means that he was completing a triathlon that is ten times the distance of a standard ironman.

And if you don’t know ironman distances then I am here to tell you that he was attempting to swim 24 miles, followed by a 1,120 mile bike ride and all topped off with a 262 mile run.

I spent last week glued to Facebook as I watched his progress. He boshed out the swim in 13 hours and then took several days to complete the ride. By the time he started the run his body was already broken and it was painful to watch the video clips of him hobbling around the 1 mile course.

Ultimately, it got to the point where he was just moving too slowly and he had to withdraw after EIGHT DAYS of moving. He had about 120 miles to go, but he just wasn’t going to make it so he dropped.

I can’t imagine how disappointed he must be feeling right now, knowing that all that effort came to nothing (he still has serious respect from most people in the ultra community whatever the result).

It has made me think about my own experiences with giving up and that disappointment, and more importantly, when is the appropriate time to chuck in the towel? I used to say that once you went past half way you couldn’t quit, but sometimes you just want to see how far you can push it.

I’ve had several friends die because they’ve pushed it too far, and it’s horrible to log onto Facebook and see that somebody got into difficulty in the Channel and couldn’t be saved.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is so important, but I’ve learnt over the years that listening to your body is important. You learn a lot from quitting so it’s never actually a wasted experience.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is embrace those failures because they’ll normally make the best stories years down the line. But make sure you learn your lesson and come back stronger next time.

Much Love

Rachel xx

a day in sunny weymouth

We slowly walk towards the sea,

Complaining loudly about the pebbles underfoot,

Looking forward to reaching the waves

Where the beach turns to sand

And our feet squelch in the mud

And we count to ten, taking deep breaths

Before we launch through the surf,

The cold of the water crushing our chests,

Making us laugh with the rush of air

That escapes our lungs in time.

I went to the beach yesterday and it was beautiful. I haven’t been down to the coast in a while and I certainly haven’t got in for a swim in years.

It was quite exhilarating to get up to my waist and then just take that plunge so that your feet leave the ground. When I was training for the channel I used to do that every weekend and it became the most natural feeling in the world. But when you haven’t done it in ages, it really does take your breath away.

Once we were out, we lay on the beach, reading as we tried to warm up, and it reminded me of the days that I would get out early and sit chatting with volunteers on the beach when I was training.

We were lucky enough to be on the Jurassic Coast so we went for a walk along the cliff tops until we came to this beautiful little pub that was hidden between the hills, called The Smuggler’s Inn.

We have such a beautiful countryside and I remembered how beautiful it was yesterday. Picture postcard perfect.

Much Love

Rachel xx

for the love of our modern day tribes

underwater photography of swimmer
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We smile as we pass in the street,

An inner recognition when we see

Someone else who belongs with us

That branded mark upon their skin

Or the feathers they wear in tousled hair

They tell us that they’re one of us

A kindred spirit ready to connect.

When I was out running this evening, I passed loads of people walking their dos and out running themselves. I would smile at most of them, even though a lot of them would rather look away and ignore me.

And for that reason, I sometimes get a bit grumpy and in my head I start having arguments with them. I get particularly angry when people are walking in a wonky line while their eyes are glued to their phone screen; or people who take up the whole path with their dog lead so that there is no getting past them without jumping into a hedge.

However, as I was running down the hill, I saw a man in the distance walking towards me. He had a black T-shirt on, and across his chest I could see the Speedo logo in white. I instantly felt the need to wave and smile without even a hint of irritation.

After I’d passed, I realised that my attitude towards this random man was completely different and the only reason seemed to be that he obviously did a sport that I do. He was a member of my tribe.

It just goes to show that although we don’t live in tight knit tribes like we would have thousands of years ago, we do still feel like we belong to certain groups and we like the people in those groups more than others.

I don’t see myself as a very social person, but it’s nice that I have these little invisible alliances that make me feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside even though I can’t explain why.

Much Love

Rachel xx

doing the best you can with what you’ve got

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It sounds like the kind of thing

You’d hear at one of those annoying conferences

You know the type, where the speaker comes on

Clapping above his head, probably skipping

To The Eye Of The Tiger, everyone cheering

And he shares such platitudes as:

Love the life you have, but also

Strive for much better, like a Mercedes

And a kitchen island that you can share

On Instagram, a picture with your family

All wearing matching pyjamas, but anyway

Do just try to do your best with what you’ve got.

I am going to miss my drive to work in the mornings, because it was my time to just let my mind wander. All my best ideas seem to have come when I’m driving to or from work, and I’m going to lose that time in my next role (not that I’m complaining given that I’ll save a small fortune in petrol money).

Today, I was daydreaming (while concentrating on the road, of course) and I remembered being in Majorca with my family before it all went a bit wrong. We were sitting at a cafe on the beach and this couple climbed into an old rowing boat, but they had no oars.

We sat and watched with interest as the woman fixed at piece of wood to the back that acted as a rudder, then the man held up a broom handle with a sheet attached to it.

“No way are they going to go anywhere like that,” said my mum as we watched with interest.

But to our surprise, the wind hit their makeshift sail and they set off slowly across the bay. Within five minutes, they were just a dot in the distance.

This isn’t very profound, but it was cool to watch, and it did remind me that you don’t need a million pound yacht to get across the ocean; you just need an old boat and some bedding. And in life, you don’t need the kitchen island. Not really. You can still cook in your six foot kitchen, and you can probably have fun at the same time.

Much Love

Rachel xx

just play the bloody game

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Just play along, that game

It’s there to form a frame

So we know the rules, can keep it safe,

But even if you’re quite the little maverick,

You want to shake it up and change the world,

It still pays to keep one foot within the rules;

No one likes a show off, someone with no cares

For those who need those boundaries,

To those, you’re just attention grabbing,

A man who’s fine with blatant back stabbing.

I was on my way home tonight and I was listening to an interview with John McEnroe on Radio 2. He is plugging his film that is out, that documents his rise to tennis stardom and how he regularly stuck two fingers up to the powers that be.

However, it was interesting what he was saying, as a man with more experience in life, looking back at how he could have done things differently. He admitted that he did break some rules without really understanding what he was doing wrong, and it riled people up because they read it as him being rude.

He did then go on to speak about his desire to use his platform to make a difference – even if it was just in the way that the game of tennis was played and how the players talked about their feelings.

But, he did say that you can’t make changes unless you have at least one foot within the boundaries of what is acceptable. He said that if you go too wild, people can’t get on board with what you want. He said that you can appear to be a hypocrite because you are making a fuss but also attending the parties and doing the interviews.

It made me think that based on that theory absolutely anyone can make a difference if you really want to. Even if you’re the most straight laced person, you only need to step out of your comfort zone just a little and you can get noticed, and more importantly, respected.

You don’t need to be a crazy person who everyone look at, and I like to tell my students who kick up a fuss about everything, that they should just play the game. I thought that I might be giving them duff advice but actually there might have been some wisdom in what I was saying.

Make your life a bit easier – and maybe a bit more purposeful – and just play the bloody game.

Much Love

Rachel xx

cheap strawberry ice cream on a park bench

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We used to buy those 1 litre tubs

Of cheap strawberry ice cream

And sit on that bench under the tree,

A plastic spoon each, taking turns

To scoop at the tub as it melts

Under hot Durban sun, sweltering

To everyone who went out last night,

But we laugh, despite our discomfort,

For this is love, in a tub of pink cream,

Laughing at kids falling off bikes

And dreaming of days when our turn will come;

Marriage and kids, and a lifetime together.

I got married when I was nineteen and I met the man who was my husband while I was backpacking around South Africa. The marriage didn’t last, but the memories did, and every time it is hot I am taken back to that time in my life.

I was eating ice cream straight from the tub after work today, in a desperate attempt to cool myself down, and it reminded me of Colin and the fun memories we had together when we were over there and living a very simple life.

I was reminded of the times that we used to go out all night and then after a really short sleep, we would head to the local Spar and buy a big tub of ice cream, that we would share in one sitting. We would sit under a tree and watch the world go by and it just felt so perfect.

I only wrote this because I love those memories that bubble up, uninvited, but still having the power to make you smile. It was nice to go back to that park for a few minutes and remember those sunkissed days.

Much Love

Rachel xx

burning with anger

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That blue banner that spans

The top of my computer screen,

It’s such a calming colour

And yet it should be fiery red

For all the crap I read

That makes my stomach acid rise,

I wish it came with warnings that say,

‘Read below with caution,

It could well ruin your day.’

I hate social media, and yet I can’t help myself. I just about squeeze into the millenial category, so I’m allowed to be a little bit addicted to some of these things. I can quite happily leave my phone at home for days at a time, so I am still a bit of a technological rarity.

The reason that I love social media, is that it gives you access to everyone’s life and what they are doing. The reason I hate it is that it gives you access to everyone’s life and some of the idiotic things that rattle around their brains.

I need to step back from it because I can sometimes get so angry about some of the things people write, and it seems so at odds with the calming blues that characterize these sites.

Today, I made the mistake of flicking through Facebook and clicking on a post the had a ‘see more…’ at the end of it. You know these posts are going to be long and rambling so I always try to steer away from these, but I got sucked in.

This person had written a post about how unfair it was that naughty pupils were excluded from prom and how that meant that teachers were cruel and not trying to be inclusive. They went on to say how lovely their son was and how the rough ride he has had should excuse his behaviour.

I know that this is a personal belief and there are probably people reading this and fuming at my views, but is school not for learning and for appreciating that there are boundaries? If you constantly push those boundaries, waste the time of teachers and cost your classmates valuable learning time, shouldn’t that be punishable?

The comments made my blood boil even more, with people just bashing this one school and the teachers there. And almost every one started with ‘my son came home and said that he did nothing, the teacher just has it out for him…’

Believe it or not, teachers don’t go into a class and pick out kids that they just don’t like the look of. And the point of my post is that everyone I know in the profession wants to help kids, and that involves teaching them the behaviours and values that will later make them good citizens and human beings.

Help us to help your kids and stop telling them they can do what they want!

With Stern Love

Miss R (Teacher of English) xx

leaving a legacy

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She needs to know her story will

Be etched in stone for all to see

And yet she knows she is one girl

In seven billion people walking

On this great and wondrous Earth,

So how can she be held aloft

Above the people jostling for

A place in hefty history books.

I’m sure I’m not alone in worrying about the legacy that I will leave behind when I am gone. I worry about the fact that I will just fade away; I have one child and when he is gone, and perhaps my grandchildren, I will be forgotten.

This is a kind of narcissistic thought, because not every person can go down in history. And just because everyone won’t remember you, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t touched the lives of a few people in a wonderful way.

But I am writing this piece because I’ve spent the last week thinking about Deborah James who died at age 40 last week. If you are not in the UK, you may not have heard of her, but she was a teacher and then she got bowel cancer. She campaigned tirelessly during her illness for more awareness of the disease, and just before she died she was made a Dame.

She has left behind such an incredible legacy and, as this is something that I do genuinely worry about, it has reminded me of what is really important in life.

It’s not about getting famous and successful just for the sake of having money. It’s about either doing something that will help the wider community, or at least the people in your immediate life.

As a bit of an introvert, I know that I could never do anything like Deborah did, but I do have the ability to make my friends feel good, and to make sure that the kids I teach have a positive experience in my room.

It’s great the we have people like Deborah, and many of us who had never even met her, feel really sad about her passing – she felt like a friend. But remember that you can also leave a positive legacy in the smallest way – it might mean a hell of a lot to just one person.

Much Love

Rachel xx