Sugar-free caramel? Talk me through that one…..

Today’s walk threw up a number of questions as I sought to fill my head with something other than a fair amount of pain. I have alluded a couple of times recently to bugs that I have had at odd times since about mid-August but they haven’t been bugs as such, but kidney stones it seems. Quite uncomfortable for a few hours normally and, before anyone asks, yes I have been to the doctors and yes, I do have an ultrasound scan in the pipeline to check it’s nothing more serious, as well as pain in the pipeline, if you know what I mean. But these “bugs” come and go every few days – it has been two weeks since the last one so I shouldn’t be surprised that they flared up again today.

Of course, then that was damn inconsiderate of them to visit when I was walking, several miles from home. After resting for a coffee in Portchester (see questions 2 and 3 below), I decided not to phone home for a lift but to walk the two and a bit miles back towards Fareham to see if they would improve. Generally speaking, they got no worse and, perhaps through stubbornness as much as anything else, I walked all the way home, by which time I felt much better. Still some twinges and discomfort now but over the worst for this time. 17 miles in total, though I was planning for more like 23 on a day when I had set out at the remarkably early time of 10:20am, thanks to the clocks going back an hour. I had earlier walked through Titchfield village to see the preparations for Titchfield Carnival and, indeed, I saw lots of flags and bunting, and found the whiff of burgers in the air slightly tempting, but not sufficiently so to taste the wares. Apparently, the main events were not going to commence for an hour or so, so I continued on my way eastwards.

So what were those questions? Answers on a postcard, or any other medium…….

How is giving away a penalty “denying a goalscoring opportunity”? I would have thought, in the vast majority of cases, it is providing a goalscoring opportunity. The nuance here, for non-football fans, is that “denying a goalscoring opportunity” by a foul is an automatic sending off offence.

In the coffee shop which, incidentally was not one of the big chains, I asked for a skinny latte with caramel. Not for the first time, I was asked if I wanted sugar-free caramel. For once, I said yes but then couldn’t sense any caramel flavour at all. Given that caramel is “a beige to dark-brown confectionery product made by heating a variety of sugars” (Wikipedia) then perhaps sugar-free caramel is “nothing at all”. So if it is not just a confidence trick, what is sugar-free caramel?

If I am being charged £3.05, how is giving a five pence piece along with a five pound note “not helping”? The barista had already entered “£5.00” in order to work out the change of £1.95. Obviously making that up to £5.05 then just confused things….. Ok, I’ve given the answer to that one.


Mild mornings do (and I don’t regret it)

The weather is the best for walking now. Dry and around 10 degrees, not much wind. A mild morning indeed and this makes it easier to get in some distance. Haven’t really pushed myself too much recently and so today was the toughest on the legs for some time. Sarisbury through Segensworth down to Stubbington, Lee on Solent and north towards Fareham before cutting back acutely towards Elson. Then straight up to Fareham and home to Sarisbury. Not that much to talk about except an achy knee in the final two out of 21 miles. Felt really strong.

But if I had to rant about anything it is the difficulty of crossing roads at roundabouts. How many drivers don’t signal, look for all the world like they are going straight on, and as soon as I even think about stepping into the road, they lurch to the left and then indicate, beeping their horn as if I might dare to step into their path. If I had to predict my cause of death at this moment, it will be being smashed by an expensive car at a roundabout. Oh, and another thing while I am at it. Why do so many drivers start off (breaking the law, incidentally) and then wrestle with their seatbelt while struggling to control their vehicle over a distance of 100 yards or so? Just put it on, wasting three seconds of your life if you must, and then drive. The likelihood is that you will have to stop to give way at the end of the road anyway and so you get those three seconds back in any case. Angry? I don’t do angry, as you know. But it makes me seethe…..

And another thing, how do you explain sandwiches for £2.29 in the 99p shop in Fareham? Those shops are usually pretty good for drinks – nearly always there is a “2 for 99p” offer for soft water-based drinks, as there was today and of which I took advantage. I spent a few minutes late on in the walk considering that perhaps each piece of bread was 65p and the filling was 99p. Yes, that’s it. Butter or margarine must be free.

Roll on another dry and mild weekend.

10 is plenty

Well it’s been a hectic and tiring few weeks – a two week holiday, though our holidays are rarely a rest, with loads of walking, and then a few days away for work (and some pretty long days). Yes, it has been enjoyable for the most part and one has to appreciate being able to travel to other countries paid for by your employer in the latter case. Inevitably, there are things waiting to be done now at work and it does take a while to catch up on everything, no matter how good your staff are (and mine are very good).

A complication is that I have had a few odd days here and there recently where I haven’t felt my best and I need just to get to the heart of that in case it is something more serious than I think it is. This weekend, I had a decent lay in, did the shopping in the morning and then set out for a walk in the afternoon. Can’t say I was at my most energetic but it felt important to do something just to keep in the habit. All that I have just written added up to some minor irritations in my mind and it is rare that I don’t at least have some things troubling me. That said, pretty much everyone must almost always have something troubling them so this is certainly not a plea for anyone to feel sorry for me, and I am fortunate to have found a good outlet for any frustrations, in walking. It is very rare for me to get outright angry about anything – I do do irritation, I do do mock anger but very few of my friends or acquaintances will have seen me get really angry. I read this week that those who get angry tend to live shorter lives and, if that is so, I fear for the woman at my coffee stop today who complained loudly that her coffee wasn’t quite as she had ordered. Ok, everyone makes mistakes, have another coffee, this time the right one, no harm done. The issue was that she had been given a latte or whatever that was not ‘skinny’ but with full fat milk. Now this is not something over which to bash a barista with both barrels. What is the worst that could happen? I suppose the woman could be allergic to fat, though I suspect not, on what I could tell. Just chill. You get another coffee, ok more caffeine, but I would imagine that was the last thing the woman needed. Perhaps she needed to go for a good walk, though it wouldn’t be with me, that is for sure.

I took a circular route today (semantically not circular, but topologically circular) down into Bitterne and then up through Thornhill, down Kanes Hill and Lowford back home. 10 miles. Enough for me today. 10 is plenty. Thinking that there will be time to build up fitness for the L2B (London to Brighton) event next May and am reading an interesting account at the moment of a walk up Offa’s Dyke. That might just be the walk for 2017 – about 177 miles, the length of Wales (adding to the list of England, Scotland and Gibraltar of countries of which I have walked the length). Sounds like a two week project, again will cost a bit with B&Bs each night for 10-12 nights, I would guess, but Pammy and I are generally not high-maintenance in the expenditure department and so this is not a show-stopper. Need to read a bit more to assess how practical that would be, and when might that be possible. Nice to think and dream about these possibilities, bearing in mind that my first mentions of Lands End to John O’Groats were treated with extreme scepticism! Certainly more feasible than walking across Australia……..

A quick Finnish

Yes it is a bit early in the day for me to have been for a walk. I am in Helsinki for a three day conference starting tomorrow and I travelled on the Saturday due to the fares being pretty cheap on the Saturday and the Sunday times being unrealistic for a wide awake Monday 9am start.

We are two hours ahead of BST here and I thought a morning walk would be best in getting used to that ready for tomorrow. I am a nervous traveller, not in being scared of flying or anything like that, but nervous about finding places and getting to them on time. Much more nervous than presenting to lots of people, as long as it’s about something I know.

So it was excellent to have a pretty easy journey yesterday and to find that public transport here appears to be very very good. I usually spend some time beforehand using Google Earth and Street View when visiting places for the first time and that did come in handy in finding the hotel and in this morning’s walk. I am happy in having a hotel up to a couple of miles from a conference venue and therefore having a decent stroll in the morning and evening and the one I have in Helsinki is about 1.8 miles from Statistics Finland. So today’s main task was to walk there and back – and I did that in 35 minutes (one way) with hardly a glance at the myriad street maps I had at my disposal, thanks to Street View. It all looked so familiar.

Of course, it is a foreign country and customs differ. I noticed quickly that pedestrians stopped at road crossings when the red man was displayed, and crossed when the green man appeared, no matter how much or how little traffic was in the vicinity. I thought there must be some by law against crossing when the red man was there, but later I did see a few youngsters cross with the roads clear and the red man watching. I guess it must be an age thing. A lot of young people smoke and there are more than the normal proportion of blonde women, by UK standards at any rate. The other thing to notice is the price in restaurants and food outlets. Quite expensive indeed, and even a very small coffee and a lemon muffin during my walk set me back 6 Euros.

But Helsinki is an interesting city. On the bus from the airport, we passed the Olympic Stadium (1952 in case you are wondering – there are quite a few other cities with an “Olympic Stadium” that have never held the Olympics). Every big city also appears to have a river running through it, as Pammy noted on holiday, and here is no different:


On getting back near the hotel in central Helsinki, I walked through and around a large park, seeing that there is some sort of fairground, but I didn’t enter that bit since it looks sort of creepy for a middle aged bloke (or one close to retirement, as some would have you believe) to be wandering about on his own where there are loads of children.

So a few miles this morning, quite chilly at 11 Centigrade and a decent wind just to ensure that hands and pockets are at one. Going exploring the city centre this afternoon and  looking forward to tomorrow’s conference.