Random Wednesday

More random ‘things’ from the past week.

Pebble Painting

My amazing wife, Helen, has started painting pebbles. We cycled out to Morecambe last Sunday to pick up a few likely pebbles, which apparently is illegal, although if you’re only taking a handful I doubt anyone will say anything, but if you were to remove them by the truck load it might be different. So far Helen has finished two brilliantly artistic cacti pebbles, with more to follow.

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COBR

COBR, not to be confused with the below average Stallone film, Cobra, is the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms, set up to deal with regional or national emergencies. Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister, didn’t miss a single meeting. Boris Johnson missed the first five meetings set up to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Maybe if Boris had been a little more focused from the start he wouldn’t have ended up in intensive care and maybe we wouldn’t be looking at well over 40,000 deaths. That’s not to be too critical, the furlough scheme is a life saver for thousands of people. Here in Lancaster, one of the worst hit cities in the UK, the lock down feels well and truly over. There are people everywhere. Lancaster, Barrow and Kendal are the three worst hit places in the UK, and what they have in common is the Hospital Trust. This particular trust has been far more active in testing than any where else in the UK, even London. The results would probably be similar across the rest of the country if the same level of testing had been performed.

Disney+

A month ago I mentioned that we have subscribed to the Disney+ channel.  Many of the classic films haven’t aged too well and many of the newer films don’t really appeal to us. We have therefore cancelled it, at least until we have grandchildren to enjoy it with. Disney will more than likely manage to survive without our £5.99 a month.

Cheese

Apparently 4% of the global cheese market is stolen. Cheese is the most shoplifted item from supermarkets and it’s even liberated from wholesalers. Maybe because meat and alcohol have security tags, making these item harder to pilfer. Beware if a dodgy looking person sidles up to you, they might be selling cheese instead of drugs.

Random Wednesday

It’s that time again. Another set of random Wednesday thoughts and deeds.

Brooks Run Happy at Home

I’ve been running in Brooks shoes for many years, although not exclusively a my trail shoes and racing flats are both made by Saucony. Brooks have been using the hashtag Run Happy (#runhappy) for a few years now, and with this virus around at the moment, they have altered it slightly to #runhappyathome. Each week there is a different medal, available for a whole range of distances from 1km up to a full marathon. All you need to do is upload a screenshot of your activity, add in your details, along with the nearest Brooks retailer. Here’s the good bit for the small independent running shops, the medal doesn’t get sent to your home, it goes to the shop, so once the lock down is over if you want your medal(s) you have to go and visit your friendly Brooks dealer. A real win win scenario. Anyway, I’ve just uploaded my 5km run from this morning, and here is this weeks medal.

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Last weeks medal was in the shape of a pair of oven gloves. You’ll have to be quick though, as this is the last week.

Air pollution

One of the best things about the lock down is the huge reduction in road traffic, and subsequently an improvement in air quality. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the Himalayas, generally never seen from India, but now viewed in all their glory, or downtown Los Angeles, usually one of the smoggiest city in the world. Here in Lancaster, on a good day we can see the hills of the southern Lake District, but at the moment we can make out individual houses in the town of Grange-over-Sands. Not everything during the lock down period is bad news.

Coffee and Tea

The company I work for generally treat their staff fairly well, including providing tea and coffee. Don’t laugh, when I worked for a local authority everyone had their own jar of coffee or box of tea bags on their desk. However, working from home has significantly increased the volume of coffee consumption. It hasn’t actually, all that’s happened is that the volume of coffee consumed that we buy has increased.

Icelandic Horses

Me and my amazing wife had a few days in Iceland earlier in the year, and one day we stopped to see some Icelandic horses.

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They are a hardy old breed, smaller and hairier than your usual horse. They are also in danger of regular horse viruses, so there is a strict no importing horses policy in the country. Game of Thrones was filmed in Iceland, and whenever there was a horse in the scene they had to use clever camera angles to make the horses look bigger.

Here concludes another random Wednesday.

Random Wednesday

Another week and another random Wednesday, although last weekend didn’t start off too well.

Windowbox

I went out for a two hour bike ride, and when I came home I noticed that our front window box had been stolen, probably over night and I hadn’t noticed when I set off. It was old and cheap, and the plants needed to be replaced, but even so, why would anyone steal a window box. Sad little muppets.

Everesting

Many years ago I read about the concept of ‘Everesting’, where you find a hill, cycle (or run) up and down continuously until you have climbed the equivalent of Everest (8848m). Back in August 2014 I managed my own ‘Everest’ (Strava here and  Blog here). The Everesting website has recently introduced a half Everest, or Base Camp, which this morning I submitted my two failed Everesting attempts (Strava here and here, and Blog here). There is also a Virtual Everesting challenge for those of you who Zwift, which looks even less fun than doing it out on the road.

What I’m Missing

With this lock down there are a few things that I’m missing. In the short term it is swimming and parkrun. My last swim was on the 16th March. At the time I thought missing two or three weeks wouldn’t be so bad, but now it’s looking like two to three months. My last parkrun was on the 14th March, and who knows when we’ll all be parkrunning again. We’re also missing not being able to jump in the car and go for a run or ride somewhere completely different. The Howgills are calling us!

In the long term, my wife had entered the great big Bala swim, which was going to be awesome as Helen would have to ride a train to get to the start. My amazing wife had also bought tickets for us to go and see the Back to the Future musical in Manchester. The Bala swim has been postponed, so ultimately we won’t miss out, but the musical hasn’t yet been re-scheduled.

Kindle

Like many people, I’m reading a whole lot more during these strange times. Currently I have got into the habit of reading three different books simultaneously, reading a chapter of one and then swapping to the next book. At the moment I am reading a very dark thriller by Will Carver, an ultra running European adventure by David Byrne and a modern day urban fantasy romp by Amelia Hutchins, featuring Witches, Vampires and evil Fairies. Diverse to say the least.

What have you been up to?

Random Wednesday

Continuing with my random blog post random Wednesday, what has been going through my mind since my last ‘Random Wednesday’.

Flour

My wife is an amazing baker, especially cakes and scones, but with the lock down Helen decided to have a go at sourdough, which involves making a sourdough starter. We managed to get some bread flour from the local vegetarian and organic food shop, enough to ‘feed’ the starter. Unfortunately, once the starter was ready to use to make some lovely bread, we didn’t have enough bread flour. I went to Asda, my wife went to Booths, we even tried friends and neighbours, all to no avail. So my wife’s poor old sourdough starter is stuck in the fridge, waiting. Good news though, we might be able to grab some from a small artisan bakery in Lancaster. I can’t wait to try some freshly baked homemade bread.

Stobart Spotting

My regular drive to work down the M6 and M61 usually takes about 45 minutes, and to keep myself amused I like to note down the names of any Stobart lorries that I pass on the way. In the last month I’ve only seen one lorry, randomly parked next to Tesco in the centre of Lancaster, as I’ve not been driving. I must admit that I quite like not having to drive to work, and I’m probably not the only one.

English Pointers

The English Pointer is a funny old breed of dog. Loyal, good natured, tough and fit, but above all, slightly bonkers with a small brain. They are an endangered breed with so few registered each year, and unless you are very active they don’t make great pets. They need to ‘work’, or at least run around a lot off the lead. They are also prone to misjudging barb wired fences. Nelly, our pointer, has numerous scars on her legs from mishaps. Below is from 6 years ago, off her face on drugs with another dozen stitches.

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The worst accident was when she was running full pelt in the park and managed to impail herself on a branch which went right through her. She recovered, but that was the accident that got her black listed from pet insurance firms.

City Strides

With all the gyms and pools closed, there are a lot more runners about, and I’m guessing that some of them have found the website City Strides. Not being able to go for rides far from home, I’ve been trying to tick off a few more streets that I’ve not run down near to where we live. Me and Nelly get the odd strange looks as we run down a dead-ends and then run back out again, but we have now run 525 street in the larger Lancaster area, or 22.99% of them.

What random stuff have you been getting up to?

Random Wednesday

So what has been happening the last two weeks?

Disney+

I’m sure you will have noticed that the streaming channel Disney+ is now available in the UK. We signed up for a free 7 day trial. We’ve only watched two films so far, but both of them have left us in tears. I would definitely recommend Togo and Secretariat.

Togo is about the 1925 serum run in Alaska, where a diphtheria epidemic had hit the town of None, and the only way to get the serum there was by dog sled. Togo was the lead dog on the sled which covered the furthest distance including crossing the very dangerous Norton Sound, twice.

Secretariat is about one of the greatest horses ever. In 1973 he became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years with a record-breaking victory in the Belmont Stakes, which he won by 31 lengths. The film also covers the struggles his owner, a housewife, had to overcome to keep the horse. John Malkovich stars as the horses unusual trainer.

Both films are highly recommended, especially if you like horse or dog films.

Lockdown

In Lancaster it does appear that most people are observing the lockdown, with very quiet roads. I was out cycling on Sunday and below is the M6.

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I went for a run on Monday with Nelly and there were half a dozen cars parked up where people had driven to exercise their dogs. There was an article in the Guardian stating that police are able to disperse and fine groups of two or more people who do not live together, but it is a grey area as to whether they can fine people for driving somewhere to exercise. Additionally, Michael Gove mentioned that people should only exercise once a day and for no more than an hour. This isn’t enforceable. If a government minister recommends something in a press conference that is aspirational, until this passes into law, the police cannot legally enforce it. This is a dangerous road to becoming a police state. 1984 was a work of fiction not a how to manual. However, don’t be silly out there.

Virtual Races

Every race has been cancelled for the next month, and probably will  to be called off through May and June. Because of this there are a load more virtual races with medals available. I have been a fan of Strava Challenges for many years (read about it here), and I have also completed quite a few virtual challenges from  Run for the World (you can find them here). I enjoy virtual challenges as they keep me ‘challenged’, especially when there are no races to enjoy.

Ukulele

My lovely wife has been making the most of being cooped up by learning to play the ukulele, and even after only a couple of days she can play ‘You are my sunshine’ with precision and style. I created a mnemonic so that she could remember the order of the strings – Garden Caterpillar Eats Apples. I might surprise her by buying myself one so that we can jam.

Have you read those books you’ve been meaning to for years? Learning a new skill? Eating crisps and watching Netflix all day?

Random Wednesday

February Parkrun

This February was a leap year, and for the first time in parkrun history, there were five Saturdays in February. The last time that this happened was 28 years ago, way before parkrun existed. However, I’m sorry to say that I only managed four parkruns this February, as one of the Saturdays we were in Iceland. Not sorry at all.

Colours

There is a language in Africa, and I’m really sorry but for the life of me I can’t remember the country, but they only have three different colours. If you needed a green, you would say that it is the colour of the leaves of an oak tree. Or for blue, it is the colour of the sky on a summers day. I like this.

Corona Virus

I found myself singing Happy Birthday under my breath as I was washing my hands. Damn you Boris Johnson. For me, the first verse from the Half Man Half Biscuit song Time Flies By When You’re The Driver Of A Train is much better.

Pottery

The last couple of weeks me and my amazing wife have been watching the third series of the Great British Pottery Throwdown. We have loved this show, and have binged watched it. My wife had a pottery taster session last year and was a natural, and with a pottery studio having just opened five minutes walk from our home, Helen might be making pots galore.

Random Wednesday

Strava Challenges

I’ve completed over 700 Strava Virtual Challenges, but this year Strava has introduced a few random ones. In January there was a 50km walk challenge, and in February there was a ski challenge (10 hours) and a triathlon challenge (25 hours). In March there is even a recover challenge, where you have to do at least one session of yoga every week. Probably one that I won’t complete, but I like the idea.

Iceland

As everyone knows, Greenland has far more ice than Iceland, and Iceland has far more greenery than Greenland. However, the locals in Iceland often feel that Windland would be a better name. Umbrellas are never used by locals in Iceland.

DFS

There is a large DFS near where I work in Middlebrook. They are using Wallace and Gromit to advertise new sofas and such like. On the door is a sign saying ‘No Dogs’.

Squirrels

Nelly, our silly pointer, like to chase squirrels. She never catches them, until today. She was very pleased with herself as it squeaked like one of her toys. She couldn’t understand why I was cross with her and told her off.

Random Wednesday

TASER is an acronym

When he was a young boy Thomas Smith used to read science fiction comics, and in one of them the hero used an electric rifle. Many years later Thomas Smith created the TASER, which stands for Thomas A Smith’s Electric Rifle.

What was Humpty Dumpty?

We all know the nursery rhyme, and most people will answer that Humpty Dumpty was an egg, but what the character is, is never mentioned in the rhyme. So what was he/it? Was he a young rotund boy, or possible a large canon. Who knows for sure?

Swimming etiquette

The pool where I swim has a fast lane, a medium lane and a slow lane. I use the fast lane, although I am one of the slower swimmers in that lane. However, I am too fast for the medium lane. I keep my eye out for quicker swimmers and wait at the end so that they can overtake. Occasionally someone will tap my feet to let me know that they are ready to overtake. This is acceptable. What is not acceptable is to tap my feet and then when I stop to let this person overtake, they decide to stop as well. Probably a triathlete.

Race entry fees

Is £31 too much to pay to enter a 5km fun run? It is in Reykjavik this Saturday, where me and my lovely wife will be. I’m taking my running shoes and we both have our swimming gear, but I think that we’ll give the fun run a miss.