Book Review: Meat by Joseph D’Lacey

This was another book recommended by the Manchester Post Apocalyptic Book Club. The last recommendation was Mortal Engines (read about it here, and its sequels here and here), which was a fantastic series of books.

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Meat was altogether darker, a full on horror novel, with a horrendous twist very early on, where the cattle are not what they seem. We never find out what happened in the future to make this small town what it has become, or if there are any other towns left in the world. What this book does include is the idea of mad cow disease taken to its nth degree.

The hero in the book works in the slaughter house and starts communicating with the cattle, and decides that maybe he would be better off not eating the meat. Arguments and rivalries abound between the meat barons and the religious powers. In the middle is Richard Shanti and a few enlightened others.

Unfortunately one part of the book ruined the whole thing for me. Pseudo science at its worst. Our hero obtains nourishment from the sun. It isn’t explained how this works. It’s just left there. There could be numerous reasons why this occurs. The sun in the future has different properties to our sun because of the apocalypse. I don’t need the science to be absolutely accurate, as in a Artemis by Andy Weir (read about it here), but something, anything, would be better than what was dumped on the pages. It is a shame, because apart from the pseudo section I really enjoyed this book as it was different, inventive and fairly horrific.

Anyway, my signed copy which I bought from Amazon will go to the local My Little Library (read about it here) round the corner in the morning.

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Annual Work Bike Ride – Day 2

I wrote the blog entry for day 1 before we all headed out for an evening meal (read about it here). We didn’t go far, just to the Beefeater next to the hotel, but work paid for it and most of the drinks. All was not well though. The organiser, who also happens to be a regional director for the company, was checking his emails in the bath at 6pm on a Friday night, which I guess is what regional directors have to do. He promptly slipped climbing out of the bath and badly hurt his ribs. At the bar of the restaurant we literally sequestered one member of staff to continually pull pints of Doombar. Two of us joked about painting the Forth Rail Bridge, which of course they no longer do.

The following morning it was still raining, but almost exactly as we set off it stopped. Once again the route was excellent, generally on quiet country lanes. Disaster struck again when someone’s crank arm fell off and had grab a lift from the support car to the nearest bike mechanic. This meant that the three of us who had pushed on missed the lunch stop and had to back track a couple of miles. Our own fault really.

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The route then cleverly managed to avoid the large hill out of Chipping Camden, winding our way northwards. Various bits of road on this section I had ridden before, but not the very deep and wide ford we encountered just before the afternoon pit stop.

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Funnily enough we all opted to use the bridge, although we did see two cars driving across. One was a 4×4, so no problem, but the other was a regular car and the water was over the bonnet. Not something that I would attempt.

The route then detoured onto traffic free cycle paths and entered Arrow Valley, where me and my beautiful wife had completed the swim part of Isoman last year (read about it here). The roads here were fairly amazing this close to Birmingham, in that they were so quiet, although there was one last monster of a hill.

Before I knew it, we were back at the car park and I was driving home. A brilliant two days riding, meeting some great people and having a blast. The two day route can be seen below.

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Finally a big thank you to Phil for organising everything, and hopefully I will return next year for another great ride.

 

Sometimes you need to rest and sometimes you need to run

Monday mornings I generally leave the house just after 6am for a long swim before work. This morning I stayed in bed for an extra hour snuggling up with my beautiful wife and our silly dog. I didn’t feel guilty about not swimming as I’d had two tough days of cycling with work (read about it here).

I had intended to leave work well before 5pm, but the technical director needed me to look at hydrochloric acid pollution emissions from a mine in Armenia, which had been estimated using an unknown piece of Russian software. (Air quality work can be quite varied).

I didn’t then get home until nearly 7pm, and I really felt like a run. Nelly was keen to come with me, so we completed one lap of the park, briefly watching some canoe polo, before returning home for tea. If I had had my phone with me I would have taken a photo.

Sometimes you need to listen to your body, which I generally never do. Sometimes you need to rest and sometimes you need to run (or swim, or cycle… insert chosen sport).

Annual Work Bike Ride – Day 1

I work for a fairly awesome company, and one great thing they do is organise an annual two day bike ride. Last year started and finished at the Carlisle office with an overnight stop in Kendal. This year 13 of us started from the Birmingham office and I am currently typing this on my phone in a hotel in Cirencester. It started well with one person falling off before we’d even left the car park. It wasn’t entirely his fault as his new overshoes had got caught under his cleat. We’ve all done it.

Today started and finished in the dry, but it heaved it down for the rest of the day. First stop was in a car park for snacks near Worcester. The place was busy but there was a great cycle path alongside the river. There was also maybe a hundred swans on the river. I had to Google to see what the collective noun is for a group of swans. If there are flying it is a Wedge, otherwise it’s a Bevy. I think a bastard of swans is probably better.

From there we headed south and stopped for lunch in a small village. Because we were a head of schedule and wet, the company paid for coffee in a local pub. Most welcome, although the pub might not have been as we dripped everywhere.

Into the town of Winchcombe, which sounds like the kind of place that would feature in a Half Man Half Biscuit song. Massive hill out of the place and first time that I had needed the small chain ring.

The roads were narrow country lanes, although surprisingly busy, most likely used as rat runs. There followed a couple of hundred metres on the A40 before our last stop of the day on Cold Comfort Common.

A few miles later I stopped to take a photo of a pig in a field with a donkey.

From there it stopped raining and the sun even came out for the last few miles in Cirencester.

Distance for the day 123km with 1400m of climbing. Tomorrow will be similar distance and climbing, but with nicer weather. Day 2 can be read here.

Lancaster parkrun revisited

I’ve not run at Lancaster parkrun for almost two months as I’ve been all over the place. Me and my beautiful wife ran at Bushy park (read about it here), and then at Morecambe Prom at few times (here) as well as a solo outing to Blackpool (here), so it was good to be back at my ‘home’ parkrun.

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The big difference is now that Morecambe Prom parkrun has become established, there are fewer runners at Lancaster. With it’s narrow paths it can be difficult running with Nelly. This year Lancaster has had over 300 parkrunners every week, with a couple of weeks more than 400. Last Saturday, even starting at the back, me and Nelly were able to run at our own pace early on, although I had cycled nearly 100 miles the previous day, so I wasn’t particularly speedy. There were 213 there, which is a nice manageable number.

We were back at Morecambe this morning as both me and Helen wanted a slightly longer run. I decided to run there and do parkrun and my wife would drive there with Nelly, do parkrun and run home.

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I surprised myself with a Morecambe pb, even after a steady 10km. Nelly was first dog. Helen opted not to run home as she wasn’t feeling at her best, but after an amazing breakfast in Lancaster we were both feeling ready for anything.

We are both loving having two very different parkruns on our doorstep.

Book Review: Map Addict by Mike Parker

I’m old enough to love a good fold out map. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to look at maps on my phone, especially when out running, but I always turn to the paper version when I’m looking for inspiration of where next to run or cycle.

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Map Addict was therefore always going to be a book I would enjoy, written by a self confessed map addict. Mike begins with his own obsession with maps, stealing them from his local book shop as a teenager, behaviour that can’t be condoned. He explains the differences between the different OS maps, and why they are some of the best maps in the world. He looks at other iconic maps, for example the London A-Z. I also enjoyed the section where he lists the five best and five worst Landranger maps, which is a bit harsh on Thurso and Dunbeath.

One area of the book I loved was when Mike explained how map makers make sure that if someone steals one of their maps, and then re-brands it as theirs, maybe with differently coloured roads, they would know about it. To do this, OS, for example, place deliberate mistakes on the map. Small enough that you wouldn’t notice, but wrong enough to prove that the map is theirs. OS recently took another company to court, who settled before the trial, which is partly a shame as many people would love to know where some of these ‘mistakes’ are.

Back at home, and me and my beautiful wife have recently organised our map shelf. Helen’s father passed away almost five years ago, and my father earlier this year. We now have both of their map collections, which combined with mine and Helen’s maps means we have almost the whole set of Landranger maps, with only the north east of England and parts of Scotland missing.

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Some of the maps go back over 40 years, so it’s always fun to look at an area before motorways.

Anyway, back to the book review, and while I really enjoyed reading Map Addict, it is a bit of a niche book. If you don’t get excited by maps then you probably won’t really enjoy this book. (Who are these strange people who don’t love maps?)

Black Combe

At the weekend me and beautiful wife were due to meet up with her family at her brother’s caravan near Grizebeck, but as expected, we decided to make it a bit more of an adventure. Looking out from the caravan you can see the hill of Black Combe, the largest hill on the periphery of the lake district. On a good day it looks like the photo below.

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Yesterday it definitely wasn’t like that. It chucked it down on the drive over, the wind was blowing a gale, and clouds completely blocked out the summit. Perfect fell running weather.

We parked up in Silecroft and followed a couple of footpaths across fields, although the second field had a few inquisitive young cows who wanted to say hello. From there the path to the top is well marked and well used, and heads straight up. In his books Wainright describes Black Combe as an easy walk that the elderly can manage in carpet slippers. I was puffing and blowing as we were reduced to a steady walk. It also wasn’t long before we were hidden in the clouds, which did mean that we had no idea where the summit was, although I knew that it would be slightly less than 3 miles, all up hill. The fairly impressive Strava elevation profile can be seen below.

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As we neared the summit the winds increased, until we spotted the Trig point, surrounded by a small circular wall, which we ducked down behind for a little shelter.

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Moments later I stood up.

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Sensibly, instead of looking for a different route down and probably getting lost in the clouds, we opted to return down the way we had come up. When we return in better conditions then we’ll probably take the longer route.

Surprisingly it was far easier running down, although we did have to stop when the track split into two. We hadn’t noticed the other track on the way up. Not long after that we dropped out of the clouds, and as you can see Helen was pleased to have a view to look at.

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As we neared the bottom the field with cows now had a bull, so wisely we detoured onto the road, into the other field and back to the car.

The rest of the day was spent with Helen’s family, eating and drinking, interspersed with a walk along the Ulverston Canal and the Ulverston food festival. Overall a great day.