Day 21 – 20 kilometers

This morning I had arranged to meet Dan Stevens at ‘the bridge’ for an hours ride. In cycling circles, ‘the bridge’, means the Runcorn bridge and it was a weird place to meet for a one hour ride, as it takes 40 minutes to get there from my house.

A quick message last night sorted it all out, and Dan meant the bridge around Sefton Park, only 2 minutes from my house!! Doh! With a good dose of coffee I set off for my ride.

Just these past few weeks, with nice weather I’ve been getting out riding again. I’m pleased that my fitness isn’t too bad, but I’m starting to notice the slightly obsessive drive coming into it.

In the past, with my cycling, it went from something I enjoyed, to something I felt compelled to do. If I didn’t fancy a winter training ride and missed it I would beat myself up about it. Or if I went out and my legs felt terrible, I would feel down about that and get anxious.

The challenge for me now is to do cycling in a psychologically healthy way. It doesn’t mean I won’t be training a bit, or even doing a few races, but being more gentle with myself and focusing on the positive experiences that cycling gives me, rather than any feeling of compulsion towards performance.

Screenshot 2015-06-19 10.23.41

Day 20 – 20 new animals

Great fun, to find new animals I didn’t know about. This task was suggested by Fra and number 20 had to be an animal I thought she was pulling my leg about…….  Click on the names for a picture!

This is my favourite, the Ila Pika!


  1. Pinocchio Frog – Not made of wood, but has a good nose!
  2. Ila Pika  –  A weird cute bunny type thing
  3. Dumbo Octopus – Looks like a Pokemon to me…
  4. Sarcastic Fringehead – Terrifying
  5. Yeti Crab – Yup, they got the name right with this one.
  6. Barreleye – What the?? This is amazing!
  7. Goblin SharkBye bye fishy
  8. Star Nosed Mole – Yuck…
  9. Panda Ant – Awesome
  10. Leaf Tailed Geko
  11. Young Icefish
  12. Saiga Antelope
  13. Baiji – Apparently this weird dolphin has just become extinct….
  14. Long Beaked Echidna – Some ant eater type creature?
  15. Araripe Manakin – A pretty bird…
  16. Spoon-billed Sandpiper – Endangered species….
  17. Snub nosed monkey – This one looks less than impressed.
  18. Subterranean Blindfish – It’s got no eyes, see?
  19. Walking Catfish
  20. Slow Loris – They exist, and they can eat rice balls!

That was fun, it made me remember what a wonderful world we live in and the numerous joys we can have. Whilst looking at images on a computer is good learning, nothing beats going and finding bugs of your own and watching them go about their business.

Day 19 – 20 Miles

This was suggested by Joe who comes from a great cycle racing family, and Joe loves to ride round in circles really fast, or cycle up hills, again, really fast….. 1899871_10152686782005339_922632986186269361_n This is a pic of Joe smashing it up a 20% section on the Mow Cop hill climb I think…..

Anyway, to do 20 miles before breakfast in style I had one beer (10% chocolate stout) on Saturday night and got up at an ungodly hour to ride 24 miles from South Manchester to my breakfast destination which opened at 9am. Can you guess where it is yet??

It was cold and I regretted dressing like I was in the Giro d’Italia, thank god for the arm and knee warmers and my cape. I headed out past Manchester Airport and wondered whether there was a headwind, false flat or my legs were really not cut out for this anymore. I haven’t trained in months and became really anxious in the first hour about how I would get on.

I headed out to Alderley Edge and failed to find Swiss hill, then through Macclesfield to cycle up to my breakfast destination. I caught up with a guy on a touring bike who was going the same way, who I chatted to. I let him pace me gently up the climb as we talked about running 10Ks, Marathons, Astronomy and of course bikes…..

I hit my breakfast destination dead on 9am and went inside. The chef was not in yet and they didn’t have any cake, so I ended having a cup of coffee and a packet of crisps for breakfast. To be honest this was ideal.



So yes, its the Cat and Fiddle, which proudly proclaims itself as the 2nd Highest Pub in England! After a 15 minute stop I headed back down the fiddle, and turned right to descend into the Goyt Valley, where the sun came out and I saw these cuties,



I felt good, heard the weird calling of a bird above that I’m still trying to identify (like a mechanical whistling, a bit like the paraglider altitude meter, followed by an abrasive cha cha cha-ing, answers on the back of a postcard)

Lower down in Pott Shrigley the bluebells were beautiful carpets under the trees and I stopped to pick a couple and attached them to my handlebars. Not very pro and definitely got some weird looks from other cyclists as I smashed it into a headwind back. 6039136_4_bluebell-flower-wood-blue The last hour was great and my legs had remembered what to do, which gave me a lot of satisfaction. The trace of the ride is here……

Screenshot 2015-05-18 12.25.32

Thanks Joe, and I hope your training and racing goes well this year. You never know, you might see me out on the bike sometime…

Day 18 – Happy in 20 languages

A nice task from Helen, who is a colleague who works with data from the instrument I’ve been commissioning on the Liverpool Telescope during my PhD, and is doing cool work with blazars, which are jets from the central massive black holes in other galaxies. Anyway Helen suggested that I print out the word for Happy in 20 different languages and stick them on my mirror. I’m yet to do this, but pictures to follow….

  1. Spanish – Feliz
  2. German – Glücklich
  3. Italian – Felice
  4. Basque – Zoriontsu
  5. Chinese – 高兴
  6. Czech – šťastný
  7. Estonian – õnnelik
  8. Nepali – खुसी
  9. Hebrew – שמח
  10. Swedish – Lycklig
  11. Greek – ευτυχισμένος
  12. Polish – Szczęśliwy
  13. Bosnian – Sretan
  14. Russian – счастливый
  15. French – Heureux
  16. Filipino – Masaya
  17. Dutch – Gelukkig
  18. Maori – Hari
  19. Persian – خوشحال
  20. Norwegian – Glad

I hope you’re glad about the last one Helen, chosen for you 🙂

Day 17 – 20 sounds

A really cool task from Bron, who suggested I sit still and listen until I have heard 20 sounds. I had to try not to do the task straight away, and wait for the right day, as this is a great one, although I have been training a little. It is a fun thing that reconnects you with the joy of your surroundings and blocks out the chatter of other thoughts about issues that do not exist in that moment.

There are many schools of thought relating to original Buddhist teachings, but the core of the matter is that pain and suffering is actually created within ourselves. Worrying about the future, thinking about regrets of the past, thinking about matters in our busy lives, these are problems unique in scale to humans. Our brains allow us to do so much, yet with this complexity comes a capacity for us to be to caught up in our cognitive abilities. I love this cartoon from Zen Pencils, and the defining quote “It is a weird and glorious moment of self-awareness, the day you realise that you are the warden rather than the prisoner of your emotions.”  View it in full here


So anyway, the 20 things I’ve heard whilst sitting with the window open;

  1. The drone of car tyres as they are driving about
  2. The leaves of the trees rustling as their branches sway in the wind
  3. Birdsong
  4. Someone hammering?? Affixing something in their garden perhaps?
  5. The sound of my tongue shifting  on my palate
  6. A jet, lowish, so probably just taken off from John Lennon airport
  7. A different prop driven light aircraft, humming along the sky. The doppler shift as it passes is quite nice 🙂
  8. The sound of my breath at the point it enters my nostrils
  9. Wind causing my gas fire to clank (I did hear some cooing yesterday from pigeons on the chimney stack)
  10. The clack of laptop keys as I type this!
  11. The bristle noise as I stroke my chin.
  12. A creak from the newspaper on my desk as the desk shifts and it brushes the wall.
  13. Two neighbours having a quick chat.
  14. A diesel car going down the road and clanking a drain cover.
  15. The low hum of my speakers when not in use.
  16. The crack of my knuckles as I subconsciously fidget a bit.
  17. A clanking of an empty wheely bin being moved back inside.
  18. The starter motor of my neighbours car.
  19. The calling of a wood pigeon.
  20. My stomach giving a little rumble……must be time for breakfast!

Day 16 – 20 positive statements

This is a nice quick task, but actually a bit difficult. Sile suggested this who is the Mental Health and Wellbeing practitioner at Liverpool John Moores University. We both sing in the LJMU Wellbeing choir, which is a lot of fun. Sile, suggested that I type out 20 positive statements about myself.

I’m not sure if it is the British psyche or my mainly modest outlook, that makes this an uncomfortable task. I guess I could write down 20 things quite easily, but in a public way it does feel uncomfortable.

Mindfulness and meditation are increasingly being seen as useful tools in the west for mental wellbeing, and many studies have taken place showing that the Eastern contemplative practices actually physically change the human brain. In Buddhism one of the tools is called the Metta Bhavana, which translates as ‘loving kindness’ and is done in several steps. The first is to develop loving kindness towards yourself, which I have often found the most challenging. It is not meant to be an egotistical love, but more one of caring compassion, based on logical truths.

Obviously in a depressive state, you can quite often give into only giving thought to your negative actions, thoughts, feelings, traits and if this goes unchallenged or is not balanced by positive thoughts, you start to have a very negative view of yourself.

Anyway, with a bit of trepidation here are the 20 positive statements about myself that I know to be true and should feel less awkward about acknowledging.

  1. I have been a good and helpful friend to many people over the years.
  2. I have a lot of amazing friends.
  3. I can be creative and thoughtful.
  4. I’m healthy and able to pursue many different joys in the outdoors.
  5. I have a good scientific and engineering brain.
  6. I’m doing well at being good to myself at the moment.
  7. I’m not a bad singer.
  8. I’m good at talking to large groups of people.
  9. I’ve invested time in a wide and diverse range of interests.
  10. I’m lucky to have great colleagues at the Liverpool Telescope.
  11. I’m a very good bike mechanic.
  12. I’m caring.
  13. I’m a good baker and pretty decent cook.
  14. I’m doing a PhD in a subject I love and i have got there through my own merit (and a bit of luck!).
  15. I’m fantastic at making origami cranes!
  16. I’m generally non judgemental.
  17. I’m prompt and reliable (when I’m well)
  18. I’m good at teaching and enjoy sharing knowledge with people.
  19. I’m witty (according to a friend who writes comedy….)
  20. I’m doing pretty well with this blog.

Day 15 – Make a 20 pot window garden

The Gardening theme continues, with the creativeness and great kindness of Hannah and Manny! Hannah sent me some seeds through the post to create a 20 yoghurt pot windowsill garden.

Lacking 20 yoghurt pots, I managed to grab what was to hand. A tray and some old toilet roll inners. With a little bit of folding and cutting these make amazing, biodegradable germinators, that can be put straight into the larger pots when needed.


There was a packet with a huge number of cress seeds, and one with a tiny vial of strawberry seeds. I counted them and there seems to be 21! Ideal. I also had a strawberry to hand for scale…


The Cress seeds were scattered into the planter tray, then covered with a newspaper to promote germination.

Delicately placing the strawberry seeds into the compost was really good fun. It took concentration and made me look at the smallest bits of old organic matter that made up the soil. Looking closely at the world is such a great thing to do, and also getting your hands dirty is fun as well!

A couple of old jam jars and a cut up water bottle provided the covers and this should protect them from draughts, as they need to be kept at around 20 degrees C for a while. Thanks guys, I’ll get some photos of them as they grow!


Day 14 – 20 minutes doodling

Ok, this was a bit of a challenging task, but enjoyable none the less. Suggested by Claire, who has a fantastic aptitude for the brush stroke. Claire was kind enough to accept a commission from me containing my love of rabbits and all things extraterrestrial. This canvas is still proudly displayed on my wall and it’s so beautiful to have a bespoke work of art from a good friend.


So, you’re all free to compare and contrast. My skills with drawing are terrible, but sat in a sunny garden with a bit of inspiration I really enjoyed this task. I observed my surroundings, took my time and put a biro to paper.


Yes that really did take 20 minutes….

Thanks Claire, I’m sorry if these bunnies are not good enough for the fridge.

Day 13 – 20 minutes gardening

This task was aptly suggested by Michelle. She works at growing well, near Kendal, which is a cooperative organic farm. They have system of referrals from GPs in South Cumbria which allows people with metal health issues to volunteer at the farm, and by working and socialising as part of a group (not to mention working directly with nature) can help them with their illnesses. Well that’s my understanding anyway.

From their website they say “Growing Well’s core aim is to offer opportunities for people recovering from mental health problems to build their confidence and skills. Our team members get involved in a wide range of tasks within our farm-based enterprise.” I’m looking forward to heading up and joining in sometime when my thesis is handed in. You can find out more about the Wellbeing element of growing well here  

So I managed to find someone with a garden on Saturday, who required some gardening help. I dug some old soil from the beds where we had removed some tree roots the week before. This was replaced with a load of enriched soil from the quail enclosure! Awesome little creatures.


Once the soil was leveled and pushed down (hilarious pogoing in wellies technique) we went around some recycling bins of the neighbors to find 2 litre and smaller drinks bottles. These were cut up and with the addition of a can of Tetley’s we produced some slug traps. Apparently slugs have a suicidal liking for beer! I’ll have to find out if we have caught any…

Cheers to Fran for the Breakfast which was boiled quail eggs, avocado, nutella, coffee and some nice wholemeal bread 🙂

Day 12 – 20 ‘feelgood’ muffins

Baker extraordinaire Jo suggested this. This is the person who baked 30 varieties of cakes for her 30th Birthday! I remember the cakes and the full stomach very well. I think I only managed to sample 6 or 8 types whilst others were more tactical at the party and were consuming quarter cup cakes with a cake syndicate.

The muffins were done vaguely to this recipe, but with pine nuts and chopped dates. It says makes 6-8 muffins, so I doubled the ingredients. It turns out that they would be 6-8 large coffee shop style muffins and not these little ones, so I did two trays plus had loads leftover to do in a flat dish.

Going to take them into work tomorrow 🙂