Lanzarote 2022: four awesome beaches

Costa Teguise

We went to Lanzarote in October last year, mainly for a pilgrimage around the César Manrique sites but I love to swim in the sea and Lanzarote was amazing for that. There were four beaches we tried which were easily available since we had a hire car – but one was a very straightforward walk from our Costa Teguise digs.

I am very short sighted, so for a while I have been using goggles with lenses in – when I’m sea swimming alone, this is literally the only way of ever finding my clothes again. My eyes are -12 and the strongest lenses available are -8, but this is easily enough to make a huge difference. Goggles like this are easily available, including on Amazon.

My main concern with the goggles is just not getting lost or losing my glasses, but in Lanzarote there was an unexpected benefit in that you could also immediately see the amazing sea life. There were tropical fish everywhere we swam, immediately available to see in all of the beaches, right around the swimmers legs. It seemed a lot of people were oblivious, just getting on with usual beach/sea horseplay and not looking below the water. But every beach also had its share of snorkelers around the rock formations checking out the variety of stripy and bright flashed tropical fish. Perhaps next time I’m headed to a similar location, I’ll be packing an optical snorkel mask – not something I knew existed but also cheaply available on Amazon!

I also have very fair skin and I hate sun cream so almost all of the times we were taking our tops off on beaches were late in the day – 5pm and onwards – so pretty successful in avoiding sunburn while swimming.

Playa del Caleton Blanco

The first beach was the first day. After check in we just drove for a bit to see what we could see, and Playa del Caleton Blanco was in the north east of the island. There are informal car parks on one side of the main road, and on the other, a mix of volcanic rock and dazzling white bays. There’s any number. It’s a completely wild place with no shops or toilets, and as we came there late in the day there were only a handful of other people there. There were any number of bays to choose from, all shallow, calm and gentle. It was a struggle to get to waist depth, but plenty enough water to dunk your hair in and as soon as you looked under the waves there were fish to see.

Playa Caleton Blanco
Playa Caleton Blanco
Playa Caleton Blanco

Playa Famara

Again late in a day after visiting cultural sites, we made our way to Playa Famara, on the north coast under the cliffs that are home to the Mirador view points including the Manrique resort one.

This beach is famous for surfing, and there is a little sort of shanty town here full of surfers, and space to park your camper van. The vibe here is very different. There’s at least a mile of sandy beach with parking and a small supermarket at one end. The days we were there there were red flags flying, but it didn’t stop a small army of surfers, so we went in the sea too. Swimming is tricky here, it’s more one of those beaches for jumping up and down in enormous waves. But the sea and the wind are warm so I was happy to jump in the surf for hours. I didn’t really put my head down into the sea to see the sea life as I was too happy just bobbing around.

Playa Famara
Playa Famara
Playa Famara
Playa Famara
Playa Famara
Playa Famara

Playa de Papagayo

Our itinerary had taken us south in the island, and although this was still a drive away, nowhere is really far on Lanzarote. This looked good from googling, but on arrival it was slightly offputting. There is parking but it is a long way away from paved roads. You have to follow bone shaking rough roads for a few kilometers, and the only indication you were on the right track is that there were a lot of people doing the same. As we were again late in the day for a typical beach trip, most of the people were leaving but there were quite a few in the same direction as us. At one point we passed through what felt like a toll booth – I think if you choose a more normal time, you have to pay, but in the early evening everything was shut up and we just drove through. If there is a charge, I think it’s an astonishingly reasonable €3 a day

The unmetalled roads led to a busy car park followed by a path up to a headland, what turned out to be a series of headlands with bays and beaches down steep paths in each one. There were miles of this beginning to be visible, with different sorts of beaches. The further ones seemed to have fewer people and bigger waves. At the top of the cliff there’s a small and busy restaurant with outdoor tables. We didn’t eat, but it smelled good.

From the headland looking down into the beach I had huge waves of feeling how fortunate I was. This struck me as a world class, tourist brochure cover beach. Golden sand, luscious waves, lots of swimmers. I think this would be an amazing place to stay and watch a sunset.

We walked the headlands a bit for photos then went down to swim. This beach had a strong slope so it got deep quite quickly, and you could easily be swimming out of your depth just a few metres from the shore. Again there were a lot of fish to see with snorkelers above them highlighting where everything was.

Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo
Playa Papagayo

Playa del Jablillo

The final beach was one closest to our accommodation – easily walkable. We’d walked around it after dark on our first night and not been super impressed. It’s right outside a noisy ziggurat hotel with some sort of pool entertainment and the noise from that (karaoke? bingo?!) wafted from the bar over the beach.

So it was a bit of surprise to read that despite the close encroachment of holidaymakers, this beach too is a magnet for tropical fish and snorkelers. There’s an artificial reef partially closing the bay which creates a safe place to swim but which has also made it a great home for the wildlife. One side of the bay to the other is just over 200m, most of it properly deep, which, it turns out, is a bit further than I can comfortably swim there and back.

In the peak of day you can hire sun loungers and parasols and presumably there’s some kind of drinks service, but by the time we got there this was closed for the day. There are still a few miles of beach front businesses nearby with all sorts of bar and food offers.

Playa Jablillo
Playa Jablillo
Costa Teguise
Costa Teguise

Taking a nephew to Paris 2022

Album of photos

As a student, I lived in Paris for six months in 1999 and as a teacher I was a staff member on four coach trips there, so I’ve some experience of the city and of young people. I’d offered to my brother to take the oldest nephew for a half term trip there at some point. The initial plan was when he was 11, and Nectar points were converted to Eurostar tickets for October 2019, but some pandemic wave or other prevented this from happening. It’s just been possible now to reconvert Eurostar vouchers to tickets and try for a February dash.

And it was EPIC. The nephew was supremely well behaved and adventurous and endured an extremely dense itinerary across Paris over four days. We visited the old classics and I also included a huge range of things I’ve wanted to do for years but never quite got around to.

I am writing up the list here as much as an aide-mémoire for myself because we got through so much… and there are two more nephews…

Sunday arrival, after dark

Drop bags off at hotel, chosen for cheapness and proximity to Gare du Nord. This was an Ibis (an old favourite of mine, reasonably priced, huge continental breakfast). We used Ibis Gare du Nord, 122 rue Lafayette, which turned out to be ideal. 300m from Gare du Nord which meant we could get all over Paris – walk to Sacré Coeur, take RER to catacombes and Stade de France. Just a few paces down rue Lafayette is the Église St Vincent de Paul which was JUST beginning to have cherry blossom, and the Métro station Poissonière which goes directly to the Louvre and from there, the ultimate touristy destinations of Métro line 1. A sneaky building over the road is actually a métro vent hiding behind a façade.

Immediately after dropping bags off we went for a walk. My thought was that we’d been sat down and masked for five hours at St Pancras and on the train, so a bit of time stretching legs and breathing normally was required. The hotel is about 3 miles from the Arc de Triomphe with interesting things en route and a nice chance to absorb what the city feels like and the styles of buildings. So off we set.

At this point we also noticed how many awesome French cafés and restaurants there were right outside the hotel with also some Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Italian choices.

We walked almost as far as Opéra Garnier and stopped for dinner at Restaurant Le Royal, 8 rue Lafayette… including frogs legs, which nephew bravely tried. To be honest, I’d never had these before and probably wouldn’t have ordered them or been brave enough to eat them myself if it hadn’t been for showing off. But they are basically garlicky chicken wings, although they are very obviously very froggy in appearance. My main was a souris d’agneau (lamb mouse? it was a shank!) with a ratatouille and a cheese burger for nephew.

The waiters here were extremely friendly and helpful, and chatty. We bumped into one waitress outside in a fag break and she persuaded us inside. Paris waiters are notorious for brusqueness if not rudeness, and for switching to English at the merest hint of an accent in your French. Many friends of mine have felt slightly snubbed because waiters essentially refuse to speak French to them. Despite a French degree and a decade teaching French, I am no exception and almost all Paris waiters switch to English for me too. I assume this is just because they are absolutely working at full tilt and rushed off their feet and it is simply quicker to switch to English and more likely they manage to bring the food you actually want without the complication of changes. Perhaps because we arrived at this café so late after most people had gone, the waiters had more time to be friendly and chatty and help the nephew practise his French. Which was lovely. They were also amazed we had walked “so far” – about 2km at this point.

On past the Opéra building with a mini lecture about fly towers towards the Arc de Triomphe and our first view of the Eiffel Tower in night mode with its search light. The plan had been to climb the arch for a night view of the city but we arrived too late in the end and the ticket office was already closed. Instead we went down into the métro, bought a Paris Visite ticket each (13 year olds count as adults here…) and planned a route home to bed.

Since the route back to our hotel involved changing at the Louvre stop anyway, we got out there and went upstairs to look at the pyramid and the Louve palace from the outside.

Back to the hotel for bed… breakfast…

Sunday – Fitbit – 18,090 steps, 68 flights of stairs, 13.14km

Day 2 – Monday

The only trip I had planned from the UK in advance was a guided tour of the Stade de France, as nephew is v interested in football. Unfortunately there weren’t any guided tours in English in the time we were staying there so we had to do a tour in French with me translating highlights to nephew as and when required. I was highly dubious of this part of the trip, but in fact it was fascinating. Even though I have no interest in football, the infrastructure elements were really amazing and the tour really pushed my “finding out how things work” buttons. On the way we were shown cranes that turned out to be the construction of the 2024 Olympic pool and village so perhaps the next nephews will get some very different views! The visit includes the pitch, the on-site jail (!) the players’ changing rooms, the presidential suite and a special look at how the stands can be retracted – which takes 6 days to do!

Train back to the hotel and a walk up the many many steps to Sacré Coeur from the side. First through the wedding dress district of Montmartre – many dress shops and a few groomsmen outfitters too. Up the top for savoury crêpes in the place du Tertre and a strange encounter with a street artist.

Down the funicular (why down?? up would have made more sense!) which we did free with our Paris Visite métro cards but would have been free anyway as for some reason the barriers were unstaffed and open. A few more streets to the nearest métro station and away to the Grande Arche de la Défense.

I lived in Paris for half a year and used Métro Line 1 pretty much daily, but I only ever knew Défense as the terminus of the line, so this was the first time I visited. It’s quite impressive. Unfortunately the roof visit is closed on Mondays. So we just wandered around the huge plaza and gawped a bit before heading back onto the métro to the Arc de Triomphe which this time was open, so we climbed the steps to the top. Legs seriously hurty by now after 3km of walking around the stadium and climbing stair cases to Montmartre as well as the enormous spiral staircase here.

Views, selfies, a grey sky view of the Eiffel Tower. Back down the steps and onto the Métro. I wanted to see if the ice rink was outside the Hôtel de Ville again this year (just to look, not to fall down on) and I also wanted to wander around the amazing department store BHV. Nephew was dubious why anyone would ever want to go shopping but was a convert once he discovered there was pretty much a whole floor of computers and phones…

It turns out the huge square in front of the Hôtel de Ville de Paris is actually currently a vaccination centre for Covid. Sign of the times!

At this point we got back on the métro (so helpful to have unlimited travel during the whole stay thanks to Paris Visite tickets) back to the hotel and out again to look for a café for the evening. This evening I was less decisive than Sunday night and back to my old habit of wandering for miles past many places that would have been fine. Part of the excuse was actually nephew quite fussy on food front so we did check menus before going in and eliminated a few ideas. One pizza place looked ideal but was rammed so we wandered, and turned a few streets and let ourselves get delightfully lost – one of my favourite Paris activities normally but perhaps not ideal late at night with a young teen and when starving! We eventually found Pizza Capri, 49 rue Richer, late in their service and for a while had the place to ourselves. Another excellent, very friendly waitress, jokingly bullying nephew into ordering his own food and saying some whole French sentences. Strangest nephew question of the whole trip “what’s a tiramisu?”

On our way home trying to get unturned around, discovered our hotel is also very easy walking distance from Folies Bergère…

Monday – Fitbit says 26,955 steps, 136 flights of stairs, 19.57km, 4,500 calories expended

Day 3 – Tuesday

The night before I had booked more tickets. This seems much more important in covid times than normal. The weather looked a bit grim for Tuesday so I tried to switch my mental plan around a little and go the Louvre on a grey day and save climbing the Eiffel Tower for the following, sunnier day. This turned out not to be possible as the Louvre was sold out for Tuesday. Well worth bearing this in mind – book ahead and book more than a day ahead.

So we ended up heading for the Eiffel Tower anyway, definitely an expected highlight for nephew. I have only ever gone up the Eiffel Tower by climbing the stairs of Level 1 and 2 – and you actually cannot prebook tickets for this. There were no queues to speak of when we eventually got there.

I planned the day with a bit of a walk to start with because I wanted to see my old studenty neighbourhood. (I had an amazing address in the 7th because I had a crummy maid’s apartment without my own bathroom.) We took the métro to Place de Concorde and walked over the Alexandre III bridge down to les Invalides, past my old address on av de la Motte Picquet and my old stamping ground the rue Cler. Then on to École Militaire to walk the Champ de Mars to the Eiffel tower. A couple of KM but oh, our legs at this point after days of walking and stairs!

Opposite the old École Militaire is currently a wood and polythene building called the Grand Palais Éphemère, which was a surprise to me… Googling at home, I discovered it’s a temporary building hosting things from the Grand Palais (I’ve never been there…) which is being refurbished ahead of the Olympics, and the temporary building itself will be an Olympic venue before being removed at the end 2024. Remember the Eiffel Tower was also intended as a temporary building but somehow has lasted since 1889!

Up the Eiffel Tower stairs. This was harder on the old legs than the last time I did it with a school party! The new exclusion zone around the pillars of the tower worked fine but there were serious bag checks and airport-style metal detectors to get through first. So, we climbed the stairs, admired the view and I used the facilities there for the first time in all my years visiting. A lift to the very top, the photos and a new one for me – an attempt at video calling home. It didn’t quite work as it was busy and windy at the top, but the call was placed from beneath.

Down the lift and stairs again, much easier than up! And across the road for a very trashy snack lunch from a street stall selling French hotdogs and other snackery. Then down the steps to the Eiffel Tower stop on all the various boat tours.

There are many options and most are fine with turn up and go plans. I chose Batobus as it looked like it was the next one due to arrive and it runs a plan like many cities have open-top sightseeing buses – you can hop on and off and your ticket is valid all day. In the end we just sat and did a complete tour, happy to see the sights and happy to be sitting down and resting our legs for an hour. I did mentally pencil in the sculpture garden just before the turning around stage for something that would be interesting to do on a subsequent trip.

Nephew had been interested in the Statue of Liberty and the fact that she was a gift from France to the United States. I was able to share that there is a small copy of her on the Seine – in fact we saw it from the Eiffel Tower – and that she is held up by a miniature Eiffel Tower structure inside her designed by the same Gustave Eiffel. Unfortunately the boat tour didn’t go as far as that on its return, so visiting Madame Liberté is also something pencilled in for a future trip.

Batobus eventually returned us to our starting point on the quai under the Eiffel tower and we got out and walked along the river bank to another old favourite of mine, the Sewer Museum. You can walk down a set of concrete steps to a mix of tunnels, some of which are bespoke museum and some of which are working sewer tunnels with actual sewage flowing down them to the huge riverside collection tunnel which takes most Paris effluent for treatment outside and downhill from central Paris. (Most, because like London, in stormy weather the whole system is a little overwhelmed and just dumps into the river.) Most of Paris has a network of sewage tunnels that follow the street pattern even lower down than the métro tunnels. If you want to work up a detailed understanding of sewage you can spend half a day there reading all the panels (they will give you a printed English translation of everything if you ask) but you can get a basic understanding and walk along some mock alleyways in an hour.

We were ahead of my mental schedule when we left the tunnels so we continued our walk along the river, past the American Church and a bunch of embassies in search of the Musée Rodin. I had booked tickets for this in the expectation of doing it the following day when we were planning to see a bunch of different museums, but a quirk of the prebooked ticket is that it was valid for ANY day after purchase, not a specific day or time. This visit was more for me than the nephew – despite living very close to its beautiful location near les Invalides, I had never actually visited. I’ve never been inside the Invalides either! The museum has many of his sculptures including many different versions of The Thinker, the Burghers of Calais and the Gates of Hell, many outside in a well tended garden as well as a large house of statue and paintings. One of these paintings is Van Gogh’s Père Tanguy. I was unable to get nephew to recreate the pose of any of the statues and he was previously not aware of either Rodin or Van Gogh so wasn’t super interested.

Our next stop was a return to the Grande Arche de la Défense and this time it was open to the public. At the foot of the tower was a ticket booth with a really chatty saleswoman and somehow a conversation started on the back of her asking me which départment of France I was from (this is a frequent question at venues like this as they track visitor origin data). We ended up each showing off in various languages, so I gave her my best Italian attempt, due biglietti per favore, and she gave me a long blast of response in Russian which I could understand none of!

Unlike the leg challenge of the Eiffel Tower, the only way to the top of the Grande Arche was by a set of amazing lifts that only had buttons for level 3 and level 35. The view at the top is good, much of it beyond actual Paris into Grand Paris. There are the skyscapers that are banned from actual Paris, including one still in construction. I’d never been up here before so the enormous exhibition space was a surprise. When we were there it was an A-Z retrospective of a paparazzo photographer Daniel Angeli – the one who took the famous photo of the Duchess of York with her foot in a Texan’s mouth – which was included in the display. There was a whole panel of Johnny Halliday, which led to a conversation that went “He’s like a French Elvis!” / “Who’s Elvis?”

The sun was beginning to set at this point and the next idea to carry out was to find a nice spot with a good view of the Eiffel Tower when she does her hourly sparkle session. This happens for five minutes after the hour, every night time hour. I thought returning to the Place de la Concorde would be a good bet so we hopped back on the métro. Unfortunately, it was 6.30pm and all of the very many offices all around la Défense had just kicked out. The métro was very full indeed and the nephew was a little freaked at peak time megacity mass transit. By the time we got to Place de la Concorde, we were very grateful to return to the surface and breathe. We were in time for the 7pm sparkle and we sat on bollards and watched.

Then it was time to eat. But Place de la Concorde is not full of budget eateries or eateries at all, and is slap bang in the centre of some of the most expensive real-estate on the planet, so we walked. Again. Again for ages. We took streets north and east, and walked through Place Vendôme, famous for extreme luxury brands, and it was entertaining to window shop on the way. It was also interesting to know what brands the nephew knew and didn’t – Gucci and Balenciaga and even Chanel were on his horizon but Patek Philippe was not. I guess I’m not getting a watch for Christmas again.

Ultimately with enough up and right we ended up on rue Étienne Marcel, having explored the menus outside a bunch of cafés and restaurants until ‘appy ‘our posters at Café Étienne Marcel drew us in. Ribs for the little ‘un and a caesar salad for me. This place was busy and the waiter here was not up for a chat. At dessert o’clock he brought us a tray of pâtisserie to see what was available and for me it was a Paris-Brest which was absolutely delicious and the teen took a tarte au citron which went a long way towards his 5 a day #beatscurvy. A quick stagger from there found a métro stop on line 4 which took us back to the Gare du Nord and an easy walk back to our digs on what had been a really epic day of walking and climbing.

Tuesday – Fitbit says 28,376 steps, 75 flights of stairs, 20.57km, 4,602 calories expended

Day 3 – Wednesday

Wednesday was booked in as our giant museum day so up early for timed tickets at the Louvre. I got slightly turned around at the métro station and ended up following signs for the Carousel du Louvre, the underground shopping centre tacked on the huge underground space beneath the giant glass Pyramid. This turned out to be a really quiet back way of getting into the museum with next to no queuing at all. There was a short hold up for bag check but then it was easy enough to walk right into the museum and around. The place was very busy, people everywhere. A visit to the Louvre is always two museums in one – the building itself, and what that tells us about pre-Revolutionary France, and the contents. Our route took us through the basements where there is a display on the mediaeval foundations and walls of one of the earliest fortress palaces on the site, up through some of the extensive Egyptology collections (personally I always try and find the mummified cats, but the layout now puts mummified dogs as one of the first things you see.) A giant timeline had me trying to work out when the Egyptian artefacts were from compared to the timeline for construction of the Louvre itself… was Ancient Egypt really so many thousand years before European civilisation was kicking off? Some of the Egypt material is unbelievably old. After Egypt we headed through some amazing halls with amazing contents – no hyperbole, literally gilded walls hosting crown jewels – before heading to paintings and the main event, the Mona Lisa. I think she has been relocated since the last time I saw her in the 90s as it all felt very different. (The Louvre was never on the itinerary for the school trips I was on after 2010). Now she essentially has a huge room to herself, she is mounted alone on a wall with a long snaking queue ahead of her for people hoping to get ten second directly in front. The queue looked too long for us and was full of people ignoring some amazing paintings on every other wall just for a little alone time with la Joconde. I got a perfectly adequate photo side on without queuing and it still looked like she was looking right at me.

This was enough museum by this point so we exited through the gift shop in search of a café, returned to the basement level and found… a Starbucks. This was very much what the nephew wanted so we headed down for some sort of sugary American blender horror and reacquainted ourselves with the outside world shortly after.

We came outside to some of the best weather we’d had all week – a shame we weren’t able to do the Eiffel Tower in the sun – and were ahead of time on our ticket for the next stop, so had a lovely walk along the Jardin des Tuileries. Along the way I got the best photo of the nephew all week by tricking him into photobombing a selfie, and we saw a fab bronze sculpture that looked like a realistic fallen tree. We also walked past another giant temporary venue that will be something Olympic in the fullness of time.

Our next appointment was the Musée d’Orsay, which we reached by walking over the footbridge that had been under construction in 1999 when I regularly walked home from the Marais to my digs in the 7th. Nice to finally see the finished bridge! Our timed tickets took us into the Orsay with very little fuss and we walked up and down the central sculpture hall to start with. The French approach to ticketing was different in every single place we visited – for some, the teen was a full price adult, in other places he was free. The Orsay was the only place where he was free and I got a discount on MY ticket just for taking him!

I was very taken with the display about the Opéra Garnier at the back with a huge cutaway model and mentally pencilled in a guided tour for a possible future grownup visit. Most of the art was leaving the nephew cold but he was taken with a bloodthirsty depiction of an African execution, all swords and heads bouncing down stairs, and as we turned around again we discovered we had completely walked past another version of la statue de la liberté as we came in. I particularly wanted to see the boatloads of Monet and Van Gogh that are here, and loved seeing the Floor Scrapers in person. I might see if I can turn my cameraphone pic into art posters for my house. The poppy field painting that I had been attempting to teach colour theory from when I was suprisingly timetabled to do art last September was there, as was creepy “let’s have a picnic while our lady friends strip” Déjeuner sur l’herbe – I knew the painting but I had no idea it was absolutely huge! There was also a Whistler exhibition so we made the acquaintance of Whistler’s Mother.

Somewhere around here, nephew let me know that he’d not heard of any of these painters ever and the only painter he knows about is Picasso, so I googled a bit to see if we could find any Picasso. The internet suggested there was loads at the Orsay but a conversation with the information desk finally led me to understand that had been a temporary exhibition that finished years ago. There was however a Musée Picasso not a million miles away…

We left the museum and went across the road in search of lunch. There was a fancy café with lots of staple French cuisine that didn’t look palatable to the teenager and Le Royal Orsay which was offering pancakes, including the special savoury sort with the buckwheat flour which I’d been raving about previously, so we went there. After our tasty meal, our neighbours in the café engaged us in conversation so I had quite a long chat in French about visiting Paris and London, living in border country and fearing invasion, Russia and Ukraine, and Brexit, before heading back on my phone to chart a course for Musée Picasso.

En route we passed les bouqinistes selling postcards on the river bank so picked up a bunch for later use, and as I got my bearings I noticed a few things we could easily visit with only a slight déviation. The most obvious between the two points was the cathedral of Notre Dame which had had its huge years previously and so clearly was not yet open to the public. It was interesting to see the cranes and construction portakabins and hope that their work will be done soon.

If you’re here, an interesting but devastating monument just around the corner that I’d not seen before but wanted to was the Mémorial des Martyrs de la déportation, an installation to remember French victims of the holocaust deported to extermination camps after the Nazi occupation of France.

We walked on through the Marais, past some old familiar haunts and the Dr Who doors from City of Death (1979) and got to the Musée Picasso with an hour to spare before closing. It was a bit of an interesting beast. There were some Picasso works there but a lot of the space was for video installations of him talking, and an entire floor not of Picasso at all but of Rodin, including yet another version of The Thinker – in stone this time, not bronze.

My final plan for this day was another high up panoramic view, this time from the top of the Tour Montparnasse. A new discovery this trip was how amazing Google Maps is at understanding the Paris transport system and it found that there was a bus directly from the Musée Picasso to the Tour Montparnasse. So another Paris first for me was using the Paris bus! On the way, we were treated to a bizarre conversation in English between two elderly ladies who liked going to exhibitions and who thought Boris was a good PM because he exemplified the English sense of humour so well.

Leaving the bus and walking to the Tour took us past a post office and after an unsuccessful attempt to use the machines I got the evergreen delight of reusing a phrase learned for GCSE thirty years before, je voudrais des timbres pour des cartes postales pour l’Angleterre. This time it led to a slightly baffling conversation about what sort I’d like, would I like Mariannes? Oh no, I don’t have any Mariannes, I’m going to have to give you self-adhesive ones, are you sure you’re OK with those? My mind was partly taken up with self-congratulation on remembering the French for self-adhesive and partly worried that there might be a good reason for me to prefer the elusive Marianne over the autocollant, but we eventually got out of the post office alive and fully equipped for postage.

Another speedy lift took us to the enclosed viewing level and we sat in the café as night fell completely. We were writing the postcards – nephew by hand, me using my app – and we spent at least an hour and half on that, and it was rather nice looking up occasionally to see how the city beneath us had changed, swapping ideas on what to put on cards and texting parents to get addresses. Eventually we surfaced from the concentration and realised we’d missed Eiffel Tower Sparkle O’clock and that we would have to hang around a bit to see 8pm, but that was OK, and we headed up to the very top outdoor floor to get ready. It was a bit of a surprise to find an ourdoor ice rink up there, and I’m afraid at this point I actually said no, we wouldn’t skate. There was a choice of roller blades or ice skates for those who were, and the surface seemed to be made out of tiles, not actual ice. The vibe up there was pretty much unaccompanied teen, but it wasn’t rowdy or unpleasant and we spent 40 minutes walking around and waiting for the grande dame de fer to do her thing. Shortly after, the roof terrace was emptying and we decided to head back to digs and find food there.

Directly outside the Gare du Nord there are a lot of options for eating and we walked up and down a bit and looked at menus and tried to avoid being accosted by over zealous waiters before we settled at a place called Au baroudeur patient, who lured us in with a promise of a table with a view of some football match or other. We ate a spag bol, a rare steak frites and we “shared” a plate of snails which came with some rather exciting cutlery to hold the slippery shells still. At the end of the meal, people at the table next door engaged us in conversation again – it turned out mainly to be a charming young maths post-doc who had just secured a research post in Australia who really wanted to practise his English, but who had pretty strong skills on that front. We explored non-Euclidean geometry for a bit and taught him some vital Australian slang like “throw another sheila on the barbie!” and his friend fell asleep, which was our cue to return to the hotel and sleep.

Wednesday – Fitbit says 25,254 steps, 38 flights of stairs, 18.33km, 4,301 calories expended

Final Day – Thursday

Our final day allowed us a slightly later start to pack up and put our suitcases in the hotel luggage store before heading on the RER to Denfert Rochereau for the famous Catacombes. This was the most expensive trip of the weekend, barely any child reduction, and although it had looked like we were on time for the timed tickets, we took a wrong turn out of the RER station and showed up too late. The website threatened that the tickets were not valid 15 minutes after the face time, but we were sent to the back of the queue with slapped wrists and eventually allowed down there. There was an option of half price on-the-day tickets but not taking that option proved the right decision as they were completely sold out by the time we got there. We opted not to do the audioguide and I read some of the panels and translated fragments where necessary. It’s a bizarre and creepy place. When you surface you are a long way from where you went down into the ground and it’s not immediately clear how you return to the start, but we sorted it eventually and headed to a café for our final elevenses. Café Daguerre on a corner somewhere brought me a double espresso and I ordered for the teen and got him a citron pressé – something I’ve seen in books and on menus but never actually ordered. It took a LOT of sugar added to the lemon juice before we got to something he could drink, but it was good to know that we had #beatscurvy for another day.

Then that was it – métro back to the hotel to reclaim baggage, postcards posted on the way back to the Gare du Nord, then the long slog of baggage checks, 5 separate checkpoints to cross the border, a long sit in departures and a long sit on the train, and our French trip was over.

Totting up the fitbit data suggests I dragged the poor long suffering nephew through 71km or 44 miles of walking in three days, le pauvre petit garçon!

A quick trip to Brittany

Popped across to France during the Easter holidays for slightly less than a week at HPB Manoir du Hilguy in the outskirts of Quimper, the capital of Brittany on the west coast of France.

Booked at short notice, we were due to stay Wednesday to Wednesday, so the first surprise of the holiday was that there are no night sailings into Roscoff or St Malo on Wednesdays with Brittany Ferries – of all their long channel crossings, only Portsmouth-Caen runs on Wednesday nights. So the crossing out was nearly fully booked and we could only get reclining seats, not a cabin; and there was a long drive across the top of France to get to digs on the first day.

Travelling in through Normandy had its advantages too – my companion had never been to this part of the world before so it opened up opportunities for me to revisit some of the treasures of Normandy again. On the way from Caen to Quimper, we stopped off at the Bayeux tapestry. I have seen this before but could remember nothing of it, so was very happy to troll around the embroidery again. I had completely forgotten the cause of the Norman invasion in the years running up to it – Harald swearing and reneging on an oath – and all the filthy rude pictures around the edges were entertaining too.

A bit of a running theme throughout the visit was value for money. We felt many things of equivalent cultural importance in the UK would cost an awful lot more to visit. The thousand-year-old treasure of the first cost us under a tenner to see.

A second running theme though is opening hours and availability. Lots of the things we were interested in were not yet open for the season. Of all the HPB properties, only Hilguy is shut down for the winter, because not enough people visit to make it viable to keep open. But you can kinda see why – the weather forecast was terrible for our visit and many of the attractions in that part of the world are only open June-September.

On our way from Bayeux to Quimper, I took T to see the Château de Balleroy, Normandy home of the Forbes magnate. We could only glimpse through the gates as the castle doesn’t start doing visits until April.

Long drive onwards, arrived at Hilguy early afternoon. Quick nap, evening meal in the bistro onsite, long sleep.

First full day, after a lie in, leisurely breakfast and first experience with the Hilguy bread delivery (it’s awesome tasty bread, but you have to get to reception early enough in the afternoon to order it!) out to Quimper, a beautiful city with tricky parking. We found a space immediately in a car park across the river from the cathedral, but could only stop there for a few hours, on threat of high fines if you overstay your time by only a minute. We had better than expected weather which allowed us to walk the streets, including the Rue des Gentilhommes …

…and Place au Beurre (Butter Square) – where there were at least 5 crêperies all doing good business.

Hilguy hol panoramas

(I had been in this square 9 years previously but had no recollection of it.) We stopped in a delightful pancake shop which was very busy, full of French patrons, and had a delicious lunch. I was expecting to order a galette but the slightly frosty menu explained that this is a Norman thing – in Brittany, you have a crêpe au blé noir. I went for a “complète” and added creamy mushrooms – egg, ham, cheese, mushrooms.

I also wanted a pudding so went for a pancake “au froment” – I wrongly assumed this meant fermented, but it’s just the French for wheat. They made their own caramels, so I had a coffee flavoured caramel pancake and it was da bomb.

Hilguy hol 2018

As we arrived the cathedral had been closed, but the doors were open after our lunch, so we went in for a visit. It’s dedicated to St Corentin of Quimper, a hermit who lived in the woods. He was blessed with a miraculous salmon that jumped out of a fountain at his prayer, and miraculously replaced any flesh that was sliced off it.  The wikipedia page for the cathedral is incredibly detailed and helps as a guided tour.

The cathedral has a kink in the middle, because they found they couldn’t put footings in the swamp when they were building it.

We visited on Good Friday, so the statues were veiled.

There was a fab bay with an interesting story of a pilgrim who had entrusted his fortune to a friend whilst off gallivanting. On his return, his friend had pretended not to know where the money was and refused to give it back. There was a tribunal when his friend continued his lies in front of lay judges. At this point a statue of the crucifix began bleeding, and the friend gave the money back. The bay had a stained glass window depicting this, as well as a reliquary holding the head of the mediaeval statue which bled, and the cloth it bled onto.

Out of the cathedral, with the parking clock ticking, we had a choice between a fine art museum and a museum of Breton life, and chose the latter, in the Bishop’s Palace right next door. Lots of lovely furniture, ceramics and costumes, including lots of information about Breton women’s headdresses. An exhibition of a female illustrator of children’s books and her other paintings.

Hilguy hol 2018

Back to car, supermarket trip, home, dinner.  It was Good Friday and the TV ads had been banging on about lamb for weeks, so I bought a leg of lamb with the intention of roasting it one night and using the leftovers for shepherd’s pie on another occasion.

Hilguy hol 2018

Hilguy hol 2018

The second day, we were in pursuit of a nice castle, but were hampered in that a lot of the obvious places to try were not yet open for the season, or closed because of Easter. One in particular was Keriolet, “a Russian princess’s dream” but we didn’t get to go there at all. At reception, they explained that Brittany was a poorer region, not many châteaux, many more manors.

We eventually set out for the Domaine du Trévarez – I didn’t know much about it on the way. We arrived before it opened for the afternoon, so went for a bit of a drive, and walked around what felt like a ghost town of Châteauneuf du Faou, a town on a hill overlooking a bend in the river. We peeked around two churches and got back in the car.

Trévarez felt like it was ready for a huge number of visitors – vast carparks – but we were the first to arrive and it felt like we had the place to ourselves.  It was built in the 1850s – at much the same time as the houses of Parliament and St Pancras, and had a similar sort of vibe. The architecture looked back to the 1700s but more modern techniques of construction were used, such as iron frames, and this was an early example of electricity (powered from a steam generator in the stable block), central heating, and fully indoor plumbing. The exterior of the castle had been perfectly restored, but the interior was very limited, and showed the damage done as the Allies bombed it in 1944, to try and remove the Nazis who had set up shop there.

The gardens were amazing, with heather and camellias in abundance.

Hilguy hol panoramas

There was a nice caff with some trad Breton cakes and biscuits.

We snacked on cheese and salad, and delicious pots à la crème which I always look out for in France.


April 1st, Easter Sunday, was the worst of the weather, so we set a course for Brest, and the largely indoor Océanopolis, a massive aquarium. I had been there before, before I became a teacher, and was hugely struck to find “bassin de requins” – shark pool – a phrase I use in my teaching. I must have internalised it last time I was there.

There are three pavilions – tropical and coral, arctic and local – with long exhibitions around each of these themes. It’s not perfect for a wet weather day as there are still uncovered walks from the car park to the tanks and between each various bit but it was the best way to spend a day with really atrocious rain.

We came back via the bakery Paul just outside the aquarium for a late lunch, and in the evening availed ourselves of the wood-fired pizza van which visited site.

Monday we visited Concarneau, an extremely picturesque fishing town. The Old Port is a walled fortress with ramparts, and the sun came out while we were there.

The Old Port itself is a real tourist trap with lots of ice-cream and sweet shops, and the last word in knick-knackery and Breton tourist tat.

We took a slow route home via Pont l’Abbé where we visited a brocante, a statue and a looked at the strange tower on the church.

Hilguy hol 2018

Also a statue of five ages of women all mourning dead sailor fishermen fathers and husbands.

We also took in a classic Breton beach with impressive kite surfers, and tried to imagine how nice it would be at the height of summer.


We drove over a huge viaduct over an inlet and stopped to walk back over it to take photos.

Hilguy hol 2018

Tuesday we started at Audierne for a bit of a wander – churches, graveyards, marinas, delicious crêpes where I was a bit more adventurous with ingredients.

Then on to the Pointe du Raz – not quite the most westerly point of France, but very close. Very picturesque coastal walk.

Statue of Our Lady of the Shipwrecked

Down the road from the Pointe du Raz is the most gorgeous Baie des trépassés – we came down to sunshine, shelter from the wind at the cliff top, but huge green waves and surfer dudes taking advantage.

Baie des trépassés surfers pano

Hilguy hol 2018

Then to a flying visit to Dournanez. Another place I could not remember, but on return, found I had taken almost identical photos. We arrived too late, but there is a shipping museum here where you can walk around the boats, based on the town’s vital sardine industry.

Our final day was the long drive back to Caen for the overnight ferry, but with 12 hours to kill between being kicked out of digs near Quimper and checking in at Ouistreham.

Before we left we took some final pics of the manor.

Hilguy hol panoramas

Four hours driving was split up with a visit to Mont St Michel. Again, I place I have visited before but have little memory of. I think in my mind I was muddling the abbey at the top with another city… Prague perhaps? as what we saw up there rang no bells at all for me.  The ramparts and the tourist shops on the way up were familiar, but since the last time I went they have built some serious infrastructure – distant car parks and free shuttle busses were all new.  As with the Bayeux tapestry, visiting this world class, UNESCO monument, was actually not very expensive at all.

We had had patchy weather on the drive, but the sun came out as we arrived so we got some fabulous photos.

Hilguy hol 2018

It started to rain as we were there but that more or less coincided with arriving at the abbey for the indoor part of the tour.

The worst of rain was happening as they practised an evacuation drill – we were taken out of the Salle des Chevaliers down a staircase only used in emergencies and swept out of the building by women with “evac” armbands. Getting out of the building was the hardest part because people were extremely reluctant to leave given how hard it was raining.

Hilguy hol 2018

Our timetable allowed us a really brief visit to central Caen. I set the satnav for the Abbaye aux Hommes and we dove into the Hôtel de Ville car park with a plan for a quick walk and a nice bistro, but as we were leaving I saw a sign saying the car park closed at 8, so take your parking ticket with you. Unsure if that meant we would get the car trapped and be unable to catch the ferry, we ended up with a whistlestop tour around some of the monuments before heading out of town to Flunch for our last dinner in France.

Hilguy hol 2018

Something Olympic was going on at the Hôtel de Ville.

Hilguy hol 2018

Since I had not been able to get a cabin on the outward trip, I sprang for a luxury cabin – with a window! – for the return, and after a day of driving with another in prospect, it was a bit of a relief to be able to board the ferry, go the cabin, and just stay there all night!


Best nine 2017

Just as last year, I intended to sneak some of these off the amazing colour printers at work, and just never managed to get that done before breaking up. So the Christmas cards went out with no newsletter and I’ll just have to hope you read it here and care.

Quite a hard job narrowing it down to 9 photos this year!


New Year in Glencoe in 2016 – up to the NE coast of Scotland to Torridon for 2017/8

Fudge the cat is old and ill and we are getting used to two tablets a day.

Holiday in Wales in Feb, some lovely but cold walking on the Gower peninsula

Went from crew cut to quiff during the year… but now what?

Attempted some interior design and made a feature on my landing of the sign that used to be over my grandfather’s shop

Attended an awesome wedding as my cousin on my mother’s side of the family got married

Bought a new tent and didn’t use it enough. Wanna go camping in 2018?

Took my brother, father, sister-in-law and all three nephews to Madeira

Refreshed soul and wine rack on a trip to Normandy in the October half term.


2018… August in Norwich… 40th birthday approaching…

Cirque de Navacelles – strange coincidence

Last night I opened a bottle of wine for dinner.

Cirque de Navacelles bottle

I like a nice bottle, who doesn’t, but I don’t actually put a lot of time or effort into choosing what I drink. I send £15 a month on payday to Virgin Wine Bank, they top it up with interest and two or three times a year I have enough to pay for a crate of bottles. I drink them as I feel like it or use them as last minute hostess gifts. I try to get a huge 16 bottle box, which is always delivered by a tiny woman who can heft it to my doorstep far more easily than I can move it around the house. I can be sure that each of the bottles that arrives will be interesting and delicious, but it’s fairly random what turns up.

(If you want a referral to Virgin Wine drop me a line as there’s a friend-get-friend scheme.)

Last night’s bottle had a really irritating typographic design, with all of those letters jumbled up, unclear where the words begin and end, so I insta’d a pic and left it there. There was a bonus opportunity to make a weak, limp, rude bilingual pun, because if you work really hard you can see cir que  as cire queue which are the French words for wax and dick, although of course for it to make sense as a French phrase it would have to be a queue de cire.

A helpful friend who presumably wasn’t up to her eyes in an oven full of classic British Saturday night fare  (we had baked potatoes, Lincolnshire sausages, corn on the cob, carrots and a gravy made with fried onions, mushrooms and a spoon of caramelised red onions from a jar, which barely left any room for an oaty walnutty crumble filled with jumbo apples from the kind neighbours) deduced the phrase in full and posted a link to Cirque de Navacelles which jogged a memory.

I’ve actually been there!

I have also wondered over the years, reviewing the pictures of the awesome six-week round France trip I did after working on the successful campaign to re-elect Paul Holmes in 2005, if I was ever going to work out again where that strange, heart-shaped hollow was.  Somewhere in the south of France, somewhere on my journey from campsites near Canne and Perpignon, I followed a brown sign to something interesting to tourists and found myself overlooking a giant hole in the ground which I photographed and then got back in my car. Places to go, tents to erect, dinner to cook before dark.

Now I know!

Cirque de Navacelles

12 years later and it’s about time for another holiday of a lifetime.

Diner à deux

Another opportunity to cook for a friend. As ever, starter and pudding ideas come easily to mind and coming up with a main is a little more challenging.

Tonight it’s potage parmentier – 3 leeks and one huge baking potato simmered in stock with a parmesan rind (thank you Julie/Julia) and some herbs, served with a swirl of cream and slices of the breadmaker bread mix loaf (“homemade” stretching it a bit) that’s on the go at the mo. Chicken breasts poached in stock (my friend is teetotal) then baked in homemade tomato sauce and strewn with cheese, with green beans, carrot batons and broccoli.

And the pudding is a chocolate chestnut ganache. In a French hypermarché years ago it seemed like a good idea to buy a multipack of little tins of Clément Faugier marrons glacés de l’Ardèche, in beautiful traditional blue and white designs, and I’ve been baffled about what to do with them ever since. I plumped on the idea of adding them to a ganache to make truffles as I was preparing something to take with me to Hogmanay in Scotland and it worked reasonably well. My first attempt with 150gr milk chocolate, 150ml of double cream and one little tin of chestnuts would have been fine as a chocolate pot to eat with a spoon but was too soft for truffling. Remelting with a further 50gr of bitter dark chocolate I had knocking around was enough to get the consistency right, but by then it was too late to form the truffles so I carted the lot off to Scotland in a recycled takeaway tub.

Since we are not eating chez moi ce soir, I’ve boxed the lot up for transportation, again in those hardworking recycled takeaway tubs. It was under an hour’s cooking at home and getting it on the table will be less than 30 minutes. There’s lots of spare soup and chocolate for later in the week.

Dinner for 2

This week an old friend posted on Facebook about chalet jobs in the Alps. I’ve had little fantasies about this kinda work ever since I heard about it. You spend a week in a chalet for 6 or 8 or 12 providing all the hot meals for the residents – a cooked breakfast, afternoon tea for when they come off the slopes, and then a full home cooked meal in the evening. I’d love to have a go at doing that for a season, even if I would almost certainly be terrible at winter sports, just for the cooking aspect. Of course it would be incompatible with paying a mortgage on the house in blighty and there are all the animals to look after so it’s not anything I’m going to move into any time soon, but… one day maybe?

Disaster cakes

Preheat an oven to… what was it last time? I think I did it at 180 but I can’t remember if that was too high or too low? Try 160 just to be on the safe side

Weigh three eggs, and add the same weight of fat, self raising flour and sugar to a bowl. I use vegetable oil to save having to faff with getting butter to room temperature without melting it, at a fraction of the cost and without too much taste compromise. I was supposed to be using caster sugar but somehow someone put granulated in the caster pot last time it was refilled so I suppose that will have to do.

Zest a lemon – cripes, that one’s in a bit of a state, oh well, it’s what we have. Joe Public won’t be able to taste it by the time it’s cooked – into the mix and stir until well incorporated.

Spoon the batter into 12 cake cases, realising towards the end that whilst this mix usually does 12 easily, this time it looks a bit hit and miss and there’s only really enough for 9. Oh well, the first six were a bit over full and will probably spill in the oven so I can spoon two tea spoons out of those into the remaining cases. Oh drats, the case came away with the batter and now there’s bits of cake mix all over the tin. That will be a bugger to get off later.

Cook for I dunno 15 minutes? 20?  Check they’re not burning after 20 but they’re nowhere near done so turn the oven down, or maybe up? after that and put them back in. They’re done when a skewer – where the heck have all my skewers gone? Oh there they are – comes out clean.

Leave to cool while you watch Only Connect.

Put a pointy nozzle in a disposable piping bag and place inside cocktail shaker. Spoon in a few dollops of home made lemon curd. Pff, yes of course shop bought will do. Pipe the curd directly into the centre of the cupcakes with a firm pressure and oh god there’s lemon curd everywhere, all over my hands, oozing over the top of the bag, and out around the nozzle instead of through the hole at the end.

Neatly use a teaspoon to cut holes in the remaining unruined cakes and spoon the curd in before placing the top of the cake back on and hoping the crumbs don’t make too much of a mess.

Juice the lemon you zested earlier and add icing sugar to make a fruit icing. Not that much icing sugar you dolt! Eek, this is very firm, it won’t spread at all. Oh, well, it will be fine. Normally it’s too runny anyway. Spoon the icing over the cakes taking care not to… oh… the bit you cut out might come away a bit. Yes, there will be a horrid mix of icing and crumbs and it will look awful.

Garnish with jelly lemon slices, which for no good reason are not on sale in Sainsburys any more and don’t seem to be found for love nor money anywhere other than Evil Amazon. These jelly lemon slices were actually ordered before the summer holidays and have been sitting in my pigeonhole for six weeks, but they don’t seem particularly harmed and are still well within their date so meh.

Select six of the least worst looking cakey horrors and pack them in a box for work tomorrow.

Disaster cakes

What I read over the summer (tl;dr 7 crime novels)

Nothing that isn’t crime fiction or magazines!

I am currently working my way through several series of novels on my Kindle as a way of absolving myself of what to read next. No agonising decisions, just the next one in one of the series. Most of what I read fit that criteria.

I am particularly liking Evil Amazon’s new (?) thing where they have a page with all of the books in a series, in order, so you can check what you have and whether you’ve missed any. I am even still at the start of some of these series so have many hours of reading pleasure ahead of me.

In a tent in the Peak District, instead of going on a rainy walk, I finished P D James: A mind to murder. I loved the period detail – the bureaucracy of how a clinic used to be organised, and little details like the building the crime takes place in still needing its own switchboard and operator with potential for eavesdropping.

I began C J Box: Three Weeks to say Goodbye and finished it on my sofa when I got back. This is not part of Box’s – Joe Pickett novels, but a standalone thriller in which bad people try and get back an adopted child. It’s a thiller with the page-turner impulse brought in through one average guy’s attempts to protect his family and the lengths he will go to do so.

Whilst camping dahn sarf my old Kindle failed – the buttons became unresponsive. This has happened to me before but has been fixed by charging. In the field, this wasn’t possible as I was camping without power.

I did take a paperback with me for just this eventuality (in fact I have been carrying it around for ages, and it has somehow in my bag got food mushed into the pages and the front cover. A raisin, I think. I hope.) so the next book was a classic. Raymond Chandler: Farewell my lovely. Part of the Phillip Marlowe series, but I am not sure if I have read any of the others. I suspect I have them on a shelf somewhere. It took a number of pages to get used to the old slang used, but as is often the case, after a while I read so fast I am not puzzling too much over new words. I guessed an important part of the plot a page before it happened – perhaps just because of a slightly clunky plan. The stated reason is not quite enough to invite character X to character Y’s flat – there must be another dénouement afoot.

I couldn’t quite resist pre-ordering and reading Sue Grafton: X pretty much as soon as possible. I think for each of the previous 24 books I have waited till the paperback edition, but in the early days I was many years behind the publication dates. Now I’ve caught up I want to read them as soon as I can! This was in my view a return to form for Kinsey Millhone, without extended passages in the third person, but a narrative almost entirely from Kinsey’s perspective, in which she solves a number of cases, not just the main one.

Sara Paretsky: Blood Shot was next up, slightly out of sequence as for a minute I couldn’t find Bitter Medicine on my new Kindle. It was there so I went on to read that one too. The V I Warschawski series also has some patterns emerging. Almost any documents that get removed from somewhere and left in her flat or office will lead to a burglary. She also takes an awful lot of beatings. In book 5 of 17 she has been routinely injured in the course of her work, including this time a facial scar, that by the end she must be in a seriously bad way.

The new Kindle is lovely. I realise it’s just a machine to make me funnel more money in the direction of Evil Amazon, and there are alternatives available. Some even waterproof! But I have a lot of unread books on the Amazon system already and it just works quite well, so in the end I stayed with them. Now… what to do with the old, probably broken 2010 Kindle Keyboard device?

My final title here – although it is warm and sunny so I am about to head into the garden with the hammock and start another – is a Ken McClure / Dr Steven Dunbar novel. I found the first of these by accident a few years ago- in fact I can remember reading them on Kindle on my own on Shell Island, so that must have been the holiday I took immediately after losing my council seat in 2011. I don’t recall ever talking about them with anyone or hearing about them from anyone else, but they’re brilliant. They follow a former SAS doctor and his exploits with the Sci-Med directorate, a secret home office body that lends technical support to local police forces out of their depth with scientific or medical issues. Eye of the Raven starts with a detailed deathbed confession from a convicted psychopath of a rape and murder for which someone else is already imprisoned on dead certain DNA evidence, and explores how it might be possible that the DNA evidence is not all it could or should be.

Found poetry

This is a piece of writing from the website “Streetlife”

It reads to me like a poem. I wonder if that was the intention.

It was formatted exactly like this in the original.

Credit: Ali R

I do running in sherwood ,
but With the Dogs who’s
Owners, have let them off there leads,!!
it’s difficult
Surprisingly Friendly! but intimidating when they jump up snarling and barking
At Me
When 1 go’s another one comes!
its like a b***dy incestation!

I am particularly fond of the cracking malapropism “incestation”.

Parkrun #3

A personal best today at Forest Rec where I shaved 8 seconds off my previous PB!

I can’t get my head around how I achieved what I did the first time I did this.

My personal achievement this time was about the amount of time I spent running vs walking. It’s always my target to keep running without a break for ten minutes, and that is usually a significant challenge. I think it’s much more a mental problem than a physical one. My breathing is fine these days, the asthma is no longer a problem at this stage (I even forgot my inhaler this morning), I’m not cramping, my legs don’t hurt. I just can’t keep running.

This morning I managed a wopping twenty minutes of running before first breaking to a walk. Never done that before.

Looking at the splits afterwards I was pretty chuffed too – three of the KMs were roughly the same at 7mins, the final amazingly under 6mins (half of it is downhill, which helps). I deliberately start really slow and end up at the very back of the pack – but I am pacing myself well and keeping reasonably steady. My earliest 5k had wildly different times for each different split. Is this what you are supposed to do?