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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Wings for Life Cambridge 2017

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Oh dear! The camera cannot lie. Here’s me snapped at 3k and 15k running Wings for Life in cambridge. Actually I didn’t feel half as bad as I looked and I went on to 18.3k before David Coultard, the F1 racing driver (rtd) caught me up, deactivating my chip.

A few thousand of us started in Cambridge at 12am exactly and we are pursued by Dave in the catcher car who starts out 30 minutes later at 15kph and gradually increases his speed. It’s great fun, run on closed roads and well organised. It’s sponsored by Red Bull and there are plenty of free samples, if you like it, including at the drink stations. Like most runners, I favour water at a drink station and that was plentifully available. But here’s where the story turns dark and sinister.

As I ran diagonally to grasp a cup of water, I gently collided with a another runner and was deflected helplessly to a more remote area of the drinks table full of what I thought to be weak fruit cordials. Reader, I drank one in haste and ran on, fearful Dave had me in his sights. I quickly comprehended I had imbibed Red Bull instead of aqua and took off like a rocket! Actually, the only negative effect was a feeling of thirst caused by the excessive sweetness and I knew I would be caught within a few kilometres. On the return bus, we were all given a bottle of water so I have no complaints. It was a good day and I’ll do it again next year. The winner this year did well over 60k before Dave caught up with him!

It was a great running weekend. The previous day, Saturday, I ran Cambridge parkrun at 9am and then went over to a nearby village and ran a 7k at 10.30am. It’s all manageable if I don’t expect to run at peak speed. I particularly like the Cottenham 7k. It’s a charity fund raiser, Lorna volunteered and I always buy a load of plants from the local Horticultural Society stall.

Here’s me risking life and limb in the cause of increasing diversity in the natural world. I’ve created a pond with different levels of depth but I haven’t thought sufficiently about putting in the water lilies which sit around 75 cms deep. I think I’ll get a scaffolding plank which shoud be much stronger. I’ve nearly fallen in twice. This pond is situated in the Green Minds therapeutic gardening project Web site: www.greenminds.co.uk or you can follow me on twitter:  https://twitter.com/GreenMindsCambs

Beyond irony! The evil Tory party are championing increased workers’ rights  as part of their election manifesto. As if.

 

 

Green Minds therapeutic gardening project / back to the gym

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We’ve been getting some hard ground frosts recently although the weather has become very mild again over the last 24 hours. Nevertheless winter is here and the frosts have done their cruel work. Stuff has stopped growing and stuff has been cut down by the cold. The white flies in the polytunnel, having gorged on everything earlier in the season, are probably in hiding and planning their assault next summer. I’ll have to get serious!

I’ve joined a gym again. The last time I was a member, seven years ago, coincided with my heart attack and it helped me to recuperate. It was a relaxing, annonymous, comfortable area where I could read and write. I’ve rejoined for those same reasons plus I want to improve my core and upper body strength to run better. I expected instant results and I got it, knocking 2 seconds off my previous week’s time at parkrun. This was after a couple of sessions. 2 seconds is not to be sneezed at. If I were to maintain that level of improvement consistently, another 35 parkruns would lead to a new personal best. I shall persevere.

The gym has got a Woodway which is a self propelling treadmill. You run on a concave surface so there’s a degree of gradient. It’s quite different to a conventional treadmill and I didn’t find it easy. Today I couldn’t do more than 5 minutes although I probably ran too fast.

I don’t always enjoy running but I do feel a great deal better from doing it. It’s the same with an hour in the gym. I don’t follow a particular routine and I don’t have a plan. But whatever I do, I feel healthier and fitter and I have a better quality tiredness. People don’t know what they are missing.

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A local angling club donated about 20 silver birch saplings which I dug up and replanted just ahead of the frosts.

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A reminder of late summer.

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.

 

Into 2016 with 3 parkruns in 2 days

 

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Boxing day Cambridge parkrun. It’s all over and we are forced to eat rather rich brownies to celebrate Pauline’s and Linda’s joint 200th runs. I’m on the brink of falling asleep, my daughter Isobelle  has fallen asleep and my son Dan is thinking about it. Young Angus, who has just completed his 100th run, is about to puke!

We look unscathed but it was a very muddy race (sorry, I mean run. It’s important to maintain this fiction apparently). Slow times all round, thanks to the gloop but it feels good crashing through the puddles. I had a quick word with pal James, 65-69 category, who had a heart attack earlier this year. His new consultant is concerned about his low heart beat because it  fell to 36/37 per min during tests. Hitherto he was doing 5k in 20 minutes. We wondered if everyone was put on the same NICE medication guidelines for post myocardial infarction. One size fits all, it seems.

Locally, we’ve got two parkruns, 90 minutes apart, on New Year’s Day (with a bit of travelling, it’s manageable for everyone)) and our own at Cambridge the following day. We’ll be doing all three plus a New Year’s Eve 10k at Ely. This will help me get back to running fitness, hopefully.

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A few books that strong armed their way into my life recently. I’m trying to read Dead Scared, a crime novel set in Cambridge but NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman has taken over. It’s essentially about the history of autism and society’s mainly poor response to the condition. Very readable and very humane. Before that, I part read  Adult Bullying. It’s not a pretty picture! I had to suppress thoughts of buying a Taser Gun (again).

We Go To the Gallery by Miriam Elia is a very clever parody of the Ladybird reading scheme. It’s hilarious although the mildly rude bits could cause offence to people who trip over themselves to be offended. That’s not fair! I accept the oldest generation might find it vulgar and in poor taste but as for the rest? Tough titties! Ladybird Books took great exception to the breach of of copyright but it didn’t stop them publishing a number of spoof copycat titles inspired by We Go To The Gallery.

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Here’s one I made earlier. I do like to make a loose wreath at Christmas. It’s so mild in Eastern England this winter, the daffodils are out two months early and some roses are still in bloom. All the hellebores are in flower.

 

Books, bookshops, a polytunnel, running, Tories scupper Humanity, an old door.

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The Oxfam bookshop in Durham, where we stayed, and a short train journey from Newcastle and the Great North Run. Second hand books on three floors. Lovely shop, huge selection of books but substantially more expensive than any other comparable shop.

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Oohh… look!  A load of orange Penguins and old Pelicans.

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I toyed with the idea of hiding in the shop overnight but decided against it. The sheer volume of all these pre-loved  books weighed heavily upon me. I didn’t want to risk overdosing on the written word.

Back to the running world. I’m doing a half marathon on the Wimpole Estate in 8 days and only started training for it 5 days ago. In those 5 days I’ve done two 10 mile runs without any problem and I’ll probably do another 10 or 11 mile run and a parkrun before the half. This should be adequate for me to get around the course without the pressure of going all out. It’s nicely undulating and mainly trail. The last time I ran it (2013) I came in at 1 hour 55 minutes. I anticipate 2 minutes longer this time.

I often run along the river Cam, which, depending on the time of the season, is littered with anglers. As a rule, they never acknowledge anyone passing and continue to stare vacantly into the water in the forlorn hope of catching a luckless fish. They are invariably alone and occasionally smoking. All appear to have a sense of humour bypass otherwise they would be continually laughing at the notion that fishing is a sport. Anyway, for the first time in 16 years of running by the river, one of the fishing people actually turned around, smiled and said hello. And then, to add to the sense of unreality, he made a comment expressing surprise that a group of young lads who just  passed us were not in school. I responded in kind and had to stop myself commenting that he wasn’t following accepted protocol governing angler/runner interaction. I ran on, light in heart, relishing our transgressive behaviour. If I see him again it’ll be my turn to take the initiative. I hope he hasn’t been cast out of the fishing world for unauthorised contact with a runner. Only joking (mildly).

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My polytunnel is up and running! This is Guy who masterminded the construction. Green Minds, my fledgling therapeutic gardening project is progressing very, very slowly. The actual site is being developed by friend and charity trustee, Rebecca and myself but referrals to Green Minds have yet to materialise. The timescale for things to happen is a lot longer than I had anticipated. It will happen, I’m sure, and I’m very grateful for generous financial and plant donations from friends Elaine and Robert.

This Guardian piece on the “downfall” of Cambridge’s Addenbrookes hospital is worth reading for its perspective on so called “failing” hospitals.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/22/cqc-jeremy-hunt-nhs-hit-squad-addenbrookes-hospital

Strangely enough, here’s another Guardian article, this time on the baleful nature of drug pricing. Beyond dismal. Sort it out Jeremy!http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/23/uk-cancer-patients-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-expertsents-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-experts

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Finally, here’s a lovely old door, currently attached to Durham Cathedral. What’s behind it, God only knows!

Running, punting, yakking, gasping, digging, reading, gardening and other -ings

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Ms Alive and Running and I ran Gorleston parkrun, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk recently. It was a fine, warm, sunny day and the course comprised of two simple laps of a lower and upper sea promenade with only one steep zig zag path connecting the two levels ie we only had to ascend it once because we started at the top and finished at the bottom.

 

 

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We stayed in this little hobbit house overlooking the sand dunes in Winterton -on-Sea. I went for a lovely run to an adjacent seaside town by way of the dunes. I struggle to make an appropriate comparison but suffice it to say that one was a WI stronghold and the other a magnet for fast food and candy floss lovers. The latter was undeniably colourful in every sense and I found my senses being overwhelmed. Winterton, I suspect, is a Tory and UKIP kind of place but I might have found evidence to the contrary when I fell into conversation with Peter Chapman who was painting images onto his camper van. It transpired he is the uncle of the Chapman Brothers, Jake and Dinos, nationally and internationally known visual artists with a controversial portfolio. He is also an artist and sculptor and gave me a tour of his studio and garden.This was very generous of him. I can confirm that he is not exactly a typical resident of Winterton.

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Thanks, Peter!

Back to Cambridge. I like to watch and take pics of the punts, particularly from Garret Hostel Bridge or King’s College Bridge. Today I went to Queens’ College and went onto the Mathematical Bridge.DSC_0973

 

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My Druid book finally arrived, by Amazon (non-drone) rather than Guardian bookshop who said it was out of print. Naughty Guardian bookshop! My spiritual and magical renaissance is still on hold because I’m reading Gut : the Inside Story of our Body’s Most Under-Rated Organ. Very readable, very interesting, a complete education in intestinal health, ill health and poo related facts. Warning : sitting on a Western style toilet seat is not good for gut health. Squatting is much better.

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Lastly, I’ve been doing plenty of digging and planting donated plants. My therapeutic gardening project continues to progress at a glacial pace for various reasons but is set to take a leap forward when I cover the constructed skeleton of the polytunnel with its plastic cover in the next fortnight. I’ve visited another gardening project, Gardening with Grace, in Bedford and they’ve visited me. It’s been very helpful and given me a different perspective on how to go about what I want to achieve.