Token gesture

My students and clients will attest to the fact that I’m forever encouraging them to spend ten minutes a day pushing their understanding through reading, or doing something they love but otherwise can’t find time to do.

It’s how I’ve managed to improve my guitar playing over the last three and a half years, compared to the previously lacklustre 35 years.

Today, despite not feeling like a run, I pushed myself to do just ten minutes… it might be a token gesture, but better to find time to do something, rather than continue to do nothing.

The weekend had a slow start.  In fact is was a repeat of my nightmare journey back from Cambridge three weeks ago, except this time it was the M11 that was shut.


When I finally got free of it, after about six hours, I found myself stationary again on the M25, in almost exactly the same place that I got stuck before.  Fortunately this time it was only for an hour or so!


When I finally got home, even I was surprised that the journey had actually taken a nightmarish 9 hours, 45 minutes… longer even than three weeks ago!

Yesterday was spent cutting grass and soothing the furrowed brow of my poor car (or ‘heated onezy’, if you’re reading this Grant), whilst most of today was spent relaxing (aka sleeping) in the garden!

My token run was ten minutes, 1.1 miles and 6.6mph… at which rate it would have only taken 17 hours to get home Friday.  Worthy of consideration for the future!

Project Man strikes again

Another weekend passes with no run… there’s definitely a habit forming here!

Once again it was Project Man who got in the way!

Peace on the upper deck was shattered on Sunday morning when Project Man started sizing up the next stage in this autumn’s garden intervention.

I think it'll be something like this...Giving me accessFirst cutSecond cut

Having cut out a slot eight inches wide by about five feet long, I then cut down the middle of the membrane underneath and stapled it to the joist either side.  I then dug down one spade-depth into the compacted clay to create a deep trench.

Lower shuttering ready to go inUpper shuttering assembled in situ

Although the bamboo that is going to live in the slot is a clumper (as opposed to a runner like me!), I still ideally wanted it to remain in the chosen location so I created shutters for the side of the trough using the decking remnants taken up the other weekend.  Since one of the challenges is keeping pots on this HOT South-facing deck watered in the summer, the trough has no base… the bamboo should thus be able to find some moisture (although potentially a way out) and I shouldn’t need to worry about drainage.

I lined the sides of the trough with a membrane to reduce the likelihood of the bamboo finding an easy way through and filled the bottom with gravel.

Then came the physical bit: amongst the various pots of bamboo that I have grown was a large one that had been living uncomfortably set into the ground… the hard base of the pot meant that it dried out in summer just as quickly as the pots on the deck.

I should have split it last year, if not the year before, so the pot was jammed full of roots and it took me more than half an hour to split it into eight mini-clump that would serve my needs.

Split bamboo ready for insertion

Having figured out an order to the clumps, I then planted them into the trough using the compost harvested the other week… I really hope that there are no stinging nettles in this batch!

Bamboo plantedPebbles on

Experience with bamboo over the years has shown me that using pebbles as a top-dressing has two advantages.  It keeps the moisture in, which is really helpful in such a hot location, but it also serves to stop the bamboo forming into tight clumps, which keeps it visually attractive.

These pebbles are not as large as I would have ideally liked, but they are appropriate for the size of the slot… and were all that the garden centre had in stock in any case!

Clear of the tools and assorted paraphernalia (and absent one glove, which has either been planted or is now waiting under the deck for rescue), peace finally returned to the finished deck, allowing Project Man to relax for another week!

Maybe I’m better off running next weekend… at least that doesn’t (usually) take all day!

The finished article... with the panel from last week... and with the lights on

Exhausting non-run

As I sit here writing on a now wet and windy Sunday afternoon, I am pretty much totally exhausted… despite the fact that I didn’t muster a run!

Yesterday I cut and scarified the grass, cut the grass on the green and washed the cars.  With a little energy still left, I thought that I would progress the garden project that I started the other weekend.  The first step was to empty the compost heap… the contents fitted neatly into one large canvass garden rubbish collector.  Oh, and six large sacks that I could hardly move.

Kim then helped me to lift the structure out of the way and we dragged the (now giant) Acer into the gap that was left.  In between rain showers we lifted the structure into the space left by the Acer and I put the non-composted material back in it, leaving the six sacks of compost ready for a later part of the exercise.

Deck with prototype panel

Buoyed up by the speed with which we had completed this, I decided to make a start on the fence panel.  I removed the prototype panel (an off-cut of bamboo screen that I had rigged up between two posts) and jointed the uprights into the decking joists for extra strength.  I then decided how big the panel should be and laid it out flat on the deck to check where the centre rail needed to sit.  I drilled and screwed the corners and repeated the exercise to create a second identical frame.

Checking the frame for size

I laid bamboo screen across the bottom frame and stapled it into position, then put the second frame on top, drilling and screwing the two frames together.  The resultant panel was then lifted into position and bolted to the uprights.

The complete panelThe panel in place

By the time I had cleared my tools away I was fit for nothing at all!

This morning Kim cut shrubs back and generally tidied the area up whilst I tidied the area behind the panel and moved pots of bamboo around.  This part of the project is now complete but the exertion once again left me comatose for more than an hour this afternoon!

Trimming in progressFinit!Behind the scenes

It’s been a really fun weekend, but no chance for a run now… I’m far too exhausted!

Playing in the traffic

Those of you who know me know that I don’t answer my phone if I’m in the car, but there I was talking on my phone in the fast lane of the M25 on my way home from Cambridge on Friday evening with my client in the car.  Probably worse still, I was walking around in the traffic while I talked.

To be fair the traffic was all stationary, excepting the occasional motorcycle weaving through the parked cars and lorries, courtesy of some idiot who had decided to test the response time of the Police and Bomb Squad about a mile ahead of us.

Despite no bathroom facilities and no dinner, it was at least sunny and warm, whilst the occasional inexplicable 100m movement forwards kept us all hopeful and on our toes during the six and a half hour delay.  A typical British ‘Dunkirk spirit’ prevailed amongst the drivers around us and there was actually a real sense of camaraderie.

Crucially, my eventual nine and a half hour journey home was nowhere near as dire as it could have been thanks in large order to my client, Giles, being really good fun to be with.


I spent the first part of Saturday writing a workshop and planning for next week and then Kim and I went off to a very special barbecue.  It was a celebration of 49-edness amongst my school friends… a series of 50th birthday parties starts in November.


A lay-in and more planning this morning left me with no particular desire to run (especially after hearing that Pete ran sixty-odd miles on Thursday and Friday), so I’ve given myself a special dispensation… a weekend off!

May your week ahead be sunny and idiot-free!

Birthday suit

I received an invitation this week to run between the piers in Brighton later in the year.  This should theoretically be a pretty short sprint, but the invitation came from Cliff and Andy, so I now need to think about increasing my training mileage again.

The last few weekends I have been satisfied with a short run on the machine, but since it was my birthday today and in light of the aforementioned invitation, I thought I would get out into the fresh air.  Especially as Mark had also sent me a text as he was starting a 30 mile run this morning.

I did my favourite short circuit, taking in the edge of Wivelsfield, West Wood and the Magical Path.


It was a lovely day for running and I made good time in the first half hour… right up until I bumped into Lew in his huge Dodge truck.  It was so good to catch up that I stood chatting for about 40 minutes, before running the rest of the way home.

5.2 miles in about 50 minutes plus a 40 minute conversation.

Back at base, I had just jumped out of the shower when my lovely Aunt phoned to wish me Happy Birthday.  I sat in the garden chatting to her for quite a while, enjoying the conversation.  I didn’t like to confess that I was only wearing my birthday suit!