Friday, 15 April 2016

French Sabbatical Week 1: Lessons Learned

Here we go, in no particular order, in a handy bulleted list because I can't quite get work out of my system...


  • Throwing petrol on a bonfire is a lot of fun, brilliantly effective, and not nearly as dangerous as you might think (I only singed the hairs on my forearms) - I won't be using any of that wimpy barbeque lighting fluid in the future, I can tell you
  • When cleaning out a hen coop last used three years ago, check which way the wind is blowing before you throw all the doors open and start chucking bleach and water around, else you'll end up with a faceful of liquid hen shit. Hope it's good for the complexion
  • If you buy a second hand trailer off some dodgy English hippies, accept you're in for a period of angst. One of the lightbulbs was out. 'I can mend that no problem' I thought. The iffy connection in there meant I blew a fuse in the car, which I couldn't find because the towbar fitter hadn't put it in the fusebox in his infinite wisdom.  And then having finally tracked down the location of the blown fuse and its type, going into battle with French websites, which seem to be explicitly designed to stop you actually buying anything.  They probably see online shopping as another evil Anglo-Saxon invention that should play no part of Liberte Egalite etc..Still got to sort the buggered wheel/tyre that loses 5psi a day as well yet
  • If you do a nancy-boy office-based job most of the time, and you spend a week in the garden you'll break your hands, no matter what gloves you wear. Mine have got blisters, cuts, scratches, splinters and ingrained dirt, and are now rivalling my feet in own personal Ugly Extremities Competition
  • Understand how hard it is to not drink beer at the end of every working day. Dammit, I've been outside labouring all day, I DESERVE it
  • BBC4 can be a useful source of practical advice - I dismantled a shed and needed to move its parts 40 yards down the garden. It was too bulky and heavy to lift conventionally.  Aha! I remembered watching the porters on the Indian Mountain Railways, and how they bent double, then levered large items onto their back. I tried to do the same - it only flipping works, doesn't it?! Even if you do end up looking like a madman attempting unpowered flight
  • If you need to trap a ginger-and-white feral cat that's terrorising your own cat, make sure you know the difference between that one, and your neighbours's ginger-and-white cat (I don't). This one's still playing out. Let's hope when I catch it and deposit it a good few kilometres away I'm not depriving our French friends of their beloved pet
So there we are; week 1 in France. I've got another week here on my own before Mrs Monmarduman turns up, then I can start on the properly dangerous jobs....

Friday, 8 April 2016

So where were we?

Ah yes, being quite smug about my abilities to recover from a long run. Not so smug now though, heh?

Yes, things didn't quite go according to plan in the lead-up to my long-planned 75km ultra-marathon on Easter Sunday. It wasn't a surprise to me. I've always been one of those people whose successes (such as they are) tend to be the result of working and playing by the rules. The training rules in ultra-marathon training are, respectively, do a lot of miles, increase weekly mileage by no more than 10%, and increase the distance of your weekly long run by also by no more than 10%.

Well, I didn't play by the rules: my mileage was erratic, I didn't always do a lot of miles, and I lurched up to running 34 miles one particular Sunday - which was when the dreaded knee problem came on. Seems I have a very small tear to my medial meniscus, nothing that stops me running a few miles, but enough to cause anything upwards of a half-marathon to be excruciating.  Ho hum.  Time to repair it, do some cycling, and try again next winter.

Strangely, however, while I was disappointed I had to withdraw from my Canalathon, I wasn't devastated, probably because the withdrawal coincided with finishing work for a while, and soon afterwards (that being yesterday), coming across to France for an extended period.

Yes, I did it - I've made myself unavailable for work until the start of August, and I intend to spend as much of it as possible in France. The plan is the same as the one I hatched earlier in the year - manual work, cycle and learn a bit of French.

There are two cycling excursions planned - one to Provence with Mendip Rouleur for an attempt at joining the Club dec Cingles du Mont-Ventoux (that being 3 different ascents of the great mountain in a single day), plus some very civilised cafe-based riding besides, and one to Normandy with Mrs M for a spot of gentle cyclo-touring.

Right now though, I'm even more excited - rather sadly - to get stuck into some Bloke Stuff, most of which I've no idea how to do right now.  Quite a lot of it will involve Bloke Tools too. I've already bought a trailer for picking stuff up at Brico Depot (B&Q) and getting rid of it at the dechetterie (tip). There are steel toe-capped work boots in the garage, overalls, and best of all - I think I might need a cement mixer. Ten years ago I used to covet other men's bikes; now I sneak furtive looks at their tool shed.

What's the cause of all this Blokery? Three-quarters of an acre of unruly and disintegrating garden, that's what. There are fences, sheds and greenhouses to be taken down, other fences and roofs to be put up, and digging, seed sewing and weeding to be done. Not to mention power washing, mowing, strimming, hedgecutting, and bonfires...ahhh, lovely bonfires.

So, there's going to be a lot of outdoor time. I've done one day so far, and my hands are already red and chapped, I'm so soft from the last few months of keyboard-jockeying. Tales from French France and - hopefully - progress that doesn't involve loss of limbs or too much blood to follow.


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