Friday, 28 February 2014


Awww... my home town... :-)

Random Thoughts Day

I went to watch the ‘Only lovers left alive’ the other day. If you watch the trailer and you expect a vampire action movie, you will be gravely disappointed. The movie is not like that. It’s slow paced and to be honest, it doesn’t have lots to offer in terms of plot and character evolution. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. The cinematography and especially the music of the film is exceptional. I’m a huge fan of Tilda Swindon and Tom Hiddleston proves to be a very talented actor as well, able to stand next to her. What the movie might lack in plot, it covers in acting and direction. I know it’s not a movie for everyone, it’s Jim Jarmusch after all, however, I’d recommend it for a different but interesting viewing.

 The month of March will be quite busy in my little casa. It starts with a small road trip to the National Park of Peak District. I’ve never been there before, but I’m hoping that it will be a nice hiking destination. I can’t say we’re that much into hiking. Our last trip was the white cliffs of Dover a couple of years ago, but I believe we’ll enjoy that little excursion. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, I’ll have pictures to share next week.  After that, for almost a week we’ll have our first formal guest staying with us for a week. That will be a first after our lodger left. Then, it’s the birthday of yours truly and my Half Marathon at the end of the month. In the meantime, we’ll be finishing getting connected to the main national gas network and having our front and back garden properly cleared from the last tenant’s garbage. I simply can’t wait to get a proper spot to plant vegetables for the new season.

On a different matter, I’m thinking of adopting a ‘coffee’ name. Something easy for people to understand and be able to write on a cup. I was thinking either Steve or Dave. I’ll run some tests and see what might come up.

Nick i a difficult name apparently

Friday, 21 February 2014

Tie your shoe laces

Time does fly. We’re getting closer to the end of February and March will be here soon. That means that time’s up and I should start getting ready for the final push. I’m talking of course about my Half Marathon scheduled for the 23rd of March, which will take place in the area around Richmond, in approximately 4 weeks.

I've chosen this course last autumn. I liked it because I’m familiar with the area and I always enjoyed running along the Thames path. That was without knowing that we’d get the most rain ever recorded since 1910 and all the flooding that followed. I’m hoping that by then the level of the river will get back to normal. I’ve also chosen this course because it’s mostly flat and doesn’t form loops. I hate it when I have to run over and over the same thing. The course is instead shaped like an 8. One loop is more or less around Kew gardens and the other close to Richmond Park.

I had plenty of time to prepare and train and I’m generally proud of myself with what I’ve done. To be honest our winter apart from being very wet, hasn’t been that heavy and I was able to run a lot outdoors. I’ve run 35.1 miles in December, 37.1 in January and 40.9 miles in February so far which for me is a good amount. I’m not sure if I would have done that much if it had snowed and there was ice on the roads. My greatest distance was a bit more than 10 miles that I did during the London Tube strike. I’m not that great of a runner and my pace is generally slow, but at least I manage.

I’m planning this weekend of doing almost 12 miles. Google maps says 11.7 for the route I’ve drawn but sometimes my phone GPS registers more. That way, I might manage the whole half marathon distance the weekend close to the 8th of March and after that it would be two slow weeks till the actual race. I want to do the whole distance to know that I’m ready but I’m planning not to run the last days till that Sunday. I don’t want to risk an injury or being tired.

Tomorrow for the first time I’ll try energy gels. Till now, on my long runs I’ve been carrying only water. But a marathon runner and colleague of mine suggested taking a gel halfway through my run. I can’t see it doing any harm, so I’ll give it a go. Worst case scenario it gives me an upset stomach, but I believe it will be fine. My runs now are about 2 hours long and a small boost might come in handy. He also said he’s having 4 raw eggs and a banana before each of his long runs! Just the idea of a raw egg is making my skin crawl…

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Manual Labour

I believe that each person has specific talents. Some people are better in certain things than others. And I’m OK with it. I’ve grown to know my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not saying that through practice and hard work, you can’t improve. It’s just that some people might have a better starting point. I learnt this lesson around the age of 13. By that time I had been playing tennis for a couple of years. I had training sessions two to three times a week. So, upon starting high school, my newly acquired best friend Spyros decided to join me. Two weeks into training Spyros was playing much better than me. He could aim and strike easily, doing things that took me months to learn and even then I couldn’t always accomplish.

That same tennis childhood lesson was reminded to me last weekend. I had planned some DIY with JJ. We had to dig a trench in our front garden, since Monday we would be getting reconnected to the national gas grid. Digging the trench ourselves got us a £500 discount for the connection. That’s enough money to make us do it. The ditch had to be around 3.5 meters long, 30 meters deep and around a foot wide. It runs from the front gate to the entrance door, right next to the footpath. In paper it sounded easy enough.

Woman Digging - Pissarro

However, 20 minutes in, I was reminded how crap I am in manual work. I didn’t mind the rain or the wind. I didn’t mind spending my Saturday morning working in the mud. However, I found that my upper body just seemed to lack the strength needed to dig using a shovel. To be fair, last time I touched a shovel was a decade ago while I was in the army. And I know for a fact from my gym sessions that my biceps are generally not that strong. For some weird reason my triceps are much better.

happy helper

To be fair, I wasn’t totally useless. I was just not strong enough to shove deep enough in the soil to take out lots of dirt at a time. JJ was much better. He could take out the same amount of dirt in less than a third of time. I was doing 3 scoops (is that the right word?), he was doing 1. So, he ended up doing most of the shovelling. But apart from sulking a bit over feeling useless, I was able to help in other ways. I made the coffees and carried buckets of dirt and water. I cut roots and removed unwanted plants. I cleaned tools and provided moral support. These are as important things, rights?

Final result. We will fix the path at some point.

I just like to think that this is what makes us a great team. We have different strengths and weaknesses. He is much better at working with his hands and I’m better at working with my mind (I’d love to think). He’s the really cute one, I’m the… erm… I’ll get back to you on that.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Love and hate relationship with London!

I generally love London. I've commented as such in the past repeatedly. It’s a city that has everything from buzzing night life to vast open spaces of green and blue. I love exploring it and I’m proud to say that I know some areas quite well. I've met Londoners that only know the area where they grew up or work and nothing else. They’re not even familiar with the centre. It’s a funny feeling some people maintain of the South versus the North, or the East versus the West. I admit that there are areas not really worth visiting unless there is a specific reason, that don’t have that much to offer. London though is so vast and it’s very difficult to actually get to know all of it well.

I've lived in the centre part of the city as a student, in the North, the West and now the South part. Being an outdoors runner I've been through streets that connect various areas together. You can’t really know a place unless you've walked it up and down many times. And I can say, I generally love London.

Then, there are days like today!
Since yesterday night, the London Underground is on strike until Friday morning. For a city of this proportions, not having tube working is crippling. From a quick online search I found out that around 3.2 million passengers a day travel on average on its trains. Imagine what happens when the service is disrupted that badly during rush hours! The strike is organised by RMT (staff union) because the London mayor announced that he’ll lay off almost a 1000 ticket office staff to save money. He wants to hire more train drivers to operate the tube during the whole night on Fridays and Saturdays. He also believes that it’s better to have staff on the gates of each station than people at the tills. Passengers can learn how to use the ticket machines. So, lots of tube stations today and tomorrow will remain closed. Some trains will be running, but not stopping in lots of stations along the way. Public will not know which ones. There are some lists on the TfL website, but TV news mentioned that they’re not accurate.

I’m not going to comment on the validity of the strike and who’s right, the RMT or the local government. The leader of RMT and the mayor are in some kind of personal vendetta affecting however millions of people. I had it somewhat easy. I got up an hour earlier and took a train to work. Not the route I normally take. I walked 20 minutes extra and went to work. Since I arrived earlier, I plan on leaving earlier. I have my gear with me and plan to run the 15.8 km home. I believe I’ll be fine. However, not everybody is as fortunate. The evening rush hour affect more people than the morning one. From around 5 pm till 7 pm, it will be hell on the stations and bus stops of Central London. We've seen it before and will see it again. People get frustrated and act irrational. It will be the survival of the fittest. In cases like this, I hate London and the amount of people in it. I just hope it all goes well.