Category Archives: gym

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

Gym (x2), swim, turbo, run, plus schoolboy humour, fat trains and oily coffee

Having, as always, neglected to stretch after Sunday’s run I didn’t feel like running on Monday. Instead I drove to the gym where I’m fitting in more arm exercises to go with the normal routine. I found 5 different methods of making my biceps hurt – is that progress?

In the early evening I went to the swim doctor session with as much enthusiasm as usual. They were late setting up the lanes so it was 800m in about 25 minutes.

I discovered that last week was the first anniversary of my attendance at Monday swim doctor sessions. They are useful in ‘forcing’ me to go swimming but I’m not sure if I’m still improving and I still don’t love it. I wonder if continuing is fortitude, a lack of imagination or stupidity (noting that those options are not mutually exclusive).

Of course, to get better I need to go more than once a week – but that’s where the not loving it cuts in. Perhaps I need to go for an open session to swim 1km to see if I can beat the (approximately) 27 or 28 minutes that I could do before starting the lessons.

On leaving the pool, I started sneezing before reaching the car, equalling my personal best.

Not feeling great on Tuesday morning – a few aches and full of cold. I was thinking about a session on the turbo but decided against it and went for some more in-house bicep pain instead. The only good thing I can see from increasing the dumbbell weights to 12 kg is that it makes the previous 10kg seem easier.

I was still thick with cold on Wednesday, but able to enjoy helping the chap working on the house to break into his car, which he had managed to lock, with the keys inside. He had a spare set at home – but his house keys were in the car as well, together with his dog. I spotted that he had left a window open just half an inch and we were (eventually) able to get a piece of electrical trunking (what else?) through the gap and used it to push the unlock button.

Turbo in the early Wednesday evening – still not feeling great but I managed 30 minutes @27.9kph (17.3 mph) which might help to sweat out the cold? Still improving on Thursday but not feeling like a run so I bailed out of any exercise (other than the inevitable bicep curls, of course).

The hour in the gym on Friday morning was as hard as ever. It doesn’t feel like I’m making much progress on the chin-up challenge but it wasn’t long ago that I went up to 45kg on the lat pull down machine – and I’m now doing 55kg, so something must be happening. A 3 hour bike shop volunteering session after the gym.

I ran on a chilly and breezy Saturday morning. An annoying, aborted, start as I realised 0.5km into the run that although I’d locked the back door and set the alarm, I hadn’t locked what we call the ‘back, back door’ which the chap had been using to clear out his gear, having finished the work. An uninspiring 13.8km (8.6 miles).

Sunday was another trip to Kingston upon Thames for decorating at our older son’s place. A reasonably long day – out of the house for 11 hours – but together with his girlfriend’s parents, good progress is being made and there is every chance that they will return to somewhere that looks more like a house than a building site.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A small house will hold a hundred friends

2. BBC News website: What’s in a name, a stadium by another name would smell ..

Bolton Wanderers football club has agreed a sponsorship deal with local building manufacturer, Toughsheet, which means the League One side will be playing at the Toughsheet Community Stadium for the next five years.

The company’s boss acknowledged that the brand name is a bit tongue-in-cheek, a bit schoolboy humour.

and if people don’t like the name, that’s just ….

3. BBC News website: Breathe in, we’re approaching a tunnel

Two top Spanish transport officials have resigned over a botched order for new commuter trains that cost nearly €260m ($275m; £230m), as the trains could not fit into non-standard tunnels in the northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

The trains were ordered in 2020 but the following year manufacturer CAF realised that the dimensions it had been given for the trains were inaccurate and stopped construction The Spanish government says the mistake was spotted early enough to avoid financial loss but the region of Cantabria has demanded compensation. 

4. BBC News website: Oiling the wheels of big (coffee) business

Starbucks says it is launching a line of olive oil-infused drinks in Italy. It says olive oil’s “unexpected, velvety, buttery flavour… enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.”

Starbucks is among the major US businesses that have not found it easy to expand into the Italian food and drinks market; it currently has around 20 stores in the country. Italy’s coffee scene is famous for its independent and often family-run cafes.

Yes, they have olive oil in Italy (but I don’t think they put it in their coffee)

5. BBC News website: The after-shocks continue

More than 600 people are now being investigated in Turkey over buildings that collapsed in the deadly earthquake on 6 February. On Saturday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 184 suspects – including construction contractors and property owners – had already been arrested.

For years, experts warned that endemic corruption and government policies meant many new buildings were unsafe. The confirmed death toll in Turkey and Syria has now exceeded 50,000.

Swim, run (x2), walk, gym, plus floating drugs, Argentinian tourism and surfing mushrooms

After a day of decorating on Sunday, on Monday I ached worse than I have for months. It’s not just hard exercise that gets you – simply different exercise can be just as bad.

It improved through the day and I went to the swim doctor session in the evening. A smaller attendance than usual so my friend and I shared a wide lane and each had enough space to swim without getting in each other’s way. Mostly front crawl but with some drills too – 1km in all. I don’t know if they have upped the chlorine level but I was back to half an hour of sneezing later in the evening.

I was (reliably) informed that Valentine’s Day (even after 32 years of marriage) is not a day for disappearing for a run or to the gym so we went for a walk and I prepared the evening meal of Lobster Thermidor – preceded by beetroot falafels and followed by trifle.

We ran on Wednesday, chilly to start with but the sun appeared and we finished up feeling quite warm. Nearly 6km (3.7 miles) but taken gently – we both wimped out of the idea of doing hill reps.

We had a great walk (and an excellent pub lunch) with friends on Thursday – about 7.7km (4.8 miles). Part of it was along the Ridgeway where I did the 100km ultra last year. It was good to revisit that and bring back happy memories (I think that, as time passes, my recollection is more of the joy of the experience than the inconvenient details like the cramp that started at 27km).

An hour in the gym on Friday – very slow progress on my chin-up challenge but I can manage perhaps half a dozen with elbows at (only slightly) more than 90°. Still a long way to go. The stint in the bike shop was somewhat easier on my body.

I had planned to run on Saturday but by the time the chap finished working on the house it was mid afternoon and I had lost the enthusiasm. I found (just) enough of that to run on a slightly Spring-like Sunday – 12.7km (almost 8 miles) and it felt hard despite being a bit outside 6 min/km.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom

2. BBC News website: Holy coke, Batman

New Zealand’s navy has intercepted a floating haul of cocaine in the Pacific Ocean in what the country says is its largest drug bust ever. The stash – weighing total 3.2 tonnes (3,200kg) and worth £263m ($316m) – was found drifting hundreds of kilometres northwest of New Zealand.

Police believed it was destined for Australia, where it would have been enough to serve that market for a year. The packages were strung up with buoys and some labelled with a Batman symbol while other packets were labelled with a black four-leaf clover.

3. BBC News website: Don’t cry for me, I’m Argentinian

More than 5,000 pregnant Russian women have entered Argentina in recent months, including 33 on a single flight on Thursday, officials say.

The latest arrivals were all in the final weeks of pregnancy. According to the national migration agency, they had initially claimed they were visiting Argentina as tourists but it is believed the women want to make sure their babies are born in Argentina to obtain Argentine citizenship because it gives more freedom than a Russian passport.

4. BBC News website: OK as long as fish don’t eat mushrooms

Mushrooms could be the green, plastic-free future of surfing according to the view of 23-year-old board designer Wales.

Using an innovative material made from the root-like structures of mushrooms, he is developing his own plastic-free surfboard as a way to get away from polystyrene, polyurethane and resin boards that can sit in landfill and not decompose for hundreds to thousands of years.

Swim, gym (x2), hard manual labour (plus smoke, pigeons and staying close to home)

After a day of builders and burglar alarm engineers, it was the Swim Doctor session on a cold Monday evening. I’m still looking for (and not finding) the silver bullet of an idea that will transform me into a swimmer.

There were quite a few people at the session so I ended up in a lane with the three fastest swimmers again – where I feel rather out of my depth (figuratively speaking) – but at least that pushed me to clock up over 1km.

I spent a hard hour in the gym on Tuesday as my puny cyclist/runner arms continue to be exposed to exercises designed for the chin-up challenge. Success still looks to be some way off at the moment but that’s OK, if it was easy it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

With work being done on the house on Wednesday I was in when a knock on the door introduced a couple of chaps doing block paved drive washing. We decided to go with them (it had been quite a task for us to do in the last couple of years) and they did a good job for a very decent price (I rather think they might have underestimated the area involved). Cycle club company’s AGM on Wednesday evening.

The drive cleaning meant that Thursday’s run got postponed in favour of sweeping 175kg of kiln-dried sand into the block paving cracks across a driveway of about 100㎡. That supplied my back, arms and shoulders with a more than rigorous workout so I gave myself an exemption from any more exercise for the day.

The hours of sweeping didn’t exactly make the gym session on Friday any easier, but I got through it – and then the bike shop. In the afternoon I did more driveway sweeping – with much more to come, no doubt, as rain and the movement of cars will get the sand into the cracks more effectively than my broom and I ever could.

Domestic stuff on Saturday, but with push-ups and bicep curls, of course. Originally, I was using dumb-bells with a puny 10kg on each. I have increased that to an unimpressive 12kg on each of them, but that might be too much too soon.

In the late afternoon we drove up to London and took our younger son and his girlfriend out for supper which was great. We stayed at the flat and drove to our older son’s house on Sunday (not even time for a run beforehand) where we met his girlfriend’s parents and had a day of decorating, cleaning, gutter clearing and gardening.

The house is a bit of a project and they have been living in a building site for months, so the aim is that they will return from their 4 month sabbatical to a house that is decorated and immediately liveable. Good progress made – but only the first working day of several that will be needed to get the place straight.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: It’s better to fall from a tree and break your back than to fall in love and break your heart

2. BBC News website: No smoke without fire

Households in England face fines of up to £300 if they flout new log burner rules as a tightening of emissions regulations has reduced the amount of smoke new stoves can emit. This applies to homes in “smoke control areas” which cover most of England’s towns and cities.

Even in controlled areas there is no ban on barbeques, fire pits or bonfires, as doing so would be “disproportionate”, the government said.

They’re all heart

3. BBC News website: Coo – that’s a mistake

A pigeon-fancying drug dealer who was caught after he shared information about his loft in encrypted messages has been jailed. The 37-year-old was arrested after his pigeon racing references on the encrypted communication service EncroChat led officers to him.

He was said to have included references to his love of pigeon racing in messages and images which allowed officers to identify his pigeon loft and home address.

4. BBC News website: Cross country, not across the world

16 years old athlete Innes FitzGerald has turned down the chance to compete in the World Cross Country Championships.

Her reason is that the contest is in Australia, thousands of miles from her home in Devon. Innes says she cannot justify flying in a climate crisis.

5. BBC News website: Get on your bike (but not in NI in 2023)

All motorcycle road racing, short circuit racing and trials in Northern Ireland have been cancelled for 2023.

The Motorcycle Union of Ireland, the organising club, deemed it impossible to run events because of soaring insurance charges. Quoted costs for public liability insurance for 2023 have tripled, amounting to more than £400,000.



















Run (x3), swim, turbo, gym, (plus forgive me Delilah, for not running quickly enough, while crossing the road)

I started the week running hill reps. I’ve not done them for a while and the hill seems to have got steeper in my absence. Six reps for nearly 7.5km (4.6 miles) with 214m (700 feet) of ascent.

The swim doctor session in the early evening was good – 900m of swimming, including various drills to make it (even) harder – as if the morning’s run hadn’t made it hard enough. I took Tuesday off but I ran with my wife on Wednesday, 5.7km (3.5 miles), and carried on with the bicep curls and push-ups.

On Thursday I drove to Newbury to drop off the sofa we are getting re-covered for our older son (who is having a great time in Brazil at the moment). I got on the turbo trainer in the early evening – the first time for a month. Just 30 minutes @28kph (17.4mph) felt very hard.

To the gym for an hour on Friday morning, including more exercises that are designed to get me to my chin-up challenge. Some small signs of progress after two weeks as I can do perhaps three chin-ups from slightly-less-bent arms. Bike shop volunteer session after the gym.

More bicep curls during the rest of Friday and throughout Saturday before I set off for London to see our younger son for supper, which was lovely. A run with my wife (and later more bicep curls) on Sunday to finish off the week – just the 5.7km (3.5 miles).

Goodbye (again, and this time finally?) to Tom Brady. I’m not one for sporting ‘GOAT’ labels because times change, games change, competition changes, etc etc … but I might make an exception in his case.

Passport renewal

As of today (Sunday) the Passport Office website is still saying that my passport had been printed (it was printed 8 days ago) and will be transferred to their delivery supplier in the next few days, after which Iwill be contacted with a tracking reference.

The inactivity would have been a bit worrying – were it not for the fact that the new passport had already arrived, unannounced, last Tuesday.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: In the moment of crisis, the wise build bridges, and the foolish build dams

2. BBC News website: Slow run, no runs

Dane van Niekerk has been left out of South Africa’s squad for February’s Women’s T20 World Cup after failing to meet the minimum criteria for fitness, having failed to achieve the required time of 9 minutes 30 seconds for a two-kilometre run. For male players, the standard is 8m 30s.

Captain in all formats since 2016, Van Niekerk, who has been recovering from a broken ankle, last played international cricket in September 2021.

I don’t know if the run is track, road or treadmill but perhaps cricket isn’t the poor relation in terms of fitness that it once was.

3. BBC News website: Something to make a song and dance about

An Iranian couple in their 20s have, reportedly, been given jail sentences totalling 10 years after posting a video of themselves dancing in the street.

The couple’s arrest came after they posted the video to their Instagram accounts, which have a combined following of nearly two million. They are said to have been convicted of “promoting corruption and prostitution, colluding against national security, and propaganda against the establishment”.

4. BBC News website: Why, why, why (not), Delilah

Choirs performing at international rugby matches at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, have been banned from singing the 1968 Tom Jones classic, Delilah.

The stadium said it would no longer be performed by choirs after removing it from half-time playlists in 2015. The song has caused controversy, with lyrics depicting the murder of a woman by her jealous partner.

Clearly, domestic violence is unacceptable, but this is a song which is over 50 years old. It doesn’t (to my mind) glorify or condone the violence, but the perpetrator is full of remorse for his actions and is about to be arrested to answer for them

There is also a move to ban the song Cwm Rhondda (Guide Me O’ Thou Great Redeemer) because the repeated line ‘Bread of Heaven’ might upset those with a gluten intolerance

(or I might have just made that up)

5. BBC News website: Good sense or nanny state?

Zambia has passed a law that prohibits pedestrians from crossing the road while wearing headsets or talking on a mobile phone. A person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 1,000 kwacha ($16; £12).

A pedestrian must also wait for the traffic lights to turn red for motor vehicles to stop, before crossing a road at a junction that is controlled by traffic lights.

Swim, gym (x2), run, plus asteroids, too few children and a missing pig

Monday saw my first swim for a month. It’s not my favourite thing and it’s difficult to get out of the house on a cold, dark evening, so I surprised myself by going at all.

The session was well attended and I was (mis)placed in a lane with the three fastest swimmers. I stuck to the faster drills and front crawl so as not to get in their way too much – and that meant that I ended up doing 1km, which is further than usual.

I had given a lift to my training partner and his wife. His foot fracture is mending nicely and he is now allowed to swim, although it will be 9 weeks from the date of the fracture before he can get back to running. That seems to put paid to his participation in the Brighton Marathon on 2 April, which is disappointing.

Into the (unheated) gym on another freezing Tuesday morning. It was hard again with the extra arm exercises but the big breakthrough is a long way off yet. Small progress with the (still disliked) gravitron machine now helping to the tune of 25kg, down from a starting 35kg.

I took Wednesday off exercise, other than for the daily diet of push-ups and bicep curls. I’m carrying on with those in a rather unstructured way, whenever I think of them, but it probably means an average of over 50 curls per arm and over 50 push-ups a day.

We are having some work done on the house so no run on Thursday – but I lit a giant bonfire that has been accumulating for some months as the weather and wind direction have been wrong for setting it alight. Only 5ft (150cm) high, but it was probably 15 feet (4.5m) in diameter at the base. It was a recalcitrant beggar and the day was every bit as hard as a gym session but much longer.

Gym for an hour on Friday morning and then three in the bike shop. The bonfire continues to smoulder happily and the wind continues in the right direction (blowing the smoke away from the village).

The breeze had dropped by Saturday morning and the bonfire smoke was likely to go anywhere so I put the fire out. A good result with only a modest pile left from the monster that started out on Thursday. The rest of the day was spent cleaning and tidying before friends came for dinner in the evening. We both had a terrific time.

As befits the excellent Saturday evening, Sunday morning started very slowly but I managed out for a run just after midday for a gentle 11.1km (7 miles).

Having sent off my passport for renewal last week, I have been a bit nervous about turnaround times for getting it back. Last year there was a good deal of national anguish as a high level of applications led to delays and missed holidays. The current official advice is to allow 10 weeks (and we plan to go back to France sooner than that).

A website that gives a real life picture on turnaround times suggests that the average has always been less than 10 weeks and that renewals are quicker than new applications. It says that, currently, renewals take less than two weeks. On Friday I got confirmation that mine has been approved and on Saturday confirmation of it having been printed so now just waiting for it in the post. Phew.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A wise person will always find a way

2. BBC News website: As over-population is an issue in many countries …

Japan’s prime minister says his country is on the brink of not being able to function as a society because of its falling birth rate. Japan’s population is 125 million but estimates suggest fewer than 800,000 births last year. In the 1970s, that figure was more than two million.

Birth rates are slowing in many countries but the problem is particularly acute in Japan as life expectancy has risen in recent decades, meaning there are a growing number of older people, and a declining numbers of workers to support them.

3. BBC News website: We know all about asteroids close to us – or do we

Just after midnight on Friday (UK time) an asteroid about the size of a minibus, passed by the southern tip of South America. Coming within 3,600km (2,200 miles), it counts as a close shave, closer than the orbits of telecommunications satellites and less than 3% of the average distance between the Earth and the moon.

It illustrates how there are still asteroids of significant size lurking near Earth that remain to be detected. This one was only picked up last weekend by an amateur astronomer in Crimea.

Where is Elisha Wood when you need him?

4. BBC News website: This little piggy went to …

A 20-stone pig has been reunited with its owners after apparently being dumped on a mountain. Two-year-old Gertie was found 40 miles (64km) from home, having (presumably) been stolen and possibly hidden for two days.

“I sobbed when I saw her I just burst into tears, I didn’t expect to find her alive,” said her owner. “It’s appalling. Who takes a pig, maybe hides her, and dumps her 40 miles away? It took me 45 mins to get there. She was exhausted when I found her, she was confused.”

I guess you have to know a pig well to tell when it’s confused

Gym (x2), run plus the dog food phone, cake or no cake and criminals as victims

We got back late on Monday, arriving to weather every bit as cold as the alps had been, but no snow. That was followed by domestic stuff on Tuesday, loads of washing, my passport renewal application, car booked for a service and that sort of thing.

I took the car in for the service on a very cold and frosty Wednesday – I thought it was for an oil service but it turned out to need a full service … and front discs and pads …. ouch. Too risky for a run back but I did get to the gym a little later.

My first attempt at some ‘proper’ training for the chin-up challenge involved all the exercises I’ve identified as likely to be helpful, but was a bit random and as horrible as I’d feared. There is every possibility that the only way I can do this is by cutting off my legs to reduce the weight being pulled up – but I’m keeping that option in reserve for now.

It is a significant birthday year for my wife and that, apparently, requires a lot of celebrating. On Wednesday afternoon we booked the first big event – a holiday to Mauritius.

There have been some signs of progress from Wednesday’s gym session – it’s not that I seem closer to doing a chin-up, more that I didn’t ache much on Thursday … small gains are still gains. Another hard frost so no running. I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to get on the turbo in the evening but I have continued a pretty much daily regime of push-ups and bicep curls.

To the gym again on another very cold Friday morning – and the gym was cold too. A hard session as I’m now fitting in the usual regime plus the chin-up exercises. However, another sign that progress is possible as I’ve gone straight from 45kg to 55kg on the chest press machine thanks, I’m sure, to the recently completed 100 push-up challenge.

Bike shop for 3 hours after the gym.

Domestic stuff on Saturday but I (the self-proclaimed cold weather wimp) got out for a run on a sub-freezing Sunday. I doubt I’ve ever run with more clothing on. My fingers were a bit chilly until I realised that I could tuck them into the sleeves of my soft-shell jacket but I even took off my hat half way round and (partially) unzipped the top two of my four upper layers. Fairly gentle but just over 11km – 7 miles.

A short week because of coming back form France, and a relatively easy week for exercise – were it not for a few hundred push-ups and a lot of bicep curls.

Our pipes are threatening to freeze again – running a post-run bath produced a trickle of hot water – but it looks like there is enough flow through the frozen part of the system (a cold water feed from the header tank into the hot water system) that running some water through will clear it … as the much needed bath did materialise!

RIP David Crosby – for me, 4 Way Street has to be up there with Live at Budokan and The Concert in Central Park as three of the great live double albums.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: A fish and bird may fall in love but the two cannot build a home together

2. BBC News website: The dog ate my iPhone?

Consumers are being warned to film themselves opening Amazon deliveries after a Salisbury man’s £1,300 iPhone was switched for a packet of dog food.

Amazon initially refused to refund his money because he had signed for the delivery, telling him that because he had accepted the parcel and given the courier a passcode, and the fact the dog food in the package weighed the same as an iPhone, then he must have received the iPhone.

3. BBC News website: Having survived the 100 push-up challenge, I feel the pain

High school football players in Texas needed medical attention because of a gruelling team workout after the students were forced to do nearly 400 push-ups without a water break.

It is said that more than a dozen players had to go to the hospital after the drill at the school.

4. BBC News website: The biter bit

Using a glitch in a trading website, a £21m Bitcoin fraud netted a UK gang so much money they struggled to spend it, said police.

The plot fell apart when one of those involved rang police to report that her daughter had stolen 15 Bitcoin from her, which at the time was worth about £75,000. That call made the police wonder how the lady, who was living in modest circumstances in a very small rented home in Blackpool, could possess such hidden wealth.

You have to wonder at the gall (and stupidity) of a thief going to the police about the theft of the proceeds of crime

5. BBC News website: Let them (not) eat cake

People should not bring cake into the office for the sake of their colleagues’ health, the head of a food watchdog has suggested. She compared cake to passive smoking and argued that, while eating a piece of cake is a choice, colleagues can help each other by providing “a supportive environment”.

She said it was not enough to rely on “extraordinary efforts” of willpower to avoid overeating in a society plying people with food.

6. BBC News website: He shoots, he scores!

The BBC has apologised to those who were offended when noises from a porn clip could be heard by viewers during the pre-match build-up before live coverage of the Wolves v Liverpool football fixture.

A frenzied studio hunt uncovered a mobile phone taped to the back of the set – a YouTube prankster has claimed he was behind the stunt.