Book Review – Children of Men by PD James

Many months ago I stumbled across a top ten list of the best post apocalypse books, as suggested by the Guardian. I didn’t think much of their list, so I searched out for others. One of the lists included the Children of Men by PD James. I had watched the film version of it a few years ago so I was intrigued by how much different the book would be. Actually, a great deal different. Apart from the main premise and the title, the film and book are very distant cousins.

What is the main premise of the book? 20 years earlier, children stopped being born. Both the book and the film start off with news clips about the youngest person the world dying outside of a nightclub in Rio. The UK, where the book is set, has become a right-wing fascist state, run by a dictator. Foreigners are shipped over for manual work, treated like second class citizens and then shipped back home again. There are also huge camps full of immigrants.

In amongst all this, our hero finds himself aligned with a group low level terrorists, who in fact are little more than left wing idealists. Obviously the big twist in the book is that one of the group is pregnant. The first pregnant woman for over 20 years. I’m not giving too much away here as we find out that she is pregnant fairly early on. Another one of the group was a former wid-wife, and there is a very good scene in both the book and the film where she describes seeing no more appointments after a certain date, and the phoning colleagues at other hospitals who also noted that there were no more pregnancies.

Overall the book was incredibly fascinating and I enjoyed all of it. I’m not sure about it being post-apocalypse as it is set during an ongoing apocalypse. That is something to take up with the list, not with the author or publisher. The film is also very good, even if much of it is different from the book.

South Manchester Triathlon

I raced a small sprint triathlon yesterday in Wilmslow. There are two races each year, with the one on April called the Wilmslow Triathlon and the September one, which I did, called the South Manchester Triathlon. I’m not sure why they need different names, but there you go.

Having not done a triathlon since Kendal in 2019 I fancied a short race to finish the season, and even though Kendal was on the same day and would have loads of people I knew doing it, I opted for somewhere I’d never been before. The distances were 400m pool swim, 24.5km bike and a 6km run. I was also planning on taking it nice and steady.

My start time was 10:40 so no rush in the morning, which was nice, although I managed to leave my coffee on the roof of the car when I set off. I stopped a couple of minutes later for fuel and it was still there, but on its side without any coffee. Paying for the petrol took ages as there was someone doing their weekly shop through the security hatch, much like the song 24 Hour Garage People by Half Man Half Biscuit. It is a highly amusing song until you are stuck behind said person.

The journey to Wilmslow wasn’t particularly great as it involved almost all of the Manchester motorway network, where in the past even with Sat Nav I have managed to get lost. Anyway, once at the leisure centre I parked up and registered. The man next to me was asking the volunteers if he could buy a race belt as he had forgotten his. Me and my lovely wife have a habit of forgetting race belts and having to buy new ones, so we have loads. I had packed an extra one just in case someone needed one, so I happily lent it to random stranger. This was the least of his worries as he had locked his bike up in his van and left the key at home, so his wife had to rush back to Blackburn to get it. Hopefully he managed to sort everything out and have a good race.

I racked my bike and took a couple of photos of transition, and promptly got reprimanded by an official as you’re not allowed to use your phone in transition. Oops!

Once I was all set up I decided to go to the pool to see the set up and found that I could start early if I wanted to. With a maximum of 3 people in each lane the swim was very relaxed. I’d put down an expected time of 8 minutes and finished in 8 minutes and 6 seconds. A bit slower than my usual, but I’ve hardly swam in the last 18 months.

Out on the bike and I immediately got stuck behind an Ocado delivery van, although the first km was slow as the route negotiated its way out of the town. The route then headed towards the airport along fairly main roads before going under the runway through a couple of short tunnels. Sensibly I took the safe cycle path route through them, before being held up at a left turn by a horse box. A few minutes later I was held up by the same horse box again as they struggled to overtake another triathlete. This was the first person I had seen since starting the bike leg although I overtook a few more people on the way back into Wilmslow.

Off the bike and onto a small dirt track for the start of the urban run. The were a couple of sections with runners coming in the other direction, but every turn had marshalls and volunteers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race with as many people helping out. I hadn’t pushed it too hard on the bike so I picked up the pace as there were quite a few people to chase down. There was a sting in the tail of the run as the route went up and over a main road and railway via a long flight of steps. My Garmin heart rate analysis of the run can be seen below. My average heart rate was 170bpm with a max of 180bpm. Yikes!

Across the finish line and I was handed a nice little goody bag with a medal and buff (see photo below), along with a flapjack and a bottle of water. All much needed.

The results were out nice and quickly and I finished in 28th place overall and 3rd in my age group. I was very happy with that especially as apart from the run I hadn’t pushed myself too hard. Additionally, the next day my legs feel absolutely fine. All in all a very well organised and friendly race. I doubt if I’ll do this particular race again, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for other OP Events.

As an added bonus, a week after the race I could download a free finish line photo. I wish more events would give the digital photos away for free, as I’m sure it does wonders for an organisers social media stats.

Strava activities can be found here, if you felt the need to give me Kudos.

The Swim

The Bike

The Run


NetGalley is a website that I hadn’t heard about until last week. Basically;

NetGalley helps publishers and authors promote digital review copies to book advocates and industry professionals. Publishers make digital review copies available for the NetGalley community to discover, request, read, and review.

It took a couple of minutes to sign up and then I was ready to browse titles. Don’t expect to see the latest Stephen King or John Grisham, but there are thousands of books to browse. Some books can be read immediately while others you have to request. I’m don’t fully understand the process for being approved for requested books, but as I understand it, the more reviews you leave on the site and the more followers you have for book related social media the more likely you are to be approved.

I have requested one book – Running Tracks by Rob Deering, all about the music he listens to while running. My request is still pending.

I have also downloaded one book which was available without request – The Ice Coven by Max Seeck, a thriller with a dead body washing up on a beach near Helsinki. I’ve not started it yet, but it is the next book that I intend to read, and then I will review it almost immediately to improve my chances of have request only books approved.

Have you signed up to NetGalley?

Garmin 945

After a few teething troubles with my new Garmin (I’m now on my third in less than 6 months), I’ve now had 4 months without a single problem (previous issues can be read here).

First off this isn’t going to be a huge DC Rainmaker style review. Instead it is a few of my musings from having a ‘smart’ watch. I’ve used Garmin products for almost 10 years, and always plugged them into my laptop to upload to Strava. I know my old Garmin 920 had wifi and could upload to the Garmin App, but I never set this up. Anyway, that was the first big difference for me with the 945. The second big difference was wearing it all the time, including when asleep. The third difference is the battery life, which in GPS mode, judging by the battery use at the Backyard Ultra I did, will last over 24 hours.

I will be honest I don’t now how I managed without it. Sleep score, stress, body battery, steps, etc are just a few of the health and activity stats that it measures. I can also download training plans and it has maps for following routes. How can all of this be squeezed into such a small package.

I might write about some of the functions in the future, but for now I am loving my Garmin 945 and hopefully it will last as long as my Garmin 500.

The Return of Parkrun

It is so good to have parkrun back. We’ve all missed you. 14th March 2020 was my final parkrun before the very first lockdown, and we all thought that maybe a month and we would be back, but I don’t think anybody expected it to take 14 months.

24th July and me and my lovely wife lined up at Morecambe Prom parkrun. The prom is nice and wide so there is plenty of space, and it is a nice distance from where we live for me to run there and then run with Helen. So many people to say hello to.

We missed the following week, but 7th August and we lined up at Lancaster. I had run there again while Helen drove with Nelly, our silly old dog. It was the ‘B’ route as there was a wedding, which meant three and a half laps of Fenham Carr. If we had known that we would have gone somewhere else. There were 8 tired legs between us.

My next parkrun was Salisbury as I was visiting my Mum for a few days. The route had changed once again and I lined up at the front of the sub 25 minute area, and then spent most of the first lap trying to overtake people. If you’re going to run in 28 minutes, please don’t stand in the sub 25 minute area, especially when there is a bottle neck within a the first few hundred metres. Despite that I finished in 20 minutes and 20 seconds, which I was very pleased with. Maybe I can run sub 20 minutes again.

Having not done parkrun for so long and keeping ourselves busy on Saturdays, going forward we don’t intend to do one every week, but we will do the odd tourist run.

Last weekend was a bit of a kerfuffle. I lost my barcode so I needed to print off a paper one, which combined with printer problems and not being able to log into my parkrun account meant that it was a bit of a rush to get to Williamson Park. I hadn’t checked to see if the run was cancelled, which it was due to the music festival. We should have known really.

Anyway, it is good to be back.

Dhb Shorts – Product Review

Back in March I vowed never to buy anything from Wiggle (read about why here). That lasted 6 months, which isn’t too bad seeing as they are pretty much the only online retailer in the UK. The local bike shop has stopped selling clothing as they can’t compete with Wiggle, so when I needed some new bib shorts I bought a pair of Wiggle’s own brand, dhb.

As you can see that are nothing fancy, just a regular pair of cheap bib shorts for cycling. I went out for a 100km ride this week and while they weren’t as comfortable as Castelli, they weren’t too bad.

I also wanted a pair of running shorts. I have a pair of dhb triathlon shorts which are very comfortable, but I wanted a pair without the cycling insert, which I could easily obtain from Wiggle.

Once again nothing fancy. I did however use them for the Backyard Ultra Race, and while they are quite figure hugging shall we say, they were easily the most comfortable shorts that I’ve ever run in. You can read about my ultra here.

I will probably purchase stuff from Wiggle once again in the future, but like Amazon, they will definitely be a place of last resort.

Backyard Ultra Wales – Part 2

A few days a go I blogged about the Backyard Ultra that I had taken part in (read about it here). I’ve now had time to mull over the race as well as going for a couple of short slow runs. The upshot is that I am very keen to do another one, although not in the same place. I have only good things to say about Trail Events Co who organised the race, but with so many Backyard Ultras all of the world it would be a shame not to experience it somewhere new. Trail Events have also published all of the photos that were taken by a professional onto their website, which can be downloaded for free. This is a very nice touch, similar to Epic Events in the North West. The ones with me can be seen below.

What have I learned? On the whole I think my pacing was just about right, as I finished most laps in about 50 minutes. I should have changed my t-shirt a couple of laps earlier and I need to buy myself a cheap mp3 player so that I can listen to music or podcasts. As I said in the earlier report, lap 6 with Matt Pritchard blasting away top tunes was my best lap.

I’ve also read a few other race reports and most people look at cutting out caffeine for a few weeks before the race so that it has more effect when they really need it. No coffee for three weeks might be a struggle for me. Apart from music, laying down with your feet elevated was done by a few people, as well as using rollers to ease their tired muscles.

My long tern goal is definitely to complete 12 laps, or 50 miles, but it does appear that once I hit 50km the wheels come off very quickly. I probably need to run longer more often, instead of my longest runs being half marathon or slightly longer.

Finally, with everything gradually getting back to normal, I want to enter more races, hopefully at least one a month. I have entered the Wilmslow sprint triathlon in a couple of weeks and I’m keeping my eyes out for something interesting to enter in October.