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Quite how I got myself into this one I’m not really sure, but back when I was cycling a lot, I always fancied having a go at a triathlon……. except my swimming was a bit ropey and I couldn’t run for toffee. I then made the mistake of entering a 10K cycling time trial, but ended up so far off the pace of the rest of the pack   I never dared to show my face again.  So, if you can’t swim fast, bike fast or run fast, there’s not much point in stringing all three together, right?

North berwick bike park

So like I say, I’m still not sure why last Sunday saw me racking up my bike ready for the annual North Berwick Novice Triathlon. My feeble efforts at preparation involved an eight week novice training schedule downloaded from the web, but with the first two weeks deleted (I only had six until the event). The results were steady if not dramatic, going from “four lengths of the pool and knackered”, improving to “ten lengths in 5:30”, and finishing with a PB of “ten lengths in 4:20”, aided and abetted by £3 worth of cheap budgie smugglers from Sports Direct (“He was afraid to come out of the water, he was afraid that somebody might see”). These alone were responsible for knocking 25 seconds off my 250m time when compared with my old football shorts!

trunks

My ego was not helped the week before the event though, when I went swimming with my Mum, who remarked “You’re still quite podgy, aren’t you?”. Then, two days later my 19 year old neighbour watched me come back from a bike ride and reportedly remarked “I really need to go to the gym – I can’t stand the thought of old people being fitter than me!”.

So, officially old and podgy, it was with some trepidation I racked my bike up ready for the start of the race and collected my race number: 42 (Blimey, I really HOPE the meaning of life isn’t triathlon, or I’m really stuffed!).

Northberwick bike park2

The swim went off in two heats, with one swimmer starting every 10 seconds, in order from fastest to slowest, according to the expected times we’d confirmed the week before. The drill was to swim up the left hand side of the lane, back down the right, then at the second turn, duck under the ropes and into the next lane. This system worked remarkably well, and I didn’t spot any crashes or pile-ups. Essentially everybody zig-zagged down the pool until they got to the exit, then amid cheers and clapping from the spectators, it was out and onto the bike!

 The cycle was hard work, since the first uphill section was extremely windy, but I managed to overtake at least as many folks as had overtaken me on the way round.

Unfortunately when I started the run section, my calf muscles started to cramp up quite badly, but I ran on through the pain, and it eased after a few minutes. I was not quick on the run however, and many people passed me – more training required methinks!  One nice feature of the course was that the run was ‘out and back’, which meant that you saw just about everybody else at some point on the course.  The fact that we’d set off in number order also made it easy to see roughly how you were doing in relation to the others. Basically if somebody with a higher number than you was ahead of you, it meant they were definitely beating you, but of course the staggered swim start meant that you might still be in front of some of the people in front of you, if that makes any sense!

After the swim and cycle, the run seemed to be over quite quickly, and I was soon attempting a very slow sprint to the finish. The atmosphere at the end was great, with an army of supporters cheering all the runners home. Overall, I came in just outside the top 2/3 of the men, and in the top half overall, so I was pretty chuffed with that.

Northberwick2013-2b

So, if you’re thinking of having a go at an event like this, I’d I really recommend you do. After all, if an old podge like me can manage it, so can you! 🙂

Schnapps!!

Blackcurrant Schnapps that is.  One made very simply with just 50% blackcurrants and 50% cooking vodka, and the other with 1/3 fruit, 1/3 sugar, and 1/3 vodka.  I’m really hoping that these work out, as they’re so simple to prepare…… won’t know for another few months though unfortunately!

Since the spring, we’ve tried to eat at least one thing we’ve grown ourselves with every meal. However, lots of the veg are coming into season now, and we’ve managed a few meals now that have been almost entirely home grown.

We had one of them on Sunday – Coq au Vin, featuring a load of veggies from the garden and polytunnel, and once I’d managed to actually catch him, the meat from an (unfortunately for him) male Welsummer chicken who we hatched in February.

OK, so we cheated a little and used shop bought wine, onions and mushrooms as well as the home grown stuff, but it’s still not a bad start – we’re not deluded enough to think we could ever be truly self sufficient. And yes, I know you would expect me to say this, but it was absolutely delicious too.

Home Made Ribena!!

The blackcurrants were really good this year, so I was struggling to think of something good to do with them all. No time for jam or wine, but a quick search of the interweb gave some interesting ideas, including this recipe for homemade blackcurrant cordial, which is simplicity itself.

 

Basically you just simmer blackcurrants and sugar together for a few minutes, then add a chopped up lemon, and simmer for a bit longer, before straining, and pouring into re-used wine bottles, and chilling in the fridge.

The colour is amazing, and when diluted with water (about 25%:75%), it really does taste just like a supermarket ‘Hi-juice’ squash……. Only so, so much better!  🙂

Loving the summer!

 

 

A friend described our style as “Shabby Chic” the other day. To be honest, I was a little bit offended to begin with, but then I went for a wander round the yard, and I started to see what she meant!! 🙂

 

OK, so we’ve been nibbling on lettuces and radishes for a wee while now, but now it’s June, finally the veg in the polytunnel has taken off enough for us to harvest a decent meal’s worth at last. I couldn’t help but smile 🙂

(WARNING – POST POTENTIALLY UNSUITABLE FOR VEGETARIANS, OR PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE TO THINK TOO DEEPLY ABOUT WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM!!)

So we bought some day old Hubbard broiler chicks.

They grew….

And grew….

And ate, and grew….

Until finally twelve weeks later, they were ready for the table.

Now, let’s be honest here, this is far closer than most people will ever get to the source of their food, and part of the reason I did this was to see if I had it in me to raise an animal from one day old to fully grown, and then kill it for food. I won’t go into all the details, but suffice to say, we did the most difficult job as humanely as we could, as befits a bird grown with care, in free range conditions.

The final dressed weights ranged from 2.5 to 3 kg (5.5 to 6.5lb).

And yes, I have to say, they did taste delicious!

So, is it something we’ll do again?  Yes, definitely. Mind you, next time will have to wait until I have more time on my hands, since the sheer effort of killing, plucking, and drawing 25 birds was quite considerable. Naturally raising table birds is not something that everybody can do, and nor is it something that most people would want to do (in fact, it didn’t even save us any money compared with buying from the supermarket!). However, I did feel a certain pride at eating an animal that we’d reared ourselves, knowing that it had lived the happiest life possible, albeit for only three months. What’s more, the freezer is now full of enough delicious chicken to keep us going until Christmas……. by which time of course, the turkeys will be ready! 🙂