Sunday, 9 August 2020

Not Long Walk Sunday!

 It’s been ludicrously hot down here over the weekend - we’ve been over 30°C both days and it’s felt hotter than that when walking on tarmac or concrete so we decided a long walk today was a bad idea and instead chose to have a wander into town to get some odds and ends we needed - still a little over 5.5 miles but not the sort of distances we’ve been doing on Sundays of late. 

I’ve been playing with black & white photos on Instagram for a couple of days - I like messing about converting stuff to monochrome from time to time - the shot above is a good example, an iPhone picture from winter 2016 which I’ve always loved in colour, but wasn’t sure would work in B&W - but with a good boost to the contrast, to my mind at least, it really does. Aviation photos can be a funny one with monochrome - the old warbirds usually work well, as you’d expect, but sometimes even a modern fast jet with a strong colour scheme can convert nicely - I’ll offer this Sukhoi SU-27 as an example:

Aviation fans will be familiar with the bright blue “pixel camo” scheme of that one - it wasn’t until I was looking for shots with the specific idea of mono conversions that the idea of that one jumped out at me but I really like it! 

Time then to start looking at another week - and yes, I’m still furloughed. It’s a tough one - if I relied on public transport to get to my office I would probably be quite glad of still being off - the thought of using the tube in London at the moment REALLY doesn’t appeal. As it is though, I’d love to be back in my routine - albeit London would be even hotter than it is here at the moment I guess! Instead though it will be another week of finding things to fill my time. I’ll be aiming to max out the activity this week I think - Alice Liveing’s 21 Day Challenge continues, we’ll be walking each morning, and I want to start slotting a bit of running back in again as well now I think. I tried some short bursts of running on Friday morning at the end of a walk and that felt good, so time to increase that a bit now I think and see how that feels. There is also preparation to be done for our upcoming Hebrides trip - so that will help to keep me busy. 

Right now though, there is a beer to be drunk, and a jigsaw to be finished - both hinged that have become part of the routine in this odd “new normal” we’re living with! 


Friday, 7 August 2020

Missing the “usual”...

A few of you will probably know that in normal circumstances I would have been spending this week of the year working my arse off for no pay in a gigantic greenhouse in West London - otherwise known as volunteering at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia. It’s something I’ve done annually since 1998 - so this would have been my 23rd year. Last year we added the duties of looking after the British beer order to our previous roles too - MrEH is a Manager of one of the bars and I am a Deputy Manager. It’s a hot, exhausting, sweaty, physically demanding and above all pretty stressful week, but it’s spent with some of my best friends in the world and as a result, yes, I love it! 

The festival was one of the earliest victims of the pandemic - we reach the stage of increasing commitments both in terms of workload and financial outlay from March onwards - and so as soon as it became apparent that the Covid-19 crisis was going to have a huge impact not just on the U.K. but all over the world, decisions had to be made. At the stage we first talked about it it was becoming very obvious that large gatherings - particularly indoor ones - were going to be banned for a significant period of time, potentially with no end date. With so many “unknown factors” the decision was reluctantly taken by our Festival Organiser Catherine to cancel this year’s event - a hugely brave and tough decision so far in advance, but one which was backed unanimously by the entire working party. A fair few folk on the outside said we’d jumped too soon - that it would “all be over by August” - but as we now know this is far from the case and had we tried to press ahead it would have proved a very costly mistake. 

There’s much joking on social media this week amongst the volunteer staff about all the things we are “virtually doing” - imagining that in fact we were at Olympia as normal. Right now for example, at the time I am writing I would be making final checks on any beers we were expecting to need to put on sale later tonight - Friday evening  is one of our business sessions on the bar - so tasking the cellar team with making sure that anything we would be needing shortly had a tap in it, as well as making decisions about anything that would not be ready to sell this evening, but would instead be tapped last thing tonight or first thing tomorrow ready to see out our final day open to the public. With my other pair of hands (!) I’d also be checking that the two teams under our “control” for want of a better word (actually they are staffed by exceptionally competent and experienced individuals) on the beer order side; Wet stock control and wet stock logistics were happy with their tasks and workloads and also dealing with any problems that needed our attention. 

It feels very strange to be sitting here quietly on the balcony, writing this at a time when usually I’d be incredibly busy - and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t to a degree missing the bustle and fun that comes along with it. I’m not missing the sore feet - by this stage of the week no matter how much you obey the first rule of GBBF (never stand when you can sit) the heels are always letting out a low yet relentless throb - although this is much improved from the days at Earls Court with it’s unforgiving concrete floor. I confess I am also not missing the stress - today’s 54BPM is the lowest my resting heart rate has been during August since I got my FitBit in 2017! 

There will be a real “Virtual GBBF” happening next month - although aside from putting together some lists of beers which will be featuring in that we have little to do with that as we’re unavailable during the time it’s happening - and we have a plan to get our bar team together for a meet-up at some stage before the end of the year too. For now though, there will be a glass or two raised this evening to “what might have been” and also to all those pals we are missing this week. For now, that’s the best we can do.


Thursday, 6 August 2020


Another few days of sunshine and we just might have our first tomato ready to eat! Tradition of course states that if there is only one ready then it will be cut in half and shared - MrEH would be most upset if I snaffled it for myself! We harvested some of our kale this evening too to have as part of dinner - thankfully the cabbage white caterpillars which had made it home have now moved on without decimating the entire crop! Currently we seem to have just a single runner bean setting - hopefully a few more will appear before too long. 

Progress too on my injury - or rather some diversions from it! I decided that not being able to run at the moment meant a good incentive to focus on strength training instead - and handily one of my favourite instagram influencers, Alice Liveing, has just begun a 21 day challenge focusing on strengthening which I have decided to start working through. I did day 1 yesterday - legs - and it was certainly effective - my lower body is roundly berating me today and I suspect may have entirely gone on strike by tomorrow! Day 2 which I did today was arms and core so I’m expecting similar levels of rebellion from those in the morning! I’m also continuing with daily stretching and plenty of walking - and hoping that the combination of different activities gives me the best chance of being able to get back to running sooner rather than later. Once we’re back from the Hebrides regardless of whether I am back at work or not I may try to find a local gym I can get back to using too - I’ve really been missing my resistance work since lockdown began, and with my usual gym being close to the office even though it is almost certainly open again now it’s been impractical to drive all the way into London just to go and it’s not worth starting up my gym pass again just for a single visit a week. 

Right - time for some stretching! 


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Not running...

It would appear we have an injury. Only myself to blame too - I did a strength workout with weights on Friday, and threw in a new exercise for the first time - which is fine, except I should have done it either unweighted or with very light weights for the first time, not the heavy dumbbell that I was using for other, more familiar, lifts. It wasn’t even a conscious decision - I simply didn’t think. Now the positive from this is clearly that I was able to do the movement with a significant load straight off - the negative however is that a I have pulled either something in my back, or my piriformis muscle again. Cue lots of hip pain and a very sore lumbar region, and, realistically, no running for a few days at least.

It does feel rather as though each time I commit to getting back to regular running something comes along to get in the way again, and it’s really frustrating. I’ve also currently got in mind that our Hebrides trip is not far away so I want to be extra cautious as the last thing I want is to risk making things worse and so get in the way of the walks we have planned. Thankfully at the moment walking seems fine - so for the time being it’s plenty of that, plus lots of stretching, plentiful foam rolling, and a few doses of ibuprofen until I see how things settle down. It’s already feeling a lot better today than yesterday - but I know from experience that patience is going to be key - and that’s something I struggle with! 


Sunday, 2 August 2020

Long Walk Sunday

Another Sunday, so another long walk was on the cards. We’d not planned anything in advance for today but the forecast was good so a brief discussion this morning and we decided to take the car to the little town just north of us - Sawbridgeworth - and then rejoin the River Stort and walk up as far as Bishop’s Stortford. 

It was a gorgeous day for a walk by water for sure - not too hot for the most part, and with a light breeze but also plenty of sunshine and beautiful blue skies. 

There is a common misconception locally that the Stort is a canal - but in fact the stretch we were walking is a “navigation” - a river which has been canalised and made navigable by the addition of locks. There are a total of 15 locks on the 22km long Stort Navigation- today’s walk saw 5 of them. Another misconception is that the town of Bishop’s Stortford is named after the river - in fact this is not the case, the river was re-named in the 16th century and was previously called the Stour. 

We parked the car in the centre of Sawbridgeworth a short walk from the river - which was easy to find as you simply head downhill! We realised pretty fast that we had actually joined the walk slightly too far north - but decided not to worry about that now the time being, we’d either walk it at the end or return another week and do it. In the end by the time we got back to where we joined the river we decided we’d been on our feet for long enough so another week it will be! 

One lovely bird spot today - and one that it is surprising we had not seen previously when we’d been walking his particular river - a Kingfisher! We were watching dragonflies dancing across the water, heard a splash and MrEH looked across in time to see the distinctive bright blue flash. A few moments later we both saw it streak away up the river - a stunning sight! 

A long weekend for us this week as MrEH has tomorrow off work. Nothing specific planned, just that he has holiday time to use and he fancied a day off really - we’ll decide what to do with it tomorrow! 


Friday, 31 July 2020

It’s good to be back...

Another little bit of normality tonight as the bar at the rugby club reopened for the first time since 20th March. We went down and met up with some of the same friends we drank with there on that night for a few beers - it seemed only fitting that those of us who had helped them drink the stock in the run up to the forced but necessary closure also kicked things off again at the reopening.  

The club is a huge part of both of our lives in normal circumstances - although rugby is primarily MrEH’s “thing” we’re both involved with the team he plays for as I regularly take photos for them as well. Even when I’m not photographing I frequently pop down to the club to meet the guys after matches for drinks and the post mortem. I’m not always the best at socialising, but there, with people I know well, I almost always feel at ease, and that is something I have really missed. 

Now, we have a long weekend ahead. We both had holiday time booked for this coming week originally for the beer festival - with the cancellation of that we cancelled the holiday too, but MrEH left Monday in place as he felt that by then a simple day off might be a good thing. No plans as yet,  we’re playing this one by ear, but the weather is forecast to remain reasonably good so we intend to get out and about a bit!


Thursday, 30 July 2020

The thing about running... that sometimes it’s really good fun. Tuesday was a good example - 2 miles, pretty hard work, definitely pushing myself, but in spite of that, I really enjoyed it. Other times though, it really isn’t - and today’s run was a good example - best described as HORRIBLE! 

It was warm when we went for our walk first thing - temperatures up up to 30C were promised for the day but the forecast suggested it would be after lunchtime when that really kicked in. Even at 8.30 though, there was never any question I needed anything other than my running kit on, and even just in that, it was warm. We walked - 3.5 miles this morning, across to the pond (above) where to our delight we spotted a Common Sandpiper, our first of the year and a fairly unusual sighting for our little town, then home, MrEH settled down to his work day and I grabbed running belt (keys, phone) and Garmin and headed back out again. 

Almost immediately I knew it wasn’t going to be one of those fun ones - the heat had picked up even more, my legs were saying “no thanks” within the first five minutes, and I am in the middle of one of the energy slumps I still get from time to time as well. The first mile was OK - on the route I ran today that first mile is entirely downhill so pretty much guarantees a decent pace. After that though things got less pretty - I’m not a fan of hot weather running at the best of times, and today was NOT the best of times! At a mile and a half I passed the first of my “get out options” - places where I could simply loop back towards home for a shorter run - the temptation was strong but I dismissed it and carried on - probably walking more than running by that stage. At just short of 2 miles I gave myself a talking to and switched to structured run/walk pattern. Another couple of “get out options” came and went. By the time I reached just short of 3 miles I was overheating to the point of feeling sick, my breathing was wheezy and it had really stopped being any sort of enjoyable - in spite of wanting 4 miles ideally I decided to just stop the Garmin and walk home - sometimes you just need to know when you’re beaten. 

There are always positives from a run like that - today’s were; that I didn’t bail at any of the places I could have done, 3 miles is better than no miles, and it was time on feet (and still 4 miles with the walk home!) - and time on feet is good. Runs like that just happen sometimes - there’s little you can do to predict it and in fact this morning I was actually quite fired up for my run - all you can do is learn from it, and file it away under “next time will be better”. Hindsight being what it is, I should have run the final mile as a “walk the uphill, run the down” but we all know what they say about hindsight! 

So - learn, move on. One more run to do this week, and I will probably make that trail centred I think, and probably on Saturday when temperatures will have dropped a bit. That one will be better - well, it can’t be any worse!