Category Archives: Weather or not

Geordie Pride: Great North Run 2013


It doesn’t take much to draw out the Geordie pride in this Northern lass, so a huge global event like the Great North Run just sets me to almost bursting. In fact, this 55,000 field race, from over 100,000 applicants, makes it Britain’s biggest participation event, and the Geordies LOVE to host a big party.

But why is this Great Run so universally loved, attracting people from over 40 countries to the North East of England?

Could it be the weather?

waether bupagnr

Probably not!

Could it be the joyous fun of running long distances?

pain gnr

Hmm…. curious stuff. Yet doubtful.

What could possibly motivate 55,000 people to get up on a chilly Sunday morning, the North sea breeze cutting at their scantily clad bodies, to run 13.1 miles of tarmac roads only to get a medal and short term fear of stairs?

collage gnrThe glee of running 13.1 miles with 55,499 friends at the Great North Run

Today, as my mother and I waited on the banks of the South Shields coastline, gloomy skies above us, surrounded by fellow wrapped up Geordies, we marvelled at this wonderful event on our doorstep (and literally on the doorsteps of many). Catterick Garrison soldiers marched along the final 200m to guide and cheer the elite runners in.

We watched David Weir destroy his fellow elite wheelchair racers as he powered through the finish line to yet another victory. We saw the legendary Dibaba stripped of her 11-year winning streak as Kenya stormed through the tape. Jeptoo crushing her opponents. And then we watched what is being pitched as the greatest finish in the history of this Great British competition. Sticking together for 10 miles or more, Mo and Haile battled along the route with Bekele sitting just behind them. Then as the end drew near, Bekele made a run for it, and it seemed Haile and Mo were left stranded, aghast. But no, in the final 800m, The Mo-Bot, cheered on with a surge of crowd participation (we nearly burst some blood vessels), grit his teeth and gave it some welly. If you were not there, you missed a treat. We were jumping up and down as they fought it out with only metres to go (check out my photo finish above). Mo came in a close second, and this effort of cheer and sheer will to drive him through almost finished off the audience. Then, with a sigh of joy, a rustle and a jiggle of pride, we looked out to the North Sea. A shared pride in being British.

5 minutes later, partially recovered from the exciting drama that had just got us screeching for another British win, we rallied our viewing neighbours to cheer on Dr James Kelly, PhD Chemist, international runner extraordinaire!

“Go James!” we all shouted. “GO JAMES!”

1003927_10100601624052983_896829386_nDr Kelly. The magnificent.

He took only 1 hour and 6 minutes to run 13.1 miles. Placing 22nd! Mind boggling stuff!

It is particularly mind boggling to me in fact, as I continue to battle with my very conservative half marathon time of 2 hours this year. 3 times I have tried to become a runner. And 3 times I have slowed to an almost stop as 9 miles rolls in and Beth’s quads say NO MORE NOW! I ran a Central Park half (twice) and I ran to Brooklyn (slowly), and each time I took 2 hours, or thereabouts. I even got beat by a baby yesterday. A BABY. This is no joke. I should add here that his dad was pushing him in a perambulator, but still. OUCH. All summer I have been loving the camaraderie of a wonderful nationwide venture: Park Run. A weekly 9am jog around a local park, mine is Saltwell Park in Gateshead, but you can find more convenient runs all over the country. To me, after repeatedly hitting a 9 mile wall, 5K always seems more doable on a Saturday morning when the day is my oyster (is that a saying?). I have seen little progress, but I always finish with my heart pumping effectively (phew) and my legs feeling like they don’t much like the idea of long distance but will at least humour me in this resolve. As long I go nice and slow.

So to me, a loser to babies and almost anyone else, anything near the 1 hour mark is genius. Bravo James.

Once the elite runners ran (in the actual sense of the word) towards the warmth, a shower and a long sit, the fun runners began to filter through. And I like to call this time “when Beth comes into her own”. I can clap loudly for England. Oh yes, and the cheering. I go at it like there is no tomorrow. If your name is on your shirt, I’ll scream it. If you have a crumpling frame, I’ll squeal to distract you as you approach the end. And if you are standing next to me. Apologies.

What a day. What a northern Geordie filled day. Can I be any more proud of my people?



Fish and Chips for lunch, home, and a lie down. Too much excitement for this Geordie.


Last Summer Series. The top meal revealed


Now that I am back in force and whipping through the blogging posts, here is a post you have all been waiting for. What has been voted the top meal of the summer so far? What meal encompasses all that is youthful summer holidays and homemade creations? And who in the world is voting for all of this?

All will be revealed. First, who is voting? Well mother and I are voting (Dad gets a what’s app picture message so that he feels included but he cannot always vote without taking obligatory “taste test”). I am the official and unofficial “taster”. I sit at the kitchen table, waiting for my meal like an impatient child (still in my 20s so I am surely getting away with it). And then the plate arrives. The winning plate of Summer in Kibblesworth 2013.

Grilled lemon chicken with lemon jus and lemon gremolata with a side salad

IMG_1013What? Is that a cup of tea on your tray? How British am I!?

lemon juice,
olive oil,
wholegrain mustard,
and pepper

chicken (sliced into generous chunks),

side salad
see Baby Sister’s Steak Salad and then add sliced radishes from your neighbours allotment (or a shop)

lemon jus
remainder of marinade + chicken juices from grill

finely chopped parsley
crushed garlic
and lemon zest

First marinade the chopped chicken for up to 12 hours (or however long you have). Slot the chicken onto skewers and grill in oven or on BBQ (and with this summer weather I suggest the latter). Prepare salad as previously described and mix the ingredients for the gremolata. Promptly make jus with the remaining marinade and grilled chicken juices and bring to boil in a pan until it has reduced to a jus-y goo. Place 3 skewers on each plate taking part, along with a side salad helping and pour over copious jus-ness. Sprinkle with gremolata to finish.

Munch away.

Absolutely Dwellable!


So it is that time of year again. The back end of winter with an occasional, but not too frequent, sunny day. The rest of them are soggy and cold and I HAVE HAD ENOUGH (stomps foot).

Roll on summer I say. Or at least Spring for more than 24 hours at a time?

With a little over 2 months between jobs, I have decided to spend my free summer-planning time (I’ll admit it: time could be more productively spent reading academic papers) working on where to go and when. Two summers ago, my family and I “vacationed” (as the Americans prefer it) up on Cape Cod. Rustic beaches, white picket fences (see post on all things Cape), fresh fish and chips and those pies! So this year we are looking for a more exotic destination. A little less North East coast and a little more grass skirt?

I just thought of Hawaii.


Sold? I am

Yes I did. Just popped into my head. Just like that.

But I am new to this playful search for the perfect family trip and so have employed the use of the new spangly Dwellable app (because ‘all things iPhone’ amuses me).

First of all they got me right in the mood. Who doesn’t enjoy a real live water washing up on sand moving image?

With the rain dribbling down the window pane outside, a beach scene is all I need to get into character. I can just picture myself. Lounging about, upturned coconut beverage in one hand, the other providing shade from the bright sunlight as I watch other holiday goers frolick in the sea. I dont need a woolly scarf with this backdrop. Nor do I need an umbrella, or a Wellington boot (look it up Americans), and not at all would I find a cut off glove, fingers poking out, of any utility. No no no. Grass skirt with bikini for decency is all I need. And Dwellable is here to help. I can almost run through my day on the beach, taxing though it is not, while simultaneously searching for the perfect rental.

Dwellable iphone

Love a snazzy app to make a cool day warmer

Loads of images, easy filters to get straight to the point (budget-wise and more) and all the necessary clicks to discover the holiday destination of my dreams and book with the owner. Really very nice Dwellable. Really VERY nice.

friendly Hawaiian sea turtle at Laniekea, north shore, 2002

My new friend says hey

And now with summer in mind, my ability to match up destination to calendar to price and then sealing the deal all in one swoop, click, swoop and then click, I can get onto the superfluous business of working out a water sport of choice.

Windsurfing anyone?

Every Little Helps


Please help Architect & Sister Jo Ashbridge reach her goal. Help her build a home for a family in Bangladesh.

To inspire you I have re-posted my favourite blog post on the process to date. I love a good bubble/cry (see last post) so I tend to read this over and over again just to get my eyes watering. Pitched as a real life “Spartacus” moment Sister Jo is making her mark halfway across the world and her humble family is bursting with pride (WOW I am feeling gushy today. Apologies all).

Community Engagement

To better understand household assets we are conducting a survey within the hamlet of Nobu para, based in part on the Bangladesh Population and Housing Census 2011 carried out by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, with a increased focus on the housing conditions. There is one family in particular that is in desperate need of improved living space and they are interested in our new techniques, having previously attended a ‘Building For Safety’ workshop.

My project however requires the backing of the community, exactly 50 individuals across nine households. Equally, beneficiary identification must be a collaborative effort and the final decision approved by majority. This process will ensure both ownership on the part of the individual household and the entire hamlet, and reduce the likelihood of future conflict.

Today we held a community meeting in the local pre-school. It had been scheduled for 2pm following feedback of household availability so that everyone’s voice could be heard. At 2.10pm there is only myself, the SAFE team and two older men living in adjacent houses. Today is Shoroshoti Puja, a festival in worship of the Hindu Goddess of education. Perhaps they have all decided a little dancing is in order?

Then, one by one people start arriving, signing their attendance, until all households are represented. Where the male head of the household is unable to attend, their wives and elder children are present.


We open the meeting with personal introductions, inviting all the villagers to speak. I present my project, the research undertaken to date and overall goals and SAFE talk of their motivations. I have secured funding to design and construct a new house with one family, the remainder of the funds targeted at further research into earthen plasters (following my initial findings last July), amenities and additional workshops to connect with the entire village. Even before we can present our analysis of the housing survey, the entire room are in agreement as to which family should be chosen.

Now the issue of household contribution, something which has been playing on my mind for some time now. Personally I do not believe in ‘basic aid’. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not against aid. I am not a staunch follower of Easterly. It might be easier if I saw the situation as black and white, if I could argue a position with uninterrupted conviction. The reality is my mind changes on a daily basis. It changes when I am welcomed into the home of a family who are clearly existing hand-to-mouth, when I am offered their last packet of biscuits and all they ask is that I come back to visit. It changes when I see children living under simple tarpaulin sheets on the streets of Dhaka, unable to escape the monsoon rains or indeed their situation. It changes when I see such entrepreneurial spirit that it takes my breath away. It changes.

But I do believe that if aid is the only reasonable option in a certain circumstance, it should not be simple. It should not be presented as aid, it cannot ignore the beneficiaries and what they are able to offer to the process. Perhaps the line between aid and development is not so defined. Perhaps aid could aspire to be appropriate development.

In this project we are asking for a contribution. This is where theory and reality collide. The chosen beneficiary household is very much at the bottom of the ecomomic ladder. The family own the land on which they reside but no additional agricultural land. Tarinduro (father) works as a day labourer earning between 100-200 BDT (£0.62-£1.63) per day, but this is seasonal work and even then not guaranteed. With the eldest son in high school, their daughter in primary and youngest son below school age there are no additional incomes. They can contribute earth, following the demolition of their existing house and they may be able to help with labour. Are these true contributions? If we ask for construction material or small financial assistance, they will undoubtedly be forced to take out a loan… potentially initiating a spiral of debt. Is the theory flawed?

We present this to the group and ask their advice. We argue that I am not a member of the community, and cannot be expected to take the entire financial burden. Can the community offer any assistance? We are inundated with questions… what type of house will we be constructing… how much will it cost? Many of which we are unable to answer in detail as we are at the very beginning of the design process. It’s a tense moment. We have identified the most vulnerable household within the community, but their neighbours are certainly not affluent. The majority also live in bamboo and earth dwellings, albeit better constructed. Their plots may be slightly larger, they may own three cows… but no one is connected to the grid, only one household has a latrine and it is currently out of use. Are we asking too much?

Then from the corner one man raises his voice… “I can offer a bag of cement”. Suddenly another voice… “we can offer a few pieces of bamboo”, a ripple effect… “we can give two bags of cement”… “we will help with the labour”… It’s a real life ‘Spartacus’ moment. I am overwhelmed and have to take a breath to hold down the tears.

OK, so here we go!”

Do you need an idea for a New Year’s Resolution? Always here to help!

My sister at work
Disaster Resilient Housing in Bangladesh
Following phase one analysis the need for improved, sustainable housing in areas at risk of a range of natural disasters (standing water, flash floods, monsoon rains, cyclones, earthquakes…) along the southern coast of Bangladesh is ever apparent.
All funds raised will be used in the construction of housing for identified beneficiaries. The builds will also act as demonstration houses for the wider community as well as full-scale research prototypes exhibiting a range of earthen architecture solutions.
Current NGO/INGO responses range from 78,000 BDT (£608) to 160,000 BDT (£1248). Unlike such standardised shelter programmes this project will offer a range of designs, which take into account individual beneficiary needs and expectations, micro site analysis and a holistic design approach.
Preliminary costs for each house are estimated at between £900-£1100. The more money raised the more houses that can be built and therefore more families that can directly benefit.
To keep up to date on project progression, follow the blog:
The girl knows her bamboo

Bordered by India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The low-lying nature of the terrain (with a large percentage of land less than 12m above sea level)means that Bangladesh is vulnerable to flooding and is now widely recognised as one of the countries at greatest risk from climate change. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)states that a 1m rise in sea level will engulf approximately 13% of the landmass in the southern belt, displacing 15-20 million people by 2050.

In recent years Bangladesh has witnessed a wide range of disasters, including Cyclone Sidr in 2007, Cyclone Aila in 2009, floods and landslides throughout 2010 and 2011. In conjunction with emergency response efforts, disaster risk reduction is key. Working with local communities to strengthen the capabilities of individuals and families to cope with natural disasters and their complex effects is a necessity. Improving shelter construction technologies and techniques based on successful existing practices is just one of the many aspects needed to encourage community self-reliance rather than dependence on aid.
The research aims to investigate the existing role of earth architecture and construction in areas with acutely limited assets whilst offering simple low-cost improvements. The 12-month project can be broken down into three key stages:
Phase 1 – Analysis of existing conditions and emergency/development approaches offered by NGO/INGOs
Phase 2 – On-site development of improved earth construction techniques
Phase 3 – Working with local communities to design and construct a series of demonstration houses
The poorest section of society is often the most vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters (rising water levels, river bed erosion, environmental degradation, spread of infectious disease, disruption to livelihoods, civil conflicts, building/infrastructure damage…) and with nearly half the population of Bangladesh living on less than $1 a day, the project seeks to address a great need.
A dry day in the country
Article 25 states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Please please support if you can. Every little bit really does go a long way in this country. What better new year’s resolution???

The Aftermath


Eating through an earthquake and then sleeping right through the hurricane this week has been somewhat disappointing.

I tried to stay up for the big winds on Saturday night but instead responded to my drooping eyelids and soon I was fast asleep in my safe house, snug as a bug in a rug.

When I resurfaced a little late on Sunday morning I was highly frustrated to find that the excitement was well and truly over. The high winds had whistled through the skyscrapers briefly and heavy rainfall had created deep but manageable puddles, scattered across Manhattan. Elsewhere the damage had been more profound but for us the severe storm was over before it had even begun. A stroll around Central Park revealed fallen trees, overflowing bodies of water and an excited population unable to partake in normal Big Apple fun. We were left to wander in the blustery day and marvel at the aftermath of our first hurricane.

Irene from space!

The storm approaches

The trees had no chance. Nowhere to go!

Quite a bit of rain by the looks of it

Coney Island felt the brunt of Irene’s wrath

Hurricane Irene


This week is going to go down in history in the tri-state area for a mid-week record breaking earthquake. Hitting 5.8 on the Richter Scale and shaking the city in more ways than one; that was what we call Tuesday. Now it is Friday night and having been mocked by the San Andreas fault-liners for an over dramatic response to a little jiggle, the city is now in full drama again preparing for an absolute lock down in the face of a Level 2 hurricane, quaintly nicknamed Irene. Hurricane Irene has been running amok in the Bahamas for the last week and now is moving its 600 mile wide stormy self up the East coast.

This is quite the spectacle. Today, I have witnessed the hospitals/labs on the Upper East Side in emergency shut down mode. Outside paraphernalia is dragged inside while fridges, freezers and all other essential equipment is powered up to generators for fear of an electricity outage. I have been encouraged to plan for the worst, pack a go-bag (flashlight, water, biscuits etc.) and run away to higher ground, in what seemed like hourly Hurricane Emergency email bulletins from the Institute. And in an effort to do my weekly grocery shop before the city’s transport network officially shuts down for 24 hours, tomorrow at noon, I have queued outside Wholefoods for over 30 minutes just to get into a desolated store. What I found was surprising. What I didn’t find was… well anything. Not one lettuce leaf in sight. The banana shelves ransacked for what I can only imagine was an unnerving fear of potassium starvation. A calamity that could only possibly result in mild cramps?

It was as if the terrified population had looted the place.

Now as I sit in my apartment, painted in yellow on the evacuation map, which as you can see from above is only a suggested evacuation spot thus far, I am watching the nonstop TV coverage of this impending doom.

Mayor Bloomberg says, “stay indoors for at least 24 hours between 9pm on Saturday through the weekend.”

Mandatory evacuation spots are being patrolled to confirm everyone has successfully escaped incoming Irene. Weather analysis teams on high alert as they come into their own on this blowy final weekend in August. And for a country that takes pride in weather commentary, they definitely appear to be revelling in this storm.

After 12 noon tomorrow I will either be trapped on Roosevelt Island for the long haul or I will have been forcibly evacuated to safer ground.

Anticipate regular updates as this potentially bored individual is housebound for the weekend!