Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Nick, the council worker

I don’t much care to talk about the day-job here, one never knows who is reading, storing up gossip to shoot me in the foot with later.  But at times, one must make an exception, and rejoicing in my new job is one of those times.

I am now in my third week of working for an unnamed local authority and so far, it is fair to say that the grass is most definitely greener.  Like some kind of iridescent fluro lime compared to the barren wastelands of an abandoned landfill being slowly reclaimed by the desert.  That is not to say I don’t like TfL – in fact, it is a shame I had to leave (no exaggeration) as it is an exciting time there with the massive investment in the Cycle Superhighways and other big schemes being built – but I didn't feel a part of that excitement, adding precisely nothing to the cause.  I think that boredom can be just as stressful as pressure and I was very bored indeed, that, coupled with a feeling that anything I did had no tangible benefit meant I was very keen to take a new job, and after much searching, one surfaced very close to home.

Keeping with my ethic of not ‘talking shop’, I won’t go into a, suffice to sayworkany more detail, save to say that I think I can have an impact here and am enjoying a certain amount of freedom to do things how I think they should be done.  The work / life balance is the real boon though – running a much shorter distance than I cycled, plus flexi-time means I am getting home at about 1645hrs each day – the extra hour and a half with the family are really great.  I keep sitting down, having a cup of tea, giving Willow dinner, having a play and then I look at my watch and realise I wasn’t even home yet at the old job!  I am also working from home one day a week, which is very nice too.

Working here does bring its worries – an ever-shrinking organisation might not yield a lifelong career, and it’s going to be very hard going back to a long commute.  And I am going to need to do something to compensate for the lack of exercise I now get.  Generally though, so far, so great…

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

20 miles on a Sunday

On the back of relatively little training, we had the Thames Riverside 20 on Sunday.  A nice, if out-and-back, route along the south bank of the Thames from Putney Bridge west through the rich and rowing heartlands of Richmond.

James, Lee, Matt and I all took part so it was the full Dirty Weekend team together for the first time - we have two months left before the main event.

The race was paced, with us starting in the 8:30 min per mile group, and although it took me a long while, eventually I pulled ahead of the pacer to beat that target, so I was pretty pleased.  I actually finished with a pace of 8:28 min per mile (I think the pacers must have been a bit slow) and with a time of 2 hours 49 minutes and 26 seconds, making me 127th of 253 runners.

Why, Matthew...
'Worse than the Marathon'

Monday, 9 March 2015


I have recently spent some time in Scotland, in rather mixed conditions.  I now see The Shroud on Ben Nevis was in the plumpest conditions it has been for years and I cry a little.  But hey, I didn’t even expect to get anything done this season so at least I can be pleased I got to swing an axe.

Local to our accommodation was Lurcher’s Crag which sports a few easyish ice lines.  Mike was up from Aberdeen for the day so a local climb suited well.  We headed up early, before the forecast mega-winds hit and climbed what I now think may be K9 (IV,4), but it could well have been Central Gulley (also IV,4 depending on guidebook) as we thought at the time.  I led the first pitch, with thin ice and mostly devoid of any protection – but it was pretty easy. Mike led the middle pitch and Lee the last, so it was nice for us all to have a go on the sharp end.  Once at the top, the full force of the gale hit and thank God we were headed north or we would have taken an absolute pasting.  The forecast was for 70 – 90mph winds, and it was definitely in that region.

Take that, Cross! Or, the virtue of using Nomics

After more typically Scottish weather, with an emphasis on wind, we managed to get into Coire an t-Sneachda with our eyes on the Mess of Pottage.  A few teams were ahead of us, so we diverted off to Aladdin’s Buttress.  Doctor’s Choice seemed a good, erm, choice, until we cross referenced guidebooks (must one really carry two these days?) and found that ice should be clearly visible on the top corner, which it wasn’t.  So Original Route (IV,5) was chosen, and a cracking route it was too, despite me hating much of it at the time – I really am pants at mixed. The conditions were such that the routes was covered in enough powder to hide any gear placements but useless enough to provide no upward assistance.  After nearly turning back only feet from the ground, I battled up cracks finding sparse gear until I reached a solid belay. The second pitch was much harder with some serious torques and hooks on steep ground, and with a lot of hoping and praying I managed to get through the difficulties  Top notch but terrifying climbing.  I think it probably took me an hour and a half to lead each of those pitches as the whole route took us four and a half hours.  From where the route petered out, we ab’ed back into Aladdin’s Couloir thinking of doing a second route. Until we realised it was 4pm.

Part one of the 'double-crux'
Part two of the 'double-crux'

Some more pants weather followed, but we managed to get back into the coire and did Aladdin’s Mirror Direct, a route I have done before but it was nice to get on a steep ice route, even if it is bink-and-you-miss-it short.  We carried on up the couloir to the top and the plateau was very scoured and surprisingly un-snowy.  I don’t think they’ll be having a long ski-touring season.  We could see Shelter Stone, and it looked magnificent – originally my aim for the week was Sticil Face.  If that hadn’t been our last day with a need to get down at a reasonable time before the trek home, that would have been a possible choice. But what can you do?

So all in all, not the most productive season, but neither was it a write-off.  And all without wasting any time doing any training!  I do long for Norway though...

Very effective until they get dragged into the brakes and torn in half
I also went on the Glenfiddich Distillery Tour – a bargain at £10.

Apparently, I have never looked so happy

Oh, and I saw an Arctic Hare (as well as a tonne of Ptarmigans, never seen so many).  It was running away from Lee.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The day vomiting nearly killed me

We have had a week of excessive vomiting at Moose Towers.  Willow kicked things off with a couple of days of exploding all over the floor, her bed and her mummy.  And it stank.  In between bouts of vomiting she mostly seemed fine, unfortunately that gave us naff all time to react.  Then Holly followed and finally at 4am on Tuesday morning the gastro-lurgieitis hit me with catastrophic consequences.

The first bout had me spewing the largest volume of half disgested lamb burger and hot chocolate ever seen, litres of it I tell you.  What didn’t leave by my mouth, lodged up my nose.  I will never eat lamb burger again.  I didn’t feel unwell for long beforehand and felt okay afterwards, so I went back to sleep.

At 6am I ‘woke up’ halfway down the staircase, on my head, wondering how I had fallen so far out of bed.  It turns out, and I vaguely remember reaching for my dressing gown, I had got up again to spew, made it to the hallway, passed out and crashed through the babygate on my way to my uncomfortable landing spot.  I now have an aching neck and, inexplicably, a bruised arse.  I still made it to the loo to vom though.  Hero.

Note my use of phrase ‘pass out’ as I have never fainted in my life.  I am the one who mocks fainters.

Life seems to be returning to normal now, but jeez, babies make you sick.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Merry Christmas, cough.

Another Christmas over and another year survived.  I had the official Cough From Hell over xmas itself, bloodied phlegm ‘n all, so that was pleasant.  We stayed at Holly’s nan’s but I ended up driving home at 3am as my coughing was disturbing Willow (and probably everyone else) to the point she had to move into our single bed, thus evicting me.  I couldn’t really sleep anyway and did manage a few hours kip once home.  Then I went to bed at 8pm on Boxing Day.  I was even off food.

Which actually set me up kinda nicely for the New Year Resolutional Diet.  I don’t really fit into my work trousers at the moment but refuse to buy any more, so life is a bit uncomfortable and the slimming can’t come soon enough. I also have a wee jaunt to Scotland in the pipeline that I could do with some semblance of fitness for.  It won’t be much but at least it should mean I don’t suffer the dreaded Year-Without-Ice.

I got a few bottles of whisky for Christmas, that I am determined will last me longer than usual.  ‘Tis the New World Order after all, so drink is being rationed.  I got Holly a coffee grinder, beans and an Aeropress, and I must say grinding one’s own beans is something of a revelation.  The Nespresso machine is now our lesser coffee system (so middle class, darling).

Willow got too much to mention, enjoyed Christmas and only pulled the tree down on herself the once.  She has taken to toddling around screaming though, very loudly.  She’ll grow out of it.  Her finest pronounced word is currently ‘turtle’, even though she is clearly referring to a tortoise.  Bloody Americanisms.

We stayed with Gavin, Jane and Arthur at New Year, having a quiet night in eating curry and playing board games, including His & Hers – the most sexist game in existence.  ‘Men, name the K in this picture’ – Kalashnikov. ‘Women, guess the cup size of this bra’.  Those were actual questions. The ladies had a lot of questions about knitting too.  Willow and Arthur shared their first kiss on New Year’s Day, though I am not sure Arthur really knew what was happening to him.

Oh, and we had a mouse in the house. But he went away.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Another night, another dram

This weekend we visited James, it was his turn to host the now-traditional (at undetermined intervals) whisky tasting nights.  We took Willow as we stayed over and she entertained us all afternoon with frantic lapping of the dining table, meeting Jelly the cat, and playing the piano.  It is funny how such things feel like a holiday – sometimes home is the most relaxing place in the world, but sometimes, when the house is a mess, the to-do list is growing faster than it is shrinking and when Christmas is fast approaching, it is less stressful to just remove yourself from the possibility of addressing these stressers.  I am sure Willow climbing and descending the steps over and over and over again would have got tiresome at home long before it did at James’, where it was just entertaining.  I wish I had her energy.

Once we packed her off to bed we started on the good stuff. And good it was – featuring, possibly the ‘best’ whisky I have ever tasted.  Then ensued a long discussion on the merit of comparison with Holly and James supporting the view that whiskies are different and so you can’t compare them.  I say everything is comparable.  For example, the top of the range BMW is better than the finest roast dinner.  See? Makes perfect sense.  Which is why I can say with conviction The Avengers is the greatest film of all time.  Anyway, the Laphroaig in question was typically peaty (which I like) and yet sweet and spicy from the sherry cask it was aged in (which I like) – quite unusual but very fantastic.  Along with another seven or so almost as fantastic drams.

In our merriment we also dreamt up a cunning plan for next year.  Not involving whisky.  But perhaps involving Cognac.

Thanks to James for having us over to his very nice house, hosting and providing the medicine (as usual!). 

On Sunday we had the long trek through London (road south of the river are quite terrible) to William’s (of Sean and Laura) first birthday party.  The last time we saw them was Willow’s party so it was nice to catch up.

(Do you see how I don’t even mention fitness and training anymore?)