Author Archives: idlecyclist

About idlecyclist

cycling less than i plan

resetting expectations

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about how my motivation had slumped and how I was feeling lethargic and unwilling to get out and about. Having written that I had a bit of a lift. I think it was cathartic recognising and expressing how I was feeling. Later that week the weather also started to improve again getting warmer and a bit more settled. I decided to give the 30 Days of Biking Challenge a go as a way to change things up and maybe give me a cycling boost. I started well with 4 days done but then hit a mental wall again. This wasn’t helped by plummeting weather conditions and a return to very wintery weather. After a taste of Spring it feels like we’ve been catapulted back to the end of January!

On Easter Monday the forecast was for a wet and windy week with snow and hail showers also expected and I lost all interest in the 30 Days Challenge. In fact I pretty much lost interest in cycling for the whole week!

❄ 3″ of snow on my car tuesday morning! ❄

Since then I’ve spent some time taking stock. For the last two weeks I’d been getting progressively tired and fed up. I’d also started to develop pains in my knees and legs. Something was going wrong and needed to change. A number of the supportive comments on that last post mentioned Covid and/or overdoing it. Dpedece’s comment in particular stood out for me:

However, it seems to me that needing to take the lazy option means that something inside–mind? spirit?–needs healing. The lazy option allows the opportunity for that to heal.

I’ve been back at work now for 5 weeks and it’s been a big change. I’m in work from 9:30am to 6pm with a 45min lunch break. Apart from lunch I’m mostly stood in the one spot as, with lockdown, most sales and queries are coming via the phone. It’s pretty full on with the phone almost constantly ringing and possibly juggling 3/4 queries at once. It requires constant focus and concentration to ensure nothing gets missed or messed up while still maximising sales. That’s tiring both mentally and physically.

During my time off at the start of lockdown I steadily built up my activity and consequently my fitness. I was determined not to lose this by returning to work. I was also following Intermittent Fasting to try and get to my ideal weight. The table below shows my weekly activity plan going back to work.

Retrospectively now it’s a bit much and combined with work it was way too much! Additionally my sleeping pattern has been bad. To get an activity in before work I was getting up at 6:30am (away to work at 8:30am, home at 7pm) but most nights not settling down until at least 11:30pm or even midnight. No wonder I was feeling burnt out, I was and as dpedece said my spirit needed healing.

I’ve really dialled it back since Monday. The weather has stopped me cycling so I’ve just been walking and only once a day. Most days I’ve been able to have a lie in and I’ve been making a better effort to get to sleep by 11pm. I’ve completely given up on fasting by eating a small breakfast. At work I’m making an effort to reduce stress by not feeling that I have to answer every single call and dealing properly with queries before moving on to the next.

All of this has helped a lot. I’m feeling a good bit better and the pains are going from my legs. Mentally I feel a lot less wrung out and depending on the weather tomorrow I may even get out for a spin on the bike. Some of our restrictions are being eased and we are permitted to travel anywhere within our county boundary. It will be refreshing to be able to ride different routes and areas I haven’t ridden since October/November. Hopefully the customers I meet through work will also be in better form and more positive and thereby easier to deal with. There’s a rumour that winter may be retreating again later this week which will give everyone an extra boost 🤞

Header image by Castorly Stock from Pexels

the shepherd’s crown

The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5, Witches #11) by Terry Pratchett

From Goodreads:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is not the usual Terry Pratchett story. While there are a number of asides of the usual humour there are very few laugh out loud moments. The overall atmosphere is sombre and one of impending bad news. The loss of one of the key Discworld figures as well as the understanding that this is the absolutely final TP book leaves the book and the reader with an overall feeling of sadness. As a character Tiffany finally becomes her own person, taking control of her own destiny but even her success is tinged with a level of sadness.

The quality of writing is not up to the usual standard, nor is the construction of the storyline. However, the afterword makes it clear that this was an unfinished manuscript and that TP would undoubtedly have made further changes and additions. For all of that it is a worthy read and a fitting epitaph. As the afterword states:

The Shepherd’s Crown has a beginning, a middle and an end, and all the bits in between.

I’ll leave the last word to Death….

WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE […] WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT –A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT . . .

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015. Rest in Peace

my outdoor life

My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears, narrated by Simon Shepherd.

From Audible:

Ray Mears is a household name through his television series Tracks, World of Survival, Bushcraft Survival, The Real Heroes of Telemark, and many more.

He is a private individual who shuns publicity whenever possible and would prefer to let his many skills tell their own tale – until now.

In My Outdoor Life, Ray tells of his childhood and the formative years when he first developed a passion for both bushcraft and the martial arts skills that are central to his life. Having travelled the world several times over, he is no stranger to risk and has had more than his fair share of dangerous and life-threatening encounters to share with his listeners. But his life is so much more than a tale of derring-do. Shortly after he returned to England having narrowly survived a serious helicopter crash, his father died. Just a year later, he had to face the death of his first wife, Rachel. The book conveys the many sides of Ray Mears, taking us up to the present day – including the previously untold story of his involvement in the man-hunt for murderer Raoul Moat. My Outdoor Life gives us all a chance to share a life story as rich and as inspirational as a walk in woods with the man himself, Ray Mears.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this! I also believe that I enjoyed it more as an audiobook than I would have if I’d read it as a regular book.

It’s a pretty much no-holds-barred insight into the life of someone that has lived both a public life and a very private life. With this book he gives a very frank, honest and detailed explanation of his life from an early age right up to the present (at the time of writing).

It did take a little bit of getting used to the narrator’s voice. He has a very proper English accent and tone of voice which adds a layer of pomposity at times that I don’t think is intentional from the author. Ray Mears is a supremely confident man, very clear in his morals and beliefs and totally unafraid to voice them and to hold himself and others to his exacting standards. Hearing his views in the narrator’s accent can cause this to be misinterpreted at times.

I particularly liked how he described the most difficult times in his life. The death of his first wife is harrowingly described as is the aftermath. Also the death of his father and the impact it had on him. However, he is also incredibly enthusiastic about the good times, meeting his second wife, surviving the helicopter crash, living with and learning from many different indigenous peoples of the world.

I started listening to audiobooks via Audible using a link from a YouTube channel I watch called TAOutdoors. This link will get you one month free access and two free downloads: audible.com/taoutdoors If you use it I’d highly recommend that you give this one a go even if you have no interest in the outdoors, bushcraft or even know who Ray Mears is!

Header image source: fossbytes.com

storm front

Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

From Goodreads:

HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he’s the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There’s just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry’s name. And that’s when things start to get interesting.

Magic – it can get a guy killed.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book has been around for 11 years now but I only heard about it recently. I came across the series when mentioned by Anthony on his blog Today’s Perfect Moment and so glad he did! I really, really enjoyed it.

This is a completely unique character and setting for me and despite my initial misgivings it works really well. The character of Harry Dresden is a quite cynical character and with a modern setting he’s very different from the traditional depiction of a wizard, about as far from Gandalf and Dumbledore as possible! The supporting characters are also very interesting and especially Harry’s relationship with Murphy. My favourite character by far though was Bob.

Bob typifies the disregard the author has for traditional magic, wizards and fantasy in general. The creation of the two potions was a fabulous comedic and well written scene that was one of my favourite, closely followed by Bob’s blackmail of Harry (trying not to give spoilers). This somehow reminded me of Terry Pratchett and his Witch characters.

There are a number of proper fantasy scenes that are also really well done. The best by far was Harry’s meeting with Madame Bianca but the appearances of the Toad Demon were also really well written.

The author seems to be quite prolific with 17 titles in the series so far. I hope he manages to keep the quality high as they go along as I hope to read them all.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

a week of meh!

I finished last week on a pretty positive note with a really enjoyable 80km spin. Monday I started the week according to plan with a short walk and kettlebell session but wasn’t in the mood for a walk after work. Instead I took a lazy night sitting chatting with Catriona. Tuesday I was up and out for my short pre work 25km spin as usual and felt good. That evening after dinner I did go out for a walk and pushed myself to complete the 6km route to make up for Monday evening.

It all went down hill from then. I had an important household maintenance job to complete Wednesday morning but the plan was to cycle late morning/early afternoon depending on the weather conditions. Whatever happened overnight though I just couldn’t be arsed. No matter how I tried I just couldn’t get motivated for any kind of decent activity. In the afternoon I eventually talked myself into going to Monellan for a wander off the trails and through the trees. I did really enjoy that, bushwacking along the length of the river and exploring the wooded areas for possible camp spots. I also found a massive den, possibly badger but more likely fox that I intend to go back to.

The rest of the week was worse. The weather turned quite wet and windy on Wednesday afternoon and stayed that way for the rest of the week, even turning very wintry on Friday with snow and hail. This gave me all the reasons in the world to take the foot off the pedal and just drift through the end of the week.

I was able to get through the working day having found a system of dealing with the volume of phonecalls and messages without getting stressed but outside of that I had zero interest. I managed to push myself enough to keep my daily walking streak going but it was the bare minium of 2-3km just once each day with no cycling since Tuesday and no further kettlebell sessions. Somehow I clocked up a reasonable 24km walking for the week which surprised me!

© garmin connect

I also decided during the week that Intermittent Fasting wasn’t working for me, that I was too active for my calorific intake and that I wasn’t at my most productive during the morning at work. All this is correct but it gave me the excuse to eat very poorly for most of the week. I’ve been tired and out of sorts since Wednesday, feeling a bit rundown and at least some of that is probably due to diet and a bad sleeping pattern. It’s been another great excuse for taking the lazy option.

From Tuesday the weather is set to improve again and I’m hoping that the time shift to Summer Time last night and the resulting longer evenings will help me break out of this funk and get back on track. The plan is to restart the week tomorrow morning with the usual kettlebells and see how it goes.

sights and sounds

Yesterday I went for the longest spin for quite a while outside of the 100km metric challenge spins. It took me across the border into Co. Tyrone to Strabane and Newtownstewart before returning via Castlederg and Drumquin for 80km.

click the image to view on strava

As the weather had been settled and dry all week and I had an extra day off for St. Patrick’s Day I managed to ride my bike for 5 days and this spin brought me to 232km for the week. This spin wasn’t just about the mileage though. It was a great day for the bike with dry, bright weather and very little wind for most of the ride. What made it so enjoyable was the ability to lift my head and take in all around me and enjoy the day.

  • birdsong in all the wooded areas, noisy and full of life.
  • the miniature horse with legs so short and hair so long he looked like he was floating above the ground.
  • the old man out for his slow, careful walk smiling at the nonsense of me taking photos of my bike on the pedestrian bridge in Strabane.
  • the weir at Sion Mills flashing white through the bare trees.
  • newborn lambs bleating in the fields and anxiously staying close to their mothers.
  • the group of swans swimming in a flooded area of a field briefly glimpsed at just the right time across the top of a high hedge.
  • the colourful giant display of a gnome family along the river in Newtownstewart complete with decorated toadstools.
  • meeting an ex work colleague passing through Newtownstewart and stopping for a half hour chat.
  • the brand new display board for the International Appalachian Way in Baronscourt forest.
  • windmills turning lazily, catching and reflecting brief glimpses of sunshine.
  • pigs squealing in a farm shed outside Castlederg making me think of banjos and a film I haven’t actually seen.
  • roadside displays full of bright yellow daffodils.
  • spotting the often seen but recently missing horse from a roadside paddock in a new location in another field.
  • the hound with long ears and short legs that barks and valiantly tries to chase every time I pass his house and making me smile every single time.
source: two castles community festival

Not many photos but lots of memories.

poppet

Poppet (Jack Caffrey #6, Flea Marley #4) by Mo Hayder

From Goodreads:

In this chilling, seamlessly-plotted thriller, British detective Jack Caffery must find a dangerous mental patient on the loose—before he can kill again . . .
 
The Beechway High Secure Unit in Bristol, England, has a storied past—first as a nineteenth-century workhouse, then a poorhouse for the homeless, and now as a psychiatric hospital. With that troubled history come superstitions like the Maude, believed to be the ghost of a sadistic workhouse matron.
 
But while some of the patients and staff think the Maude is behind a series of unexplained episodes of self-harm amongst the ward’s patients, nursing coordinator AJ LeGrande thinks they might be the work of an all too human horror—a homicidal patient who was released back into the public in error.
 
Calling on Det. Jack Caffery, LeGrande hopes his investigation will reveal what’s truly been going on inside and outside the hospital’s walls. But what Caffery discovers about former patient Isaac Handel is beyond anyone’s imagining.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book. I’m a big fan of Jack Caffrey and Mo Hayder in general but I absolutely devoured this book, reading it in less than 3 days. It’s written in a really good way that draws you on and on at a frenetic pace that does not allow you an easy opportunity to stop reading.

It’s both a complicated and very simple story with twists and turns all along the way. It’s focused mostly on Jack but introduces two new central characters from the mental hospital that are just for this story. That was a nice change but it also allowed Jack to be a police man in the main.

There was no sign of The Walking Man this time but there were enough eccentric characters here without him. I kept expecting him to pop up at some stage but he didn’t appear.

Finally and with some relief it appears that Jack and Flea are beginning to solve their personal problems and bring Misty Kitson’s death to an end. That’s been dragging on for a while now and it will be good to move on.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

we’re alive

We’re Alive Season 1 by Modern Myth Productions

From Audible:

This exciting audio drama is based on an immensely popular podcast that has received hundreds of positive reviews and has had over four million downloads – and counting.


For Army Reserve soldier Michael Cross, the world as he knows it ends in an instant. One minute he’s in college, and the next rioters are roaming the highway around him, breaking into cars and literally tearing people apart. This is the day the dead walk. This is the world of We’re Alive.


The first season features 12 chapters packing performances and sound effects that rival movies and prove that modern audio drama is undead and well. Join our survivors as they band together, struggle to fortify a safe haven known as the Tower, and discover that zombies are far from the worst thing in a post apocalyptic Los Angeles, where the rules of human decency no longer apply.


Little food. Little water. Little hope. Who is lucky enough to say “We’re Alive”?

My Rating: ⭐

Having had great success with my first audiobook and having enjoyed a few podcasts last year I thought this might be a good mix of the two. In addition I usually like zombie horror stories.

I really wanted to like this but just couldn’t. At 4 hrs in I decided to cut my losses and pulled the pin. Dislikable and annoying characters, forced and wooden acting, storylines full of plot holes and a sub standard copy of “The Walking Deadjust about summed it up for me. Don’t waste your time and definitely don’t waste your money. I got this with a free credit on Audible but it costs £20 normally. I really don’t understand why it has been so popular and how it managed 5 seasons!

Header image source: fossbytes.com

excalibur

Excalibur (Warlord Chronicles #3) by Bernard Cornwell

From Goodreads:

In The Winter King and Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell demonstrated his astonishing ability to make the oft-told legend of King Arthur fresh and new for our time. Now, in this riveting final volume of The Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell tells the unforgettable tale of Arthur’s final struggles against the Saxons and his last attempts to triumph over a ruined marriage and ravaged dreams.

This is the tale not only of a broken love remade, but also of forces both earthly and unearthly that threaten everything Arthur stands for. Peopled by princesses and bards, by warriors and magicians, Excalibur is the story of love, war, loyalty, and betrayal-the work of a magnificent storyteller at the height of his powers.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There is a tendency among many authors to keep a good idea going and going until they degrade the story and spoil it. It’s a refreshing change to see a traditional trilogy and to see it completed with no hints of more to come. The Arthurian legend naturally limits the story of course, but it’s still nice to have it finish completely.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this version of Arthur. His story and that of the rest of the characters are portrayed in a very unique way and solidly placed within the history of ancient Britons. The arrival of Saxons and Christianity is particularly interesting for anyone that has already read the Last Kingdom books by the same author.

This last chapter deals mainly with the rise of Christianity and the final decline of the pagan Gods of Britain. It folds the final pieces of our characters’ stories into this and also melds the Arthurian story with them. This is done really, really well. Lots of questions are answered especially filling in the final pieces of Derfel’s story. However, despite delivering a very satisfying conclusion the overall feeling is one of sadness at the end.

The introduction of one new character has prompted me to rediscover another author from a long time ago. The new character is Taliesin the Bard who features heavily in another Arthurian based storyline by Stephen Lawhead called The Pendragon Cycle.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

work stops play

I expected it to be difficult to keep up the level of activity of the last few weeks when I went back to work but I had a plan for the week. I didn’t plan on multiple days of stormy wind and rain though.

Tuesday onwards has been pretty grim which had a big impact on my cycling. My plan was 60km each of my days off (Wednesday and Sunday) with 25km two mornings before work (Tuesday and Friday). Tuesday morning wasn’t happening as I really needed the extra hour in bed. Wednesday I did get out but the worst of the storm was to hit that afternoon into Thursday so I only managed a wet and windy 26km. It was still stormy Friday morning so the bike was out again. Today it’s Mother’s Day and #2 son’s 13th birthday so 2.5hrs on the bike was never going to happen. I had hoped for an hour in the morning but a walk was just about enjoyable, a cycle would have been hateful. A total of 26km for the week, how the mighty have fallen!

© strava

Walking has been more successful. I’ve managed to keep up my streak of walking every day. Even on the wettest days it’s not hard to dress up appropriately and make it at least partially enjoyable. My target for the week is 30km and finishing on 28.9 my only issue was skipping the 2km walk on Thursday morning. Heavy rain and hail showers was not my idea of a good way to start the day.

© garmin connect

The biggest result of the week has been finally starting a strength and conditioning program. I’ve been following the Chain Reactions kettlebell routine from YouTube. Monday, Thursday, Saturday with a 2km warm up walk (skipped on Thursday). I’ve also added in some upper body movements to give a 25-30min routine. I was very stiff on Wednesday but OK since and hopefully it’s the start of a new habit.

#2 son 2008-2021