April 2012 Archives

in being healthy |


‎5.0km 31.04min 6.12min/km (10.00min/mi)

Nothing remarkable about the distance or the time, but it was the first time I went running in 2 weeks. I was ready last week, but got lazy. No more excuses. The ballot for VLM opened today. I registered at 7am and I was already 126,XXX in the confirmation list. I just checked and the chance for ballot entry has already closed. Less than 24 hours. Wow.

Anyway, it’s back to running. I should find an autumn HM to train against. I don’t run well without a training plan.

in eating and drinking |


Yesterday after finishing at King’s I met up with RM at Borough Market for a late lunch (kangaroo burger, springbok burger, cider) and then to check out the whisky exchange’s shop at Vinopolis just behind the market. Their online shop has almost every whisky under the sun (to this beginner anyway); the physical shop doesn’t have as many, but there are something like 1,000 different whiskies available. Plus other spirits and accessories too.

We were like kids in a toy store. No, even more dangerous: kids in a toy store with their own credit cards. The phrase spoilt for choice comes to mind. There were samples of their own bottlings, including an intriguing elements of islay range that takes whisky from thinly disguised distilleries (let’s see, it’s so difficult to guess what Lp, Br or Ar stand for) in chemistry-themed bottles.

We were (comparatively) restrained. There were speciality “fill your own” casks and we each bought something different. I bought a blend branded Arras, 500ml for £40. And then we went crazy with the miniatures. I know that miniatures are not value for money — 50ml small bottle for £4 when the whole 750ml bottle can be bought for £30-40 — but I can’t buy or try everything I want to, because that’s too much drinking. In the end I got miniatures of:

  • auchentoshan 18 — because one has to try a lowland whisky sometime
  • balvenie double wood — everyone goes on about balvenie, must try
  • dalmore 12 — same with dalmore
  • highland park 30 — £16.95, gulp
  • monkey shoulder — hipster blend, got it for the funky name
  • penderyn — from wales; if the english whisky company had miniatures I would have gotten those too
  • poit dhubh — for sheer unpronouncability
  • singleton of dufftown — another popular whisky
  • springbank 10 — from campbeltown

in arts and media |

ldnkcl003main ldnkcl018r1B27

There was a free event Dickensfest today, a whole day of talks and readings to celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

Okay, I confess. I like Dickens and all, but I’m not really that literary a person and can never imagine going to a day of talks and readings. Except I did go. And all because it was at King’s. The last time I was there was when I graduated and I wanted to see how much has changed.

I did go to a little bit of the Dickensfest. The talks were all in the Great Hall, which hasn’t changed one bit. At first I felt like it was another one of those AKC lectures where attendence was the only criteria, but it quickly improved. Michael Allen spoke with authority and interest about Dickens’ time at Jonathan Warren’s blacking factory where he worked when he was about 9 or 10, sticking labels and washing bottles of blacking. I have no idea what blacking is, or was, but it sounds like terrible work for a young child. What I did take away was that Dickens’ childhood experiences would translate to so many of his books, and that he of all the classic writers was the one who wrote most, and most sympathetically, about poor children in that era. There was also a short reading of Oliver Twist, and I left after that, to explore my old haunts.

Wow. Everything has changed. Not surprised, it has been many years. The corridors are newly renovated. The 6th floor is now informatics not chemistry. But the lecture rooms are mostly unchanged. I visited 1B06, where most of my first and second year lectures were; and 1B27, where mm and I met. Tried to walk over to the Macadam building but it was locked. There was also a café on the first floor of the main building that didn’t used to be there.

There were posters of famous King’s alumni outside. I’m not one of them (not famous, that is) but it is a place where I spent a good 7 years of my life and it was nice to be back.

in eating and drinking |


It’s SM’s last day so he, RM and I went with another friend to Brixton market for Friday night drinks and food. He and I sneaked out early, at 4pm. We stopped by a pub before heading over there and ended up at the wonderful seven tapas and cocktail bar. We had nibbles, he had a beer while I had an old fashioned, while we waited for the others to arrive. It wasn’t until past 7pm that our party was complete and we walked around the village looking at the choices before deciding on pizza at franco manca. The queue was long, but moved quickly. Within 15mins we were seated. The pizzas were as good as before. I had the vegetarian special and we ordered a bottle of the house red.

Not wanting the evening to end, we headed back to the village arcade and found a place where we could have wine. In addition to the wine we had limoncello, sambucca and grappas. RM had an apple strudel and the restaurant didn’t mind that I got gelato from the stall around the corner — all very community spirited. Great evening with friends.

in in the news |

I only wear about 10-20% of all the clothes I own, I wear the same items of clothing all the time and the rest just sits in the closet. I did a mini clearout when I moved into this flat, but I think I should be more aggressive and downsize even more. And now M&S has come up with shwopping in partnership with Oxfam. Recycle old clothes while we buy new ones. Something to add to the weekend to-do list.

in in the news |

Claire Squires collapsed and sadly died during last Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon. She was only 30 years old, and this was her second marathon. She was running for the Samaritans and had raised around £500 for them. Since Sunday, donations on her donation page has surged and is now over £700,000. With giftaid and justgiving waiving their fee, the total donations will top £1 million.

Except for the first £500 donors, most of us who did put in a small amount didn’t know Ms Squires. I’m not a big fan of charity running, and I must admit I don’t give as much as I should to charitable causes. But her death has touched something very raw and emotional — she was a healthy young woman who should be alive today. As a marathoner, there is this fear at the back of our minds that it could happen to any of us, and just as suddenly.

There is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. When we read or watch the news, there is often a sense of helplessness. There is a want to do something, and I’m thinking this is why people have donated to her page. It was very easy, just a few clicks. There is also, at least for me, a sense of comfort, that it is through justgiving, and to the Samaritans, both reputable and trustworthy. If this huge donation can help the Samaritans provide more and better of their invaluable services, then there is something good that comes out of this tragedy.

in eating and drinking |

boisdale002wall boisdale004sirloin

Our colleague was in town on a visit so RM and I took her to Boisdale for steak. The one at Bishopsgate is hidden at the end of a dark obscure alleyway next to a pub called, of all things, Dirty Dick’s. You go downstairs into the dungeon of a restaurant to be greeted by red walls lined with pictures of famous people (Churchill, Monroe amongst others), a cosy intimate atmosphere and a jazz pianist.

No going crazy on ginormous 1kg steaks for us, we were very demur and ordered the regular sirloin on the bone. A little too much of a tough tendon for my liking. Didn’t have dessert but RM and I couldn’t resist the large whisky selection. He had a Bunnahabhainn and I had the most excellent Highland Park 18 year.

in eating and drinking |


Whisky isn’t just from Scotland or Ireland, or the American bourbon or the Canadian version. There’s English, Welsh, Australian, Swedish and Indian. Yamazaki from Japan was named best single malt 2012.

I’d read about Zuidam distillery’s Millstone whisky and asked A to buy me a bottle. €60-ish for the 8 year French oak expression. Their special trick is that their casks are stored at a higher temperature than normal so the whisky ages quicker. Their 8 year is equivalent to perhaps 12 year other single malts.

I should have asked for a miniature bottle too. The product comes in a nice wooden presenation box, I’m not sure I’ll want to open it soon but I’d love to have a taste.

in eating and drinking , going places |


We had a leisurely morning, taking our time to wake up, check out and have breakfast. Then a short walk to find a couple more friteries near the hotel. It was too early for them to be open, so it was just a matter of taking pictures and then moving on.

Having done the savoury chipwalk yesterday, it’s the turn of the sweet chocwalk, making our trip the chip’n’choc walk trip (my invented word). Of course, Belgian chocolate is famous all over the world, and we took inspiration from this really useful nyt article and made a beeline to Place du Grand Sablon which promised us 8 chocolate shops in one square.

The first shop was Pierre Marcolini’s two storey extravaganza. They treat chocolate like delicate vintage, and have a box that includes the Grand Cru selection. Other selection include one that offers the taste of cocoa from different parts of the world, and one that has spices. I also bought a €49 box of rum & whisky chocolate. The next stop was Wittamer where I bought a box of 9 pralines topped with chocolate coated crickets. Yes, crickets as in the insect cricket. The unboxing and tasting deserves its own post I think. Wittamer was also where we stopped for a hot chocolate. I don’t usually order hot chocolate but this was well worth the exception. The intense cocoa flavour is nothing like the hot chocolate from a packet. Even the cream was delicious. Final stop was Neuhaus for truffles.

I was now pretty laden down with chocolate purchases. But that wasn’t the end of our chocolate adventure. We made our way back to Grand Place and visited the museum of cocoa and chocolate. For €5.50, we visited the small museum, watched a demostration of how to make pralines and had a small sampler. Nice little museum to spend an hour or so in a tiny street just behind the main square.


And in a touristy shopping street the other side of the square, I found the other thing I was hoping I’d find, Westvleteren 12 beer from the Abbey of St Sixtus at Westvleteren. Their beers are in huge demand because of having consistenly been voted the best beer in the world and the small quantity made at the abbey. To make a purchase, people have to ring up to check when reservations are available; then ring up again when reservations do open to make an appointment for a visit. They have to indicate the licence plate number of the car visiting, and one licence plate can only buy every 60 days. Such is the rarity that I wasn’t sure I’d even see posters of the beer let alone the real thing. I had no hesitation in shelling out €12.95 for a bottle (actually got two, plus one each of the blonde and the 8).

Now I was well and truly carrying a very heavy load. Not a lot else to do with only a couple of hours, we ate more frites (at one of the friteries not on the list), had ice cream at at biscuit place and then camped out at a small café. I had a couple of beers and A had a diet coke. Then got a bit hungry, A had a salad while I ordered an américaine, which here means steak tartare. I can’t imagine a dish more misnamed, I can’t imagine many Americans eating steak tartare. It’s been a while since my last one, and it was okay, not the best one I’ve had. Sigh, really have to go back to Switzerland one of these days.

Walked back to the hotel, hung out for a bit in the lobby until it was time to catch our respective trains. Not even the Eurostar delay on the way home, because UKBA was so understaffed they asked the trains to go slow, dampened my overall impression of the trip. What a great weekend, it was a good idea to meet up and do something different than the usual touristy stuff.

in eating and drinking , going places |

brus00bierfrites brus00icecream1

I took an early Eurostar train to Brussels to meet up with my friend A. We’d arranged to go on the chip walk together. The chip walk is part of this year’s Brusselicious food festival, which includes other events such as gourmet tram dining, mussels at the beach and a wine festival. Apparently one of the distinctive food features of Brussels is these friteries, roadside stalls or shops that sold frites, aka fries, aka chips. Traditionally they are hand-cut, and there’s even an app that has an interactive list of the top 49.

I’ve been in Brussels once, a very very long time ago, for half a day with my family. That almost counts as having never visited. The train was only 2hrs from St Pancras, and our hotel literally across the road from the station. We couldn’t check in yet, so we stored our luggage and set off on foot to the central areas.

It took 1hr to find our first stall, having walked through the tourist attractions and to a more local part of town. The stall was very unassuming, the woman at the stall took pre-fried chips and fried them again to order to give them an extra crunchiness. There’s a variety of sauces, but mayo is the standard. There are other food items too, but are mainly deep fried processed meat in the shape of sausages or meatballs or burgers. I had the meatballs, because I needed food at that point.

We had planned on hitting at least 4, which we sort of did. We only bought frites from 3 of them, and by the last one we just ordered a small portion to share. Too much carbs. They were good though, it’s surprising how something simple like fries can taste different from stall to stall. #2 had the most anecdotes: a) the queue was a whole hour long; b) nearby bars and café had signs that said “frites accepted” so people can take their frites packages and enjoy them in the bar. Of course, it meant purchasing a drink, so it’s a smart move. I had a Westmalle beer while A had a tea.

After the last stall, we were on the lookout for ice cream, which we found nearby. I had an orange one, and it was fantastic. The weather turned nasty, it had been showery all day, and now the rain was steady. After walking for a bit in the miserable rain, we took the wise decision of taking the metro back to the hotel. All chipped out tonight.

in photography is life , techtalk |


A sad day indeed, when picnik closed. I’m not going to want to go into the trouble of logging into google+ to use it, I want a browser based editing tool that is easy to use. A couple of ex-picnik engineers did and for similar user experience, it’s great. I’m temporarily using it as my picnik alternative. Another one that will hopefully launch shortly is ribbet, which has been touting itself on a picnik alternative facebook page for a while. A quick google gave me mashable’s 7 alternative. Looks like we won’t be left out in the cold, lots of people are racing in with their own product.

in arts and media |

Avengers premiers in the UK next week, 26-Apr, one week ahead of the US. Here, it’s known as Avengers Assemble. I don’t usually go to a movie on its first day, or even first week, but I’m tempted to make an exception. Looks great. I mean, it’s Joss. And RDJ, and the rest.

in arts and media |


I’ve been following the progress of Dancing with the Stars on Car’s blog. One of the favourites is Katherine Jenkins, the local (well, if you’re Welsh) girl. One of my colleagues was lamenting why she is on US DWTS and not UK Strictly. I guess it’s all about conquering the US market and exposure.

She really has a beautiful voice. She has 8 albums (plus 3 best of) out, and Car joked about how much it would cost to buy them all. So I went and did a simple comparison of amazon UK and US. To get the 8 cds in the UK is just over £40 ($65); getting them in the US will be $110. And since I’m going to GCLS in June, I can bring them over. So she said yes, go for it and I ordered them. And they arrived today. Beautiful.

in being healthy |


Well no, I didn’t run in a 5k race, I’m still knackered and I had problem running across the road. I saw this event on runnersworld UK, someone is organising a star wars fancy dress fun run to coincide with the 35th anniversary of episode 4 coming out. Only £10 and 500 participants; there’s a 1k for kids, a 2k handcycle / wheelchair race and a 5k. A bit out of the way, at Watford, I’ll need to zipcar which instantly quadruples the cost. And needless to say there will be a complete lack of chip timing or anything resembling a competitive race, they actually advertise it as a run/walk for charity.

But, the kid in me who actually watched episode 4 when it came out and who still has the original cinema ticktet is screaming, it’s Star Wars. May the Fourth be with you and all that. I can wear my Darth Maul hoodie and/or my Jedi robe and bring my lightsaber. So tempting.

in going places |

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bri034whelks bri043rock

Here are some misc pictures of Brighton I took on Saturday while walking around. My recollection of the city is driving down with mm and then spending the day doing seaside-y stuff like going to the pier to play on the machines. I’m happy to report that the pushers are still 2p and there are still the old favourites like the basketball machine. There are still seafood stalls, I had a pot of whelks that cost me a blooming £1. Rock is still a favourite.

bri070pavillion bri054burger

For some odd reason, I had a picture of the Royal Pavillion somewhere at the edge of town next to the A23, but in reality it’s in the town centre within walking distance of the station. Strange memory. I don’t think the Lanes was as developed then, but now it’s a picture of smartness and where all the cool people go. Interesting.

in being healthy |


chip time: 5:04:54hr 7:14min/km (11:38min/mi) 7174 / 8878 overall
Pictures at flickr

Here’s the short version, I had 3 goals:

  • A goal of 5:15
  • B goal of 5:30
  • Consolation goal of just beating 5:38

I surprised myself by beating even the A goal and came very close to sub-5. Had a good race, learned more about training and pacing. The rest of this post is the long version of the race report.


I met a fellow runner as I was coming out of my room at the hotel and she kindly gave me a lift in her taxi to Preston Park station, saving me a good 15mins of walking. It was her first marathon, I hope she did well. I did bag drop and wandered around the park. Tried out the squeezable water pouch we would get along the course, picked up a bottle of powerade and generally tried to stay warm. It was a sunny morning but very cold, I wasn’t the only one with chattering teeth waiting at the start corral.

The race got underway at 9am and the corrals moved out slowly. I was in the last corral, just happened to stand next to the 4:45 pacer. He was the slowest pacer, so I was prepared for the group to pass me early on. The first mile was around the park, then we headed out to the streets. I’m not familiar with the city, we were mainly in local-ish commercial areas, with some hilly bits, then we hit the Pavillion and at mile 5 turned left into (I think it’s called) Marine Drive that ran along the coast. I felt good, at the back of my mind I wanted to try to keep to under 12min/mi which, as my pace band told me, is on time for 5:15.


mile 5-12 — Rottingdean and back
It was sunny with no cover, the wind was fairly brisk though. This bit of the course was boring, nothing much to see and the spectators had thinned out. I was keeping good pace, and feeling pretty fresh. Past Roedean and the hills started. At the U-turn between miles 8 and 9 they gave out bloks and cereal bars. I took a walk break up the hill at mile 9. It was good to turn around and start running downhill. The 15k marker was a welcome sight. Part of the course doubled back, in theory it was super easy to cheat, in reality who would do such a thing? The other thing about doubling back is that we could see faster runners coming on the opposite side of the road. These people are fast. By mile 12 we were back in town and aiming towards the pier.


mile 12-20 — centre of town
Halfway point was at the Hilton. All the way from the pier on, the crowd was thickest and there were a lot of encouragement. At my pace, I’m running mainly with charity runners. Those who had their names on their shirt received the most shouts. Now is the time to mention the runners in costume, I saw a tiger, a badger, a lion, rhino, angry birds, spongebob squarepants and fairies. There was also an army guy in full gear and backpack, and I was lucky enough to run next to a wheelchair participant at one point. Apparently £4m was raised for various charities which is wonderful. Charity running is still not my thing, but if it gets results and people enjoy it, then it’s not for me to comment.


Past mile 14 and we turned “inland” to first shops and then residential neighbourhoods. It was fantastic of people to come out of their houses to blast music or give out jelly babies or simply clap their support. I waved at the Queen and Kate (in masks) and received high fives from kids. Took a loo break at mile 16, there was somewhat of a queue and it took me about 5 minutes. More on that 5 minutes later.

Coming out to the seafront at mile 18 meant being hit by the wind. That part of the course was pretty tough with the wind and not many spectators. There were hardly any marshalls either, but the crowds seemed to be able to stay off the course.


mile 20-23 — the Wall
They even had an arch at the entrance of “the road to hell” — an apt description given its setting of an industrial estate looping around the power station. I took my second walk break just after mile 20. I was slowing down and I figured a 3 min walk will restore my energy. And it did, to an extent. There was also a gu station, someone gave me a raspberry flavoured one and I almost spit it out. Luckily there were chocolate ones scattered on another table which took the nasty berry flavour away. All through the course I had been drinking their water, grabbing bloks and I had my own blok supply too. As far as nutrition was concerned I was okay.

Coming out of the Wall area was a great feeling. The mile 23 sign flashed by and I knew I only had 5k or so left to go.


mile 23 to finish
I was thinking about another walk break at mile 24, but I skipped it. It was a long way home along the coast but at least we were running in the direction of the finish line. I found myself running, not fast but not lagging. I was passing quite a few people who were plodding or simply walking at that point. Lots of encouragement from the sparse spectators along Portslade. I even got one myself, a young girl and her father shouted “Go, lady in orange t-shirt, Go!!!” And we shared a big thumbs up. It was a great feeling.

Just keep running. Mile 24, then mile 25 and we were back along the crowded part of the course. I skipped the last water station and there it was, 400m to go, 200m to go. Past the pier and the last few meters. I took my finish line photo on the run, and then I was across the line. Another marathon done.

It was a long, over 1 mile walk back to the hotel. I had to sit for a bit on the curb before I ventured out. Initially I had to walk slowly, my calves were sore. Then halfway, it got easier, I think the walk ended up being good for relaxing my muscles. First thing after my shower was I put on compression socks, they are doing their magic now.


I knew, coming out of the Wall, that I had a good chance of beating 5:15. The strategy of staying under 12min/mi worked, apart from the walk breaks, I made a conscious effort to stick to it. I crossed the finish line with the official clock at 5:17 so I knew I’d done well. Nike+ showed 5:08, but it wasn’t until I checked on the marathon app (yes, they had an app) that I saw that I was under 5:05. Wow. Oh wow. That’s 34mins off last year’s Chicago PR.

HM time was 2:26 so a 12min positive split. Both Chicago times had HM splits in that area, so what I did right this race was I did not bonk in the second half. Is a 12min positive split good? It’s okay, but it should be lower. Am I okay about it? Yes, absolutely. Could I have tried harder in the second half, knowing that an even split would net me sub-5? I thought about it, but decided that preserving energy was more important. I was already on my way to beating my A goal, I didn’t want to jeopardize it.

At the end, it was only 5 minutes. Could I have gotten that 5min back somewhere else? The obvious points were the 2 walk breaks and the loo break. Not much I can do about the loo break; I did keep to only one, and I had to keep hydrated. I’m not a guy so sprinking the flora isn’t an option and although I did see an odd female or two doing the same, I’d rather “waste” a few minutes queuing for the portaloo. Should I have taken the walk breaks? Probably not, but I was tired at those 2 points and I needed the psychological moreso than the physical boost. More training will take care of that.

Brighton bills itself as the second biggest UK marathon. I think the organisers try their very best to promote it as a race on its own merit and not a sort of consolation for people who didn’t get into the VLM lottery and don’t want a charity place. The reality was there were a lot of “loser” VLM fleeces out there. The race has a lot going for it — location, seafront atmosphere, fairly flat course and the organisation gets high marks from me. Certainly did not feel like it’s only their 3rd time round. There was plenty of water and energy. The volunteers as usual were great. Yes, the course was boring and could do with more bands, I’m not bothered about small things like that.

I really liked the app. It’s simple, and it gave me my time almost instaneously. When I whatsapp’ed mm afterwards she already knew my time because she also downloaded the app. Much better system than the not!working text at Chicago. The biggest issue is that it only gave me my overall position, not age or gender division. Coming in the 7,000 out of almost 9,000 runners is not a result I like.

Would I do it again? It deserves it, that’s for sure. Problem is, Paris is on the same weekend, so if I’m still in Europe next year and if I’m running marathons again and if I apply and don’t get into VLM, I’ll probably go for Paris instead. Nothing against Brighton, but it’s Paris.

what next
I did Chicago in October, and now Brighton. In theory, it means I’m capable of 2 marathons a year. In practice, even though part of me is itching to do another one (marathons are addicting, just ask any marathoner), I don’t want to go through the training cycle. It’s a huge timesuck and I’d like to have a life. What did go right this training cycle was I stuck 95% to the plan. The midweek runs from work with the backpack turned out to be fantastic training tools. The long weekend runs without the backpack felt so much easier.

Here’s the dilemma. I’m so close to sub-5 I should do another one soon, within a year, to take advantage off my current fitness level and break that 5hr barrier. Asking an elite to go drom 2:04 to 1:59 is extremely tough, but for me to get to sub-5 means only going from 11:38min/mi to 11:24, it’s not inconceivable that I can take 15 seconds off each mile. I do know that in order to improve, I have to take the wheels off and move up from novice training plans. 35 miles a week will not bring 4:30; a minimum of 50 miles a week is required. Do I want to spend the time? Sigh. I don’t know. I don’t think so, not today anyway.

That said, I do like the structure of a proper training plan. I only have a couple of 10k races in the calendar so I need to find a HM to aim for. Or find a plan that focuses on speed. I’ll take some rest, then start planning for the rest of the year. I won’t stop running, it’s taken me this far, I can’t stop now.

in being healthy |


Easy, fast train journey to Brighton. Hopped onto the bus to get to the hotel, and even though I was early the room was ready so I was able to check in. The room is small, yes, but it’s okay for one person. There’s a small balcony that overlooks directly Regency Square, the sea and the derelict old pier.

First port of call was the expo, a short 5 mins walk away. A lot of charities, a few stalls selling gels and whatnot, massage, and the big Saucony (sponsors) stall. I bought a tech training shirt for £15 and a pair of compression socks for £10.

The weather turned nice and I took a long walk all the way to the pier and back. Played £1 worth of 2p pushers for old times’ sake. A pot of whelks for the same reason.

The training plan has 2 miles today, which I didn’t do but I’m thinking that walking for 2hrs is a good substitute. Got water and coke zero from the supermarket and then made my way to the Lanes to find somewhere to have dinner. Didn’t feel like the proverbial big pasta carb loading. Possibilities included venison burger, seafood, bistro or tapas. I ended up at a pub with a pint of local ale and a root vegetable pie with mash, carrots and beetroot. The pie was ok, the veg was good, the mash was rubbery. For dessert I got 1 scoops of peanut butter and blueberry gelato from an ice cream shop opposite the pub.

Seems like there’s a lot of people in town for the race. Signs are already up on Marine Drive, if the Grand is at 13 miles, then Regency Square, aka “home”, is halfway. That’s a good landmark to aim for.

Am I ready? Still hasn’t sunk in. I’ll take it one mile at a time. 6.30am start tomorrow, bed soon.

in being healthy |

Almost time for the race. I’m taking the train down tomorrow to go to the expo and explore a bit, it’s been years since I’ve visited Brighton. I’m definitely getting more nervous. Staying 2 nights I should only have a few things, but my bag is actually quite heavy because I’ve overpacked. 3 race shirts, 2 pairs of shorts, spare socks, spare everything I can think of, loads of food and even Powerade.

Can’t stop looking at the course video either. The start is in Preston Park and it looks like it winds through narrow residential streets before hitting the main stretch along the beach. The part they call The Wall starting at mile 22 looks industrial and could be tough. The weather forecast is cold (10°C) with pretty strong winds. Not liking the winds but it’s better than blazing hot sun on a course that has little or no cover.

Am I ready? I’ll know better tomorrow night.

in eating and drinking |


Broadgate market opened today at Exchange Square, almost literally across the road from the office. Whether they can move back to Finsbury Square depends I guess on Occupy London, last time I was over at the square there were tents galore. That was a month or so ago so they may have been cleared already.

The market, being in the City, is a mix of normal farmer’s market — one high end vegetable / salad stand, specialist cheese, bread, cake, garlic stalls; and then the rest of the stalls were hot food. There were loads of choices — paella, roast hog, roast lamb, chicken sandwich, burger, sausages, goulash, curry, and the one I ended up picking, freshly made pasta: spelt tagliatelle with courgettes, tomato and wild garlic pesto. The chef was cooking the pasta to order, I’m glad I went before noon, I can’t imagine the queue when the throngs descend at traditional lunchtime.

As I’m still officially in marathon training mode, my metabolism the past week or so has sky-rocketed to turbo, I allowed myself an indulgence and got a piece of guiness chocolate cake with guiness buttercream. It was on the dry side, I’m reminded of why I’m not a big chocolate fan.

in being healthy |


5.00km 27.59min 5.35min/km (9.00min/mi)

Holy crap that felt good. The taper must be working. Missed the weekend 8-miler (whisky holiday more important heehee). There’s only 3 runs this week, 3 miles and 2x2miles. The last time I went running was a week ago, and I am so happy I haven’t lost my fitness. I was not tired, and actually it didn’t feel like I was going especially fast. Nice splits. I’d be ecstatic if I ran a 5k race with a sub-28 time.

in going places |


At the end, we did manage to visit all the distilleries on Islay and Jura, including the 2 that were closed — we took photos at least.

I bought a couple of bottles — a wine cask Bruichladdich and a Caol Ila 18 year . But the most fun stuff I got were the miniature bottles — laphoraig, bruichladdich, jura and bowmore; and at least one tasting glass from the distilleries where we went on tours. I already have an Ardbeg, but now I have Glencairn glasses from Lagavullin and Laphoraig (large and small), tumblers from Bowmore and Bruichladdich, and shot-glass sized glasses from Jura and one with the map of the island etched. Good stuff.

in going places |


Jura, Portnohaven, peat banks, home

We set off early to catch the 9.30am ferry to the even more remote isle of Jura. The ferry trip was literally 5 minutes, it took longer to drive the car into the boat and drive off.

8 miles along the coast of Jura and we came to the village of Craighouse. It had been raining all morning, and then the sun came out. The main strip of the village is along the harbour, with matching whitewashed buildings housing the hotel, the distillery and the store. That’s it. Our tour was at 11am so we had time to wander around until there was nothing more to wander to. RM went to the distillery shop to chat with the people there (and it turned out, bum a dram) while I took a walk in the other direction towards the old pier.


The distillery tour was free. Afterwards there was the obligatory tasting. They didn’t give us any complimentary glass, so I bought one. Fair, considering the tour was free. We had lunch at a small but busy café behind the store — burgers and salad, and since we are in Scotland, irn-bru.

We missed the return ferry, so we set up shop at the pier to rest for a bit. Back on Islay we had time to head to Portnohaven at the southernmost tip of the island. Pretty village with lighthouse. On the way back to the airport, we filled up the car with petrol and made our final stop. One of the tour guides (laphoraig, I think) told us where there peat banks are, and how they cut the peat by hand. We spotted them by the airport, and it’s a sign of how much we (or at least I) have learnt that we knew what we were seeing. We’d driven past that road several times without noticing.

The flight to Glasgow was 30mins late. For some administratively stupid reason Flybe won’t check us through to Heathrow so we had to retrieve our bags, exit and re-checkin. BA is much more efficient and we were back inside the gate quickly. The flight to LHR was also late, we didn’t land till 10.30pm. Luggage took forever to come out so it was a little bit stressful. The train was full, and there was a long queue for taxis at Paddington so I just took the bus. Past midnight and I was home finally.

in going places |


Laphoraig, Lagavullin distilleries. Carraig Fuada Lighthouse.

Short 5min drive to Laphoraig this morning. We’d booked for the most extensive and expensive tasting this trip, for £28. We joined the regular tour of the distillery first. I must say, this is the absolute best distillery tour so far. Normal price of £3 is frankly undervalued. The guide was well informed, and the best things were: we got to try a small sample of the yeasty wash; we were allowed to put our hands inside the safe to catch a drop of the distilled product to taste; we also dipped our fingers into a freshly filled cask. Wow. And then on the regular tour there was a dram tasting of the 10 year old.

The advanced tasting, the Johnstone tour, involved tasting of 4 expressions: 10 year old, a 25 year old, a special festival edition and a superb, smooth, awesome 30 year old. Then we got a bonus, and I tried the triple wood. I can’t recommend Laphoraig enough. If visitors only have time for 1 distillery visit, this is where I will recommend.

Quick lunch back at the hotel. I had ham (it is Easter after all) and then back to the same area for the tour at Lagavullin. Ack, we weren’t allowed to take pictures. Apparently company policy. Weird. The tour was also good, I stuck my head inside one of the wash tuns and got a noseful of yeast and carbon dioxide, eeek. As it was just a regular tour the dram tasting was more limited. I had a distiller’s edition Lagavullin and a 18 year Caol Ila. The Caol Ila isn’t widely available so I purchased a bottle.


The weather had been crummy all day, rain varying between drizzle and downpour. Late afternoon the sun came out so we took advantage and drove to the southern tip. When the sun is out, the water is soooo blue and the island so picturesque. This is the Carraig Fuada lighthouse. There’s a faint rainbow at the center of the shot, towards the left.

in going places |


5 distelleries — Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain , Caol Ila — one birthday

Woke up to a gloriously sunny morning at Port Ellen. Beautiful photo op, went outside the hotel to absorb the quiet atmosphere and take pictures. Full breakfast of cereal, toast, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, mushroom, tomato and potato pancake.

Then to the other side of the island, past Bowmore. We were early so we drove further on to Port Charlotte before turning back to Bruichladdich. Had a 45 min tour, but as they weren’t working today, it was empty. Tasted a 10 year classic at the end of the tour. Bought miniatures and a bottle that isn’t available online.

Stopped at Kilchoman, the newest distillery. We hadn’t booked a tour, just visited the shop. Had a tiny sample of their inaugural and sherry cask. Pretty new and young, a distillery to watch out for I think.

Back to Bowmore proper. Had time to spare for some souvenir shopping before joining the tour at Bowmore. The distillery was both working and we had an extremely informative tour guide. For some odd reason we weren’t allowed to take photos because of health and safety reasons. Weird. Tasted a 12 year and a 18 year.


Rest of the day was driving to 2 distilleries that are closed for the holidays — Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. We went there for picture opportunity and to say we’ve visited all the distilleries on Islay. Final stop was to Port Askaig, initially to find something to eat but it turned out to be a port with just 2 buildings, pretty disappointing.

Dinner was at the Harbour Inn. I had langoustines and semphire salad, pan-fried vension and prune & almond cake with Bowmore Tempest ice cream. Had an Islay ale too, it was smooth and dark and almost like a stout.

Back in hotel before 8am. Shower, TV, relaxing, posting. Resting for more sampling tomorrow.

Not my usual birthday. It just happened that this year it falls smack bang at Easter weekend and I got the offer / temptation from RM to go travelling. A part of me would rather have stayed at home, but this has been vastly interesting and I’m very very pleased that I came.

in going places |


London —> Glasgow —> Islay
Ardbeg tasting

Going to Islay with RM for the long weekend. Early morning start at 4.30am. Bus to Paddington then train to Heathrow. Flight to Glasgow was 7am, arriving at just before 9am. Our luggage were checked through, so we didn’t have to worry. Got the #500 bus to Glasgow city centre and walked around a bit. Originally we were worried that we won’t have time to see anything but we managed to see the main sights. Nothing much to see, to be honest.

Flight to Islay was delayed for over 1 hour. The flight itself was only 30mins, so it’s all relative. Luggage came out quickly. Got our rental car and drove to Port Ellen. Checked into the hotel no problem, very pleased with the room. As soon as we ditched our luggage we ran out and hightailed it to Ardbeg. We had booked a tasting tour, and I called in Glasgow airport to advice that we were delayed and they were so kind to let us join the end of the tour, the tasting.

The tasting. Oh man. Incredible. Out of this world. We tried 8 different expressions, starting with a 10 year old, then it got better and better. 17 year old, 24, sherry cask, ones that are no longer available. I gave quite a lot to RM, and he got quite drunk. Heehee. We barely made it to dinner. I had scallops, lemon sole and summer fruits pudding. Shower and spent the rest of the evening watching tv.

Temporary pictures only. Will need to do the whole set when I get home.

in eating and drinking |


After work, SM and I went to the ten bells pub. The pub is on the tourist trail for its Jack the Ripper connection, we saw at least 2 groups with lonely planet guides. It’s very nice, we managed to snag seats and a table. Had a couple of pints of runner ale. I’m still marathon obsessed.

in eating and drinking |


For my birthday, CC kindly treated me to lunch at steak exchange, which is near both our offices. We shared the 800g bone-in sirloin (£48.95). The reviews I’d read online weren’t as glowing as the other steakhouses, and there were some comments that the steaks were overdone. No problem this time, it was very nicely medium rare and tasty. Didn’t care much for the peppercorn sauce, the spinach side was good too. Also shared a bottle of French Pinot, very fragrant and light. We liked the place, but in terms of atmosphere and everything else, we decided we preferred Hawksmoor.

in on the relationship front |

It’s mm’s birthday tomorrow. I rang her just after midnight her time, and we talked a bit. Sent this video to her, it’s a nice piano arrangement.

in being healthy |


6.0km 36.27min 6.04min/km (9.46 min/mi)

4 miles around the track. Felt good, went fast. The compression socks (or placebo effect) must have worked — no pain in calves, no tightness in ankles, just a tiny discomfort at the top of the foot. Looking good for the race, must continue to keep an eye out for injuries. Whee!

in arts and media |

I did a (relative) massive amazon mp3 download today. Both US amazon, where there were albums for $3.99 and UK amazon, with 2 for £10 offers. Some newish music, but also quite a lot of catch up.

Brookville — Broken Lights. What can I say? Under-rated, little known indie band. Love Andy Chase. I’m less of a fan of the Ivy, I like this Brookville incarnation better. Atmospheric and just very nice music.

Marlon Roudette — Matter Fixed. This guy will be big. This is New Age, which has already conquered a number of European charts.

Take That — Progressed. Catch up. This was released last year. Take That are from my younger days, and I’m so glad to see them return to triumphantly.

Samantha Ronson & the Undertakers — Chasing the Red. This is Love Song. Sam Ronson is famous, or infamous, for being Mark Ronson’s younger sister and there was this period of insanity when she was associated with, of all people, Lilo. I get the feeling that her work could do with a bit of Mark magic, but it’s still a pretty decent effort.

Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More. They are really worth a listen. Seriously.

What else did I get? Adele’s 19 and 21. Maroon 5, an old Nick Drake and Amy Winehouse: Lioness. All good stuff. My itunes will like me.


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