Friday 26 April 2024

Kew Gardens


Palm House kew gardens

Last weekend I visited Kew Gardens with my sister. It was a very cold day, the wind especially.

But it didn't spoil the day, it just meant we didn't stop moving. There are plenty of benches we could have sat on and admired the view. A packed lunch and warmer weather would have allowed us to cover more ground because we wouldn't have felt the need for a warming drink.

We started at Victoria Gate; just a short walk from Kew Gardens tube station. Meeting at London Bridge and then crossing the river to Embankment station to get onto the District line seemed the most hassle free way to get there. It was the same day as the London Marathon, but everyone was going to Greenwich so it didn't affect us. On the way home everywhere was a little busier than a normal Sunday, but again no problems.

My first comment is about the cost. For two adults at the weekend or Bank Holidays it's £49. Which I think is a lot. 

The Japanese Pagoda is another £4.50, and that's not good value.

Japanese Pagoda

I expected red wood, not ordinary brick.

Japanese Pagoda

The guides were dressed up, I'm guessing it was appropriate to the period when it was built. But I don't think it added anything to the experience. The views were good from the top.

Japanese Pagoda view

The spiral staircase could be a tough ask for the unfit, and at busier times be very congested. I'd save your money though and not bother.

Nearby is the Japanese area.

A nice place to sit I thought, but you aren't allowed to walk on the gravel.

There is a treetop walkway. Another toughish climb, but there is a lift. And it's well worth it.

treetop walkway view

treetop walkway view

I tried to smile in a relaxed manor; not sure I pulled it off though.


If it gets a bit too chilly, then the greenhouses are a good place to go. Even the unheated ones are out of the wind.

Princess of Wales Conservatory


The Princess of Wales Conservatory with its cacti is obviously nice and warm.

Finally the food. There are a few places to eat. I thought they are reasonable value, considering the location. Outside the station were many independent places that are a little cheaper.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Every day is different.

It's been four months since Marcia died. My emotions are all over the place.

It's a mix of missing her, denial, shock at how quickly time has past, guilt at being happy, guilt at not being happy, guilt for feeling numb, guilt for getting on with my life, guilt at not getting on with my life, guilt for being upset and emotional, guilt for not being upset and unemotional.

I have family and friends with whom to talk this through. They visit me or I go to them. Great neighbours that I spend time with is massively helpful.  

I know I'll feel better in time. But I do wish the feelings would stop, or maybe stabilise. Is that another reason to feel guilty?

Thankfully I'm sleeping pretty well. I've increased the exercise I do and call it a day at roughly the same every evening, which I'm sure helps.

If I have a particularly bad day my employer understands and lets me have some time. In the early days this could be a whole day, now though I can usually get myself together in an hour or two. I go for a walk, ride or run, sometimes just a coffee at my local Coughlans.

There is an underlying empty feeling that I don't think will ever go. I'm not sure I want to lose it.

I'm confused by these swirling thoughts; are they okay to feel? Is it okay not to feel them?

I know people say whatever I think or however I cope is appropriate for me. And they are right; their words and actions help.

I guess ultimately the saying that time is a great healer is spot-on. But I don't think I want to be healed, not completely. 

My thoughts are moving from being focused on Marcia's last few days, which were the worst of my life. 

To all the great days and normal days we had together. Both are precious to me. The laughs and tears; times we just existed together.

I value my time in a way I don't think I did before. No one dwells on the fact that it's such a limited resource. Now I dread the future, and look forward to it. I want to keep busy, and doing nothing. To spend time with music forming a bubble of sound around me. Plan visits with friends and family, time on my own.

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.