A chance comment by a seasoned guitarist at a packed 50th party on Friday night led me to spend Saturday morning and this morning trying to replay the two Jazz standards I have been learning… but with the correct timing!

IMG_0050The entertainment... with birthday boy (other) Andy to the right

I have been learning and practising the two pieces (total length just 3 minutes!) at least every morning for a year now.

Initially it was impossible to even play many of the chords, let alone string them together to form a tune, but during a recent Music Theory lesson Lucas Cook commented that I seemed to know the chord progressions well enough to learn how to assemble them properly.

Andy’s comment reiterated that message and provoked action.

Unfortunately the correct timing requires me to play parts of the music way more than a tad faster, so I have a few more weeks of effort ahead.

We spent yesterday with Kim’s family which, with only 12 of us, was a marginally more serene affair,


Energised by lots of great people interaction I took to the machine this morning with a gusto… it STILL being cold and grey outside.

Working from a base of 7 mph, I increased the speed for 1-2 minutes every five minutes… initially 7.6, then 8.1, 8.6 and after about the halfway mark 9.1 mph.  Because of the frequent changes in tempo I focused on very little apart from the running.

7.37 miles in 60 minutes.

After a shower, breakfast and a snooze (speak to Kim about her album of photos!) we set about cooking dinner for the next few days… a big colourful stew!

Ready, steady... stew!

It’s now ready to eat, so… BYEeeee!

P.S. Very Happy Birthdays to Debbie & Evrim today!

A lesson in futility

It was a great week, during which I worked with two different groups of inquisitive mature students, caught up with lovely old schoolmates at a birthday party and separately managed to reconnect with a treasured long-lost friend!

IMG_0035 IMG_0036

In a reflective mood on Saturday I had picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers to reread and by Sunday morning I found myself looking at a page with the following puzzle to solve:


It’s a sample question from Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which apparently gives a measure of abstract reasoning skills.

Let me pose you a different question:

Guessing that it was a near-impossible problem, did I:

1. Solve it easily and prove that my intellect is in the top 0.1% of humanity?

2. Read on to the answer (which was in the sentence which followed) straight away, to maximise my (still-winter) Sunday reading time?

3. Challenge myself to solve it and still be trying to figure out the answer four-hours later?

Thank you to anyone who instantly knew the answer was No. 1… I truly value your (clearly misguided) views of me!

No. 2. would have been the most efficient answer but the answer was actually closest to No. 3, although four hours is a little out… fully eight hours elapsed before I gave in, although I did pause to run, eat lunch and cook dinner in between.

I will keep the answer to myself in case anyone else wants to have a go at it, but be warned that even when I knew what the answer was, I still couldn’t understand why!

Nor could Malcolm Gladwell, to be fair.

It being cold and miserable outside and with my mind trying to bend itself around an insurmountable challenge, I took to the running machine and stared at the wall for an hour.

Not much to report there then, other than to say that I ramped up the speed by 0.1 mph every mile and increased it more sharply in the last five minutes to complete 7.34 miles.

With chances of heavy snow in the South towards the back end of this week and with the winter weather set to stay with us probably into the middle of April, according to the BBC, expecting Spring to arrive anytime soon really is a lesson in futility.

Stay warm and upbeat peops!


It may seem an odd thing to say, but if you have about 20 minutes (or more) to spare right now, I suggest that you click the link below rather than reading my blog.

My week started with a little snow, though come Tuesday when I checked to make sure some London meetings were still on, this fact was met with more than a little surprise… as was the snow gear I was wearing when I arrived!


Thursday found me back in London for meetings and an interim event, after which I stayed in my old Earls Court stomping ground.  It may sound slightly kooky, but I slept right under the bed in my old flat!  Before you get the wrong idea entirely, I was one floor down, staying with friends.



The next morning I was reminded why it was such a great place to live when I was able to walk to a meeting near Olympia!

All week I had slowly been coming to terms with the change from Blackberry to Apple.  Frustrations abounded to start with, but these lessened as the week wore on and I discovered simple work-arounds… such as, for example, how to set the alarm so that it only vibrates on the bedside table rather than blasting you awake.

Last night I had a comparative epiphany… I had read poor reviews about the various TED apps on offer, but clicking on the play-list above brought me a series of phone-sized TED talks with no app required.

I think I have just sold myself on the Apple thang in one easy step.


Recalling my running machine experiments with the Kindle as I prepared for my run on the machine this morning (it was raining outside) I found a safe place for the iPhone to sit and wired myself in.

Because the link above is a playlist, there is 165 minutes of material available with no digital input required… digital, in this case, pertaining to my finger.  Trying to control any tiny technology devices whilst running is generally a little hit & miss… as in miss step, hit floor.

Suitably wired for brain food I did the normal 7mph run with occasional 0.1mph increases.  Trying to concentrate (on TED for example) requires a generally slower pace, which meant that I found it hard going towards the end.

Several things would improve the experience further: an iPad so that the screen is larger, a bracket to hold it higher and further away and a set of Bluetooth headphones to remove the wire tether with the associated risk of catapulting the devise off into oblivion.

I ended up completing 7.35 miles in 60 minutes.

Spring now seems to be back on track after it’s brief winter sojourn and with a little luck I’ll be back outside next weekend.  In the meantime I have another fascinating week of discoveries ahead, including lecturing at both Brighton Business School and UCL.


Pain relief

My overarching reason for running this morning was to relief the muscle pain created by washing the cars & gardening yesterday.  My shoulder particularly had reminded me that I had overdone it every time I turned over in bed last night!

A run seemed like the best way to loosen up.

I dialled in 7mph on the machine and after each five minutes I took a couple of sips of water and increased the speed by 0.1 mph.  There was an ongoing conversation in my head about whether to run 5 miles or for an hour.

I settled on 45 minutes, after which time I had run 5.5 miles, an average of 7.3 mph.

My shoulder is still painful, but the muscles are a lot looser so it’s not grabbing my attention so much.  More gardening required methinks… just not today!

Cloud Atlas for real

Last night we made it to the flicks to see Cloud Atlas.

I read the book a couple of years ago and the film invokes the same initial confusion as your brain tries to make sense of the different strands… it’s challenging, especially in full and rather graphic technicolour.

The fact that this is not a film for everyone was evidenced by the few people who walked out part way through, though it had a tidy resolution that would probably have given them more peace than they would undoubtedly have been left with.

My own vague malaise bottomed out yesterday and the film was then great healing material.

Despite my improved countenance this morning dawned grey and cold again, so I opted for another run on the machine, setting the speed to 7mph and increasing it gently as the distance increased.  In the last ten minutes I increased the speed more progressively, reaching 8.5mph at the close.

I remained calm and relatively unhurried throughout, staring at the white wall in front of me with an empty mind.  It was undoubtedly hot work, even with the fan blowing air on me, but it was not hard work and at the end of 60 minutes I had covered 7.25 miles.

As I have been writing the sun has made an appearance, giving a more hopeful hue to the colours outside… Spring is almost here and a new cycle is about the start.

1000 feet

Thursday I was feeling demoralised.  Nietzsche said that you can have as much joy in your life as you are willing to tolerate sorrow and if that’s right then I have had a few days of being at the bottom of this sine curve.

An alternate way of looking at it might be to say that March had arrived (almost on Thursday) but the weather has not yet improved sufficiently to go outside without protection against hypothermia.

A run with Daren was a perfect tonic and with the same four high-performance layers as last week to keep me warm, we set out into the gloomy morning.

Runs with Daren can’t always be full of laughter, but it’s pretty much impossible not to have some invoked as a result of our discussions!  I forget why we laughed, but we did laugh, especially when I almost landed face-first into the thick mud at the bottom of Wolstonbury Hill.


I almost wish that my hand hadn’t saved the day as it would have been a way funnier photo.

My subdued mood made the Tank Tracks seem even tougher than normal… Daren chose this time to nonchalantly share that our 10km circuit involved climbing 1000 feet… just three circuits would equate to climbing Snowdon.

I couldn’t help thinking again about Cloud Atlas as we ran down the hill towards the cars.  This run is like a microcosm of life, with tough bits and easier sections and runners who are the same on each circuit, and yet always different.

We were surprised that despite feeling much slower, we dispatched the 6.25 miles in 1:15, the same as the previous week.