Is Life Ever Long Enough To Peel A Beetroot?

When I was in regular work, I was in the habit of packing a small container with a handful of assorted nuts and dried fruits. This would be my mid-day meal along with a banana and a muesli bar. I say “mid-day meal” but it was easily convenient to pop open the container at any time of the day and graze, though the banana and bar I always kept for lunchtime.

As soon as I stopped work, I hit the bread. It’s one of my foodie weaknesses, especially as it comes in so many tasty varieties. As does my other food weakness – cheese – so I lazily hit the cheese roll/cheese sandwich habit.

Sorry to be crass but the trouble with habitual bread eating is it bungs up the old system and I find few things spoil my day more than a sluggish constitution. In an effort to regain my previous health, I substituted bread for a mixed veggie bake down. This comprises half a butternut squash, two or three bell peppers, three banana shallots and whatever else I find or fancy. Often there’s half a fennel bulb going or maybe some spare root vegetables.

Once baked, I peel the skins off the shallots and peppers, but not the squash – it doesn’t need it – cut it all into bite-sized pieces, mix in a little dressing, and pop it into a container for the fridge. That’s my lunches for every other day of the week, alternating with the nuts and fruit as I did before.

Yesterday, I fancied some baked beetroot and put four in the oven as well. They bake a treat and their flavour is sweeter and more intense, but this means ending up with beetroot juice stained fingertips which no amount of scrubbing seems to remove.

It looks as if I’ve been out and multiple-voted in an Afghanistan general election!

My wife says I should have left the skins on but I think the burnt skins can taste a little too gritty. Now I’m wondering if she isn’t right.

And here’s one I pre-prepared earlier.

Would you say what I’ve done is “pre-prepared” my lunches? I’ve seen this term used before and recently in a Food, Health and Wellbeing article advising against so-called “ready meals”, or as they called them “pre-prepared meals”. For me, the term not only looks tautological but it doesn’t roll cleverly off the old tongue either.

What do you reckon? According to the OED, the pre- in prepared stands for before or beforehand, so pre-pre- logically stands for before before. Isn’t that just one too many befores in the process? What do I know, English is crazy.



a flash-fiction piece

“Exhaustion isn’t a fit state to be in.”

Though his body could move no more, his muscles seemed not to rest; he felt no peace anywhere within his body, and his mind, if he could ever reconcile with it again, was stirring in chaos.

He lay agitated and regretful in an envelope of ache, desperately wanting a sweeter release.

“I said, exhaustion isn’t a fit state to be in,” repeated the voice.

He looked up at the old man smiling down.

“You needed the work done, Dad,” he groaned.

“I know,” said the old man, “but there’s always tomorrow.”

(99 words)

written for the Carrot Ranch Literary Flash Fiction Challenge, April 25th – “Exhaustion”.

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Exhaustion. Who is exhausted and why? Can you make art of exhaustion? Go where the prompt leads!

”I’m too old for this sh*t”

The above phrase, or variations on it, is probably the worst line of film dialogue ever, but more on that later.

Many moons ago, before the millennium even (yikes!), I found myself working alongside a fellow freelancing engineer called Dave. He was at that time, shall we say, mature in years but not old in mind. We got on very well. I remember this one time he told me how he still felt in spirit that he could run onto a football pitch and chase the ball around for forty-five minutes though, in reality, he knew this couldn’t be done. Being a lot younger, I didn’t really understand the feeling he was describing but I’m beginning to now.

The trouble in our job is that we spend our best years driving a desk, and worse now, working at a fixed gadget which holds everything you’re likely to need to do your job effectively without ever moving 97% of your muscles. Every day, nine hours back to back. Looking back, this is a cause of much regret to me. If I was in the business of offering careers advice to young people I would say, steer clear of office based work! We’re not made for it. (I have other reasons for advising this but that would be for another post.)

Since deciding to give up regular work last autumn, I find myself being a lot more physical. Naturally, I’m on my feet a lot more and only this past month I’ve dug over the vegetable plot, man-handled eight-foot six by eight railway sleepers into a raised border and, a couple of days ago, installed a new rotary clothes dryer. The dryer required the holding tube to be embedded in concrete to a depth of two feet, and I guessed the hole needed to be at least eighteen inches square. Surprisingly, this took five and a half loads of hand mixed concrete, in quick succession. Where it all disappeared to in that gluttonous void I can’t imagine but, together with it being an exceptionally hot day, it took its toll on the old bod, wasted by years of sedentary work.

One of my pleasures is cycling. I have a road bike but I’m mindful, if not slightly anxious, about my health and ability to ride up the many hills around us. I’ve read of a few cases here of cyclists found collapsed by the roadside in remoter places – it’s no joke. Fortunately, I think, I’m biased towards optimism though this may easily be my undoing, but I’m not ready to utter that most overused line in Hollywood quite yet.


Could it be that we are bombarded with so many ideas these days that one phenomenon that’s been going on for years has only today come to my attention?

ASMR: have you experienced it and, if so, does it work for you?

In case, like me, you haven’t a clue what it is, it stands for a therapeutic exercise called “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” and it’s a response to certain focussed sensations, in particular amplified sounds such as tapping a hard surface, the clip of scissors, the hiss of gas on opening a beer bottle, or a human whisper.

Some people don’t get it and the last of the above examples really doesn’t do it for me. I detest noticeable sibilancy – that “sssss” sound the English language makes which normally goes unnoticed by native speakers but becomes exaggerated in recordings and whispers.

I think it was in a history of native Australians that I read of their distrust of English colonists when they heard them speak. They couldn’t understand what they said, of course, so it sounded to their ears like a bunch of snakes. I understood that in many aboriginal tongues, there is no such sound.

Apart from that one, does any of the rest produce “tingles”? And why?

They seem at pains to exclude the likelihood of sexual responses to the stimuli. I’m a bit sceptical about this. The other thing which is likely, I think, is good old nostalgia. When I came across the Soundcloud site, I played around with a bunch of sound clips to make a personal piece of nostalgic sounds. These sounds, some of them rarely heard now and some forgotten, do evoke pleasant memories for me, a kind of tingle, I suppose. I think we all have them, the sounds of waves lapping over pebbles, the noise of children playing, ducks squabbling over breadcrumbs, a light aircraft passing overhead, the sound made by a manual typewriter… Maybe the tingles are the same as when detecting the presence of any ghost.

However, returning to the sexual/non-sexual issue, are we in any doubt as to the intention in this 2019 beer commercial? Nope.

ASMR: Science – How Stuff Works

ASMR: It helps people, it’s not sexual (BBC)

The Dream

They say a mind at peace never recalls its dreams and, for more nights than I could count now, I have slept “dreamless” nights. Last night was different.

I woke this morning with a feeling of physical paralysis which we are told is associated with the dreaming state, the NREM phase. I had to force myself to move else I might doze off again. I hate that, I’m not the lie-in sort. Besides, breakfast is always a good reason to get up.

The dream had me wandering within a large, open-plan office full to capacity with workers. Each desk was tiny, the size you would find in primary schools and everywhere there was clutter – under desks, under chairs and on shelves. A potted plant was knocked over by unseen hands and fell to the floor in front of me. The pot broke scattering its dirt. I couldn’t find my desk and my work.

I had a sense that I’d worked there before, that I was in the middle of doing something for them, and all those people weren’t there previously. They were new workers brought in and they showed no concern for what had gone on before; no concern and no respect either for the work previously done or for the people who had done it. I felt strongly that I should go, just walk out the door without a word.

You can interpret this dream any way you want, if you want. The message, if any message exists, will be obscure. It may have nothing to do with work at all. Or crowds of people. Dreams may not be literal mirrors of our lives. Who knows? A hypothesis suggests that dreaming is the unintentionally retained memories of the process of consolidating long-term memories from weaker, short-term ones. This the brain does whilst the body sleeps. It’s as if the brain does some things in secret, keeping it from other parts of the brain, manipulating memories; a sinister or benevolent duality.

I wash, shave and dress, then go downstairs to make coffee and eat breakfast. Tomorrow, or even later on today, my dream will be vague to recall. It is a short term memory. Left to get on with it, the mind will reject it as pointless, I think. I will return to dreamless night sleeps again.

Old Fart Lek Redux

After what I posted previously about joggers, I’m going to eat my words. With time on my hands now, I thought I might try running again. This idea came after reading an article aimed at runners in different age groups and advice on running shoes.

The last pair of running shoes I bought weren’t that brilliant, since relegated to gardening shoes, but the pair before those were a dream, so I’ve been a bit cagey about shelling out for new ones, and I don’t like wearing trainers as everyday shoes. The article recommended a company called Brook’s which allows a 30 day trial with a full refund if not satisfied. So I did something which I wouldn’t do normally with shoes – I bought them unseen, online.

Well, I did see an online picture, for what it was worth. There’s a funny little questionnaire to go through before they recommend one of their products. This involves peculiarities like balancing on one foot, putting a hand between your knees and squatting down, and watching your toes whilst walking to notice whether they point out, or in, or move straight ahead. Then it basically asks you in seven further questions,

What are you trying to achieve?

I like these guys! As you can see from the photo, the shoes for me are the Cascadia 13. Just two days shipping from Germany, I’m already impressed. Trying them on, I was worried they felt a bit snug – I have wide feet – but, hey, 30 days satisfaction guaranteed, what’s to lose? On and out the door.

On the track, the snugness didn’t seem obvious. Not as obvious as my out-of-condition body. It was tough going. Wheeze. Then I remembered that the joys of running come at the end, when the feelgood hormones rise within you and you’re having a refreshing shower. It’s probably called the smug factor. Me, run? Yes, of course. Don’t you?

Anyway, I guess they’re not getting their shoes back now, or for a while at least. I don’t usually do endorsements and so I won’t be providing a link.

Three Things

Little Wheelie Carry-On Suitcases

I think everyone who flies these days makes do with a hand luggage sized suitcase. I mean, who wants to waste an hour watching other people’s luggage go around a carousel? Not me. Not you either by the look of the way things have gone.

One thing about it that baffles me a bit is why the wheels? I see many fit and strapping blokes pulling an incy-wincy case behind them when it could easily be carried. The way I see it is, if it didn’t have the retractable handle to pull it with, it’d have more capacity inside for clothes and toiletries.

For a week, or even two weeks, away, there’s an art to packing these little blighters and though I may flatter myself at my proficiency, the guy at Gentleman’s Gazette, over on Youtube, is the absolute master by comparison. Since discovering the sartorial Sven Raphael Schneider some months back, and blogging on his excellent style tips, his videos often pop up as Youtube suggestions. I’m fascinated and though I have little fashion consciousness myself, it amazes me how often I agree with him.

Anyway, Mr. Schneider advises that it is preferable to roll up some items, as opposed to folding them which I would do without thinking, so as to prevent creases. Well I’m going to be rolling my packing as well in future, just to see. Brilliant!

Iron Rain

This is not going to be about some European Heavy Metal band; know me, I wouldn’t do that to you.

I am still fascinated by astronomers who have discovered a planet which they believe to be the hottest known planet. It is that close to its parent sun that temperatures on its surface are capable of vaporising the iron and titanium present.

It has been imagined that other exoplanets exist orbiting close to their star that their weather systems might comprise clouds of aluminium, iron and other metals, and these systems could suggests it literally rains down molten iron rods. I just wonder what they make their umbrellas out of.

This sort of science cracks me up. There’s all these Sci-fi books and movies being made – The Martian, Mars Mission, Fly Me To Jupiter and back, whatever – and it’s all bollocks. It’s essentially Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction; it belongs with stories about ghosts, hobbits and zombies. Sci-Fa, not Sci-fi. The truth is far more amazing yet the fools seem oblivious to it.

Drink Like An Italian

Yes, apparently, according to statistics and an analysis of my alcohol intake last week, I drink like an average Italian. It makes me want to shout and gesticulate whilst wearing a playfully severe expression at the BBC TV article which suggests it.

Actually, I think it’s the Italians whose lifestyles we are told to emulate – good food, long life, and they certainly wear the best clothes (I’m sure Mr. Schneider would agree).

It’s a bit disappointing to read we have a serious drinking problem in the UK despite having the lowest recommended limits for consumption of alcohol in the known universe. The presenter, Adrian Chiles, whose own consumption is the basis for the BBC’s new show about “moderate drinking”, admits to drinking every day though believes he’s not an alcoholic. If he drinks every day, how can he know he isn’t addicted?

Ah, there’s too much of this government guideline business, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to see Mr. Chiles and his tormented liver do a U-turn; I’m happy to carry on being an Italian.


How To Pack A Carry-On Suitcase (Youtube)

KELT-9b – The first exoplanet discovered with an iron atmosphere

Booze Calculator By Nationality (BBC News)

Thinking about…


Running seems to be the only participatory sport in which enjoyment comes after the event.

Sometimes whilst out walking, and being in an exuberant frame of mind, I fancy breaking into a run. Often in these moments, I do.

I used to run: at school, during winter terms, I’d opt for cross-country in compulsory “games”. This was in preference to rugby when that ceased to be compulsory for my year (I’ve never been much of a team player, much more an individualist). During the summer term, it was athletics, likewise in opposition to the alternative team activity, cricket. In contrast to the cross-country, my warm weather running was the sprint, either 100m or 200m because these suited my natural physique, strength and power. Long distance was, and is, an endurance. Sprinting is over in seconds, a brief burst and its rewards come quicker.

In later life, like a lot of adults, I took up running purely for health and fitness. It was referred to as “jogging” though that term seems to have fallen out of fashion. Basically, long, long minutes of moderately paced running. Slog and boredom. If you’re fortunate you can run in nice, distracting surroundings – a city park, wooded tracks or open spaces – but so many contend with suburban streets and along busy roads. I know beggars can’t be choosers but this would be a disincentive too great.

Running in open spaces can be more enjoyable.

Still, regardless of where we run, it’s a rare thing to see a runner looking as if they’re loving the moment. Most look like they can’t wait for it to be over. For me, this is more than an impression, I know the feeling. When I ran, I’d welcome the sight of the finishing point, whatever was decided and for that final 50 to 100m, I’d sprint like mad, no matter how whacked I’d be feeling – just to get it done and to get some excitement out of it. It always worked. Later, in the shower, I’d be thinking with satisfaction and some pride about the last seconds dash and forget the rest.

My thoughts are turned to running by a magazine article claiming a scientific study has concluded that an hour’s running a day increases your lifespan by seven hours. It’s the article doing the claiming rather than the study. The study, being scientific, would be more careful about such claims, else they’d be unscientific. The media nearly always misrepresent scientific studies. Why? Do most journalists come via literature, the arts and humanities, perhaps? Possibly it’s simply a cynical means to sell media. As often is the case, the article is big on headline and thin on detail. I like to read them just to follow with the readers’ comments.

One that I like quotes Emerson, (Ralph Waldo, preumably),

“It’s not the length of life, but the depth”.

An Hour Of Running May Add 7 Hours To Your Life (Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times)