Sunday 31 December 2023


Life is tough. It can be hard to cope. It can feel like you have no control or influence.

Part of how I made a change was to remove negativity.

Social media was a big factor. It's too easy to follow a downward spiral of reading and engaging in other people's problems. I don't mean ignore their pleas for help or support though. I don't get involved in the arguments they have, the promotion of only the dark side of every situation. 

I don't participate in group discussions about others. If their actions or inactions cause stress then time I spend talking is unproductive. It perpetuates that negativity, so I don't invest my energy.

It's not easy to change, it took many years.

This blog helped me to see it, and slowly alter my internal monologue.

My process for a post is to start with a title and then random sentences. I'll often leave it and return a number of times over a week or sometimes longer. Slowly it will make sense and have a structure. I try not to make it into a list of actions or instructions. 

As I read, alter and re-read it I remove negativity. The first time I wrote about my depression was here. It was a watershed moment. It allowed me to really think about the direction I was going. To reflect on what I allowed my inner voice to say. 

I've written many since then. Link.

Gradually I noticed a change in what I wrote and thought. I had slowly reprogrammed myself. I still have dark moments, days or weeks. But I don't feed them by seeking out anything that might reinforce those feelings.

Thursday 28 December 2023

My bread journey continues

spelt flour pumpkin sunflower seeds

A while ago I baked some bread. Link. It didn't go exactly to plan, it tasted ok though. I've had a few more goes since then.

The first was following a recipe on the flour packet. 

sliced spelt flour loaf

The house smelt more bready than it had before. This time the dough rose and it was less dense. And it tasted great. 

A work colleague told me he baked a yeast free loaf. So this second version used self raising flour and appletiser. 

appletiser bread

I expressed surprise at the inclusion of this sparkling apple drink. But went ahead the next weekend when the spelt loaf was finished.

sliced appletiser bread

A little burnt on top. Very crunchy, and tasty. And lighter, even if it doesn't look like it. 

This did mean I had two packets of flour. I decided to do what some commercial bakers do; create a 50/50 loaf, using all the items I now had in my cupboard. They combine wholemeal and white flour, my bread was a little more "radical".
The first sign that this new "Frankenstein" loaf might be different was after the second proving stage. I had kneaded it, left it to rise. Then kneaded again and left it to rise in the bread tin. The dough was overflowing. I gathered the extra flow and scooped it back into the mix. Placing it in the oven I was not sure how this was going to turn out. Would it burst out all over? What shape would it grow into? 
spelt and self raising flour loaf
spelt and self raising flour loaf cooling
The house had the best "bready" smell so far as it baked. So an initial win.

spelt and self raising flour loaf sliced
spelt and self raising flour loaf sliced

I am really impressed with how it tastes, it's the lightest so far and still has a nice crunchy crust.

I'm going to get a bigger bread tin so that I can produce a loaf closer to shop bought size.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Loss and grief

This a deeply personal post. It's taken a long time to write. Although I have talked about it face to face and have started to come to terms with my loss. I needed to also write about my thoughts and feelings. It is what this blog has evolved into afterall. And as I have hoped in the past; it may help others. 

I wrote this using the terms us and we. I can't in reality know what Marcia was thinking. We did talk a little, but she wanted to keep her thoughts to herself, and I respected that.

She had Multiple Sclerosis for nearly the whole time I knew her. It's affects took many years to manifest themselves. That was the first loss and grief we experienced. We had lost part of what Marcia had been. She didn't let it affect her everyday life. Despite the limitations that had been imposed.

Over the years the progression took more, adaption and to an extent an acceptance allowed us to get by. 

Then the diagnosis of cancer landed on us. Again a certain amount of acceptance and resignation overtook us.

It's been a rollercoaster of emotions. At first the outlook was better than expected. But there were consequences. Marcia couldn't support herself to sit up, and her hands and arms were almost completely immobilised. Assistance with eating and drinking was required. I ensured I visited for at least one meal time each day.

Various infections would come and go, causing temporary escalations in symptoms.

At the beginning of December a move to a care home for rehabilitation seemed to be a positive step forward. But after a week Marcia started to feel very unwell. A trip to A&E followed.

Then the news confirming what we had both worried about. The cancer had returned, spread extensively and was now untreatable.

After this it was back to dealing with the everyday stuff. Making sure she was comfortable and being as normal as possible. 

I found myself looking forward to the new year. As is normal during December. That's when it really hit; I'd not have Marcia with me. We were married for 26 years, and had been a couple for a few more previously.

It's okay to have shed some tears while reading this, I did while writing.

Please take away from this some thoughts:

Don't let anger or resentment of others control you. Or take up your time; it's too precious and fleeting.

Laugh more.

Talk more. Incredible people in our lives meant so much to us. And still do to me. I could not have coped without them. 

Don't always take life too seriously.

Don't waste time and energy competing with and comparing yourself to others over houses, cars, holidays and money.

Cherish the people in your lives.

I feel very raw and in pain at the moment. But I know this will pass. Eventually I will be able to focus on the joy having Marcia in my life brought me. And the memories we created between us and with others.

I will always love Marcia; not having her physically with me won't change that.

Thank you to everyone who improved our lives by being part of it.

Sunday 17 December 2023

Let's talk cycling apparel

Let's talk cycling apparel

It's winter so here is another post about what I wear on the bike. The first time was Sept 2020. Link. I had just started my journey into cycling specific clothing. And I was pretty unimpressed, especially with the items bought to keep me warm and dry. Priory to this I wore shorts and a t-shirt, or jogging bottoms and a normal jacket when the sun wasn't out. I got sweaty in the heat; cold and wet for the other 50 weeks of the year. And at times I must have looked very scruffy. It's debatable I look better in my current wardrobe, but at least it's functionable.

In the intervening three years I've bought more clothing. My opinion hasn't changed much. One example was a very expensive rain jacket bought during an end of production sale. It doesn't keep me protected from the rain and I get soaked in sweat. Both promises made by the manufacturer.

I've added to my glove collection too. An expensive pair let in water and allowed windchill. A pair from Stolen Goat showed great promise. But their longevity was short. They now leak and my hands freeze.

The latest acquisition is from Galibier. They are a little more bulky when compared to the Stolen Goats, but not overly so. The digits, especially the thumb could be longer. I guess I could have gone up a size, but then the hand part would have been too big. I have mostly mitigated this by adjusting the levers to reduce their reach. Importantly they work. I'll have to wait to test their durability. 

I also bought a jacket from them. And would you believe it; I didn't get soaked in sweat. I wasn't completely moist free, it doesn't employ magic in the manufacturing process. But it's noticeably better than anything I've owned before. Admittedly my longest ride so far is just over 20 miles. I bought a size small, and the fit is just right. Not so tight I can't wear layers underneath, not so loose it flaps about in the wind. It's also bright blue. Most others are only available in black.

I've started running to bring some variety. But I don't have any specific clothing. So I wore a long sleeved base layer, a short sleeved cycling jersey and the jacket. It drizzled for most of the route and I was a little overdressed. It didn't let in any rain, and allowed most of the sweat to escape. 

The little side pocket is a genius idea.

In summary: I haven't worn them in very heavy rain, but they do keep me just the right amount of warm.

Wednesday 6 December 2023


Zzzz sleeping
Sleep is very important. It's when the body recovers and rebuilds. Lack of it causes many longterm problem both physically and mentally. 

I often read that as we age sleep duration shortens. I don't think it's because we need less, although I'm no expert. It seems that lower levels of the hormone melatonin and a less precise hypothalamus can make it difficult. The amount of deep sleep is also reduced; this is the period when the magic happens.

I don't drink caffeine in the afternoon, and try to keep to a sleep schedule. I still wake most mornings a little fatigued. I also follow a pattern. Many nights I'll awake after five or six hours, around 4 am, and not be able to return to slumber. I'll get up and have breakfast, watch the television or youtube, often I'll start writing a blog post. And start my day. It's not ideal because it means there is a long time until lunch. Then after a few nights like this I'll sleep solidly for eight or nine hours, and feel a little more refreshed. Then start the cycle again. The only problem is when a short night coincides with a busy day, I'll often increase caffeine consumption to three cups, still trying not to drink any in the pm. This works most of the time.

This morning was a little unusual, I got up at 4 am and had my normal oats and fruit, with a coffee. This prompted the idea for the post, after watching youtube for about forty five minutes I went back to bed. The alarm went off a six, I silenced it and unusually for me went back to sleep. Waking at 7 am I had just enough time for a session on the bike trainer, some cardio and to get ready for work. Drinking another coffee as I sat writing this.

I wrote about calories and mood, maybe when they are consummed has an affect. Is hunger waking me? I eat my last meal at around 4 pm before visiting Marcia in hospital. So I think this is a contributing factor. The alternative is to eat quite late, which can have a detrimental affect on being ready for siesta time.

Unfortunately starting my day so early does mean it's a long wait for my next meal. I get very hungry as the morning passes. When Marcia comes home I'll have a better daily routine, and hopefully see an improvement.