New Year on the Garden Isle

8 Jan

In that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year the best thing to do is go on holiday. The weather in the UK is invariably rubbish, everyone is comatose and intending to stay that way until forced back to work the following week.

To avoid a coma this year, my two travel companions and I chose to visit the small Atlantic island of Madeira, owned by Portugal and part of the archipelago that includes the Canaries, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and several other small islands I never knew existed, off the west coast of Africa. Without any preconceptions I went with an open mind and was really pleasantly surprised.

It is larger than I expected (about the size of east and west Sussex together) and green. Mostly hilly, a touch mountainous, the inhabitants cling to the edges wherever there is a bit of flat land, or indeed just build a house precariously into the rock face.  It is pleasantly warm even in winter, although there is a persistent strong wind. Huge surging waves crash dramatically against craggy cliffs. I suppose it is quite exposed sitting there off the African coast. Because of this location it is classed as sub-tropical.

Bananas and sugar cane grow in abundance; the sugar once providing the island’s main source of income, and was considered the finest and sweetest in the world back in the 18th and  19th centuries, its real hey day.


Also back then the island’s Madeira wine was considered a prize product, shipped all over the world it was used to toast the signing of America’s Declaration of Independence. What an impressive provenance. The wine is still revered.  Sipped at any given opportunity during the day, we found it goes well with their honey cake and avocado, but then again what doesn’t these days! Then there’s the 50% proof rum – or rather, their traditional rum-based drink – Poncha. It is a lethal mix of rum, sugar, honey and orange and/or lemon. Made to order by the specialist little roadside bar (?!) in Sao Vicente it is delicious, sweet and punchy.


This is the capital which means “fennel” in Portuguese, a throw back to its past. It’s a pretty city to spend a day.  Starting at the harbour side, check out Madeira’s most famous son, Christiano Ronaldo’s museum, nightclub and hotel. And pose next to his statue with all the enthralled kids, big and small. The cruise ships flock to this island and there is always a behemoth moored in port. The cable car starts here and will whisk you sedately to Monte, where you can spend a very pleasurable hour or so wandering through the Tropical Gardens where there are thousand year old olive trees planted by the Romans and examples of garden design and plants from all over the world. Then check out the impressive church up here before jumping into a wicker basket and careering down the super-steep hills, guided by two old drunk men who ply you for an extra tip after you have parted with 45 euros for the 5 minute pleasure. It’s a thrilling experience that, like the gondolas in Venice, just has to be given a go. Then if you don’t want to get a taxi from the touts at the toboggan stop be intrepid (or foolish) and give your quads a workout back down to the city centre.  Time for more Poncha to aid recovery.

Try to visit the Madeira Story Centre, one of the best museums I have visited, it gives an interesting and well presented insight into the history of the island from its violent volcanic start millions of years ago, up to the present day tourist industry. Winston Churchill and other world leaders and celebrities of their time stayed at Reid’s Palace Hotel and you can see their signatures in the guest book.  It’s all very ‘Raffles’.

If you get seriously peckish, head away from the main harbour area into the winding narrow alleyways  behind it, paved with marble and basalt, and try a local taverna. And try out their famed fish dishes. Black Scabbard and Amberjack, preferably on a barbecue, they are delicious, as are tuna and lobster. Seafood pasta or seafood rice are served in huge casseroles and resemble a tasty stew stuffed with fresh tender sea life of all kinds. Mop it up with Bolo da caco, the local garlic bread and some crisp white wine. Food in Madeira is always delicious and well made. There seem to be a great many talented chefs on the island. They must be being held hostage or something. They could easily win prizes in London or New York if they ventured outside their island but thankfully for us tourists they don’t and so we eat extremely well!


Another detour can be made to Cabo Girao, a 580m high skywalk over the edge of a sheer cliff it is the second highest in the world and my sweaty palms and increased heart rate attested to that. Fantastic views.

But do make sure to get away from the coast and head inland. It is truly spectacular in there, with the mountains rising jagged and imposing all around you as your vehicle roars up those steep hills, over rocky, bumpy off-road tracks higher and higher, 1,500m into the clouds. The views are amazing. The villagers appear unfazed by the steepness and narrowness of every road. The island is volcanic in origin and so is very fertile, and they grow every vegetable and fruit you can imagine, here and there having built terraces to create every opportunity to make some flat land on which to grow stuff.


Funchal is on the south side of the island, which is hot and dry. The north is completely different, cold and wet. Very dense and green with indigenous laurel trees, and with an enviable bio-diversity, it is truly beautiful, a bit reminiscent of England in fact. The Romans wanted to harness the natural rainfall and cloud cover in the north and direct it to the habitations in the south and so they built the “lavada” system. It is really just a network of irrigation channels that one can now use to walk along beside in order to enjoy the countryside of the island, they provide a natural pathway to follow that can last a few minutes to over 19km if you’re fit and adventurous. They are still maintained by an army of workers and are a real benefit to the island. They still work perfectly well and are constantly full of clean, fresh water, a testament to their ancient inventors’ harnessing of the island’s natural resources.


Back to Funchal for the new year’s celebrations. The town puts on a huge firework display in the harbour and from the hills surrounding it, that it is a true 360 degree spectacular. The nine cruise ships that stopped to enjoy the show all blasted their horns on the stroke of midnight and we happily toasted in 2017 with a convivial and the good natured crowd including families all around us. It was gentle and colourful and for that, one of the most pleasant ways to say good bye to the old and to welcome the new.

HAPPY NEW YEAR – and obrigado Madeira!


Don’t date a surgeon…

29 Sep

…who is also a divorced dad, unless you  have infinite patience of saintly proportions.  Unless you are as flexible as a Russian gymnast. And unless you have a fulfilling life of your own to get on with for 98% of the time that you won’t see him.

It’s no great secret that surgeons, doctors (and the ones who are parents) are insanely busy.  I don’t think anyone who works in any other profession can ever truly understand just how hard these dudes work.  80 or 100 hours a week and only 2 days off a month is normal. Without getting too political, their dedication is massively exploited.  So your disappointment at not getting to spend a date with him or not even receiving a reply text pales into insignificance and you just have to accept that.  But if he does choose to spend his precious spare time with you, instead of, erm, sleeping, you also learn to appreciate that.

Because time is so scarce for him, you will end up doing a lot of the preparation work for your dates, be it you travelling to his, having all the ideas to carrying out all the organisation to perhaps even travelling home alone afterwards.  That doesn’t mean he won’t ever do those things, but don’t hold it against him when he simply can’t.

A surgeon’s work is fascinating.  I would go far as to say it turns me on. So listen, be a sounding board, a crutch.  If that is what he asks for.  Sometimes it’s good for him to switch off from work or even his anxieties over the kids and talk about something, anything, else.  After all, you are both multi-faceted human beings. That’s what drew you to one another, so keep that spark alive. Talk about your ambitions, dreams, politics, sport, TV. Discuss the differences between Superman and Batman. Yes, debate anything and everything that is going on in the world outside your bubble.

You won’t be a priority.  Not all the time anyway.  Deal with it.  Easier said than done, I can tell you.  In a world of well-meaning advice and comparison by your peers and their 9-5 partners, it is very hard to come to terms with the fact that you and your surgeon will never have a conventional relationship.  He cares for you of course, but his work  and kids come first and foremost.  If he’s on call or gets a call about his kids, he has to take that call or he will get into severe trouble.  His job involves saving lives, and that must come above all else. Can you see now just how important you are?  Yep, not very.  But it’s not by choice.  He’s often suffering too.

He has off days and bad moods, but it’s not about me. This is the hardest to come to terms with.  It’s perfectly natural to take a person’s mood as a reflection of what they feel about you.  That’s if you’re dealing with any other person.  But when you’re talking about a surgeon you notice the bad days repeating themselves time and time again.  But I had to realise that he can’t show his emotions at work so he will naturally share his problems with me in private.  Again, it’s not about me.

Another hard one – is constantly making excuses for his absence.  But proudly making the excuses because I am proud of his work.  Besides, I am good in my own company even in social gatherings. Everyone tells me I’m wasting my time or they think I’ve gone mad and have made him up, simply because of his invisibility.  This is partly what drove me to write this article.  To try to explain the unique nature of our ‘situationship’.  I am sure my friends still think I am a pathetic, delusional doormat. God knows,  I have had a hard time explaining it to myself let alone them!

Of course on top of all this, because my surgeon has two young children and an ex-wife I have to multiply what I have said by ten.  Naturally, when he is not working he wants to spend time with his family and so our window of opportunity becomes narrower still.  They will vie for the top spot of his attention just as much as his work.

However, don’t lose sight of what you want. It is absurdly easy for your whole relationship to revolve around his incredibly noble and stressful job, but there are two of you in this mix so don’t be afraid to tell him what you want and call him out on any behaviour you don’t like. Don’t whine or be indirect. Just say it. You’ll be surprised at the result. And respected all the more.

After all the soul-searching, research, empathy and advice, I will never truly understand his struggle, but I’ll know better than most.  There are aspects of his life I don’t get, situations and frustrations that I angrily fail to grasp.  Emotions that run away with me.  I can’t compare this relationship to any others. But I try to listen and I try to learn every day to keep a sense of perspective.

But the positives far outnumber the negatives and are the reasons I enjoy my ‘sort of’ life with my surgeon.  He is absurdly clever.  Not just book smarts – the guy has two degrees and has been described in professional circles as the best senior registrar in the country.  He has street smarts too because he deals every day with people from all walks of life – those with a huge sense of entitlement, criminals, in his words, “nut jobs”, violent drunks, truly sick people as well as those who are genuinely grateful for his care and attention they receive for free.

He is great company, extremely witty, sometimes silly, funny with a dark, dry sense of humour.  He is mature, sympathetic and compassionate.  He is a good man and a great dad. All this makes him sexy as hell and well worth the effort.  Long live life with my gorgeous, quirky, fantastic, elusive surgeon.

Why I am sad about Brexit

29 Sep

Of course I am depressed. Anyone who isn’t screaming or crying every time they hear the news right now is just not socially aware.
Sadly, it is now acceptable to be openly racist. Next it will be sexism and then misogyny. We are going back to the 1950s. We will have gone full circle. What little progress women made in the last 70 years will be eroded.

 Scotland will have another referendum and leave the UK, then join the EU, taking with it its vast natural resources. We will be left with fracking and nuclear power. Northern Ireland wants to split from the UK as well. Property prices will fall, but don’t applaud that because businesses in the UK who rely on European workers and contracts will go under meaning huge redundancies and recession – there will be no industry in England and Wales.

What was predicted has come to pass. Boris Johnson will be our PM. Donald Trump will be the leader of the free world. Together they will rail road the TTIP into existence and the UK will be powerless against it. The environment will suffer, the NHS will be privatised and ripped apart, our food and drink will be contaminated with hormones and chemicals by the huge drug companies. Large multi-nationals will be able to sue governments for trying to prevent them ravaging the world and its resources and repressed peoples. Rupert Murdoch’s right wing media will continue to peddle hatred and fear in the press and on TV. Everyone will hunker down and become more selfish, less compassionate and less humane. The whole world will go to hell.

So well done UK voters. Good luck with your decision. 

Bugsy – an odyssey

1 Sep

The start of a beautiful friendship

On 5 November 1989, before I had even passed my driving test, I bought myself a pristine white 1971 VW Beetle.  After resolutely deciding that would be my ideal dream car and hankering after one for years, I searched the local papers (because there were no online auction sites or even internet back then) desperately searching for my Beetle.

Dad found the listing in the Friday Ad and on his way back from work one cold wet day all those years ago, he phoned the owner and went to view the car.  In his words, when the garage door was opened, he gasped in amazement at this thing of beauty and he knew right away his daughter had to have it.  He immediately paid the £100 deposit and promised I would be back that weekend to pick her up.  Deal done. ’80s style!

So with my best friend in tow, and mum the designated driver, I went to Crawley to collect my Beetle.  It was dark, raining again and I was beside myself with excitement.  I handed over my hard-earned pounds from the summer job I had relentlessly undertaken a few months before, and mum drove us all home.

My life in Bugsy

Since that day Bugsy and I have been inseparable.

During my college years before I got my full driving licence, as long as someone was in the car who had passed their test I could drive her.  My friend Jenny was a year older and had passed so four of us usually crammed in and bombed up and down the A23.  I also held down two part-time jobs and Bugsy was my lifeline. Then at University Bugsy became my symbol.  My friends knew I was around when they saw Bugsy parked up.  I adored her and my friends have happy memories of her too. Nev, you know who you are.

Naturally, we joined a posse of various like-minded young things in their VDubs and vans to enjoy Bug Jam and Run to the Sun from 1991 to 1995.  Those were my formative years and Bugsy was my entry ticket to the cool crowd.  She was always reliable; she never ever broke down.  Sometimes I had to park her on top of a hill in order to bump start her on cold mornings when the battery was getting old but that was part of being a penniless, but fearless student.  She was a magnet for interested, cool young dudes who wanted to impress me with their knowledge of Beetle working parts, and I let them! Why not enjoy the attention?  Bugsy certainly did.

My poor, tireless dad also spent many hours tinkering with her in the garage, when I wasn’t meticulously washing, T-Cutting and polishing her.  I spent many hours at various VW shows and drooling over Volks World magazine at what Bugsy could become if or when I had a bit of money to spend.  Mum pleaded with me not to lower her or mess with her as she was perfectly unique in every way.  I secretly agreed, whilst protesting that she could look “so cool” with EMPIs and a massive sound system.  Thankfully lack of funds put paid to my project dreams and she remains just the same as she did when she rolled off the production line all those years ago. Although all her wings, the bumpers and doors have been changed over the years due to various scrapes we have been involved in.

The worst was in 1996 whilst I was at law school.  Some dickhead, distracted whilst putting out his cigarette, rammed into the back of her at a roundabout.  I got severe whiplash whilst Bugsy was almost written off by the insurers.  I pleaded with them to repair her and they eventually agreed.  It’s amazing what a mother will do to protect her child!   Before that, in Coventry, a bus clipped her wing at a junction, but that was easily repaired in no time.  Bugsy is indestructible.

The saga continues

Whilst I lived in London I didn’t often take Bugsy up there. There was no point since I travelled everywhere by bus and tube.  Plus she got broken into in the ghetto of Balham, so I garaged her at mum and dad’s and kept her cosy whilst I lived out my dreams in the capital.  On occasion I would take a road trip with the BF and we enjoyed a lot of happy times together, struggling up steep hills, having picnics in fields, changing flat tyres and holding up traffic on busy motorways.

Inevitably I moved back to Sussex and Bugsy was waiting for me, good to go.  I bought a house with a garage specifically for her.  I continued to use her as my daily runaround for a couple of years, until my age and sensitivities persuaded me to get a more modern car.  Yes, I discovered power steering and air conditioning!  But my love for Bugsy never died.  I carefully wrapped her up in a specialized blanket and stowed her away in the garage.  Always with a thought at the back of my mind that her time would come again. Someday.

That day came in late Summer 2016.  Don’t ask me why but I decided to contact someone a friend recommended to me years before who knew how to repair old VWs.  Fully expecting such expertise to come at a price I just held my breath and hoped for the best.  To my utter amazement she didn’t need a lot of work to get her fully street legal.  A couple of hundred quid and she had a new battery, something with her clutch, probably some other mechanical jiggery-pokery, an MOT and she was back on the road again!  With hardly any rust and tyres still in working order, I was back to bombling around my neighbourhood. Hearing that familiar engine ring, and the oh so familiar smell of the interior, a heady mixture of petrol,greaseand well worn metal, immediately brought the years of happy memories flooding back.  I am so profoundly happy when I drive her again now.  Other people turn at the roar of that engine and smile.  She is a happy car. She brings joy to everyone.  Well, maybe not the boy racers, who just want to zoom past in a hail of dust and pumping music, but everyone else.

Long live Bugsy

You can follow her now on Twitter @BugsyAdventures. She has entered the 21st century!





28 Jul

Yet another birthday, yet another fantastic dining experience. My friends know me well!

CUT at 45 Park Lane is part of the Dorchester Hotel.  But stuffy it is not.  Instead we found a tasteful, calm, reassuringly elegant spot for a birthday celebration.  Yes, we probably disturbed some rather intimate date nights, but no-one seemed to notice or mind.

Surrounded by original Damien Hirst paintings on the walls and some intriguing sculptural art works in the foyer, I was invited here in order to sample one of the must have foods on the planet – real deal Japanese Wagyu beef.  The cows are massaged and listen to music during their lifetimes, leading to some superbly tasty and satisfying meat.  The small portion I had, alone, cost £140 but it was oh-so worth it.  I could cut it with a spoon, even cooked medium rare.  The taste was almost like butter, but not oily, creamy with a very deep rich meat flavour.  I loved it.  I would recommend it.  Save up if you have to.

Starter was Scottish scallop cerviche.  One of my favourite ways of eating seafood.  Decorated with edible flowers, again, it was like no other cerviche I had tasted – and I’ve been to South America!  Lastly, I had to have dessert because the one thing that caught my eye was yet another dish I have never had, despite being a 70s child – Baked Alaska.  I was not disappointed.  Why did this dish fall out of fashion?  It’s fantastic.

The staff at CUT are wonderful.  Polite, attentive but inobtrusive. Friendly even.  After choosing a bread roll from the basket, the waiter then remembers which one you chose and asks you later if you want another of that specific roll. I found that amazing. Maybe I was drunk.  As for the wine – our personal Sommelier asked each of us what we had chosen to eat and then suggested the perfect wine accompaniment.  And he was not wrong.  Yes, he did suggest I try a £1000 bottle but I was honest and said “no way!” and he did then point out a £55 bottle which I agreed to and which was divine anyway. Just goes to show.

Captain Corelli’s Cephalonia

28 Jul

This little Greek island in the Ionian Sea is still riding on the coat tails of the infamous book and with good reason.  With a turbulent history of constant invasion and natural disasters, the solid unchanging mountain at its centre seems to hold the whole island together and provide its unique identity.  Yet it’s from the book that most people recognize it.

It seems to have the best of both worlds – an unspoilt, laid back, wildly beautiful landscape and draw dropping scenery, but with excellent wifi and plenty of tavernas and cocktail bars!  No fish and chips or roudy nightspots, just proudly traditional places that will cater to any cheese addict’s needs and small but chic bars often with stunning views across the cool calm seas to another one of the islands in this archipelago (usually Zakynthos or Ithaca) which is just perfect for sipping a pre-dinner creation that looks like something Del Boy would choose.

Aside from the amazing catering facilities, the island is easily navigable by tiny car up and down hair-raising roads with sheer cliffs on each side.  The little towns of Sami and Skala on the east coast are beautiful.  Even in peak season it was quiet and the few tourists we saw couldn’t hope to fill up every spare chair in every taverna, of which there are a huge amount in every town.  Usually perched on the edge of a pretty harbour, they’re a wonderful place to sit and envy the visiting boating fraternity and their impressive yachts.  It’s even better to get out on a boat cruise and dive into the warm turquoise waters and swim across to beaches only accessible by sea.  Argostoli and Lixouri on the western side are not quite so atmospheric or pretty.  You won’t miss anything if you don’t venture there.  Ithaca is remote and serene and probably why John Hurt and Rowan Atkinson own villas there; whilst Russian oligarchs own whole islands.  I certainly would if I could!

Ruled at one time or other over the last 2000 years by every European nation it seems, the Cephalonians must have a very mixed heritage.  The population plummeted after the last big earthquake in 1953 and never really recovered.  Perhaps that’s why is feels so very empty.  Tourism is its main trade, with olive oil probably coming a close second.  The trees were planted by the Venetians 400 years ago and they are wonderfully ancient, craggy and twisted.  The oil they produce is like nothing I have tasted before.  Beautiful.

Villa hire is popular here and they are dotted all over the island’s coastline.  Perched up high they often offer fantastic views, but beware walking down to the beach, only to have to walk up the sharp inclines in intense sunshine and heat later!

A visit longer than the week we chose would mean venturing further afield – Fiskardo in the north and over to Olympia on the mainland.  Next time perhaps…

I loved Cephalonia, just as I loved Zakynthos 13 years ago.  It seems that the Ionians have found the perfect recipe for the prefect holiday destination.  Efharisto Cephalonia.



28 Mar

The very word conjures up the phrase “quintessentially English” for most of us.  All maiden aunts and old money ensconced in over-stuffed Liberty print.  But Claridges is actually style, elegance, comfort and taste sitting proud and beautiful in classy Mayfair.

The art deco interior is exquisitely preserved and finished with black and white photographs of the building’s famous and infamous clientele over the decades.  Enjoying Afternoon Tea in the Foyer served on the signature crockery is the perfect way to spend a Sunday,  being perfectly attended to by polite, liveried waiters, and charmed by the pianist and her muse treating us to a brilliant Bowie playlist.

From the long tea menu I chose a Darjeeling from a plantation that boasts two resident Bengal tigers. Served black it tasted like Champagne.  A compliment to my glass of ice cold Laurent Perrier.  To eat we started with delicate finger sandwiches made with traditional soft white bread, from a time when white bread was a culinary sensation.  Scones, clotted cream and ‘gelee’ followed and then sweet, sweet pastries hand made daily by the master chefs.   Those we couldn’t finish we carried off in the world’s chicest doggie bags. (Take that, Sketch!)

The whole experience really is a timeless institution.  A rare combination of refined consumption in calm, elegant surroundings.



2 Mar

All hints of the industrial seedy past of Kings Cross have been sandblasted to oblivion a bit like Docklands. It’s sterile cleanliness now make it a pleasure to wander around the illuminated water features and the bare bones that remain of the old warehouses to find a tiny speck of India imported from a Bombay railway goods yard to be the Dishoom Kings Cross Godown.  A fusion of station waiting room, train shed and Raj country club, the food is part street, part local curry house but with intensity of flavour that take it just the right side of kitsch.  Lamb, chicken, prawns and veg, the staples of all Indian cooking, are expertly delivered in a fairly large selection of fairly dainty dishes.  Just order as much as your tiny table can handle, ditch anything non-essential, and get your hands dirty. The drinks are everything from twisted versions of old favourites such as Bollybellini and Chaijito, Bhang Lassi (laced only with rum) all the way to Malabar Monsoon coffee and the infamous chai.

If you like a curry but don’t want to wade through yet another suburban Tikka Masala and want to experience a little bit of the crush and hubbub of the sub-continent, stop off at Dishoom.

I’m intending to try the bacon naan roll one day, if I can get up early enough.

The story so far

13 Feb


It seems I have taken a bit of time off. Probably recovery from the excitement and commitment of the Marathon.  To be frank I was surprised, firstly that I made it and secondly that I enjoyed it so much.  But as was pointed out to me, I had never missed a training run and had done all that I could in preparation.  I had unfinished business with that race which I finally, erm, finished, and now I’m looking for the next challenge – NYC and an ultra.

But in the meantime, in the summer I hit Croatia.  Perfect weather, delicious food, stunning scenery.  What else can you ask for in a holiday.  I can’t believe it isn’t as well known as Spain or Greece, because it is so much better.  Probably because it was a victim of its own bitter civil war not so long ago and the locals consider it a far too recent tragedy.  That aside, I found a largely untouched and unspoilt but clearly European country with huge ambitions and I’m glad I made it there.


Next stop, Chiltern Firehouse for my birthday.  I was star spotting of course, but there were no stars to spot, luckily for them.  But naturally, the food was what you would expect from one of the best restaurants in London right now.  We had brunch which is not known as the best time to visit a restaurant but who cares, it’s the funnest meal and we had the funnest time.  The waitresses were all gorgeous models deigning to serve the scummy mortals that we felt like.  But the waiters were lovely and friendly. They even took photos of us, like the bunch of tourists that we were, but having had a couple of the lavender gin cocktails who cares?  Everything was amazing.  If I had to imagine my ultimate fantasy restaurant I think Chiltern Firehouse would nail it.  The building itself, the decor, the location, the beautiful people whether staff or clientele within, the food.  Oh dear God, the food.  Gimme more….



But next, it was back to the Olympics.  The Newham 10K to be precise. The last couple of hundred metres was spent running round the iconic track that was gazed upon by billions three years ago. Now here I was sprinting down that famous home straight to the finish line in the footsteps of legends.  That was pretty awesome. In the real sense of the word.


Followed by (literally) a run for the trees in Madagascar.


Then on a warm sunny Friday in September Jane and Jamie got hitched.  Almost all of us from work were there to see our beautiful lady walk down the aisle and then we danced the night away at Buxted Park.   A perfect day for sure.


Next came the highlight of my year – a sub-zero white Christmas.

Work done, the year nearly over, I got on a plane and headed due north, 200 km beyond the Arctic Circle to Kiruna in northern Sweden.  After spending four days hanging out with huskies, reindeer and Swedes in the dark, stark, frozen wilderness we got to sleep in the Ice Hotel at minus 5 while outside was minus 15.  It was an experience and I earned myself a certificate for enduring five hours of uncomfortable and restless sleep, due mostly to being too hot in the survival-grade sleeping bag.  I loved the experience although it wasn’t as cold as it usually gets up there.  What was unexpected was the darkness.  There was no sunlight, just a weird sort of twilight between 10 am to 2 pm and the rest of the time it was pitch black.  My SAD symptoms did manifest themselves after five days of that and so I am convinced I couldn’t make it through a whole winter let alone a lifetime in the far north.

But what took my breath away was the Aurora.  I was unbelievably lucky enough to get to experience this totally natural phenomenon on my last night.  I can only describe it as one of the most magical moments of my life.  I felt humbled, and ecstatic and emotional and everything in between.  I have seen nature show off before, but that night she was insane.


Here’s to the new year and to new adventures…



“Sophie for the Olympics!”

19 Apr

After six months of 5 days a week training, 6 am starts, rain, aggressive dogs, rude car drivers, friendly fellow runners, envying cyclists, protein shakes, sports massages, snow, hurricane winds, ice, running blogs, articles, forums, new kit, broken headphones, failed apps, lost GPS signals, blood, tears, energy gels, loss of social life, bramble scratches, nettle rash, hill sessions, tempo sessions, intervals, fartleks, stretches, foam rollering, kale smoothies, medicinal G&Ts, painkillers, advice from friends, support from everyone, high-fiving kids, blisters, skittish horses, runner’s trots, a pre-race Half, afternoon naps, minus temperatures, intense sunshine, a Christmas morning, swimming, cross training, being a running bore, scheduled rest days, training schedule scrutiny, route planning, segments, CRs, g-map, Garmin, Strava, Instagram, compiling playlists, llamas, mud, sweat, ITB, ligaments, Compeed plasters, Deep Heat, always taking the stairs, maranoia…

It all comes down to four hours and forty six minutes of actually running the marathon.