DofE Diamond Challenge – Skill DONE! 12 months of crochet and making… 

My DofE Diamond Challenge has been a long slow burner…as HRH himself says, a DofE award is a ‘do-it-yourself tool kit for life’. And this year’s life has been different to any other in my adulthood, in large part due to deciding to do this year long replay of my own Gold Award, first completed 25 years ago. 

This week I’ll round up my year of Diamond Challenge with a blog post for each section of the award that I’ve re-completed. 

  • Wed – Skill
  • Thursday – Volunteering and Physical
  • Friday – Residential and Expedition 

Between now and Saturday I’ll do a minimum of one hour of crochet. My last hour towards the SKILL section. 12 months of crochet mainly, with a few felting attempts thrown in. I taught myself from YouTube videos a couple of years ago, and progressed from granny squares and circles, to hats and scarves but no further. So this year I’ve tried to develop stitch knowledge, pattern use and (the ultimate goal of any crafter!) actually finishing one of the many WIPs (work-in-progress) that inhabit tabletops and baskets in most rooms of our house. I have easily spent an hour a week, often more – especially if I include looking at the online inspiration-fest that is Pinterest.

Reflection – Crochet is the perfect activity for a few minutes or a few hours of getting away from it all. I love the creativity that I can have with it (never managed to get anywhere near this with that awful thing called knitting!), and the easily coverable blemishes. I can take it on holiday, on DofE expeditions (much mickey taking there), on the school run, and do it in bed! The felting is a great process, a bit like pottery in that I am not sure what it’ll actually look like until it is felted and dried. It takes longer and more kitchen table time, but is worth the effort in the end.

I shall be continuing crochet (even on DofE expeds!) and doing more felting. I am hoping to try some weaving this coming year as well. My main aim is to finish some more things…

Thankyou to anyone who has inspired me with patterns, projects and enthusiasm for what I have (sometimes) produced! 

Here are some examples of things I have made (or at least started…)

1. Basket bag – made from Nutscene garden twine and recycled leather handles. Pattern from my head after looking at many pictures – hooking that twine really toughened up my fingers! Used all the time.2. Ripple blanket (Attic 24 pattern) – long rows, my favourite colours – WIP3. Wavy cushion – pattern combined from various on the internet – WIP4. Moomin – pattern from a magazine. Got SO fed up with white yarn looking grubby and having to wash my hands every half an hour. Will come back to it. No pic – too white!

5. Lacy scarf – started a year ago. Got too long in the middle, so frogged it all back two weeks ago, and looking for another pattern. 6. Fingerless mitts – made from Lily Warne Dartmoor yarn in Bellever Blue, Bovey Blue and Dartmoor Green. A finished item, in use after chilly swims! 7. Some granny squares for a blanket made by lots of people for a friend who was ill…8. A couple of hats from chunky yarn9. And most recently a quick Yoda hat for a brand new nephew! 

10. Other – all felting projects

Felted bowls – wanted to do this for ages so just went for it. Will definitely be making more of these, I love them!

Felted cushion cover – copied/inspired by an online image – yet to become a cushion…Felt pod – not sure of purpose but one day I will make more and they will be joined into a thingy…


Loved my year of crochet, and not stopping now!  

 

#DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 12-16 – What’s your challenge?

Another month has flown by…and two things have become clear (not only the water).

  1. Short impressive feats of endurance (classic ‘challenges’) seem very newsworthy.
  2. Long-lived (one year) challenges involving stuff that people do day to day seem less newsworthy (hence perhaps my blogging slipping from weekly to roughly monthly).

Is there any less challenge in long, ‘chipping away at it’ type challenges? Who is the challenge for? Does any of it matter?

When the #DiamondChallenge was first advertised and I decided on what I would do, it was with excitement and anticipation. I had no desire to bungee jump, run a marathon, or make a fool of myself on a stage, and needed something that would fit in with a very busy life. I wanted to support DofE yes, but at the time it was more of a chance to re-live a bit (and very influential and fun bit) of my youth, by working through a whole Gold DofE programme, or as near to as I could given my adult circumstances (mum of two smallish folk, ageing parents to help out, teaching in school, running a big DofE centre – no glam excuses here, just normal life as I appear to have crafted it, or it me, over the last twenty years).

I chose activities for my Physical, Skill and Volunteering that I was already doing, or wanted to develop – I often advise my DofE participants to do this in one or two sections if they can in order to reduce the need for busying their lives any more than our education system already does, and to allow them to organise the credit they will gain for maintaining current interests as part of their normal, positive lives. The essence (guiding principles) of DofE ie. ‘non-competitive’, ‘achievable by all’ and ‘achievement focused’ amongst others, are the reason why the DofE was the thing that I latched onto at 14, having been a serial last-pick at netball, weedy, non-sportyish, nerdy girl for all of my school life.

Many of the DofE Diamond Challenges are one off events – the launch consisted of some celebrities on a mobile climbing wall in Convent Garden, and there are many people running half marathons, 10/5kms, triathlons, Iron Mans and similar. My super friend /swimming guru Kari Furre will be swimming the length of Lake Windermere in July. I am very proud to say that a chat (over a Halloween glass of wine and dark October sea swim) led to her coming back to DofE having been awarded her Gold in 1969, and I honestly hope that I am still involved with DofE that many years after my Gold (er, 1991…that means I’m aiming for some sort of endurance swim in about 2038 then). Looking forward to living it up with her at the Buckingham Palace Gold Presentation next month!

On the non-physical side some are learning to play an instrument (a certain CEO among them!), perform open-mike stand-up comedy (you know who you are!), cooking weekly, or hosting big events. Some of these examples, although not seemingly as dare-devilish, or adrenaline seeking, would have me and many others quaking in their boots, or struggling with the regular effort needed.

Whether the challenge is a short run, a long walk, an excruciating public performance (on a personal level, hopefully not for the audience), or results in a nice cake, ultimately the challenge will benefit young people doing their DofE – funds raised will stay in the region in which they are raised, and go toward provision of the award for disadvantaged young people.  But in addition to that, the challenge will have given focus to the person completing it. DofE is ‘a do-it-yourself toolkit for growing up‘, in the words of HRH. To me the DofE #DiamondChallenge is an essential tool in achieving a little bit of personal balance, with purpose in life, whether it be for a day, an hour or the whole year – all the challenges are different, but have been chosen because they mean something to the participant.

I will not receive my Diamond pin until after the end of 2016 – when my #DofEChallenge is completed after a year of chipping away at the hour a week of physical activity (happily, I am managing a lot more than this), alongside an hour of Skill (much hooky action in my crochet bag), and the endless cycle of volunteering that is being a DofE Leader (just finished tonight’s adminathon). It is likely that my challenge will receive the most attention from friends and family when I get on to the expedition, and spend 4 days mooching with purpose on Dartmoor, hopefully with a team of friends of similar ilk to enjoy the experience.  I suppose for many a long walk, with camping, heavy rucksack and no showers seems like a ‘proper’ challenge, whereas crocheting some hats and jumping into the sea every week to swim might appear dull, monotonous or just an excuse for fun.

What’s your challenge?!

P1070618

Clear water and blue sky above this sea swim

#DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 7-11 aka “time flies when you’re having fun”…

Diamond Challenge progress

Skill – much crocheting, not enough felting…Physical – much swimming, mostly pool, some sea(ls)… Volunteering – an adminmountain, not enough time with participants! 

February has submitted to March – spring flowers, earlier sunrises and finally teatime swims WITH DAYLIGHT!! The small matter of the lowest sea temperatures so far is almost bearable (still no wetsuit!) – Torbay wave buoy showing 8.5c-10c the last few weeks.

The outdoor swimming community really has been a life pivot for me over the last 10 months – I have found my tribe, on the shore and in the waves. It has become obvious that it is about so much more than swimming, with various events on the horizon (will be adding short film making and event planning to my skill in a month or so), and sharing of books, knowledge and skills all in amongst the necessarily shorter swims. A mass blanket making is this week’s focus for many local swimmers – 6 inch squares of knit, sewn and crocheted loveliness are wending their way to be assembled into a single wrapping of support and love for a key member of the Devon swimming community. Lynne usually blogs about swimming, but her posts from her past few weeks are on a new site www.outofmybrains.org – do read from the start.

Here are my offerings…

So there’s my skill, all in hand. Volunteering is very concentrated in the next week – we have 6 Gold teams out on a Practice Expedition for 3 days and nights, so there’s 72 hours away from my own little boys, plus all the kit checking, paperwork sorting and other prep in the next few days. Looking forward to a good stint on Dartmoor, and keeping everything crossed that the jet stream stays where it is, giving us stable weather!

Physically I’ve been off running for 4 weeks with a dodgy back, but not swimming. There have been numerous icy dips, some in beautiful sunshine, some with seals.

img_8181

Wakey uppy waves

img_8128-1

Sunny swim

img_8132-1

Seal suspected!

img_8133

Suspicion confirmed!

img_8205

It’s a big one!

img_8216

That’s me inspecting the pebbles – ice cream head guarantee!

However it is my pool sessions that have really come on. 4 weeks of intensive drills, lessons and videos and I can really feel a difference. Kari has a way of teaching that I have been able to connect with. This is not for speed or competition, but mindful, peaceful stroke that could go on for hours. Eventually. Given that a month ago I couldn’t do a length without flailing about, being out of breath and swallowing lots of water I’m very pleased!

We’ve even tried synchronised ‘pod’ swimming – I’ll be excited to get to the summer and do this in the warmer sea – maybe not as refined as these guys though…

Still looking for a Residential – any ideas welcome!

#DofE Diamond Challenge Weeks 5-6 – the law of averages…

The DofE guidelines for timescales suggest that each activity in the Volunteering, Physical and Skill sections should be carried out for an average of about an hour a week. 

In the last fortnight I have experienced the need for this flexibility in the DofE Award (one of the reasons why it fits well into young people’s lives). I’ve managed to run/swim, crochet, and be a DofE Leader for at least an hour a week each since the start of January when my Diamond Challenge – a year of Gold – began. But this last two weeks, scuppering of regular activities has come in several forms..

1 child (my own!) with chicken pox, meaning much organising of grandparents to stay over and cover mopping of brow/applying of calamine in order for me to not miss any work time. As they say, teaching is the only profession in which it is easier to go to work than miss a day;

1 Parents’ Evening  (therefore in school on my normal day off) meaning requisite amounts of time marking, perusing work and assembling thoughts about functional yet tactful verbal reportage. Assuming it is considered impolite and unprofessional to crochet one’s way through an evening of discussing my students’ future plans/current work ethos, the hook stayed at home. 

1 INSET morning (so in a different school on my normal day off), meaning no swimtime. See above re:crochet in meetings;

1 lergy (mine, lingering for 6 days now) with “symptoms below the neck” meaning no running or swimming. Or anything else involving normal levels of breathing;

So things are ticking over on averages by virtue of a Gold training outing last weekend – our direct Golds and a few who needs a bit more input enjoyed a good day on Dartmoor in between various storm systems – we almost stayed dry, and even saw blue sky!  Skills signed off, fitness discussed and teamwork consolidated. 

  

I attended my first hash last Monday, in which I ran nearly 7km. In the dark, on often slidey mud. With about 60 very sociable, non-competitive folk with nicknames like ‘Plastered’, ‘Scamper’, ‘Windbag’ and ‘Fix-it’, following a trail of flour and calling various things on discovery of the right or wrong directions. Great fun, and I will definitely be hashing again when my lungs are back to healthy capacity. No pictures due to the conditions. But the reward was nice…   

A lovely post-work sea swim on Tuesday topped up the cold water acclimatisation that I’ve kept up all winter (still no wetsuit!).   

So I’ve done my best, whilst lergys and worky have wreaked their havoc.

There’s no stopping the hooky fingers though…  

Week 7 is half term…let’s see how much challenge we can pack in, to iron out those averages!

#DofE Diamond Challenge Week 4 – Double Dip and the pox!

Week 4 was frankly the antithesis of Week 3 – the work-life balance firmly tipped in the opposite direction (towards work – yuk), and add to that a case of chickenpox in eldest son.

So what have I achieved towards the #DofEChallenge in amongst the normalness of life?

Physical – ran twice, upping the length of time running to 2 minutes 30s, with shorter walks. Both runs done in horrendous conditions – but there is no such thing a bad weather, just the wrong clothing etc.etc. Tuesday’s outing in storm force conditions nearly logged as vertical swimming…talking of which…

Thursday was the only day that I can honestly say I managed much in the way of light entertainment…two sea swims! So now added to the list of things to tick off all year, is at least one Double Dip per month…

Morning sunshine and afternoon challenge – cold, wavy, windy murk!

Volunteering – Saturday and much of the lead up to it fell under this umbrella this week. 4 staff and 8 Young Leaders provided Bronze Expedition Training for 108 Y10 students, and after a lot of planning and a little panic (went to school to sort stuff out, then had to go and pick up a pox-ridden 7yo from primary school, so prep time cut short) – all went alright in the end! Couldn’t have done it without the adult volunteers and the Silver/Gold Young Leaders who are logging hours towards the Volunteering section of their awards.

More work to be done on the skill…this week, with the chicken pox blisters crusting nicely I’m hoping to spend some of Thursday felting, and preparing a crochet project to take on a half term jaunt up north…just waiting for Son#2 to start itching now!

#DofE Diamond Challenge week 3 – LOVED it!

I properly loved this week. Went to work as usual on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but at this end of the week cannot remember much about that. Which means that all the non-work stuff has been blotting it out, in a good way- is this the work-life balance tipping in the right direction?

DofE Gold-wise the three long-term sections have all been in action again…

PHYSICAL -swim swim swim. And run run (third run still to fit in). The Tuesday group run ramped us up to 2 minute runs, with 1 minute walks – which happily felt quite do-able on the flat paving of the seafront. Liked it.

Run 2 took me to the eastern edge of Dartmoor. After a cuppa with a friend, I’d allotted some ‘me’ time to run up a tor on the (very) long way round back home. Ascending the narrow lane up to the moor, the fog drew in until, on parking up in a gritty bay on the side of a cattle grid, the visibility was down to 30m, and the wind and rain was very much with me. Not a natural solo-walker (or runner), there were lingering feelings of wanting to go home and run on flat ground, with no possibility of meeting cattle in the mist, or falling in soggy bog. But off we went, my stripy legs and #MyOutdoorFeet, for a trigbagging, sole slurping, chilly but smiley run. Trig on top, mud both ways and COWS in the car park – unusually (perhaps because there was no-one to hide behind?) I managed to walk/run past these without crumbling mentally, and sat in the car with a flask of tea feeling like I could be like the chap who loped out of the mist and disappeared quickly in the opposite direction – give me few more months.

Not sure that Thursday morning would be most busy mums’ definition of ‘me time’, but I LOVED it!

Physical part 2 – Since last April the Devon Wild Swimmers, notably our Torbay Shoal, have broken me from the mum/wife/teacher humdrumming, and shown me the absolute fabulousness of swims in brown or blue, glassy or frothy, smooth or heaving seas. All weathers, all times of day. This week brought two events – on Friday I had the pleasure of in-the-flesh meeting twitter friend @jasonrawles on the Breakwater beach in Brixham, and extolling the virtues of this crazy immersion hobby! With water at 9.5c, he did brilliantly to get in and experience the fwaaaaar factor, whilst Mark and I did a few lengths of the beach. A sunny walk and coffee rewarded us. A great morning – meeting Jason was fab, he’s a real motivating force on Twitter, and well worth a follow. I think he enjoyed himself!? I LOVED it!

Breakwater pano

The second swim event involved penguin hats, water colder than the sea, wild swimmers in chlorine, and some excellent yet skimpy fluorescent czffqe4w0aakdhmtrunks (not mine!). After a twitter tutoring skills/share in the pub on Wednesday (during which a plan for a film festival was hatched on a beer mat – like all the best plans are) a rather cool King Penguin hat was rustled up by Mark @toughfabrics and the relay team Stepsisters 2 (there were another 2 teams of Stepsisters – all of us who swim at the Steps in Torbay) was complete. An Ice Gala – unheated pool, short races. Loved it!

SKILL – One crochet hat completed (a little last minute admittedly) as a raffle prize for said inaughatural Buckfastleigh Ice Gala, in aid of the community run pool. I love crocheting, having taught myself from YouTube videos a couple of years ago it is so satisfying being able to whip up a quick present or donation. Aiming to be more creative with it as the year goes on – the next project is in preparation for an event at the start of March, more on that next week.

Am I feeling ‘up’ because of the physical activity, or the socialising, or because the proportional effect of work has seemingly been squashed…who knows?

Thankyou to Guy (cuppa and checking me off the misty moor by text – always leave a route card folks!), Mark (for Brixham swim/penguin hat), Jackie (for twitter tutoring suggestion and film making ideas), Jason (for turning up to winter-swim, and coffee), Stepsisters 2 (for penguin team capers), and Buckfastleigh Ice Gala team. And of course my husband and boys for showing any interest at all in what I am choosing to spend my time doing – I am a happier, better mum/wife for it!

To come…

  • film festival ‘Swim Shorts’
  • night nav #Do52 with @seekingadventure
  • crochet cnidarians
  • residential plans…
  • expedition work – but not mine yet.

 

 

 

Diamond Challenge Week 2 – a week in numbers…

 

Last week’s progress, rather belatedly blogged…

7 – PHOTOS #MyOutdoorFeet – I am loving this photo project that I’ve set myself on Instagram/Twitter- this week’s pics have earned me a wildswimming name (like hash runners) of ‘Daily Feet‘…

6 – Gold Expedition teams with practice route plans to be checked (around , digitalised and set off towards their route card deadline

5 – day Residential that is proving tricky – how to fit this around family life, in school holidays…ideas welcome!

4 – CROCHETED rounds of hat – about 5 more rows to the end, and then I can move onto something more entertaining than black yarn!

3 – RUNS – a week, in the C25k programme. Tuesday is group run, and the other two need doing before the following Tuesday – which comes around all too quickly…

2 – SEA SWIMS (so far) both in daylight, sunshine, and with much handstanding and diving 🙂

1 – Bronze Training day in the organising – 110 Bronzes, 7 training sessions, many many spreadsheets…

 

 

 

 

Diamond Challenge Week 1 – Trigs, trainers and trebles.

One week done in my 12 month challenge – to re-do Gold DofE 25 years on…

Progress…

Skill: Crocheting a hat this week (top done, moving down the sides), to be donated as a prize for the upcoming Buckfastleigh Ice Gala – which is part of my…

  

Physical: After last week’s sea swim to bring in the New Year, this week the focus has been running – the first meet of the THHN ‘Slippers to Trainers’ group was on Tuesday. A 62-strong turnout for the first session of 1 minute reps along the seafront, and then we were tasked with completing the other two runs for the week on our own, or by buddying up with others through the Facebook page. My second run was alone, very muddy, and through the woods into a field of cows (eeek!), before sneakily finding a just-out-of access trig point for Trig 1 in the #TrigAWeekChallenge2016 instigated by Aleks Kashefi, or the Barefoot Runner @BarefootAleks.  

 My aim from running is to make legging it about after expedition teams on Dartmoor and in Wales a little easier on my ageing limbs, which brings me to…

Volunteering: Any spare minute last week was used in preparation for a DofE weekend Fri-Sun.  The DofE Leader/Manager role is one that takes up some of my contracted work time, but takes many many hours on top of that as it does for thousands of other volunteer adults across the UK – this week photocopying, designing quizzes, writing session plans, counting compasses and answering repeated emails from the Golds about their food, sleeping arrangements and so on. Shopping and packing the staff food turned out to be a major task – but you have to keep your volunteers happy, and the volume of sticky brown cake consumed on Saturday was a big box ticked.

38 Golds and our 6 staff went to our favourite bunkhouse and completed a large chunk of the expedition training syllabus before tracing out routes for a practice expedition later this term. 

  Returned on Sunday with a lot of damp kit, and very tired, but a lot achieved in a concentrated space of time, including…

Expedition: This section will be hard to complete, as at some point I’ll be demanding (yet another) 4-5 days out of life as a wife/mum, in order to go and “mess about” (thankyou husband) on Dartmoor with some friends who want to do the same thing (Claire, we need to fix a date!). I am slipping this weekend’s training for Golds under the radar as my own training as well…

and finally…

Residential: Still batting ideas about – could be craft based- but not sure I want 5 days in a row. Outdoor activity – would love to do a Winter Skills course, but transport from Devon and time to get to Scotland for guaranteed snow looks like a hefty time-away-from-family tag…will keep looking…

DofE Diamond Challenge PHYSICAL started!

2016 is the 60th year of DofE, and the  DofE Diamond Challenge runs all year, for anyone to take up. Some might be choosing challenges that happen as a one off at some point in 2016, others are going for longer term option…and I am one of the latter.

My #DofEChallenge is to re-do my entire Gold DofE Award, all five sections (for details see a previous post). So today was all about getting physical – my physical activity will be a combo of running and swimming…the running gets going with a first outing with a beginners group on Tuesday…more on that later this week, but today was the wet one – and wet it was, from all directions!

We met at a pre-arranged car park in deepest Devon, and stood about a bit looking at the waves – which were sizeable enough to have drawn in a good wave of local surfers (that is the real collective noun for surfers apparently).  After faffage of an average length (not bad for wild swimmers), the signal came – Carl in some luminous green trunks – and we hurriedly changed in the pelting down rain.

P1070143P1070137Within minutes nearly 30 of us were in the sea, this side of the harbour wall, and swimming out to the end of the breakwater.  Some even dashed along to the more southerly beach for a double dip…

In this weather it was not long before the post-swim scuffle with damp vests and sandy socks ensued, and then we headed to the pub. It is a well documented fact that outdoor swimming is at a least 50% about the social, and after 8 months of swimming I can certainly add to the anecdotal evidence that swimming outdoors is great great great for my mental health as well as physical wellbeing…I arrived home full of fish finger sandwich, toasted by the pub fire, with a big grin – they are right when they say “You never regret a swim”.

It looks as if the swimming may have to become more than 50% social, as a friend and I have out eye on an event later in the year…to be continued…

So my year of #DofEChallenge is ON!

What will yours be?

Review – #My(toasty)outdoor feet

Nordisk Mos Shoe (slipper!)You can tell when you’ve got a lot of (too much?!) kit – when you walk into an outdoor shop, and the only thing that you can justify (to your long suffering, fully resigned husband) is a pair of down slippers…because “I don’t have any yet…”

A display of what appeared at first glance to be Action Man sleeping bags (in my defence, a single of each size was hung up for trying on) caught my eye. Blue, green, red and orange, pairs stashed in a handy storage bag, with compression clip arrangement as a bonus feature.

 
 Action Man was impressed with his new sleeping bag, as it showed his pecs off nicely…

On-foot (like ‘in-store’, a new piece of terminology for the modern consumer), they are just toasty. Soft micro fleece liner, elasticated ankle for snugness, and just enough downy loft to be super warm without looking like some comedy stocking filler slipper that might otherwise appear under the Christmas tree. Underneath is a black canvas sole,  imprinted with rubber polar bears – ideal for halting those unplanned slides on bunkhouse floors. 

The Mos also come with a handy guide to what moss is (and they feel as soft as walking on it, but not at all damp, and with far less chance of slugs).   Pea green sleeping bags for #myoutdoorfeet – with bonus polar bear.

These are at the top end of a slipper budget, it has to be said. However, if I break it down it comes out as;

  • Wear from Nov to end of Feb
  • =4 months (approx 17 weeks).
  • £25 for 2 feet = £12.50 per foot
  • Works out about 70p per week
  • =10p per foot per day. 

Living in the South-West UK does mean that I don’t wear slippers for as long in the year as people in other parts…where they would be possibly even better value. 
They will be top of my kit list for Gold DofE Expedition training in our Dartmoor bunkhouse – traditionally a snowy/icy weekend in early January. I am already confident that they’ll be the subject of at least five minutes of leader-kit-comparison, and probably some low-level ridicule, based entirely on envy.

At home I’ll be wearing them in the house, and inside rubber shoes (those named unfathomably after large carnivorous reptiles, other outdoor slip-ons are available) for midnight guilt trips to feed the guinea pigs. 

Go on – put them on your Santa list!