Mad March Mile – March 2021 – here we go

Spiky ball, not a virus

The world is a strange place at the moment. We are currently in our third coronavirus lockdown, although dates have been given for possible easing of restrictions. My children have both flown the nest again so it’s just me, husband and the cats at home. Children have finally gone back to school, so hopefully things are moving back towards normality.

I haven’t wanted to blog over the previous 12 months because it just didn’t seem appropriate to write about jolly japes running through the countryside, whilst all around people were catching the virus and struggling with lockdown. A document of how I coped might have been interesting in future years, but I suspect anything I wrote would have been full of false optimism rather than insightful glimpses into how I was truly feeling behind the mask.

I have been running over this last year though, and walking when I could (no more than one form of exercise a day mind!). Flipping piriformis problems flared up once again after walking in wellies, but I’ve been pretty good with stretching and sitting on a spiky ball and it’s feeling much better. (Spiky ball – it’s a thing – honestly. I would say Google it, but um maybe best not to!)

In line with the current coronavirus restrictions I have been running twice a week with my good friend. We have both been struggling to get “race fit” again without any races to train for (because we are both slackers and need the threat of public humiliation to goad us into lycra and out of the door). As the weather has dried out a little we’ve ventured out along footpaths and into fields, woods and fresh air. We’ve both got ridiculously muddy on occasions but have felt all the better for it ( once we’ve finished).

In lieu of a race, we’ve signed up for the Mad March Mile where the aim is to run a minimum of a mile a day throughout March. The entry fee covers a donation to RMH Bristol which provides free accommodation for families whose children are having to stay in the Bristol Children’s Hospital. Website is here – have a look, it’s a very worthwhile cause (and has no ongoing involvement with Ronald Macdonald, despite its name). Obviously we’re very smug about what a good cause we’re supporting, and that would be enough for some saintly people. I cannot lie, we were also persuaded by the personalised handmade mug we’ll receive if we complete the challenge.

With my ongoing piriformis problems I wasn’t keen to run everyday. I was therefore relieved to see you can walk your mile, or do another form of exercise for at least 15-20 minutes. Suddenly this challenge seemed doable, and very much like Janathon/Juneathon. (However I suspect that bar push-ups aren’t allowed as part of my daily ‘mile’, not least because pubs still aren’t open).

I’ll try and keep a note of what I get up to, and maybe this will kickstart my blogging as well as my running.

But I can’t go back to work yet…

But I can’t go back to work yet – I haven’t made a banana loaf or sourdough bread!

So it’s July 2020 and the great lockdown has eased. Shops are reopening, pubs have opened (and 3 have shut again immediately after having a customer test positive for coronavirus), and cafes can reopen within strict guidelines. This means I’m back to work – and I’m both excited and nervous about it.

In exactly the same way as children reach the end of the summer holidays and panic about all the exciting schemes they had planned but hadn’t got around to doing, so I feel about lockdown. I have managed quite a lot of running, and walking, and even some cycling. I have done some tasty cooking and made incredibly healthy salads. I have looked after students going through the strangeness of online university exams and finals. We have all survived, but now it’s time to re emerge into the real world.

It’ll be lovely to see my work colleagues “in 3-d” rather than in a Zoom meeting, and great to be back at The Pound again. But can I remember how to use the till, and the coffee machine, and how to speak to real people again? I guess I’ll find out…

Coffeeneuring 2019 – completed!

Yay! Another Coffeeneuring challenge completed. I love that this challenge gets me out on my bike every year, with no pressure on distance ridden or “ramping up the miles”.

To sum up:-

  1. 16th October 2019. Ride to tai chi, calling in at Allington Farm Shop cafe in my way home. 7 miles ridden.
  2. 17th October 2019. Riding back from Chippenham after dropping my car at the garage, via Coffee #1. 4.5 miles ridden.
  3. 29th October 2019. Grounded in Corsham for their excellent dark chocolate brownie. 5.5 miles cycled.
  4. 5th November 2019. Ride in Berlin sightseeing. 11.5 miles ridden.
  5. 7th November 2019. “Bowie” tour of Berlin by bicycle. 8.5 miles ridden.
  6. 12th November 2019. Double win! Coffee with friend in Corsham at Grounded, and then qualifying drink in Previous. 5 miles cycled.
  7. 18th November 2019. Pound Arts Centre Cafe, Corsham. 5.5 miles ridden.

I started this year’s challenge having just been extremely unexpectedly made redundant. I was really upset and down about this, and the couple of jobs I found that I was perfect for (in my mind!) I wasn’t even invited for interview. These rides, along with the runs that I slowly started taking (physio permitting!) gave me a chance to think about what I wanted from a job, and how I could earn some money.

By the end of Coffeeneuring I had remembered a long held dream to run a vegan cafe. I was considering taking some “food hygiene” courses as an introduction when a good friend of mine told me that the Pound Arts Centre cafe needed someone to work a couple of days a week. It’s a veggie / vegan cafe and so sounded ideal, but with my confidence pretty low I had no idea if I could actually do it.

My final Coffeeneuring ride was to go and have a good look at the cafe, to see what was on the menu, to see how it was run, and to see if the people working there seemed nice* (an important consideration!) I ended up going in for a chat with the manager, and extremely quickly was signed up for a couple of sessions to see how it went. I then found myself dropped in the deep end and was working there by myself on two very busy days just before Christmas.

I’m going back again on Monday, hopefully when it’s quieter, for some more training. I’m still unsure whether this is the new career for me, but being stubborn I’ll stick it out for a bit longer. In the meantime, all cyclists are welcome! The Arts Centre has bike racks outside, very good coffee with a great selection of cakes. (How am I doing on drumming up trade??!)

*The people working in the Art centre are all lovely, and have been soooo tolerant of my mistakes. Thankfully.

Coffeeneuring 2019 #7

Final ride of the Coffeeneur challenge 2019, unless I wanted to go for “8 is great”. Spoiler alert – I wanted to, but it was raining, so I didn’t.

The short story is that I rode back into Corsham on 18th November 2019, and had a really good coffee and vegan apricot flapjack at the Pound Arts Centre Cafe.

Pound Arts Centre, in an old Victorian school building

5.6 miles ridden, finally felt more confident on the road, although I still made the wrong glove choice. Also – a decision was made, which I will explain in my summing up post …


Coffeeneuring 2019 #6

Back in the UK, my 6th Coffeeneuring ride still had an International feel, as I rode to meet my Canadian friend. (I should point out, obviously I didn’t ride to Canada, she was over visiting her family). We met at “Grounded” in Corsham, which eagle-eyed readers will remember I visited as ride number 3 this year.

We had a lovely chat, and I again treated myself to the vegan dark chocolate brownie. This brownie is so good, as we ordered I said if they didn’t have any we’d go somewhere else and I wasn’t joking.

As we said goodbye, I realised that if I popped in somewhere for another drink, then this ride could still count as a Coffeeneuring trip.

Heading on down the High Street, I parked my bike up and walked back to Previous. This is a lovely little shop, with a tiny cafe upstairs.

I bought a birthday present for a friend and then hopped upstairs for an Almond milk latte. This was very good, and almost kept me warm when I got soaked on my ride back home.

Almond Milk Latte

5 miles cycled, 2 hot drinks drunk, 1 lovely catch up, and 1 Coffeeneur drenched on the ride home.

Coffeeneuring 2019 #5

Still in Berlin, I had promised my husband we could go on a “Bowie” tour of Berlin (as he is such an avid fan). We hired Donkey bikes again, and accidentally ended up with the exact same bikes as the day before (they all have names!) Much hilarity was caused when I finally realised my bike had gears – no wonder yesterday’s ride felt like hard work!

Donkey bike (with gears!)

Husband had done his research, and expertly piloted us around areas of the city from Bowie’s time of living there in the 1970s with Iggy Pop. Some of these places are mentioned in the lyrics of his later song “Where are we now”, such as Potzdammer Platz and the biggest department store in Europe, KaDeWe. We found the recording studios “Hansa Records” in the pouring rain, which was rather a low point for me (but the opposite for Mr B&T!)

Outside the apartment that Bowie shared with Iggy Pop

I insisted on an early coffee stop (just to make sure it would be a Coffeeneuring ride – priorities, right?) at a denns biomarkt for an organic coffee and a snack that was marked as Vegan but I’m still not really sure what it was (slightly sweet, flaky pastry ish).

Hansa Studios
Organic soya latte and “Splitterbrotchen”

I had been worried about cycling around a city, and an unfamiliar foreign city at that, but I was surprised to find that drivers were very aware of cyclists and no one seemed to mind if you hopped onto the pavement for a short section if it was safer. I just wish such tolerance could be exported back to the UK!

Rather a soggy day, but 8.5 miles ridden around Berlin, a strong coffee with an unidentifiable snack, and one happy husband!

Coffeeneuring 2019 #4

International coffeeneuring this time (or should that be Kaffeneuring?) A short trip to Berlin coupled with husband’s aversion to walking, plus a flat city that is used to cyclists meant that I was easily persuaded to explore on 2 wheels.

We used one of the many, clever apps available these days to hire “donkey” bikes. We chose these mainly because they had a handy holder for a phone on the front handlebars, meaning we could use Google Maps to safely navigate us around the city.

We had (accidentally) managed to arrive in the week before the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. This meant that the city was full of displays and exhibits and interesting ‘stuff’ to look at. It was maybe a little ironic that as part of the forthcoming celebrations a massive stage blocked the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Naturally, we were Tofuwurst powered
Inside the dome of the Reichstag building
Brandenburg Gate -blocked again 30 years on!

Total ride was 11.5 miles, 1 good strong soya latte was drunk (we found the Einstein chain of coffee shops had soya milk), and many tourist sites visited.

The Money shot

Coffeeneuring 2019 #3

My third Coffeeneuring trip this year, no cake so far, but my hopes were high for Grounded in Corsham. This lovely cafe does offer a Vegan cooked breakfast which was my fallback treat in case of cake-failure.

A fairy speedy ride out to our closest small town, and having remembered a bike lock this time I didn’t have to bother any window cleaners to keep my bike safe, unlike last time (see here!)

Wanted my Trek closer than the official bike rack

I headed inside, ordered my coffee and with baited breathe asked if they had any vegan cakes. “Oh – only the dark chocolate brownie”. ONLY??? It was amazingly good, and because it was dark chocolate not too sweet.

Vegan Dark Chocolate Brownie

I ate it all too quickly, and then decided I’d better put some effort into the ride home to burn it off!

5.5 miles ridden to Grounded in Corsham.

Coffeeneuring 2019 #2

Still enthused about this year’s Coffeeneuring challenge, when my car was booked into the garage for its annual service and MOT I decided to squeeze my bike into the boot and then cycle home (via a cafe) whilst I waited.

First part of the plan worked like a charm. After dropping off the car I cycled down into town towards one of my favourite coffee shops, Coffee#1 on Chippenham’s High Street. This cafe has really friendly staff, a range of dairy-free milks and offers a very fine vegan chocolate tiffin-style cake. Optimistic of not having to make do with a packet of crisps this time, I was practically salivating at the thought of this treat as I cycled up the High Street*.

At this point – I had a sudden horrible thought. I’d remembered my bike, I’d picked up my helmet, I had cash to spend – but I’d forgotten to pick up a bike lock. Chippenham is hardly the crime capital of North Wiltshire, but I still wouldn’t leave my lovely Trek there, unlocked and out of my sight. Somewhat less enthusiastically (in fact, I nearly turned around and headed straight for home) I carried on, thinking I might be able to order a takeaway coffee whilst keeping my eyes on my bike propped up against the window. Or wheel my bike inside. Or just shout my order in from the doorway. Or .. or … or ask the lovely window cleaner who was hard at work cleaning the cafe’s front windows. Bless him, he said of course he’d watch my bike whilst I ran inside to use the toilet and buy my coffeeneuring reward.

My chocolate treat was in sight! I propped my bike against a table, out of his way, and dashed inside, only to have my hopes dashed when I was told they hadn’t received any cakes that morning. They did at least have soya milk, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip, but I’m starting to worry that the theme of my rides this year might be NO CAKE!

Little bit chilly for sitting outside but needs must

Total ride was 4.5 miles, drink was a soya latte, cafe was Coffee#1, window cleaner was a top bloke.

Coffee from Coffee#1 on Chippenham High Street
Scenic 😉 Still no vegan cake

* For anyone local, this was before 9:30am so the High Street was still open to traffic. You didn’t think I was cycling through a pedestrianised zone, did you??!