The lost art of convalescing

Photo: Las Palmas Gran Canaria, not quite as hot and sunny as we hoped.

Jenni Russell recently declared in The Times that “We’ve forgotten the vital need to convalesce” and that “…. the Victorians were right about recovery time”.

The article lamented that our lives are so busy these days that we just don’t have time to recover properly from illness. We’re back at work, or whatever we do, so quickly we don’t recover properly.

Following the success of our winter sun training camp in Málaga last year, we booked a similar trip to Gran Canaria. Jan’s running would be back to normal after her monster 2018 challenge and Colin would be benefit from the climbing ready for the qualifying rides for Paris-Brest-Paris and the event itself.

It didn’t work out that way.

After our return from Arnhem, we both fell ill and didn’t fully recover, especially Jan, before our trip to the volcanic island. As Jan wouldn’t be running it seemed unfair for Colin to go off cycling so the bike stayed at home.

We decided to spend the week convalescing. Taking the air and getting some sleep.


Late on Saturday night we headed out to find a restaurant. No luck initially, all fully booked. Saturday night and Carnival fortnight. We hadn’t accounted for Carnival. Eventually we found a street café that didn’t look much but was brilliant. We shared a made to order paella which was excellent, as was the wine recommendation. The staff and owner were really friendly. When Jan started coughing they offered her water and advice on which pharmacy would still be open this late. Our meal ended with some local liquor. No idea what it was, but it could have done with some alcohol in it to make it less of a cordial and more of a liquor.

Having said that, if you are ever in Las Palmas, we can recommend Tasca La Lonja



Our first full day on the island. We only saw the afternoon. An exploratory walk along the promenade of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria then food shopping in El Corte Inglés. We have friends, P&T, who we exchange photos of entertaining things we see around the world. When we say entertaining, we mean entertaining to 12 year old boys. We sent them this:


In return, P sent us this from Shanghai:


All very childish, but good fun.


Monday – Thursday

We spent the week walking, eating, sleeping and the occasional snifter. Some nights eating out, others eating in. We prefer renting an apartment so that we can go to the local markets to buy food to cook that evening.

One walk was a 13km round trip to the old town of Veguete:


Another was a walk around the marina, followed by a snifter. Not quite the sunshine we had hoped for.


There are some interesting sculptures around the city.



Last day

Having exhausted all the points of the compass on our walks in Las Palmas we rented a car for the day to explore the island.

Driving the twisting roads along the Western coast we could see why all the tourist development was on the South and East coast. No room as the Atlantic battered the coastline from the West.

We drove into Puerto de Mogán, one of the places we had considered staying. We were glad we hadn’t booked an apartment there. We saw what it was like and drove straight out again. Lots of coach tours. Not our thing. We later learnt that Friday was the worst day to visit as it gets packed for the tourist market. We can confirm that.

Further along the coast we decided to head inland. We picked a village in the foothills at random for lunch. What a lovely little place it was, Agüimes.


Having recently used the word caldera in the Times crossword, we thought we’d go and see one. This volcano rim formed around a flat floor that was so fertile it was being cultivated.


A final climb to the summit of Pico de las Nieves at 1,949m to look across the island above the clouds.



Last night dinner

We booked what we thought was a really good restaurant for our last night. Not a star, but featuring in the Michelin guide, it looked the poshest one we could find. Dressing up the waiters in the full black bow tie ensemble doesn’t guarantee the food or service.

Enjoying our glasses of Cava an amuse bouche arrived. Of all the things to serve as an amuse bouche, cabbage soup with a tiny spoon doesn’t spring to mind. Then a waiter appeared with a bottle of red to open at our table. He spoke no English, so using our Italian we explained we hadn’t ordered it. In fact we hadn’t ordered anything.

We’d been “Fishered”. “Fishered” is a verb we use to describe when things go wrong in a restaurant. It seems to happen to us a lot. As there are no national statistics on being “Fishered” then we can’t be certain we suffer disproportionately, but we have a hunch we do.

Jan went with her northern roots and opted for the morcilla for her starter. Seven rounds of black pudding and rice arrived. “Good luck with that” said Colin as he waited and waited for his starter to arrive. More “Fishering”.


Having waited quite some time Colin speculated “If have one of your morcillas my starter is bound to arrive”. Guess what, it arrived just as I started my first mouthful.

After our starters were cleared away another waiter appeared with our amuse bouches all over again. To have cabbage soup once was bad enough but to be mistakingly served it again made us wonder if there is something about us that causes the Fishering phenomena.

The rest of the meal past without incident except for the house liquor. We like limoncello but the Gran Canarian version looked like two miniature specimen bottles that had just been filled. Strictly speaking not a “Fishering” but enough to make us laugh so much we forget to take a photo.

With lots of walking in between, our week started and finished with local liquors.

We returned feeling much better.


Coughing and spluttering

Since returning from the Netherlands we’ve not been well. It could have been a virus, or it might have been the pork we bought in France on our way home.

Either way we spent two days in bed and over a week coughing and spluttering. We weren’t sure if we should go to the theatre tonight. Recently Sam Quek was asked to watch the rest of the performance at the Vienna State Opera from a ‘detention’ room with a TV in it for coughing. As far as we know The Hampstead Theatre doesn’t have a detention room so we had to be as quiet as possible.

We dosed up with lozenges. We were doing ok until Colin really had a problem. Supressing the coughs as much as possible it got worse. I  thought I would have to leave the performance. It was painful supressing the need to cough. I was tearful, not from the performance on stage but my own convulsions. I just about managed to recover.

From then on I restricted my coughing to the scene changes. Fortunately there were a few of them.

Having managed to get through the performance trying not to disturb others the lady in front of us showed no such constraint. She let out four very loud sneezes, enough to cause laughter in the auditorium. Thanks for that.

We did enjoy the play. Recommended.

Brexshit Planning

“An International Driving Permit 1968 please”

Post Office employee “When are you going?”

“23rd of March”

PO “We can’t issue an IDP valid from 23rd March.”

“We don’t need one for the 23rd March. We might need one from 23:00 GMT on the 29th March”

PO “But you won’t have a licence from the 23rd March”

“Yes, we will. Our UK licence is valid until 23:00 GMT on the 29th March, maybe longer if the Withdrawal Agreement gets throught the House of Commons or Article 50 is delayed”

PO “Where are you going?”

“Only countries covered by the 1968 version, so we don’t need the 1949 version”

PO “Which countries?”

“France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and San Marino”

A different PO person “He’s right, they only need a 1968 version”



22nd February 2019. The 40th anniversary of Colin passing is driving test.



Winter White Weekend

“Who the hell organises an outdoor BBQ in February?” said the lady from the National Theatre Costume Hire (this explains the comment in a previous post). A fair question. The answer was mad Dutch friends. We had been invited to celebrate Jeanne’s 50th birthday. She can’t help when her birthday is, but an outdoor BBQ?

The fancy dress theme was Winter and (fairytale) White. We weren’t sure what that meant but the National came up with two stunning costumes.

The weekend started on Valentines Day when we arrived in Arnhem both in time for and armed with dinner. Jan had made one of her famous, well famous between the four of us, Stoventoppenhagen for our double date (Stoventoppenhagen is Jan’s made up Dutch word).

Friday we prepeared the house for the party, had a business meeting for REMND 2020 and then a walk for a cheeky one, or two.


On the way I spotted this black tree. Why was it the only black tree amongst the others?


It caught me eye becuase it was directly in line with the shadow from another tree across the road. Simple pleasures.


When we got back to their house the marquee and BBQ area had been set up. Attached to the house it was indoor/outdoor BBQ. Not so mad after all.

Travel broadens the mind. Every trip we make we learn something new. This time we learnt that the 50th birthday is a big thing in The Netherlands. From where Jeanne is from they erect a big sign in the garden talking about the person and their life. It’s not a tradition in Arnhem so the neighbours thought it a bit strange.


What gift do you get for a Dutch 50 year old? We had a lot of fun putting it together. We started in December when we were in Cornwall. We bought a wicker basket, sprayed her initials on the top and filled it with 50 items if British treasure. Maybe not all treasure as we discovered some of the naff foods from our childhood are still made. A combination of lovely food, a lot of beer, and some shit food for a laugh.


The party was fantastic. The caterers were brilliant. They sorted out everything so that Jeanne could concentrate on having a great time with her friends and family.

Sunday morning didn’t exist for the four of us. We did manage to get out in the afternoon. We visited the TeamNL Olympic training centre in Papendal, scouting it for a possible location for the REMND 2020 Time Trial.

Looking slightly less glamorous than the night before.


A wonderful weekend.

Happy Birthday Jeanne.

IMG_3010 2


Arty farty day

Today we went to the National Theatre, but we didn’t see a play. What we were up to is a surprise and will be revealed in a future post.

After lunch we headed to Somerset House to see Good Grief Charlie Brown. A celebration of Charles M. Schulz’s work in Peanuts.

From the 60’s onwards he covered issues such as diversity, women’s rights, art, war and our common insecurities. As relevant today as it was then.


Time flies

Photo: A walk in the Park. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Rob and I were sometimes struggling to keep awake. The score was 3-0, three quarters of the way through the game. It looks like a football score, indeed it was, but American Football. We were watching Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.

Oh how times have changed. Exactly 17 years ago to the day Rob and I watched the New England Patriots play the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI (February 2002). Then, we were in the New Orleans Superdome in person. It was a very special way to celebrate a landmark birthday for Rob. No prizes for guessing how old we were:

Super Bowl - Colin & Rob - Superdome

Super Bowl - Colin & Rob at Win

A friend of mine published a list of things that did not exist at the time of Super Bowl XXXVI:

Google Maps
iTunes Store
Nintendo Wii

17 years ago New England Patriots beat the Rams 20-17. This time, with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter the look on Sean McVay’s face (Head Coach of the Rams) said it all:


The Pats beat the Rams 13-3. The more things change the more things stay the same.


It was a great weekend with Rob and Helen catching up on so much as we’d not seen eachother for a while.

On Sunday afternoon we went on a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park & Bow Back Rivers by London Walks. Having been to the athletics and water polo in 2012 it was fascinating to see how the park has developed since. Open spaces, apartments, businesses, a shopping centre and public access to sports facilities are all part of the legacy. We remember how fantastic the games were and what a wonderful atmosphere there was in London. We were impressed by the success of the legacy. It reminded us how succesful we can be if we go about it the right way. A lesson for today.



We finished off a weekend of chat, eating and drinking with lunch, courtesy of Rob and Helen, at Vinoteca in Farringdon, a place we’ve been eating at since it opened in 2005.


A wonderful weekend. A special thank you to Rob and Helen for this little beauty. They gave it to Jan to celebrate her 2018 running challenge. Gin and Liverpool. A perfect summary of Jan.



Four Men: A Farrago

Hillaire Belloc’s The Four Men: A Farrago is a novel describing a 90 mile walk through the Sussex countryside, passing Brighton on the way.

Today, we were four ICC clubmates travelling through the Sussex contryside by train to and from Brighton. The original plan was to catch the train to Brighton, collect David’s new bike and ride back to London (in my case, ride to Brighton, collect the bike and ride back).

The arctic vortex put paid to that.

We preferred not to risk the snow and ice on our bikes so we took the train and planned a spot of lunch. As Jan said “Four men going for lunch in Brighton, are you going to get a rainbow T shirt?”

Bike, beer, fish and chips, man chat and a walk along the beach.

Colin, David M, Stephen and David C. According to David C’s son we look a bit like the cast of Trainspotting 2.


We didn’t return with rainbow T shirts, but David did get his new titanium bike:


‘Birthday’ celebration

Photo: A couple of shady characters.

The celebratory dinner referred to in yesterday’s post was The Trinity Hill, New Zealand, Magnum Club Dinner at The Crypt of St. Etheldreda’s church in Ely Place. A chance to sample some of the best wines that New Zealand produce (so they said). Our host was their Wine Maker in Chief, Warren Gibson.

Jan missed out a little in the early courses. Not only is she not a fan of new world Sauvignon Blanc we had on arrival but she’s not keen on tuna either, which meant Colin had double helpings of both.

When the reds came round for the lamb we were poured a 2010 and 2017 Homage Syrah. The 2017 was very young, fresh and vibrant but in need of several more years of maturing. The 2010 smelt suspiciously of a damp cellar (Jan) or truffle (Colin). It didn’t taste any better. Jan called over the sommelier. He smelt and tasted it and proclaimed that “Madame is right” and found another bottle. Much better. He said they opened the wines at 5pm to taste and for them to breathe. The proportion of surface area exposed to oxygen is small in a bottle, let alone a magnum, so that didn’t work. Decanting would have been better.

Still, we had a really nice time in a wonderful setting.

I suspect we are now known as a couple of shady characters.



Blue Monday? Not here.

Today is Blue Monday. The most depressing day of the year. Apparently.

It’s not science but a wheeze dreamed up by a travel company. It only applies to the Northern hemisphere as the weather contributes towards the formula to calculate the date.

No Blue Monday in this household. Today is the 5th anniversary of my skiing accident that broke my back and prompted our retirement. It’s a date to celebrate as my legs still work. So much so I completed a 200k ride in the cold and rain on Saturday as part of my attempt to qualify for the 1,200km Paris Brest Paris audax in August.

We’re going out for a celebratory dinner* tomorrow evening to mark the occasion.

As Dr. Broger, the surgeon who operated on me in Switzerland said at the time:

“You are so lucky, you should consider the 21st of January your new birthday”

I do. It’s Magic Monday.


*23rd January update – click here for the dinner blog entry.

Another nice mess


We went to see Stan and Ollie this evening. A gentle film about love and frienship. We both really enjoyed it.

The nice mess started a few days before the film. We received notification that the film had been moved from Cinema 1 to the smaller Cinema 2 in the Barbican. We would all be re-seated. Armed with fresh tickets we found our seats, no problem.

With nothing on the screen the entertainment started. A lady stood near us trying to read her new ticket. “I don’t have my glasses”. She couldn’t find the row letters either. She then went down the isle on the other side and tried to persuade some people that they were in her seats, to no avail. Back to the centre isle. She then walks along the row in front of us. She looked at two empty seats and walks back to the isle mentioning seats “three and four”. The couple in front of us point out that the two empty seats she was looking at were indeed “three and four”. She didn’t react. Back to same people on the other side, the seat occupiers produce their phones to show they have booked those seats. The poor lady had no choice but to seek help from the cinema staff.

For the third time the sitters are challenged. The staff member explains something to them discretely and they get up. To their credit they announce to the rest of us “We’re in the wrong cinema”. The lady was right all along.

It didn’t stop there. We sat through the adverts. When the BBFC certificate came up with “Stan and Ollie” a couple ran out as they too realised they were in the wrong cinema. Laurel and Hardy was acted out right in front of us.

The acting on the screen was excellent. Steve Cougan caught Stan Laurel’s mannerisms brilliantly. A lovely film. Recommended.