Sunrise on a run

Sunrise on a run

Monday, November 15, 2010

Commuting: an emotional experience

I spend rather a lot of my life on trains, perhaps too much time.  While walking to the station this morning, I was thinking about how I should use this time, how much of my commute I ought to be spending on work-related mattes, how much time idly surfing and tweeting, how much time gaming (sounds so much more grand than "playing inane" games), how much time reading.  This got me to thinking about my blog and what to post today.  I thought I'd share with you some of the emotions that just the journey from front door to train door brings up.

On leaving the house, one worries that departure has been left too late and the train is going to be pulling away on arrival at the station.  It's a balance between leaving too early and realising that a precious extra minute with the girls and Roary the Racing car could have been won.

After a brisk walk, navigation of the traffic lights is required.  Careful assessment of the light sequences usually results in a gain but the brisk walk is maintained.

Many commuters like to adopt a special canter, the "I'm running for a train, but not actually running for it".  I prefer brisk walk, I suspect that many of the cantering-types find it quite upsetting to be overtaken by someone apparently expending less effort than them and who they overtook only two minutes before.

The first two thirds of the journey are crucial, make or break time.  A good pace here means there is no need for the panicked sprint and shoulder-barge into the doors as they beep their way shut.  The most frustrating moment is when you approach the station and see the train pulling in,  chances are the opportunity to make that train has been lost.

Today I arrived at the station, thought I only had a minute to catch the train, got ready to adopt the sprint start and then realised I actually had six minutes, time to catch my train and saunter across.

The train too decided to saunter as it was three minutes late.  On hearing this, my relief that I hadn't missed it was replaced by ire that it was late. I now have six minutes to make my next connection.  Time to prepare for my sprint start. 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The egg gallery

If you're friends with me on facebook, you may have seen my occasional photo-posts from weekend cooking exploits. I'm minded to set up a little e-gallery of egg-based cooking. The first two eggshibits?

Titled: "punctuating the morning with breakfast"


"There's something fishy about today's breakfast"

Clearly, my gallery needs a name. All suggestions gratefully received. Prize to the winning suggestion.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The perils of shopping

Mr S is home alone with the girls this week. Provided you explain the mystery tubs in the freezer, he is fine. He even managed some shopping yesterday. I couldn't remember what we needed so I sent a fairly general list: lunch stuff for the girls, snacky stuff, fairy washing liquid.

I knew exactly which fairy washing liquid we needed but i had forgotten that Sainsburys contains an aisle of washing liquid so I should have been a little more specific. Mr S came home with three products, all of which we will need, none of which were the one I actually intended.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pip's Birthday

Yesterday was Pip's birthday. We had a lovely afternoon with friends and grandparents over for tea and party games: pass the parcel, musical statues and so forth.

Pip was given a variety of presents - all v generous and v lovely. I'm hoping she doesn't go off Peppa Pig this year given the sheer quantity of Peppa Pig gifts she received, some of which were from us.

It did get me wondering however. Most of her gifts were plastic. There will come a time when she no longer plays with them and they may get stored in the loft or given away. Eventually they may find their way to landfill or just lost in the back of cupboards, bottom of cardboard boxes etc. Two examples of their little smily pinkness are shown below.

It made me wonder whether, in thousands of years' time, when all recollection of the children's cartoon is lost, archeologists will uncover so many plastic pigs that they will come to the conclusion that a little pink pig was venerated by so many and Peppa will be deified and worshipped forever more? Congregations will gather round muddy puddles and fall over laughing.

Idle musings I know. In the meantime we will enjoy watching Boo and Pip at play with them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, October 11, 2010


OK, so my post a day mission has failed so far. Will try and continue to maintain a regular presence in the blogosphere. Expect some musings on child benefit, tuition fees and public sector pensions in the coming week...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Or attention to detail! I suppose it's an occupational hazard for me.

Anyway, the attached sign has always made me chuckle.

A talking hot drink? I wonder what it says?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Tooth Fairy

So the Tooth Fairy visited last night. Boo's wobbly tooth came out, after the school photo, so it was despatched to the now found tooth fairy box and under the pillow.

Pip wanted something under her pillow so a Lego badge was deposited under the pillow.

At some point in the night, the Tooth Fairy took the tooth and left a pound coin and a scattering of sparkly fairy dust. On finding the Lego badge, she took that as well.

Morning time arrives and Boo is very excited by the coin and the sparkly sequins. Pip wakes up and says "I've lost my badge". Thankfully the Tooth Fairy had left a note saying thank you for the badge and various other tooth-related pleasantries. Alas, the girls were still upset with the tooth fairy for taking the Lego badge.

I have an inkling that the tooth fairy will have found that the Lego Badge was too big to fit through the fairy door...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Rainy Saturday

Today has been a nicely quiet day. Once gymnastics was finished (including mine!), Pip and I went to see a neighbour while Boo and Daddy had their weekly piano lesson. Pip went with a Peppa Pig DVD in tow but soon wanted to watch the marble run and play with the magnetix.

After lunch and a trip to the local shoe shop, we settled down for a nice quiet rainy afternoon. This included a game of Scrabble (me and Boo v computer, we won), lots of plasticine, lots of drawing with the wipe off ones and the laminates - a great hit!

Having played with some at the neighbour's house, Pip wanted to get the Geomag stuff out, another great hit! We had a "how many balls can you attach to one stick challenge". Boo also managed to get a structure to spin round, much to her delight!

What we didn't manage to make was a Taj Mahal. We discovered this website a few years ago, it's quite impressive to say the least.

I'm sure I've seen an Eiffle Tower as well.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dorking Chicken

This statue sits on a roundabout in Dorking. It's a key landmark on our way to visit family. While changing trains at Dorking, I noticed it again today and decided it merited a post. I wanted to try and find out more about its significance, why it's there, why is a chicken a symbol for the town of Dorking represented by a Chicken?

Well, the first thing i discovered was that there is a breed of chicken called a Dorking, which beggs the question, which came first? Is the town named after a breed of chicken or, is the chicken named after the town?

The next thing I discovered was a website dedicated to a project depicting a photograph for every square kilometre of Britain. Rather than cutting and pasting a picture from the site without consent, I've set you a challenge. Hidden in this page is a link to the picture. Can you find it?

I haven't got very far in my quest to find out about Mr Chicken, or perhaps that should be Mr Cockerel, but the geograph project sounds interesting. I'll let you know if our contribution gets off the ground.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blinging up the Blog

I've added a couple of "gadgets" to the blog. Not necessarily permanent. I'm trying to add a more personal touch and make it look less like the standard templaes (not that there's anything wrong with them).

I'll let you find what I've added. The Gadget list is endless, there are too many to choose from. I'm sure I like what the add-ons do to the layout but I'll see if I can adjust that when I'm on a computer with a mouse I can drive. Trackpad is tricky.

The Wheel Turns

And turns and turns again.

I first discovered Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series at university. Friends were reading it and I foolishly borrowed a copy of book one, not realising it was to be book one of twelve and that I would still be reading it fifteen years later.

In a nutshell, it depicts a fantasy world, one which owes much to other great fantasy writers (I will leave you to decide who) and to medieval England. Plus, I think, U.S military history. I suspect Mr Jordan has read his fair share of civil war battle re-enactments.

The story starts following Rand, Perrin and Matt, together with Egwene and Nynaeve and the Aes Sedai and her warder who find themselves in the provincial backwater where Rand and his friends have been living all their lives. The next twelve books follow a battle between good and evil, including all the shades of grey inbetween.

The series has its weak spots. As stand alone books, seven, eight and nine are poor. They fit into the overall story when read as a whole but very little happens in the way of major events. Some of the language can be repetitive, the female characters all have a habit of folding their arms under their breasts. I wonder if anyone has counted how many times they do this? Perhaps a challenge for my next re-read...

Robert Jordan died before he could complete the series. His successor, Brandon Sanderson, has taken over the job. Quite ably, I would say.

There are numerous websites on this epic tome, two of note are:

WoT Encyclopaedia

Brandon Sanderson's website

It took me four months of commuting to read books one through to twelve. Book thirteen is out soon. I'm not going to do another re-read until book thirteen is out.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 27, 2010

What I did on my weekend!

Remember having to do this at school? Anyway, as I've failed to keep up with Saturday and Sunday, I thought I would devote today's post to "what I did on my weekend"

So Saturday morning was spent at the local sports centre while the girls had their gym classes. Pip's settled in nicely to her class so I took the opportunity to go to the grown ups' gym while Boo n Daddy did the crossword she'd brought home from school!

Pip wanted to stay with Daddy while I went to Sainsburys to pick up a few bits and pieces. Except a few bits and pieces turned into a trolley full of bits and pieces!

Pleasant lunch in the garden followed by afternoon of play, Thamu arrived and the neighbours youngest two came over to play!

I think our dinner out deserves its own thread.

Sunday involved a nice lunch out and a browse round the shops. Mission to purchase headphones failed, think DH procured at the airport instead.

So all in all, a pleasant weekend, not enough cake baking, maybe I'll save that for next weekend, the Gingerbread loaf went down v nicely at the school cake sale.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Brick Testament

The Brick Testament is a piece of Lego genius. One of the challenges is to see if you can identify which kits have been used. So far i've spotted Harry Potter, lots from Star Wars and Professor Quirrell.

A selection of my favourites to follow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective


I spend too much time on the train but it's an occupational hazard at the moment, it's part of the career choice I made. I have yet to read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it's on our bookshelf. Anyway, here is the commuters' edition.

Habit no.1: Effective Listening

Many people choose to listen to music during the journey, or watch films or play games. Travelling home the other day I was ired by the inability on the part of one of my fellow travellers to deploy headphones. It wouldn't have been so bad if he'd had good taste in music. I say he, there were four other people in my carriage. The elderly lady next to me, i don't think it was her. The lady in front of me, a young lad in the same set of seats as her and pen other who I didn't notice.

It's very telling that instead of trying to work out who it was and asking them to turn their music down, I said (quite loudly) "what's wrong with headphones". Some things are not worth making that much of a fuss about so I deployed my own and settled down to the sounds of a Divine Comedy album.

A few days later I had the misfortune to be travelling on the London Underground during rush hour. I spent ten years working in London and only sporadically used the Tube. I preferred to walk, run or get the bus. I stood at the tube station, and had to wait three trains before I could get on. Once on, I was standing next to a fan of the White Stripes. How did I know? Well, he had headphones but his music was so loud that everyone else could hear it. It would have been less noisy if he'd just unplugged the headphones and had it on speaker!

So, the final reason why listening is one of the most important skills you can have as a commuter? If you don't listen, you end up on the wrong train. Having schooled DH in the art of overland commuting (he grew up near the end of a tube line so had never had to memorise a timetable in his life), he has become quite adept at this. However, running to a particular platform because the train always goes from that platform is not an effective habit. Not unless you listen once on the train and get off as soon as you realise your mistake.

Must go before I miss my stop!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Buying a castle!

Not really, but this would be a amazing - owning a piece of history, albeit a derelict crumbling piece of history that would require a lottery rollover win to be able to fund the restoration.

Ruperra restoration

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New app

I've invested in a new app: Blogpress. The latest version had patchy reviews but it was priced below £2, meaning that if it's no good, I've not wasted too many iTunes vouchers on it.

I thought it would be appt devoting today's post to my favourite apps so far. There are so many out there and many different categories (including, in my case, apps DH has loaded on here) so I will focus on "productivity" apps. These are largely the ones you use to justify owning an iPad, because you will able to work and plan things.

So, in no particular order, my favourites are:


Docstogo does what it says. You can generate docs, on the go. I have only used it to generate word docs but there are PowerPoint and excel options too.

It's quite basic, no fancy formatting for example, but it works.

Readdle is a document reader. I can use it to open a PDF and then add bookmarks and annotations. This is actually v useful. Bear in mind that I spend a lot of my waking hours looking at lengthy documents, cases, legislation and regulatory guidance. Having a PDF reader that enables annotation and bookmarking means that I don't have to print and carry reams of paper everywhere, one of the points to having the iPad.

Finally, Popplet, for people who like spider diagrams and mind maps. I think this is my favourite. Great for brainstorming and planning. My latest popplet sets down various ideas for blog topics.

The site I've linked to looks like it might be quite useful in app hunting. I'll let you know what I find.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest Post

Courtesy of Boo. She spent a very industrious hour typing the following story. A variation on the traditional story of the Gingerbread Man. I've opted not to correct her spelling or punctuation. It's part of the charm.

Onec upon a time there was a little old woman and little old man. The little old woman
decided to make a gingerbreadboy. She made its buttons out of smarties two different colours red and green.
Its coat is made of icing sugar. The littl old laday said lets put him in the ovun so the little old laday put the gingerbreadboy in the ovun.A few minits later the ovun went beeeeeep beeeeeeeep the little old laday rushed to the ovun she oponed the ovuntheand out popted the gingerbreadboy.As fast as a fox eting him of cours not what will happun he ran away so the poor little old laday said what can we eat now said the little old man whiye dont you make 2 gingerbredpeople or 4 lets make 4 or 6 said the little old laday so they did and when the ovun went beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep they both rushed over to the ovun and oponed it up and there was a nice flat pile of gingerbreadmen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's a funny old game

This is the cake I made yesterday. As it was for DH's birthday, albeit a week early, I decided that getting some football players and a football to go on the top would be a great idea. DH supports Spurs so I decided that it would be a really good idea to get the football players in Spurs' colours. On presenting the cake to DH he asked: "do you know why Spurs are call the Lilywhites?". I paused, thought for a moment and remembered that they play in a white strip....

Earlier in the day, while heading into North London, I spotted a billboard with the new season's spurs strip being advertised. This was after I'd bought the cake decorations but I didn't really notice the colour of the strip as I looked at the poster. Anyway, the poster has three chaps in a "come on you Spurs" pose - huddled together, fists clenched. I commented on this to DH and suggested they should have got man at C&A to model the strip. DH pointed out that the models were in fact, Jermaine Defoe, Luka Modric and another...

This early on in the season, I'm sure there will be more demonstrations of footballing ignorance to come....

Baking Frenzy

The photo below is from yesterday's baking frenzy. On arriving back from the morning gymastics visit (Pip's first class and a great success), i realised that I need to get to work baking if I was going to have a cake ready to take to Barnet. DH's birthday is a week away but we'd arranged with T that we'd go up this weekend as she was hosting a gathering.

The secret to all good birthday cakes is to keep the cake simple. I opted for a basic sponge recipe from the Bamix recipe book. This was very quick and easy to do, especially with the trusty hand held blender for the mixing. Onto the next cake. This Friday sees a cake sale at school for the Macmillan event: the world's greatest coffee morning. Rather than outsourcing my cake making to L to do on Thursday morning, inspiration struck, I would make the sticky gingerbread recipe. It's still waiting to bake as I need to mix in the missing two ingredients.

While the birthday cake was baking, I decided to get the buttercream icing ready. In my hunt for a list of the correct proportion of butter to icing sugar, I stumbled on a flapjack recipe. It seemed a shame not to give it a whirl.

I'll post a picture of the cake with my second post for the weekend. In the meantime, here is a picture of the kitchen in action. I'm a big fan of kitchen gadgets and firmly believe that it's worth paying for a good quality item over a cheaper counterpart.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Mmmmm, honey. I harbour an ambition to keep bees. Partially inspired by Pushing Daisies. We have some flat roofs on our house which would lend themselves perfectly to an apiary. I came one step closer to my ambition last weekend when we went to the local beekeeping association open day.

They run an introduction to bee keeping course. I'm tempted to try and fit it during the first part of 2011. We will see.

It's a long term ambition.

I have just one question. Bees aren't native to the US. Where else in the world are they not native? Wheremare they native to? Why is it that they never waggle danced their way across to the US?

Hmmm. Honey.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Agatha

(Thanks to google for today's image)

I first read Agatha Christie around the age of 10 or 11. At that age I had a voracious appetite for books, I would wolf down several a week but I'm not sure how fully they were digested. At school we had to write a book, this was in year 4 (now called year 6) and I wrote an attempt at a murder mystery. I no longer have a copy but it was a poor imitation (although bear in mind I was 11 at the time) of an amalgam of Miss Marples, complete with house in the country, a glamorous actress with a vendetta to pursue and probably a secret passage or two behind the wood panelling.

Back in 1997, a university friend compiled a list of his top ten Christie's:

Crooked house
Towards Zero
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Endless Night
Death on the Nile
Hercule Poirot's Christmas
Cards on the Table
Peril at End House
The Hollow

When discussing this last year, a further two were added:

Then There Were None
Murder on the Orient Express.

Thirteen years' later, I have yet to work through the list. Once I do, that's 12 posts for here...

Found! Mr Thorne

Now, everyone receives those "viral" emails (please bear with me while I get with the Web2.0 lingo). Now, a couple of years ago, there was one doing the rounds involving a drawing of a spider

As these things go, it was quite amusing and very memorable. I was recently sent Mr Thorne's artwork for a missing kitty. If ever one of the cats go missing, I will be asking Mr Thorne to help produce the posters.

Now, we have a friend who's name is very similar to Mr Thorne's. Around Christmas time a couple of years ago, I was trying to organise a gift for a friend who was a going skiing for a while. We decided that some hollow ski poles would do just the job (it probably needs no explanation that she was off to spend a ski season in the mountains). Hollow, so that they could be filled with a tipple of choice, or indeed different one in each pole. I only hope she didn't try using them to mix martinis, but that's another story.

So, in sending an email to solicit donations from mutual friends of my travelling, drinking, skier, I managed to email Mr Thorne. Here is a copy of the email exchange (edited so as not to splatter names and email addresses all over the place:

My Original Email:
> On Mon, Nov 17, 2008 at 7:32 PM, S S wrote:
>> I am thinking about a gift for Clare for her skiing adventure - my sister in law finds the following indispensible:
>> These are US based - I need to find out where Tina got them from but here's my idea (above)
>> Anyway, what do you think - anyone want to come in on this with me?
>> S

Mr Thorne's reply:

Hey guys,

I'd love to go in on the ski poles but unfortunantley I don't have much money at the moment. I have attached a picture of a spider that I value at around $250. I hope that this will cover my share of the present.

Say hi to everyone for me.

Love David xoxoxoxo

My Reply:

S to show details 11/24/08

£90 so will order and split cost among those who have contributed.

Dave - the spider only as 7 legs so I can't accept him as payment. Please offer other legal tender.

N - I will invoice your Dad!


Mr Thorne's Reply:

David Thorne to me
show details 11/25/08

You're so hard to please, Suzie. :)

I've reattached the spider with eight legs. Can't believe I stuffed it up.

- Dave.

Observations from the namesake and others:

Hmmm there appears to be an usurper in our midst with an additional "e".

I wonder if this is the same guy who made enquiries about a Chevy truck a few months ago that caused a series of ever more desperate emails from a dealership thinking they were about to make their first sale of the month in a credit crunch...

Reply N G

show details 11/25/08

Sod the Chevy truck, what he really wants is a villa in St Lucia! And boy have I got a deal for him ;-) Not many 7 legged spiders, though, cockroaches and geckos are more the thing out here!

Reply Reply to all Forward

Reply D T
show details 11/25/08

Hang on, this guy is an internet phenomena:

My final observations although we concluded that it was the real Mr Thorne.
show details 11/26/08

Are you sure he's not just impersonating an internet phenomenon? Al
posted that spide story on facebook. He probably kidnapped the spider
for his own financial gain. Mr Thorne that is not al.

Just goes to show that getting the correct email address is a thorny problem.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Post race musing

This year's splits:

10k Run1 00:57:58 - ave 5.8 min per km
20kBike 01:00:26 - ave 3 min per km
5k Run2 00:32:49 - ave 6.6 min per km

Total 02:35:32.

Last year's splits:

9k Run1 00:49:07 - ave 5.4 min per km
20k Bike 01:20:08 - ave 4 min per km
5k Run2 00:31:37 - ave 6.3 min per km

Total 02:45:20.

Thoughts on the above:

ten minutes faster than last year with an extra km on the first run
in both years I have power walked round the second run. Improving my speed here would be an easy win in terms of getting my time under 2 and a half hours
slower pace in the first run this year. I suspect this is partially down to the extra km, I took a slower pace
VERY pleased to see I've shaved a whole minute off my ave time per km on the bike ride.

So, did I learn from last year's experiences, which can be found here: ?

Looking back on last year's post race analysis, yes I did, particularly on the cycle stretch.. I was less of a big girls blouse on the downhill stretch and I had treated myself to a new bike which also helped.

What have I learned from this year?

I think the slower run partially reflects that I didn't maintain my running training in the last two weeks before the race. This is partly because I had swapped my run for spinning classes and partly inertia.
I need some longer or at least more intense training runs and a 10K at the start of the summer as a pace setter. I had completed a 10k in April at a time of about an hour (check)
Start my cycling training sooner. I did more than last year but it was all in the last month
Invest in cycle shoes or at least some of those toe straps

A link to the photographer's website to follow....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two in one day

I'm not using this as a loophole, i don't get to build up post-credit simply by posting an addendum. Text arrived this morning:

"Well done for completing the London Duathlon. Run1 00:57:58, Bike 01:00:26, Run2 00:32:49, Total 02:35:32. Congratulations"

I am however going to save my post race analysis for another day....

Remember me?

Annual posts about duathlons? Well, it's that time of year again so here goes...

Actually, I haven't got my results yet so the duathlon post will come later.

A few of my friends are engaging in the following project: 365 days - capturing life Once their albums are more established, I'll see if they're happy to share their albums on my blog, I suspect that it's good netiquette to ask...

I thought about setting up my own 365 album, but decided that it would be opportune to engage in my own project 365: a post a day. Starting with today. I've always found the blog a curious creature and I'm often surprised by how much people share on their blogs. I suppose some people are more open than others. So that's my first challenge in a post a day: given I am not inclined to reveal the innee workings of my life, neither personal nor professional, how do I make this engaging?

I'm tempted to answer, "I don't". The challenge here is for me to post once a day, i'm not overly interested in the feedback or comments I get. I may add a blog ticker again as it's always interesting to see where my hits are from. One thing I am going to do is true and refresh the design.

I'll be back tomorrow with my duathlon times.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What's new?

Tapping away on my new toy - that's new. iPad arrived on Friday and so far so good. In the last forty eight hours I have used it for:

Reading the paper ( and

Reading the following books: Winnie the Pooh, Treasure Island and Alice in Wonderland. The latter via the "app" - which effectively renders the classic as an e-pop-up. Boo and I had great fun reading the first couple of chapters and engaging the original illustrations (I wonder what the original illustrator and Lewis Carroll would make of it)

Facebooking and emailing (of course)

Perusing Marvel Comics

Playing Harbourmaster and Trivial Pursuit

Watching Alan Partridge Christmas Special.

All that in a neatly little slimline and portable device. Of course being able to do all those things and the novelty factor threatens my concentration span as I start up one app and then decide to move onto another.

I have yet to use tithes for work related matters but i have some slides to work on for a couple of presentations so I will see how they go. Now, off to the app store to see what I can find. Perhaps via Facebook....