The Quay, Ilfracombe

It was the wife’s birthday, we were on holiday in Ilfracombe and we wanted to go to the best place in town. This, we were told was the Quay restaurant, owned by and displaying much art by Damien Hirst. There were big highs and a couple of small lows but overall a good time was had.

Decor and ambiance
We decided to go for lunch as this seemed an easier time to take our four month old daughter and were after something a little less formal. We were sat in what anywhere else would just look like a posh bar, in this case with a number of artworks and wallpaper by Mr Hirst. If your a fan of his then this is a bit of a treat. I’m a bit skeptical of any ‘genius’, but I do think some of his work is interesting.

Food

Lobster salad
Lobster salad

I had a wild mushroom risotto to start, followed by a lobster salad with chips. The risotto was really excellent, though a tiny bit too salty for me if I were being picky. Not much actual salad with main course, but I thoroughly enjoyed the lobster and the accompanying chips were top notch.

Deborah had a nice looking bit of halibut which apparently was really nice, though I heard some grumbles such as ‘a bit stingy with the veg’. For pudding Deborah had the ‘banana tarte tatin’ which was absolutely wonderful.

Service

Banana tarte tartin
Banana tarte tartin

Along with the casual decor, the service was also fairly informal, though friendly. There’s nothing wrong with this I guess, but considering the prices were o a par with a set lunch at Tom Aikens or Petrus I did kind of feel I wasn’t getting top dollar.

Overall
Had a really enjoyable and tasty lunch, though not sure it was the best value for money. Also on the plus side, my daughter Rose slept blissfully through the whole thing, bless her.

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Simpsons Tavern

Simpsons Tavern
Simpsons Tavern

Some experiences are just a little surreal, but today’s trip to Simpsons Tavern in the city of London felt very bizarre indeed.

It was my assistant’s last day today and she suggested a cool place to go for a memorable lunch. ‘It’s a really odd but cool place’ she promised. Finding it is a bit of a trick as it’s down an odd little passage off of Cornhill. It felt a little bit like entering another time as the place looks like an edwardian chop house, all wood panelling and brass.

It’s really crowed and we get sat on a bench for six with some real traditional looking city types. The waitress looks like a dinner lady and is at least sixty if she’s a day. She’s pretty curt and looks like she doesn’t take any crap from anyone.

The food here is that of the traditional chophouse – chops (obviously), gammon, steak and kidney pies, mixed grills. I went for a beef and ale pie and my assistant had the roast beef with yorkshire pudding and both were excellent.

Thats a big bit of cheese
That's a big bit of cheese

I went traditional for afters – spotted dick – but my lunch partner went for the stilton. I was expecting a plate with crackers and a wedge of cheese, but no. To my surprise a whole round of stilton turnd up with a spoon and a huge basket of biscuits. It’s essentially an ‘all you can eat’ cheese with only your own greed and stomach being the limiters.

This was an ace exprerience and definitely somewhere i’d go back to. If you have someone in from out of town or another country, take them here and give them a taste of the old London!

Triathlon – swim training #2

Finally cracked it!

I’ve never been taught how to do front crawl and (possibly foolishly) I’ve been trying to teach myself over the last few months.

I started doing mostly breast-stroke and throwing in the odd length of front crawl and have gradually built that up week on week.

Today I manged my first 30 minute swim session purely using freestyle. Partly this was down to just not going so fast and concentrating on just going longer.

This is a big milestone for me and I’m really pleased. Yay!

Triathlon – rookie errors

Still feeling a bit disappointed at not finishing my first triathlon (South Coast Tri) last week. It’s not helped by the fact that it’s the end of the season and I won’t get a chance to do another one till next year now.

After my disappointing swim, I hit the swimming pool a couple of times this week. Whilst I’ve made some nice gains in the last few months I’m increasingly thinking I was a bit hopeful on my level of fitness here. I’ve decided to join up with a triathlon club and get some coaching over the winter. I should also be able to do some open water training with them too which will be crucial.

Puncture repair
Puncture repair

I should be almost more upset about the double puncture I got on the cycle as it turns out the bit of glass that caused the first one was still in the tyre and probably caused the second one.

This is a bit of a rookie error as it’s the first thing that you should look for after you get a puncture.

Another lesson learned here.

Triathlon – race report – South Coast Tri 31 Aug ’08

Sometimes, you have experiences where you think – ‘will anything go right’ – this was one of those times.

The race went pretty badly from the start, but maybe my character has been built a little….hasn’t it?

Getting there
The alarm chirped at 5am and after a bit of a scramble around, we set off around 6.20. I shouldn’t have worried about getting there as we hardly saw much traffic and got to Seaford easily in time for registration at 8am. The weather was all misty on the way there, which I thought would clear for a bit of sun by race-time – how wrong I was.

Swim

Jason at the South Coast Tri 2008
Jason at the South Coast Tri 2008

I racked up my bike, laid out all my gear and had a quick chat with the really friendly people around me. We set off for the beach and encountered my first pain of the day, walking down the stony beach to get to the waters edge. Seriously, this was really painful and I now realise some flip-flops would have been a good move.

We watched the women’s wave set off, then had a short safety brief before making our way to the waters edge. I rinsed out my goggles and splashed my face but I saw others having a practice swim and looking mega keen. I was feeling pretty daunted as the furthest buoy looked miles away and we’d been told of a really strong current running across the course which didn’t make me feel any better.

We got the shouts of ‘one minute to go’ and then the horn and we were off. I say we, but I intentionally had hung around at the back so I was one of the last to splash in and get going. I started off with some front-crawl, getting bumped a bit by at least one other competitor and soon found it really hard to do a proper stroke and make some headway.

I tried to get my breath by doing a bit breast-stroke, but I was fighting for breath and now found myself falling really behind the others. I gave the front-crawl another go, but I was now finding myself being caught by the strong current and and getting further and further from the turning buoy.

By now I was being trailed by a safety canoeist who offered me the chance of catching my breath which I gladly took. I was finding the sea swim much harder and scarier than I’d expected, but I didn’t want to give up so I had another go and after exhausting myself I got close to the buoy against the tide. I’d lost all rhythm and technique by now and realised that the swim was simply beyond me.

I was clearly right to be worried about this leg and the lack of sea swim training proved very costly. I’d always thought that it would be hard, but had hoped I could just about creep round. I think I may have been a bit too hopeful here.

The final ignominy was being towed to the shore by the safety boat and being examined verbally by the first aid people. I reported to the organisers and was thus marked DNF (did not finish). They said I was ok to do the ride and run if I wanted.

Bike

On the bike course
On the bike course

As disappointed as I was I was determined to do the next two legs and reclaim a bit of pride. I always felt pretty confident of the bike and run so I hung around on the beach for a bit so as not to look like I’d beaten the really fit guys.

I got to the transition area, got my wetsuit off ok and slipped into my cycling stuff and got onto the road as soon as I could. The course is mostly flat, along the sea-front with a slight rise at the end so it was just a case of powering along with a big slow down for the hair-pin turns at each end.

I didn’t really know how good or bad my cycling was up-to-now as I’d always trained alone, but this is where I found out. I was doing averages of between 26-35kph but in terms of who I was passing it was just an overweight couple on a tandem and a few people doing the sprint on mountain bikes. Everyone else just sailed past me at various speeds. This didn’t matter too much as I was just keen to clock a time for myself.

Repairing a puncture
Repairing a puncture

Coming up to the turn, just over half way I got a puncture. ‘No biggie’ I thought, I have a spare and I’ll have this changed in a jiffy. In full view of lots of spectators I got the tyre replaced and pumped and I was on my way again. A little way up the road – another puncture!!!! One is bad luck, two is just the gods being against you. I was now out of spare inner-tubes so my friend/emergency bike-mechanic Andy tried to jury rig a repair with some duct tape, but sadly this just didn’t work.

I was now out of the bike leg too.

Run
At least I felt I was on safe ground here, I’ve done plenty of 10k’s before and they hold no fears and there wasn’t any equipment to go wrong.

The weather, which had been grey and spitting all morning now turned to proper rain, though I personally don’t mind running in it – it’s cooling.

It was a simple four laps along the front and I was determined to make a good show of it, so I tried pushing it a little. At least on this leg I was passing a few people, some of whom looked quite fit.

I eventually managed a respectable (for me anyway) 50 minutes for the run.

My post-race face
My post-race face

I did feel a complete fraud going through the finish, with my name, number and big congrats going over the tannoy. I took my free Gatorade and banana and went for commiserations from my excellent supporters. They cheered and clapped and encouraged when it counted and did it all in the rain!

As I was clearing away my gear the woman next to me gave me some great encouragement as well as some tips on where to go for open water training. We may all be competitiors on the course, but off it everyone has been really nice.

A nutmeg of consolation
It was really hard not to feel very disappointed at the end of this race. I’d been confident of at least a finish, but that swim was really quite a toughy for someone with my level of swimming and no previous experience of the sea in a wetsuit.

On the plus side, I’ve gained a lot of experience of triathlons now and I really got to find out where I am and what I need to do to improve. I now have until next May or June to get training, improve and learn before my return. I’m putting thoughts on joining a triathlon club.

I’ll be back and next time I’ll have no excuses!

Special thanks to my supporters: Andy, Jack, Matt, Val, Stephen and last but by no means least my lovely wife Deborah and daughter Rose.