Category Archives: cycling

Run(x2), turbo(x2), gym, plus tasering, short-hauls, and something nasty through the post

Monday started with some interval training with my friend and training partner. His idea was for a gentle warm up run (across the fields) and then to do 4 repeats of 4 minutes at 95% effort with 3 minute rests. With no idea how to judge 95% effort, I felt that running just about as hard as possible was only likely to be 5% out, at most.

The first sprint was interrupted by having to open a farm gate so we decided to do the remaining sprints by distance rather than time. There was a section between gates – there and back was close to 1km. The ‘sprints’ didn’t coincide with kms measured by my Garmin but kms 3, 4 and 5 were run at 4m 54s, 4m 44s, and 4m 32s respectively. I can’t believe they got faster – that’s not at all how it felt. In all, nearly 7km at an average of 5.44/km.

It was a really hard session. The rests were supposed to be ‘active rests’ but I found trying to breathe plenty active enough.

I must find out how to stop him reading Runner’s World in case it gives him any more crazy ideas.

I gave the swim doctor session a miss on Monday but got on the turbo early on Tuesday evening. I managed 45 minutes @26.8kph (16.6mph). With the trip out to the alps looming, I’ve realised that I’ve not been out on a bike since two very short rides in October. I fear that the alps are going to seem steeper this year.

On Wednesday I dropped off a car to the garage (rogue brake warning light – sensor wire broken when they changed out the winter wheels last week?) and then drove to our older son’s in Kingston-upon-Thames. The fireplace in one of the bedrooms is not going to be a working fireplace but some filling in of the existing hole is needed so that the new cast iron grate can be plastered in properly to give it ‘the look’.

The idea was that I would leave them the car and make my way back to our flat to meet up with my wife who’d had a day’s shopping. That did not work out because his resident’s parking permit application was rejected as the car isn’t registered to his address (just like it wasn’t last year when he was granted a permit)!

I drove home instead of heading into London – but after the work and more than 4 hours of driving I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to do any exercise.

I ran in to collect the car from the garage on Thursday morning – 4.5km (2.8 miles). They had broken the sensor wire when they changed the wheels over last week.

Later I set about starting repairs to the garden shed that was trashed by a falling branch a few years ago. I have no idea why I’ve had a mental block about doing anything to it – but in the meantime it has, of course, deteriorated further making it a bigger job than it needed to have been. Crazy.

On Friday I discovered that the new floor to the gym has now been finished – a moody dark grey. They even seem to have changed the loop of music (and not made it worse!). I did an hour with increased weights which was tough, followed by 3 hours in the bike shop and then back to the re-roofing of the shed.

Shopping and more work on the shed on Saturday, and I was also watching out for qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, the Rugby Premiership final, the triathlons in Cagliari (great wins for the Brits in both the women’s and men’s races) and some great racing in the Giro. What an afternoon’s sport. A session on the turbo later in the afternoon – 45 minutes @28.3kph (17.5mph).

Rest on Sunday – with some watering of the garden as (for once) we are enjoying a dry spell … wait for the water shortages and hosepipe bans.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: One who marries for love alone will have bad days but good nights

2. BBC News website: And I thought a ‘Fender bender’ was a car crash

A black Fender Stratocaster smashed by Kurt Cobain, the late frontman of US rock band Nirvana, has sold at auction for nearly $600,000 (£480,000). It was destroyed as Nirvana were working on their break-out album ‘Nevermind’ in the early 1990s. It has been put back together but is no longer playable.

It is signed by all three band members and also features an affectionate inscription by Cobain to his friend and musical collaborator Mark Lanegan – who died last year. Cobain, who often misspelt his own name, signed the instrument “Kurdt Kobain”.

3. BBC News website: And the aim is still to sell coffee

In a recent Starbucks advert in India a couple meet their daughter in a coffee shop after being estranged from her for years and the father shows his acceptance of her decision to transition by addressing her by her chosen name, Arpita, instead of Arpit.

The ad was released earlier this month and has since been viewed over a million times on YouTube and has over eight million views on Twitter. Many users praised the brand for its message of inclusivity, and for featuring a transgender model in the lead role but the ad was also criticised by some users who accused the brand of tokenism and claimed it was “against Indian culture”.

4. BBC News website: 95-year-old woman who was Tasered by police has died

She was critically injured after police responded to reports she was wandering around the care home with a steak knife at about 04:00 last Wednesday.

Last week, police said she was “armed” with a steak knife. On Friday, they confirmed that she required a walking frame to move and the officer discharged his Taser after she began approaching “at a slow pace”.

The 33-year-old senior constable who fired the Taser will face court in early July on charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.

5. BBC News website: You couldn’t make it up …

Australian police are investigating after at least 65 women received letters through the post with handwritten messages and containing used condoms.

Police believe the victims are linked and part of a targeted attack as all of the women who have come forward attended the same private girls’ school in 1999 and the women’s addresses were obtained from a yearbook they put together as pupils 24 years ago.

Some letters were handwritten, some typed, but all contained “suggestive and threatening… sexualised” messages. Investigators are carrying out DNA and handwriting analysis to track down the perpetrator.

6. BBC News website: The end of a glittering road

Mark Cavendish, one of Britain’s most successful cyclists, will retire at the end of the season. He has won 161 races since 2005, two green points jerseys at the Tour and in 2021 he equalled the legendary Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage victories.

Cavendish’s other major achievements include an omnium silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2011 Road World Championships rainbow jersey, the 2009 Milano-San Remo ‘monument’ one-day classic, 16 stage wins in the Giro and three in the Vuelta a Espana.

Can he win a stage in this year’s Tour to take the record outright?

7. BBC News website: Let the train take the strain

France has banned domestic short-haul flights where train alternatives exist, in a bid to cut carbon emissions. The ban ends routes where the same journey could be made by train in under two-and-a-half hours, largely ruling out air travel between Paris and cities including Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux, while connecting flights are unaffected.

Critics have described the measures as “symbolic bans”.

The UK is said (but only by me) to be considering the same but, taking strikes, cancellations and delays into account, banning air routes that can be replaced by a 2.5 hour rail journey only seems to rule out flights of about 25 miles

Run(x4), swim, mow(x2), gym, plus procreation, frog mucus, and alternative medicine

I took a car in to the garage for a service on Monday morning and ran back – 6.3km (almost 4 miles). It was horribly hard – out of all proportion to the short distance. I had planned for the holiday ballast to go last week but having a son home meant more cooking and eating than usual – so this had better be a week of more discipline on the food front.

Gardening after that and then the swim doctor session in the early evening – my first for a few weeks. As hard as ever but enjoyable, nevertheless. About 850m of swimming, at a guess.

I ran with my wife on a cool but sunny Tuesday morning – 6km (3.7miles). Not fast but much better than Monday’s horrible run. I mowed again in the afternoon – I would have been happy to embrace ‘no mow May’ but the rain and holiday meant that the lawns were already out of control by the time May started.

However, I have not mown the paddock at all this year, so I think I’m doing my bit for the insects. In fact, the grass in the paddock is already so long that I’m not sure how I’m going to get a mower over it at all – but that’s a problem for another day.

On Wednesday I ran with my friend and training partner who has recovered from his broken metatarsal and (with his wife who recently hurt her knee) is back training for the Race to The Stones. I ran 17.3km (10.75 miles) along a mixture of farm tracks, roads, and muddy and sandy paths.

It started cool but finished fairly warm and I found it enjoyable but very hard work – I’ve not run that far since the 100km ultra last July. It does occur to me that I’d not now be too keen on (or capable of) running that 5 more times.

In the evening I drove down to Bournemouth and spent Thursday fixing two broken fence posts. A relatively tough job (I think it’s harder to replace posts than put new ones in). I managed it but then spotted a rotten rail further along so there’s more to do next visit. I also managed to mow – again the lawns hadn’t been done for quite a while.

Friday morning I went to the gym – it’s still camped out in the leisure centre’s foyer and one of the squash courts. The new floor in the proper gym was supposed to be finished by now but still has no completion date. It’s a pain because 4 of the machines I like to use are not set up – and the squash court doesn’t have air conditioning.

I’ve been getting very tired of the music playlist at the gym – it hasn’t changed for years and, if you go at the same time of day, you hear exactly the same songs. As an example of ‘be careful what you wish for’, it seems to have changed … for the worse.

After that I did the usual stint volunteering in the bike shop.

Lots of stuff on Saturday, including two trips to a friend in a nearby village to collect 5 bikes and a tandem from one of his neighbours who was donating them to the bike shop. Lovely British classic bikes, including three Merlins (the 1950’s Merlin Brothers bikes, not the modern ones), a Carpenter and a Bernard Lee (by the cycle frame builder of that name, not the actor who played ‘M’ in the early Bond films). I gardened, including repotting two olive trees.

We ran on a warm Sunday morning – 6.25km (just under 4 miles). I always find the first 1500m of any run to be hard, while my breathing and heart rate stabilise. It’s my own fault for never doing any warming up – but at the moment it’s harder than usual. I’ve lost about 3 lbs this week without doing anything particular to lose it but next week needs firmer action.

At midday I took another cycle training session – pretty successful with all the children making good progress from balance bikes to pedalling.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: If you are filled with pride, then you will have no room for wisdom

2. BBC News website: The celibate promoting procreation?

The Pope has warned that starting a family in Italy is becoming a “titanic effort” that only the rich can afford.

Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates in the EU and births dropped below 400,000 last year – a new low. Warning that pets were replacing children in some households, the Pope said a woman had opened her bag and asked him to “bless her baby” – except it was not a baby, but a small dog.

I must say that I did my best all those years ago – but can’t claim it was a ‘titanic effort’. I guess he isn’t planning on making a personal contribution on this particular issue

3. BBC News website: Wondering what to do with that jar of frog mucus?

An Australian court has been hearing evidence about two sudden deaths. One was from a suspected cardiac event, while authorities believe the other person died after injuries from severe vomiting. Both incidents happening shortly after the use of kambo – poisonous frog mucus – in an ancient Amazonian ritual.

Kambo is a waxy substance harvested by scraping the skin of a live giant monkey frog. In a kambo ceremony, humans drink over a litre of water, small burns are created on the skin and the substance is applied to the open wounds.

It triggers an intense so-called detoxification process, causesing blood pressure to rise, the heart to race and the body to purge by vomiting or defecating – often both. Symptoms range in severity, and typically last up to half an hour.

4. BBC News website: DIY robbery?

A high-profile Sydney jeweller has been arrested for, it is alleged, planning a robbery at his own luxury shop, and then making a bogus insurance claim.

It is claimed that two men threatened him and a female staff member at his central Sydney store, demanding access to the safe, but police say he organised the incident to defraud his insurance company. He faces a string of charges including robbery, fraud and deception.

You have to feel sorry for the innocent staff member who was, allegedly, threatened by one man with a knife, suffering physical injuries and, I guess, real trauma

5. BBC News website: Thank you, but I’ll have an aspirin

A man has been arrested in Mozambique for being in possession of a man’s head and genitals, police have said. Investigations led to the arrest of the man who confessed to killing a man and cutting off his head and genitals so that he could sell them.

Body parts are used by some so-called traditional doctors to make potions, which they claim can cure illnesses, remove bad omens and improve peoples’ lives. It is said that the suspect admitting to killing and decapitating the bodies of three other people.

6. BBC News website: The train now arriving in 1945 …

Travellers on an intercity train in Austria were startled on Sunday when a recording of an Adolf Hitler speech was played over the train’s intercom shortly before the train arrived in Vienna.

Train staff were unable to stop the recording and were unable to make their own announcements – it is assumed that the announcements were made by people directly on the train via intercoms. It is understood that complaints have been filed against two people.

Turbo, run, mow, gym, cycle training (plus wine, lollipops, plane crashes and nearly a joke)

We planned to run on Monday – but it started to rain and the forecast was for that to continue all day. I quite like running in gentle rain but I find it harder to get out if it’s already raining – so the run got postponed.

The rain also removed the possibility of mowing but to save the day (sort of) I got on the turbo later in the afternoon (for the first time since early March). I managed 30 minutes @ 32.6kph which is faster than I’ve done for a while – more due to putting some air in the rear tyre than any great improved performance from me.

The postponed run happened on Tuesday. It was the warmest run for months (except for Mauritius) but we did 6.33km (about 4 miles) taking it gently. It was quite hard – I’d better lose the extra holiday ballast as quickly as possible.

I was very pleased with myself for mowing a month ago but the wet weather since then meant that I got back from holiday to find it even longer than it was before I mowed it in the first place. I bit the bullet on Tuesday afternoon and tackled it, driving slowly, with the blades set at their highest and stopping frequently to unblock the chute of cuttings. It took two hours and the best thing was that the thunder and heavy rain had only just started by the time I finished.

On Wednesday morning the lawn looked much better for the effort and the two magpies and dozen jackdaws on it seemed to agree. My wife then disappeared to London for a few days while I collected our older son from the station later. I gardened Thursday while he, having borrowed a car for the journey, had a 12 hour day going to the funeral of a friend’s father.

I went to the gym on Friday morning, only to find that its floor is being replaced and some of the machines had been set up in the foyer/coffee area and one of the squash courts. I can only imagine the effort taken to clear a gym of machines and free weights. Five of the machines I use weren’t set up in the new areas so I improvised a bit and managed a decent 45 minutes.

After that it was back to the bike shop for the morning session while our son worked from (our) home.

With rail strikes, he couldn’t get back to London on Friday so I took him to the station on Saturday morning. Significant road works meant the 30 minute journey there took over an hour – and another hour on the way back thanks to the necessary diversion. Later I did another couple of hours at the bike shop, providing cover for the usual Saturday afternoon volunteer.

My wife returned later on Saturday. Today (Sunday), I helped to take a children’s training session at the cycle park and we are off to see friends later for a what I know will be a delightful evening.

The impending challenges for 2023 are the Race To The Stones and a week’s cycling in the alps, both in July. After doing the 50km RTTS in 2021 and the 100km version last year, I’m pleased to say that this year that particular challenge is not mine. The friends who made a wonderful husband and wife support team for me in last year’s race are running it this year – with me and my wife as their pit crew.

I’m envious in some respects – it was a great experience last year (and I’d love to try it again in cooler weather, without the cramp) but being in support looks like a lot of fun … and the training for it might just be a little easier.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: One who loves the vase, loves also what is inside

2. BBC News website: The nutritional benefits of lollipops and wine

After setting off on what was meant to be a short trip travelling through dense bushland in the state of Victoria, an Australian woman took a wrong turn and her vehicle became stuck in the mud.

She only had a few snacks and lollipops to eat, and no water. Although a non-drinker, she had was a bottle of wine that she was planning to give it as a present – and that got her through. After five nights stranded, she was discovered by emergency services on Friday as they flew overhead as part of a search.

No mention of whether this has turned her into a wine drinker (or how she managed to make just one bottle last so long)

3. Last coronation stuff?

Last week, the satirical magazine, Private Eye, had a blank front cover save for the words ‘Man in hat sits on chair’.

4. BBC News website: Most plane crashes happen by accident

A YouTuber who intentionally crashed an aeroplane for views (2.9 million to date) will plead guilty to obstructing a federal investigation by cleaning up the site of the crash, US prosecutors say.

He left a Santa Barbara airport on a solo flight with cameras mounted on his plane, taking a parachute and a selfie stick. The claim is that he set off planning to eject from the plane and video himself parachuting to the ground, and his airplane as it crashed.

He hiked to the site of the crash and recovered the footage, before later claiming he did not know the location of the site. He returned by helicopter and removed the wreckage, which he later destroyed, the statement says.

5. BBC News website: In an almighty rush?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been fined £300, together with a £120 victim surcharge and £90 in legal costs and given three penalty points on his licence, after he was caught driving at 25mph in a 20mph zone last year.

He admitted the offence in writing and was sentenced at a private magistrates’ court hearing.

6. Almost a joke

I was asked if I could name a country with no ‘R’ in it.

‘No way’ I said.

Recovering from the holiday, plus sanity, quiche and hopping to it

After getting home from Mauritius on Friday morning we spent the rest of the day unpacking, washing clothes and recovering from the 19 hour trip. All was well with the house and garden.

I did not watch the coronation on Saturday. As I write, I am waiting for a knock on the door and to be dragged to the Tower for treason. My wife did watch and I could hear how wonderful the music was. Whatever one’s views of the monarchy, we do know how to put on a show when it comes to pageantry.

In the afternoon we went to the Tithe Barn for the village coronation party, which was very good indeed, although it was a bit chilly and held inside due to the rain. I hope going isn’t two-faced – it was more support for village events and a chance to see friends. Not a bad venue for the party!

On Sunday, I returned two of the books I’d read on holiday (over 1200 pages between them) to the chap who’d lent them to me. They are excellent murder mystery/crime novels by CJ Sansom, set in the reign of Henry VIII. That’s the first 3 of the (currently) 7 book series I’ve read. The third spanned the short time Catherine Howard was Queen – she was the 5th of Henry’s six wives so I guess that later books will be covering the tumultuous years after Henry’s death (1547).

Other than returning books it was a quiet day, still recovering from the journey back – but at least I managed some gardening after buying vegetable plants from the WI stall in the morning. The grass, of course, flourished while we were away but it was a bit too wet to mow – shame.

The plan is to get back to the running, cycling and gym next week. The kilo I lost before the holiday has returned and brought a few of its friends, so something needs to be done about that.

Interesting stuff this week these last couple of days

1. African wise words: A man accused of stealing a goat mustn’t entertain guests with dried meat

2. BBC News website: Sanity prevails over the coronation ‘oath of allegiance’

The Archbishop was to say: “I call upon all persons of goodwill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other realms and the territories to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted King, defender of all.”

Those interested would reply: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

But, in a last minute change, he said: “I now invite those who wish to offer their support to do so, with a moment of private reflection, by joining in saying God save King Charles at the end or, for those with the words before them, to recite them in full.”

I don’t take sole credit for that but, obviously, they read my post of last Friday …

3. A coronation to get your teeth into

Coronation chicken was a recipe created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. This time we have a coronation quiche. Next time I am expecting a coronation burger from McDonald’s.

4. BBC News website: A rather lame robbery

Three people broke into a shoe shop in Peru and made off with more than 200 trainers – but they were all for the right foot. The shop owner estimates that they have a value of more $13,000 (£10,000) – although the thieves may struggle to sell them on.

Walk (x3), gym, (plus faster ultras, more AI and custody of the alligator)

I took Monday very easily with more cleaning and some time spent sorting out the bike ridden by the son of some neighbours – luckily, that meant missing the swim doctor session.

One of our sons came home on Tuesday and the other (newly back from his sabbatical travels) on Wednesday – that was lovely but, coupled with a bit of an injury for my wife, not a help with the exercise. We took a walk up to the old hill fort to enjoy the last of the bluebells. On the way I checked the village defibrillator which seemed to be very happy.

I acquired a stone chip on the car windscreen on the way to the picking up our son from the station on Wednesday so Thursday morning was taken up getting that fixed. Later we went for a great walk across the fields to Coleshill and back – 10km (6.2 miles).

On the way past the defibrillator I checked it again for some reason – I don’t know if I hadn’t done a good job the day before or if it had just become unhappy but it was flashing red, not green. I couldn’t find an operating manual online so put out a SOS to the others who have volunteered to help look after it – but then remembered an email from 6 months ago talking about a periodic battery check process.

With a certain amount of alarm ringing and authoritative directions from the machine, to my relief, I managed the reset. There was a workman in the village hall where the defibrillator is located – rather disappointingly he declined to be the subject of a real-life test. Younger son back to London later and older son’s girlfriend replaced him in the evening.

An hour in the gym on Friday morning followed by the usual bike shop stint, happily renovating a donated Trek mountain bike and a donated single speed folder.

Another great walk on Saturday with older son and his girlfriend – another loop via Coleshill and taking in Strattenborough Castle, for 12.5km (7.8 miles). I’ve only lived here 31 years but never knew it existed even though it’s less than 4 miles away. Mind you, it’s a castle in name only as it’s really a house with a ‘folly’ castle facade, built in 1792 … charmingly weird.

Today (Sunday) is the White Horse Challenge sportive – only the second time I’ve not taken part in a dozen years or so. This year our younger son had a place in the London marathon (also today) so we thought we’d be supporting him – but he has had to postpone his place to next year. It’s a day to be spent watching the marathon on TV – and remembering how great the experience was running it in 1998 and 1999 (and Rotterdam in 2019).

Best of luck to everyone taking part.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Every kind of love is love, but self-love is supreme among them

2. BBC News website: How to make ultra marathons easier – go by car

A Scottish ultra marathon runner has been disqualified from a race for doing some of the course by car.

She said she had become lost around the half-way mark when her leg began to feel sore and she started to limp. She saw a friend and accepted a lift in his car for about 2.5 miles to the next checkpoint to tell marshals she was pulling out of the race. They said she would hate herself if she stopped so she agreed to carry on in a non-competitive way.

When she crossed the finish line she was given a medal and a third place wooden trophy and posed for pictures. She said: “I made a massive error accepting the trophy and should have handed it back …. and not had pictures done but I was feeling unwell and spaced out and not thinking clearly.”


3. BBC News website: … and take your alligator with you …

An 8-foot alligator named ‘Big Mack’ has been removed from the basement of a Philadelphia house where it had been living for over a decade. After the couple had separated the woman wanted him out of there.

I’m not surprised that she wanted it out – I’m more surprised that anyone would want it there in the first place. I’m not exactly an alligator expert – but that seems so cruel to the alligator

4. BBC News website: Simple mistakes should never prove so costly

In just a few days, in the USA, an 18-year-old cheerleader was shot and seriously injured after she mistakenly tried to enter the wrong vehicle in a parking lot near Austin, Texas.

In New York state, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was shot and killed on Saturday after a friend drove their car down the wrong driveway.

In Missouri, a 16-year-old was shot in the head and arm when he rang the doorbell at the wrong address.

Police in North Carolina are now searching for a man accused of shooting, and seriously injuring, a 6-year-old girl and her father after their basketball rolled into the suspect’s yard. Two others were shot and injured.

5. BBC News website: More AI issues

The editor of a German magazine that published an artificial intelligence-generated ‘interview’ with Michael Schumacher has been sacked.

Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013 and has not been seen in public since. Die Aktuelle ran a front cover with a headline of “Michael Schumacher, the first interview” but the article was produced using an AI programme which artificially generated Schumacher ‘quotes’ about his health and family.

Just because it can produce this sort of stuff doesn’t mean it should

6. BBC News website: Best cleaning company name?

A firm in Brighton is called ‘Spruce Springclean’. 

Decoration and removals, run (x3), spring cleaning, gym (plus footwear, long journeys and metaphorical triplets)

On Friday, we four parents had made good progress on the decorating of our son’s (and his girlfriend’s) place, ahead of their imminent return from 4 and a half months of sabbatical, spent travelling.

However, the bathroom was short of a final coat of paint and, accordingly, was still draped with plastic sheets and still had plastic floor covering taped down. I thought it was really important that they should return to a finished bathroom, so my wife and I went back up to Kingston-upon-Thames on Monday.

I managed to get that last coat of paint on (after having to get a tin of new paint as the original had ‘gone off’ after 5 months+ and was more cream than white – many thanks to Leyland for being open on a Bank Holiday). We finished and cleaned the bathroom and cleared and cleaned the second bedroom. I got a second coat of varnish on the front door and reassembled the bed in the second bedroom too. They are back on Friday – they had better notice the difference.

No swim doctor session because of the Bank Holiday (but I’d have missed it anyway having got back home late).

Tuesday was crisp but bright and I ran with my friend. The weekend rain had put even him off running on the muddy stuff so we ran into Faringdon and round the Folly tower (which, of course, is on a hill). About 9.6km (6 miles) – starting chilly and finishing overheated.

Spring cleaning on a very wet Wednesday – such fun. Thursday was crisp and sunny again and I ran with my wife. Another day for either being warm at the start or comfortable by half way, but not both. A bit over 6km (nearly 4 miles) taken gently.

I went to the gym on Friday morning – after France and decorating, it was the first time for nearly 3 weeks. Despite the break, both elbows still hurt – standing with arms bent at 90° and palms up, it’s around the bony point on the inside of each elbow. I did 6 chin-ups with arms starting at about 135° and although they hurt a bit on the way up, they were much worse on the way back down. Ouch.

A busy session followed in the bike shop, including a lot of messages confirming the safe return of our son and his girlfriend from their sabbatical travels and conveying their delight with how their house looks. Phew.

More cleaning on Saturday – leaving me too tired for any more exercise but we ran on Sunday morning (the same run as Thursday for a bit over 6km – nearly 4 miles).

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Don’t try to make someone hate the person he loves. For he will go on loving but he will hate you

2. BBC News website: Tupperware, is its fate sealed (airtight)?

The 77-year-old US company is seeing cracks in the once revolutionary air-tight sealing business that made it famous, with rising debts and falling sales. Despite attempts to freshen up its products in recent years and reposition itself to a younger audience, the company has admitted that, without new funding, a brand name which has passed into common parlance could vanish from the market.

The firm’s ‘Tupperware parties’ made it an icon during the 1950s and 1960s consumer revolution, and its containers took the market by storm. But its core business model of using self-employed salespeople who sold primarily from their own homes has been going out of fashion for a while, and was retired altogether in the UK in 2003.

3. BBC News website: I looked over Jordan and what did I see … ($$$)

A pair of trainers worn by basketball legend Michael Jordan during his last championship season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98.has sold for $2.2m (£1.7m) at auction, becoming the priciest shoes ever sold.

The signed sneakers are among the most expensive Jordan items auctioned but a jersey he wore at the 1998 NBA Finals sold in 2022 for $10.1m.

Just imagine if he’d been really good at basketball ….

4. BBC News website: So sad …. and I complain about it being a bit cold or wet

Italian authorities are on the hunt for a bear that killed a 26-year-old jogger in the north-eastern region of Trentino last week.

The 17-year-old female bear that killed him (known as JJ4 and identified through genetic testing) also attacked a father and son in June 2020. The provincial government had issued an order for the bear to be killed at the time, but it was overturned by a court.

The species was reintroduced in the region about two decades ago. Since then, the bear population in Trentino has surged from three to approximately 100, according to data provided by the province.

5. BBC News website: Holy cow (x3)

A Kenyan politician who tweeted a photo saying a cow belonging to the country’s president had given birth to triplets says the post was not intended to be taken literally.

Samson Cherargei’s tweet sparked a backlash online with many quick to point out the image was of calves born in Germany which had been shared on the Facebook page of a German company dealing with bull semen.

The senator from the Rift Valley region, where President William Ruto enjoys strong support, said his caption made it clear it was a symbolic image to represent the president’s expected achievements having taken office last September.

Ah yes, that sort of symbolism will get you every time

6. BBC News website: Is there life on Mars Jupiter’s moons?

The European Space Agency has successfully launched its mission to Jupiter’s moons. The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) project aims to send a satellite on an eight-year journey to reach the icy moons of the gas giant, using a gravitational sling-shot technique around Earth and Venus to give it enough energy to reach Jupiter.

The £1.4bn (€1.6bn) probe could tell us whether Jupiter’s major moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – have the conditions to support simple life.

I’m sure David Bowie would have written ‘Is there life on Ganymede?’ if he’d been able to get it to scan

Run (x3), mow (x2), swim, decorating and removals (plus ‘scoot’, AI, and more training needed?)

I started the week with a run with my wife – a gentle 5.8km (3.6 miles) on a cool but sunny morning. Later, I mowed – for the first time this year here in Oxfordshire.

Once I got the mower going (having temporarily forgotten one of its quirks that rendered it completely dead) I rejoined battle with the willow tree. It shows no signs of having given up on its main aims of taking the ear defenders from my head or, preferably, my head from my shoulders. It got in a couple of early blows but the judges all gave round 1 to me.

The Swim Doctor session in the evening was taken by a different coach which made for an interesting change of drills (especially 4 lengths of sculling – 2 head first and 2 feet first). As hard as ever but, at 800, fewer metres swum than usual.

Tuesday started with a frost but then turned out to be lovely and sunny. With the possibility of some rain heading our way, I gave the ‘best’ lawns, front and back, a second cut. I’m feeling quite virtuous but am already producing something akin to a grass cuttings mountain.

On Wednesday I ran with my friend and training partner, as he comes back from a broken metatarsal. I think I’ve only run 5 times in the last 6 weeks and those few runs haven’t felt great. I was expecting a tough time because of that, and the fact that while I am a solid ground type of runner, he likes the muddier stuff.

In the end, he was grateful that I’m not on great form, and I was grateful that he’s only just returning from his injury. We ran 6.7km off-road with a couple of decent hills, at a respectable sub-6m 30s pace – without either of us collapsing (or falling). The tracks were surprisingly good, given the recent rain but it was hard for a wimp who usually sticks to the roads.

I ran with my wife again on Thursday, it was windy but warmer – 6km, taken gently.

The other big news of the day was the start of the domestic cricket season. Of the 9 matches, 3 had delayed starts, one was stopped after just 4 balls were bowled, another after 8 overs and one had no play all day, due to the weather. Some things don’t change. (On Sunday my team – Essex – completed their first match with a 97 run win).

Friday was a Bank Holiday so we drove up to Kingston-upon-Thames for the final joint decorating session on the house with the parents of our older son’s girlfriend.

We just about finished what we’d set ourselves to do – decorating, and some refurbishing to skirting boards and picture rails in the sitting room, two bedrooms and the bathroom – and various other things including some gardening, clearing gutters, setting up a new fireplace, replacing rotten bits in the front door frame and varnishing the door itself. The main bedroom and sitting room are now set up as rooms rather than building sites,

Domestic stuff on Saturday, with some hoovering and floor mopping and moving 30 geraniums, two olive trees and a lemon tree out of the conservatory (and another lemon tree from the breakfast room) into the garden and potting a few into different containers. A bit more of the same on Sunday but a generally easier day with a lot of gardening and even more chocolate.

Happy Easter!

1. African wise words: It is better to live as a lion for one day rather than 100 years as a sheep

But not necessarily better for the antelope

2. BBC News website: On your bike …. (or, at least, off your scooter?)

Parisians have voted overwhelmingly to banish for-hire e-scooters from the streets of the French capital. Approximately 15,000 e-scooters could now vanish from central Paris at the end of August when the city’s contracts with the three operators expire.

Voting turnout was very low, with just 7.46% of the population voting, but 89% rejected e-scooters. Many Parisians complain that e-scooters are an eyesore and a traffic menace, and they have been involved in hundreds of accidents.

3. BBC News website: Artificial intelligence, ‘a major advancement’

Artificial intelligence (AI) could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, a report by investment bank Goldman Sachs says. It could replace a quarter of work tasks in the US and Europe but may mean new jobs and a productivity boom, eventually increase the total annual value of goods and services produced globally by 7%.

Generative AI, able to create content indistinguishable from human work, is “a major advancement”, the report says.

‘You pays your money and takes your choice’

4. BBC News website: Artificial intelligence, ‘a threat to humanity’

A letter signed by key figures in artificial intelligence want training of powerful AI systems to be suspended amid fears of a threat to humanity.

The letter says that AI systems pose significant risks to democracy through weaponised disinformation, to employment through displacement of human skills and to education through plagiarism and demotivation. According to the letter, in the future, advanced AI’s may pose a “more general threat to human control over our civilization”.

As I said, ‘You pays your money and takes your choice’

5. BBC News website: ‘And your driver today is ……. absent’

Full-size, self-driving bus services will begin in Scotland next month for a 14-mile route over the Forth Road Bridge, in what is believed to be a world first.

Five single-decker autonomous buses have sensors enabling them to travel on pre-selected roads at up to 50mph and will have the capacity for about 10,000 passenger journeys per week.

A safety driver will sit in the driver’s seat to monitor the technology, and a so-called ‘bus captain’ will help passengers with boarding, buying tickets and queries.

So the driverless bus has one extra member of staff aboard?

6. BBC News website: Your safety is in good hands – we’re professionals

FBI agents carrying out a training exercise at a hotel in Boston broke into the wrong room and detained an innocent man, the agency confirmed.

The FBI said it was “assisting” the Department of Defence in conducting a mock investigation on Tuesday night but agents then stormed into the wrong room and handcuffed a man who had no clue as to what was happening. Agents reportedly interrogated the man for almost an hour before realising their mistake.

Skiing (just), driving (lots), plus Linky, indictments and the secret of good comedy

Last Sunday we set off early for France. We’d booked a second holiday in case our sons would be able to get out there – they couldn’t (older son being on a trek to see Orangutans in Indonesia seemed to be a decent excuse) but we decided to go anyway. The chances of skiing were not good with the continuing poor snow this year – but we also had an appointment with Linky.

The drive out there was horribly wet but otherwise incident free and, thankfully, the electrician turned up bright and early on Monday morning to fit Linky.

For some time now we have been getting messages from the electricity company saying that they could not read the meter (although that never stopped them sending bills). We tried to send a reading but the screen on the meter remained uncompromisingly blank, no matter that buttons were pushed.

We were told that the old meters could be read remotely but that this had to be done from near the apartment block – the ‘Linky’ meters are being pushed mainly as they send in the readings without the company having to send anyone to get them.

So, at the root of it, it seemed to be the same as the drive to fit new meters in the UK (the Linky being the French version of our smart meters) … simply to make the electricity company’s life easier. Anyway, Linky is working well, but we wrote off Monday and rested (I read the 400+ page “Dissolution’ By CJ Sansom, cover to cover).

Of course, I was distraught at missing the usual Monday Swim Doctor session!

We fiddled about on domestic things on Tuesday but skied on Wednesday. We were nervous about what we’d find so my new skis (bought with great timing in 2019) were not risked and the same for my new jacket. The picture is of us on a lift that has an auto photo-taking facility. Yes, it’s a subtle, original, 1980’s Nevica jacket, worn with pride, if not style.

More runs were open than when we were there in January and although the snow was a bit ‘heavy’ we had a great time, with the huge bonus of there not being many people out on the slopes.

They have plenty of precipitation out there – but it’s currently too warm for it to fall as snow instead of rain. The rain on Wednesday and Thursday dissuaded us from skiing again – I read ‘The Whisper Man’ by Alex North (again in a day) and we had a very good time exploring the town and watching some DVD’s.

There is one road down the mountain from Les Carroz, which splits into two, lower down in Arâches. The road we wanted from Arâches was, of course, going to be shut for road works so we left earlier than planned on Friday to get through before it closed.

Despite a lot of heavy rain and temperatures yo-yoing between 6℃ and 14.5℃ (43℉ and 58℉) the journey back to the tunnel was good. We were put on a crossing an hour earlier than booked and then (I guess they were not overly full) were directed onto a shuttle nearly an hour earlier than that.

On the UK side, the rain was even worse and the M25 was doing its best impression of both an orbital car park and a swimming pool with a lot of standing water and significant queues. We were hugely reilieved that we were travelling away from Dover, based on the traffic going that way (see below!).

Eventually ‘Waze’ took us off the motorway and back via the M40 to avoid yet more problems and delays on the M4. We made it home by 9pm, but it was a 14 hour journey for the 715 miles (1150km).

My wife was out on Saturday (more staying power than me – but there again, I did do the driving) so I got through heaps of washing (and even some ironing). I am not a very religious person but I never come closer to recognising the existence of the devil than I do when trying to iron a fitted bottom sheet.

I thought about running on Saturday and Sunday but came no closer than that to actually doing it. I doubt that a week off will do me much harm.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Love for something makes a man blind and deaf

2. BBC News website: Storm(y) in a D cup

Former US President Donald Trump is set to appear in court next Tuesday after being indicted in New York. A payment to ex-porn star Stormy Daniels is at the heart of the case. Daniels says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which he denies. The case is likely to revolve around how this was recorded.

Trump’s lawyer paid Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet before the 2016 US election. The payment may violate laws about election financing.

I am not familiar with the lady (in any way) and have gone for the ‘D cup’ just for the sake of the (almost) joke – it might be an under-estimate

3. BBC News website: Yet again, the Channel is hard to cross (officially at least)

A critical incident has been declared at Dover, as coach passengers face hours-long delays caused by bad weather and long border processing times. On Saturday morning as the Easter getaway began, around 70 coaches were waiting at the port to be processed, a port official told the BBC.

Freight and car traffic was moving steadily but coach traffic has suffered significant delays due to lengthy French border processes at Dover and sheer volume.

French authorities said an “unforeseeable technical incident” in the Channel Tunnel meant French border police were delayed into Dover. Eurotunnel rejected this, saying “The critical incident in Dover started overnight. The minor technical incident at the Channel Tunnel occurred at 07:00 BST, well after the critical incident.”

4. BBC News website: Security is everybody’s business?

Russia has taken the presidency of the UN Security Council despite Ukraine urging members to block the move.

Each of the council’s 15 members takes up the presidency for a month, on a rotating pattern. The last time Russia had the presidency, February 2022, it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

It means the Security Council is being led by a country whose president is subject to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

5. BBC News website: What’s the secret of good comedy (and parole management) …. timing

Oscar Pistorius’s bid for parole collapsed in South Africa after it was revealed he had not yet served enough time to qualify for early release. The parole board met to hear evidence, including from Pistorius and Ms Steenkamp’s mother, but instead of giving a decision afterwards, embarrassed officials admitted their timings had been wrong.

Earlier, they had ignored a letter from South Africa’s top appeals court, explaining that Pistorius has to spend another year and a half in prison before being considered for parole. The confusion stems from the fact that his time in prison has been broken up by appeals and by a period of house arrest.

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?).