Run, gym, run, gym, mechanic, run, run – and what’s in a name?

Straighter and flatter than our normal running routes – no pavements and a bit boring, but probably a bit faster

The rest day on Monday worked well so I took myself out for a run on Tuesday morning. To maintain normal levels of stupidity, I decided to see if I could up the pace a bit.

The answer seems to be ‘yes’ I can run faster, but not by much. It was hard work but I did something over 10km (6.2miles) in a little under 56 minutes – fractionally under or fractionally over 5:30 per km (depending on your view of the various different lengths Strava gives for the same route).

Fortunately, next year’s ultra marathon won’t put speed high up on the list of essential requirements.

Lunch out with friends on Tuesday and then gym on Wednesday morning. My aim is to go twice a week which (I think) means I should focus on legs one day and upper body the other. However, cyclists and runners (sprinters aside) seem to have relatively little use for upper body muscles (apart from the entirely understandable vanity reasons) so I’m a bit at a loss what to do. I did more on the legs Wednesday which was very hard.

A happy hour in the afternoon spent in the apple tree picking from what is a bumper crop this year. We have supplied four sets of friends and started almost industrial scale apple chutney production here – no doubt we will end up putting apples on the front wall of the house to be taken by anyone who wants them. Happily I did not fall out of the tree like I did 2 years ago … progress!

I ran with my wife on Thursday, one of our usual routes (7km – 6.3miles) @ 6:21per km. That’s 6 seconds a km faster than she did it 10 days ago, which itself was the fastest she has done for a few years. Bravo to her.

The afternoon was spent buying the wood for, and constructing, a couple of raised vegetable beds of 3m x 1.5m x 0.3m (10ft x 5ft x 1ft) for a part of the garden we have worked to repossess from the weeds. As usual, I don’t really know what I’m doing but they look OK and I’ll fill them with a base layer of grass cuttings and then the contents of some large compost heaps, enriched with windfall apples and some commercially bought compost.

They should be ready for vegetables next spring – assuming they haven’t fallen apart or rotted away by then.

Back to the gym for an hour on Friday morning. Despite knowing that one session should be legs and the other upper body, I concentrated mostly on the legs again. I’ve increased the effort for the gym sessions – where I used to do 3 sets of 8 or 10 reps, I’m now doing 4 sets of 8 or 10.

I’m not sure why I’m doing this – I suppose it could just one of those rather trite ‘if you’re not improving you’re falling behind’ things. In the absence of any element of competition, I don’t know who I might be falling behind – or why on earth it could possibly matter.

Another stint as bike mechanic at the pop-up charity shop on Friday afternoon and a good run on Saturday with my wife – extending the distance a bit to 8.33km (5.2 miles). We ran again on Sunday, this time driving a short distance to a flatter bit of road that we used to run on a good deal a few years ago – we ran 5km (3.1miles) at 5:22 per km even with Saturday’s run in her legs. I did some very poor pacemaking.

We might try the same run again after she has had a rest day to see if we can get her back below 5:15 (many years ago we ran the ‘Oxford Town and Gown’ 10km in under 59minutes).

After that it was up to London later for lunch with our younger son who has recently returned to London and to work after several weeks of lockdown with us – and to check that our flat is still there and secure. It is.

After realising that 6 successive days of exercise last week was probably too much, I did exactly the same this week. I do wonder about myself.

Interesting stuff this week

1. What’s in a name? There is a local car dealership called (after its founder) Dick Lovett. Having had cars from there for over 30 years, it is no big deal to us but a friend who was selling a car found that the dealership name appearing on the number plates nearly lost him the sale to a young chap who, obviously, felt that it would threaten his manliness. The day was saved by black electrical tape.

2. Man blows up part of house while chasing fly: A Frenchman who was irritated by a fly buzzing around him picked up an electric fly swatter – but a gas canister was leaking in his home. A reaction between the device and the gas caused an explosion, destroying the kitchen and partly damaging the roof.

3. African wise words: The lizard is not angry at the person who throws a stone at him, but at the bystander who praises the stone-thrower’s marksmanship.

Deep thinkers, those lizards.

Age is not ‘just a number’

To be honest, six consecutive days of exercise (three runs, two gym sessions, one bike ride) from Tuesday to Sunday last week was probably more than I should have done – I was wiped out on Sunday evening.

I keep hearing that age is just a number – but I disagree. As I understand it, my age relates directly to the very real matter of the length of time I have been alive. As such it denotes all sorts of cumulations – most notably experience and physical wear and tear – more than ‘just a number’ could only dream about.

I’m happy with the experience cumulation but there is no getting away from the fact that my body has had 20 more years of wear than a 45 year old.

This does not mean that I have to accept slowly sinking into decrepitude without a fight – I plan to be the fittest 65 year old that I can be, but I do realise that I really cannot be a 45 year old any more.

It isn’t that ‘age is just a number’ – it’s more a case of ‘don’t let your age be the determining factor of what you can and can’t do’.

If someone tells me that next year, at 66, I’ll be too old to run my first ultra marathon, I won’t pretend that I’m not 66, I’ll just try to prove that their thinking about 66 year olds is wrong.

Soapbox dismounted.

Run, run, gym, gym, marquee erector, run, ride

Photographic debut of part of the new wall, with ‘edged’ lavender bed. The handle behind the wall belongs to a very large hand-pulled roller. The brick pier is straight … it’s just perspective in the photo (honestly).

Working in the garden on Monday – sawing through some high tensile steel hawsers. Long since redundant from their original job of bracing some fir trees, they were well embedded in the trunks.

I had a very warm run on Tuesday – a bit over 10km (6.2miles) at 5:41 per km, which is fairly quick for me. It was along roads and footpaths so I wore the minimalist shoes – I failed to spot just two stones in time to avoid treading on them but, happily, no lasting damage done.

On Wednesday I did laps of the old hill fort – 9.4km (just over 5.2miles) and then out in the garden (and blocking the entry point used by the jackdaws to get into the area above the garages). I booked an hour at the gym for Thursday morning, only to get a message from a friend asking if I was going on Friday. I did the only sensible thing and booked another hour for Friday.

It’s weird having to book gym sessions via the internet – a price of the gyms reopening in the time of Covid – but it still feels well run and as safe as it can be (and noticeably quieter).

Both days went OK – but I have learnt that two successive days in the gym may not be the best of ideas for me. I managed the normal weights on all the machines but it was noticeably harder on Friday than Thursday.

After the gym on Friday I took our marquee over to some friends’ house and helped to erect it in their back garden. It’s quite a big one (about 12m x 6m – 40 x 20 feet) but luckily there were 6 of us putting it up.

The aim is to celebrate the closure of the charitable pop-up shop with a garden party on Sunday for all those who helped make it a success. In the four weeks we were open, we raised over £5,000 ($6,600+) which has more than plugged the hole left in the charity’s finances by having to cancel the annual sportive, which is our biggest fund raiser.

It would be a fair observation that if the second consecutive day at the gym wasn’t the greatest of ideas, a run on Saturday, making five successive days with some significant exercise, probably wasn’t much of an improvement in the decision making process. It was very hard, despite being slow and short (5.5km – 3.4miles).

To complete the idiocy of six straight days I went out for a solo spin on the bike on Sunday morning before the garden party. I assumed that the bike might be easier than another run or gym session. It wasn’t – a nice still day on the way out and a bit of a freshening headwind on the way back. Just 36 km but at a decent 28.9 kph (22 miles @ 18 mph).

Shamefully, that was only my 10th ride outside on the bike this year (and no turbo since May either). Still, the pace suggests that the running has helped keep a degree of fitness that can translate over to the bike.

Strava tells me that I’m on course for over 1000km (620 miles) of running this year. It’s not an earth-shattering distance but such is the pressure of round numbers that I’ll go with it as a target.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: How can a man whose enemies have lit a fire for him go and rub oil on himself and lie close to the fire?

2. BBC news headline: Football match called off due to Covid-19 fears

Wow, could it really get that bad?

3. BBC news headline: Man in box of ice breaks world record

An Austrian man has broken a world record, by standing in a box filled with ice for over two-and-a-half hours.

Run, Bournemouth, mechanic, London, run, run

Ships that don’t pass in the night – cruise liners moored in Bournemouth bay

A morning run in the rain around Badbury Clump on Tuesday. Rarely do I find I’m not enjoying a run – this one came close to start with but turned out to be really good by the end. Nearly 7km – 4.3miles.

The inevitable work in the garden in the afternoon.

On Wednesday we went down to Bournemouth. While we have had our younger son with us for some weeks, our older son and his girlfriend have been spending a good deal of time at our place down there as an alternative to both working from the flat they share in London. It’s a great feeling to be able to help both sons in different, but appropriate, ways over the last few months.

It was really good to get down there – even with the mowing and various diy bits that needed doing. We walked along the seafront and were taken by surprise by the four large cruise ships moored in the bay, mothballed until the cruise market recovers (I suppose it will – but to the previous levels?).

Back home, younger son and I did a stint in the charitable pop-up cycle shop on Thursday morning and went down to the reopened snooker club in the nearest town to chase some balls around the baize in the afternoon. Our next house move (if there is one) should be a down-size but I wonder if that would permit a room set aside for a full-sized snooker table.

We drove our younger son back to London on Friday. Long and difficult journeys through torrential rains that threatened to submerge Oxford, and busy ‘Friday-before-bank-holiday’ traffic. We are pleased that he is getting back to normality (and work on Tuesday) but sorry to lose him after so many weeks of lockdown with us.

I ran on Saturday morning. Bravely I tried a new route thanks to one of the walks we did last weekend as part of ‘Bournemouth at home’. It is almost entirely on private farm roads (which are also footpaths) and I passed three cars and perhaps 4 walkers throughout.

I had no real idea of where I’d run to – or how far it might be – so it turned out to be one of those runs when you think ‘I’ll run to the next corner/farm building/oak tree’ … but end up carrying on just because it’s good to be out.

I ran into a stiff headwind on the way out which, of course, died down to give me little help on the return. In all 13.25km (8.2miles) at a comfortable 5:51 per km (about 9:23 a mile). Shame it was an out and back route but the circuit would have involved running across or round fields and through a wood – with the rain we’ve had in the last couple of days that didn’t feel like a good idea.

Lunch with friends later on Saturday and then Sunday morning saw another run but this time with my wife. Just over 7km (nearly 4.4 miles). it was her first run under 6:30 per km for some years so a very good way to finish the week.

A week rescued late on as far as exercise is concerned – but just the three runs and much labouring in the garden. Still 10 months until the postponed ultra marathon – in some ways I wish it were closer so I could to start some focused training.

Well done Lizzie Deignan for winning La Course, and bravo for the start of La Tour (I just hope the worsening Covid position in France doesn’t stop it getting to Paris safely).

Interesting stuff this week

1. Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian says he is facing trial for working with female singers and dancers. Rajabian says a judge told him his latest project “encouraged prostitution”.

What?

2. BBC news: ‘The penguin watching Pingu so he doesn’t get lonely’.

The penguin was found washed up on a beach in the south west of Australia. The keepers were worried he’d not get enough socialising while he gets healthy enough to return to the wild so they’re showing him the cartoon, along with live streams of other rockhoppers around the world.

3. African wise words: ‘It is pointless preaching to a hungry man’

4. BBC news: Mr Gay England: The trans man competing ‘against an idea of male beauty’.

I’m a bit of a liberal – but I find this confusing

Labourer, mechanic, gym, run, walk, cycle, and Bournemouth at home

Bournemouth – more of a memory in 2020 as far as weekends away with friends are concerned

On Monday I decided to push on to see if I could finish capping the new stone walls this week. That would be about 90% of the job done as there will be pointing and ‘stuff’ to do for some time yet.

I decided to top them with a curved mortar capping to match other stone walls in the garden but the big disadvantage is that it would take yet more mortar mixing. We are doing all that by hand – fine, except that it has given me something akin to tennis elbow.

I managed to cap the first 4m stretch just before the rain started. The next bits were beneath the trees, so I kept going on the basis that would be fairly dry.

As the rain came down harder I realised that beneath the trees was not all that dry. As it became a torrent, I realised that it was not at all dry. As the lightning started, working beneath the trees seemed to be an even less sensible idea so I hurriedly finished the bit I was doing and retreated indoors, soaked to the skin.

It’s surprising how large drops of water falling from trees, and the sheets used to cover wet mortar, can spoil the immaculate finish achieved by a true craftsman (or, at least, that’s my story).

I spent the day dodging the rain and capping 5 stretches of wall, having to go back frequently to repair rain damage and, on one occasion, cat paw prints (and we don’t even have a cat – ours, a female called Brian, died a few years ago … RIP Brian).

Back for a stint at the charity pop-up cycle shop on Tuesday morning – and then another (unplanned) stint in the afternoon, playing mechanic. Wednesday was dull and wet but I capped the final bit of wall and attended to a bike I brought back from the shop to fix at home.

Gym on Thursday for a very good hour and then in the garden, mowing, fixing crazy paving paths and working on a path area by the newest bit of wall. All followed by an extremely windy run on Friday 7.2km (4.5miles).

Bournemouth at home

In 2017 and 2018 we invited two sets of friends to Bournemouth for a long weekend. Last year we were bold and went for ‘Bournemouth in the Alps’ by inviting them to France. This year the pandemic means it’s ‘Bournemouth at home’ but the 6 of us had a great weekend of walks (a total of about 21 km – 13 miles), pubs, picnics, ice creams, a trip up the Folly Tower and home suppers. We cycled to one of the pubs for lunch – a very gentle 48km (30 miles) on the mountain bike.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who eats the peas forgets, whereas he who has to throw away the pods doesn’t.

2. Highest temperature on earth: What could be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth – 130F (54.4C) – may have been reached in Death Valley National Park, California.

Wow – I remember stepping out of an air conditioned car when we got to Stovepipe Wells many years ago. I thought I’d put my head in an oven and that was pleasantly cool in comparison.

3. Proposed dog legislation in Germany: Under the planned rules, dog owners would have to take their dogs for walks twice a day for a minimum of one hour in total, would not be allowed to keep their dogs chained for long periods of time and would not be allowed to leave dogs alone the whole day.

Wow! (or should that be bow wow)

Run, playing shopkeeper, run, gym, cycle training, longer run

7km (4.3 miles) on Monday morning – no more than a steady pace but hard and hot. I then started on the last section of stone wall – adding to a poor (even by my standards) section of existing wall.

One of the foundation stones (in the wrong place for what we now want) was so large that two of us could not even roll it, let alone lift it. Eventually we edged it into its new place but that set the tone for the day – relentlessly hard. It wasn’t helped much by even greater incompetence than usual which led me to repeatedly pinching my fingers between heavy stones or dropping stones on my feet.

I mixed a load of concrete later to fill a gap between some flagstones and the front porch. It’s something my wife asked me to do months ago. I agreed to do it and have suffered regular reminders – becoming more and more pointed – ever since.

I don’t know if we are typical but the biggest issue is always that, for me, ‘Yes I’ll do it’, comes with no commitment as to timescale – but I think she takes this to mean ‘Yes I’ll do it and it is the most important thing in my life, such that I will not be able to rest until it has been done’.

One way or another, it is now fixed and I was completely wiped out by the evening.

On Tuesday our son and I played shopkeeper/cycle mechanic. The charity we set up a few years ago as a development of the cycle club has managed to get the loan of some shop premises in the town for a month. The owner plans to open a restaurant later in the year and was happy for us to open a pop-up store for a few weeks before the place is gutted. We take in and refurbish bikes and biking accessories to be sold, and help cyclists out with repairs to their own bikes.

It’s a great idea and although it relies entirely on the goodwill (and time) of members of the group, it is surprisingly enjoyable. I took in one donated bike just after 2pm and spent a bit of time attending to the bottom bracket, the brakes and the gears – we sold it for £120 (nearly $160) before 4pm. About an hour’s attention to a donated Raleigh folding bike has give us another item worth rather more.

The downside is that there is never quite enough time in a volunteered afternoon so I brought another bike back with me that needs attention to a buckled rear wheel and dodgy rear bearings.

Wednesday followed a familiar pattern – an early run followed by wall building. The run was a short but tough 5.3km (3.3miles) – even before 9am it was over 26℃ (nearly 80℉). I fixed the bike I’d brought home from the shop and then we had a glorious thunderstorm which cleared the air, watered the garden and reduced the temperature – a triple win.

Back to the gym Thursday morning on full, pre-lockdown, weights. It’s good to have a third string to my exercise bow (especially with the cycling string not getting enough use at the moment). Back to the wall later and another couple of hours taking cycle training session on Friday, followed by a pub lunch and supper at friends.

A generally gentle Saturday but a solo run on Sunday morning – 13.75km (8.5 miles) @5m 47sec/km. A bit further than the normal runs at the moment – very hot and pretty hard but good to have got out there for longer, even if it’s just to prove to myself that I can.

Still ticking over at the moment – 15-20 miles a week running and a ride and/or a gym session.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African proverb: You cannot build a house for winters gone by

2. In Somalia legislation is before parliament that defines a forced marriage as one where the family (not the individual) does not consent.

3. China restaurant apologises for weighing customers: A restaurant in central China has apologised for encouraging diners to weigh themselves and then order food accordingly.

The beef restaurant in the city of Changsha placed two large scales at its entrance this week. It then asked diners to enter their measurements into an app that would then suggest menu items accordingly.

The policy was introduced after a national campaign against food waste was launched.

Run, run, gym (first since March), run, run and an accidental trendy diet

Although the bluebells are long gone for this year, I can still picture them when I run round the old hill fort

After a week off running and cycling I ran on Monday. It’s a good thing I wasn’t daft enough to think that I’d run easily, smoothly and strongly as a result of the break – because I didn’t.

I ran in my minimalist shoes for the first time since I hurt my feet running in them on the stoney farm track three weeks ago. I really enjoyed them – except that, to be honest, the ball of my right foot hadn’t quite recovered and hurt a bit.

It felt like very hard work but I did over 10km (6.3 miles) in 58 minutes – 4 hour marathon pace – which was a pleasant surprise.

We walked a 3.5 mile round trip for supper with friends on Monday evening. I wore my Asics running shoes – good shoes but they have a high and snug heel that aggravates my Achilles if I run in them. I now find that they aggravate my Achilles if I walk in them.

The three of us went for a more gentle run on Tuesday morning – about 7km (4.4 miles), ignoring the sore Achilles and the sore soles of the feet, followed by building a brick pier at the end of one of the new walls.

Wednesday was spent on a trip up to London to do some work on our sons’ flat and to pick up post and meter readings from ours – and no time for a run.

On Thursday I went to the gym for the first time since they were allowed to reopen last week – and my first time since early March. It wasn’t busy, the equipment had been well spaced out (taking over a foyer area and a squash court) and was being cleaned very regularly by the staff.

It felt pretty safe (given the circumstances) and I was pleasantly surprised that I could lift the same weights as in March – although I eased off by 5kg here and there to give myself a slightly gentler reintroduction. A very enjoyable hour.

I timed my return home badly. I got back from the gym just as my wife and our younger son were heading out for a run – so I joined them. It was only 5.5km (about 3.4m) and taken gently, but coming straight after the gym it felt as hard as anything I’ve done recently.

A rest day on Friday featuring a long lunch with friends in very hot weather. I planned to run late afternoon on Saturday after a day in the garden, but we were invited out for drinks. Strangely, I opted for the drinks rather than the run, but we all ran on Sunday morning – nearly 9km (5.5miles) with laps around Badbury Clump, minus the bluebells.

Talking to a friend, I’ve realised that – without any conscious decision – I’ve slipped into a regime of 16:8 dieting. I’ve got to this position simply by failing to follow the old ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ adage and rarely eating anything before lunch (and often not eating lunch either).

That gives me at least 16 hours of fasting most days and it seems that the fasting period is said to help in several ways, both for weight and health. Best of all, I appear to be lucky in that it just happens to be the way I tend to eat, rather than being an artificial diet approach. Accordingly, it isn’t very hard to do and nor do I feel very tied to it – if it doesn’t suit me at any time I abandon it without even the merest twinge of guilt. Of course, the ‘no breakfast’ approach completely disappears any time I stay in a hotel.

I’m wondering how long it will be before the wheel turns full circle and breakfast again becomes the most important meal of the day.

Interesting stuff in the news

1. A Canadian brewery has apologised for unwittingly naming one of its beers after a Maori word that is commonly used to mean pubic hair.

2. African proverb: A man who plants grapes by the roadside, and he who marries a pretty woman share the same problem.

My apologies that African proverbs are not always appropriately PC.

Minimalist/barefoot running, thoughts so far: really good, but …

After using the Merrell minimalist shoes for several runs over the course of a few weeks, and reading and thinking about ‘barefoot’ running, I’ve reached some tentative conclusions.

Of course, they are only really relevant for me because running shoes are a very individual thing, but I thought I’d record them anyway.

I run mainly because I enjoy it and it helps keep me fit. Beyond that, it’s motivational to run fast (by my own low standards of ‘fast’), I enjoy running with others and it’s another source of challenges – and I’m a bit addicted to challenges

The minimalist shoes certainly fit with my reasons to run – other than them not the best way of running faster. Their lightness is a bonus but I doubt they are the fastest shoes out there by a long way.

Of course, there is a huge range of ‘normal’ running shoes and my barefoot ones are probably better than many of the bad ‘normal’ ones – but they are certainly not likely to be as ‘good’ (ie fast) as the top-end shoes which have technology for ‘energy return’ from the layers of foam making up the sole (or the carbon in the sole). I must ask Mr Kipchoge what he thinks.

I think the minimalist shoes do bring really useful things to the party in terms of improving running form, strengthening the feet and lower legs and helping to avoid heel-striking.

Originally, my concerns were more about wear and tear on my ageing body – I guess the lack of cushioning must put more stresses on my hips, calves, Achilles’, knees, feet etc. Presumably, there’s a delicate balance between strengthening all those and putting too much stress on them. Starting the minimalist experiment at nearly 65 might not have been the best timing in the world in terms of my body’s ability to adapt to something so different – but I’m pleased I did.

I expect those concerns are probably valid to some degree – but the biggest drawback I’ve found with the shoes is that they are not at all good on stoney tracks. My one run with them down the farm track beyond Puddleduck Lane was very painful indeed and the soles of my feet were (literally) and I was (metaphorically) bruised by the experience. I suppose there will be minimalist shoes with thicker or more rigid soles – but that would seem to miss at least part of the whole reason for running in shoes like this.

I’m sure there are many people who run on minimalist shoes all the time and I applaud them – but at the same time I don’t think I will be one of them.

I think the minimalist shoes will become part of my regular running programme with ‘the minimalist shoe run’ taking its regular place alongside the hills session, the long slow run and the intervals. That should keep keep reinforcing the learning from them in order to constantly take it back to running in more ‘normal’ shoes.

I’ve been trying to work out how to think of the minimalist shoes – I keep coming back to a skiing analogy.

My ‘proper’ skis are Black Crows Vertis 170.3cm – but I have a pair of Salomon 90cm snow blades. The blades are tremendous fun – quick to turn but not as fast or as stable as ‘proper’ skis and mainly suitable for a day’s pure entertainment on the slopes – partly as a break from ‘real’ skiing.

Beyond the entertainment factor, there is certainly some benefit from the blades in that they do remind you to keep your weight forward, which is also a key aspect to skiing on full length skis.

For me, the minimalist or barefoot shoes come into the same category. They are really good fun to run in (I don’t know why but perhaps it’s the sense of foot-liberation) and I believe that they will help in tuning my running posture, avoiding heel striking, and in strengthening my foot and lower leg – all of which will be useful for when running in normal shoes.

However, just as I don’t use my snow blades all the time, I don’t think I’ll be using the minimal shoes for every run – and certainly not the runs on the sharp, rough stuff.

African proverb: A monkey walking behind another laughs at the other’s tail.

A week of no running or cycling – and lessons learned

Croquet – enjoyable, but not possibly not a replacement for running or cycling in terms of making the pulse race

I started Monday feeling distinctly jaded from the weekend’s runs, niggles to my left knee and thigh, sore feet and the cumulation of weeks of hard gardening and stone wall building.

With the longest and most difficult section of wall still to be done I took the (for me) momentous decision not to do any exercise sessions in the week.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t run, cycle, or go to the gym at least three times in a week but I think it was a good call to have a go at making more progress on the wall and having time to help get ready for our older son and his girlfriend coming up on Thursday to visit for a long weekend to mark his 30th birthday on Friday.

Fortunately I managed to speak to someone sensible on the internet provider’s customer support line and she sent a new power lead for the router. It arrived on Tuesday and, after a mere 5 days, service was resumed. The four previous calls had produced nothing more than ‘I’ll pass the details to our technical department’.

Happily, the wall progressed well and we were ready for a terrific weekend which featured a walk up to the Uffington White Horse, plenty of croquet, a great birthday barbecue on Friday evening (after a scorchingly hot day), too much food and a lot of champagne. Saturday lunch was at a local pub by the river with (more) very good food and another long walk in the afternoon.

Our older son and girlfriend left after lunch on Sunday. What a great weekend.

I contemplated a run later in the day but decided to stock to my ‘no running or cycling for the week’ policy – no matter how hard that might be.

I was wondering what, if anything, I learnt from the week of no formal exercise – recognising that it was just one week and not an entirely standard one because of the birthday celebrations.

First – and a bit worrying and surprising – is that although I really enjoy the running and cycling (and gym, when possible) I fear I could fairly easily lapse and not do them much – or at all.

Second – and this is a bit of a shock – although the knee improved, there is a possibility that the reason I feel older and crankier in the mornings is not because of too much exercise but because of increasing age.

Third – not exercising does save on the clothes washing.

Fourth – I neither can, nor want to, eat as much as I used to.

Run, cycle, rooks, bang, run, run

Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire countryside – not a bad area for a ride

Finally, I’m a fully-fledged volunteer responder! After over 800 hours ‘on duty’ I got a call to pick up and deliver a prescription for an elderly lady. I’m not expecting a knighthood but good to have helped in some small way.

A day off exercise on Monday, replaced by yet another trip to the local dump as the clear-out continues. Later it was back to pointing the new walls in the garden and more preparation for the building of the next bit.

Back to the running on Tuesday – still with normal running shoes and tender feet. We all ran up the village together before my wife did her hill reps and our son and I ran laps around the old hill fort at Badbury Clump – just over 9km (5.6miles) on a glorious morning.

Mowing later and the realisation (say it quietly) that I may have overcome the rooks. For a long time, when I went to feed the chickens, I’d scare a few rooks from the chicken run. That hasn’t happened since I made the cut-out of the hawk and stuck it on a pole in the run. On Tuesday I did scare a rook away as I went to feed the chickens – and lo and behold, I saw that my hawk cut-out had fallen over. Coincidence? I think not.

The old tree stump was removed in the afternoon and we had friends over for supper which was really enjoyable.

Wednesday was more of the same on new garden walls. Realising that we have neither the regular shaped stone or the necessary skill to build dry stone walls, we are going to adopt a new strategy and build it with mortar from the outset – more like an ordinary brick wall.

On Thursday I cycled with three friends – all of us over 60 and all retired (at least in part). A little over 64km (40 miles) around Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire lanes at a reasonably gentlemanly pace with a coffee stop – a social ride and none the worse for that.

In the evening there was an explosion (well quite a loud bang) in the sitting room and the power in the whole house tripped. Everything came back on except for the internet router – which has nasty looking black marks where the cable goes into the mins plug. I assume the plug is also a transformer and it’s that has gone in a very terminal way.

We all ran on Saturday (nearly 8km – 5 miles) and I ran with my son on Sunday (13km – 8 miles), with more garden walling in between.

I write this sitting in the car, parked where I can get a signal for the free wifi we are entitled to because of the broadband package we have for the house in Bournemouth. Not ideal, and no useful browsing to find interesting stuff to include this week.

As you might have guessed, no contact at all from the broadband provider to the house here …. quite bereft without it!