Wednesday, 30 April 2014


If there's one thing you can say about Spring, and that is, it's colourful. While out on a short run on my bicycle I was amazed at the variety of colours.

One of my favourite local routes takes me through Newhailes Estate, and just now the area is a palette of rainbow colours.

The daffodils are coming to an end, but I still managed to find a nice spread in the grounds.

I loved these  bright yellow bells so much I bought a small potted bunch of them and filmed them on time lapse as they opened up, which you can see in this 12 second video on YouTube.

Just around the corner from them, among the trees of a native wood, were the bluebells. A week ago they were just about to open, but now they are in full bloom, though I suspect even more have yet to open.

Further along was a collection of different wildflowers together, one of which I have had difficulty in identifying.  I asked everyone I thought might know, but I couldn't get a positive ID.  (it's the small pink flower in the photo). Finally I asked an expert friend of mine who used to be a director at The Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. They are in fact Anemone Nemerosa, or, the Wood Anemone. So there!

As well as an abundance of colours comes an abundance of colourful scents as well.  Two of the strongest around on this day were the distinctive aroma of coconut from the gorse bushes and the pungent odour of the wild garlic.

But what must be my favourite display of colour, albeit short-lived, has to be the amazing cherry blossom in the local park just round the corner from my house.

And with the trees going from bare to lush green in just a matter of weeks, it all certainly adds up to a  colourful day.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


At Easter people gather and roll their brightly painted eggs down slopes. For me, Easter weekend this year was about rolling my tires along two of my favourite bike routes.

We've had very high winds for weeks on end, well into the mid 20mph, gusting much higher, and cold grey skies. So when I awoke to bright blue skies and zero wind at the weekend I knew it was bike ride weather.

Route one was fairly challenging, with seven hill climbs involved, to take me from my home out to the nearby Pentland Hills. I wrote of this run back in June last year, and you can read the details of it here. Fishermen were out in their little boats, with the blue azure of the sky perfectly reflected in the calm waters of the reservoirs. On this occasion, despite it being horizon to horizon blue sky, it was still quite chilly, and when, after 16 miles, I stopped for lunch just beyond Loganlea Reservoir, I was glad I'd brought an extra layer. Lunch was a box of green salad, all part of my weight loss drive for the next few weeks.

Another 10 miles further on, I detoured from my usual route and left the Water of Leith to join the Union Canal into the centre of Edinburgh, where I met a friend for coffee. A skinny latte, of course.

Another six miles later and I was home once again.

The following day was another equally sunny day, with slightly higher winds and thus lower temperatures. Today's run was a 34 mile round trip to my old high school town of Penicuik. I've also written of this route before, here, but not since October 2012.

The first leg of this journey took me east to Musselburgh, then I turned south to follow the River Esk for a short distance, but I would join one of it's tributaries again some 15 miles or so further up the trail. Just beyond this river side trail is the tiny village of Danderhall, and the starting point of what I fondly call a "rails to trails" route that would take me out to Penicuik. If you do the math of the mileage it shows on this sign in the photo, it looks like my route was 22 miles there and 22 miles back. In actual fact it worked out at 17 each way. Go figure.

The next town was the sprawling settlement of Dalkeith, and just a little way into the town, at the start of another rails to trails section, was a delightful water tower, clearly converted now into someone's home. But turns out there's more to it. Built in 1879, it was converted into a private dwelling in 1987. I've since discovered that a chef called Gerry Goldwyre, has converted it into a "private dining experience". You hire him and the place for 12 people at a cost of £600 and you get his culinary experience.

As I said earlier, it had been a year and a half since I'd last cycled this trail. During that time a new railway had started being constructed, linking Edinburgh to the Borders town of Galashiels.  It is still under construction, and follows an original route that was closed down 50 years ago. The down side of this is the cycle route through the western side of the busy town of Dalkeith has gone, as it used the old rail line. Now I was forced through the centre of town and busy roundabouts until I was able to pick up the route again. I'm hoping they will improve this once the railway is completed. A letter is due I think.

Just an hour and a half after leaving home I arrived in Penicuik, with the route following alongside the North Esk river as it makes its way to Musselburgh. The last 10 miles since Dalkeith had been entirely on cycle trail, also an abandoned rail line, and was a complete joy. However, this route has one drawback; it's not circular, and I followed the same route back home again.

Just a mile from the end of my 34-mile run I detoured through the nearby National Trust of Scotland site of Newhailes. I knew from memory that in a large clearing there where masses of bluebells. They were starting to come out but by the look of them they needed another week yet to be at their best.

On the final day of Easter, before breakfast, I had a 3rd, much shorter run, up and over the nearby volcanic hill of Arthurs Seat, with it's commanding views over the City of Edinburgh.

Returning home it was time for an Easter treat of eggs. Not chocolate though, but soft boiled duck eggs on toast!.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


This afternoon I'm doing a little sewing. Not very interesting in itself, but let me explain.

Some time ago I wrote about a forthcoming plan to lose some weight. That was about three months ago and since then, well, I've done nothing about it.

Until Saturday, last weekend.

I had arranged a meeting this week for a possible new short term contract, and as I don't possess a suit I thought I would buy a good quality dress shirt for the occasion. So on Saturday I wandered up to a local clothing store and quickly found one in a medium size that I liked, and took this to the fitting rooms.

Inside the cubicle were an arrangement of mirrors that are carefully arranged so as to show you all angles of your body. I tried the shirt on and to my dismay found it was too tight. I then tried on the same style in large and this fitted.  It has been a very long time since medium did not fit me.  Just to make sure I tried the medium on again, but alas, it was definitely too tight. Disappointed, I exaggerated my tummy bulge by artificially pushing it out and off flew the top button of my trousers, pinging off the mirror.

That was it. I was on a mission.

I was seeing friends that evening and took the remaining biscuits and cakes from my kitchen and handed them over to my friends to consume. On the same day I went into overdrive with my food plan.

For this past week, every day, I have been eating porridge in the morning made with fat-free milk, then either a salad or my own homemade soup for lunch, and in the evening a plate of homemade roasted veg with brown rice. No snacks of any kind, and copious amounts of water.

As well as this new food plan I'm doing a number of stomach curls first thing in the morning and again last thing at night (I'm building up the number) and go for a one-hour bike ride up a nearby hill called Arthurs Seat, which has a very steep approach and pushes my heart rate up for good period of time. Tomorrow I'm off for a five-hour ride through the nearby Pentland Hills range.

Just before I sat down to write this blog I decided to weigh myself. I wasn't expecting any change at all, but to my surprise I've dropped just over one kilo, about 2lbs!!!  OK, so it's early days, but that was a nice surprise.  Prior to starting this I was aware that I was over my ideal weight by about 5kilos, but I wasn't gaining anymore over the past few months, so I was fairly confident I might lose it quickly. Update to follow.

Now to finish sewing that button back on!

Thursday, 10 April 2014


On the first Saturday of every month I organise a local community farmers market in my home town of Portobello, part of the City of Edinburgh. At each market I try to have something fun to do on the sidelines. At the market in April I managed to attract the International Science Festival which had all manner of exciting experiments, mostly for the kids to enjoy.

Over the past two years that I have been running the market we have had various events: bands for live music, a regular face painter, marquetry, jugglers and on one occasion a huge llama!  All of these events add to the atmosphere of the market, but the Science Festival also brings an element of education.

There are two "performers" with a mobile unit on a bicycle called The Busking Bike, who demonstrate science in action from everyday life things, such as the ingredients in fizzy drinks to the forming of carbon dioxide which is causing the planet all manner of problems. The kids lapped it up as all manner of things went fizz, bang and pop, while at the same time learning a thing or two.

It costs money to bring these events to the public, and as such the International Science Festival have to seek sponsorship.  This they did in the form of a company called Selex.  I'm guessing you've never heard of them.

Selex are basically an aerospace company, and everyone's immediate thought is to brand them as weapons makers.  While they do make weapons, or rather the electronic parts that go into them, they are also involved in all manner of new technologies that benefit mankind in a positive way.  Not just that but recently they donated technology that monitors the World Heritage site of Pompeii to keep track of its deterioration and so assist in its preservation.

Just two days before the Portobello Market was to be held all hell broke lose and a rather messy round of mud slinging ensued. It boiled down to people saying how could our local community farmers market attract an event sponsored by a weapons-of-death manufacturer. People said they would boycott the market.


Well here's a thought: The vast majority of people at some time or another fly in aeroplanes. Maybe some of these are made by Boeing, who also happen to make the spares for the B-52 bomber and construct the B1 Stealth bomber.

Or how about the company GKN? 80% of all cars in the UK use a driveshaft made by them, but they also happen to make Armoured Personnel Carriers for the military.

Maybe they shop in one of the big four supermarkets who have goods delivered by large Scania trucks. SAAB-Scania manufacture jet fighter aircraft.

Maybe they should take a closer look at their pension. They'll probably find that in order to give them a high return once they retire so they can live comfortably, their money may have been invested in some very profitable companies that have some connection to something they're not in favour of.  But they'll still have that fat pension wont they?

Where do we draw the line? I understand people's sentiments, but at least Selex are not trying to hide the fact they are sponsors. They genuinely want to fund events that may educate and encourage young minds to be the future electrical engineers and scientists.

I for one thoroughly enjoyed seeing a soda bottle shoot a fountain of pop 20 feet into the air when a packet of Mentos was dropped in.

Oh hang on; Mentos are mostly sugar aren't they, which could attack and destroy your teeth?!

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Eight years ago yesterday I walked away from the end of a 15 year adventure. It may have only been a small coffee shop and deli, and though I was the owner it was the best job I've ever had.  I had some great staff and met some wonderful people who changed my life in amazing ways.

New adventures opened up after that, some of which would take me round the world and across whole continents, but those too come to an end eventually.  I hope one day soon a new exciting adventure will present itself.

Which brings me neatly to my friend Pauline, who has just set off on a new adventure on her bicycle. You'll recall if you're a regular reader that she cycled round the world for two years between 2010 and 2012.  Well, she's loaded her bicycle up once again and has set off for the midnight sun.  Currently she's crossing Germany and Poland and will then turn north toward Finland, cycling to it's northern tip and crossing into Norway where she'll experience 24 hours of daylight.  I can't imagine what that will be like.

If you'd like to find out and follow Pauline's progress, she is writing a blog about this new adventure as she goes along called Northern Exposure.  Just click on the picture below.

Here's to new adventures.