Tuesday, 30 September 2008

My own Personal Trainer.....?

Previous blog posts have kept readers up-to-date with my swimming regime. One interested soul is no. 3 son, Christopher who has been kind enough to be impressed by my efforts. This is now beginning to wear off and he is saying things like "Are you getting any faster?" Well, it happens that I am, but not much. "You should sprint the last five lengths!" and "It should hurt" are other pieces of advice that he has offered.

Now, I admit that he is fitter than I have ever been in my life and his hockey coaches at school included an Olympic Gold medalist, but I'm not sure I need this kind of driving. I do not , for a moment, doubt that what he suggests will make me fitter and stronger, I just want to do this at my own pace. Frankly, his stories of people throwing up on the side of the hockey pitch after a particular set of exercises in training, do nothing for my motivation. People who make themselves ill getting fit, need to get a sense of perspective in my view.

I can't wait till he gets a job and I can start getting my own back.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Just Another Day?

Autumn is coming - quite quickly. The wind is getting up, the temperatures have dropped a few degrees, the leaves are turning brown and being blown off the trees. The signs are unmistakable. Autumn is coming. Damn.

Only 83 more days until the nights start to draw out again and we are past the shortest day.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bike Blenheim

Slightly longer post than normal but my excuse is that today I have enjoyed the uniquely British event of Brompton racing. Bromptons are folding bicycles. The event was a round of the Brompton World Championship at Bike Blenheim held in the park of Blenhein Palace.

In Summary, some 350 men and women raced their Bromptons round 2 laps of a 6.5 km long course. The start is pure mayhem. In four groups of 80 plus racers, they have to unfold their bikes and then set off, making sure that they pass over the Start timing strip on their way. The photos show

i) the folded bikes awaiting the start signal,
ii) the frantic unfolding and assembly of bikes
iii) the rather more relaxed approach of some riders to getting underway.

The fastest of these bikes has 6 gears and the winner (who won by a very big margin) did the 13km in a little under 24 minutes. He lapped quite a few of the field of 350 who were not quite as competitive, and it was clear that most of the entrants were there purely for the enjoyment. As might be expected, entrants used their imagination to the full. There were helmet cams to record the progress of individual riders (I think a search of YouTube.com will be the order of the day), one dressed as Evil Knievel and pulled wheelies all round the circuit (and pulling a wheelie on a Brompton is no mean feat), and one had a gorrilla mask on (and must have been sweating buckets underneath it).

The race rules demand that entrants wear a suit jacket, shirt and tie on their top half but the dress for the nether regions is flexible. Most favoured shorts, but many wore their suit trousers, and the ladies wore skirts. The suit jacket requirement was enforced flexibly with one naval officer wearing one of his uniform jackets and a policeman wearing his tunic. The degree that the participants stuck to the rules could only have happened in Britain.

Families shouted their support from the sidelines, riders waved as they passed and just about everybody had a wonderful time. I rode round the course after the race was over and even the unfortunate young lady who came of her Brompton and was being attended by the first aider on a motorcycle was smiling. Perhaps it was the thought that she would get a lift back to the car park.

After the race, a number of the bikes were sold via sealed bids, and I'm please to report that I've solved my birthday present as my bid secured one. It cost me about one third of the new price and is an ex-demonstrator in immaculate condition. I shall now have to go into strict training as I intend to take part next year.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday again

It is Friday and I have enjoyed two busy days.

For some time I have been trying to identify an opportunity to use my talents in a voluntary role. Yesterday I enjoyed a taster session at the Citizens Advice Bureau with a view to becoming a volunteer advisor. I really enjoyed it and have left my completed application form with them. It was possible for me to sit in on two interviews with clients and I was impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the two advisors. Everyone I met was friendly and the organisation seems to have a well-tried process which ensures that clients get quality advice while the advisors have every opportunity to learn from what they are doing. The next step will be to have an interview if the CAB decide they like the look of me.

Today I found myself in the role of temporary leader of the Golden Oldies. The G'Oldies is a bunch of retired managers from the gas industry who meet up for a morning's activity followed by lunch. This morning I led the walk. We were a few regulars short today, but everyone who was there was in fine fettle. There was the usual "Grumpy Old Men" approach to putting the world to rights as we ambled round the four and a half mile walk, but I was congratulated on my ability to manage the weather (we enjoyed unbroken sunshine all morning) and the opportunity to see a piece of Solihull that we all knew was there but few of us had seen before at close quarters. The walk was followed by a lunch that was excellent value in a pub where the staff were friendly and helpful. In this blog I can admit that the whole arrangement was lucky, but I'll take whatever public credit is going!

I am now in the process of preparing supper for everyone.

Tomorrow is a day of cutting down laurel, so that will keep me out of mischief.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Back Home

Drove home last evening, swam 50 lengths this morning and battled to cut back the laurel bushes this afternoon. A lot more laurel need cutting down - the bloody stuff grows at a rate, and we're not as diligent as we should be about keeping it under control.

For anyone who is interested the photos from our party can be seen here, (click on the "120 years of Halls" link) and my particular thanks go to Paul, my brother-in-law for his dedication in taking all of these and then putting them on the web.

A couple of interesting days coming up, so the next post will probably not be until Friday evening or Saturday.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

An unusual sound

Every time I go outside the house here in Cornwall, I notice it. The unusual sound that is. It is the sound of a combine harvester being driven relentlessly up and down (or is it round and round?) the neighbouring fields, together with its attendant tractors and trailers which relieve it of its precious cargo. My uncle (who knows about these things) tells me that the harvest is usually gathered in during July, but following the appalling wet weather, the last few glorious days have dried the crop to the point at which it can be gathered in. Winter wheat is planted in October, and so no sooner with the harvest be complete than the tractors and ploughs will be deployed to prepare for the sowing of next years crop.

We have much to be thankful for, not least the supply of food, which for all but a few unfortunate souls is pretty plentiful. It is only when you see one of these amazing machines hard at work that you realise the technology that is built into it. Much of the cereal crop has been beaten more or less horizontal by the wind and the rain, but a skilled operator can get the combine to lift, cut and thresh just about all of the crop in a way that would have been impossible in the days of doing it all by hand. It all happens so quickly too. In a bygone age the work would have taken familes some weeks to complete with each stage depending on the weather.

If I ruled the world, all children from urban schools would spend a day watching the harvest so that there is a little more appreciation of what goes into producing our daily bread.

Friday, 19 September 2008


I have not posted for a few days, which is rather remiss of me. I am in Cornwall where the weather is beautiful. It is warm, sunny and nearly all the holidaymakers have gone home.

My mother gets weaker and more immobile every time I visit and I get increasingly depressed about it. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more I can do, but the heartache remains.

The picture is another one from the party and shows no. 2 son, Thomas, being served with roast pork, stuffing and apple sauce in a bun while his sister, Robin salivates while waiting her turn. The crowd of young people, some of whom can be seen in the background, made heroic attempts to eat all of the pork, but admitted defeat in the end. We shall be eating it for a while yet.

The whole pig roast, which was I hasten to add was my beloved wife's idea, was a brilliant one. I recommend it to anyone, but before you chose, ensure the pig is roasted from cold on site. If it is pre-cooked, it tends to sit in its own fat while being transported. It will cost you slightly more, but it is well worth it.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Party - Some Pictures

Thanks to the technical wizardry of Brother-in-law Paul, I am now able to put some pictures from our party on Saturday.

The first gives an overall impression of the scene towards the end. I know it is towards the end, because the canopy covering the pig roast has gone. I will search pictures for a picture of the pig roast, if only because it was one of the highlights of the day.

The second picture show my James (one of the twins) wearing his new fez that someone brought and gave him

Monday, 15 September 2008

Photos - or the lack of...

The photos of our party are still in the hands (camera?) of our official photographer my esteemed brother-in-law. He has obviously been too busy going to Hethel to see the Lotus factory to upload the photos from the party, at least one of which will be highly unflattering.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Party's over....

The day we have been fretting about is over. It has been brilliant. Our guests seem to have had a wonderful time, the weather was fine - as good as it has been for weeks - the food was brilliant and it all went perfectly.

Thanks are due to so many, Tim, Paul, Sharon and Hayley for the delicious spit roast pork, Robin, Paul and our sons for their work, our guests for their gifts and company, and most of all to Jini, my lovely wife for her organising efforts and all the remaining food. Tomorrow, I will start to put some photos onto this blog so that people can see what a good time we had.

Now, I'm completely exhausted so it is off to bed.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Party Time

Preparations for The Party are well advanced. The male members of the family reach significant Birthdays this year that total 120 (I'm 60, the twins are 21 and Chris is 18). My Beloved has organised this do and invited everyone. The Pig Roast is organised and paid for (and arrives at 08:00 to morrow morning!), so it will be up and about with a mission tomorrow. Quite who is coming, I am pretty much in the dark. All I hope is that the weather is kind to us. It doesn't have to be sunny, but please, please let it be dry.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Pleasure and Heartache

The Large Hadron Collider seems to have started operating without the feared Black Hole appearing yet. Son-in-law Paul has written here that the world was very unlikely to come to an end this week and experience bears this out. I get seriously concerned by people whose level of understanding is such that they think we mere mortals are going to create Black Holes of the magnitude that will consume the planet on which we all live. Somewhere the education system is failing (and not just in the UK, I suspect)...

Much has appeared in the press about the effect of Mrs Sarah Palin and the article here from todays Independent is another such. My beloved wife voiced her feelings that she would not vote for John McCain knowing that if anything happened, this uniquely American lady would assume the reins of power, so I know I am not alone. Frankly, she frightens the crap out of me.

While mentioning my beloved, she has a significant birthday in 2010. She has suggested that she would like a holiday to which all the family could come for all or part of the time and I have to say that the idea appeals to me and those members of the family I have canvassed. A large Gite in France and a largish boat on the French canals have occurred as possibilities so far but I'm open to other ideas. Please add yours in the form of a comment...

The England football team finally got their act together last evening and thumped Croatia 4 - 1. The delight for me is that a 19 year old has finally shown all those overpaid wassocks how the job should be done. He even seems to have caused Wayne the Pain to show some life in an England shirt. And why does the England management keep persevering with one F Lampard? It beats me.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Another milestone

As a result of getting up a little earlier and thus getting to the pool a little earlier, I managed 50 lengths this morning. Something of a milestone achieved. Now I have to work out how many lengths make up a mile..... Hmmm my beloved has just come in and told me it is 64. How does she know that?

I got distinctly wet riding my bike to the pool, and I got rather wetter walking it home again. I must conduct an inquiry into who has nabbed my cycling waterproofs.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Swimming - more progress

On the 7th August I posted about my progress at swimming to improve my fitness. In that post, I reported that I'd managed to swim 30 lengths and was recovering more quickly. After a week in Cornwall, my improvement plateaued and any more than 30 lengths was beyond me. This week I have found myself able to swim lengths continuously, so in the time available, I've managed 40 or 42 lengths on several mornings. This is more than a kilometre. When I started, I thought that swimming a kilometre was something I would take several months to achieve and privately I had targeted Christmas to have achieved this milestone. As I only started swimming at the beginning of July I am well pleased and not a little surprised that I have got there so quickly.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Give him the job and he'll finish the tools..

So runs a famous school report from our metalwork master on a school friend of mine. To be fair it was a pretty fair summary of my friends practical skills. However the thought came back to me today as I decided to shorten the bike stand that has been standing idle in the garage and bolt it to the drive under our overhang, so that James and I can stand our bikes in the dry and lock them to something secured to the ground. It was a day for the BIG tools. The mains power drill got an outing (the battery powered hand drill just was not up to drilling holes in the paving blocks), and to shorten the bike rack, I resorted to the angle grinder in cutting mode. This is an amazing tool. I started with a hacksaw and while it would have done the job eventually, the grinder, armed with a metal cutting disc, went through the bike rack like the proverbial hot knife through butter. The shower of sparks the accompanies the cutting also adds a sense of drama. Pedestrians walking past the house paused to watch the show. It has to be used with some respect, I've no doubt that one could have a very nasty accident with it, but used properly, it was exactly the tool for the job.

Once the job was complete, I realised that I am forever grateful to Mr Jones, the splendid Welsh metalwork master at school, who patiently helped me master the techniques in using such tools.

Oh and as it has rained since my last post, I can confirm that the drip, drip, drip on the conservatory roof has ceased. Success!