Two years of mud and press ups

In a months time I will have been going to British Military Fitness for two years. I have just read my ‘one year‘ blog where I seemed fairly pleased with my progress. Well, not only have I continued going, with only smallish breaks when on holiday but I can now report that I now go three times a week (since April) and that i’m feeling fitter than ever.

There is no denying that going up to three sessions a week was very tough at first, but it has been exactly what I needed to move my fitness onto the next level. It has been as much about a change of attitude as anything else. I try to be very focused not to ‘break the chain’, even to the point of exercising even if I’m feeling tired or achey.


The upshot of all this is that there hasn’t been a single week of 2014 that I haven’t done some kind of exercise and at least once I have done four proper sessions. In addition to this i’m feeling so good that I’m burning to do some ‘crazy’ events such as tough trail runs or even non-running things such as kayaking or climbing.

The great thing about the good level of all over fitness that I now have is that I can just go and do a bit of hill walking, climbing etc. without feeling the need to ‘train’.

First bit of ‘Crazy’
To celebrate two years of BMF I wanted to do something a bit above the norm. I have sometimes joked with my fellow participants about how crazy it would be to do a ‘double’ of back to back BMF sessions. That would have been crazy enough but it doesn’t seem that memorable and lacks balance.

I’m therefore proposing to do three sessions in a single day: 7am Green, 6pm Red and 7.30pm Blue. This way I get to do all the bib colours in descending order from toughest to easiest. I’m hoping to do this on 5 Nov 2014 so we shall see if I manage it and have the energy to blog about it?

Future races?
I’ve thought that I should be planning races ahead a lot more. Partly because they often need to be booked well ahead but mainly so that I can just get things in the diary early. Here are some possibilities that come to mind although a few are clashing. Iceman or winter run? Mudman or Major?

  • 5 Nov 2014 – BMF triple session
  • 22 Nov 2014 – Wildman 10k or 15k – £28
  • 1 Feb 2015 – Winter run 10k – £39
  • 7 Feb 2015 – Iceman 10k or 15k – £28
  • 7 Mar 2015 – Mudman 10k or 15k – £28
  • 28 Mar 2015 – The Major South – 10k – £40
  • Jun – half marathon – somewhere
  • 11-12 July 2015 – London to Brighton Night Ride
  • Aug 2015 – half marathon – somewhere
  • 27 Sep 2015 – Loch Ness marathon 42k – £45

The one that I feel strongest about is the marathon which I feel more than ever that I want to give another go to. I did try the ballot for the London Marathon but sadly didn’t get in. Loch Ness would be an extraordinary setting to do another one. It keeps nagging at me that I can do under four hours.

Also hoping I can be a bit better at the blogging…

One Photo a Day – Quarter 1

I’m approaching the first quarter of this years ‘one photo a day’ project and things are still going pretty well. I’ve got quite used to carrying my ‘big’ camera at all times again, although it is feeling huge and cumbersome against the modern crop of smaller good quality camera’s that are out at the moment.

Millenium Bridge

Wide angle, long exposure
Since I broke my ‘nifty fifty’ (50mm 1.8) in January I’ve only used my 17-40mm lens. This means that I can’t really help but do a lot of wide angle photography. As I have been shooting a lot at night (in these short days), I’ve had to be inventive about having a tripod to cope with the long exposure times.


I have a small, very packable, little tripod that has been really useful. I have more often, however, just used bits of street furniture to rest the camera on. Bollards, telephone exchange boxes, ledges, crossing signs and other flat items on the street have all come into play at some point. Obviously this means that I don’t always get the angle I’d prefer, but it does mean I can be fairly fast at taking a shot and getting on my way.

Portrait Project
This sub-project has gone fairly well so far in that I have now racked up 16 or so portraits, mainly work colleagues and a few family and friends. This is fine of course. I do subscribe to a group on Flickr called ‘100 strangers’ that encourages taking pictures of people that you don’t know and recounting the story as well as the picture. I am in awe of this and would like to find the courage to give it a go myself but I’ll have to see on that.


Going forward
I’m looking forward to continuing the project into the summer, especially as I will be working in a new area of London that I hope will offer lots of new photographic opportunities. I might also be able to find a new crew of models for my portrait project maybe?

I am getting a modest windfall soon and one of the questions is whether to invest in a new lens. I’ve not had a new bit of glass for over six years (since I had children) and it would be lovely to treat myself. It would be also be wonderful excuse to take more pictures of course! I’m looking at various options by I currently covert a 35mm 1.4. My only consideration is that my camera body is quite old and if that goes kaput I’ll be left with a lot of lenses and no camera!

See all the photos.

One Photo a Day 2014 – 1 Month In

Well, I seem to have cleared the first month of daily photography without too much difficulty and to my own surprise it has given me a new lease of (photographic) life.

Charing Cross Road

I’m really glad that I’ve chosen to stick to black and white photography. At first glance it seems to be quite a constraint but I’ve actually found it very liberating. I’ve also found that because I know it will be monochrome it naturally means I look for shots that suit the medium. In the past I’ve often shot for colour and as an afterthought switched it to b & w.

My two mini-projects have been to photograph streets, usually on a long exposure and to attempt to get as many portraits as I can and so far I am pleased with both.


As in previous years I’ve also found myself looking at other peoples work on Flickr a lot more which I really enjoy.

I’m still not sure that I’ll keep this up for the whole year but I’ll certainly keep going for now!

See all of the photos here:

One Photo a Day 2014 – Starting Out

Having completed ‘one photo a day’ (365) projects in 2008 and 2011 I know what a commitment it is and to be honest I never thought that I would be doing one again. So what has brought me back?

Firstly, I’ve been scrambling around for a personal project to get my teeth into for the year but nothing was really tempting me. The second thing was that during the latter part of last year I started to take one or two pictures a week around the City of London and in black and white. I was quite pleased with the results and got some very nice comments and it made me think that this could be a style and theme for the year.

Whilst I was very proud of finishing the last two projects they seemed more about stamina than photography and in particular the results were quite a mish-mash of styles and a mix of monochrome and colour. I’ve heard of other ‘project 365′ people who have put all of their pictures in a photo book but this is something that hasn’t tempted me as my photos haven’t hung together as a collection.

The idea this year (I hope) is to move on from my previous attempts and create a collection of photographs that have a theme and have a consistent style. The one hard rule for 2014 then is to have every photo in black and white. Less hard and fast is that I intend to take a lot of urban street pictures and, where possible, portraits.

I’m determined not to put myself under too much pressure so my thoughts at this point is just to go as far as I can, even if this is just a month or two. Let’s see after that.

See the full set of daily photos.

Goals 2014

OK, this is where I dream up a few little projects to take me through the year.

There is a two prong approach to my photography this year. Firstly, I’m keen to concentrate on taking as many portrait pictures as I can. I’m wary of setting any specifics goals here but I’d hope to do better than the 22 I took in 2011. Secondly I’m going to at least start a ‘Project 365 – one photo a day’ thing. I’ve already done this twice, in 2008 and 2011 so this year fits the pattern nicely. This time, I’ve decided to try and do it entirely in black and white, mostly because I’ve liked some of my greyscale work recently but also because it would give a uniform feel to the collection.

For no obvious or necessary reason I quite fancy mastering at least three types of knot. I was quite into sailing for a few years but even then I struggled with some of the basics such as bow lines. It would feel nice to get this right.

Northwood War Memorial
Well over a year ago I started work on tracking down a few details about the men on the war memorial in Northwood, where I went to school. The intention is to put this on the web as a possibly handy resource for researchers. It would feel good to finish it.

Classical Music
A couple of years ago I tried to buy a new music album each month, something I largely really enjoyed. I’d quite like to do something similar but with classical music. It would be great to expand my collection and knowledge here.

This one is the real wildcard – I would really love to keep chickens and this year could be my best chance to do it. There are plenty of pitfalls, problems and a lot of hard work but I think it would be great if I can pull it off.

Annual Report 2013

Well it seems I’ve been keeping a record of various activities for five years straight now. Each year I add another bit of data and I’ve ideas on how to add more for 2014. This year I recorded all the cinema movies I went to, all the tv shows and movies I watched at home, bread that I made, books that I read, fitness that I took part in and cultural places that I visited.

Goals achieved
Looking back, I unusually didn’t seem to set myself any formal goals for this year. At the time, however, I was still writing a daily blog and had started on an exercise kick. I stopped writing the daily blog in the summer but I’ve stuck with the exercise and I’m feeling that this has been a real success (more on this later).


Movies (at the cinema)
This has been an exceptionally slim year for my cinema going with an all time low of 15 movies. It has not been the sparsity of good films but my increased fitness regime that has been to blame and I think I’ve missed some real corkers this year too. Of this (short) list, my top three are:

  1. Gravity 3D
  2. Searching for Sugarman
  3. Stoker

Despite being the favourite and despite even Mark Kermode saying it was alright, I think I still would have preferred Gravity in 2D. I feel confident that it would have amazed me as much. Gravity is notable as my only 5 star film (at the cinema) this year.

Movies at home
This year I have watched 63 movies at home, mostly via Netflix, 38 of which were films that I’d never seen before. I clearly like to re-watch stuff! Of these my top picks would be:

  1. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  2. The Descent
  3. Do the Right Thing

It is interesting to note that two of my top three involve caves but for utterly different reasons!

TV series
For the second year running I can say that I have barely watched any scheduled television and stuck for the greater part to Netflix, DVD box-sets and to a lesser extent iPlayer. On top of that it has been a stellar year for quality too with a bumper crop of top-class entertainment. So much so, in fact, that it is painful only picking out a top three. The top shows that I watched were:

  1. Breaking Bad – series 1-5
  2. House of Cards (2013) – series 1
  3. West Wing – series 2-4
  4. Twin Peaks – series 1 and 2
  5. Ripper Street – series 1 and 2

As I am still quite far behind on watching many established shows I can usually wait these days until they have completely finished their run before watching. I was therefore able to see all of the superb ‘Breaking Bad’ without having to wait a year between seasons/series. It is up there with ‘The Wire’ as a very nearly perfect show and had a terrifically satisfying ending too.

In numbers, I watched 22,129 minutes of TV, which is approximately 368 hours. It sounds a lot but that is only an hour a day on average which I am not too ashamed of.

At the same time that my TV watching has gone up, my book reading has gone down and I have only completed 15 books this year. I started two others but didn’t finish them. This is despite loving both my kindle and the local library! Worse than that, there were not even any truly wonderful books that I can report back on and nothing had five stars. My top three were:

  1. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose
  2. Summer of Blood – the Peasants revolt 1381 by Dan Jones
  3. Battle of the Atlantic by Andrew Williams

It is notable that more or less all the decent books that I read this year were histories and i’m really longing for a wonderful novel to come along.

I’ve been regularly baking bread for several years now but this year I thought that I would record what I baked and when. I only thought to do this in February but is still pretty interesting. I have recorded making bread 40 times since February and i’d guess there would be at least a couple more in January. This would mostly be a batch of two large loaves each time. Eleven of these batches were sourdough.

This category is new this year and I’m quite pleased with the way i’ve broken it down. In total I did110 separate sessions of formal exercise (something that I got dressed up sporty for) adding up to 5113 minutes (85 hours). Broken down, I did:

  • British Military Fitness (BMF) – 3870 minutes
  • Running – 1041 minutes
  • Cycling – 112 minutes
  • Swimming – 90 minutes

This all averages out as two 45 minute sessions a week which I don’t think is too bad.

Cultural visits
I made 16 ‘cultural’ visits in 2013. This could be a museum, art gallery or historical place such as a castle. This a big improvement on past years and I hope to continue this next year.

Coffee shops
My vague idea here was to record all of the independent coffee shops that i’ve been to, however, I didn’t really think how best to do this and this kind of fell by the wayside. I’ll pick this one up in 2014 and add the coffee beans that I use in my own coffee.

Family Camping in Dorset 2013

Over the last three years, the family holidays have been spent in french campsites. These are pretty excellent in many ways, particularly for the children who love the swimming pools and water slides. The adults enjoy the wonders of french food and I for one just love searching out the best boulangerie’s. What we didn’t do was bring our own tent as (a rather posh) one was already set up and ready for us. It even has a fridge!

All things being equal, we may have carried on going to France for years to come. That is until our eldest child started school and we were confronted by the doubling of the cost in July and August. What to do?

Family Tent
We wanted to keep all the things we liked about camping in France but do it a bit cheaper. This meant two things – buying our own tent and holidaying in the UK.

I’ve owned and been interested in small, lightweight tents for many years and it has been particularly hard to change my priorities round from the needs of mountain camping to family camping. My thinking on tents has traditionally been, how light, compact and windproof a tent is rather than how much space, headroom and number of bedrooms there is. Every part of me railed against the weight and size that family tents just come in. Luckily Deborah, my wife, was there to overrule me when it mattered.

Dorset Camping Trip

We were in the shop and there were two tents on special offer. I was all ready to go for the snug, though (to me) still roomy Outwell Nevada when ‘the authorities’ (Deborah) stepped in and made us get the much bigger Outwell Cleveland. I was very skeptical about it at the time, but the value of a big space has been proven to us now. Go big, but beware that the  packed tent bag more or less fills the boot of our smallish car and weighs almost 30kg!

After trawling the Cool Camping website extensively we settled on a campsite in Dorset (near Weymouth) that seemed to fit the bill. Eweleaze farm is only open for one month a year but they really aim to make the most of it.

It is situated right on the coast (with beach access) and is spread over several fields. They have a variety of farm animals wandering around and best of all an on-site bakery, patisserie and cafe. I can’t say that the coffee was anything special but the croissants and fresh bread were top-drawer and a definite bonus!

Dorset Camping Trip

There were a million kids, with an informal congregation point of ‘the hay bales’ in each field. There is no playground but this doesn’t seem to matter that much and most children just made their own fun. The only slight downpoint to the place is the precarious, steep single track that you have to drive down to get to the campsite. If you have a sports car, this is not the campsite for you.

Dorset Camping Trip

We had one day of rain but were otherwise fairly lucky with the weather which is obviously quite crucial when camping. I’d also say that there is lots of things to do in the area. Weymouth is lovely if you want a proper town and a sandy beach. There are a number of forts and castles around if that is your thing plus boat trips and walking.

Dorset Camping Trip 2013

Contrary to our worst fears we thoroughly enjoyed our week of family camping in the UK. The kids had a wonderful time and still talk about it months afterwards and though not totally relaxing the grown ups had a good time too.

See all the photos from the trip on flickr.