Things to do when you don’t feel like running


It’s cold and generally wet out and you’ve not yet fully recovered from the lurgi, so what would you choose to do?

a) Put the heating on and cuddle up with a hot water bottle and a good book?

b) Continue with the current refurbishment project, involving figuring out how to assemble kitchen units from daft instructions?

c) Take a three hour drive across country, spend most of the day in the car apart from an hour standing outside in the chilly wind, before driving home again in the dark, hissing rain?

I know, the answer should be a), but…

Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground is a really good place to warm your tyres up mid-winter, so it was there that I chose to spend the day with the mobile switched off. 

I was in good company too, with about a dozen 911’s, a couple each of M5’s, Elise’s, Caterhams, RS4’s, 968’s and M3’s (one old E30 stripped out for racing), a Boxster and a Tuscan.  The folk that were there were good driving friends, out to blow the cobwebs from their heads and their exhausts… all except Peter, who would have triggered the noise meter if he’d have done the latter!

I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow detail, but the day broke down into two halves: a dry morning and an increasingly wet afternoon and having sat in with some other folk to steal all the best lines, I got progressively faster and paradoxically safer the more the day wore on, with the rain making the harsh tarmac more forgiving. 

Despite a long lunch and lots of breaks, I covered over 100 miles just going round in circles, apart from the hour spent marshaling when there was pretty much nothing to do apart from take photo’s (well, one only actually as it was so cold & windy!) and work out the best line for the tricky bottom corner from the parade of drivers streaming past.

With the day over, I followed Mark and Justin back down south on a mainly non-motorway route, though in my memory it was just a lot of bright tail-lights and blazing headlights on a black, rain-lashed screen!  A welcome cup of tea at Mark’s was the only break before I landed at home with a grin the size of Spain!

The Golden Compass

Based on the book Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, first published in 1995, The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy.  The story could easily be based loosely on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it seems much richer and far darker.  Also, as it is filmed using interpolated rotoscoping, it is a much more realistic flick than the slightly less-whelming Chronicles of Narnia.

I went along with lowish expectations (possibly because I’ve not read the books and what I’d heard about the plot made it seem complex, which could have resulted in it being wooden) but the film exceeded them by a long, long way, swallowing me right into the plot and carrying me along until I reluctantly left my seat when the credits had finished and even the cleaners had gone. 

If you’ve been reading my other film reviews, you might think that I get sucked into each of the plots and rave about each film I see, but I have a vivid imagination and we also try to save the more average films for DVD or TV.  We saw so many films one year that it seemed like an age before there was anything new for our small screen.

For this film, I would recommend looking at the web-site above, as there are some interesting elements to retain your (or your children’s) interest… not least the ability to find out what your daemon is… in my case, a female snow leopard called Aleona.

Strangely, there is also a Rough Guide to His Dark Materials, suggesting that it might be a real place with some nice beaches and cheap hotels to stay in… though Nigel & Kristin‘s direct experience of Polar Bears in Labrador suggests it may also have a very dangerous night-life.

Walk to work


I’m sitting here basking in the rays of sunshine beating (weakly) on my desk and thinking about my Australian friends (hey y’all) sitting on their various East coast beaches eating turkey salad, washed down with Pimms, for Christmas. 

We’ve already had our now traditional early Christmas lunch and food-fest weekend, pictured serenely above before the action got started, and we get to celebrate Christmas all over again tomorrow!

I’m actually sitting here trying to get my head around a new concept from America that my brother has alerted me to in the I.D. magazine.  I often encourage my clients to stand up to have meetings (it helps people to keep to the point), walk around the block (to clear their minds before a brainstorm session, or to have a confidential one-on-one meeting with someone, which helps promote consensus and beats sitting across a desk) but this takes the idea in a different direction: walk while you work!

The idea is that your desk is a high-tech piece of gym equipment, designed to allow you to walk (at a sedate 2mph) while you work.  The desk curves at the front to hug your stomach, while the desk whirs into place to allow your hands easy access to your keyboard with your wrists resting on a thick pad.  It took the writer around 15 minutes to come to terms with the new arrangement and zone in on his work, which I think is pretty good, all things considered.  He even felt productive when staring off into space!

Priced at between $3,500 and $4,500 (from Steelcase’s Details subsidiary if you’re interested) I think the Walkstation is going to be next years hot corporate toy, although I suspect that, though they may be used to intimidate visitors (the possible permutations for calculating CEO’s are wonderful!!), they will otherwise sit forlorn and idle like so much other gym equipment after the month of January.

Hmmm… wonders… how much of your power cost you could save if all your employees were walking their working week?  Not only would they feel warmer (lower heating costs) but you might be able to power their laptops.  And think of it, no need to shut down your machine at the end of the day either, just get off and go home.

Heck, why stop there?  Why not make these things mobile so that you can work as you walk home?

Walk as you eat in restaurants.  Walk as you watch TV in the evenings.  Walk as you sleep… you may think that’s daft, but some people do this already.

Next thing you know, there’ll be some whizz-kid working out how to speed the process up so that you can run while you work and then they really will have reinvented the wheel. 

The hamster wheel, that is.

Happy Birthday Big-Big Bro!


I posted an early photo of my other brother, Nigel, on his birthday a couple of months ago and Kim suggested I do likewise for Michael, above… please note the subtle shifting of blame here after the threats of sibling retribution I received before! 

As a Queen’s Scout with an MA in Pure Physics from Oxford, Michael is a really bright guy and well deserving of his place as first child.  And as you can see from the photo, he’s a good looking chap too. 

Although if I’m honest, he’s a touch older than this photo, taken by Peter Foster in [I daren’t say!] suggests…

Happy Birthday Bro!

Battery chickens

One of the reasons for writing this blog in the first place was to encourage me to run.  And visa versa. 

So the test is whether I can continue writing even though I’ve not had a run, or been to see a play or a film, or finished one of the books I’m reading.

I went to an interesting dinner the other evening, set in a Dickensian London in the vaults beneath London Bridge Station.  The layout was rather good and although most of the brickwork was already there (it holds the station off the ground!) the mock shops, bars and snugs fitted right in.  The actors were what made the evening for me, each dressed in period costume and playing quite deep roles with tremendous verve, whilst dry ice added to the atmosphere.  We’ll skip mentioning the food other than to say that I think most people on our table wished they had skipped the food… oh and that the tall cylindrical portions of chicken fricassee clearly looked as if they had come from battery chickens.  How glad I was for having chosen the seasonal (?) salmon.

Part way through the evening the dry ice started to affect my throat and despite escaping at a reasonable hour (the last trains heading South from the capital are timed to truncate any London outing early) I was too late.  Two working days of sore throat and headaches have now been followed by a weekend relaxing at home, trying to recover for a busy week ahead.  So as you can imagine and despite it being a beautifully sunny day, a run didn’t seem to fit into that programme.

With the heating on gently in the background, I had not even appreciated the temperature outside until I noticed that the water that our neighbours had washed their car with had frozen solid in rivulets across our drive.  Brrrrr! 

I am hopeful that I’ll be sufficiently recovered for a midweek run, but in the meantime, winter drawers on!



It gets tricky, reporting on events more than a couple of days old.  What do you say?  Yesterday’s day before yesterday?  Hence, on a fweezin’ cold and dark night, I’m sitting in my study punching away at the keys so that I don’t get that far behind.

Yesterday morning seems like an age ago now, but the memory lives on.  It was a perfectly still, clear and dark morning until the sun woke up to the aroma of my making coffee (pictured above) and spread a blue glow around the perimeter of the eastern horizon.  I was gazing out at this big, deep blue sky waiting for the coffee to finish gurgling when it struck me that there was a huge star hanging up there, like a Christmas star in waiting (apologies for the camera shake which make it look as if it were travelling).  It really was very impressive, most especially as there was not another star to be seen in the firmament.

Nick arrived and as I welcomed him through the front door, the -5C outside temperature turned the inside of the hall to ice,  Oh boy, was this going to be a cold run!

Kitted up in our warmest gear, we set out into the stillness of the morning and despite wearing gloves, my hands were already painfully cold by the time we reached the end of the road!  It may have been cold, but it was a beautiful morning and that always makes a difference.  The ground was crispy and my still-sparklingly-clean runners crunched along merrily.

We headed out past the Royal Oak and around the back of St Georges Retreat and somewhere here my sparkling trainers did a neat disappearing act… cracking through the frozen top layer into a puddle of mud.  Amusingly, Nick did the same in synchronisation, but we hardly had a chance to laugh as our breath was taken away by the view to the south-east.  With moments to go before the sun rose about the hills, it gave us a stunning display by running a glinting highlighter pen around the silhouette of the hill.  Simply stunning!

We headed up onto Hundred Acre Lane and then I pulled a neat trick, by not taking the tight turn for home, but rather following the path that returned the long way around through the wood and back through Wivelsfield.  By the time we got to open fields, the sun was streaming down and it was easy to imagine that it was warmer… apart from the numb sensation at my extremities!

We returned to the house having achieved a reasonably sedate 6.4mph over a time of 1 hour ten minutes, which meant we had covered 7.5 miles… not bad for a mid-week run.  I must be getting used to it as I suffered no aches after at all.. mind you, since returning I seem to have been running from one meeting to the next, so I’ve not had the chance yet!

Man about town

Getting up late yesterday morning yielded a couple of benefits: I didn’t have time to go for a long run in the hissing rain and the rain stopped by the time I was ready.  Judging by the amount of standing water, it was going to be a hilariously muddy affair.  I had washed and properly dried my runners last week (they were gleaming, quite frankly) and as I ran towards the path signposted ‘ankle high mud’, they skipped merrily past in the other direction… me having no alternative than to skip along too, on account of my being tied into them!

So this was a rare road run around town.  I love looking at other peoples houses (where does the apostrophe go??!) so I munched my way along the sidewalks happily gazing sideways.  I quickly realised that this was going to be a ‘hot lap’ in more ways than one.  There was a moment when the sun came out and I was instantly roasted alive inside my Gore jacket.

I have been vacillating over which item of gear is my favourite.  The contenders are my disco runners, my all-weather Gore jacket, my woollen (two L’s) Thurlo socks, my iQ beanie… but today I decided it has to be my lambswool soft Rono under-layer.  I realise I’ve just said my, my, my, my, my… but if you’re jealous, go see Kurt at Run and he’ll sort you out with your own!  The Rono under-layer is just a little thin t-shirt made of the softest material known to man; worn underneath the Gore jacket, it is SO comfortable and if you’re looking for a last minute present for a runner in your family, this is it!  And SO perfect for a Boxing Day jog!

Ah… Christmas presents!  That reminds me… I really must go shopping!

For some reason I keep kicking the inside of my left ankle with my right shoe (like just once or twice in a run) and running on tarmac enabled me to focus on what was happening at ground level.  I think that I have stopped focusing on this important area and that some imperfections have crept in: not extending my legs enough; or landing on the outside of the heel; and certainly not leaving from the big toe, rather just from the front of the shoe.  Running on mud masks these aspects as the focus is on staying upright, especially if there’s a camera around!

The route was a mixture of downs and ups in the end and I ran within a reasonable envelope of speed (not sprinting nor crawling) so I was quite surprised when I calculated the results.  I ran five miles in 40 minutes, which is 7.5mph on the nose… truly a hot lap!

A Bok in sheep’s zimming

Public apology: It has been pointed out to me that the reason for Nick slowing down prior to the final hill last week was not, as I had guessed, to gather his energy, but rather for my benefit, ungrateful sod that I am. 

Oh, and to make sure that his heart hadn’t exploded… more of which later.

Meantime, please bear in mind that one of the things that I really love about running is getting out into the fresh air and allowing my mind some space to think.  In my work I occasionally help teams to be creative and one of the easiest ways to facilitate this is by getting people to leave the office, with its myriad distractions, to go for a walk around the block or into a park.

This morning was overcast but relatively warm and whilst it threatened to rain, it actually held off until we were back.  We took a different route out and having warmed up gentle-like, bowled along at a quite reasonable pace.  Behind the Royal Oak there’s a most beautiful and ancient church and this morning we ran past this way, up the driveway and across the main road into the back of Wivelsfield.  From here we followed my Sunday route for a while and it was on this uphill through the wood that I first realised something was amiss.

I was undoubtedly on good form, probably due to my shorter-and-faster-than-normal Sunday run, whilst I suspect that the Bok had spent most of his weekend ambibing incohol and being deprived of sleeping it off by two inquisitive sons.  As we pushed heartily up through Hundred Acre Wood, my inner peace was disturbed irrevocably by a recurrent beeping.  The Bok looked sheepish, which was a sight in itself, confessing that his nuclear-powered externally mounted satellite global heart position monitor was warning of impending disaster, with threat to life and limb. 

I think I preferred it sans power… it was more peaceful.

At the top of the wood the Bok started to gallop again, only to refuse at a small brook.  If there had been a rider on his back, they would definitely have got wet.  If I had’ve been behind him at the time, then he’d have found out how deep the brook was, head first.

Ho hum.  Next time!

We eventually worked our way, beeping and gasping, across to Ditchling Common and it was when we were crossing the next road that I first realised there was a second, more subtly irritating noise.  This clacking disappeared once we were back on the muddy stuff, only to reappear at the bottom of the hill as we ran along towards Wellhouse Lane.  The unmistakable sound of a Zimmer frame dragged my mind back, kicking and screaming, from whatever peaceful haven it had found.

We slowed for the Bok to regain his composure whereupon he amazed me utterly by sprinting forward 100 feet, leaving meto carry the Zimmer.  And good job that I did, because he promptly collapsed back onto it when I caught up with him.

My prognosis of alcohol abuse linked to sleep deprivation was confirmed a couple of minutes later when he saw me take a swig of beer from a can of Grolsch: I actually took a swig of pop from a bright blue bottle as I passed a discarded beer-can laying in the grass… I can only rest my case!

And back again we were at the gentle uphill and the fast rise past the Station, me being admonished for misrepresentation to the beeping soundtrack of his exploding heart. 

I was determined to finish gently, but he dumped the Zimmer outside Daren’s place and started to motor down the hill, me tagging along in the wake of his testosterone.  As with last week I tagged along behind down the last 400m, but this week he increased the pace to try to shake me.  As with last week I gently closed the gap and out-sprinted him to the finish.

The run was done and the results were in: and they were not pretty!  We had covered 6.8 miles in 1 hour and 50 seconds… a mere 6.69mph compared to last week’s tantalising 6.99mph and my triumphant, if damp and windy Sunday 7.07mph.  But still better than the race-off-as-quick-as-you-can-and-then-collapse-in-a-heap 6.63mph on Wednesday 21st.

I’m sure the Bok will back at fighting weight next week and ready to mete out some much deserved punishment, but in the meantime I shall have a well deserved bask in the warm glow of his discomfort.


With driving rain and severe gusts of wind blowing the cobwebs of of the trees, it was certainly not the weather to be going for a run this morning.

The principle that Kurt at The Run Shop advocates for fair weather runners like me is to wear the right gear so that you’re always comfortable.  So I donned my goretex jacket, beanie hat, long tights and woolen Thorlo socks and out I went for a run.

The going was somewhat more than wet underfoot, but we’re not far enough through the season yet for the mud to be all-encompassing.  Most of the water was either sitting on the surface or running off and judging by the backs of my tights, even Nick wouldn’t have noticed if I had splashed mud on him!

I ran out to the Royal Oak and across to the outskirts of Wivelsfield before cutting up through the woods towards Hundred Acre Lane.  Here it was just a lickle scary, with long gusts tearing through the trees above and raining twigs and other detritus down on my head.  The expectation of something larger following them down was ever present.

I swung in a large arc through the wood to come out near Lew’s place, looping around Ditchling Common Industrial Estate and heading back down the magical path.  I reckon the gradient must go this way as it was easy to speed through, hastened by the wind whistling through Damoclean branches above.

I knew the common would be waterlogged so I used the road to circumnavigate it, scurrying along the bank where it too was underwater.  And then it was back up into the ‘Hill with a quick sprint where Nick usually speeds up, followed by a slow jog back to the house.

My neighbours looked at me aghast… I’m sure due to the fact that I’d come back after only 45 minutes!  I had been quite sprightly though, managing to cover somewhere around 5.3 miles and returning a speed of over 7mph.

And lest you think that it was nasty horrible wet & cold out there, it was not… I was just luvverly, snug and warm in my gear and I can verily recommend the woolen thorlos!  Overall, it was a great excuse to get out and, er, swim through some fresh air.

December gathering

It’s been a few months since the gang gathered en masse, so the invitiation from Fran & Paul was a very welcome opportunity to catch up with everyone!  Well okay, not everyone, but believe me, those not present in body were certainly there in spirit… and Clive, Nat & Paul drank their share of the beer too for good measure!