Buen Camino!

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I have been incommuncado for the last couple of weeks – walking from the Cathedral in Porto (north Portugal) to the Cathedral in Santiago (north Spain); following one of the ancient pilgrim routes, The Portugues Camino, with my daughter.

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The route we took was just over 260 kms, but when you factor walking around the towns we stayed in we managed just over 300 kms in 11 days (yes I had a pedometer)  – carrying all our worldly (for the sake of the two weeks we were on the Camino all our worldly) possessions with us.

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There was no religious significance in taking our pilgrimage over Easter, but I’m glad we did. Later in the year would have been too hot and we would have missed out on the festivals we stumbled across en route.

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I can’t say that I experienced any great enlightenment on my Camino but it’s true that when your plodding uphill, with your rucksack, in 27c (wondering if you have enough water to last until the next time you find somewhere willing to sell you some more) one or two thoughts do flash through your normally empty head – but not necessarily religious ones.

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En route we stayed mostly in Albergues – these were designated specifically for pilgrims, costing between €5 – €6 a night; row upon row of bunk beds, each room accomodating as many as 30 people.  A friend once joked it was a great place to find out what a man was like without having to bother introducing yourself – you knew if he snored, showered or had money (the rich ones slept with their wallets under their pillows, apparently). The accomodation was very basic, flimsy disposable protective sheets, clean toilets and showers, rudimentary kitchens.  Rumours of bed bugs abounds and admittedly fear of them meant we took along very cheap sleeping bags which we left in the last place we stayed in.  The fun of the Albergues was meeting all the other pilgrims, often we met the same people again each night. You can’t book any of these places in advance – it is just first come, first served.  Only once did we find the Albergue we had intended staying in was full – but the next one was less than 100m away.

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As our Camino came to an end we hit the first bout of bad weather – which in a way made the last day or two slightly easier.

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Doing the Camino was hot, often physically exhausting but a brilliant experience – to anyone considering doing one I say don’t dally …. Buen Camino.

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Posted in Challenges

Just another one …

Up until very recently I joined a group of friends once a week for a Pub Quiz.  It was fun at first and then we started winning.  Which was fun at first but then it started to be the whole reason for going and if we didn’t win it became a really bone of contention.  I pulled out a couple of weeks ago.

It’s fair to say that during the whole time I was part of the team a couple of the girls in the team were desperate to ‘bump’ into a well-known celebrity who was known to frequent the pubs of Hampstead/Camden and Kentish Town.  I’m not saying it was an obsession but most weeks this man’s name cropped up in the conversation.

So last night (two weeks after bailing out) their prayers were answered …

Sean Bean

Living in London you get used to seeing celebrities … and in real life they look disappointingly normal.

Posted in London Pubs

St Paddys Day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  And if anyone reading this follows the rugby … what a brilliant end to an outstanding career for Brian O’Driscoll. Of course it’s disappointing that Wales didn’t make it for a record 3rd time in a row …

This time last year I was viewing the allotment site with several layers of clothes on … yesterday it was shorts and t-shirt!  Can it only be 5 months ago that the Met office were forecasting a long, cold winter that would stretch into May?  I agree it’s been the wettest but also extremely mild.

So yesterday down on the allotment after a two week break …


So much Purple Sprouting Broccoli  and flowers on my Broad Beans …


Digging over a bed for the first earlys …

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… now all bedded in for St Paddys day.  (I do have another 3 varieties which will have to wait until next weekend)

The seedlings I planted a couple of weeks ago are all looking good but I did spot the inevitable signs of munching on the Pak Choi.  Drastic measures are being taken this year … the mild wet winter had been ideal conditions for the slugs so this year I have invested (£4.50) in a tube of Organic slug pellets.  Normally I am happy to make beer traps but I’d need a brewery on tap to deal with year’s deluge.

I also planted a couple of rows of parsnips and leeks in situ – in the spaces on my onions and garlic beds.

Did you spot the labelled stick next to the tatters?  I’ve decide I’m tired of forgetting what is what and have finally given in to labelling.  Years ago one of my sisters was married to a very dull man … and something of a control freak – he took labelling to new extremes – before placing a tin of baked beans in the larder it had to be dated and placed in rotation.  He was one of the dullest men I have ever met and is the reason I have resisted labelling for so long!  (Curse him) Thank goodness my sister eventually saw the light of day.

Posted in Allotment

The Camino Portugues

Someone very dear to me is ‘Doing a Course’ – she’s a great one for Doing Courses … I mean she really does them … from start to finish, gets the piece of paper etc.  Lots of her ‘courses’ are professionally related but this one she is doing for fun.  My interpretation of her present course is that it is delving into peoples coping methods.  Why do some people have sunny dispositions others firmly in Oscar the Grouch’s camp.  (That’s just my interpretation of the course … I’m pretty sure it is not as frivolous as I am making it sound)  I was thinking about her course this morning.

Some people comfort eat/drink to soothe their shattered egos … I plan my next physical challenge.  It’s not that I don’t really love food (I do) but I feel as if I have to push myself through ‘difficult’ times by doing something physical – perhaps to prove I still can? Do something constructive to counter balance the destruction?

My first overseas trip for a couple of years is booked and paid for … I am going away for two weeks with my daughter – on a Pilgrimage.  We’ve been planning it for a couple of months now, but last week we finalised the deal.  Our ‘Pilgrimage’ will start in Porto and then we head northwards, walking 260 kms (about 160 miles) to Santiago de Compostela.  We plan to spend 10 days walking and then a couple of days at the end “chillin’ out” (is that still a cool thing to say? Or am I showing my age again?)  I am really looking forward to it.

But I need to be prepared for the walking … and it starts today … running home with my back pack strapped into place.

Posted in Challenges

Burning Bridges

I had been feeling as if I needed a good shake-up for a couple of weeks now.  I don’t know if it was the birthday or just the general ‘Tired of Winter’ feelings that seem to grind everyone down this time of the year.

On Thursday I managed to upset someone I have been seeing since the beginning of last June.  I knew I was doing it but like viewing a slow motion train crash I couldn’t stop myself … actually it’s not as dramatic as that … more a minor derailment; time will tell if we manage to get back on track or just walk away with bruised egos.

Whilst I was in this self-destruct mode I dropped out of the Quiz team I belong to.  I hadn’t been enjoying it as much as I used to and I had begun to make up feeble excuses not to go.  The girl who runs it has written me a very nice little note hoping I’ll re-consider … but I don’t think I will.

On the bright side … spring has sprung …


Posted in Rants

Running the bounds

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I signed up for the run months ago and have been training, quietly and in the slow plodding gait befitting of someone of my age, sex and stature (ie just above normal walking pace)

On a Sunday morning I was up at sparrows, heading off to Kings Cross to meet up with a couple of friends and then out to the wide open countryside that is Cambridge.  One of my friends ran the Tokyo marathon last weekend,  this will be her 97th marathon – between now and 13th April she will run another two – the London marathon will be her 100th!  The other girl in the group has another 11 to go too reach the magic 100 … and me. I gaze out of the window and get excited as we whiz past some allotments.  “That’s where I should be today” I think as I watch my two stick thin friends feasting on bagels and rice pudding.

“Lets walk to the start – I need to stretch my legs” says one.  We pass the waiting cabs and trek for 20 minutes to the start of the race.  I can’t help but notice lot’s of very lean athletic younger people stretching and jumping up on down on the spot, and a long queue to the portaloos.

Remind me why I am here again?

The race starts slowly – I spot some unlikely looking chaps just in front of me, long grey ponytails, middle aged paunches and I wheddle my way to just behind them.  After a mile or so I realise they are cracking on at a pace that I am unable to keep up with – that’s when I notice the bulging calf muscles and the unmistakeable blue running vest with lime green lettering – the 100 marathon club.  I fall back.

Mile after mile of undulating countryside flash past … Cambridge is flat but the Cambridge bounds are rolling.  Runners pass me and sometimes I pass a straggly walker trudging forward as each mile marker slips slowly by.  I look at my watch – congratulate myself that I am doing record time but am still so far behind everyone else!  Finally we cross the last muddy field … the end tantalisingly  just around the next bend … my son and a friend of his are there at the finish line – from somewhere I hear the theme tune to Chariots of Fire and imagine I am sprinting in.  Thank goodness I had the sense to only sign up for the half marathon today!

On the bright side – I think this puts me in the lead in the company Every Step Counts this week.

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Posted in Running


We all have a love/hate relationship with Facebook don’t we?

I love that it means I am in casual contact with friends that are now scattered all over the planet – but at the back of my mind I have this little niggle … if I was supposed to remain in touch with that old school friend then surely I would have done that without the aid of Facebook?

In a purely self-obsessed manner I update my FB status with comments about MY life (shock)  and things that interest ME … hell it’s my page isn’t it?  But more and more I have noticed that some ‘friends’ don’t do this.   I know I’ve moaned here and on Facebook about the ‘group huggers’ who threaten you with “You’re not a real friend if you don’t share this” – and then some guff about a friend of a friend who once knew someone who has a rare cancer.  I’ve learned to ignore that rubbish  but now I’m getting this …



In real life I tend to avoid people who droll every time they see a puppy or kitten, or whose kids/husbands/wives are so perfect that they put the rest of us to shame, or who speak in clichés that they’ve learned from greeting cards – so why am I allowing this crap clog up my newsfeed?

If, like me, you can no longer stomach daily doses of Facebook cuteness just check out this simple process:  flip to your ‘Friends’ list, find the guilty party (s) and let your mouse hover on their name … three boxes appear in the bottom right hand corner … the middle one is the one to focus on.  Click that tick next to the word ‘Following’ and hey presto – you’re ‘Unfollowing’ that individuals posts, no petty de-friending or unpleasant blocking necessary. Perfect!  Thank you Facebook. (This process is reversible at any time)

Posted in Rants
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