Book Review: This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

This book has sold over a million copies, and I can see why. Riveting, hilarious and tragic in equal measures.


I remember hearing stories on the news many years ago about junior doctors being expected to work ridiculously long hours, week in week out. I worked 60+ hours a week for about three months when I was running a pub, and it nearly killed me. I can’t imagine working those kind of hours again, especially when lives are on the line.

In the book you feel Adam’s relationship falling apart; missed dates, missed holidays and missed weddings. The parking meter that earns more than he does, the ‘higher-ups’ who decide that a room with a bed that doctors can use when their shift is a bit quieter, is an unnecessary expense and luxury, and the fiddling of paperwork to make it look like junior doctors are working far less than they actually are.

One take home from this book could be that the NHS could be run better. I took home that we are incredibly lucky to have an NHS, and that the staff who work there by and large do an amazing job. It would be a disgrace if we were to let the NHS be sold, or heaven forbid we ended up with a healthcare system similar to America.

Healthcare is a right, young or old, rich or poor.

Book Review: America Unchained by Dave Gorman

I’ve been a fan of Dave Gorman ever since his very silly TV show where he tried to find 100 other people called Dave Gorman. I’ve also read a couple of his other books, including Too Much Information, which I picked up at a Youth Hostel where I was staying, and left whatever book I had just finished in it’s place. I remember that I was on a six day cycle tour from Lancaster to the Peak District via Liverpool, and for some reason I decided to leave my Kindle at home and only take one book with me.


America Unchained has a simple premise, drive across America without giving any money to the ‘man’; independent grocery stores, gas stations and hotel/motels. Dave’s original idea was to do the trip solo, and then possibly write a book about it. In the end, his trip kind of gets high jacked by his agent/manager, who decides that it would make a great TV show. This requires Dave to be filmed. Fortunately he opts for just a one person film crew. Unfortunately, the one person film crew seriously hurts her back, slowing down the trip until eventually having to pull out, leaving Dave to stew on his own in Moab for ten days. I’ve been to Moab and don’t think that I would get bored cycling and walking the area, but Dave goes a bit stir crazy, leaving the book quite disjointed. The replacement film person, when they arrive, is in a hurry to return to the UK, so the first half of the book meanders nicely, whilst the second half is almost a race to the East Coast.

Dave prefers not to plan too far in advance, and just let the trip happen naturally; to see how it evolves, which would work really well for the book if there wasn’t a plan for a TV show. I believe the book would have been better without wanting to make the TV show at the same time.

I gave this four stars on Goodreads (read about my opinion of Goodreads here) and I did find it entertaining, although I have no desire to hunt out the DVD of the accompanying TV show. Finally, I will be returning the book to the Free Little Library round the corner, where I picked it up many months ago.


Book Review: Brave New Arctic by Mark Serreze

I was expecting more from this book. It’s a bit heavy going for most of it, and doesn’t really get interesting until the last couple of chapters, when Mark starts writing about what’s happening now, and how scary the future is.


I have an ongoing interest in global heating (it’s not fake news, it is happening) and this book looked good. The first few chapters are generally about the history of scientific expeditions to the Arctic from the 1970’s, and as I said early, is a bit heavy going, with far too many acronyms.

I was hoping that the book might be more journalistic in the writing style, even though it was written by a scientist. When I was writing my Doctorate, my supervisors often accused me of being too journalistic, which I didn’t think was a bad thing. This book reminded me of a book which was required reading before I started my undergraduate degree. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, but every chapter discussed a different scientific theory all about ice ages. At the end of each chapter that particular theory was proved to be incorrect, until the last two chapters. The book was very dry and also heavy going, and after finishing it was left with the conclusion that only the last twenty pages were worth reading.

I cannot really recommend Brave New Arctic, although if you can find a copy in a library, then read the last two or three chapters and leave the rest of it untouched.


Within my new Kindle (read about it here) was a link to Goodreads, which although has been a website since 2006 wasn’t something that I’ve come across before. Whenever I finish a book I can rate it and add it to my virtual shelf on Goodreads, and then receive recommendations based upon my books. It also allows you mark books that you’re currently reading or want to read. All very good, but quite limited on my cheaper Kindle.

This morning I had a look at the full website on my laptop, which includes updates from authors that I follow, hundreds of lists of books and a whole community with groups to join and discussions. Additionally you can follow friends who also have Kindles. To do this automatically you can import contacts from Facebook, Gmail or Twitter. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter and I don’t use Gmail, so I have no friends to follow, although they might be disappointed to see some of the trashy horror novels that I read.

One problem is that with so many groups and lists, it can be really difficult to find one or two that cover the books you like to read, even with a search function. I also found that after browsing different sections of the website 45 minutes had passed. The internet can easily become a black hole of time, which is another reason why I’m not on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. I’d rather be more productive, i.e. writing a blog entry, exercising, spending quality time with my lovely wife or simply reading. Possibly over time I might come to love Goodreads, but at the moment for me it’s a bit ‘meh’.

What are your experiences of Goodreads?


Yesterday I wrote about our little walk up Skiddaw last Saturday (read about it here), and as we were in the Lakes for two days, this blog is all about the Sunday.

After a great nights sleep in The Kings Arms Hotel, and an equally great breakfast we loaded up the car and headed off for a shorter walk from Goosewell Farm over Low Rigg. Unfortunately the road up to the farm was closed, so our back up plan was to walk some of Blencathra. I love how Alfred Wainwright didn’t really like the name Saddleback, so he used the ancient Cumbrian name of Blencathra instead. So many other people also preferred this name that on OS maps the hill is known as Saddleback or Blencathra.


We didn’t really have enough time to do a full loop, as I had to get back to Lancaster to take a shirt that didn’t fit back to M&S. I was at a work meeting in London the next day and wanted to look smart, hence buying a new shirt. I digress. We parked at the lower car park in Threlkeld, which was already full, and walked up over a trip trapping troll bridge on our way to Gategill. The path up Hall’s Fell looked easy to follow and we could see plenty of other walkers up in the distance.

The route was steep but manageable, until we neared Hall’s Fell Ridge, described as one of the finest routes up Blencathra. If we had done a little more research we would have read about an experienced walker who fell to his death only last year. There was one very exposed section near to start of the ridge which I’m not afraid to admit, scared the hell out of me. It reminded me of that time as a child when my Dad took me and my older sister to St. Paul’s Cathedral with the intention of going to the top. At the time it wasn’t open to the public, but my Dad knew someone who gave him the key. Up and up we climbed until we reached a metal walkway, which to my little seven year old eyes looked at least a million feet in the air. This added to the fact that the walkway was a metal grill and I could see through it, meant that there was no way on Earth that I was walking across it. My Dad couldn’t leave me so we all had to walk back down, much to the annoyance of my sister.

The walk back down Hall’s Fell was almost as hard as going up. You can see in the photo below how steep it was.


When we almost at the bottom a large group of walkers passed us on the way up. Rather them than me, and if Hall’s Fell Ridge is bad then the even worse Sharp Edge must be terrifying. Nelly was also happy to be back off the ridge, with a field devoid of sheep to have a quick scamper.


Of course, much like the previous day’s walk up Skiddaw, we’ll have to come back, although the longer loop via Blease Fell and Scales Fell will be the route we’ll take.

Oh, and I did change my shirt, Helen trimmed my beard, and I looked incredibly smart in old London town.

Skiddaw Little Man

I think me and my beautiful wife have been to the Lake District more times in the last three weeks than in the last three years, as we were there again at the weekend (Read about our recent adventures here, here and here). We cancelled a weekend away in Chester due to a possible closure of the M6, and instead grabbed a late deal away in a hotel in the middle of Keswick.

On the Saturday morning we set off nice and early and were in the Skiddaw car park by 10 am, which was already full. Cold but bright sunshine, perfect weather for a good long walk up one of the most iconic hills in the area. You can see from the photo below of the shepherds monument how nice the day was.


This is the Lake District, in January, and as we climbed higher we climbed into clouds. The wind blew harder as we climbed above the snow line. Despite how deserted it looks in the photo below, there were loads of people around. The path up is very easy to follow, and if we’d been off piste we would have turned around. There are plans for large maps in all of the car parks that people use for long walks, pointing out difficult or easy routes, in an aim to reduce the number of calls to mountain rescue.


We’re off to Iceland in a few weeks, so this was a perfect opportunity to test out our new thermals and walking boots. I’m pleased to say that both passed with flying colours. Warm and toasty all day, as was Nelly in her smart Barbour style jacket. She’s a bit of a softie and started to whimper a little as we reached the last section up to the top of Skiddaw.


The summit was cold and windy, so after a brief photo we hurried on down. We’d looked at the map before and decided to take a track off to the east which should bring us out at Skiddaw House, the highest hostel in Britain and 3.5 miles from the nearest road.

Unfortunately we managed to miss it, and where we were expecting to continue straight ahead was a very steep drop. The path we were on turned south until we joined a larger path which we surmised was the Cumbria Way. This section was amazing, with views across to Keswick and the hills beyond and easy walking. In no time we were back at the car park having done a very hilly 5 and a half mile walk.

Once we had checked into our hotel we studied the maps to try and work out where we had gone wrong, but it wasn’t until we were home and had uploaded our walk to Strava that the penny dropped. We’d actually climbed Skiddaw Little Man and not Skiddaw Big Man. The route that we had proposed would have added another 2 or 3 miles, but the conditions further on and higher up would have been much worse, so by luck we had done a really good, but safe walk. It also means that we’ll have to come back in the summer, maybe running some of it, or at least running the downhill sections.

After a shower we headed out in Keswick town to find some food. Every pub was packed, and every pub was also full of our four legged friends. It’s great to see that every pub and cafe, and many of the hotels have no problem allowing dogs. Back at the hotel we had another drink and started talking to an older couple who had two German Short Haired Pointers, who were larger than Nelly and very well behaved. We taken Nelly up to our room, but brought her down so that a fuss could be made of her. She is the best dog in the world.



Book Review: Codename Chandler by J. A. Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson

A couple of months ago I bought myself a new Kindle (read about it here) and one of the short stories that I bought was a mash-up between F. Paul Wilson’s character Repairman Jack and the above mentioned Codename Chandler (read about it here). I mentioned in that review that I wasn’t sure if I would read any more of the adventures of Codename Chandler.


One of the best things about owning a Kindle is that sometimes authors release their books for free, or at a very reduced rate, for a few days. I managed to pick up Book 6: Naughty and Book 8: Rescue, for free, and Book 1:Flee for only one pound. Obviously the low price of Book 1 is to entice you into the series.

So who is Codename Chandler? She is an improbably spy having implausible adventures, along with evil identical twin sister, Codename Hammett. They can both do everything. Experts at 17 different types of martial arts, can speak many languages, hack computers and hit the bullseye every time when shooting. A female James Bond meets Lara Croft. In short the books are trashy but quite fun. The authors will never be accused of literature, and I doubt if they care.

Book 1: Flee, sets the scene where Chandler has been outed as a double agent, even though she isn’t, and therefore everyone is out to kill her, especially her twin sister, who she doesn’t know about, but who probably is a double agent. The series was originally intended as a trilogy, but three prequels were subsequently written, so Book 1 is actually the fourth book in the series. More confusing is that the mash-up with Repairman Jack (Book 7) is set before the prequels. Finally, to add to the fun, Books 6 and 8 don’t even feature Chandler, focusing entirely on separate stand-alone adventures with Hammett.

I currently have about a dozen books on my Kindle yet to read, so I doubt that I will hurry to purchase any more from the series, although I will check every now and again to see if another book in the series is up for grabs for free. I do love a good bargain.

In summary, Codename Chandler is trashy but fun.

Coping with Injury

Injury. It happens to all of us at some point. I used to joke that if you’re not injured you’re not training hard enough, and I joked with work colleagues that I’m like a shark, if I stop moving I’ll die.

I’ve been slowly increasing my running for the hilly 40 mile ultra run that I’ve entered in April (read about it here), with an aim to run 30-40 miles every week. Two days ago I was out for a gentle run, I felt great, I felt like I could keep this pace going all day. I was only intending to run 10km, maybe a couple more if I felt like it, but after about 7km I could feel a tightness in my right calf. Being sensible, for once, I decided to cut the run short and head home. My calf gradually started to feel more and more sore, until I couldn’t run and hobbled very slowly home. Later that evening I could hardly walk, and the next morning it was still very sore. I took a couple of paracetamols and rubbed some ibuprofen gel, which didn’t seem to do much. I’ve made an appointment with the physio who sorted me out before my triple ironman a few years ago, so here’s hoping he can work miracles again.

I’ve had a couple of long term injuries in the past, which took over a year to heal. This injury feels like a minor tear, which will hopefully heal in a couple of weeks. In the meantime it’s back to the pool and onto the bike. One of the bonus’s of being a triathlete is that if you can’t run then you can generally still train.

The important thing when injured is to not lose hope or get downhearted. Remember RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. I’ve done none of those things as I took Nelly for a walk in the park this morning, and then went for a gentle and flat 24km ride. We’ve also run out of frozen peas, so the icing will have to wait. Me and my beautiful wife have also booked a night away in the Lake District at the weekend, hoping to get a long run in and a long walk. The run will definitely be off, but hopefully if I take it slowly we can still get in a good walk, possible up Skiddaw.

If I can’t run for a few months then it will be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m generally healthy, and Helen and Nelly are both super fit, so life is good (and we’re getting a campervan soon).

Book Review: Gig by Simon Armitage

This is the fourth book that I have read by Simon Armitage in the last couple of months, and I think it is the last of his non-poetry books (read my reviews of his other books here and here). I have nothing against poetry, especially the likes of John Cooper Clarke or Attila the Stockbroker; it’s just I find that poems are best when read by the author. I tend to get the emphasis in the wrong places. My beautiful wife writes some great and funny poetry, which she has promised I will be allowed to read at the next poetry open mic night at the Gregson.

In Gig, Simon writes about the similarities between performing in a band and that as a poet. He also reviews many of the music gigs that he’s been to over the years, along with discussing those bands that shaped him.


Right from page one I loved this book, and by the end you feel that you don’t just know Simon, but that you also know his whole family, his wife Speedy Sue, his daughter Tudge and his old man. There are also dotted throughout the book song lyrics that he wrote for a series of documentaries, mostly featuring people behind bars. People who don’t get to be heard with very powerful stories.

One paragraph that made me laugh out loud and I just had to read to my wife was when a fan asked when he came out as a poet in Huddersfield, did he get his head kicked in. All Points North mainly covered Simon’s earlier life, before becoming a full time poet, while in this one we laugh along with Simon when he’s ‘on the road’. Simon is also a big fan of The Fall, whose frontman Mark E Smith sadly passed away two years ago. I fhave many albums by The Fall and even went to see them live at The Dome in Morecambe (now pulled down, The Dome, not Morecambe), and they were terrible.

When Simon went to see another band he was worried that there were loads of skinheads in the audience, but upon further inspection, it was just that most men there were bald. A very similar experience to when me and Helen went to see Half Man Half Biscuit, a band I would also recommend.

Bad gigs I’ve been to could be a whole blog all on it’s own. Anyway, I properly enjoyed Gig by Simon Armitage, and I will keep an eye out for when he’s next giving a poetry reading near Lancaster.

Run or Ride Somewhere New

It’s not a New Years resolution, more of a life’s motto. Run somewhere new. Ride somewhere new. Over the Christmas and New Year break, me and my lovely wife managed a trilogy of lake runs. First up was Ullswater (read about it here), then Haweswater Reservoir (read about it here) and finally Wast Water (read about it here). All three were new adventures for us.

It can be very easy to run or ride the same old routes, day in day out, and going somewhere new can often mean a car journey or a train ride, but I think it’s worth it. Of course if you’ve ever read my blog you’ll know that I like to measure these things. Fortunately there are two websites that allow this. On the micro scale you have City Strides (read about it here and here), and on the macro scale you have Veloviewer (read about it here). Below are two images from Veloviewer showing where I had run and ridden by the end of 2018, and the second by the end of 2019.

At this scale the changes are not obvious, apart from the trip around Northern Ireland (read about it here), however, by the end of 2019 I added almost 1,000 new tiles or squares. On the smaller scale I have now run over 20% of the roads in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

Neither metric is flawless. Our Ullswater run, while most of it was new, didn’t add any Veloviewer tiles, and City Strides also has a few bugs. Apparently there is a cycling equivalent to City Strides, but it has more bugs than a Trump Hotel mattress. Of course you could just run or ride in new places without having to add it to Strava!

One thing is certain, me and Helen (often with our silly pooch) will continue to ride and run new places, having small and large adventures.