Day 231/366 : Falling off the wagon

Well, it happened.  I totally fell off the new clothes buying ban wagon big-style and went mad in the Lindy Bop sale.

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This is the Twiggy shift dress. I absolutely love it.

I knew if a failure of willpower was going to happen in my year of no spending that it would be big, but perhaps not as big as it actually was. I bought six dresses, three cardigans and a top that I’m keeping and I’m sending back five dresses, 2 shrugs and a jacket because of fit issues.

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This is the Ariel, it’s got such an amazing shape

Up until now I’ve been SO good for the whole of this year about not browsing in shops that it’s become second nature not to head into the clothes section of supermarkets or just going into town on a Saturday afternoon for a mooch around to see what’s on the rails.

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The pattern of this fabric is so beautiful

I’ve been quite unwell since the start of August and have spent nearly three weeks at home off work, mostly in bed. Frustration and boredom has led to a spending spree starting with buying perfume, shoes and boots online along with various dresses from Facebook selling pages. I can’t stop and have gone well over what I should have spent.

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This is a lovely dress, really nice thick stretchy cotton

So this spree has ended (I hope) with me raiding the Lindy Bop sale.  I feel hugely disappointed with myself, but I also feel that I have picked up some really lovely dresses at bargain prices as the sales at Lindy Bop are known for large discounts – all my dresses were between £12 and £15 and the cardigans were £10 or less.

So there you go, I lasted 226 days of the 366 of 2016, pretty much 2/3 of the year which isn’t all that bad.  I’m not going to go back to buying new things though, although I’m giving myself a free pass for the Curve Fashion Festival in Liverpool on 10th September.

I’m hoping that once I feel better and I’m back at work and not frustrated and ill at home that I will be in a better place for both my head and for my wallet.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can scramble back onto the wagon and ride it until the end of the year.

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Day 212: I really don’t know what happened there

OK, so I haven’t blogged since April, but this doesn’t mean that I’ve given up.  I have kept to the letter of my promise not to buy any new clothes this year from shops or Ebay, but perhaps not really to the spirit of it.  I’ll explain.

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Lady V London dress via Facebook selling community called Horne’s Curvaceous Hunnies

In April I discovered selling communities on Facebook and these have really been a bit of a downfall as I have bought a quite a lot of clothes from several different sites over the past three months.  What is really good about them (and also really bad for my willpower) is that it’s mostly people selling lovely dresses in plus sizes.  There is such temptation!   I have also continued to buy clothes from charity shops as I do enjoy the thrill of the chase.

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Dress from Evans via a Facebook page called Plus Size Night Market

 

The problem is that probably half of the things I’ve bought from the selling communities don’t fit, or don’t suit me.  And as they are usually a bit more expensive than buying from charity shops (where at least I can try on the clothes).  This has meant that I now find myself with a number of dresses which I can’t wear.  So I’m now trying to sell some of these on but not having too much success.

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“Tess dress” from Yours via Betty Pamper’s Instagram selling page

I have also decided to sell or give away many of the clothes that I don’t feel comfortable wearing, but have kept because I like the idea of them or that they were expensive.  There is one dress in particular that I wore to a really, really horrible meeting, and then later on, on the same day, I got stuck in a lift in it.  It brings me no pleasure to look at or wear the dress despite the fact it’s really lovely.  So that’s on my for sale list now with a sense of relief. It’s unnerving how much an inanimate object can project so many bad feelings.

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Dress from Tu via aforementioned selling page.  I altered this a lot to get it to fit, but I think it was worth it as it’s such a fabulous pattern. 

So, yes I am still wearing my wardrobe, but it is a wardrobe supplemented by clothes from charity shops and selling communities.  Maybe I should have just said I wouldn’t buy any clothes full stop this year.

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Another dress from Tu – I love this and have worn it to work a number of times.  Best of all it has pockets.

I’ll do a rundown of all the amazing things I’ve got from charity shops in another post and also update on how I’m getting on wearing my unworn and unloved clothes – a sneak peek below of something I bought last year and didn’t wear. I have now worn this gorgeous dress several times already this year.

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Joe Browns dress via Depop last year – worn today for an outing to an exhibition of pottery art.

Day 80/366: Plus 40 Fabulous – what am I most proud of?

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Thanks to Cathy for this month’s theme: what are you most proud of?

Most people probably won’t know that I’m actually Dr Kate.  My proudest achievement is that I carried out five years of research during my 20s and early 30s and was awarded a PhD in Landscape Ecology in 2002.

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Great robes, absolutely terrible outfit underneath!!

One of my (many) reasons for doing the PhD was to prove to myself (and others) that fat women aren’t stupid and lazy, a message that I had received all of my life.  I knew I wasn’t stupid and lazy, but I wanted to demonstrate to the world that I was more than how I looked and that judging people by appearance is generally a ridiculous thing to do.

I always loved studying geography.  It was my favourite subject at school and I went off to university in 1990 and did a physical geography degree.  I loved my time at university, but I was having too much fun to really put the time in to studying, and I scraped by with a 2:1.  I wanted to go on and do more, but it wasn’t to be; so between 1994 and 1996 I worked and spent some time volunteering for a conservation charity to enhance my skills.

In August 1996 I was offered a funded PhD jointly between Liverpool University and Chester College (now Chester University).  The funding was provided to study in the semi-desert Almeria Province in southern Spain looking at the landscapes of badlands and their vegetation.  I was to be provided with remotely sensed data of the area by the Natural Environment Research Council who had undertaken flights over the site in early 1996.

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Remotely sensed data of one of my field sites overlaid on a digital elevation model.  Looks similar to Google Earth, but I had to process all the data myself, it took MONTHS

Within a week of moving to Chester, I found myself in a small field study centre called Urra in the middle of nowhere in the wilds of southern Spain at a conference!  It was all very, very intimidating, all these academics, mostly middle aged white men and there I was a small, chubby 24 year old daring to think I could join their ranks.

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Urra Field Study Centre, SE Spain

I spent five field seasons out at Urra where I “ground truthed” the remotely sensed data that had not yet turned up.  This meant that I went out to the sites I was studying and recorded plant and soil data in 5m square quadrats.  What I was aiming to do with this information was to use it to help train the software I was using to recognise different plant communities by analysing the data.

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Perched like a gnome on top of a badland
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Looking hot in my fieldwork gear and essential hat

I spent a lot of time standing in terraced fields counting plants!  I didn’t mind though as the scenery was absolutely mind-blowingly incredible.  The rock and soil of the area is so easily washed away by torrential rain that that huge gulleys form in the sides of the hills, and sometimes enormous pipes form under the soil where material has been washed away under the surface.  It was an utterly fascinating landscape to study in.

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Huge gulleys cut through what used to be agricultural terraces, where most of the soil has been washed away
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Typical badland formations looking north to the Sierra de los Filabres in the background

The first year went well, I gathered my field data, I analysed soil in the lab and I learnt to use a Unix computer (scary).  However, the promised data didn’t arrive.  It also didn’t arrive in 1998 by which time I was running into my third year and my funding was about to end.  I was seriously depressed by this and decided that as the promised data was now two and a half years late, I would never finish my PhD, so I decided to look for a job.

I applied for and got a job.  Of course life being what it is, in-between being offered the job and starting it, the data arrived in Feb 1999.  My PhD supervisor, a very kind and supportive man called Alex suggested that I at least write up what I had already done to get an MPhil degree so that I and the university got some benefit from the work carried out.  I decided to take six months off the PhD to concentrate on my new job, and then go back to writing up.  But meanwhile, I managed to get hold of the remote sensing software for my home computer and I started to analyse the data and tie it in with my fieldwork.

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Classification of the remotely sensed vegetation data. Class 1 is bare soil, class 6 is dense vegetation

The results were so interesting that I really wanted to research it properly which is how I ended up both working full time and finishing off my research and writing up my PhD.  I had so much support from Alex, I couldn’t have done it without him.

2000 – 2002 was possibly the most stressful period in my entire life as during the two years it took me to finish the work on my PhD and write it up we also bought a house, got married and I was severely bullied by my manager.  So all in all I am most proud of having had the fortitude and resilience to work through this absolutely fraught period of time and come out of it with my sanity (mostly) intact.

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Obligatory wedding photo.

One highlight in this rather terrible period was our honeymoon which was a trip to SE Spain to help me finish off my fieldwork.  We got the ferry  from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain and then drove our Ford Ka down through central Spain to Almeria.  We had a wonderful time even if we did spend one week of the three out in the terraces counting plants (well I did this and Dave went to sleep in the sunshine!)

I graduated in November 2002 in Chester Cathedral.  There were buglers and a choir and it was an amazing experience which I will never forget.

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The completed thesis; I still can’t believe I wrote 100,000 words about something!

And whilst a thorough knowledge of the vegetation and geomorphology of a small part of SE Spain doesn’t actually sound particularly useful for someone who lives in the Lake District, I am able to apply an awful lot of what I learnt about how landscapes function and change to my job now.  I’m so lucky to work doing something I’m interested in which is intellectually stimulating and related to my thesis.

Check out the other lovely bloggers writing about what makes them proud 🙂

Cathy: http://www.southernyacht.blogspot.co.uk/
Christy: http://www.sprintingwithscissors.blogspot.co.uk/
Daisy: http://daisysays.co.uk
Kate: https://wearingmywardrobein2016.wordpress.com
Kath: https://fatheffalump.wordpress.com
Leah: http://www.justmeleah.co.uk
Lee: http://www.pinkybellesshed.co.uk/
Lisa: http://www.kitandkoboodle75.blogspot.co.uk/
Mookie: http://www.mookieslife.com/
Nikki :http://www.nattynikki.com/
Perelandra: http://www.pamperandcurves.com/
Sarah: http://www.plussizeproud.co.uk
Steph: http://www.misskittenheel.com

Vicky: http://therandomnessoftwee.blogspot.co.uk
Yvonne: http://woosangwashere.blogspot.com

PS The Abstract for my thesis is copied below in case anyone is interested….

ABSTRACT

The Sorbas basin lies within the Betic Cordillera of south-east Spain. It is a recently uplifted sedimentary basin with readjustment of drainage systems still occurring, and hence intense erosion is found in places. This erosion, coupled with a semi-arid climate and a history of human impact has lead to a variably patchy vegetation cover throughout the catchment. This thesis examines controls on vegetation cover patchiness in a pair of adjacent catchments using a landscape ecology approach. These catchments display contrasting patterns of landcover and represent two stages in an erosion-stabilisation cycle driven by base level change on the Rio Aguas into which they both drain.

Cover and species type data were collected in the field along with soil samples. The vegetation analysis programs DECORANA and TWINSPAN were used to explore the cover and species data collected in the field. Results of the analyses were correlated with environmental variables to identify controls on distribution. Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) data were acquired from a NERC ARSF flight in 1996 along with aerial photographs of the study area. The ATM data were used to produce a clustered landcover image based upon the clustering of an NDVI image followed by interpretation of the six end groups using the cover data collected in the field. The aerial photography was used to produce a digital elevation model, and from this the environmental variables aspect, slope gradient and wetness were derived. The digital elevation model was also used in conjunction with the aerial photographs to produce an orthorectified image of the study area.

Geology was found to be the most significant control on cover type distribution, closely followed by geomorphology and soil chemistry. Species type distribution is also strongly controlled by geology with geomorphological history being almost as significant, and soil chemistry controlling the distribution at a fine scale. Slope gradient and aspect were not particularly associated with either cover or species distribution. The clustered landcover image, in which the six classes of cover ranged from very sparse to very densely vegetated, was analysed in conjunction with aspect, slope gradient and wetness to identify which of variable had the closest relationship with cover distribution. It was found that aspect had greatest association with cover, and wetness the least. However, all three show a statistically significantly relationship to cover class. The clustered landcover image was then used in conjunction with FRAGSTATS, a landscape metrics program, and a class buffering technique was used in order to quantify the landcover patterns in the two catchments. The quantification of pattern enabled an assessment of the relative controls of each of the environmental variables on the cover pattern in both catchments. Geology was found to be the most important control on the cover distribution, with geomorphological history and aspect important at a finer scale. Slope gradient, wetness and soil chemistry were not found to be very significant controlling factors.


 

 

 

Day 50/366: what makes me feel amazing, happy and excited?

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This month’s Plus 40 Fabulous theme is what really makes us excited, happy and feel amazing. For me, there is one thing that makes me feel this way more than anything which is wild swimming.  For me, this means swimming outdoors in a completely informal setting with no lifeguards and if possible no crowds of people.

I have always been a complete water baby, I can’t remember not being able to swim and I have never felt uncomfortable in the water.  As a child, family holidays generally involved staying with my grandparents who lived near the Kent coast where we would go for proper windbreak-sandcastle-icecream-picnic lunch-shrimping days out at Sandwich Bay or Dymchurch or Westgate.  As a teen we moved to my grandparents’ village and we sometimes used to swim after school or at weekends at Deal or Walmer.

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I would also take every opportunity I could to swim in rivers, swimming pools and the sea.  Wherever we went I would want to find somewhere to swim and often goaded friends into swimming in possibly slightly unsuitable places. I swam through Durdle Door on the Dorset coast aged 14 a truly amazing experience.

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Swimming in Coniston with Marley and Bella

I was lucky enough to go to a school that had an outdoor 25m pool, and this would open in the summer term. One summer term I had a timetable on a Wednesday where I would swim during PE in the morning, swim at lunchtime, swim in Wednesday afternoon games lesson and then after school.  I was obviously slightly obsessed, but I felt that the pool was the only place that I could feel comfortable in my body.  Bizarrely considering how much body shame I lived with as a teenager I never felt ashamed of my body in a swimming costume, probably because swimming was the one exercise I did well and I felt totally at home in the water.

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I wore a bikini and no-one died

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One of my most amazing swimming memories as a teen is a holiday to the Greek island of Paxos.  The family hired a small boat and we went over to a tiny island to the south called Anti Paxos.  Here we found the most beautiful cove of tiny white pebbles and water so clear that you could hardly see it.  There were fish to look at, and caves to explore.  I wanted to stay there forever and I cried when I left.  I have never been back, but it’s still stuck in my memory thirty years later.

As a student at Lancaster, I was able to visit the Lake District and I was lucky enough to have some amazing swims here in the early 90s.  In 1995 I moved to the central Lakes.  1995 was possibly the best summer since 1976.  From May until September it was hot and sunny, and I was living right on the shores of Windermere.  Sometimes I swam two or three times a day and me and a group of friends explored the gills, tarns and lakes  finding some amazing places.  One weekend we camped in Langstrath and walked and swam up the river all the way to Angle Tarn which we then swam across.  It was incredible.  I also have some wonderful memories of skinny dipping with friends after a couple of beers on a moonlit night in August (warning, this is not sensible!!).

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Swimming in Wastwater, England’s deepest lake

I was lucky that Dave is also a keen swimmer. We have had so many swimming adventures in our 19 years together, and the past few years we have spent holidays exploring the amazing rivers, lakes and coasts of France and Spain as well as impromptu after work swims in our favourite local lakes, Rydal and Coniston.

The advent of waterproof cameras has meant that we have been able to document our swimming adventures, and the publication of three books; Wild Swim, Wild Swim Coast and Wild Swim France has fed our desire to discover amazing new swimming holes.  What was most gratifying is that we had already swum in many of the places  in the books.

We are also lucky enough to have a camper van and this has given us the freedom to tour around the UK and France finding amazing places to stop and swim.  In France, campervans are allowed to park up overnight, and this has meant that we’ve just turned up at places and had the most fantastic swims in the middle of nowhere at sunset or have got up for a sunrise swim.

When I am swimming outdoors in a beautiful lake or river, with eagles or red kites or alpine swifts flying overhead (yes, this has happened on a number of occasions in France) I forget about myself as someone that doesn’t quite fit in, I forget about physical discomfort of medical conditions or the mental pain of depression and anxiety and I actually feel like I belong in the world.  Sometimes it’s almost a meditation or possibly it’s sort of unmindful, without effort mindfulness.  I am allowing myself to just be, to savour the sensations of water and air and sunshine.  The silence of a lake or the rushing water of a river.  There is just something about being in or near water which makes me whole, it reincorporates me and I feel wonderful.

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Other times, it’s like the most fun thing in the whole world.  Dave and I find rocks to jump and dive from, we wear goggles so we can look at the fish, we dive down, do handstands, chase each other or find a rapid and ride it down the river time after time.  It just makes me feel so HAPPY, a childlike uncomplicated delight in just physically being in the water.  Yes we act like children, and no we don’t care.  This is why there are so many photos of me in rivers and lakes grinning from ear to ear like some sort of lunatic.  It’s because  I’m besotted by the water.

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Swimming in the sea in Britanny
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Les Cascades de Sautadet
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Swimming under Pont d’Arc on the Ardeche
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Waterfall swimming in the Lake District
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Gorge d’Herault
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Sillyness in the Chassezac

 

Don’t forget to check out the other fabulous ladies also taking part

Cathy: http://www.southernyacht.blogspot.co.uk/
Christy: http://www.sprintingwithscissors.blogspot.co.uk/
Daisy: http://daisysays.co.uk
Kate: https://wearingmywardrobein2016.wordpress.com
Kath: https://fatheffalump.wordpress.com
Kellie: http://www.bigfashionista.co.uk/
Leah: http://www.justmeleah.co.uk
Lee: http://www.pinkybellesshed.co.uk/
Lisa: http://www.kitandkoboodle75.blogspot.co.uk/
Mookie: http://www.mookieslife.com/
Nikki :http://www.nattynikki.com/
Perelandra: http://www.pamperandcurves.com/
Sarah: http://www.plussizeproud.co.uk
Steph: http://www.misskittenheel.com
Vicky: http://www.therandomnessoftwee.blogspot.co.uk
Yvonne: http://woosangwashere.blogspot.com