Our first born courgette!

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I feel the wheel barrow adds a certain dramatic licence to the harvesting of our first courgette. And do they grow quickly! I could hardly believe it. In complete contrast with purple sprouting broccoli which took almost eleven months before picking (in fact I had to issue a series of warnings about their behaviour and was about to grub them up when they condescended to perform. If vegetables could be said to be lazy and moody, look no further than sprouting broccoli).

G reen Minds therapeutic garden is looking good at the moment. I’m extending the area to make new crop beds and I’ve got some money to buy a 3m x 3m shed which will free up the polytunnel of clutter and provide more growing space. I’ve also bought a small green house.

And so to running. A week ago, when it was hot, I went for a run of just under 10 miles. I’m still not running very frequently but I’m still going to the gym and maintaining a reasonable level of fitness. I needed to go for a longer distance than 5k or my standard 5 miler. What did I learn from running nearly 10 miles in the heat?

1. You get hotter, sweat more profusely and become thirstier compared to cooler weather.

2. The heat doesn’t seem to put many people off running.

3. It felt very manageable while I was running but I sweated buckets when I got home.

4.I felt lethargic for a coupe of hours afterwards.

5. I took my blood pressure and pulse as soon as I got home and again 4-5 minutes and 15 minutes later. This ranged from 113 over 69 with pulse 110 to 95 over 66 with pulse 94 at 4-5 minutes. At 10pm the best of three readings were 113 over 62 with pulse 54. I was happy with this. I know my blood pressure is much more under control compared to the past and prior to my heart attack eight years ago but it’s still nice to know running is helpful.

6. You need to drink over several hours to get properly hydrated.

7. I felt sheer delight when a couple of butterflies accompanied me along the riverbank for around 70 metres. They kept pace with me and danced around each other. Wonderful.

I may have learnt other things, currently lost to recall. If they present themselves, I’ll big them up in my next blog.

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Cute butterflies and pollinating insects most welcome : rabbits and deer, remember you are edible!

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Green Minds, the therapeutic gardening project, continues to develop slowly but will need to speed up considerably now the growing season has arrived. The rabbit proof fence is almost fully intact and I am hoping other wildlife will not be a problem. I went out in the field with Rupert the dalmatian and surprised two roe deer. Rupert gave chase to one and I saw the deer leap over a 1.3m fence with ease so if they see something really delicious in my little compound it won’t be difficult for them to get in. I’m thinking about venison at the moment.,

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Since this pic was taken I’ve acquired several more tables and planted a lot of seeds. I’ve got a lot of digging to do both inside and outside the polytunnel. I’ll also need to install sliding doors at the entrance where you can currently see green netting. We had some very strong gales last week and the net openings could not cope with it.

Wimpole estate parkrun last weekend.Blue skies, sunshine and warm enough for me to wear shorts and long sleeved top. It’s one loop over park land and includes a short, steep hill, a run along the lake side and a route which takes you to the front of the big Hall and down the main drive. Trail shoes needed. I usually walk up the hill, striding as strongly as I can. This time I jogged up which wasn’t any quicker, really, and took me longer to recover at the top. This is followed by a flat 400 metes before a descent to lake level and a view of the folly on the far side. Sometimes you need to run close to large cows with dismayingly sharp curved horns. This requires a degree of bravery. Other runners refer to us as possessing “Wimpole courage” and I accept the compliment. One can gradually acquire this unique form of courage by acclimatising to danger by running past sheep which are also thick on the ground at Wimpole. This stage is known as  Wooly Thinking.

I met an old running club friend whom I hadn’t seen for some time while I waited  for Lorna to come in.  After a fine coffee with running chums, I took myself off to the pre-loved book shop where crazy people actually donate their unwanted books, an oxymoron if ever I heard one. I limited myself to two essential purchases.

Today, I went for a short 2 mile run and tomorrow, if I get back from East Londinium in time, I’ll go road running with the club.

 

Aliveandrunning November 16 2014

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I should have been running the St.Neots half marathon today but my lingering, three week old cold and no training scuppered it. I did do Cambridge parkrun yesterday, and last week, plus I ran a 10k race two weeks ago but these were more than manageable given my level of running fitness. I haven’t been out with the club for three weeks and there have been no training runs. So a bit of running but not much. Before my heart attack five years ago, I definitely would have run the half marathon today despite the cold and insufficient raining. In fact, I wouldn’t have given it much thought. Now, I give it a lot of thought. It’s great to be running at the same level as before the heart attack (despite the baleful effects the bloody cardiac medication has on my running). I describe it as baleful only in the sense that it restricts my speed and effort. I have to accept that overall it probably has a positive effect on my heart health (see how I have to qualify the (possible) benefit I am receiving?. Am I not incorrigible in this respect? Do I not have a shipping container stuffed full of caveats?) Recent research suggests that placebos have a very good health benefit (among many others, see Mind Over Medicine:Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Lissa Rankin). I’m rehearsing a conversation with my GP.

Me:Pretty please, Doc, take me off my heart medication and prescribe placebos instead!

GP: I fail to see the rationale behind this idiotic request.

Me: The current prescription is slowing down my running which won’t be the case with placebos.

GP: You want me to take you off meds which strengthen and regulate your heart so you can run faster?

Me: You’ve got it Doc! Current research points to a measurable benefit in a given condition even if the person is fully aware that they are taking an inert placebo. I believe a placebo would be very good for my heart health. You gotta believe as well, Doc. Together we can do it. I’ll keep you fully informed of my parkrun times.

GP: Request denied with knobs on. Next patient, please!

Note to family : only joking!

I’ll go for a leisurely, longer run this afternoon. It’s chilly but not cold, will probably be raining, will definitely be dank, dark and overcast but I’ll just take it on the chin.

I wore trail shoes for yesterday’s parkrun. Unlike last week when a number of people fell and injuries included a broken ankle, I didn’t hear of anyone coming to grief. I wasn’t far off my old times so I mustn’t complain. I was thinking about placebos as I went around. See how beneficial they can be!

I picked up the above books in the Emmaus (homeless charity) store which, conveniently, is less than a mile from me. The Rare Words book is good to dip in to, if you like words. It means you are a logophile (not a lover of wood fires). Not much, if anything, on etymology, though. Of course, If you are a Sun, Star or Mirror reader I don’t think you need a vocabulary greater than 500 words so don’t bother (gratuitous insult of the day).

Grumpiness! Very much under rated, very much maligned. Far better to call it discernment or sagaciousness. It should be recognised as an art form and as an academic subject. Should this be offered, one might be able to do a Phd in Grumpiness. It would certainly appeal to people over a certain age.

WP_20141115_001  This ailing walnut tree continues to fascinate me. Despite its appearance, it soldiers on and had a good canopy of leaves this year.

I listened to the excellent The Life Scientific  (BBC Radio 4 this week , available as a podcast on iTunes) and heard Professor Dave Goulson talk about preserving bumble bees in the UK. He set up the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and has done a lot of work on the reasons for the decline in bee populations. Very interesting and positive. I think one of the focuses of my therapeutic gardening project will be on creating a bee, butterfly and bird friendly environment. Must pull my finger out!

Aliveandrunning July 30 2014

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My supper last night watching the Commonwealth Games. I ate late because it was club training night with Cambridge and Coleridge RC. Alarmingly it did not include broccoli. However, accompanying the basmati rice, chicken curry with cauliflower and courgettes, mixed salad, naan bread with mint sauce and poppadum, I made a Shirazi salad, an Iranian dish  (in the bowl). I needed this after the running. We didn’t go for distance. We simply ran 8 x 1 minute intervals with 3 minute recoveries. So only 8 minutes of hard running in all. It doesn’t sound much but it’s demanding.

Far less than usual attended, possibly on holiday, possibly fearful of the heat and cowering in front of an open refrigerator. Anyway, the cream of the elite were present (yes, I unashamedly include myself in their ranks) and I acquitted myself with distinction (well, second to last in the speed stakes but it’s not really about speed, is it?) On these warm days I drink 500 mls of water as soon as we finish and, with further water later, this seems to keep the cramps away.

I made another new salad today – radish, cucumber and red onion salad with mint and orange blossom dressing. I went to Tesco to buy the ingredients and also for other new recipes I’m trying. Of course, I had to ask for assistance.

“Excuse me, I’m looking for orange blossom water, za’atar and a bottle of Corinthian red wine vinegar”

“Mercy me, sir, we don’t stock those kind of la-de-da things. You must be cooking foreign. May I direct you to Mill Road (a notorious area of Cambridge well known for the louche lifestyle of its inhabitants). I’m sure they eat loads of that kind of stuff. You can pick up some falafel that your kind can’t get enough of at the same time. Why not treat yourself to a box of our Krispy Kreme  doughnuts and tuck in as you drive over.”

So, not the positive response I hoped for. But what do you expect from a chain of supermarkets which appears to have a national policy of displaying plants for sale that are dead or dying as a result of not being watered. This happens so frequently at my local Tesco I believe that the staff must be prohibited from watering or possibly projecting their anger and frustration with customers onto the defenceless plants. Who hears them screaming. They just wither away, poor things. I’ve taken photos to prove it and I may publish them when the world is ready. Tesco, STOP IT!!

 

 

Aliveandrunning June 26 2014 Juneathon Day 26

 

 

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Straight down the M XI to the outskirts of Londinium to see my mater and deliver this lava lamp to my daughter Shanti. It seems to be a Seventies original. It’s larger,more  heavier and more rocket like than new ones I’ve seen recently. I like it. I’ll look out for another similar lamp for Lorna.

I’m not being county-ist or anyfink but the standard of driving improved noticeably beyond Stanstead (out of Essex and into Cambridgeshire). On the positive side, you could say that the breathtaking swerving from lane to lane in fast moving traffic to gain a few metres is creative, courageous and visually stunning. Perhaps driving safely is ridiculously over rated and  boring. Perhaps driving in Essex should be kept to a minimum.

Anyway, having survived trial by boy racer I was glad to get back to Cambridge where we still drive cars preceded by a walking person waving a red flag. Mildly traumatised, I restricted myself to a 2 mile run accompanied by my pet butterflies fluttering in a subdued manner over my head and perfectly reflecting my jangled nerves.

Lorna is heavily involved in setting up a new junior parkrun in Milton Country Park where the adult parkrun is held. This Sunday a trial junior parkrun will take place followed by the first official run a fortnight later. A great deal of time and effort goes into getting a parkrun set up and staged, particularly when the participants are predominantly children. Well done. I’m sure it will be a great success.

Aliveandrunning June 25 2014 Juneathon Day 25

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I cooked a few noodles with plenty of vegetables this evening. There’s various stuff in it but it’s noodle light. This was put together after I went for a late afternoon run along Akeman Street, a section of the old Roman road which stretches from Ermine Street (near Wimpole Hall where a parkrun is held) to Cambridge, Ely and beyond.

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These short sections are recognisable as roads (or remnants of roads). Large parts of it are under cultivated fields and the existence of Akeman Street is often only traceable by consulting a map.

I went for a leisurely 5.5k run which took 32 minutes. I saw 3 people briefly on the old road. It’s a lonely run with only the ghosts of Roman soldiers for company. Being composed of mist and vapour, they didn’t have any trouble jogging beside me in full armour. They chatted  amiably in Latin and seemed very sociable. I mentioned (in broken Latin) that I was travelling to Londinium in the morning to see my mater. I think they asked me how many horses were pulling my chariot.

Lots of butterflies in the field where I exercise Rupert. All little Meadow Browns. Unlike the Roman soldiers, they had no conversation.

Aliveandrunning June 23 2014 Juneathon Day 23

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Oh look!  An Anglais urticae has alighted on my verbena bonariensis. I’m not surprised because its larvae feeds on the common stinging nettle which thrives without embarrassment in our garden and in the adjacent field. In fact there are so many nettles they could easily support a swarm of these Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, blackening the sky like myriads of locust. In the meanwhile, a dozen or so flit around the verbena which is good this year.

I’ve trained 6 of them to fly above my head when I’m running locally ( they are not good at travelling in the car so I didn’t take them to yesterday’s Hatfield Forest 10k). The truth is I’ve become a butterfly whisperer. A noble calling but without much call for it.

Felix Dennis has died, aged 67. An extremely successful publisher in later years, he will always be remembered by a certain section of my generation as one of the co-founders of OZ, the 60’s counterculture magazine which was the subject of a high profile obscenity trial in 1971. Oz can be bought on ebay, should you be so minded, and I can recommend Tony Palmer’s The Trials of Oz, first published in August 1971 with drawings by Felix Topolski. John Mortimer was the defence QC and there were many famous witnesses speaking up for them. A still fascinating clash between culture and generations.

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A warm day in Cambridge. I felt  a bit lackadaisical after yesterday’s 10k and put off running until I had a heavy evening meal, a hot chocolate and it had started raining hard. Just over 2 miles; the second mile was easier and I could have continued but time was moving on. I got soaked through. I didn’t take the butterflies with me. They get in such a flap when it rains. They are prone to water logging and can’t flutter correctly. I gave them the day off.