Category Archives: sportive

Run (x4), swim, gym (plus some confusing birthdays and un-celebrations)

The two belt bags I ran with for last year’s ultra

No swim doctor session on Monday because of the Bank Holiday but I ran with my wife on a lovely warm morning – 7.2km (4.5 miles). Minor foot niggles tell me three days running in a row is enough.

The penalty for not having the swim session on Monday was that I went to the pool on Tuesday morning with my training partner (who has much better discipline with the swimming than I do). My aim was to swim a non-stop 1km to see if I could do it faster than I had before the swim doctor sessions – but that went out of the window once I saw that there were 5 others in the ‘fast’ lane.

I did about 800m trying some a bit faster, and some a bit smoother so it was a decent swim, but not exactly what I’d hoped for. I can swim 25m in 30 seconds (still slow but faster than before) but the extra effort means I can’t keep that going for long.

The rest of Tuesday was spent starting to address a large block paved driveway which needs attention, raking out, and killing the weeds in, the cracks between blocks. It’s back-breaking work which will take a few days of effort.

At least this effort shows

I took a car in to the garage on Wednesday morning and ran back – 5.5km (3.4 miles) before more work on the drive.

Thursday was the usual 8 hill reps for 8.6km and 287m of ascent (5.4 miles and 941 feet) and then another three hours of hard labour on the driveway, it rather puts training and exercise in its place.

Gym and bike shop, as ever, on Friday morning, followed by a bonfire as the wind was in the right direction to blow the smoke away from the village and then out for a very good supper with friends in the evening.

After a morning tending the still smoking bonfire and doing more on the driveway, we went to the wedding of some friends’ daughter on Saturday. A terrific wedding which we left in the early hours to walk the 3 miles home. After picking up the car I went for a steady run in fairly warm weather – 13.7km (8.5 miles).

Bonfire tended and still producing wisps of smoke, driveway still breaking my back.

100k corner (an occasional place for ultra news, worries and plans)

I’m starting to wonder about kit to take on the run. If I need anything new, I’d better get it and try it out soon.

For last year’s 50km I had a tri-belt with two small pockets and bottle holder, and a small (but expandable) running belt. They took everything I needed: phone, necessary first aid bits, credit card and cash, sanitiser, face mask, sun cream, a light jacket and the Garmin. I guess the only extra thing needed this year might be a torch. I believe that I complied with the compulsory kit list but it was never checked.

With food stations no more than 15km apart, I didn’t need to carry food and I never put more than 150ml in the bottle. Unless it’s a lot hotter this year, I can’t think I’ll need to carry much more drink so, for now, I’m not planning on a vest specifically for hydration purposes.

However, for general storage I guess it all comes down to how much you want to carry and how comfortable the various options are. I know some people don’t like straps around the waist but that’s a simple and cheap way to tackle it – would a vest be both more comfortable and hold more?

The event’s training plan had this week as a cut-back week so I don’t feel bad about having run less than usual – unfortunately, next week will be tricky too. There’s only been one week so far when I haven’t exceeded the event’s plan (I was 1km short – but that week I rode a 70 mile sportive so I don’t feel I short changed myself).

Week (of 20) Event’s training plan (km) My actual (km)
9 25 35
Cumulative total 264 418

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When you marry a monkey for his wealth, the money goes but the monkey remains

2. BBC News website: Man wins $450k lawsuit after unwanted office birthday party

A man has been awarded $450,000 (£345,314) after his company threw him a surprise birthday party. The man suffers from anxiety disorders and had asked his manager to not celebrate his birthday at work, as it could result in a panic attack and would bring back uncomfortable childhood memories.

Despite this, the company threw him a surprise party, triggering a panic attack. The claim said that he was “confronted and criticised” at a meeting the following day, where he was accused of “stealing his co-workers joy” and “being a little girl”. The meeting prompted a second panic attack, and two days later the company fired him, citing concerns about workplace safety. 

The jury awarded him $450,000, including $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages.

3. BBC News website: How old re you – in Korea, there could be three answers 

Officially, the country has used the international counting system, using a person’s birth date, in most legal definitions and administrative processes since 1962.

The country also has another official way to count age, in which babies are born at the age of 0, and gain a year every January 1. Under this, a baby born in December 2020 would be two years old by January 2022, even if they wouldn’t officially turn two until December of that year.

Thirdly, there’s the “Korean age” method, which is used more typically by everyone in society, where everyone is automatically a year old at birth, and become a year older on New Year’s Day regardless of their birth date.

4. BBC News website: ‘Biohacker’ has 32 pieces of technology in his body

Dutchman, Patrick Paumen, has a contactless payment microchip injected under his skin so that placing his left hand near a contactless card reader allows him to make payments.

The chip weighs less than a gram and is little bigger than a grain of rice. It has regulatory approval, works immediately after being implanted, and will stay firmly in place. It also does not require a battery, or other power source. The firm supplying the chip says it has now sold more than 500 of them.

His other implants include chips to open doors and imbedded magnets.

Swim, turbo, run (x4), gym (plus opera and the W boson putting on weight)

On Monday the only issue from the sportive was a slightly sore backside (which had not been ready for 5 hours in the saddle) but I was very happy to settle for just the evening swim doctor session.

I feel that my swimming has improved but am still putting off an attempt at a quick kilometre, for fear that it turns out to be no faster than before the lessons. Sooner or later I will have to bite that particular bullet but the real test will come when I get back to the open water (which is not going to happen until the lakes warm up).

I had no enthusiasm for a run on Tuesday but I (just) managed to get on the turbo in the early evening. Although I rode the sportive fairly gently, it must have taken more out of my legs than I’d realised as there wasn’t much there for the turbo – just 13km in 30 minutes. I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised as nearly 5 hours of fairly gentle peddling is still a lot of peddling.

My legs were just about recovered enough for hill reps on Wednesday. True to its capricious self, this time the Garmin measured the usual 8 reps as 8.5km and 257m of ascent (5.3 miles and 843 feet) and cheated me out of a one hill segment.

I was still lacking motivation on Thursday – I guess it’s the usual post-challenge slump, courtesy of the sportive. To my surprise, in the afternoon I managed to find a left over scrap of enthusiasm in the back of a drawer and ran a gentle 13km (8.1 miles).

No shop on Good Friday but I went to the gym with my training partner who is still not in the clear for running but is making strides (if you know what I mean) in the pool.

After the pleasure of some mowing, we went to Oxford for an excellent Lebanese early supper and a terrific production of Puccini’s Tosca. I sometimes surprise myself with my love of opera and it was a wonderful evening with friends (two of whom are opera buffs and two experiencing opera for the first time – I do hope it’s not their last).

The production featured the Ukrainian National Municipal Opera of Kyiv and their production of a Ukrainian flag at the curtain call, and their singing of the Ukrainian national anthem was very moving.

I don’t know if it was the uplifting music, the delightful evening out or just the passing of 5 days since the sportive but I ran on a very warm Saturday morning – 13.3km (8.3 miles). Later we drove up to London for supper with our younger son and his girlfriend.

Of course, staying in London overnight meant a run on Sunday morning – the usual route to Hammersmith Bridge and down the Thames Path to Fulham’s football ground and back. For a while now I’ve been running very slowly (even for me) – I don’t need to run fast (which is handy, because I can’t) but I decided to push a bit harder and managed 7.2km (4.45 miles) at 5:29/km.

After a very unpromising start, it turned out to be a good week in many ways. The opera was the highlight but I also managed to do 42km of running. Although I didn’t have a day off I’m hoping I’ll get away with that thanks to the fairly easy days on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

Happy Easter!

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No person is born great. Great people become great when others are sleeping

2. BBC News website: Wind and solar generate 10% of global electricity

The growth in the need for electricity last year was the equivalent of adding a new India to the world’s grid but solar and wind and other clean sources generated 38% of the world’s electricity in 2021 and, for the first time, wind turbines and solar panels generated 10% of the total.

Fifty countries now get more than a tenth of their power from wind and solar sources. The fastest switching took place in the Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam. All three have moved a tenth of their electricity demand from fossil fuels to green sources in the last two years.

3. BBC News website: Mass of a sub-atomic particle is not what it should be

A team of scientists in Chicago has found that the particle, a W boson, is more massive than the theories predicted, a result that is at odds with one of the most important and successful theories of modern physics.

The difference is just 0.1%, but if confirmed by other experiments, the implications are enormous. The discovery could lead to the development of a new, more complete theory of how the Universe works.

I’m sure we all suspected as much but were too polite to say

4. BBC News website: Length of life linked to speed of mutation of genetic code

Researchers discovered that mammals – from tigers to humans – have roughly the same number of mutations by the time they die of old age. A study of 16 species of mammal suggests that they all converged on “about 3,200” mutations (changes that creep into the instruction manual for building and running our bodies – our DNA) across their lifetime.

Mice rattle through nearly 800 mutations a year during their short lives, which last just under four years. Dogs have around 249 annual mutations, a lion 160 and a giraffe 99. Humans averaged 47.

5. BBC News website: But at least they must be good suits

A luxury tailor in Cairo that specialises in making clothes for celebrities is suing the Arabic language remake of the television series Suits, claiming that the production company has not paid for the suits – and other clothes – worn by the show’s stars.

The claim is for about $1.5m (£1.2m) but the production company denies the allegation and says it will counter-sue for defamation.

6. BBC News website: Man arrested after 183 animals are found in freezer.

The man admitted freezing some of the 183 animals found in his freezer (including dogs, cats, snakes and birds) while they were still alive, the Mohave County Sheriff’s office said. He has been charged with 94 counts of animal cruelty.

Run (x4), swim, ride (x2) plus cycling stupidity, honesty, trains and J-C van Damme

This week was always going to be odd as far as training was concerned but, to give it a fairly normal start, I ran on Monday morning and did the swim doctor session in the evening.

The run was hill reps – tough, as always, but great to have got them out of the way for the week. This time it measured 9.34km and 287m of ascent (5.8 miles and 941 feet). At the pool, the usual swimming instructor was away this week but the stand-in was good and the change meant some different drills which was refreshing.

I ran with my wife on a milder Tuesday morning, 7.2km (4.5 miles). The rest of the day I was playing plumber, replacing some split copper piping and an outside tap.

Originally, we had planned to ski this week but decided not to because it was half-term, unseasonably hot out in the alps and the snow was not great. Of course, as soon as we made the decision, it got cold and snowed heavily. Instead, after domestic stuff, we drove down to Bournemouth on Wednesday afternoon.

We had our fingers crossed as the last time we were there the house alarm triggered in Oxfordshire and I had a wasted journey back. We think it was probably the door to the attic rooms not being shut and moving in a draught – but we can’t be sure.

There was plenty of draught in Bournemouth too – I abandoned a walk down the seafront as I was being sand blasted. We found a fairly new tapas restaurant in a local row of shops in the evening, a modest looking place but great tasting food.

It was blowing a gale and raining really hard all night. The morning was bright and dry, but still windy but I love running down there so I ran along the seafront – 10.2km (6.3 miles) – the first 4km of which was straight into the teeth of a relentless 35kph (22mph) headwind that was gusting up to 57kph (37mph). At times I was almost stopped in my tracks and at one point I passed a chap who had just got off his bike in favour of walking it into the wind but, luckily, the sand being blown towards me wasn’t getting above knee height.

Those 4kms out to Boscombe pier were as hard as any I remember running, only the later part of the Rotterdam marathon in 2019, or the 5k I ran from Les Carroz to Les Molliets up the Col de Pierre Carrée – an alpine climb at over 6.5% – would compare (was that really 2018?). I was about 50 sec/km faster with the wind behind me on the way back along the front.

The exact same run on Friday was, surprisingly, very different. The wind had dropped but swung around 180 degrees and there was a cold and persistent drizzle. For some reason, the Thursday run was 20 seconds slower but recorded as a little longer.

A terrific lunch at The Jetty, overlooking Christchurch Harbour and then back to Oxfordshire after a really good couple of days’ break (but I’ve missed the skiing – just the second year without it in nearly 40).

On Saturday my bike came out into the wide world for the first time this year, blinking in the sunlight. I checked it over and took it for a short 25km (15.5 mile) test ride. The reason was the sportive on Sunday but the first few miles felt so bad that I was wondering what excuse to give for not doing the sportive.

Eventually, I (almost) remembered how to cycle but no matter how many times I have to learn it, the fact that running legs and cycling legs are very different things never fails to come as a horrible shock.

The bike was not sure about coming out of the shed – I think it’s developed agoraphobia over the winter

At the start of the ride is was hovering about freezing. I did a slightly sensible thing and went for the 70 mile and 4065 feet of ascent (113km and 1239m) route instead of the 90 miler – and went for the ‘get round and don’t worry about the time’ approach. Two good decisions as the shorter distance was plenty far enough and although the legs protested they got me up all the big hills. I rode round non-stop in under 4h 50.

I’m happy to go on record that the distance was really too far for the training I’d put in. Not only were the legs not really ‘cycle fit’ but my backside needed much more toughening up before being subjected to nearly 5 hours on the sheet of carbon fibre that passes for my saddle. However, I did it, slowly, but without too much discomfort and I’m pleased with that. It was still enough to earn the ‘Gold Standard’ and I was fourth in my age group.

An odd week – four runs but no long one, no gym but plenty of time in the saddle. Friends are coming for supper tonight – I’m hoping I don’t fall asleep in my bowl of soup.

Interesting stuff this week

1. Africa wise words: If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do no harm

2. BBC News website: Liberian taxi driver: returning $50,000 changed a life

A struggling motorbike taxi driver found $50,000 (£40,000) wrapped in a plastic bag by the side of the road. He gave it to his aunt to look after and returned it to the rightful owner who appealed on national radio for help in finding the cash.

Some mocked him for his honesty but President George Weah handed him $10,000, a local media owner also gave him cash and the owner of the money donated $1,500-worth of goods.

He was also given a place at one of Liberia’s most prestigious schools and a US college offered him a full scholarship once he had completed his secondary education. He now has six years of secondary school ahead of him and will be 25 when he graduates. He wants to study accounting at university “to prepare myself to help guide the use of the country’s money”.

3. BBC News website: Cracks found in more than 180 trains

The rail regulator has found fatigue and corrosion led to high-speed trains being withdrawn from service. It said fatigue cracking was caused by the “trains experiencing greater loads from train movement than allowed for in the original design”.

… and there I was thinking that train design probably allowed for quite a lot of movement

4. BBC News website: Many Delhi meat shops closed for Hindu festival

Mayors of south and east districts said most people fast or abstain from eating meat during the festival and many had complained that they did not like seeing meat being cut in the open.

However, the move has riled many who have taken to social media to express outrage saying that it violates India’s pluralism, pointing out that someone’s choice to abstain from meat should not infringe on another’s freedom to eat meat or earn a livelihood.

Life is so complicated when trying to keep everyone happy

5. BBC News website: ‘Muscles from Brussels’ head to DR Congo

Famous action film hero Jean-Claude van Damme says he is thrilled to have been given a Congolese diplomatic passport.

“I am going to try to convince international stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jacky Chan and many others,” he said as he accepted his passport and role as cultural, youth and wildlife ambassador for the country. “There are also singers like Jennifer Lopez and footballers like Messi, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo. They must come to the country to show that it is safe, to show that Congo can protect those in showbiz.”

Not sure I got the reason why Jennifer Lopez Messi, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo must come to the the Congo but I guess he might be quite persuasive

Swim, run (x4), gym (plus shrinkflation, fashion and heatwaves)

A friend has two dogs that my wife often walks with her. Our friend’s hurt her back so I was my wife’s assistant dog-walker on a crisp Monday morning giving the dogs a long walk around the fields.

After a day of mowing and car-cleaning, it was the swim doctor session in the early evening and another good mixture of drills and swimming.

Tuesday was odd – it’s rare that I don’t want to go for a run but that was one of those days. I suppose one of the differences between training and exercising is that runs are a bit less optional, so I got into the kit and ran. It was back to being chilly but, of course, as soon as I got outside I enjoyed it – 13km (8 miles) at a bit better than 6 minutes/km.

Back to the usual hill on Wednesday. Sadly, it’s continued to get colder and I’m back to running tights, three layers on top and gloves. This week, 8 reps measured 8.8km with 287m of ascent (5.5 miles 941 feet) – at least it felt better than last week’s horrible struggle.

I ran again on an even colder Thursday – 11.2km (7 miles) – complete with a few flakes of snow in the air and a bitter northerly – the wind chill made it feel a few degrees below freezing (a hat now added to the cold weather gear).

Three consecutive days of running is probably a bit much but having missed Monday it felt like it was worth doing to make the weekend easier. That just leaves the gym on Friday and one long run still to come …. and it took me beyond 500km of running in the first three months of the year, with over 7km of ascent.

Gym – still focusing on arms, chest, shoulders and core – and bike shop on Friday morning.

I’m happy (but probably foolish) to run up to about 26km (16 miles) without prior nutrition and without taking anything on the run, but to try something different I had porridge before setting off for my week’s long run on Saturday. After all, the fact that I can do it without doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be better with.

I started with bright and cold but soon got rain, snow flurries, more sun and a return of the rain. In all, a bit over 27km (nearly 17 miles) – I took no food or drink with me on the run, but felt no noticeable benefit from the porridge. I weighed in at a scrawny, and probably dehydrated, 65.5kg (144 pounds – 10 stone 4) at the end of the run.

That’s 60km (over 37 miles) in 4 runs over 5 days – it was tough and I’m now very weary. Our older son came back later on Saturday to return a car he’d borrowed – with the short notice, that meant our second take-away of the year for supper.

As always, it’s great to see him although it was a fleeting visit and I dropped him off at the station on Sunday. I felt in pretty good shape but, apart from that outing, I dedicated myself to a rest day.

I seem to have fallen into a training rut routine of 6 sessions a week (4 runs, a swim and a gym visit) but I should be cycling and swimming more. I also need to have a day off (preferably two) so I need to double up some days.

To fit in 7 sessions in a week, I’m sure one session a day with no rest is a bad idea – but I wonder if it’s better to do them over 6 days with one rest day, or cram them into 5 days, with 2 days off?

100k corner (an occasional place for ultra news, worries and plans)

Week (of 20)Event’s training plan (km)My actual (km)
63560
Cumulative total161304
My training so far

My friend and training partner has recovered from Covid (I think it was nature’s way of telling him to give his ankle ligament more time off) and is – cautiously – restarting running. He’s been able to keep the swimming, gym and turbo trainer going so, as long as the injury is healing properly, he’ll be fine for the triathlon in late May but a question mark hangs over July’s ultra.

Last year I injured myself and had 9 weeks to train for the 50km ultra. In that time, I ran less than 150 miles (240km) and still enjoyed the event itself, never feeling that I wasn’t going to finish. It will be tough but I hope this year’s 100km is possible for him (in the absence of more illness or injury). There’s a potential fall-back of him doing half the run, which will still be an ultra … and that’s not to be sniffed at. Fingers crossed.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: When an old man dies, a library is burned with him

In my case, they will probably just warm up a postcard

2. BBC News website: Shrinkflation

Cadbury has shrunk the size of some of its Dairy Milk bars by 10%, but will not reduce the price for customers. US Parent company Mondelez blamed costs associated with the production of its chocolate spiking, as it reduced the bars’ size from 200g to 180g.

In 2020, the company was accused of “shrinkflation” – reducing the size of a product while keeping the price the same to boost profits. At the time, Cadbury chocolate bars sold in multipacks were reduced in size to reduce their calorie count, said the company.

Ah, it was just for our own good in calorie reduction and there I was mistakenly thinking it was about profits

3. BBC News website: Europe to crack down on fast fashion

It is proposed to make the clothing made and worn here more durable, reusable, repairable and recyclable. Manufacturers will have to ensure clothes are eco-friendly and hard-wearing and consumers will be given more information on how to reuse, repair and recycle their clothes.

According to the European Environment Agency in Europe clothes have, on average, the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate, exceeded only by food, housing and transport.

One advantage of not worrying about being ‘in fashion’ is that I have little risk of ever going out of fashion

4. BBC News website: It’s getting hot in here

The Met Office defines a heatwave as when an area experiences daily maximum temperatures meeting or exceeding a certain level for three days in a row. As they become more common, forecasters have raised the temperature at which a heatwave is declared in several areas of England by 1C.

Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire now have a level of 28C (82F), Lincolnshire has a limit of 27C (81F) and the East Riding of Yorkshire has 26C (79F).

It is untrue that, in the rest of the country, a heatwave is declared if it ever stops raining

5. Football World Cup draw

The draw for the Football World Cup (to be held in November and December) took place on Friday. England’s initial group is the USA, Iran and (one of) Scotland, Ukraine and Wales.

I predict optimism, hope, expectation and eventual disappointment and despair. To be honest, that’s not much of a prediction, just a description of our usual World Cup journey

Run, turbo, run (hill reps), gym, run, run plus bees, mobiles and honours gone

Longer runs mean a bit of different scenery

The big world news on Monday was that I was tired after Sunday’s hill reps. Interestingly, somewhere towards my right hip felt sore – and that’s a new injury. Sensibly, I took a rest day.

In other (minor) news, Monday saw the overturning of the Australian decision to bar Djovokic from entering the country. An excellent tennis player, but this episode isn’t likely to help in his struggle to be ‘loved’ in the same way as Federer and Nadal.

I appreciate that different societies have different accepted norms, but I’m surprised we haven’t seen more made of the way he, apparently, got the positive PCR result on 16th December, but disregarded Serbian regulations that require self-isolation for 14 days.

Catching Covid when he did was incredibly lucky. There he was with the Australian Open approaching and no way of getting into the country (I assume). Then he’s fortunate enough to catch Covid at just the right time – that’s championship form.

The other sporting news was that the Raiders made it to the playoffs for just the second time in 19 years. I’ve followed them since I watched Marcus Allen run 74 yards for a TD in Super Bowl XVIII (1984). Nervy stuff I wonder how many teams with a 10-7 record post a -65 points difference over the regular season. I don’t expect them to go further.

Tuesday was dreary – grey and with a light but relentless drizzle. I went for a slightly longer, uninspired, run – 10.3km (6.4 miles) in 1h 01m. I’m not sure if the niggle around the right hip is muscular or the joint itself – one to watch.

On Wednesday, more was being made of Djokovic’s isolation breaches and whole affair seemed to be murkier all the time. What a mess – rather sad all round. Out to lunch with friends in the village, then a lacklustre 45 minutes on the turbo – @28kph (17.4 mph).

Hill reps on a brighter Thursday. I did 9 of the usual hill – 9.5km and 314m of ascent (nearly 6 miles and 1,030 feet). When will it get easier?

As normal on Friday, a stint manning the charity bike shop after a trip to the gym. I put up the weights on almost everything, reduced the reps, increased the sets and went for ‘explosive’. All very interesting but I’m less of a firecracker and more of a damp squib.

Oh yes, Djokovic had his visa revoked. By my reading of the figures, the previous three days had accounted for about 30% of all Australia’s Covid cases.

I ran on a cold Saturday – including two pairs of socks, shorts, warmer running tights, compression top, warmer running shirt, soft shell jacket, gloves, buff and hat. My wife usually does the 7km loop but joined me for the 10.4km run (6.5 miles) so bravo to her.

Sunday I woke to the confirmation of Raiders’ expected exit from the race to the Super Bowl and Djokovic’s defeat in Court that means he won’t play on court. He says he accepts the Court’s decision, which is good of him.

I ran for just over 12km (7.5 miles).

Six sessions of exercise in each of the last two weeks but last week felt tough and most sessions left me wrecked. This week was better with 42km running (26 miles) with hills, plus the gym and a turbo session … and an improvement in terms of how I felt after the sessions – some progress, perhaps.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Once you carry your own water, you’ll remember every drop

2. BBC News website: Evergrande suspends shares in Hong Kong

Chinese real estate giant Evergrande has suspended trade in its shares in Hong Kong as investors await news on its restructuring plan. Evergrande is said to have more than $300bn (£222bn) of debt and is working to raise cash by selling assets and shares to repay suppliers and creditors.

I know nothing of Evergrande or its assets, but the sheer scale of the debt is eye-watering

3. BBC News website: Police stung as beekeepers protest in Chile

Four beekeepers have been detained in Chile following a protest outside the presidential palace, calling for government support for their industry.

To highlight their cause, the beekeepers set up some 60 hives containing around 10,000 bees in front of the palace. Seven police officers were stung as they tried to remove the beehives.

4. BBC News website: People devote third of waking time to mobile apps

People are spending an average of 4.8 hours a day on their mobile phones, according to an app monitoring firm. The calculation was made across ten markets, including India, Turkey, the US, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Canada. Users in Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea surpassed five hours per day.

The research indicates that apps were downloaded 230 billion times in 2021, with $170bn (£125bn) being spent. TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide, with users spending 90% more time there compared to 2020.

One thing that I struggle to understand is 4 people sitting at a cafe or restaurant table, all going through social media on their phones

5. BBC News website: Prince Andrew loses military titles and use of HRH

Prince Andrew will stop using the title ‘His Royal Highness’ in any official capacity and loses several military titles as he faces a civil case in the US over claims (which he denies) that he sexually assaulted a woman when she was 17.

The UK military titles he loses are: Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, Honorary air commodore of RAF Lossiemouth, Colonel-in-chief of the Royal Irish Regiment, Colonel-in-chief of the Small Arms School Corps, Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm, Royal colonel of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, Deputy colonel-in-chief of The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own), Royal colonel of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Of course, I’m sure he richly deserved them all.

I guess if you are a Prince – but not the son who will inherit ‘the big one’ (ie you are the ‘spare’ and not the ‘heir’) you might feel hard done by (no matter how privileged you are). That could make you attracted to the mega-rich with them being attracted to you for the reflected kudos of having a Prince in tow.

Says Prince Omil, Colonel-in-Chief of nothing at all, but looking for a rich patron.

Turbo (x3, one with random jeopardy), run, gym, run (hill reps) and when lawnmowers attack

Three turbo session in a week – the weather must have been bad

After having our sons back for the week over Christmas, followed by an excellent New Year dinner party with 6 good friends, the first few days of January felt a bit flat (and a little bit fat).

I decided to go with the flow and didn’t exercise, instead we did a difficult jigsaw and took down the decorations and stored them back in the attic (it’s a rock and roll lifestyle). I accompanied my wife to an informal school reunion (more negative lateral flow testing), proof-read some college work for our younger son and took the minutes for a cycling club directors’ meeting.

By Tuesday I knew I should get back to some sort of exercise (if only to address just over 2 kgs – 5 pounds – of excess ballast acquired over the holiday) but it was cold, wet and windy. Rather short of motivation, I turned to the turbo trainer – at least the extra weight was going to be less of a penalty.

I planned to go (even) slower than usual but for an hour. As it was, youthful exuberance took over and I went faster than intended so I gave myself 15 minutes off for good behaviour – 45 minutes @ 30.3kph (18.8mph).

I ran with my wife on a cold Wednesday – one of those days when you know you can’t get the clothing right but I was grateful – as ever – for my D2T buff/neck warmer. We ran one of our usual routes for 7.2km (4.5 miles).

Cold and wet again on Thursday but I did manage a slower session on the turbo – I’d like to say it was all self-restraint but, in truth, I’m not sure I had any more speed in me. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do the full hour but discovered that the best technique is to cycle for 45 minutes and then push the pedals round for another 15.

I went to the gym, before the usual bike shop stint, on Friday morning – it was cold (not quite ‘see your breath cold’ but close) and hard. I appreciate that a ‘proper’ gym session is not supposed to be easy but I am only doing all this for pleasure – I need to manage the difficulty to make sure it doesn’t put me off going. I researched it and the advice seems to be: heavy weights; fewer reps; more sets; explosive lifting. Oh dear.

Our local side were televised live in the FA Cup (and lost 4-1) on Friday. No disgrace in a 4th tier side losing to the team well clear at the top of the Premier League. Saturday was wet so I did an hour’s turbo session watching another match – 28.5km (17.7 miles). For added jeopardy I did 100 revs sprinting per goal and 30 per corner (3 goals, 10 corners). For the last 15 minutes I watched a quiz – 15 revs sprint per right answer.

Cold but brighter on Sunday and I did not really want to run but, happily, my wife and I encouraged each other to get out and I did hill reps – 8 of the usual hill but horribly hard. This time it measured 8.9km with 282m of ascent (5.5 miles and 925 feet).

That is me (very) finished for the week.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: However long the night, the dawn will break

2. BBC News website: Antarctic outpost hit by Covid-19 outbreak

Since 14 December, at least 16 of the 25 workers at the Belgian Polar Station have caught the virus. The first positive test was in a team that arrived seven days earlier.

Last year, a number of Chilean military personnel at an Antarctic research station were infected after sailors on a supply ship tested positive for the virus.

It’s official, nowhere is safe!

3. BBC News website: French car-burning returns for New Year’s Eve

A total of 874 cars were set alight during New Year’s Eve celebrations in France. The interior ministry said the number was much lower than in 2019. Car burning has effectively become an annual event in French suburbs since riots in 2005 in several cities.

The local “I live in Faringdon” Facebook page was ablaze with outrage at fireworks being set off to celebrate New Year – thank goodness the town hasn’t yet turned its attention to cars …

4. BBC News website: Thousands injured in household accidents

The 2020/21 figures for England showed that accidents fell in many categories as people spent more time indoors, however:

  • more than 5,300 people were admitted to hospital after falls from playground equipment such as swings and slides, including eight people over the age of 90
  • more than 5,600 required hospital attention after coming into contact with an electric hand tool and another 2,700 people sought medical attention after an accident with a non-powered hand tool
  • 349 were admitted to hospital with injuries inflicted by lawnmowers
  • 2,243 people needed attention after hot drink, food, fats and cooking oil injuries
  • 7,386 people were admitted to English hospitals after being bitten or struck by a dog, while 60 others sought assistance after encounters with venomous spiders
  • the number of people needing assistance after being struck by lightning rose from three cases in 2019/20 to 18 in 2020/21.

It’s a miracle that the human race survives

5. BBC News website: Taiwan buys 20,000 bottles of rum destined for China

Taiwan is sharing tips with the public on how to drink and cook with rum after the state-run media said Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp purchased the rum after learning that it could be blocked from entering China.

It comes after Lithuania established a de facto embassy in Taiwan, a potential sign of growing ties between them, after which, just days later, China downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania.

Locals were urged to buy rum at the end of January, when the shipment would be on sale and the National Development Council shared recipes for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail, and rum-infused French toast, steak and hot chocolate.

A state sponsoring drinking alcohol is not the typical way things go

6. BBC News website: Teacher locks son in car boot as he tests positive for Covid

A US teacher has been arrested after allegedly locking her Covid-positive son in a car boot (trunk) to protect herself from exposure to the virus as she drove him to a testing site. She is reported to have been charged with endangering a child.

Run, run (hill reps), gym and a Happy New Year to everyone

A sign off to 2021 at the gym – and not a piece of tinsel in sight

I’m not clear if the Chinese ‘may you live in interesting times’ is a blessing or a curse. 2021 qualified as ‘interesting’ – but may your 2022 be less interesting in some respects and much better in all respects.

I ran on Monday – 7.1km (4.4miles) – enjoyable but gentle and wet. I had a sore calf muscle – while exercising it in the gym on Friday someone started speaking to me about cycling and I lost count of the left leg calf raises but just kept doing them. As I get older, the dividing line between good exercise and overdoing it is getting ever more thin.

Christmas itself was great, the boys were back with us and we used most of the house – with just the two of us here normally we shrink our occupation of it but with champagne and stocking opening (at 9.30am) in the drawing room (pretentious, moi?), presents in the breakfast room, lunch in the dining room and a film in the snug, it felt like we got the best out of it.

We walked on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and probably clocked up something like 16km (10 miles) but on Wednesday the boys went back to their homes before the older son and his girlfriend decided (not unreasonably) that the house in Bournemouth would be a good place to see in the New Year. Here the house feels rather emptier but it was a great week we had with them.

We should be thinking about packing for skiing now but that is not going to happen with terrible Covid rates both here and in France – and we Brits are effectively banned from France anyway. The only thing that softens the loss of the holiday is the realisation that we are not missing out on skiing at its best – it would be a compromised holiday because of the restrictions we’d be operating under.

It was always going to be a light week for exercise so I ran hill reps on Thursday on the basis that they probably represent the biggest bang for the buck in exercise benefit (?) – 8 reps of the usual hill for 8.5km with 286m of ascent (5.3 miles and 938 feet).

Friday morning was the gym (the bike shop is still closed for the holidays). I calculate that before I increased the weights and reduced the reps, I was lifting nearly 19,000 kg in a session at the gym – about 18.5 imperial tons and nearer to 21 US tons. I have no idea if that’s good, bad, indifferent or just irrelevant.

Much of Thursday and Friday was taken up preparing for a dinner party for New Year’s Eve. I’m no big fan of New Year (to me it feels like the passage of just one more day rather than another year) but I do like a good dinner party and we had some excellent friends coming. We tested ourselves for Covid (thankfully, both negative) as did all our guests. We had a terrific evening – in a ventilated room – may that be a sign of good things to come in 2022.

2021 exercise round-up:

Runs: 130 Distance: 1,236km (768miles) – with nearly 14,000m of ascent it felt further

Rides: 68 Distance: 1,620km (1,006miles) – pretty poor, most on the turbo trainer

Swims: 30 Distance: 29km (18miles) – a mixture of open water and pool

Gym: 37 times – it was shut for some months

I didn’t set any targets for exercise in 2021 but that’s well over 240 hours in the year, my first ultra marathon completed and a triathlon done with a swim in the (previously) scary open water.

For next year it’s a 100km ultra, some sportives and two triathlons, one of which is over the Olympic distance. Exciting and daunting in equal measure. Dare I think about a return of the annual cycling holiday in the alps?

Interesting things this week

1. African wise words: Even the lion protects himself against flies

2. BBC News website: “Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea”*

Sri Lanka plans to send $5m (£3.8m) worth of tea to Iran each month to clear the $251m debt for past oil imports. Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe debt and foreign exchange crisis, which has been made worse by the loss of tourist income during the coronavirus pandemic.

*Lyrics, The Beverley Hillbillies theme tune (1962-71)

3. BBC News website: Ecuador to make Covid vaccination mandatory

The health ministry said there were enough doses to “immunise the entire population”. The under 5s and those with a medical justification will be exempt.

The ministry said vaccines were a “shield of protection” against the virus, helping to prevent serious illness, hospitalisations and deaths and the decision was based in the country’s constitution, in which the right to health must be guaranteed by the state.

Did you know that Ecuador is the original home of the Panama hat?

4. BBC News website: Netlicks? ‘The TV screen you can taste’

A prototype “lickable” TV screen which can mimic food flavours has been developed by a Japanese professor. Ten canisters spray flavour onto a “hygienic film” which is rolled over the screen for the viewer to lick.

It is suggested that it could be used to train cooks or sommeliers remotely. If made commercially, the TV would cost an estimated $875 (£735).

5. BBC News website: Alexa challenge

Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug.

The dangerous activity, known as “the penny challenge”, began circulating on TikTok and other social media websites about a year ago.

‘Alexa, self-destruct in 10 seconds’

6. BBC News website: Woman self-isolates in plane toilet mid-flight

A US schoolteacher spent five hours in voluntary self-isolation in a plane’s toilet after testing positive for Covid-19 mid-flight.

Her throat started to hurt while travelling from Chicago to Reykjavik and she performed a rapid test with a kit she had brought with her. She remained in the toilet for the rest of the trip with a flight attendant providing her with food and drinks.

If you’ve not been, think about putting Iceland on the list of places to visit (conventional travel advised)

Turbo (x2), run (x3 – inc. hill reps), plus good negatives and beautiful camels

Back to the running means back to the usual routes

After returning from France on Saturday night we went into self-isolation pending negative Covid PCR tests. It was a slick process, most importantly with the right result as we both tested negative.

We’d arrived back in the UK at 6pm on Saturday. Our PCR kits had already arrived and we did the tests on Sunday morning, dropping them off for a 15.30 collection. By 21.30 we got emails confirming that the samples were at the laboratory in Northern Ireland. My result arrived at 5:04 on Monday morning (no, I didn’t wait up for it) and my wife’s just before 9:30 (a slightly anxious wait for that one). Pretty slick.

Of course, the best way to celebrate the end of the self-isolation is by going out for a run … but it was cold and wet so I got on the turbo in the late afternoon – 45 minutes @30.3kph (18.8mph).

It was cold again on Tuesday morning but I ran with my wife – a few minor niggles came and went of their own accord during a gentle 7.2km (4.5miles).

It was back to the turbo later on Wednesday. I might be able to come up with several reasons why that was a good training idea, but really it was a reluctance to go out and run in the cold and wind. The conservatory is unheated which gives the strange sensation of sweating profusely while still having cold feet – but I pushed on for an hour @29kph (18mph).

Another hill reps run on a rather brighter but still cold Thursday. 10 reps again – just over 10km (6.2 miles) and over 330m of ascent (1,100 feet). It was hard – so it must be doing me good, and must be making next July’s ultra and the sportives and triathlons easier (or simply possible) right?

I missed out on the gym on Friday morning by oversleeping and a lack of commitment but I did the charity bike shop and then lunch with old workmates. I’m not used to eating much at lunch so that blew out the notion of any exercise later in the day but I ran with my wife on Saturday – 5.6km (3.5miles).

Sunday was earmarked as a day for household chores – which was a shame as it was the best day of the week by a long way, bright and mild. However, a deal is a deal so I’m sticking to the domestic stuff to round off a week of getting back into things after the trip to France.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: He who digs a grave for his enemy might as well be digging one for himself

2. BBC News website: Camel beauty pageant cracks down on cosmetic enhancements

More than 40 camels have been disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s beauty pageant for receiving Botox injections and other cosmetic enhancements. The contest is a highlight of the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, where $66m (£45m) in prize money is at stake for camels with key attributes including long, droopy lips, a big nose and a shapely hump.

Judges used “advanced” technology to uncover tampering with camels on a scale not seen before, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

3. BBC News website: Fine of €1,200 ($1,357; £1,028) for causing TDF crash

The peloton was 45km (28 miles) from the end of the first stage, when the French woman’s cardboard sign clipped German rider Tony Martin. He fell to the ground and dozens of other riders to followed suit, in one of the tournament’s worst ever crashes.

The identity of the woman, who was a spectator at the race, was withheld after she was targeted by a torrent of online abuse.

4. BBC News website: ‘There’s gold in them thar hills’

In 2013, a climber stumbled upon a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires that had been buried on France’s Mont Blanc.

It is believed that the box belonged to someone on board an Indian plane that crashed in 1966, but now he has been rewarded with half of the trove of hundreds of precious stones, with the local authority in Chamonix taking the other half, after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the family of the owner.

5. BBC News website: Medics attending Christmas party test positive for Covid

68 medics among about 170 who attended a Christmas party in Spain have since tested positive for Covid-19. Most of the infected are doctors and nurses working in the intensive care unit at Málaga’s regional hospital.

All guests returned negative antigen tests before the event but more than half are now isolating. The infected staff were all fully vaccinated and are showing no symptoms, health authorities said.

Physician, heal thyself

Minimal exercise, maximum driving, France (plus fake arms and sleeping sportsmen)

View from the rear balcony in France. Almost interestingly, the mountains in the backdrop are the other side of the Autoroute Blanche, in the valley over 500 metres below

It snowed on Sunday night – only a thin covering here but still well below freezing on Monday morning. I was feeling suitably smug at having put the winter wheels and tyres on just last week.

I went out just after 9am to pick up some stuff from the nearest town a couple of miles away but turned back as I saw how a tiny amount of snow and drivers without winter tyres can very easily cause gridlock in rural Oxfordshire. Two hours later the traffic had disappeared like melting snow – unlike the snow itself which was still very much there.

Later we got our Covid booster jabs – all OK so far as neither of us had any reaction beyond a slightly sore arm where the jab was done.

Very early Tuesday morning we did a potentially very stupid thing – we set off for France. We had booked a few days previously – before the newest variant of the virus was identified in Southern Africa and so we had gone through the agonies of the damned as to whether we would be able to travel out (or back). New UK rules announced on Saturday introduced new isolation and testing requirements for our return (isolation being required until a negative PCR test is performed).

To be honest, it would have been easier to abandon the trip but we’ve not been to the apartment since we skied in January 2020 so a visit was long overdue. Les Carroz is a special place for us. We stumbled across it by accident but loved it and put the process of buying an apartment underway after two visits – and that’s over 20 years ago.

At least a trip down in the car and a stay in our own place was likely to be as safe as it would get and we wouldn’t be going out as the rules for getting a ‘pass sanitaire’ (necessary for going to bars and restaurants) changed at the last minute.

I’ve done the drive many (40+?) times with the skiing and, more recently, an annual cycle trip – but it’s not getting any shorter. Despite the best efforts of the M25 (London’s orbital motorway and sometimes orbital car park) we made good time to the Channel Tunnel and got put on a train an hour earlier than booked. We completed the whole 710 miles in about 13 elapsed hours with just over 11 hours of driving and just 2 stops in addition to the tunnel.

We had a really good time there, even though there were the usual clean, repair, enhance requirements to be satisfied. We rearranged the beds in the two mezzanines. With everything going on in the world, that did give me echoes of ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ but in turbulent times, perhaps it’s carrying on with the ordinary things that keeps us sane?

I had taken running kit but it was below freezing and either raining or snowing most of the time – and the pavements were snow-covered and unsafe for running. I was sad about the running but decided to enjoy both the unexpected break from relentless exercise and even more smugness for fitting the winter tyres.

Perhaps I secretly suspected this was going to happen as I took books with me, including Haruki Marakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ and ‘A runner’s high’ by Dean Karnazes. I rarely re-read books but I made two exceptions here. They are very different books by very different authors but I love both for the simple reason that their love of running shines through.

I also took a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov which was delightful – perhaps more vignettes than stories because he clearly didn’t feel that they needed to finish with a conclusion or resolution.

On Saturday I drove the 710 miles back with just one stop in addition to the tunnel. A tough journey with the first 200 miles in heavy rain – but we made it back to Oxfordshire by mid-evening and entered isolation. In one respect we were lucky – within half an hour of getting back into England we got the news that if we had been returning two days later we’d also be required to have a clear Covid test in order to re-enter the UK.

In all, just shy of 1,500 miles of driving and away for 5 days. I’m in favour of new technologies and would like an electric car – but with range and recharging issues, I wonder how any other than those with the very longest ranges would cope with this sort of journey?

On Sunday, feeling well, we completed our PCR tests and took them to the drop-box (allowed within the rules of our isolation). We have now started the wait for the results.

A very different post from the usual tedious summary of the week’s running, cycling, gym (and possibly swimming). This time a tedious recounting of a trip to France.

To reach for some sense of normality, I nearly got on the turbo later in the afternoon – but I decided that, no matter what the personal cost might be, I would complete the week without ‘proper’ exercise – the nearest I got was signing up for next April’s White Horse Challenge sportive.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: No medicine exists that can cure hatred

2. BBC News website: Former world snooker champion falls asleep during match

Mark Williams, lost in the second round of the UK championship. He said, “It was 3-2 and I was out. My head went down and I woke up and I didn’t have a clue where I was for about five seconds. It was a bit embarrassing but I was just shattered after contracting Covid-19 in October. I need to be playing in the mornings really, or afternoons. The more the day goes on the more tired I get.”

Personally, I like snooker but I expect many think that Williams was just joining most of the the audience

3. BBC News website: A long way for a postponed game

A couple from Dallas made a 34-hour journey just to see Tottenham Hotspur (their favourite football club) play – only to have the match postponed because of snow.

They were hoping to see Spurs’ next two home games but they could now be guests of honour as Spurs’ striker (and England captain) Harry Kane has invited them to be his guests at one of those matches.

4. BBC News website: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”. After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye but instead she reported him to the police for fraud.

Turbo, run (hill reps), swim, gym, turbo, run (plus political bananas and a giant potato)

Back running round the old hill fort – no bluebells until spring but looking forward to their return

It’s odd how often I get up after a rest day feeling worse than if I’d done a 10 mile run. Monday was like that but I managed to get on the turbo in the evening for 45 minutes @26.1kph (16.2mph).

On Tuesday we woke to our first frost of the autumn so it was back to hat and gloves for the morning’s hill reps run. This time I did 9 reps of the hill I’ve done for the last two weeks – in all 9km and over 300m of ascent (5.6 miles and 1,000 feet).

It was hard but I think it equates to running up a 6.8% gradient for 4.5km (and then back down) so at least I understand why it feels hard. Anything that hard has to be doing some good, surely.

The frost also means that the turbo trainer is again sharing the conservatory with dozens of plants seeking refuge from the colder weather.

My wife went up to London on Wednesday to see friends and do some shopping. After driving her to the station I did chores and got to the pool in the evening for 1km.

I have confirmed my self-diagnosis that sinking legs are one of my (many) technique issues. Of course, the more I run and cycle, the worse I make that particular problem. At least it helps to explain why 750m takes me about 22 minutes in the pool but took ‘only’ 18 minutes in the Blenheim triathlon – three cheers for wetsuit buoyancy!

I brought forward Friday’s usual gym visit to Thursday and then took the train to join my wife in London. I was tempted to go for a run on a cold but sunny Friday morning but decided to take a rest day to focus on a splendid lunch with old work friends. Lunch was at the Cinnamon Club which did not augur well for someone who can handle a mld Korma with the best of them (but nothing stronger – and definitely no chilli). However, I escaped with my taste buds intact and had an excellent time.

I went back to Oxfordshire on Saturday morning and on the turbo in the afternoon – 45 minutes @27kph (16.8mph). I ran on Sunday morning – back to the old hill fort for the first time in months – 6 laps and a couple of hills. In all, 9.2km and 135m of ascent and just fitted in before it was time to collect my wife from the station.

The challenges for 2022 are shaping up reasonably well (Covid permitting): Sprint triathlon in May, 100km ultra in July, Olympic triathlon in September. There are also the usual sportives, the White Horse Challenge (150km) in April and my club sportive in July (timings permitting) and a trip out to the Alps in July to ride up some mountains and watch some of the TdF.

Interesting stuff this week

1. African wise words: Knowledge is a garden, if it isn’t cultivated, you can’t harvest it

2. BBC News website: Handball federation changes uniform rules after bikini row

As included in this section in July, the Norwegian handball federation were fined when their players wore shorts instead of the mandated bikini bottoms in the European championships.

The International Federation’s handbook has now scrapped the rule – the updated rules say female beach handball players can now wear “body fit” tank tops and “short tight pants”, as opposed to crop tops and bikini bottoms.

Some progress, I suppose

3. BBC News website: The possible cost of a banana joke

A viral video of a heated discussion between Syrians and Turks about the dire economic situation in Turkey included a young Syrian woman defending the work ethic of refugees and a frustrated Turks suggesting Syrians and Afghans were taking their jobs.

One Turkish man said: “I see Syrians in the bazaar buying kilograms of bananas, I myself cannot afford them.” This quickly turned into a viral soundbite online with Syrians filming themselves eating bananas, using banana filters, and sharing banana memes.

Last Thursday, local media said police had arrested 11 Syrians who published banana videos, accusing them of “provocation and inciting hatred”. The Turkish Migration authority said it would “deport them after the necessary paperwork is taken care of”.

4. BBC News website: New Zealand potato could be world’s biggest

The potato is not exactly pretty. being described its appearance as having more of an ugly, mutant look but it’s quite possibly the largest potato on record. An official weigh-in put it at 7.8kg, equal to a couple of sacks of regular potatoes, or a small dog. The current Guinness World Records entry for the heaviest potato is just under 5kg.

The potato has been names Doug, after the way it was unearthed, and the owner has built a small cart to tow Doug around. “We put a hat on him. We put him on Facebook, taking him for a walk, giving him some sunshine,” he said.

An amateur home-brewer, the owner is keen to turn Doug into potato vodka.

What worries me most is the way the owner refers to a potato as ‘He’.