Another new thrill

I watched my first sailing competition this weekend. To be honest, I probably spent as much time trying to work out what was going on as I did enjoying the spectacle of Mustoe skiffs and catamarans racing on Kielder water, but it was a great experience.

Musto Skiff racing in the Kielder Open, April 2006If you've never seen a sailing race, it really is quite exhilarating, especially the start. You see, the start line is a virtual line between the official's boat and a buoy or marker on the water. The crews aim to get their boats across the line the second the starting hooter sounds. But you can't just line up a series of sailing boats and bring them to a stop. So as the time to start gets nearer, the crews all approach the line, jostling for position. We had a great view from the start boat.

Some of our teams were very eager to get going and we could see them crowding towards the start with 40 seconds to go, like a gaggle of over excited ducklings tumbling over each other in a race to be first into the water. Needless to say there were a few false starts!

RS200 on the water at KielderIt was a pretty spectacular sight to see all the boats lining up with their sails full and then to watch as they sped around the course. I really enjoyed watching the crews who use their body weight and position to steer, balancing out on trapeze style wires, leaning out horizontally, backs flat just inches above the water. That really appealed to my inner adrenaline junkie!

We've signed up to do a sailing course this summer, so hopefully we'll be able to take ourselves out on the water safely, but I doubt we'll be doing anything quite so acrobatic! I'm really looking forward to the combination of tactics and agility and learning yet another new skill.

We've been to the sailing club at Kielder a couple of times now, and everyone has been really friendly and helpful. I lost count of the number of times someone offered to sell us a boat. Now all I'm hoping for is some good weather…

Lots of new things to learn

As well as settling into a new job and rapidly picking up all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that seem to be the shorthand way of referring to all sorts of things in the office, I'm also trying to teach myself some Japanese.

I'm hoping to take a trip there sometime later this year, and would really like to get to know the basics like hello, please, thank you etc. Luckily I found a fantastic free podcast, JapanesePod101 on iTunes. It's great because it's free, there are lots of episodes to download and they are available in ten minute chunks which are great to listen to in the car.

I'm just concentrating on trying to speak and understand a little bit. I think trying to learn to write the language may be a bit ambitious! But it's funny to see how I'm interpreting what I hear. I just took some time tonight to look at the pdf notes which go along with the lessons and which show you the words phonetically and also in Japanese characters. Some phrases which I imagined were made up of two or three very complicated words, are actually made up of much shorter ones!

Also one of the 'teachers' is called Kazinori, but thanks to the presenter's American accent, I thought he was called Cousin Orti!

I'm sure I'll make similar mistakes on my travels, but it's great fun learning…

Domo arigatou (thank you).

My nephew, the media superstar

I'm proud to say that my four year old nephew made his broadcasting debut last week, on BBC local radio. Unfortunately I didn't get to hear it myself, but reports of his highly entertaining contribution go something like this:

REPORTER: So what have you got on your feet?
ETHAN: Wellies
REPORTER: And what have you got on your wellies?
ETHAN: Batman
REPORTER: What have you been doing today?
ETHAN: I've been planting seeds
REPORTER: How do you do that then?
ETHAN: You put them in a pot and cover them with soil.
REPORTER: And then what happens?
ETHAN: They grow
REPORTER: What do you do with them when they've grown?
ETHAN: You can eat them – but you have to wash them first.

Quite obviously a future science presenter in the making. Apologies if it's not a precise transcript, please forgive this proud Auntie some artistic licence.

A change is as good as a rest

I'm sure you'll have noticed that I haven't exactly been a regular blogger. My excuse is that I've started a new job. I know it's just an excuse, and I could just as well hold my hands up and say I've been too lazy, or found too many distractions.

And I can't really blame my new job for infringing too much on my free time. In fact, for the first time I can remember I have the kind of job where I can work regular hours and leave my work at the office. It's a pleasant change.

I met up with some friends from my former workplace last week for some food and a good old gossip. They kept asking me what was different about my new job. Well, the short answer is – just about everything. So I thought I'd keep a note about the most surprising and unexpected changes. That was in six months time I can look back and maybe appreciate what's rapidly becoming second nature to me.

The thing that's most surprised me has been moving from a very noisy, busy, high pressure environment into a quiet, airy, modern and tidy office. Up until four weeks ago I could be reading something on screen, answering the phone and keeping one ear across another conversation going on nearby, or the news report on the radio across the room. I now realise that although I could just about juggle all those things, I was probably not doing any one of them very well.

I expected to feel a big difference moving to a quiet office. But I expected to miss the noise and bustle, when, in fact, it's almost the opposite. With no radio, tv, and only the occasional phone call, I now find myself getting distracted when my colleagues are having a quiet conversation!

And this post has proved, I can't write very well when I'm half listening to the TV. But the important thing is to get in the habit of writing again and not to let work, lack of inspiration or multiple distractions put me off.

It's stating the obvious to say that I can do things better if I concentrate and focus on one thing at once. Thankfully my new job allows me that luxury and I intend to enjoy and make the most of it.