Monthly Archives: March 2023

Swim, gym (x2), mow, run (plus, explosive printed matter, cosy leagues and ‘art or pornography?’)

The week started with a swim doctor session. Lots of drills so it was hard, but with fewer metres swum – just 850 of them.

Gym for an hour on Tuesday morning. It’s still very quiet there with just one person when I arrived and two when I left. I’ve put the weights up on a couple more machines but still slow progress on the chin-ups, with both elbows complaining at the moment.

I drove down to Bournemouth on a very windy Wednesday, mainly to do domestic things like mowing (my first mow of the year!) and taking the cuttings and more branches that I cut last year, to the local tip. No time for a run but I did walk the 200 yards to the sea to check it was still there (it was). A necessary trip, even though it meant yet more time in the car (two rather slow journeys, the return in heavy rain) after last weekend’s two trips to London.

The plan for Thursday had been for the turbo in the early evening but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm (even for an indoor cycle) on a cold, wet and windy day. Friday was a bit better and getting to the gym was much easier as it is a pretty well established routine that needs little in the way of thought or decision-making. That was followed by the usual bike shop session but my plan to mow later was thwarted by yet more heavy rain.

Saturday was very windy but I got out for a gentle run. The nasty wind (which, of course, only died down when it was supposed to be at my back) was accompanied by cloud, the occasional rain shower and odd sunny spell but I stuck it out for just over 11km (7 miles).

My best cycling-up-mountains weight is about 66-67 kg (c. 145-148 lbs) but it drifts over 70kg (this year closer to 72!) in the winter. I’ve just gone back under 70kg which is the first official sign of Spring.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He may say that he loves you, wait and see what he does for you

2. BBC News website: When being league runners-up is no great success

The Isles of Scilly Football League consists of just two teams – the Woolpack Wanderers and Garrison Gunners. They play each other in 18 league games each season, two annual cup competitions and a Charity Shield-style exhibition.

No player has a pre-ordained team, the two captains pick new squads at the start of the season, taking it in turns until there are no players left. 

In the ‘glory’ days, before the 1950s, there were four teams but the population has aged and dwindled. The islanders’ median age rose from 46 to 50 between 2011 and 2021.

3. BBC News website: Is it me, or are these becoming more regular?

An asteroid large enough to destroy a city will pass between the orbits of the Earth and the Moon (within 515,000km of the moon) this weekend – happily, missing both.

It is rare for such a huge asteroid – estimated to be between 40 and 90 metres in diameter – to come so close to the planet. According to Nasa, it’s an important opportunity for astronomers to increase their knowledge of asteroids, in the event that a dangerous object were discovered with the potential to hit Earth.

I’m pleased they have the opportunity to study it – but perhaps no closer, please

4. BBC News website: More on the potential dangers of social media

Utah has become the first US state to require social media firms get parental consent for children to use their apps and verify users are at least 18.

The bills will give parents full access to their children’s online accounts, including posts and private messages. The move comes amidst heightened concern over the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

5. BBC News website: Dot matrix is a thing of the past

An almost fully 3D-printed rocket has taken flight for the first time and powered skyward for a few minutes before falling back to Earth. Some 85% of the vehicle, which is 112ft (34m) tall, was produced using additive manufacturing techniques (3D printing).

The first stage burned for just over two-and-a-half minutes. The second stage should then have taken over to complete the journey to orbit but, after a few flickers, it died. The upper part of the rocket would have come down in the Atlantic Ocean.

Paper jam in the 3D printer?

6. BBC News website: The sort of insight that makes you Bank of England governor

Raising prices could drive up the cost of living even further and would hurt the least well-off most, the Bank of England governor has warned firms. “If all prices try to beat inflation we will get higher inflation,” Andrew Bailey told the BBC.

He said higher inflation “hurts people” and warned the Bank would raise rates again if prices continued to increase.

7. BBC News website: Michelangelo and Botticelli – art or pornography?

A Principal of a Florida school is said to have been forced to resign after a parent complained that students were exposed to pornography in a Renaissance art lesson where students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David. The lesson also included references to Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” painting and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”.

The school is required to teach about Renaissance art in sixth grade (11-12 year olds?) but three parents complained that the lesson’s content upset their children.

The Principal said she resigned after she was given an ultimatum by the school board to resign or be fired. She agreed that a letter notifying parents of the art lesson should have been sent to parents but a breakdown in communication led to that not happening.

The failure to send the letter is poor but …

Quick, cover up the legs on that table Mother, and call the witch-hunter

Swim, gym(x3), run(x2), walk, (plus secrets of the past, no flop, and the Barkley Marathons)

I was a bit stiff on Monday morning, thanks to Sunday’s decorating. The aches eased quickly but it was blowing a gale so I just signed up for the early evening swim doctor session and we booked flights for a trip to Spain later in the year.

The swim class was full and I was put in the lane with the three fastest swimmers. To keep out of the way as much as possible I largely ignored the drills and just swam front crawl – about 1,100m.

Gym on Tuesday, which was much as usual, including a decent amount of work on the biceps. My chin-up challenge is still well beyond me but I’m not giving up on it. The big news is that my right elbow is improving a little – but my left elbow now hurts.

Wednesday morning’s blood pressure reading was the final one I’d been asked to take after the slightly scary 160/80 at the surgery last week. My week’s recordings averaged out at 122.5/70. I put the results in a letter and dropped that off at the surgery – let’s see what they make of it all. [They sent me a text on Friday saying they were very pleased with the results and that my records have been updated. I assume that is the matter finished, without any other follow-up].

Back to the gym later. I’m still struggling to work up the enthusiasm to get out to run in the cold, so I’m splitting some gym sessions between the weights and the treadmill. Accordingly, a 4km (22m 52s) run and just over half an hour on the weights.

My wife had been out for the day but reappeared later with a tyre warning light on in the car. I pumped up the offending tyre but could hear the hiss of escaping air and see the head of the nail stuck in it.

She took another car on Thursday – I dropped hers off at the garage and ran 5.2km back home. Later I walked in to collect it – normally I’d cycle and bring the bike back in the car but, after a Jeep Cherokee, a Merc estate and a BMW Touring, she decided she wanted a small car … it’s a Mini.

The usual Friday routine saw an hour in the gym followed by the bike shop session.

I spent Saturday in Kingston-upon-Thames doing more work on our older son’s house. Finishing touches to the main bedroom: touching up paint on the walls and putting up curtain rails and a picture rail (but that needs some final painting to remove my dirty fingerprints). I also managed to put up a shelf in the shed, replace and paint some skirting board in the sitting room, put in a level bed of mortar where a fireplace had been, and sort out garden hose connectors. Quite a constructive session but it left me knackered after the 4 hour round trip, in addition.

Many congratulations to Ireland for winning the 6 Nations Rugby Championship (and completing the grand slam).

Sunday was Mother’s Day so we drove back to London for our younger son to take us out for a very good lunch (I was just free-loading). Also well done to our older son, currently in New Zealand, for remembering to send flowers.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: The heart of the wise man lies quiet like limpid water

2. BBC News website: Retrial after nearly 50 years on death row

Iwao Hakamada was sentenced to death in 1968 for murdering his boss, the man’s wife and their two children in 1966. He confessed after 20 days of interrogation during which he said he was beaten. He later retracted the confession in court.

He was released from jail in 2014 and granted a retrial by a district court, which found investigators could have planted evidence. After various appeals, the retrial will now go ahead and judges will rule on whether DNA from blood stains found on clothing alleged to have been worn by the killer matches Mr Hakamada’s. His lawyers have argued that it did not and that the evidence was fabricated.

3. BBC News website: What message would you send 3,700 years into the future …

A team of Israeli archaeologists have decoded the oldest known sentence in the ancient language of Canaanites. The inscription was on an ivory comb unearthed in Tel Lachish, the second most important city in the Biblical Kingdom of Judah and provides evidence of the use of the alphabet 3,700 years ago.

… and the message … something profound and full of historic meaning?

Not exactly, it was ‘May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard’.

4. BBC News website: Goodbye to a man who was certainly no flop

Dick Fosbury has died at the age of 76. He leapt backwards over the bar to win gold with a record of 2.24 metres at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, using a technique which became known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’ and is used by high jumpers today.

5. Barkley Marathons

The Barkley Marathons finished on Friday morning (UK time). It’s a wonderful event: 40 entrants, by invitation after submission of a written application sent to an address that is only known to pervious entrants.

No website; no course published in advance; no published start time (other than a 12 hour window); a $1.60 entrance fee (plus a car number plate from a first-timer’s home country); almost all off road with huge ascent and descent; 5 loops of a 20 mile (or perhaps 26 mile) course with a strict time cut-off for each loop; and a page (matching the entrant’s race number) to be ripped from a number of books placed along the course as evidence of having taken no short cuts.

Coverage is mainly by just one person tweeting from the start/finish line; the final loop is run in opposite directions alternately by competitor, and the start is signalled by the lighting of a cigarette.

Since it started in1995 there were only 15 people who had ever finished but this year 3 men completed the course – and a British lady vet got further than any woman before her, just failing to complete loop 4 within the time limit.

Now that’s a proper challenge

6. BBC News website: Do not pass ‘go’, do not pass border control

More than 1,000 UK Passport Office workers will go on strike for five weeks, from 3 April to 5 May, over a dispute about jobs, pay and conditions. The union warned of delays to applications and the delivery of passports in the run-up to summer.

I wonder why they would choose to strike now – nothing to do with the approaching holiday season, of course.

Happily, I renewed my passport in January. The tracking on the website still says it has been printed and that I will be told how to track its delivery. It arrived, unannounced, 45 days ago. I wonder if the person who is supposed to update the website is going on strike (and will anyone notice?).

Gym (x4), swim, run, (plus wine, aircraft, chocolate and ‘Under Pressure’ – for being over pressure)

A slightly longer visit to the gym on Monday morning – just over the hour so more opportunity to exercise the biceps. It feels like almost every other exercise is now focused on the arms – quite unlike the previous 5 years of gym membership. The main drawback is that my right elbow now has a bit of a niggle – caution needed, I think.

Swim doctor session on Monday evening, mostly front crawl but with some backstroke and a few drills – in all, a bit over 1,000m.

We had planned to run on Tuesday morning but it snowed overnight so I did a short gym session instead. Later, I went to the doctor’s surgery for a blood pressure test, having been messed about by a pharmacy last week. The normal range of readings is supposed to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. Most of the charts I found giving pressure by age only went up to 64 which left me guessing that if I have any pressure at all, I’m ahead of the game.

Not only did I have some pressure but, despite not being a smoker, overweight, unfit or particularly stressed, and being only a modest drinker (no alcohol Monday to Thursday), my reading was pretty high at about 160/80. I feel rather cheated.

My arteries did not explode, so I drove to Newbury to collect the sofa we’ve had re-covered for our older son and his girlfriend. As we progress with the decorating of their place while they are off on sabbatical (they have now left Argentina and Patagonia and flown to New Zealand) it will be good to get the sofa back in its rightful place.

The plan to do Tuesday’s missed run on Wednesday was thwarted by more snow. It was a bit deeper than Tuesday and snowed pretty much all day so I fled to the gym again. I managed all the usual exercises and weights but three days in a row is plenty.

Later I went out and got an automatic blood pressure kit and, in the evening, I had a reading down at 127/67. It’s really quite confusing – and an outlier reading of 115/69 on Thursday morning didn’t exactly make it clearer.

Thursday was wet and dreary so I took a rest day. I went to a shed and the Yale padlock broke with the whole barrel falling out of it. After deciding that sawing through it would take the rest of my life, I managed (thanks to YouTube, of course) to understand the workings and open it. Another happy hour wasted.

Gym on Friday morning, in the snow. As it was the fourth time at the gym in the week, and I’d not been running, I split the time between the weights and the treadmill. A bit of a compromise on both counts – 4km running in 23m 15s and 30 minutes of weights. That was followed by the inevitable bike shop session.

On Saturday I drove up to see our younger son and his girlfriend, returning in time for friends coming for supper. Sunday we both drove to Kingston-Upon-Thames for another decorating session with the parents of our older son’s girlfriend – It’s taken quite an effort but we are getting there.

More blood pressure readings every morning and evening. Happily, the 160 systolic score has not been repeated – over the last three days the readings have been very consistent and the average is 122/73. It’s odd – I don’t believe I had ‘white coat syndrome’ when I went to the surgery (besides, it was done by a nurse in a blue dress). The only thing I’ve done is to cut down on my coffee intake – surely that couldn’t have such a large effect so quickly?

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Wisdom does not come overnight

2. BBC News website: Something to whine about

A former Mexican beauty queen and her partner have been jailed in Spain for four years for stealing 45 bottles of wine worth an estimated $1.7m (£1.4m).

According to the court, the woman checked into an exclusive hotel in October 2021 using a fake Swiss passport. She was joined by her partner and after a 14-course meal, and a guided tour of the wine cellar, the man returned in the early hours of the following morning to raid the cellar.

The bottles were stuffed into their backpacks – one had a unique 19th Century vintage and is reported to have been worth €350,000 (£310,000).

How big were the backpacks to take 45 bottles?

3. BBC News website: Green is green, but business is business

The Dutch government plans to cut the number of flights (from 500,000 to 440,000 annually) operating from Amsterdam Schipol airport. The government cited local concerns about the impact of flying on noise pollution and climate and says it wants to strike a balance between the economic benefits of a large airport and a healthy living environment.

Five airlines are suing the government over the plan.

4. BBC News website: Simple investment or ‘sportswashing’?

Newcastle United’s takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in late 2021 was approved after “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi government would not have any control over the club.

However, in the US court case involving LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, the Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has been described as “a sitting minister of the government” with “sovereign immunity”.

5. BBC News website: The mountains and hills may crumble … into the chocolate

Toblerone is to remove the picture of the Matterhorn mountain peak from its packaging when some of the chocolate’s production is moved from Switzerland to Slovakia. Strict rules have applied about “Swissness” since 2017 and national symbols cannot be used to promote milk-based products that are not made exclusively in Switzerland.

US firm Mondelez said the image of the 4,478m (14,692 ft) mountain will be replaced by a more generic summit.

6. BBC News website: A DeLorean, I assume

Three Croatian nationals have been arrested in Serbia after radioactive material was discovered in their car, Serbian officials say. They were about to enter Croatia on Saturday when scanners detected a “serious amount” of radiation.

A search of the car revealed the head of a radioactive lightning rod in the spare tyre slot of the boot. Such rods were widely used in the past, but are now largely being dismantled.

7. BBC News website: Out with the old, out with the new, out with the new, …

Watford FC, relegated from the Premier League last year, have appointed Chris Wilder as head coach having sacked Slaven Bilic after five months in charge.

Wilder has agreed a contract until the end of the season and is Watford’s ninth full-time manager since Javi Gracia’s departure in September 2019.

Most clubs have a ‘player of the season’ award. Watford will have enough candidates to have a vote for manager of the season.

Perhaps they also need to look at the person making the appointments?

Swim, gym (x2), turbo, decorating, Woodstock, hot shot cyclists and when Mummies are Daddies

Last week I got a text from the GP surgery telling me I was due a blood pressure test. In my 30 years with that surgery I don’t remember them taking the initiative over anything, and I’ve probably been in there only once in the last 15 years. Obviously, reaching the age of 67 years and 7 months is a major trigger for blood pressure tests.

I booked an appointment and, Monday afternoon, went to a local pharmacy for the test. Despite the booking, a confirmation and a reminder, I was told that they don’t do the tests on Mondays – perhaps they could have told the booking system? Lloyds Pharmacy is off my Christmas card list.

To make up for that disappointment I had the pleasure of a swim doctor session in the evening – 850m – and a lot of sneezing afterwards, although I didn’t start until nearly home.

Gym on Tuesday morning and later we drove to Woodstock – the one famous for Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, not the one famous for the 1969 festival in New York State. My wife wants to make the whole of this year (a big birthday for her) memorable as it progresses, so I’d booked supper and the night at the Bear Hotel.

If it’s known at all, it’s known as the place where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor began their affair (while each was married to someone else) – but to us it’s where we spent our wedding night in 1987, before flying on honeymoon the following day.

I still feel sorry for the taxi driver on our wedding day. Unknown to us, my mother-in-law arranged for us to leave the reception by helicopter and booked a taxi to meet us on landing and take us to our accommodation for that first night, not knowing where I had booked. No doubt the taxi driver was hoping for a long and lucrative trip – but we happened to land at Kidlington airfield … about 3 miles from Woodstock.

A great visit – Woodstock has changed little since I worked there first as an articled clerk (and then a newly qualified solicitor) over 40 years ago. Then back home on Wednesday after the best part of any hotel stay – a cooked breakfast that someone else has cooked.

Turbo on Thursday – 30 minutes @ 32kph. Recently it’s been 30 minutes at nearer 28kph – I don’t know what made the difference this time.

As ever, Friday was the gym (still slow progress on my chin-up challenge) and then the bike shop.

On Saturday I took a trip to Kingston-upon-Thames to continue work on our older son’s house. With his girlfriend’s parents going up on Sunday (which we couldn’t) I got on with painting the main bedroom, and replacing the rotted sill to the front door. The work there is quite enjoyable – the 4 hour round trip slightly less so. Three more visits needed?

Sunday was spent getting ready for supper with friends – making a cheesecake and some cleaning. It will be a good evening – currently we are incorporating watching the mini series on John Stonehouse around the supper. Looking forward to it.

The first week for a very long time with no running!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: It is difficult for two long-nosed lovers to kiss

2. BBC News website: Another pro cyclist suspended … but this time …

Professional cyclist Antonio Tiberi (21) has been fined and suspended from his team. Reportedly, he said he was trying out an air rifle, pointed it at the the head of a cat owned by his neighbour (San Marino’s tourism and posts minister) and fired, killing it.

A court fined him €4,000 ($4,250; £3,500). His team said it strongly condemned the “reprehensible act”, suspended him for 20 days and said it would donate his forfieted pay to an animal protection organisation.

What could he have been thinking?

3. BBC News website: The clock is tick tocking

TikTok is setting a 60-minute daily screen time limit for users who are aged under 18.

If young people hit the new limit, they will have to enter a passcode to continue to use the service that day but they will have the ability to opt out of the new measure, which TikTok says will be rolled out “in the coming weeks”.

The China-owned video app said it is introducing the feature to help people “stay in control” of their use.

I have never looked at TicTok so I think I probably have the right daily usage

4. BBC News website: Mummy, girlfriend, boyfriend … whatever

Police in Peru searched a delivery man who came to their attention for acting drunk at an archaeological site in Puno and found an ancient mummy inside his cooler bag. He explained that he kept “Juanita” (his nickname for the mummy) in a box in his room, next to the TV. He said that he considered it “a kind of spiritual girlfriend”.

Experts said the body was between 600 and 800 years old and that it was that of an adult male rather than a woman.

Brendan Fraser would never make a mistake like that

5. BBC News website: Something smells a bit fishy?

Dozens of girls from 26 schools in Iran are reportedly being treated for poisoning at hospitals after another wave of apparent toxic gas attacks. More than 1,000 students have been affected since November.

No girls have died, but dozens have suffered respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. The poisoned girls have reported the smell of tangerine or rotten fish before falling ill.

“It became evident that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed down,” the deputy health minister said on Sunday. However, he later said that his remarks had been misunderstood.

6. BBC News website: Slim pickings if you’re looking for good news

The World Obesity Federation has warned that more than half the world’s population will be classed as obese or overweight by 2035 if action is not taken. It predicts that more than four billion people will be affected, with rates rising fastest among children, with low or middle-income countries in Africa and Asia being expected to see the greatest rises.

The report predicts the cost of obesity will amount to more than $4tn (£3.3tn) annually by 2035.

7. BBC News website: If you can never find a policeman when you want one …

A police officer has died and 79 others taken hostage during protests in Colombia’s southern Caquetá province.

Violence erupted on Thursday after residents blockaded the compound of the oil exploration company Emerald Energy. Many of the protesters are rural and indigenous people who want Emerald Energy to build new road infrastructure around the San Vicente del Caguan area.

Happily, they were freed on Saturday