Swimming with Allergies

I try to swim four to five times a week, and this was very achievable from January-April, when I had a mixture of working from home and working part-time. Now I am working full time, and commuting 30-50 minutes each way daily and unfortunately, don’t get enough time in the pool as I’d like to. Anyway, today’s post is not about my irregular training regime, it’s about my body’s reaction to swimming pools.

When I swam as a youngster (although I still very much am a youngster, I’m referring to when I was14), I remember after training on Sunday and Friday nights at Cov Baths, I would sneeze a lot in the changing rooms. At the time I thought it was due to the strong lemon cleaning products they used to clean the floor, and maybe it was but now I suspect it was something to do with the pool too.

Because when I did triathlon at uni, I’d do a two-hour morning session on Wednesdays before classes, and be sneezing all the way through my Spanish oral class, much to my professor’s amazement/amusement. I just put it down to me being allergic to the pool and learned to live with it, as it only happened when I spent more than an hour in the pool and was kind of funny at times.

Then, when I switched to Masters Swimming in January, and swimming up to five times a week, the sneezing and runny nose continued to get worse. Sometimes I would be sneezing well into the next morning after a training session, and sneezing can really hurt if it’s continuous. I posted a question on a Facebook group and asked if anybody else suffered with this allergy to the pool, and what they did to get over it. I sighed with relief when streams of people started commenting methods to get over the sneezing, mainly a nose-clip and various nasal sprays.

I have tried a couple of different nasal sprays, a chemical one, which tastes really chemical-ly but is very effective, and a natural sea water one, which is great as it’s natural, but not as effective as the other.

Then, a few months ago, I started getting red patches and spots on my neck, I first thought this was where my seatbelt was rubbing in my car, but then it appeared on the left side too and the patches were always very itchy whilst and after swimming. I went to the doctors about three times to get a diagnosis and only the third time did a doctor put his finger on the right condition and prescribe me something to make it go away. neck

But, on another note, how surreal is it that I am allergic to my hobby? Spending time in the pool makes me sneeze, gives me a runny nose and a neck that looks like I’ve got hickeys. And yet, how much stranger is it that I continue doing it? I go back to the pool now equipped with my nasal sprays in my bag, and it’s one of the first things I do after stretching. I have tablets and creams for in case my neck flares up with Pityriasis Versicolor again – which by the way, it is. These aren’t preventative measures, and the cure would be to not swim. So, is prevention better than cure?


Evidence that Romance Isn’t Dead

I now work in a jewellers, it’s a great place as you never know who will come through the door, what they will bring, what stories they have and what they want to buy. We have a mismatch of customers, of all ages, nationalities and it’s also a place where we get to hear and see signs of love at least three times a week.

Yesterday, two customers I helped serve stood out.

One was a local customer, who had just received our new catalogue through the door. His wife had looked through it and saw a bracelet that she liked, she pointed it out to him and he didn’t make much of a fuss about it at the time. He came into the shop, without her knowing and looked at the bracelet and the others in the same range – 18ct gold beads on an elasticated band. Some had diamonds and some did not.

After some expert modelling from myself, he decided to take the bracelet without diamonds (because after all, this wasn’t any special occasion) and then asked about matching earrings, which we have too. He bought the set, spending over £1000 and asked us to gift-wrap them. I couldn’t stop thinking about how pleased, excited and surprised his wife would have been to come home to receive such a nice gift.

Later that day, a Chinese group came in. They had already bought some watches from a shop in Manchester the day before and were comparing prices and styles. One man had bought an Omega the day before, and looked at our Omega display. A couple caught his eye and he saw a watch from the same collection as his, that matched his very nicely. In Asian cultures, matching watches for couples is quite a common thing, and I think it is really cute. What was even cuter, was that he FaceTime’d his wife (who was in bed – China is GMT+8) and showed her the two watches he was thinking about buying.


Matching Ladies Omega Watch

She didn’t ask for a watch but you could see from his face that he really wanted to buy her one, saying that what happens if he goes back and they go out to dinner, he dresses up with his new watch and she doesn’t have one. He bought the watch with a darker dial to match his and walked away very happy with his purchase (pictured).




So…where do I find one of those?

Swimming at Nationals

After about a month of training not as hard or as often as I should have (for various reasons – work, health, social commitments), the weekend of the Swim England National Masters Swimming Championships finally came around.

This event, would be the biggest of my swimming career so far and after a good performance at County Championships and Midlands Championships earlier in the year, it was something I had been looking forward to. Although I hadn’t expected it to come around so quick.

At local events, I usually come home with several medals, and a few pbs, and although they are great, the idea of getting a medal at Nationals, or a PB in the big competition was very exciting…however after looking at the entry times, and my lack of training before the event, both of these seemed unlikely.

I entered eight races over two days and ended up swimming in seven of them, as I entered the 400IM by mistake and knew I had not trained enough to be able to swim that race in the morning before other races later in the day. So I chose to withdraw from the 400IM, and when I arrived at the pool and saw the other swimmers in that race, I did feel a little sad not to be amongst them.

The National Championships are a big annual event, and I was very excited to have made the qualifying times for the competition, despite the several years I spent away from the pool it was a great confidence to know I could make it there to compete amongst the best in the country.

Sprint Finish
Sprint Finish

I wasn’t in the top ten for any of the individual events I entered, but that gives me a baseline and something to work on for next year. For me, this year has been about coming back, getting my strokes back on form, improving my stamina and feel for the water. I have entered lots of different races: 50m and 100m of each stroke, 100m IM, 200m IM, 400m IM, 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and an 800m freestyle.

I have established which races I enjoy the most (100m IM, 200m free, 50m fly), so I really want to focus on these races next year. My 50m butterfly time is now within a second of my lifetime best, so if I could break 36 seconds I would be over the moon.

Now, I have a solid three weeks of training before my next competition and after Nationals, I am super motivated, re-motivated even, to get back in the pool for training. I’ve incorporated kettlebells into my training regime too, and love the exercises you can do with this versatile bit of kit, really helpful for the arm muscles, shoulders and squats.

Big thanks to all the organisers of Nationals, the officials, referees, volunteers and coaches. Big shout out to my teammates at Nottingham Leander too, you inspire me too.

Loyalty Cards

I recently joined another supermarket’s loyalty card reward scheme, and when I got the letter and card through the post at first, the promise of a £5 voucher after collecting points sounded good. But after reading how many points I needed to accrue before I got that voucher, I had second thoughts on how rewarding the scheme actually is. I’d have to spend £1000 in store (or more on petrol) to get a £5 voucher. It’s not where I do my usual grocery shopping, and even if I did all my shopping there, it would probably take me a year to get enough points for a £5 voucher that I’d probably squander on chocolate or a cheeky breakfast.

That’s probably the worst offender in my purse. A coffee loyalty card I have allows you to collect points when you spend money in-store. To get my usual coffee for free, I have to spend just over £50. With the traditional paper loyalty cards, where you’d buy 9 and get your 10th free, you wouldn’t have to spend that much and with a paper card, you don’t have to do any online registration, so your inbox stays free of all the emails from shops telling you about their latest products and deals of the week (The Works was particularly bad for spamming my inbox).


WhatsApp Image 2017-05-26 at 12.12.45
Just ten of the many loyalty cards I have in my purse


Is it a waste to have all these cards in my purse, when the rewards are not that great and my email inbox is full of offers I don’t need? Not forgetting that ‘we haven’t seen you in a while Leona’ email.

I could cut down the number of loyalty cards to two that I use on a weekly basis, and that I have had some good rewards from. The rest are a bit of an ache to carry around when I know I won’t use them. Maybe it’s time they get relegated to a stay-at-home purse. I mean, when was the last time I had a Subway? I don’t need that card cluttering my purse!

Two Straws

I went to a bar a few weeks ago and ordered a coke. The waiter put two straws in my glass, and I asked him if it was company policy to put two straws in my drink, he replied that yes, it was what he was told to do.

I said that two straws are unnecessary, so he said he’d throw one away if I wanted to, but that just proved my point even more, that the second straw was unnecessary and would just end up in the bin.

I have a few friends on Facebook who live in Singapore and Thailand. These few friends are very enthusiastic and passionate about the ocean and are almost always sharing posts, photos and articles about saving marine life and the seas. I have seen many campaigns about clearing up and not polluting the oceans, such as The Last Plastic Straw, The Seabin Project, The Ocean Cleanup and others which are dedicated to clearing up our beaches and oceans, as well as saving and protecting the animals that live there.

There is loads of information on the internet about straws ending up in the ocean, and although I don’t understand how the straws I use would end up in the ocean, it is still something I would not like to contribute to. So when the bartender gave me two straws, I wasn’t too pleased.

I’ve worked in a nightclub before, and we didn’t give out straws as standard. Straws were on or behind the bar for customers to take, but I would hate to imagine how much waste and rubbish would have been made if we had to give out just one straw with each vodka coke, let alone two!

What is the second straw even for? Sharing with a friend? Drinking twice as fast? Stirring? A second straw doesn’t have any useful benefits as far as I can see, so next time I am given two straws, I will ask why and try to stop them putting two straws in my drink before they do so.


Can’t wait to change my number

I’ve had the same UK number for a few years now (although I’ve had other phone numbers when I’ve been in Spain and China, by UK number has always stayed the same) and with my new job, I’ve decided to change my phone number too.

My last job involved a lot of networking and social media, I didn’t have a work phone, so lots of contacts from my previous job still have my number saved and are able to add me on other forms of social media that I don’t want them to have access to. We are not friends, and they have my number saved maybe just in case, or because it was available.

When I change my number, I will send a message to my friends with my new number, and the people who I have as contacts, the ones who I don’t even know (Dave… Dave who?) will not be informed of my new number and if they want to contact me, they’ll have to find my email address or something.

It will be a fresh start and I’m so excited to have a clear out of all the old contacts, and not have to worry about receiving random messages from people I don’t really know, or being added to group chats. I’ll probably still get calls from people offering me life insurance and asking me about the car accident I haven’t been in recently, but I’ll feel in control again.

I’m just going to have to remember to update not only my friends with my new number, but other people who would need my number – the bank, the doctors surgery etc.

No turning back!

The Old London Tube

I was in London last week, for the first time in five years, would you believe? And I couldn’t get over how old the tube was. Of course, I was comparing it to the modern subway systems of Hangzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing.

Shanghai’s metro lines are ever expanding, and when I was there last year, the new Disneyland metro station was one of the newest stations, but I imagine that more stations will have been opened since last May when the park opened.

The subway systems in China are (in most cities) very modern and high-tech. Some have recycling machines that give you credit for your travelcard, most have moving adverts along the inside of the tunnel, and they all have voice announcements in English and Mandarin telling you what stop is next and to be careful with your bags.

In London, there are no x-ray machines before putting your ticket in the barrier and there are no tv screens on the platforms that with video adverts or news on, as well as the information of when the next trains are coming. The whole experience in London was totally alien, comparing it to the Chinese one, where the platforms have glass doors between you and the tracks. This is a safety feature, but it’s also good, as above the windows there are tube maps so you can plan your route, and you know where the tube will stop and which way the tube is going, in London I relied on my friends to know if we were going the right way or not.

The London underground is very much underground, you lose service on your phone when you’re on the tube and there’s also a distinctive earthy smell to the underground that isn’t very pleasant. There aren’t any fans in summer, making it hot and sticky either. It’s a good way to get around the capital, and especially with Oyster visitor cards that cap spending to £6.50 per day for people who don’t visit very often, but it’s not exactly a pleasant or efficient se ice, when I compare it with metro systems in China.

Behind on the Books!

At the beginning of 2017, I set myself a reading challenge of reading 30 books this year. Since then, I have been collecting books on my wishlist when I see them in charity shops, and I have thirteen books ready, waiting to be read…I just haven’t got round to it yet.

Reading 30 books in 12 months means an average of 2.4 books per month, and so far each month I’ve fallen short of that target, with two books read each in January and February, and only one finished in March so far and I only have two days of the month left. I’m 32% through my current book, Emma by Jane Austen, but as I read it in bed, I don’t often get to read the whole chapter before I fall asleep.

I have the books, I just don’t seem to be able to make the time to read. What’s also important is the time and place of reading. Whereas before, I used to read on coach journeys on the day trips I went on, or in a café at the end of the day, waiting for the coach to leave. Now, I only read at the end of they day when I’m already tired, and I often have to turn five pages back and re-read those pages again to know where I’m up to and remind myself what’s going on.

I hope April will be more a more successful month in my 30-books-in-one-year challenge. I plan to go to bed earlier, to get in extra reading time, any other suggestions?

Swimming Comeback and Undeserved Medals

A couple of days ago, I entered my first swimming gala in eight years. I quit the sport when I was 17 due to some club politics, an unsupportive coach and also because most of my friends had quit at that time too.

I decided to come back to swimming in December last year, after working at home, besides my once a week volunteer swim session, all my exercise was done at home too. It was an unhealthy cycle and I wanted to get out and meet new people. I joined a local swimming team in January and have never looked back. I only wish I had joined back in September when I first came back to Nottingham. The coaches are nice, the pools are clean, my teammates are friendly and I’ve been swimming five times a week.

So this weekend it was my first chance to get back in the pool as a competitive swimmer. The meet was especially for Masters (swimmers aged 18 and above) and involved a series of 50m, 100m and 200m events (both individual and relays) – I entered them all. There was a special challenge set by the organisers, to enter and complete all ten races, and by doing so, I won a bottle of whisky. Nice gesture, but as not a hard-drinker, it will probably sit in the cupboard for a long time yet.

The other prizes up for grabs at the event included 1) the Overall Age Group Winner, for the swimmer in each age group who accumulated the most points during the day (points are given for the time you swam for each event – the faster you swim, the more points you get) 2) Nottinghamshire County Champion Medals for the fastest eligible swimmer in each event per age group and 3) Spot Prizes for whoever the announcer deemed worthy, like the person in this race who comes 3rd, has the jazziest trunks on, etc.

In addition to the all 10 races whisky prize, I also won the overall age group prize (a new pair of racing goggles) and all 10 county champion medals. I didn’t win any of the spot prizes, which were bottles of shampoo and other toiletries, haha I’ve written about that before

I won the County Champion medals even though I wasn’t the fastest age group swimmer in all of my races. I was only the outright fastest in my age group for three of the ten races. Only swimmers who swam for teams within Nottinghamshire were eligible for the medals, so even though I was 4th in the 50m breaststroke, I still won the medal for that race, since the other three faster swimmers swam for teams outside of Nottinghamshire, and were therefore not able to win these medals. In theory, my wins were fair wins, in the same way if I went to Shropshire and was the fastest swimmer in the Shropshire County Championships, since I’m not affiliated with Shropshire, I wouldn’t be able to win any of their medals. But still, I feel a bit like most of the medals were undeserved. I swam as fast as I could, but my times were not as fast as they were nine years ago and other people swam faster than me. I’m certain that there are other females aged 25-29 in Nottinghamshire who are faster than me at all of the events I swam at the weekend, so it’s still quite embarrassing for me to call myself ‘County Champion’.

Me and my 10 golds
Me and my 10 golds

More to come on what I will do with the medals…

How not to salsa

I go to salsa most Wednesday nights. There are salsa and bachata classes early in the evening, and straight after the classes, there is a free social salsa night where everyone goes to dance.

Last week, for some reason, I was just on a roll. Everyone wanted to dance with me. Normally I take my place in the corner and wait for a friend to arrive who I can dance with, instead of dancing with a stranger (although I’ve been going for so long now, I know a lot of their faces and have danced with them before, but never really caught their names or stopped to chat with them…shall we call them salsa-not-so-strangers?, because I feel like I kind of know them).

But last week, salsa-not-so-stranger after salsa-not-so-stranger just kept asking to dance with me. I finished one dance and as I ran back to hide in my corner, someone else would invite me to dance, it was so surreal…did this mean I was actually getting good?

Anyway, this guy asked me to dance probably my fourth dance in a row, after a few seconds, the volume of the music went up (as often happens) and I got a really bad headache, I wasn’t concentrating and our dance really did not go well.

He was a better dancer than me (not hard, but still, it’s best to state that), and I just had a lot of trouble reading his dancing signals. He held his hands in the air and actually sighed when I spun and missed the cue to take his hand again. He purposely left his hand there on several occasions and at one point rolled his eyes at me.

After about 20 seconds, when he realised he’d made a bad choice in choosing me as his dance partner, he was actively looking around at other women, deciding who he would dance with next, like he had zero focus on me and was looking for the next one. Fine, alright, cool.

As he was looking around, I decided not to look at him any longer. I wasn’t looking for my next dance partner, I was looking for a place in the room where I could sit down and take a rest. As I spun (probably in the wrong direction) I scratched the poor guy’s arm. It wasn’t even just a little scratch, it was like elbow to wrist in length, and then he made eye contact with me, and his eyes just shouted out so now you scratch me, for real?

Add all that to me stepping on his toes and generally not dancing well in his company, I think it’s safe to say we won’t dance with each other again. At the end, he didn’t even say thank you, which is standard dancing etiquette, no? I usually dance alright, it was just at that point I was tired, I had a headache and wasn’t concentrating. Maybe we should have ended the dance early and evacuated the dancefloor*.

*I tried to find a salsa version of this song but couldn’t find one

More salsa stories to come…