Cambridge half looms and Spring’s nearly here (almost)

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Here’s proof winter’s nearly over. Now it gets complicated. What is the plural of crocus? Actually it’s crocuses or croci. I’ll opt for the correct Latin plural. Anyway, the aconites, snowdrops and hellebores are out and so are some daffodils. Other stuff is poking through and I’ve already cut the grass. Another week and we’ll be planting potatoes.

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It took a lot of effort to fence around the Green Minds gardening project but here’s proof the defences are working. Those wiley little rabbits have been making a concerted effort to break in by tunneling under the wire. Unfortunately for them they meet wire I have laid horizontally under the grass and can’t progress. Having limited brain power they simply move along the line rather than start digging again a little further out (or using ropes and grappling hooks).

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We found these chickens in our garden. I had a little chat with them  and they explained they were admiring the late winter flowers. However they simply admitted defeat when I asked them which came first, the chicken or the egg.

We bought some of their produce (not directly from the chickens but from their middleman/woman, the farmer). Here’s an action picture of  alien royalty choosing an egg for breakfast.

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Anyway, time to be sensible (always a struggle). The running is going okay. I gave up running every day five weeks ago because I felt too tired. In terms of mileage it wasn’t huge, often a couple of miles at a gentle pace. However, I think I needed rest days to recover. So, for me, I can do individual long runs of 6-10 miles but a rest is vital. I recently did a couple of hour runs and then followed this up with a two hour training run of 13 miles. This did make me tired although I would regard it as a good tiredness rather than one caused by stress or demands. I certainly felt much better for it.

Cambridge half marathon is a fortnight away. Today, I ran around 12 miles. The actual mileage wasn’t a problem but I struggled to get out. The light level was poor, it was cold and I possessed a minimum of motivation. I ran steadily, not swiftly and took just over two hours. I was glad to get back home.

Today is Wednesday. I’ll do parkrun on Saturday and go to the gym in the afternoon. I may do an hour’s run on Sunday and perhaps 45 minutes on Wednesday. Then parkrun and the following day is the half marathon. Or something like that. If the sun’s shining this programme won’t be problematic, if it’s a Stygian gloom I may jump into the river Cam.

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Sculptures possibly taking over.

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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.

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.

 

 

Spring on the way! I’ve got the evidence.

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My garden gnome is napping not hibernating. They’re all coming up. Snowdrops, daffodils, aconites and crocus. Please don’t split hairs by mentioning they are winter flowering. The wise gardener can see and hear the gears of Spring aligning (I’ve no idea what this means but it’s a nice image).img_20170102_111339900

These daffodils are on the way despite zero centigrade. Last years bizarre weather saw them flowering before Christmas.img_20170102_111829571

A crocus bowl. These are dear little flowers.

So, I think I’ve proved beyond doubt that winter is on the way out. Actually, around the Cambridge area I’ve found the cold more manageable this year. Since my heart attack seven years ago, I’m much more sensitive to cold weather and when I’m running in temperatures of less than 6C I never see anyone wearing more kit than me. Presumably this is a side effect of taking aspirin.

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Here’s me in blue attempting to take a bite out of the runner’s shoulder in front of me. This pic is courtesy of John Wilderspin who is a regular photographer at Cambridge parkrun. I am trying to affect a relaxed, this-is-no- effort expression. Instead, I look maniacal. Obviously a work in progress.  I should have worn gloves. My hands remained freezing throughout the race.

I haven’t been running very frequently over the last two months but 2017  will see me rev it up (new commitment to use vernacular). On New Year’s Eve, I did parkrun at 9am and then drove to a 10k just outside of Ely which started at 11am. On New Year’s Day, I passed on doing another 5k parkrun in Huntingdon, about 30 minutes drive away but Cambridge put on a second parkrun which I ran at 10.30am. The intention was to do Huntingdon as well but I felt too tired and I always give precedence to Cambridge. I was also surprised that my legs felt achey. It shouldn’t be surprising because I put effort into the runs and I’m under trained.

How am I doing at the gym? Well, I seem to be gaining upper body strength at the expense of running speed. Since going to the gym I’ve consistently got slower at parkrun although I’m feeling better physically. Is this a desired result? No! I’m hoping to go from goat to gazelle pretty quickly.

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A very significant event occurred on December 29th. My eldest daughter  Shanti married Ben in South London and a really wonderful day it was, too. I took this pic in an ante room with Shanti and her two sisters, Sophie and Isobelle who were her brides maids. Proud dad!

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.

I Battle Very Wild Animals……..and Win!

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Why am I in this undignified position quite unsuited to the running dynamo/Greek god reputation that others have bestowed upon me? I’m looking for a bird which found its way into my polytunnel and couldn’t get out. The quest to free the bird was a grade one challenge because I planted the tomatoes and sprouting broccoli much too close together. As a result its turned into an almost inpenetrable jungle. Conclusion : bird successfully flushed out to freedom and I got greater insight into what its like to be a young tomato growing up in near darkness.

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“Spending too long in the polytunnel….seeds in the wrong place” said my mother. Thanks, mum! I’m only striking a new mindfulness pose as part of my preparation for Brandon country parkrun. We did a bit of parkrun tourism because the venue for Cambridge, Milton countrypark, is undergoing a restoration of its paths.

Brandon is grass and trail with some mild ascents and woodland paths studded with tree roots. A lovely two lap course and a very good cafe for coffee and food. We had drinks and something to eat with both old and new friends and I scored more socialability points. I also had a chat with an 80 year old+ runner who usually runs at Cambridge. I saw him come in and I was concerned that he was obviously struggling in the heat. However his daughter was very attentive and he soon recovered his balance. How marvellous is that, to be able to continue running into your eighties on a regular basis!

I’m running a bit more at the moment, in fact, five times in the last six days. I did an 11k, a 5k and 2 miles x 3. Periodically, I’m attracted to running on a daily basis and this seems to fit in better with commitments. A default 2 mile jog only takes 18 minutes and can reasonably be accommodated even if the rest of the day is full.

Polytunnel wildlife update : three further birds and a couple of butterflies escorted off the premises. Stop press! Wren made a quick exit when I turned up.

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Gratuitous picture of typical Daily Express good news health headline. Not such good news for refugees, unfortunately!

 

Muddiest ever Cambridge parkrun

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The entire Cambridge parkrun course was replicated in this short section. I took this pic on my warm up route and met a runner who warned me I would need a boat to proceed further. Many of the puddles occupied the entire width of the path so avoidance wasn’t an option. The rain held off but temperatures were low (for me) at around 2-4c. Despite the weather, 359 splashed their way round and it really was good fun.

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Here’s a good picture of Lorna (in the middle) with running (and chatting) chums. Looks completely normal.

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Here’s Lorna at the end of the race and about to receive her number token. Something has happened in the time these two pics were taken and I’ve yet to receive an adequate explanation. How long was she running while munching her glove. This certainly isn’t normal!

Tomorrow I’m doing a 10k race at the Icworth Estate, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. This promises to be another mud bath which raises the possibility that we mud splattered runners won’t be admitted to their very nice cafe/restaurant. or even worse, I’ll be turned away from their second hand bookshop.

Me : Do you realise I’m a National Trust member and therefore entitled to benefit from the full panoply of facilities and privileges which are accorded to my subscription?

National Trust official : On your bike, sunshine, and come back when you’ve had a bath and smell a lot sweeter!

Thanks to Stoke Gifford Parish Council, parkrun is national news following their decision to charge parkrun or parkrunners for using the open spaces of Little Stoke park as a course. They’ve been roundly condemned for this move because it contradicts the founding principles of parkrun and constitutes a degradation the philosophy of a free, inclusive, volunteer organised, run for all. There are nearly 400 UK parkruns and around 850 worldwide. Additionally there are about 90 Junior UK parkruns. Stoke Gifford Parish Council are very naughty, very foolish, very short sighted and probably Tory dominated.

 

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).

Guy

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!