A few key learnings from a night in the woods

Whilst the video is almost finished (or in other words, currently uploading to youtube), I wanted to share a few key takeaways from our night out in the woods.

A lot of it will probably sound pretty obvious, but as it is with this kind of thing, its only obvious after the fact. Due to Matt and I being quite “go go go” kind of guys, we may have overlooked a few things on our way out.

The first is related to gear. Obviously, the more the better, and owing to our walk in and out of the forest being about 10 minutes, in this case it wasn’t a question of “how much” we could carry. I think we showed that with minimal preparation, it’s possible to spend a night in the woods and have a good time doing it. Though in future trips, it would be advisable to take more clothing layers of various thicknesses to be able to fine tune the level of “warmth” going on, without resorting to wearing a coat in bed which is decidedly uncomfortable.

An improved sleeping bag is definitely a must. Last time I relied on some hand-me-down gear from my mum and dad I slept in a leaky tent. The sleeping bag I used is perfect for guests when they sleep on our couch, but not so much to get the right kind of warmth out in the woods.

A thermos, means we wouldn’t have to resort to heating water up every time we want a hot drink. In all likelihood, we would warm water up anyway for the hot bottles we put by our feet, but the logic of improved sleeping bag means maybe we would be less reliant on that. (Though, it’s a case of not forgetting the thermos in the kitchen, as I had actually prepared it).

Not only an improved sleeping bag, but if we are to continue hammock camping, we need to insulate the bottom half of ourselves too. If we’re talking scientifically, a sleeping bag (as well as clothes, quilts, etc) keep us warm by trapping a layer of air within the material from which they are made. Unfortunately, when you’re lying on the material, the air is “crushed” out, meaning you’re no longer insulated. This results in the cold we felt coming from underneath. We countered it somewhat by using the survival blanket (this aluminium foil type stuff), but it didn’t entirely solve the problem. So thinking logically (and which a quick google search confirmed) we need some kind of under-insulation. One option could be to simply put a camping mat inside the hammock, and another could be an “underquilt”, which is like a sleeping bag, except it hangs on the underside of the hammock, but not directly beneath the occupant, meaning there is a palce for the air to trap itself and keep you warm.

It would be ideal if we could find a way to bring a small fire which is not a gas flame. Now obviously, this weekend anything in the forest was not combustible owing to the fact everything was waterlogged. But also, it is illegal to make a fire in most forests, so there is that to get around as well.

Food is the next big one. This time, we were only in the forest for about 18 hours, so it wasnt major. We picked up cup-a-soup and some pot-noodle and ravioli, but it would be more enjoyable if we brought something a little more gourmet along. Also useful would be bringing a kettle as well as a pan, so that the tea and coffee don’t have to taste of tomato sauce.

   

 I’m sure I’ll think of other factors as time goes on. But maybe I’ll share a few more after our next trip.

B

Week 4! Two Twits with No Tent.

Let’s skip the boring bits and get straight to the meat of the matter.

Catherine got me diving lessons for my Birthday last week. So Wednesday night we headed out for our first one. I loved it. Breathing underwater was a bit odd, and I’ve never had as big a build up of phlegm as after breathing through only my mouth for over an hour. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the next session in a couple of weeks. Ideally, we’ll go to the south (any south, France, Africa, America, Holland will do as long as we can dive a bit).

Unfortunately there are no pictures of the session, something I will try to remedy as the weeks go on and we get more confident underwater.

In other news, Matthijs and I had cooked up a little plan I may have alluded to at the end of last week’s post and luckily for us the weather played ball. What we needed (and got) was a 24 hour window within which no rain was forecast.

I should clarify. We live in the Netherlands, where in winter it is perpetually cold and wet and the nights are reasonably long at this time of year. We are both more or less city-dwellers with no wildlife or survival experience. We fancied an outlet for our “wild” selves that was more substantial than a saturday stroll in the woods. It seemed fitting then, to go on a microadventure and spend a night in the forest. But because that would be too simple, we figured we would head out without a tent.

Over the past few weeks we made several lists of things we might need, and they usually got pretty silly. By silly I mean adding things like a venom kit or bear bells to ward off the wildlife. But actually the “real” part of the list was pretty simple: tarpaulin, hammocks, sleeping bags, some rope and a cooker. Head out and see what happens.

And at 13:30 on Saturday, that’s exactly what we did. We packed two large backpacks into Matt’s car and drove off down the motorway towards a (legal) campground in the forest near Austerlitz (yes, the battleground).


On the way we got the odd rain shower, but nothing too extreme. We parked up, visited a local supermarket for meagre rations and headed off into the woods (in the opposite direction to where we were aiming to go).

We left the path and headed into the scrub, looking for a spot to pitch our camp, which we found, and then immediately decided on another spot. We also picked a dedicated “loo” and set about building up our camp. Once set up we got out the cooker and brewed up a cup of tea. Promptly followed by an improvised game of cards (we played UNO with a standard deck), then immediately we cooked our dinner, had another tea (this time ravioli flavoured) and then played another card game. I surprised Matt with a tin of beer. Which made him a happy man, as he was previously lamenting our lack of bringing brews.

Then we decided it was cold and time for bed. It was 8 oclock…..


We both lay in our hammocks for about an hour reading and then nodded off. All things told, there isn’t actually much to do in the forest once night has fallen, and as our attempts to light an (illegal) fire had failed miserably (it was like trying to set fire to a wet sponge) we didn’t even have a campfire to sit around. At about 11:30 we were both awake again, and a bit cold, so we decided to warm some water up and make noodles, as well as fill some bottles to put near our feet at the bottom of our sleeping bags (that helped a lot!). We fell asleep again, until about 2:20, where we repeated the charade and made some tea, and reheated our bottles.


That time, I’m sure I heard something sneak past the camp, as too many sticks on the forest floor broke in quick succession. Never mind, it didn’t eat us or any of our stuff….

We repeated the drill at 5, which by now we had down to military precision, and got back into the hammocks one last time until 8. Though we woke at about 7 and laid still enjoying the forest around us getting lighter (and the noise of the nearby highway getting louder).

Then, we made breakfast by frying off some bacon and pouring ourselves a large cup of coffee. We then started to clear our camp and tidy, having another coffee, finishing the tidying and heading back to the car.


There is an enormous amount more detail I’d like to share, but all in good time. Rather than just write, I’m working on some video footage we gathered to put together something mildly coherent and entertaining. We came up with a name for our “show”, and are working on putting together which we hope you’ll find entertaining. This being said, we ended up with about 4 and half hours of raw footage. But below is a preview of the first installment of “Two Twits with No Tent”. We hope you’ll look forwards to more, but ultimately, we’ll probably film more whether anyone likes it or not. 😀

Till next time!

B

Week 3, 2016

Boom. You blink and another three weeks fly by. Must be having fun! Anyway, a quick update is due before what promises to be a slightly more interesting week than the norm.

The healthy living continues (within a reasonable degree), and as long as we make it past tomorrow, the most depressing day of the year, apparently we will be able to keep it up indefinitely! Regardless, last week I snagged a spot in a spinning class. This is not the usual manly aura I like to think I portray, but nevertheless, its a tough workout (I’ve got the heart rate data to back up that statement). Two reasons, firstly it’s actually pretty good fun, and two it’ll help get my legs bike fit again, which after a lot of running, they are no longer. I went cycling a couple weeks ago and it was not a pretty performance. I got some video from the handlebars but it’s pretty much the dullest footage I’ve ever seen, as literally nothing happens (except that I saw a cormorant and a pheasant).

This week also happened to be my 26th birthday. Cue some beers and a really good pizza at a small place in Amsterdam. Presents included some liquor, a decanter, a bench plane and something else, but more on that later in the week. I also happened to snap a complete cliché photo of Amsterdam. Here you go:

Like I said, the rest of the week unfolded without much ado. Though thank you to all those who sent their wishes on my Birthday. Always appreciated.

This weekend, Catherine was putting some finishing touches to her thesis so it stayed pretty quiet and domestic, including a full clean of the kitchen by yours truly (it needed it). But we also went for a meal at Matt and Helens, with the usual excuisite food. We also breaded the cat, which in hindsight was pretty mean. But he didn’t seem too bothered. In fact, he showed the bread who was the boss by ripping it to shreds and spreading it all over the appartment. We also played a game of exploding kittens (fear not, it had nothing to do with the actual cat…), which is quite amusing if you come across it.

  Sunday was much like Saturday, though we went for a trail run around a pond/lake thing not far from here, though rather than ramble on, I put it all together in a short clip.

This was of course rounded off with hot-cocoa, as you would expect. Not to mention a piece of Christmas cake (which, for those who arent English, is made for Christmas and then eaten for about 6 months because its so rich and stodgy, in fact I’ve always claimed that if I ever embark on some sort of expedition somewhere far-flung, it will be my emergency food as it’s pretty much indestructable and very dense….).

 We have some weather-dependent plans next weekend and some stuff lined up for this week too which is quite out of the ordinary.

Till then, have a good week.

B

Ride down memory lane

I got one of those automated emails wishing me a happy new year from an old motorbike forum I used to be part of which reminded me I did a fair bit of writing on there back during my first degree.

So as penance for the radio silence I maintained during December I thought I would copy over an old trip report I posted there. It comes along with some pictures.

Let me set the scene for you. I had to move out of my house in Nottingham as I had finished my degree, I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t sure where to go live next, as my parents were leaving the Netherlands for a hamlet in France. So what better way to clear one’s head than hours of riding around Europe?

The following is copied over directly from that post I wrote.

NB: The motorcycle I owned at the time is not renowned for its touring abilities, or for doing much more than scooting youths around town. At most a couple hours ride on a Sunday. (With its 13hp)…

Hi guys,

Upon request I am starting a blog of my travels.

A bit about me:
I’m English/French and I’ve lived in Britain, Italy, Germany, France and The Netherlands. I’m 22.

About Foxy Roxy:
She’s a 58 Reg White/Red. I got her last July, she came with a Scorpion Carbon as well as some other small toys, and about 500 miles on the clock.

Here she is the day I got her:
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We spent last summer cruising through Nottinghamshire and on a few cruises up to the peaks. She stayed in the garage as I went back to uni, but in the New Year I had a new determination to ride her as much as possible (Though not worth getting leathered up for the commute into Uni).

I was going for my DAS with Beechdale in Nottingham (sound bunch of guys, cannot recommend enough! Though make sure you can stomach their (sometimes crude) humour! :D )

The day I had my Mod 1 booked, February 28th, I was on my way to Beechdale when I got cut up by a cab driver who left the scene. This is the outcome:
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Total Bill of Materials to restore to mint condition according to CMC Nottingham……£2800!

Thankfully, I managed to track the cab driver down, but because he claims he did not cause the accident and is a mere witness, the process is still ongoing through insurance. I have a witness, but it seems that until now he has not yet filled in his statement. He backs up my story, but without it, what can I do?

Regardless, on the 19th of April I passed my Mod 2 and have a fully unrestricted A license!
Before:[​IMG]
And after: [​IMG]

Spot the Difference?

This is around the time I got wind of an impending move to France on my parents behalf. With my degree coming to a close, I didn’t know what to go for next. I was tempted to upgrade bikes. Due to the fact I like long rides, I was tempted by a Fazer 6 S2. More recently I have contemplated a Hornet as well, though the faired Fazer might be more for me. (This chapter is to be continued).

As the year went on, I went on more trips.
Here she is at Rutland Water on our way to Peterborough to pick up some Kriega Luggage. (Which i simply cannot recommend enough. It’s expensive, but well worth it):

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Finally. The plans for the move to France had been finalised. And my degree is over. I’m hoping for a 2:1. The contract of my house in Nottingham is almost finised so I needed to move back to Holland until I went to France.

Instead of sitting in the car for a day, I decided that I would take Roxy with me and we would do the trip our own way over 4 days.

Here I’m trying out different combinations for luggage:
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Or possibly:
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(Bad idea, it rubs).

I am now in Holland and the departure date is next Friday. I have decided on a route.

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And on a luggage configuration:
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Now all I need is good weather. I’ve also kitted her out with an Ultimate addons iPhone mount, wired into the battery. That way I can use the Navigon app (which is also excellent). And if you look under the bubble, you’ll notice my Robin Hood bear riding shotgun (The bike is from Nottingham after all).

Post 2:

Quick update. I was bored today, so I figured I would go to Germany.

The motorways here are disciplined enough. Driving at the speed limit is doable on our bikes. Just stick earplugs in and rest your head on the tankbag.

Here’s the proof:

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Also, this shot is pretty cool I think. They’re wind turbine blades waiting at the border to be transported at night.

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Fuel is pretty cheap in Germany too. 20 cents a litre cheaper than in Holland. So in my mind it was worth it! :p

And who should pull up behind me at a filling station in the middle of German countryside but a van-full of Geordies buying beer and asking me what I was doing in Germany and if I was bonkers to be doing a tour of Europe on a 125?!

I’ve also decided on a final route including all stops and campsites and detours, its 1159km. So with trips to the shops and the like It’ll be 1200km.

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Post 3:

Hello all!

Day one: Utrecht (NL) –> Lille (FR). Not very eventful, other than the wind was atrocious. The night before I left, a storm knocked out power to 73000 homes in the Utrecht area. So the roads were pretty soggy. Also, and I cannot say this enough, trust your brain over the satnav! The satnav is like the girlfriend with the maps instructions that you heed to appease her, but eventually, it’ll leave you seething. Overtaking trucks on (very) windy dutch motorways is also tricky. You speed up in the lee they leave in their wake, but as you pass them you hit the wall of air their pushing out of the way and the bike slows right down. After a bit of weaving about, you eventually wriggle free and it’s on to the next one.

Other than motorway riding on day 1, not a lot to report. Interesting bits in Belgium were the Antwerp ring-road, which is congested 24/7. No problem on a bike though, you just lane-split at 90kmh. Just be wary of tourists who are clueless, and if theres a faster bike behind you, let them through. The one thing that cracks me up is people with big bikes who are afraid to use them. There was a guy on an 1198 in Antwerp. Sitting at the lights showing off, revving the engine, but as soon as the lights went green he shot off, only for me to overtake him moments later (with all my bags and luggage) and lane splitting past him as he thought he might just sit behind a caravan in traffic like a pansy…..

Eventually got to France and my initial reaction to the traffic was “I am going to die”, but after a bit, I got used to it, and it was all good. Spent the afternoon with the guy who got me into bikes a few years back. He took me to an open track day (a weekly thing organised by the local bike-cops at their own training track), and I got into bikes in a big way. I was going through a bit of a downer at that time, and I really focussed on bikes. Got through it and a year later, I got what I was working towards, Foxy Roxy.

Spent the afternoon with this guy (he’s retired) but he’s nutty about bikes, and we went round all the dealerships, and I got to see why all my French friends say their Mod 1 is so difficult. It’s basically like ours, but the figure of 8, U-turn and obstacle avoidance are an “all-in-one” thing and its timed. 22 seconds to do the lot. Minor fault if you’re .5 sec over and Serious fault if you’re 1 sec over (Fail).

Day two: Lille (FR) –> Vernon (FR). Set off round 10ish for a ride down the A1 (Nutter-highway as I like to call it, because all the foreigners go about 160kph), eventually turned off because I noticed my bags were loose. My biker mate also gave me a waterproof overall that was too big for him, turned out to be a godsend on day 4. After a quick coffee me and Leandre parted ways, he went back to Lille and I opted for the N50 towards Amiens rather than the A1 to Bapaume. It was all national roads and the speed limit is 90 (which I took as an instruction to do V-max) fully loaded with a full tank of fuel and me (80kg) on board, the bike sits comfortably at 110. This is where I got my first proper experience of biking in France. Turns out that despite their reputation, French drivers behave exceptionally well towards motorcyclists. When you come up behind them, they mostly pull over a long way to the right (there’s usually a hard shoulder about 1-2m on the N roads), and let you pass. Even on white lines, oncoming vehicles also pull out of your way. A quick flick of your right foot is common courtesy as a “thank you”. Also, there is no “biker nod” in continental europe, you simply hold your right hand out. Also, cars and bikes (and the odd truck) have the tendency to flash you if you’re coming up to cameras or police with speed-binoculars. Solidarity amongst motorists is strong in France (until they notice that you’re a foreigner, as I have experienced driving my Dad’s dutch-reg’d car).

After getting to Amiens (which I skipped) I took a short blast on the A16 (50km or so), to get some quick mileage out of the way. I stopped in Beauvais for some lunch and then left the motorway for some pleasant riding on small roads through sleepy villages. The satnav lady was PMS’ing at me again, so took me her own little way, which was still pleasant, but I did think a few times there must be a more efficient way of getting through here. After a fuel stop, Roxy turned over her 5000th km.

Couple more hours riding got me to Vernon, and you could tell it was saturday afternoon, as there were bikes everywhere. Arrived at my destination, (another friend from when I lived in Paris), and we hung out for a bit. She had just passed her test and gotten her hands on a mint GSF650 Bandit and she was rearing to have a ride, so off we went. Unfortunately she dropped it on the way out of the garage, though in her defence, she has very short legs and her garage exit is a really steep, corrugated concrete slip-way. I almost dropped Roxy as well. After mending bruised ego’s we went to Suzuki and she had the bike checked. Just a scratched engine casing and a snapped clutch lever. Nothing serious. We then went off for a ride round some little roads to see where her bf lived (also a bike nut, has a Kawa 750 and an R1 (not limited to the legally required 106bhp of course)), where she worked and a few others. Back to Vernon for a chat and a (soft)drink at a cafe. We then got pic-nic materials for dinner and went back to the Sailing club where we met, for some dinner and nostalgia’s sake. Dawned on me that we’ve been friends 8 years, which is not to be sniffed at.
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It was the “St-Jean” also known as the “fete de la musique” but the parties didnt look very lively, so instead, some late night riding was in order. At 11:30 we got back and decided it was time to sleep.

Day three: Vernon (FR) –> La Motte Ternant (FR). Woke up on the floor in my friend’s flat. Made some coffee and she picked up croissants whilst I had a shower. Unfortunately a grey and wet day, but not pouring, so I rejected the rain suit. she rode with me to the motorway, where we split. I went in towards Versailles so I could ride past my old house in Jouy. It was Sunday and I missed a turn in Versailles, so I roared into town centre and it was market day. Joy-of joys, it took me about 20 minutes to go 300 meters. Got through and rode out past my old house. Wasn’t nostalgic though, the three years we lived there were not the happiest. Got out of there and set my sight on central france. Drove through Paris suburbs until I got on the A6 the so-called “Autoroute du Soleil” or Sunshine Motorway, which I quickly renamed the “motorway of ************ty british weather I thought I left behind”. At least the surface got better as I left the capital behind, until it was snooker-table smooth. Easily lapped up about 250kms over 2.5 hours. For the first time that day, I rode with some music feeding in off the iPod, and I have to conceed that whilst its not a great idea in town. If you ever have to do motorways, or any sort of longer routes, its quite nice. Unfortunately, my iPhone had only downloaded 3 albums off of the iCloud. So I’m now pretty familiar with The Killers and Kanye West. The most exciting thing that day was almost running out of fuel, I’m not entirely sure how far these bikes can go on fuel reserves, but I thought 50k might be stretching it, so I peeled off the motorway and got some fuel. I then thought I might look for some food but it was about 14:00 on a Sunday, and everything was closed. So I got back on the mway for another 50km and ate at the AutoGrill.

Finally got to the Morvan and left the motorway for good, could tell the temperature was much hotter round these parts. Good roads round there. I recommend it as an overnight stop if you guys should ever attempt a folly like this one.
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Set up camp and had a sit down and a read, the noticed I had no food, no water, I didnt even have a torch (such a prepared camper). So I rode back into Saulieu to get sweets, drinks and crisps at the petrol station (miraculously open), and asked if there were decent places to eat. (This couldnt be a French roadtrip, if there weren’t some good food thrown in). I was advised that the creperie was good. And indeed it was. delicious brittany style “galettes” with ham, goats cheese and tomato sauce, and a salted caramel crepe for desert. Absolutely divine. Went to bed a very happy man.

Day four: La Motte Ternant (FR) –> Trévignin (FR). Last day. Woke up very cold, with a banging headache and a really sore throat (like I’d been gargling sand). Turns out my dad’s trusty 30 year old tent wasnt really waterproof anymore, and it was gushing down. I packed the tent as soon as I was up (after a steaming hot shower, I honestly cannot fault the campsite “Le Village” in La Motte, €10 for the night, great facilities, and free bog roll). This time I donned the rain-suit and decided to leave. It was 7:15…….Admittedly the places I was now driving through were gorgeous, back on a smooth Nationale road I ate up miles, the only downside was following a lorry loaded with sand, and he hadn’t covered his load, both Roxy and I were now covered in crap.
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Stopped for coffee and croissant at about 8:45. I needed to be at my Aunt and Uncles for 11:30, where I’d invited myself for lunch. I have 60 klicks left to ride…….No matter, I took the rain suit off and kept going. I sat in their garden for a couple hours just relaxing and reading my book. The respite from the rain was welcome and I was warming up. For the foodies amongst you: My uncle dished up pan-fried veal liver in butter and herbs and some cheesy pasta. Delicious.
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After lunch, we had a few coffees, had some chit chat, and then my cousin came home from work, he had his lunch and made some more coffee “Bien tassé” (nice and strong), and I had about 5 cups of that. Needless to say I was buzzing a bit when I left. It was about 3 oclock and I had 180 km’s to go till I arrived. Satnav was predicting a 6:20 arrival, to which I said “F that, I can get there before 6 oclock). I rode Roxy hard, very, very hard. I got there at 5:55, and this incudes a 5 minutes stop for fuel and a piss, and endless traffic in Bourg-en-Bresse. I don’t need to emphasize that I was quite hyper.

After leaving Bourg-en-Bresse I rode across the plains and then, out of the mist, the mountains rose. (Honestly, just like in the movies). The road started to climb, and eventually some twists and turns started to show up, until the road just became a rider’s wet dream. I was tired, felt ill, my bags kept pushing into my back every time i touched the brake, but those last 80km’s through the mountains were so worth it. There were long dark tunnels where the (very hot) Scorpion was spitting and crackling and scaring the ************ out of cyclists. :D

I was getting hot and tired, it was about 32 degrees and I had my full gear on, but I just wanted to arrive, couldn’t be bothered to stop.

I’m here now, I’ve moved in, and I’m flying back to Britain thursday, Roxy is having a holiday down here and I’l pick her up in August. Taking her for spin this afternoon (because, there’s windy roads on my doorstep…..literally) and she is having her 6000km (3500m) service tomorrow.

All is well in my little corner in the world.

This little trip proves that you can tour on anything. It’s great fun, and I recommend you all send your little 125’s off in style with a long trip if and when you upgrade. High mileage is doable, and these little bikes are so reliable that you dont really need the toolkit (though obviously, don’t come crying if you leave without it). In fact, the only weak link in the equation is the rider. If I didnt have to stop for food, sleep and toilet breaks, Roxy would have done the whole trip in a single sitting, I’m sure of it.

New Year

Terrible! It’s been a month since I posted an update of some description!

That’s genuinely not very good is it? But that’s the upside of the new year, I can reset and aim to do better.

But with that, let’s have a look at December.

Actually December was relatively quiet. I drank a substantial amount of beer. (Look on untappd for details as per usual). I had a work Christmas party, which didn’t end well for me, but I will spare you the details.

I rode my motorcycle (for once, this is actually a rare event these days).

Here’s a picture of it from last summer, only just sent to me by my dad.

 I flew back to the UK to attend a christening for one of Catherine’s nephews.

I went shooting. Tried a .22 bolt action and a .22 semi auto. As well as one that I’ll call the BFG (starts with “Big” finishes with “gun”).


My targets were kind of all over the place, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

We went for a walk with Catherine, her parents and her niece, and we found a very friendly robin. He was happy to be filmed really close. We also chanced across a rat playing with two squirrels, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap that.

I got to meet Catherine’s newest nephew. Who I found very quiet and inquisitive for an 8 month old. He must be one of the first kids I’ve ever been able to hold without making them cry. For some reason kids don’t like me.

Christmas Eve was celebrated at Catherine’s parents house, as we usually do, before we hit the road north to get to my cousins for Christmas Day. We stayed there through to Boxing Day upon which we drove two hours south, picked up Catherine’s parents and then drove one out north again to have a meal with Catherine’s parents, my parents, my cousin and grandma. This has been a yearly thing for the past three years.

I flew back on the 27th to be at work the next day. Followed by beer and steak with the boys, one of which I hadn’t seen in several years (the friend, not the steak).

Before I knew it New Years Eve was here, my parents are visiting, Catherine flew back. We did the shopping and got ready for the evening. Interspersed with food and board games (thank you Matt and Helen and Judith and Bart). I was feeling a little under the weather for most of the evening, but I think it’s mostly down to my body saying “enough of the abuse, give me vegetables, water and tea”.

What’s important to remember though, it’s not what you eat between Christmas and new year that matters. It’s what you eat between new year and Christmas that makes the difference. 😉

Nevertheless I made it to new year, we watched the firework display on my street (from the comfort of or living room) before turning in and waking up refreshed today to kill our livers some more with a full English breakfast of sausages, bacon and eggs.

I promise to be a little more regular this year.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Benjamin

Week 48. 

This week kicked off where we left off on Sunday. In the Alps.

When I’m home, I always go into the garden to have a look outside. Especially on a cold, crisp day.

This is the sight that greets one in the morning
The morning was a simple affair, we had breakfast and planned the day. Catherine helped mum with a family tradition, Christmas cake, which mum makes every year (and took on from my English Grandma).

After an early lunch of quenelles, a French dish we headed up the mountain to see some more snow and have a quick walk. I drove us up and braved the ice covered road (on the mountain, it was thawing at the house), but with grippy snow tyres on mums car it was a doddle. We got to the top of the Revard to find it blanketed in a thick fog. It was also -6 degrees with a bitter wind that cut at our faces.

  

We wrapped up warm and revised our plans for an hour long walk down to a more manageable 20 minutes.

After slipping about on the ice for a while we completed the little loop we were on and made it back to the car.

 In the return journey we chanced across a chamois, looking confused on the road. I was weary there might be more so revised our speed down some. Then we got back and made a tea, helped mum with a few more things such as putting up the bird feeder and got a tour of the recently redone garden.

Then it was time to pack and head to the airport, but not without stopping at the supermarket for a few provisions.

I’ll miss the mountains and the snow and the simple pleasures that come with them. Such as a warm thermos of tea, or watching the fireplace go from a burning match to a raging inferno. But that’s what makes it special every time we go back.
Tuesday

The weather was dismal on Tuesday. Icy cold rain and strong blustery winds. Still, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. I can confirm this is correct, cycling without gloves in those conditions counts as bad preparation. In fact, I felt colder than I did Monday atop the mountain getting seared by the wind at -6! Coincidentally, I chanced across this article, which basically confirms that making an adventure out of bad weather makes everything all right (just remember to bring gloves).

Other than a run on Wednesday, we took the opportunity to relax a bit.

Thursday night we headed over to Matt and Helens for some good food and the opening of our beer, which Matt and I brewed a few weeks ago!

 

Unlabelled but not undrinkable
I was honestly expecting a disaster. But was enjoyably surprised to find it sufficiently carbonated, and beer-like. A bit sweet and not the Weizener it claimed to be on the packaging. Regardless, it’s available on Untappd!

And for your viewing pleasure, here are our first reactions in raw, unedited footage.

Friday evening we had our friends Judith and Bart over for a meal. On this occasion, red wine and chorizo risotto followed by sticky toffee pudding. We think it went down well.

Saturday we got up early and I left to the station to catch a train to The Hague. As per Mike’s suggestion, we went to Red Bull KnockOut on Scheveningen beach (we went to spectate, not participate 😦 ). The weather stayed good throughout the day though the strong wind sure bit into our faces and hands! The craft beer bar on the pier got a good amount of our cash as we could warm up by the fireplace.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0158.
The race itself was typical Red Bull, loud, crazy, slightly dangerous and accompanied by the usual selection of machinery. About 1500 motorbikes, a Dakar rally truck, a Hum-Vee and a helicopter, all in RedBull livery. It would have been cool to get closer to the action but for obvious reasons, spectators and motorbikes doing 130kmh on sand do not mix well. Nevertheless, I put the GoPro to work and captured some footage, hopefully I can distill it down into something entertaining to watch.

As for Sunday, well we wanted to go to a museum, but decided to get Museumcards, so instead we’re doing a city outing to The Hague (yes, again). Before setting off I took time to do the dishes. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a dish after breakfast, wonder no more:

We found The Hague to be a very pleasant city, slightly more so than Amsterdam if I may say so, on account that it’s a little quieter and more spacious. The Embassy district is worth a detour as is the St. Jacobus church. Otherwise we loafed around and made a special detour to Marks and Spencers to look for some English stuff. Then off home, dinner, movie and bed, refreshed for another week!

Till then,

B

 

 

Time for a catchup! Week(end) 47

It’s been quite a long time since my last post, which came out as slightly more heavy and philosophical than intended. Nevetheless it’s time for a bit of an update, not because I’ve been lazy, but because the past couple of weeks had not had much to update about. But finally this weekend, we did something a little exciting and different which didn’t involve mostly sitting at home on the Internet. 

In actually fact, it was my mum’s birthday on Monday. And though we had sent a card, we had not yet sent a present. Now, before someone decries that as horrible, allow me to explain. When my parents were last in Holland about a month ago, we had a chat with dad about the possibility of surprising mum with a visit. We all thought this was an excellent idea, with the exception that my parents were away last weekend. So we pushed back one weekend, and got an excellent deal on some flights to Geneva. (Roughly the same price as a meal at a smart restaurant for two people), for both of us together. So we pounced on the deal. We put dad in charge of discouraging mum from actually planning anything for this weekend. 

Friday evening we skyped mum and explained that due to “logistical problems” her present had only just arrived, and that therefore we would prefer to bring it to her ourselves……that evening. So would she mind coming to Geneva at 10:30 to pick us up. 😈

And with that, off to the airport we went.

Arriving late in Trevignin on Friday we got up on Saturday to torrential rain. Before anything else, some shopping needed doing to feed these unexpected additional mouths. Whilst in the supermarket, the temperature dropped and upon coming out we could see that outside the valley, the snow had started to appear on the flanks of the surrounding mountains. We returned to find the village covered in a fresh blanket of snow. In fact, the first snowfall of the season.

 

The view from mum and dad’s bedroom window.
 Jackets were gathered, walking boots were found, along with a plethora of gloves, hats and scarves and Catherine and I headed out for a walk in the fresh snow. 

 

Le Revard, in a brief ray of sunshine.
 Now I’m quite a fan of microadventures, little escapades that serve no purpose other than feeding the soul and making one exceedingly happy. So instead of just walking along the road, we headed up into the fields, and then through some bushes and scrub into  a little wood to try and find a stream. We then pushed through some more trees and followed the stream up into another field. 

 

All wrapped up and warm!

 
The snowplough doing its first round of the year, and removing our footprints in the process.
 We walked along and then back down into the woods. Along the way we found a discarded bathtub (which I was tempted to use as a sledge), and an observation platform that had probably been built by a local farmer for hunting. We then ran down the steep field through the snow (because why not?) cut through some more fields and back to the village. Here I got the head torch out, not because it was particularly dark, but because it fed the adventure my inner ten year old was having, and we sniffed the air for the log fires that were starting in chimneys nearby before standing in the village square with our tongues out, tasting the falling snow. 
 
View on the Massif de la Chartreuse (my parents live at the meeting point of the Jura, Chartreuse and Alps ranges.

We got home and lit our own fire in the chimney before preparing all that is required for a delicious raclette. Including pickled onions and gherkins, ham, rosette, boiled potatoes and of course, slicing a large chunk of cheese. After raclette we had a game of quirkle, and dad had me tastes delicious whisky from Wales. From the only distillery in Wales, as a matter of fact. For those interested its “Penderyn”, and it’s very smooth and very very tasty. 

On Sunday I was adamant that we should make the most of the mountains and the snow. So we picked a walk out of one of our guidebooks, gathered the required equipment and jumped in the car. Upon arriving, we noticed there might be a little more snow than we bargained for, but undaunted we set off. It was a stunning walk, the weather played ball and we crunched through the snow in wonderful tranquility. 

We did a route called Le golet de Doucy et Le col de Bornette. 

   

One of many little huts
    
   

We had gotten almost all the way to the end of our walk before noticing we had not yet stopped for some lunch (which I was carrying). But atop a little rise, a few hundred metres away we spotted a small hut along with a couple of barns. We figured we would find a spot a little way out of the wind, against a wall or something, but it was so much better than that!!!
  It turned out to be a refuge. A small hut available to mountaineers as a place to rest up. Complete with table, chairs and a small stove. (Or maybe it was a very dirty person’s house, in which case, our apologies for trespassing). So out of the wind, we managed to have  a hearty lunch, complete with hot drinks out of the thermos, big chunks of bread and ham. After lunch, we descended back towards the car, but I must admit, we got a bit silly. Having snowball fights, pushing each other into the snow, making snow angels and slithering down steep snowy banks. It was generally epic fun. 

  
  
  
 

Few creature comforts, but who needs em?
 
On the way home, we stopped off at a bakery, to pick out some cakes for our cup of tea. We’ve lit the fire, and now, time to relax. And with a day off tomorrow, no need to rush back to the airport!

I also spliced together a quick time lapse video, but it was shot from my pocket, so the view isn’t great. Nevertheless, I’ll add it below when it’s uploaded to YouTube. Though as we are on satellite internet here, that could be a bit later…  

Why run?

Why run? Why go through the pain and the misery that often accompanies long distance running?

I used to decry running as the dullest thing I could imagine. Just endlessly pounding pavement to end up back where I started. Some benefits are apparent. Weight loss, endorphins, feeling good about accomplishing something you couldn’t do previously.

Sure, getting in shape and working out was an immediate benefit for me. I recently found a picture from December 2011, where I was at my heaviest. A full 15 kilos heavier than I am now. Give or take, I’m now a mere 82% of the guy I was then.

"Little" old me...
“Little” old me…

But you could argue that now it’s done, through good food and an active lifestyle, there’s no need for me to continue, or at least there’s no need to work anywhere near as hard.

But is that human nature? When we accomplish something, don’t we want to accomplish more? Isn’t it enough that we do things simply because they are hard?

Much more recent me....
Much more recent me….

It took me four or five tries to become a runner. The first time, coincidentally in spring 2012, lasted about two sessions. That was that until autumn 2013, where I was seized by the necessity to do something, anything to break out of a slump. I kept it up for a month or so. Then there was a lull, before trying again, again for a month. And then nothing for a season and then again. And on and off it went.

It has never become a habit. It has always been an effort. It has always been demanding and its always required willpower.

But eventually it became worth the effort, worth enduring cold, rain, even snow. It became a fulfilling activity in its own right. Something I do because I learnt to genuinely enjoy it. Though that feeling comes and goes. As proven by this very blog. A blog set up to discuss sports and running which seemingly discusses everything but…

So what next? The marathon was an experience but I’m unsure it’s one I want to repeat (for now). Do I speed up? Do I aim to go further? Do I try something else?

Whatever the next challenge is. It has one criteria. One criteria which I think is at the basis of all human endeavour.

It cannot be easy.

If it were easy I would be able to do it already. And that’s how to add value to our own lives isn’t it? To be able to wake up in the morning and ask ourselves. “Am I a better human today than I was yesterday?”

Week 44: A week of firsts!

[Update: Apologies for anyone trying to read this post last night, a technical error meant we suffered from a bit of premature e-publication…..]

After all the excitement of last weekend we took the week fairly easy. Combined with a few later evenings at the office, it was a quiet week at home.

There was one picture I wanted to include form this week. It’s a quick snack I resort to when all else fails. It simply tabasco and salt on bread. (I checked with Andrew, I’m not weird…..).

Oddly satisfying nibble
Strange taste predilections aside I followed Catherine in signing up for our next race! We’ve changed tack completely this time, no long distances (well, depends on who’s point of view you’re using) and no roads. This time, we’re going for a trail run….at night…..in March. Yes, its the Neverest Runforestrun Night trail run. Obviously this is going to require some slightly different training. Though trails are in the mountains right? And this is Holland, ergo there are no mountains, so how bad can it be? (Famous last words?…..)

We started the weekend off by dipping a toe into the Netflix show “Narcos”. Which after a couple episodes we are looking forwards to continue watching.

Saturday was a productive day to say the least. As it was halloween we started off with some early morning pumpkin carving. But a jack-o-lantern with a face is boring, and as Catherine is a mad cat lady, we decided to make a witch’s cat instead. I think it turned out quite well. The plan is to roast the pumpkin seeds in such a manner.

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Following such excitement, we decided to raise it up a notch and prepare a picnic, jump on the motorbike and head out to the beach. A short 40 minute ride got us to Noordwijk. It was really nice to take the old girl out for a spin again (I’m referring to my motorbike, not the Girlfriend!), as she hadn’t moved since mid-august, just sat forlornly on the street outside our apartment. Amazingly, the tyre pressures were still fine, and she started on the first press of the starter. She might not hbe the most soulful bike, but by jove is she reliable!

Anyway, it was a sunny day and we were quickly very warm. For the last day of October we could not have asked for better weather! Catherine even ate in just her t-shirt! After a bit of lazying about we walked off up the beach and then came back through the little section of national park which is adjacent to the beach. A selection of pictures follows.


  
We rode home to prepare some dinner and get ready for the next thing on the plan for Saturday. My first ever live football match! It’s no secret I work for a sports apparel company, and we just happen to be close to Ajax Arena, where Amsterdam’s Ajax football club are based. And as I won the draw for seats for this weeks game I got to go along and take Catherine with me! The game itself was a bit of a massacre, with Ajax butchering the visiting team Roda JC (whom I’d never heard of). The ambience was really nice and jovial and quite frankly it was all over way too quickly. Also at one point in the match, everyone got their smartphone out and starting flashing the flash…. very strange. But I filmed a quick clip of it to show everyone! 🙂 I filmed a few other bits and pieces too that I’ve spliced together in a quick video (or I might combine the two, I haven’t decided yet).


  
 Anyway, I’m no football fan, but if the opportunity to go a football match presents itself again, I will definitely go. Catherine and I agree that we would like to go see Bayern play at the Allianz Arena in Munich, after all, we already have the appropriate attire!

Sunday was a lot quieter! We did all the necessary things in the house. As well as a small reorganisation in the living room in light of the arrival of my graduation present to myself…. In the afternoon went to see our friends Helen and her slave Matthijs at their very first market stall in Westerpark! Yes indeed, The Baking Tin had it’s first public outing! We took home one of each cupcake for a private sampling. If you follow my instagram, you’ll have seen why I spent the afternoon drooling. We also walked around the market a bit and picked up some interesting cider from Scotland from a friendly chap who’s business it is to sell Cider. We got a Whiskey cask aged cider and a cider with Ginger. I have high expectations from these two little brews. Interestingly, the chap told us the brewer (is a cider maker a brewer?…) doesn’t add sugar to the fermentation process, but rather chooses a particularly sweet variety of apples. I will report back…..


click on the picture to visit my instagram feed
We also saw a market stall that sold lamps made from reclaimed car parts, including an old Garret turbocharger (which I’m coveting), but I must have noted down their name wrong as I can’t find them. 😦

That brings us neatly to Sunday night. After dinner we will be rounding off the evening with a trip to the movies to watch Spectre with a well earned beer (though in the movies, it’ll only be Grolsch).

And here finally, is the quick clip I put together: