Resolutions? I made one

A couple of nights ago I ran a 5k race. I ran well and strongly, finished more or less where I expected in a good field, 36th out of 54, being by far the oldest runner on the evening. My time was 24.24, pretty good by my historical standards. Only trouble was I ran 23.54 last July over the same course and it felt like, on the night, I’d run sub-24 again.

Immediate reaction? Disappointed. But then I reconsidered. I’d enjoyed the run, I’d clocked a decent time. It is illogical to expect to continually improve one’s time – at age 9 perhaps, at age 69 next month, no.

So that’s my resolution for 2022. I’ll continue to race hard, to the best of my ability. Then I’ll be satisfied with whatever the watch tells me. That way I save myself the grief.

First Thoughts of a Newbie Vegan

Veganism used to be regarded as a bit of a bonkers thing. Early vegans came about as a distinct group when even the Vegetarian Society thought their views to be bonkers. These days (whisper it) veganism is on the cusp of becoming mainstream.

My previous post talked about my weight loss. Once that had been achieved I sat down and analysed what my diet now consisted of. There was not much meat there really, chicken mainly. And I’ve never been a big fish eater anyway. So dispensing with meat and fish would be easy enough if I wished. I’d become accustomed to eating, and enjoying, a wider range of vegetables, In doing so I’d lost that weight and I was feeling really well, physically and mentally.

It was done, no more meat and fish.

Then, while I was about it, I pondered the definition of veganism. This involved eschewing eggs and dairy as well. A little more reading brought me face to face with the world of animal rights. Within a short space I’d been horrified and convinced. I was now a vegan.

Diet or Principle?
Most vegans come to veganism through compassion for other sentient beings i.e. animals, fish etc. (I’ve come from the opposite direction.) Only a small bit of research will lift the lid on the cruel and unnatural way in which the likes of cattle, pigs, sheep and chicken are bred, farmed and ultimately slaughtered. Scratch beneath the surface of contented grazing cows and ‘happy’ hens. Even in jurisdictions like the UK where standards are considered high, the reality of millions of animals’ lives and deaths is horrifying.

I’m not going to go into detail, there’s plenty of graphic stuff readily available.

What about fish? It’s estimated that a trillion fish are caught each year. Scientists are now generally agreed that fish suffer when dying. That’s a lot of suffering.

And all because we CHOOSE to eat rotting corpses infected with bacteria, antibiotics, hormones etc. We don’t need to.

Climate change
We’re all wringing our hands over climate change, aren’t we? It’s estimated that 17% of all greenhouse gases are down to agricultural activity. And much of that agricultural activity – and land use – is due to growing animal feed.

Health aspects of veganism
“Oh but where do you get your protein/calcium/iron?” or whatever. Basic research will tell you that a good vegan diet contains all the nutrition that a human requires. (The possible exception is vitamin B12 for which a supplement is readily available.)

It’s quite possible to have a rubbish vegan diet. If you eat nothing but crisps and tofu burgers you’ll quite likely suffer for your principles.

I eat a good selection of fresh vegetables supplemented by a few vegan replacement products, and maybe some tinned goods. There are MANY amazing recipes out there but, living by myself, I’m not bothered with these. I must work on my fruit intake though.

Restaurants are starting to see the light and offer a better selection of veggie and vegan dishes, or are happy to modify their offerings on request.

Conclusion
I’m not here to convert anybody, in fact I might not mention the subject again. I find that some vegans can be preachy, or indeed angry individuals. I’m determined not to be like that though I WILL explain my position if the situation arises.

If you are at all interested there are other great advocates for veganism out there. One of the best is Ed Winter better known as Earthling Ed. Plug him into a YouTube search.


Running Round Up 2021

At last a year which I can look back upon with a lot of satisfaction. In almost 20 years of running I think it’s the first one with few, if any, low points. And the reasons for that have been clear.

Weight loss
Since I entered my 30s I’ve always been on the heavy side, no doubt about it. It became a natural state of things. I’ve generally felt fine and healthy, I’ve done plenty of running and other sport. I’ve always been aware that maybe I’d improve if I shifted a bit of weight but I’ve never been motivated to do so. After all, I was never going to win races no matter what weight I was, so why bother?

In September of 2020 my daughter Emma announced that she’d lost a good bit of weight and, as a result, she was running very well. At that time she’d never beaten me over any distance. Maybe I was spurred on by the realisation that this boast was under threat and, on her recommendation, I trotted along to Kit Chamier, Sports Nutritionist. He weighed me, I was 99kg (218lb), very overweight indeed by any standards. Kit set out a dietary regime designed to lose weight steadily and – crucially – I was held accountable to send in my food diary on a weekly basis. Weigh-ins were infrequent, no jumping on the scales every day.

By 25th January I was 86.1kg, by 27th May 81.6kg. I stopped there and have maintained that weight ever since. I’ll talk a little more about that in my next post, but onto the running.

My running year
My target for the year? To beat my record year of 1,333 miles, back in 2010. (I have always kept a diary.) So nearly 26 miles per week. In practical terms this means running 4 – 5 times a week. I have ‘go-to’ circuits from my apartment of 4.3 and 5.5 miles, each with a serious hill included to give extra training value to the run. A few of those and a longer run usually make up the distance.

Most of my running is done solo. In June I stepped back from running with Jersey Joggers, the group I started back in 2013. They’re still going strong but without me. I’m still happy to meet up and run with others now and again, including the Slackers & Skivers on a Friday morning 😃

And the races! I love race day. Pin a number on me and I’m happy. As Covid receded the races returned. Here are a few highlights. (Bear in mind, when looking at my times, that the proper runners are waaaay faster and finish long before I do.)

New Year’s Day 2021. By this time the weight loss had become very evident and I was enjoying my running. I resolved to make 2021 a good one. To this end I was up early on 1st January to tackle Rozel Valley. It’s a beautiful valley in the north-east of the island but it is long and steep, a full kilometre from the Rozel Bay Inn to the old mill at the top. I’d never before managed to run it without stopping. That day I did. That was the signal that things would turn out well.

10th Jan – At the height of lockdown, permitted exercise, a fun 5k time trial dodging families, dogs, buggies etc. on the cycle track at Les Quennevais, 25.06. Enjoyed that one. (For context, my PB from 2015 is 22.51).

11th May – 5k race 24.35.

Outdoor coffee, the new lockdown rage, with the Jersey Joggers

22nd May – Durrell Challenge – 8.1miles (hilly), 1:14.25. My daughter beat me handsomely, first time ever.

8th June – 5k race 24.18

Finishing up that 8th June 5k

19th June – A regular time-trial of 6.5 miles out to Gorey Harbour, 56.30, my fastest in a long time.

26th June – Headway 10k, 50.42. Very happy with this, and rubbing shoulders with one or two local legends. (Again for context, my 10k PB remains at 47.54 from 2010.)

6th July – 5k race 23.54 (delighted with sub-24).

22nd July – Spartan 10k (actually 9.8k) 52.07.

25th July – Delighted to meet up with an old Jersey Jogger. Doctor Ella Corrick is now living and working in Scotland and, on a short visit, it was great to run a few miles with her.

31st July – 10-mile race 86.00.

14th August – Jayson Lee 10k 50.17.

10th October – Autumn 10k 50.29

Durrell Dasher, wearing my Crusaders (Dublin) vest

23rd October – Hospice Half-Marathon 1:55.31, my first Half in a long time and pleased and relieved to get inside two hours.

6th November – Spartan 10k 51.02

14th November – Cannacord Half 1:59.18, tough uphill finish.

4th December – Durrell Dasher 12k (approx) 62.00.

18th December – Bouley Bay Hill Climb 9.44, a fiendish event, just under a mile.

Great photo of the Bouley Bay Hill Climb though I’m nowhere in sight

26th December – Boxing Day 10k 48.48 (I’ve adjusted to 49.15 for a slightly short course.) The undoubted highlight of the year, I’ll never run as fast again. After a few near-misses I really wanted a sub-50 to finish the year. The only way I was going to do this was by starting quicker than I was comfortable with and trying to hold that faster pace. This I did, getting among the slightly better runners which kept me going. The danger was that I’d die a death in the final stretch but I managed to keep it together. Insanely pleased.

Total miles run in 2021 – 1,418.

Oh, and I also led a 9-week Couch to 5k programme for Spartans in the autumn, and I’ll be doing another starting mid-Jan.

That’s it then, on to 2022, targets not yet decided. One definite target is to keep running well until my 70th birthday in Feb 2023 at which point I’d be confident of getting a few age-group victories 😃

Thank you for reading.

Gigs I’ve attended

Watching the Alan Hull documentary the other evening got me thinking about music gigs I’ve been to over the years. Really there haven’t been that many. I’m very much a ‘stay at home’ type, not interested in travelling very far afield. Neither am I a musical connoisseur. Most of my contemporaries could produce lists of many pages of gigs they’ve attended. These are the ones I remember, in no particular order:

Lindisfarne (first gig)
Tom Paxton
Dubliners
Marillion
Chieftains
Eagles
Fleetwood Mac
Steeleye Span
Elkie Brooks
Joan Armatrading
Ray Davies
Van Morrison
Rolling Stones
Meat Loaf
Thin Lizzy
Unthanks

That first one, Lindisfarne, was about 1971. They were on the cusp of the big time but it was still early days for them. They played in the indoor shopping centre in central Birmingham. I recall little or nothing of the music. (The band lives on, though with only one of the original line-up.)

Thin Lizzy were in Tralee in the west of Ireland in 1980. It was the only time they played in the town I think. The legendary Chieftains played at the Opera House in Cork. There was dancing in the aisles from the opening number, the poor staff finally giving up telling people to sit back down. Elkie Brooks saw an early panicked escape by about a dozen elderly folk from the front rows as she launched her show with one of her old, raunchy and loud numbers. Biggest gig was the Stones in Parc des Princes, Paris. The very last one was a few years back, the Unthanks in Cambridge.

The best one? If I had to choose it would be the Mac in Dublin in 2009. The classic line-up of Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood and John McVie (missing only Christine McVie) were magnificent.

Artistes I wished I’d seen? Maybe Mott the Hoople/Ian Hunter, Rory Gallagher, Black Sabbath, Fairport Convention.

So what was your favourite ever gig?

Way Out West

A quiet weekday afternoon, mild and windless. Do I listen to the radio, England losing at cricket, or should I go for a little run? Of course it’s no contest.

Starting at Val de la Mare Reservoir, no sign of water shortages right now.
Into the quiet lanes and past St Ouen’s Windmill, turned into an observation post by our German friends.
Up there to the right was once The Lobster Pot, one of Jersey’s top restaurants.
Making use of a bunker so kindly left behind by the invaders.
Our fellow Channel Islands on the horizon.
A little bit of hill work, build strength to the legs.
Before returning to sea level.

Jersey’s magnificent west coast, looking south.

Le Pulec, colloquially and accurately known as Stinky Bay.

A bit of German metal, undisturbed 75 years later.
Old German railway bridge next to Bethesda Chapel.
Back to the business end of the reservoir.
Into the ‘Forgotten Forest’.

Ten miles in the diary.

A stroll around Hamptonne’s lanes

These days, when not sat in Jersey’s infernal traffic, I am running, albeit quite slowly. Even this gentle activity means that it is impossible to fully appreciate the finer detail of one’s surroundings. Yesterday however I had a few minutes to spare and wandered around the lanes close to Hamptonne in the parish of St Lawrence.

King Charles II Woods
When Charles I was beheaded in London in 1649, his young son Charles fled into exile for a number of years. He spent five months in Jersey where Laurens Hamptonne proclaimed him the next King. Adjacent to the car park is a little area of woodland, each tree planted in remembrance of one of the signatories of the proclamation.

Jersey Fine Tea
One of Jersey’s first tax dodges was the tea business. The Overseas Trading Corporation imported tea leaves from Ceylon, India etc. free of duty. They would blend and package the leaves, exporting to much of the world. The OTC has long gone but now we have Jersey Fine Tea and its boutique crop growing right next door to Hamptonne.

Eggs for sale
Go right ahead, take some, pay what you think.

A Jersey Arch
Peculiar to Jersey, nine stones, the height precisely twice the width.


All within a few minutes walk and all with a story to tell.

Tasteless

A fascinating and scary piece of fiction by fellow blogger ER Kendrich.

Diary of a would-be novelist

I woke that morning with a dry throat and a rasping, grating thirst. Blinding heat flamed behind my eyes, sweat beaded my forehead. I clambered out of the balled-up bed sheets and stumbled to the bathroom. Turning on the cold tap, I immersed my head in the freezing water, then filled a glass. I swallowed the water down in greedy gulps, refilled the glass and drank again. Wiping my face on a clean towel, I examined my reflection in the misted mirror. Two bloodshot eyes in an angry, flushed face stared back. Searching the bathroom cabinet, I discovered a packet of paracetamol. I downed two tablets and finished another glass. A strange sensation coated my tongue; a sharpness I had never noticed before.

Downstairs, I prepared a simple breakfast. Though my throat was painful, I felt ravenous. That was most unusual for me. Finding no enjoyment in food, meant I…

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The Life of a Tour Guide

Early in 2019 I took a fancy to being a volunteer with Jersey Heritage who manage several of the island’s major historically significant sites. Being of more mature age than some I was encouraged to consider the job of Tour Guide, skipping the entry level job of Visitor Host. Mont Orgueil, our showpiece medieval castle, was my preference. I spent time there familiarising myself, swotted up on the history and picked the brains of more experienced guides. Each had (and has) a different approach to their tours. Armed to the teeth with new knowledge and rudimentary skills, I was let loose on the public.

That year of 2019 was great fun. I was slotted into Monday mornings and I would rock up each week for a 10.30am tour of about 75 minutes. Mondays were popular with visitors; the queues built up before opening time and it was constantly busy until early afternoon. I’d usually gather together a fairly large group and set off on the journey to the top, learning the art of guiding on the hoof. That year the visitors were predominantly from the UK but with a good proportion from Europe and elsewhere. On busy summer days I’d double up, finishing my tour at the top of the castle before trotting down to pick up a second group.

Medieval Great Hall, set for a banquet

I must have made a reasonable impression as, for the 2020 season, I was taken on for a paid role, Visitor Services Assistant, two days a week. My volunteer guiding would continue subject to this new role. Then of course, the pandemic hit. Everything ground to a halt before cautiously re-opening after a few months. Even so, there were no overseas visitors and no Jersey folk wanted a tour of their local castle. Week after week us guides would turn up, hang around, drink coffee, go home again. It was a sad kind of year even though Heritage kept the sites open as best they could and without having to make redundancies, a relief for the full-time staff.

But 2021 has been better. Especially since midsummer the border restrictions have eased and the UK visitors have returned in reasonable numbers. And, slowly but surely, us tour guides have seen our groups increase in size again. Still no French or Germans though – we’re always happy to welcome our continental friends but one has to modify the banter a bit!

Into November now and Mont Orgueil will remain fully open until Christmas. Even this morning I had a lively dozen or so on the tour and enjoyed a good bit of chat with them. Hopefully 2022 will, fingers crossed, see things improve even more.

Searching For The Rainbow

A heart-rending yet strong and beautiful piece of writing from Megan of Chicago.

According to Megan

I miss her. The girl I used to be last October. The person I was before thesadness would consume most of my days, leaving me to over analyze everything. We're still the same person. Just. Different. She's me. I am her. But along the way, our lives disconnected and plucked out the simpleness and innocence with complexity and experience. We're layered together, but the bright colors that once sparkled around us slowly faded into black and white. She had a lightness about her, and she didn't even realize it. She could dance around in the golden moonlight in her bare feet, blackened from walking down the street without shoes, with a strong drink in one hand and her cell phone in the other. Capturing every smile and every wink she'd send to her future husband. She'd listen to the waves collide against the rocks. She could run through the summer…

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What Are Your Oldest Clothes?

This is supposedly the age of throwaway fashion, sweatshop-produced garments that which, in the affluent West, can be worn once or twice and then discarded. Even charity/thrift shops hesitate before accepting them onto their hangers, pricing them at a quid or two. So I got thinking about those garments which do not remotely fall into the throwaway category, our Old Faithfuls.

I once had a denim jacket. I was in my early 20s and won a £50 prize. I splurged on a good pair of jeans and that jacket. It fitted like a glove and it came to Jersey with me when I left home. I must have had it 10 years and would have it today, but I’d outgrown it and, almost as if it realised its likely fate, it went missing, never to reappear.

Then there is my gilet, Exhibit A below. It is a Nike, bought during my Dublin days c2008. Strangely the shop didn’t remove its security tag. It used to set off the odd alert around the town shops until I managed to prise it off. It is comfortable and suitable for most situations in non-extreme temperatures and is still going strong.

Exhibit A

But my pièce de resistance is my long-sleeved running top, Exhibit B. You’ll see it was awarded 20 years ago next month on the occasion of the Jersey Spartan AC Half-Marathon in November 2001. It was the third of nine of these races that I organised. In those days these shirts were highly coveted, being of the long-sleeved variety and therefore most suitable for winter training. It is rare to see long-sleeved T-shirts these days, and they have been largely replaced by thermal base layers. I’m hanging on to it for nostalgia’s sake.

Exhibit B

You’ll note the domain name http://www.jerseyspartan.com. In 2001 the internet was still in its infancy and accessible mainly by dial-up for most people. It was a couple of months previously that 9/11 started to accelerate the age of 24-hour rolling news that we now take for granted. That domain name is still in use 20 years on.

So, can anybody say that they own clothing that is more than 20 years old?