Friday, 27 June 2014

Things you need to know about Greece and Athens Part 2

5.  They have Casual Dining down to a fine art.  And it is Casual Dining with capital letters, sorry Capital Letters.  There are many places as you walk down any given street in Greece.  Open store fronts, with fans that emanate a cooling breeze invite you to sit and people watch with a large glass of water and an espresso freddo (ask for it sweet).  They look like the kind of places I end up when I'm drunk, professing love for the Pie Whisperer (any given poor sod behind the counter) for his magical pies (they loose any glamour by morning and sit looking congealed and cold next to me on the pillow the next day) and crying over my chips cheese and curry sauce because they make me soo happy because I've been soo hungry, and my feet are soo sore (wearing silly shoes again).  But these places are so very different.  For a start, there's no drunk lads having a rammy outside, ever.  Nor is there any sort of take away detritus lying about the street in front.  Instead there's a clean and shining floor, a couple of pot plants and a few tall tables - practically out on the road - for people who want to drink water and beer with their friends whilst watching the foot ball on the big screen.   There is a little cheering from these folks - but just a little.  It is a dining experience after all.  The food served, unlike my frozen chips and cheese back home, will be a little better thought through.  For example, it will still be frozen chips, but they'll be twice fried properly.  First at a lower temperature to cook the insides, and then again at a higher temperature to crisp up the outsides, and they'll come to the table salted and dressed with a mixture of oregano and coriander.  The cheese will not be the pasteurised, orange plasticky kind, but a salty feta dressed with a little oregano.  No curry sauce, I'll have salad - I am on holiday after all - with tomatoes the size of apples and juicier than peaches.  MMMMmmmmmmm!  And there you can sit for hours.  There's no rush at all, to the point that you have to tell the waiter that you'll have another bottle of Fix and Mythos (drink Mythos from the draft only, in the bottle it has quite a metalic taste), and eventually, because he has heard you, he'll toddle over uncap your bottles, and then fetch you another litre of water because beer without water... well, they're not savages.  But that's another post...


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Things you need to know about Athens and Greece Part 1.

1.  When crossing the road, hold hands.  No one wants to die alone.  Yes, who was it that said 'It's a dangerous thing, leaving your front door..'? I think it was a hobbit.  But I don't think he'd quite envisioned being taken out by an entire family including the dog, all perched pricariously on a scooter and not one of them wearing a helmet.  No.. wait... the dogs' got one, only having decided that his elbow is the most precious thing on his body, he's got his front paw hooked through the visor section, as contrary to popular belief, it's his doggy arm and not his brain the surgeons have trouble mending.

Further to this:

2. When the green mans green look straight ahead at the other side of the road to safety.  There seems to be some sort of cultural more that I'm not getting, that when I make eye contact with drivers under these circumstances, they assume I'm either some kind of threat and must be taken out forth with, or that I wish for suicide and they're very happy to oblige.

And further once more on this:

3.  Be aware that traffic, cars, scooters, lorries, buses, and even trams will assail you from all and every direction.  They have an excellent public travel system.  For 1 euros 40, you can get right across the city, using busses, trams (a particularly civilised way to travel), and their metro which pisses all over FirstBus and the Edinburgh Tram system. But these items are subject to the same road rules as above so unless you are actually on one of them, be aware.  You can be standing on tram tracks and wondering if the heats making you think that a big shiny train is heading right for you.  Just so you know, it's not the heat.

In saying all this:

2. Go for a wander.  On foot.  Have I just taken leave of my senses, given my first three points?  No I haven't.    I'm not saying be stupid, wave your money about or get yourself horrendously lost, nor am I saying I've never heard of any tourist or other getting mugged, but Athens is a surprisingly comfortable and non-violent city, particular for tourists.  It is a city that never truly sleeps, where your regular Athenian family can - children and all - be found having dinner at 11 pm at night.  The equivalent of their tabacs - little stalls that are open when you get to your own hotel bed at 2 in the morning, but still open when you leave for Hydra at 7am - never close and have owners that seem to live within their cigarette packeted walls.  Don't think you can't sit at that little bar on the corner, that's  down that quiet residential street, sip your ice cold beer, with all the other locals who have one eye on the silent TV in the corner and are shooting the breeze - loudly and with hand movements - whilst they nurse their own beers and smoke their cigarettes until three in the morning.  How else will you find that little canteen with the butter beans in tomato sauce, served with rice and mint stuffed peppers baked to an almost bbq but not bitter finish? Or the tiny coffee and ice cream place,  that filled your cone from the bottom up or that Slouvaki place that does the hand made pitta, and the garlickyist Tzatzki you've ever had.  But I'm getting onto a subject that really deserves it's own post so I might leave this here for now.

Unfortunately we never got a chance to cycle.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

There are several differences between Cycling and Running.

For a start, running against the wind is NOT the same as cycling against the wind.  No way.

Secondly, hills are very different.  The slow climb on a bike is not the same on your feet.  You can slow right down on your feet, right down, taking the tiniest steps in the world, and short of a sudden bout of vertigo, or something a bit bappit, you'll not not fall over.  Along with the short sharp 10% gradient which you could puff your way up in a bike, your lungs were burning but your thighs were fine, running your legs don't want to play any more and your lungs have decided to walk home themselves.

Thirdly, going through a muck patch, you'll only get your face in it if you've fallen, when you're on your feet, and you can step round it.  On a bike, you're either going through it, with god knows what in your hair, or not at all (to whit it'll be the slow fall of shame, in park-and-woods crap).

I'm mostly on the bike for travelling.  And I'm quite enjoying.  The insomnia's a bit touch and go at the moment.  I didn't do any exercise yesterday, (but did on Sunday) and didn't sleep well.  I'm dozing off, but not fully falling asleep and waking up several times in the night.  It's more to do with long days since the only thing that kept going round in my head last night was having two biscuits.  One of them was broken giving me three sections of biscuit, I was debating the import of when to eat the unbroken one.  Seriously.  This is what keeps me up.

Still.  We go to Greece next week and I'm trying to find a cycling tour in Athens.  The one I found was full unfortunately. We've also planned a big trip leaving late July. Though I think that deserves a proper post.

Until then what holidays have you got/had going on this year, and what was your favourite part?


Thursday, 5 June 2014

Niaro and the Giant Trophy

So... A tiny wee man has won a giant swirl of gold, and the only thing bigger than that is his smile.

The only reason I'm mentioning this now is because we're a couple of days (all right, a week) behind I've just googled it whilst watching the last stage.

But I have to say it's pretty good.  I'm a bit of a fan for several reasons.  Firstly, as a fellow short arse I feel it's a triumph for short arses all round.  It says, yeh, we may not be able to reach things but who needs to when we can climb mountains like that.  And now when someone says to me 'Good things come in small packages'  and I say 'What?  Like smallpox and addictive narcotics?' I can also answer 'and Giro winners.' Two, neither of us suit that shade of pink.  And C he's been generally quite smiley about it, which is very nice.  He's only 24, the wean, and to have him look so very pleased with himself, and hear him big up Columbia... that's how winners should conduct themselves definitely, and Columbia could be a future holiday destination for cycling which is no bad thing which considering the reputation of the country would be a nice change!

Short Arse Rules.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A spot of Turbo Training and...

Emily Blunt inspired yoga today.  I was going to take a picture of the 'hot mess' that is me after a workout but after having to faff around with my uploads I've kind of dried off.  Though in saying that I'm not very crusty today.

Anyway...This video was a rather good short sharp shock for turboing.  It's based on high intensity interval training (HIIT), with 15, 30 and 45 second efforts/rest that repeat in not too long, not too many sets.  Despite featuring very briefly a couple of British professional cyclists it does have one of those saccharine American voices, but her efforts of bon homie are few and far between.

Do you have any Turbo training sessions you particuarly like?  Leave a comment below and we'll swap ideas!


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

How to routinely deal with a (hopefully) one off bout of Insomnia

If you heed anything tonight, heed this:


The above warning is imperative to the quality of sleep you get if you do manage to get any sleep this late in the sodding night!!!!!

So... You've been lying in your bed (or someone elses), after having some half baked nodding off type dream where you lived in a flat (a lot like the type the junior ministers have in In The Thick Of It, because you and the Gids have been series's, seriesing, seriesining it and you might possibly be the tall lanky one in your dream, but you don't have rooms you have pods and you're not shagging anyone) but then you realise that you're half awake and you can see the Gids's mobile phone blinking, and you're thinking your bladder full, and the only one not snoring in your bed is you.  This is how you handle it.

1.  Lie there for another 20 minutes (real time 2 mins 13 secs), convincing  yourself that no, you really are going to go to sleep any minute now.  And your bladders not full, no, it's really not, you just think it is because it's half past two in the morning.  DO NOT LOOK AT THE CLOCK!!! HEED THE WARNING ABOVE. MAKE THIS THE LAST TIME.

2. Decide that, regardless of the state of your bladder, if you are going to get up to go to the loo you will get up properly because otherwise it will be pointless getting up at all.

3.  Get up.  Do not switch light on for fear of waking Giddy Blonde (boyfriend), and Not So Giddy Blonde (Dog).  Try to find manky fleece you've been living in most mornings.  Wake everyone up looking for it.  Find manky fleece.

4.  Go for a pee.  It'll be a surprisingly short one.

5.  Descend the stairs, and decide you want a snack.  Think about making cheese sandwich.  Don't, as it's too much effort.  Have 3 day old french bread from Lidl smothered with Lurpak.  It's actually quite satisfying.  Resist the urge to eat more, knowing that you'll finish the bread and resort to licking butter out the tub like it's peanut butter out the jar just because no one will see you.

6.  Try to examine psychologically why it is you're awake, with that chuffing smuggy voice your friends hear when you think you're being wise and helpful, when really you're just being interfering and officious.  It's usually pretty obvious. It'll either be one  (or a combination) of three things:

    • Something has royally ticked you off. You'll have the situation, conversation, e-mail, what you said, what they said, how it started playing over and over and over in your head like a video. This will probably be a recurring situation, or a recurring someone that's compounding a situation that you've found yourself in (again).  It will be more to do with how you've handled things (how you couldn't stand up to this person, or change the outcome to the outcome you wanted), because, however you managed to handle it, that other persons just a massive dick head and can't help themselves (trust me, I know, it's always them). What happened, and every scenario you have in your head, what you should have said, did,  write it all down.  Including the one where you smash the fecker in the windscreen with your tiny wheeled Brompton, his car careers off into the harbour, explodes like a atom bomb, and you catch your little bike (it's boomeranged back to you because you and it are a team *air punch*) and ride off into the sunset.  Write that all down, you will feel better.
    • You've not done enough moving today.  Seriously.  Running after kids, housework, up and down the stairs in the office doesn't count (though it does help).  It's not bodily fitness you do this for, but to change your brain chemistry.  Besides from releasing endorphins, exercise helps control  'RUN NOW BUT KILL THEM ALL FIRST' chemicals in your brain that rock about if you've been under stress (and make you loose your temper). Your heart has to thump though. When your brain gets used to your heart rate rising though an intentional and non-stressful means, your brain doesn't release these chemicals quite so violently, and if they are released, exercise gives somewhere to channel that energy you naturally want to use to kill those people.   If you're not used to exercise, just start with getting your heart rate up and quit just before you absolutely feel you have to.  Don't have time?  You massive liar.  1 minute shince (aka a 'run' to those who can, I can't), 1 minute walk home from work (or even get a bike!!!)  You tube sun salutations whilst your bath runs/kids nap or watch cartoons.  Get one of those mad little stepper things and hop on that 'til the adverts on Coronation Street come on (that's every 10 minutes people!).  If that's too strenuous, do it during the breaks of your favourite show. That's quite literally 3 minutes folks.
    • Your brain chemistry is a little fecked. Me, the reason I'm up now listening to birds sing and watching the sky turn a dull blue at 4.20 am is a mixture of all three.  I've been finding it difficult to get to sleep for the past couple of weeks as it's been lighter right up until 10 pm now.  It's like reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I get as well, managed with even more exercise and B vitamins).  

So compound this with being ticked off at someone, (myself, I am my own dick head - I wanted to finish something today and I didn't, I just wasted my day mostly, it's not the first day of this procrastination but several),  and not doing any exercise, (I could have done 15 minutes on the turbo trainer even though I was shincing on Sunday). I'm up listening to the birdies sing.  What are the options for this kind of issue?  Well  I usually don't go for the chemically induced option until a good couple of nights of proper struggling.  I have quite a high tolerance for sleeping pills and I like to give them the best chance of working and take them only when I really need to.   Either way, unless you go holistically (see the first and second bullet points) you have to make a choice between feeling crap with no sleep, or feeling crap (and mildly jellied) with sleep.  Just know that you're going to be rubbish and useless until you tackle one (or both) of the first two issues that will be keeping you awake.

It's properly light out side my window now,  I usually have a rule that if I've been awake until dawn, I will just see the day through again since the amount of sleep I get will not be enough for the day and my sleep pattern will be out of whack. But it is half four in the morning, and if I can get up and have a shit load of coffee, I might just be OK. 

Decisions, decisions.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Look at this Picture...

...just look at it.

 It's a U bike lock attached to a seat via little Velcro-y tabbie things.  I'm talking about these bit here...

How would you, a normal person of possibly quite good intelligence go about taking your lock off the tabby things you were oh so clever to hack onto your bike so's you could carry round that damned heavy lock without having to think about it?

Would you:-

a) Spend seven, that's 7, the number between 6 and 8, (7) months fiddling around with those little tabby things, un-chritchhhing them from the bike, then from the lock, trying to get them through the little bike seat hangy plastic bits,chritchhhing them back together again, only to have to un-chritch them again and have to fiddle and re-chritch them back on to secure the lock,

or would you:

b) Unlock the bike lock, unwind the bike lock rope, slip the u-lock section off those little tabby things, that'll just sit there benignly, just to slip the lock back on again when finished using, never ever having to faff around with those tiresome little tabby things ever again.

Right.  That's what I thought.  I hope you feel superior.

Doing dumbarsed things so you don't have to.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Fitness Challenge Results

On the 20th of May I challenged myself to do at least a half hours worth of sweaty exercise every day for the next 10 days.  Why?  I was feeling a bit miserable after finishing the Etape Caledonia and wanted something to work towards.  I wanted to do something that would be hard and see the effect it had on me, my body, and how I would approach it.

I didn't manage every day - I think I managed 7 out of 10 days (like cats).  I also forgot the rule of not stacking extra exercise and counting that for the previous or next day (see here).    On the whole I did think the 10 days would be hard to do since there was a very real chance of me over training (and lets face it, I've had a cold I can't shift since I started this so I probably have a little), but I've also tried to find a few things I've wanted to go back to and have a proper go of.  Swimming for example, and running again.  I have to admit I've really enjoyed my route through dappled sunny Seaton.

Things I've learnt:

1.  I could definitely step up the sessions to two days in a row, then a rest day.

2. Cross Training is in order.  Going back to the running isn't as hard as I thought it would be.  The skipping had a worse effect.  But I recon - don't worry, I'll still be cycling mostly - I could change it up.  Perhaps a cycling session one day then running or swimming or yoga the next.

3. I may be developing an addiction for exercise things, challenges and take-parts.  I was struggling after the Etape, just generally feeling miserable and a bit put out. More so than any normal person should. Now this is over I feel a 'Poo poo is me' descending.  God, I really am spoiled arent I.

What could I do next?  Any thoughts let me know in the comments below!


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