Log in

No account? Create an account
Emily Macaulay [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Emily Macaulay

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Being stopped in my tracks. [Sep. 16th, 2015|09:53 pm]
Emily Macaulay
I'm working on a blog at the moment about the recent Assisted Dying Bill that was voted down by MPs this week. It feels quite sad to write though.

So I'm pleased that tonight I had an experience that was so wonderful and moving and uplifting that I wanted to share it here.

I'm incredibly lucky with where I live. I'm in a city, albeit a small one and ten minutes from the High Street and my place of work. At the same time I am one minute from the Quay and then miles of canal paths. These are a regular haunt of mine as I do my running, not least because they are flat (and for someone who lives in Devon flat is a rarity).

I was running this evening, around dusk. As I ran along one of the canal paths with a podcast playing in my ears I always look around. And tonight I was stopped in my tracks and removed my headphones. In the sky were hundreds of swifts/swallows (bird identification was never my forte). They were swirling around, as a flock and yet individuals, diving low to the ground, skimming the water, flying past me with what felt like only inches to spare. All set against a gentle red sunset. I stood there for ten minutes, not seeing another human just being a part of this incredible moment happening around me. I was open mouthed. A truly special moment.
LinkLeave a comment

Still running…still learning, the #Leeds10K and a dying wish. [Jul. 12th, 2015|01:41 pm]
Emily Macaulay
I’ve been running fairly regularly now since the end of 2007 when I started training for the London Marathon the following April. I go through peaks and troughs, some of which are health related and some are good old fashioned laziness. But I always return to it. I’ve had periods when I’ve concentrated on faster 10K times and other times it is all about endurance. I’ve focussed on running consecutive days and trained for a hilly ultra marathon. And there’s been a year of triathlon training thrown in for good measure when the running was just about surviving after the two disciplines before it. Through all these years I learn different things about myself and my running, from both a physiological perspective but also emotionally. Sometimes I am re-learning things that I’d forgotten.

At the moment I am in the midst of a fundraising challenge to run the equivalent distance of Land’s End to John O’Groats (603miles as the crow flies) so this is tending to be lots of solo running, normally around 6miles a time and generally in the immediate vicinity of my house (along a canal). When I’m doing these miles I am, most of the time, wearing my headphones and enjoying some upbeat tunes. Music is powerful to me in invoking memories, people and places but also the right beat at the right time can really lighten my legs. It helps me put my head elsewhere and work through anything that needs some thinking time. Often I’m not even focussing on the music, I probably couldn’t tell you what songs had been played.

Running with music is a relatively new thing to me, I’d always kind of scorned people that had, as though they couldn’t cope with the raw reality of pushing themselves whilst running. But in recent years I’ve found that solo running is made a little more comfortable with music (or even audio books on occasion). I still never race/run events with music though.

This weekend I set out for a run and within a song my iPod battery ran out. I foolishly had left it on between runs and the juice was all juiced. Still, I tucked it in my pocket, opened my ears and embraced the opportunity to reconnect with nature and life that was going on around me. I heard birds, swans, people walking with children / dogs, other active types on the river in boats, and around me on bikes and running. There were quiet patches and busy patches but with all of it, although I wasn’t directly engaging with anyone or anything other than the steady plod of my feet on the footpath, I felt connected to life. This was also useful to remind myself how to listen to my body when running. I could hear my breathing, ragged at times, easing at others and my feet – was I slapping or making a solid mid-foot strike? The result…I found myself running eight miles, further than I’d planned but everything felt so in balance I didn’t want it to end.

By sheer coincidence the next day at the Otter River and Rail 10K I forgot my Garmin. This is the watch I wear every time I run to record how far I have gone (and how fast). This is essential at the moment when every mile counts towards my running challenge target, but at other times when it is a training run I always have my watch. I love data and getting instant feedback on my progress. As it was a race I didn’t have my music either, I was basically naked (not literally! Although I almost wish I had been, it was sooooo hot!). This enhanced my re-learnt lesson from the day before about connecting with oneself, life around me, and listening to my body. I just ran. The time wasn’t important, I ran hard when my body said “go” and eased off when my body said “hang on a minute buddy”. It was wonderful. (I’m still awaiting the official times to be posted so I know how it compares to when I run with my watch…I can’t ever quite give up the data).

I think I am particularly self aware of my physiology because of the delicate balance managing my cancer puts me in. Getting drug levels right, enough rest, enough activity, cyclical periods of growth, occasional bleeding from inflammation and the odd fit thrown in for good measure, all means I need to be able to recognise what my body is telling me before it gets to crisis point. And I do manage that. Doing it when running was something I used to do a lot more, and think I’ll do more of again. If the last couple of days are anything to go by performance is improved by responding to and working with one’s body rather than against it.

This brings me on, somewhat clumsily, to my comments on the Leeds 10K. This is the flagship Run For All race, the events arm of the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. It is special to the Appeal as it was the event Jane herself launched nine years ago and it is from those beginnings that they have grown and the legacy continues. I’ve done a number of Run For All events over the years including the Leeds Half Marathon, Hull 10K and the Yorkshire Marathon, but none are as special as the Leeds 10K. The course, atmosphere and spectators are wonderful but it is more than that, something almost intangible. You feel your heart soar and be part of an inspiring legacy. You stand among the thousands of people, knowing no one but knowing everyone. It is breathtaking and certainly lump in the throat inducing. It is also today. Or was, this morning. And I wasn’t there. This is gutting to me but unavoidable in the context of my life right at this moment. It was the right decision to not go, but a sad decision. It has been both lovely and hard watching Twitter explode today first with good wishes and shout outs and then with post race selfies and various digital forms of that adrenaline rush. My own personal highlight was in 2010 meeting a huge hero of mine, Paula Radcliffe.

Me and Paula Radcliffe, Leeds 10K 2010...she's the one eating the bacon buttie... ... I'd already inhaled mine!

Which leads me on to this. When I die I suggest one thing (and I won’t know if you do/don't do it of course). Don't set up anything in my name. Enter the next Leeds 10K, run/walk/crawl it, embrace its wonder, because it is there on the roads of Leeds amongst the Jane Tomlinson’s Appeal Run For All gloriousness that you will truly understand what it has all been about for me all these years. And you’ll see too that #RunningIsFunning.
LinkLeave a comment

A bit of a plea...help me to help others...and running (of course) #RunningIsFunning [Jun. 6th, 2015|09:28 am]
Emily Macaulay
Today, really, I should be running the Dartmoor Discovery Ultra Marathon again. This was the event I attempted last year and got timed out at the marathon stage.

I know, even though I am in a good phase currently, that my body wouldn't withstand that (or the training for it) and many of you completed my survey indicating I didn't need to, in order to raise sponsorship, so I'm not running it.

Instead today I will be hitting the roads to tick off more miles towards my challenge for 2015, to raise £2,000 for the incredible Jane Tomlinson Appeal by running the equivalent distance of Land's End to John O'Groats in a year. I'm six months in and have run just over 100 of the 603. You can do the maths about the kind of six months I have ahead to succeed.

If I could encourage you to show your support by dipping into your pocket (yes, I know, again) then I would be most grateful. Even the cost of a dessert, or a pint, or a coffee/hot chocolate would help. And today would be a great day to get that extra boost. You can donate here or cold hard cash when you next see me :o)
LinkLeave a comment

Choosing my vote in 2015 [May. 4th, 2015|09:00 am]
Emily Macaulay
I have voted in every election since I was old enough. Voting is very important to me, exercising the most fundamental democratic right is a responsibility and I struggle to understand (read "I can't understand) people that choose not to. Only in last year's European elections have I ever voted for the "winning" candidate. In all other elections whether in local / national / or Police and Crime Commissioners elections, my vote has been for an "also ran". Some parties would describe this as a "wasted vote" or suggest that my voting for what I believed in, as opposed to them, meant another party got the seat (the so called "tactical vote"). I will always vote for what I believe in. Tactical voting in an anonymous vote instinctively feels like a flawed principle, not to mention a little morally askew.

In four days time I will be putting a cross on a ballot paper for the 2015 general election. My decision rests between Green and Labour (the current incumbent). Neither party completely reflects what I think is right, each of them get bits right, as far as I am concerned, on the big issues.

I wondered what my two local candidates for Green and Labour thought about an issue that is very important to me and could very likely be debated / voted on in this next term of office (it flipping better be!!). That is Assisted Dying. I'm not covering in this blog the ins and outs of Assisted Dying, this is about parliamentary candidates responses to a question about it. So I tweeted both candidates for their views, both asked me to email to be able to provide a detailed response. This seemed reasonable and I sent exactly the same question to both. I referred to the Bill that was debated in the House of Lords recently (to provide a framework for their views), I indicated the distinction between Assisted Dying and Assisted Suicide (which I would expect them to understand or research) and most importantly I gave no indication of my position (i.e. whether I was for or against....for the record I'm very pro).

Without applying an academic research style coding framework it is tricky to comment on their replies in a truly objective manner, so I've put a copy of each reply on here so you can (if you so desire) make you own decisions. But I will summarise my views on them here. It is worth saying that it is almost not even what their vote on the topic would be, more the way they interact with their potential constituent, their potential vote.

The Labour candidate response to my question

Labour's Ben Bradshaw replied in about a week. The email was short, largely impersonal and felt a little dismissive. Mr Bradshaw raised the issue of faith which seemed irrelevant - it wasn't as though this was explained as a motivator for his position. Which ultimately was not stated. There was a classically politicians style response of "...I will continue to follow this issue closely, listening to the views of my constituents carefully". There was no indication of personal position on the topic, nor of the party's. I don't know how he would vote on a topic that is important to me. And I'm not saying it was, but frankly this reply could have been copy/pasted by anyone.

The Green candidate response to my question

Green's Diana Moore replied almost two weeks later. I was starting to be nervous that there wouldn't be a response and that would be a deal breaker, I simply couldn't comprehend voting for someone that couldn't respond to a electorate's query. The style of the response could not be more different. The tone is warm and personable. Ms Moore shares an insight into her personal experiences, demonstrated an understanding of the distinction I posed, shared her party's position on Assisted Dying and took responsibility for expressing her own opinion, "I have come to agree ...".

The Green response far exceeded anything I had hoped for. I felt that my question had been given due consideration and responded to by a person that was genuinely working to be worthy of my vote rather than one that perhaps felt more like someone doing their job. That the Green candidate also expressed an understanding of wider issues, and showed compassion, I think is applaudable. And, most notably, I utterly respect someone that will say what their view is (pro in this case) when they don't know what the reader's position is. The classic "stick to your guns".

The Green response also included a handy link to their manifesto which includes a commitment relating to Assisted Dying. If my vote choice wasn't a done deal by the impressive email, it certainly was with that.

I will be voting Green, Diana Moore, in Exeter on Thursday 7 May 2015. However you choose to use your vote, use it.
LinkLeave a comment

There's nothing sweet about me [Apr. 25th, 2015|10:44 pm]
Emily Macaulay
And so it is done. Completed. I have, for the past fourteen days, not eaten any sweet foods. No chocolate, no sugary drinks, no cakes, no biscuits, no ice cream, no desserts. I haven't removed all sugar, that wouldn't be practical for me. So savoury foods that contain sugar have remained, such as baked beans, bread.

Before this period I had a real chocolate addiction. I never moderated my consumption and would daily eat probably as much as a couple of Twirls (or equivalent). Chocolate was a crutch and a habit.

In fact it has been almost a month with no sweet stuff. I had three wagon falls en route (one unintentional and the other two frustratingly intentional), but for the last two weeks solid absolutely nothing.

The result?

The habit feels broken. It'll be interesting what happens when I taste my first sweet stuff but I'm 24 hours past my 14 day target and not feeling the urge. More, when I think about eating a heap of chocolate I feel a little disinclined about it. I like to think I have learnt moderation.

I have decided that I don't want to slip back into the over indulgence so I will only be having sweet things as part of a moment. So like as a dessert, or a hot chocolate when out with friends. I won't be having any at home just "because".

Over the same period I have increased my running again (because of another challenge I have set myself). This has meant my body has toned a little more. Running alone does not affect my weight. I have been the same weight for around 10 years, fluctuating by a couple of pounds here or there. I have, at times in my life, done a lot more running than I am currently and this would tone me, but not change that weight - because I didn't change what I was eating.

In the last month, by only removing sweet foods, I have lost a stone. This was not an aim, but is certainly a noteworthy side effect. And let's be clear the rest of my eating habits over the period haven't changed. I have had multiple burgers and chips, onion rings, garlic bread, full English breakfasts. So this weight loss, I think it can be argued, is almost entirely down to just removing my huge over indulgence of chocolate. To think I was carrying a stone of sugar around with me is quite impactive.

But probably what I've confirmed most to myself is that truly anything is possible if I put my mind to it. I've achieved a lot of physical challenges that I am so proud of. Often these have been about pushing my body through pain and past points I didn't think possible. This challenge was all about telling my mind, and the addictive element of my brain, no. No, and meaning no. I wasn't sure I could. I wasn't sure that even if I did that it would have any kind of permanent effect. I guess I don't know yet that it will, but it feels like it may. And that's kind of pleasing.
LinkLeave a comment

A rocky road...more accurately Cadburys chocolate [Apr. 11th, 2015|09:40 am]
Emily Macaulay
My new Day 1 on the "not eating sweet stuff" challenge was Monday. Almost immediately it felt tougher which seemed odd. Bearing in mind how disappointed I'd felt in myself for having tripped over that rouge hot cross bun I thought this would strengthen my resolve. Instead for three whole days the desire for chocolate has niggled away at me. Like my heart and brain are negotiating independently of me, kind of a "well you cheated before so why not again" or "well you've been doing a lot of running again how bad can a little chocolate be" or "you're alone, it's evening, you're relaxing why not enjoy a taste of the sweet". By Wednesday evening it was becoming almost all I could think about, so I stepped off "the wagon". I ate half an Easter egg, straight off the bat, and fast. So fast in fact it made me feel sick. My stomach felt oily and my pores felt full. I felt uncomfortable. Combined with almost immediate guilt (though not quite the level of before as this was a conscious breach) and I stepped, nay - leapt, back onto the wagon for another Day 1, Thursday.

It wasn't tough on Thursday. The residual memory of how physically I'd felt and that guilt meant I didn't even give the chocolate a second thought. (It is worth noting at this point that whilst I miss all sweet things, it is the chocolate I crave, literally crave). Until yesterday evening. There's a part of me that feels like my neat/tidy/control compulsion was stronger than my abstention compulsion. Having that half egg knocking around was messing with my mojo. That and the fact I was on the sofa relaxing and I wanted it. Really wanted it.

I had it.

Now? I'm not just disappointed with myself, and embarrassed (let's be clear the only reason I'm blogging/tweeting about this is a hope that public shaming will help force my compliance) but I'm cross. Very cross. How dare I fail to meet a challenge that is just about choice?! Step up for goodness sake Macaulay.

So we are at Day 1 again. This time, I will not give in. No. Matter. What.
LinkLeave a comment

Variety is the spice of life, or why I love my job [Apr. 9th, 2015|10:58 pm]
Emily Macaulay
I love my job. And of the many reasons why, variety is one of them, as is being on the frontline.

Today was a great example of this variety. Today I was:

A supervisor - supporting staff dealing with contentious queries
A customer service assistant - providing library services to the public
A cleaner - maintaining an appealing working environment (and supporting someone cleaning up sick)
A removal and logistics officer - moving lots of things from one office into multiple other offices with less room
A security guard - enforcing a ban from the building
A conference co-ordinator - taking bookings and welcoming guests
An IT technician - spending 40mins trying to fix some major hardware
A counsellor/listening ear - listening to a lady talking about her son's "problems" (her words)
An operations bod - timetabling, processing claims, examining staffing levels

Bring on tomorrow.
LinkLeave a comment

Job share MPs: Problem solving parliament [Apr. 8th, 2015|08:35 am]
Emily Macaulay
Last week we saw the #LeadersDebate. I didn't watch it but my Twitter timeline was gushing about how refreshing the three female candidates were in their approach. Ipsos Mori did analysis on tweets about the debate and concluded that the positive feelings towards the female candidates performance was not solely impressing my timeline. This starts to raise the topic of female representation in parliament and whether an improvement in this could bring about a change in how our government operates.

"In Westminster all things are not equal. The House of Commons is made up of 502 men and 148 women. There are 32 million women in the UK, 51% of the population. They are a diverse majority. But Parliament is 77% male." (from http://www.5050parliament.co.uk).

I suspect there are a number of reasons for this imbalance including that women aren't being picked as candidates by the strongest party in a particular area, some of society's views about women in politics, the candidates themselves, and the people with a propensity to vote.

There's also an issue with the demands of being an MP. MPs have to be able to attend votes in London, they work 50-70 hours per week on average and those two facts along will rule out sections of community. Women are often the primary carer for dependents or family members. We see this across all other work. It is because of this that women (still, although the balance is changing) have more flexible working arrangements in place than men, such as job share. The employment world recognised that to get the best people, rather than just those that are available, you have to adjust working practices to accommodate individuals needs. I believe the time has come to apply those principles to parliament, to address the disproportionate representation and ensure that anyone that wants to stand for election is able to, and isn't put off by historical procedures and agreements.

Clearly such a change will require electoral reform. One woman in Weston-super-mare is looking to start that debate and challenge. Rachel Ling is making a proposal. She is wanting to stand as a parliamentary candidate but as part of a job share and is advertising for someone to stand with her.

The aim, to increase the number of women in parliament is sound. The principle of introducing flexible working arrangements to facilitate that is sound. In practice? It'll be challenging and will certainly require wholesale changes in how we think about the parliamentary system working, and probably how we as an electorate engage with our job-share MP. The biggest will be two people having only one vote and creating a process by which the decision is made about how to vote. Presumably the electorate would only elect a job-share MP had indicated they thought at least broadly the same on all the big issues, but what about the unplanned votes - topics that arise throughout the year. What if they disagree? Who decides who votes? These are real procedural issues that will need overcoming, but there can be quite a simple answer. The reality is my MP doesn't (can't) ask for my opinion on every vote he takes. As part of my role in a democratic society my vote says to him (not that I did vote for him but you catch my drift) "I trust you to vote for the good of my area/the people/humanity". So sometimes he will vote not in a way I would have expected - sometimes against his own party. It is also already generally had for MPs to engage with all their electorate - the time to do so would be phenomenal - so current MPs can only do their best. And in this respect there's an argument that says two could be better than one. As for then how they act as one person, one MP, one vote. Well I'd suggest they let the electorate decide. The job share can propose a process by which they will manage potential conflicts and be clear about that during their campaigning. If the electorate like it they'll vote for it. If they're unsure it'll work they probably won't. And if they do elect a job share MP and it doesn't work out, then like in all other situations when our MPs fail us we have the choice at the next election to not re-elect.

(By way of note my MP does agree with the principle of job share when asked on the main forum I, and many, engage with him).

Seems to me the time is now. ... Just wish I lived in Weston-super-mare.

[Note: I've no favour towards the Telegraph despite two of my links here going to their articles. I've tried to use the links provided by people in the debates and some other papers - the Guardian for example - haven't even covered the story online].
LinkLeave a comment

Failing and pseudo-self-flagellation [Apr. 5th, 2015|11:25 pm]
Emily Macaulay
I do have a propensity towards pseudo-self-flagellation. Not involving whips or religion but certainly being mean to myself when I've done something bad, or let myself down, or generally have other negative feelings about myself. It's a similar thing that drives me in my endurance running challenges. My body hurts me through cancer so I try and push it back, to hurt it, to control.

Last weekend I decided to give up confectionery for two weeks. You don't need to know the negative motivating factors for this, but they were there. It has been suggested to me the timing of this abstinence was self-flagellating in nature...and on reflection I tend to agree.

There is no way I could give up all sugar. The "hidden" sugars in bread and baked beans etc would just be too time consuming for me to give up (the identification / seeking alternatives etc). So I decided I would give up all items that were obviously mainly sugar; confectionery broadly although also including ice cream and biscuits (over which there appears to be some 'debate' regarding their inclusion in the 'confectionery' grouping). The two week timeframe came from a chance encounter with Newsround in which a doctor was explaining to a group of school children that their eating of chocolate after school was a habit and could be broken in two weeks of resistance.

I am a sugar addict. I'm certainly a chocolate addict. I crave it and do not eat in moderation. But two weeks sounds do-able.

Day 1 : A long day at work and my first evening with no distraction after dinner which is my real crunch time for chocolate. Revelling in my self righteousness I resist, did go to bed a little twitchy but smug.

Day 2 : An even longer day at work where I'd normally have a late afternoon sugary snack to boost me through the evening. By introducing fruit for breakfast and again mid afternoon I find I balance my hunger a bit and make it through unscathed.

Day 3 : A day off, the horror! No distraction and a plan to predominantly rest for the day means a lot of tea drinking and the absence of the habitual chocolate. I have a longer than usual afternoon nap to kill the time.

Day 4 : Back to work and another long day but by now I'm not feeling physically like I need chocolate, when I see if I still salivate remembering the taste but it doesn't cross my mind if I don't.

Day 5 : Today's challenge? Dinner out with friends. Luckily we all stuff ourselves so much with a starter and mains there's no room for dessert.

Day 6 : Dinner out again. This time I really feel the absence of a fizzy drink, something with some flavour alongside my meal. There's room for dessert or a hot chocolate tonight but I resist. Even when a huge slab of chocolate cake is virtually inhaled across the table from me.

Day 7 : Halfway through the two weeks. I got given a chocolate egg which I looked desiringly at but was able to put to one side knowing the week had rushed by and it'd be waiting for me. Today was big lunch out. As a result I didn't need dinner in the evening but I needed a snack. I plumped for hot cross buns. They're in the bread section...right? Well yes, but next to the cakes. It was pointed out to me that they are certainly sweet more than savoury, and research shows they have more sugar per 100g than ice cream :o(

I am an uninformed idiot. I am unfeasibly cross with myself and disappointed in myself. And with that sad feeling comes an urge, a rage, a desperation for chocolate, for my comfort. But I won't. I haven't. I know that I have failed, but only through error.

So tied to start again tomorrow. Day 1. The self-flagellation motives are clear this time. I failed the challenge. Must do better this time.
LinkLeave a comment

Tattoos: Covering up or letting in? [Mar. 20th, 2015|08:08 am]
Emily Macaulay
I was meant to be getting a new tattoo yesterday. I didn't, but that's not relevant to this blog. All my tattoos mark important moments in my life and this one was no different. This one would mark my receiving the honour of a MBE last year. Previously I've always known what image I wanted, but on this I drew a blank. I spoke to Richard Jones (www.paintedmouse.com) and he came up with this great design. The cog framework would allow me to add more elements in the future...you know....just in case I do something else to be proud of.

I've been talking a bit about having this tattoo with colleagues at work...you know...over the water cooler.

One colleague made a comment I found particularly interesting. One of the reasons he had never had a tattoo, he said, was because he felt that maybe he'd never be able be totally naked again. This wasn't some lewd remark, or even a spiritual one, just an expression about the impact having a tattoo on your body has on you. It is an unnatural mark that one has chosen to add to their body. To mark a moment, or a person, or a thing, or simply for its artistic merit (or indeed a combination of all those and more). But it is added...like jewellery, like your favourite "I look really good in these" pants, like makeup even. But all of those can be removed. And you can be truly naked. With a tattoo, a permanent marking on your skin you can't.

Unless we consider the premise that the tattoo may be an external reflection of an inner self. Of things we may not talk about often but are intrinsically part of us. In almost all cases (I suspect) a tattoo is the result of someone wanting to express something forever. Forever. So I wonder whether in many ways that is in fact being more naked. Beyond the physical, and exposing a glimpse of that which is inside.

I don't often express views about self image/body image and I'm not going to start now, but I've found it interesting mulling these points over.

One things for sure though, if I ran down Exeter High Street with no clothes on the police would certainly consider me naked, regardless of my very special tattoos!
LinkLeave a comment

[ viewing | 10 entries back ]
[ go | earlier/later ]