Saturday 6 April 2024

Running in circles

running in circles

I was in Cornwall recently visiting my sister. I travelled by train, so didn't want the hassle of taking my bike. But I did want to exercise, I have a half marathon in May.

The plan was to run instead. The day after I arrived I walked my intended route. I knew the area was hilly, but I wasn't prepared for how much. My home circuit around the airfield and back is almost flat. So it was with some trepidation I set off in the afternoon for a run. To my surprise it wasn't too bad. Sure it was tougher, but not as bad as I had expected. For the next couple of days I ran two laps, and again I found I coped well with the climbs. Then to stave off boredom I started to vary it by visiting villages. Until this point I had treated running as just a means to an end; getting fitter and adding variety to my day. Now I started to see it as a means of transport in the same way as my cycling. 

Now I'm home it's back to the airfield loop. And another surprise; I'm much faster, I easily knocked a minute off my pace. And my legs didn't feel as stiff as they had done. I now run at just over 9 minutes/mile, with short bursts of low 8's. Was it the increased volume or the hills that caused this? I covered more ground than normal for sure, but the ascents must have contributed more.

I ran with a friend on Saturday, the one who sort of talked me into the half marathon.

We met near Regents Park and did three loops of the outer circle. At just over eight miles it was Stephen's longest run. He said he was worried about next months half marathon, but I think on today's evidence he should do okay. We'll meet again and complete a full distance. We sat chatting at a cafe afterwards which was equally uplifting and positive. An absolutely great day.

Friday 5 April 2024

Spanish photowalks

coffee in spain with a view

This post comprises a few locations including Barcelona; my overnight stop on the way to Malaga using the Nikon F80 film camera. The scenery was stunning no matter where I looked. I thought a 36 exposure roll would have been enough; it wasn't. You can't delete pictures you don't need. And I couldn't find a shop to buy more. I felt a bit stupid to have been snapping away almost without a care. I wouldn't have made this mistake before I went digital.

I didn't have time in Paris and Madrid for much photography. What I did take was using my phone because it was quick. I used them in my post about the journey by train. Link.

I didn't think there would be so many other tourists this early in the year. I would have needed to get up much earlier to avoid the crowds at La Pedrera-Casa Milà. 

La Pedrera-Casa Milà

And the Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia

Then some shots from the house:

The first morning I awoke to great vistas.

sunrise in spain with a view
sunrise in Spain 

As the sun rose it revealed more of my surroundings.

spain with a view

I different focus on a great start to my week.
another coffee with a view in spain

Frigiliana, a typical Spanish whitewashed town.

and the hilltop town of Comares.






Thursday 4 April 2024

Food for thought

food and depression

I have recently dealt with the worst period of my life. And whilst it's a long way from over; it has caused me to consider where I am in regards to my depression.

Somehow I found the energy to continue: a clear enough mind to deal with problems, and a positive inner voice when I needed it. 

There were many days that I didn't have the above. But I was never so down that I couldn't turn things around after a little time had passed.

A very good support network was essential to this. But was there something else involved? 

I tried to remember when I first noticed an improvement. It was around this post.

When I read a few posts before this one I can appreciate there may have been changes happening for a while leading up to it.

The most obvious change was my dialogue with people around me.

As I thought about it I realised that there could have been something else - my diet.

I became a vegan in the middle of 2021; don't click away. Hear me out.

I changed my lifestyle primarily because of the harm done to animals by providing the products used in our society. Then because of the affect the industry has on the environment. As I read more I came to realise the detrimental impact they could have on me.

While there is no single magic bullet food that can cure depression, a healthy diet can be an important part of an overall treatment plan.

Foods that may help with depression:

  • Fruits and vegetables: These are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that are essential for brain health.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains help to regulate blood sugar levels, which can improve mood.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, and avocados, are important for brain function. Fish can contain saturated fat plus toxins absorbed from the smaller fish they eat. The industry isn't sustainable and is a big polluter.
  • Protein helps to produce neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that carry messages in the brain.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health. Some studies have shown that probiotics may also improve mood. Rather than drinking these I'd suggest you eat fermented foods. A plant based high in fibre will also aid this. Some examples are:  
  1. Sauerkraut: This fermented cabbage is a good source of probiotics, but choose unpasteurized varieties to ensure that the live bacteria are still present.  
  2. Miso: A fermented soybean paste that is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Miso is a good source of probiotics and also contains prebiotics, which are fibers that help to feed the good bacteria in your gut.  
  3. Tempeh: A fermented soybean cake that is a good source of plant-based protein and probiotics. 
  4. Kimchi: A fermented Korean dish made from vegetables, typically napa cabbage and radish. Kimchi is a good source of probiotics and vitamin C.  
  5. Kombucha: A fermented tea drink that is becoming increasingly popular. Kombucha is a good source of probiotics and may also offer other health benefits, such as improved digestion and boosted immunity.

Foods that may worsen depression:

  • Ultra processed foods: often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates. They can lead to inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression. I've cut these out of my diet. 
  • Sugary drinks: Sugary drinks can cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, which can lead to mood swings and irritability. This includes fruit juices, touted as healthy; they aren't.
  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can increase anxiety and make it difficult to sleep, which can worsen depression symptoms. I do drink coffee, but no more than three cups and rarely after midday.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant that can worsen symptoms of depression. This was easy for me.  When out with friends it's just water. I haven't missed it. When I have drunk a beer, it reaffirms my choice. What is the point of booze?

This isn't about me saying you should become vegan. But I would ask that you look beyond the media headlines. Investigate what I have written, and make up your own mind.

The benefits, as I understand them, are many and affect not just animals, but the planet we live on as well as personal health.

I know this is largely anecdotal, and is to an extent how I perceive the effects. And it has taken some adjustment but I think it's been worth it.

Sunday 31 March 2024

Cornwall views

gwr train paddington

Another holiday completed by train. I went to say with my sister in Cornwall. A fairly early start was needed to make the 09:31 express from Paddington. When you take into account how long it would be to drive, the train time is comparable at about six hours. But it emits ten times less CO2, and is much less stressful.

A potential problem was my destination; Bodmin Parkway, being around 4.5 miles away from the town. There is the number 11 bus, a taxi or being picked up by my sister. The last one obviously only an option for me.

Once that was dealt with the week was great.

I went for a walk the morning after my arrival, I didn't bring my bike but intended to run instead during my time away.

I hadn't appreciated how hilly it was. So it was with more than a little trepidation that I set off after lunch to retrace my earlier steps in my running gear.

The first landmark was Lantaglos Church.

Lantaglos Church

After a steep descent a moss covered bridge took me over a valley stream.

stream view

A testing climb and then long plunge into another valley; home to the church required another stone bridge.

a stone bridge

Yet another incline lead away from this magnolia tree in the churchyard towards home.

magnolia tree in the church grounds
magnolia tree in the churchyard

We went out almost everyday. Even if it was just to a cafe.

I've been through Tintagel a few times but never stopped. A new bridge to the island was completed a few years ago so it seemed a good reason to visit the castle.

tintagel bridge

tintagel castle island bridge
tintagel castle island bridge

There is a hotel of the same name close by.

tintagel castle hotel
tintagel castle hotel

A few observations.

It is in my opinion over priced. An adult ticket is £18. As we passed the ticket booth/gift shop we were instructed to enter by a guide. I initially thought admission from the top of the path was chargeable; it's not. You only need to pay to cross the bridge. With a combined cost of £36 we had no intention of doing so. We walked down into the valley and had a look around, which was more than enough. A consideration for anyone who isn't reasonably mobile; the path is very steep, you may want to consider the Land Rover taxi service to get to the bottom and back. There doesn't seem to be any consideration of wheelchair user; If you can't get in and out of the taxi you won't be able to use it.

path next to stream

tintagel island

tintagel island viewed from coastal path
tintagel island viewed from coastal path

Another location we went to was Widemouth Bay.

widemouth bay

widemouth bay

GCHQ Bude in the distance.


There were multiple routes I ran during my stay. 

After reaching Delabole I turned for home. There are many wind turbines in the area.

wind turbines delabole

With spring growth in full swing there was much positivity to be had.

spring flowers

We also visited a World War Two airfield at Davidstow.

davidstow airfield

There are many buildings but all have been vandalised and neglected.

The weather wasn't always in our favour but it didn't stop us getting out. We talked almost nonstop and I was relaxed and rested.

It was good to spend quality time with my sister, and I know she felt the same.

But all to quickly it was time to head for home. And catch my train from the out of town Bodmin Parkway.

Bodmin Parkway signal box cafe
signal box cafe

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Riding in Spain

very steep hills great views

I visited southern Spain recently staying with my brother and sister in law near Malaga. Whilst there I had two cycling adventures. They live in the hills around Triana. I borrowed Fitz's bike.

Whilst not hot it was definately warmer than the UK.

I rode twice, both times to the Reservoir La Viñuela. The first was just a tester. I knew the hills were many and steep. They all averaged over 10% with max climbs of close to 20%. The picture above was at the top of the last climb before the descent to the lake. Both ways it hit over 20%. 

We later went for a walk around more of the lake. So I planned a second ride, this time intending to go further.

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela
Reservoir La Viñuela

I wasn't disappointed. The weather was great and the views incredible. I took many pictures, I'll just add them all. Enjoy!

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela

Reservoir La Viñuela


There was a campsite with barbeques. 

bbq   Reservoir La Viñuela

And a stream. I rode through it thinking is was shallow; it wasn't. I got wet feet. They dried very quickly though.

stream Reservoir La Viñuela

Most of Spain has had a drought for a few years. You are forbidden from using the barbeques. And the lake is at only 7% capacity.

lake nearly drained

I found this picture online to give you an idea of what it should look like.

Spain by train


I was invited to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Spain. I have made a commitemnt not to fly. So how to get there? By train of course!

The journey was more expensive and took much longer but reduced GHG emissions considerably.

CO2 Emissions:

  • Flying: A one-way flight from London to Malaga typically emits around 180-250 kg of CO2 per passenger. A return trip would double this amount, bringing it to 360-500 kg.
  • Train: Taking the train can reduce your emissions by a staggering 85-90%. A one-way trip emits around 20-30 kg of CO2 per passenger, with a return trip coming in at 40-60 kg.

The first downside is the cost. Flying is subsidised; public transport is not or at least not to the same degree.

For the length of journey I made time is another negative. Shorter trips may compare better when you factor in getting to and from the airport and the extended check-in times.

Another way to think about it is as part of the holiday. I got to see Paris, Barcelona and Madrid, if only for short periods.

I carried my clothes in a medium sized backpack. Some of the huge suitcases I saw the last time I flew would be difficult to convey between stations as was needed in Paris. So that would be a consideration. As would transporting a bike. Fitz had a spare, or I could have hired one.

The journey there and back turned into two mini holidays.

Eurostar to Paris, then TGV to Barcelona for an overnight stop, then one change in Madrid before arriving in Malaga. The return was the same in reverse.

It meant I had some time in Paris as I walked between stations, a morning and afternoon in Barcalona, and an hour in Madrid. 

Gare du Nord
Gare du Nord

Gare de Lyon
Gare de Lyon

Both are impressive looking buildings.

It took me 45 minutes to walk the 2.6 miles from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. It was raining and it wasn't very picturesque. I could have wandered more but I wasn't sure how long it would take me.

Place de la République
Place de la République

July Column
July Column

The trains displayed info much like planes do. Showing where you are and velocity. Through England I travelled at around 144kph (89mph). Once into France this rose to 245kph (152mph) after Paris the speeds increased. On the double deck TVG it was 293kph (182mph).

double deck TVG

double deck TVG
double deck TVG

The two trains in Spain both travelled at over 200kph (124mph) for much of the time.

high speed train in spain
high speed train in Spain

On the way home the display proclaimed 298kph (185mph); very impressive.

What was less impressive is Barcelona station.

Barcelona sants station
Barcelona sants

Malaga station looked very similar.

Madrid could have been more appealing. I'm sure it will when the rebuild is complete.

Madrid station outside

It looks better inside.

Madrid station inside

The morning in Barcelona wasn't enough time to see much. Just the La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia

It felt a little rushed. And before I knew it I had to catch my next train.

Maybe I was tired, but the return leg was more stressful.

Madrid caused me some confusion; no problems as I headed south the previous weekend. I had trouble locating the correct platform, and which level it was on. I suppose it might have been that I only had 20 minutes to make the connection that had me panicked.

Also the Eurostar departure area in Gare du Nord is very small. When I got there it was full, and the passport control overly complicated. Two automatic gates that scan your travel docs and your face. Both didn't work for me at the first attempt. I eventually had to been seen by a real person.

Some lessons.

I used a travel agent to book the trains and hotel, maybe an extravagance. I could have done it all myself and saved some money, but it was quite complicated to get the timings right. I guess I could have had a simpler trip as my first go at international train travel, but I needed to get to southern Spain so that's what I did.

A backpack is best for train travel. It's so much easier to move around between trains if you don't have to drag a suitcase.

Label your luggage; I didn't think I need this because it was carry-on. But it's mandatory.

All Spanish trains require you to pass through luggage control; airport style x-ray machines. As did Eurostar. It takes time and should be factored in especially when you're transferring to other services.

Eurostar gates close 30 minutes before departure, or at least that's what they say. But on my way home they didn't open until 20 minutes before the train was due to leave.

On Eurostar you go through passport control twice during departure; firstly for the country you are leaving and then for the one to which you are headed. This worked more smoothly in St Pancras.

All seats have a power socket for charging devices. The Eurostar has one per two seats, the rest give each passenger their own. They aren't easy to use due to their location. Cafe's and restuarants rarely have accessible power. So I took a powerbank with me. It also meant that I could charge as I walked.

The train companies have apps to store your ticket, you can show an email or saved file using your phone. I had a paper version too, just in case of some device issuses. I couldn't get the Renfe one to work though.

I liked the ever changing view from the window; much better than clouds, or distant sea/landscapes.

There is a lot more legroom than on a plane.

I read sleeper trains are to be reintroduced. That would be excellent. It would cut journey times and cost. 

By the time I got home I was tired. I think if I'd not changed trains so often I'd have felt better.

I'm not a coffee expert, but I was not impressed with any of the hot beverages I bought at station cafes. I'd suggest you find an independent establishment locally. 

Vegan food was very hard to find generally, but at the station it was harder. I did locate this "burger", I would call it a pasty. And it wasn't too bad. The chain called Como had falafel wraps which were nice.

Malaga station coffee and food
Malaga station coffee and food

A short walk from Barecelona station was the Areca Bakery. Very nice coffee, but only sugary treats. There we others that servered sandwiches etc. They looked nice and were reasonably priced but contained animal products.

Areca Bakery barcelona
Areca Bakery Barcelona