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More Thoughts of a Walking Commuter

Finally I get a chance to update my blog! It has been a busy week or two on all fronts and right now I’m just really looking forward to getting a bit of a break over Christmas. It feels like ages since I’ve done anything with my camera and as I have two more days of annual leave to take before the end of the year I’m hoping to put that right soon.

Yes, I’m keeping up with the walking commute. Heaven knows if I really am losing any weight because I still can’t face the idea of stepping onto the scales. There’s also the thought that it seems pointless now, something I should have done before I started all this.

I was wondering whether I would have the fortitude to keep it going on cold, wet, dark days - but they don’t seem to be deterring me. Sure, I’ve had a couple of mornings when I’ve just not wanted to get out of bed - but they used to happen when I was driving to work too.

Blisters are no longer a problem, and haven’t been since I invested in the new shoes and the wonderful Thousand Mile Socks which I would heartily recommend to anyone. I’m getting faster (record time now 1 hour 2 minutes) sweating a bit less and not taking as long to recover - all signs of getting fitter I guess. And yes, I have recently had to move my belt to a previously unexplored notch!

A few reflections on the state of transport, with a particular emphasis on my walking experiences follow. I doubt that this will ever come to the attention of anyone at Leicester City Council - and if it does then I’m sure nothing will come of it other than maybe a sarcastic comment. I have such faith in government!

  • Pedestrian Crossings. These are pretty well useless. They have a button that I think is only there for the pedestrian to take out his / her frustration upon. I generally find that I press the button and then the light doesn’t change until after all the traffic has gone by anyway. Also they just seem to wait for a whole cycle of the traffic lights before they do anything. The amount of time they give you to cross the road is fine for me, but I would imagine that it’s nowhere near enough time for those who are little slower, have small children with them etc. Useful thing seen during my trip to Colorado earlier this year - pedestrian crossings that count down how much time you have left to cross the road in seconds. Good idea - why can’t we have those? Oh and make the lights give a bit more favour to the pedestrians please. Give us a chance to cross the road more often. Worst junction to cross : University Road and Regent Road. I have to wait for ages every time I cross this. Streams of cars and busses pass in all directions, great herds of pedestrians build up and wait for minute, after minute, after minute until a mad scramble to cross the road in the incredibly short time given to us. Leicester City Council, hint : this is University Road. There are a lot of students and students walk a lot.
  • Fumes. Humm, Leicester was declared Britain’s ‘First Environment City’ more years ago than I can remember (I’ve only just discovered this web site - I will be off to read it shortly). If this is the case then how come we have such an abysmal public transport system? How come that all the buses are puthering out such choking clouds of diesel? Why is it that I feel a need for a face mask to keep the pollution out of my lungs? (not wearing one yet - but it seems a sensible idea). It’s disgusting. We need more public transport and we need cleaner public transport. Where are the electric buses? Where are the trams? The Leicester Mercury has featured proposal after proposal for ‘new transport systems’ over the years (yes, I remember the diagrams showing just how the monorail would look when it was installed - that must be 20 years ago now). How come not one of them has ever actually happened?
  • Buses. When I first started this whole walking to work initiative I discovered that I could walk all the way into work in the same time it took to get the bus from door to door. That is frankly a terrible service. And for this service the bus company charges £1.50 each way. £3 a day when I can walk it in the same time? It’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.
  • Motorists. And yes, I am still one of these, though not as often as previously. Motorists please remember to use your indicators - they’re those little orange flashing lights that tell people you’re intending to make a turn. I know it’s a lot of effort, I mean you have to move your fingers all of an inch or two to activate them - but your sacrifice really will be appreciated not only by other vehicles, but by people trying to cross side roads. Pedestrian crossings - these are those areas where people (children, your grandma and yes, even fat middle aged IT professionals) are trying to move to the other side of the road. They tend to be designated by traffic lights, stripes on the road - that kind of thing. People are both soft on the outside and crunchy on the inside and yes, they are real people with lives of their own and families and people who love them even though they are walking. Please do not move your car onto a pedestrian crossing if there is no space to move fully over it. Believe me, doing this does not make you look smart, it does not make you look clever - it makes you look a total tosser who doesn’t know how to drive. If you can’t see the pedestrian crossing then you really shouldn’t get into a car again until you’ve had your eyes checked. Same goes for if you can’t see to the other side of the pedestrian crossing for detection of enough free space for your car. Ok? I recently saw a news article on the BBC web site about some bollards that had been installed in Manchester that sink into the road to let busses pass and then rise up again after they’ve gone by (really, really well worth watching the video, so much so I’m going to repeat the link here though I had to change the link to YouTube as I couldn’t get the Beeb webby to play for some reason). We could do with those installing at pedestrian crossings. Maybe that would get the message over to drivers? We have those little square metal stud things in the road either side of the crossings (what do they actually do by the way?) - how about swapping those for some of these bollards? Please?


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You know it’s going to be a bad day when…

…You’ve walked to work, worked up a good sweat, go have a shower… and then the fire alarm goes off *rolls eyes*. I’m going to catch my death…

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These Feet Are Made For Walking - Part 2

It’s over a week since my last post on this subject and after receiving quite a bit of encouragement both online and in ‘The Real World’ I thought I’d post an update.

Earlier today I noticed that a fellow member of the Tips From The Top Floor forums, Mandy, had obviously traced my blog (not hard, it’s in my sig on every post there) and left me some very encouraging words. Although weight loss wasn’t a primary initiative for starting to walk into work, thinking about it - it ain’t a bad bonus! I had no idea how many calories I would burn up doing the walk and finding out (roughly) has rather surprised me!

Okay, here’s the truth. I have no idea how much I weigh. Well, I’ll revise that a bit, I do have some idea, but that idea is a very nasty one and I don’t want to step on a pair of scales to find out. So, in looking at charts to find out how many calories I’m burning I’m making a rough guess, a very rough guess. But it is going to be over 1000 calories a day, pretty well over I think. Of course, the law of diminishing returns is going to apply here - as I start to lose weight it’ll take less effort to walk so I’ll use fewer calories - bummer!

I keep looking down to see if there’s any signs of my feet poking out from beneath my belly, but they remain distant strangers. Which is probably just as well considering what I’ve put them through recently! A few people have said that I look as if I’ve lost some weight, but I’ve not noticed any change myself and I think they are just being ‘encouraging’ - and thanks to them for that!

The blisters I gave myself a couple of weeks ago are still healing really but they’re not a problem. No, the problems seem to be working up from my feet. At the moment it’s my ankles and shins which seem to be feeling the punishment most. I guess it might be the impact of walking on concrete and tarmac all the time, but there really isn’t an alternative on my route into work.

I am working my way up gradually, that’s something I’d not pointed out before. So I started at a couple of days a week, I’m up to three days now. As Mandy pointed out in her comment, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go from nothing to 45 miles a week. I’m at 27 miles a week now, and that’s 27 miles more than I did before. Today I had a ‘rest day’ and used the car. The only side of driving into work that I like is that I can get out of bed later. I really would rather be walking it now.

Why do I prefer walking? Well, as I said in my first posting on this subject it gives me time to think about things and it means I get to work less stressed. Okay, I do get to work hotter and sweatier - but there are showers so that’s not a problem. Walking also helps me to actually see some of the world around. Sure, it’s all through suburbia so nothing stunning to look at, but I notice things more when I’m walking - the leaves on the trees, the smells in the air (bleugh - exhaust fumes) - there’s a baker about half way in that I didn’t even know was there before and now I get a wonderful blast of fresh baked bread as I walk by. You get to see the same people every day too - others walking back from work or University or whatever. The same faces - you get to recognise people and give them a nod and a smile as you walk by.

I have at least endured a couple of wet morning walks into work now. I was wondering if that would put me off, but it hasn’t. It has shown me that my coat is total pants however! It’s supposed to be waterproof and breathable and it’s neither. It probably started out that way, but I’ve had it for years and I guess it has just given up now. I could really do with a new one anyway. The old one is bright yellow as well as being poor at the job it’s designed for. I bought it with hill walking in mind, thinking that Mountain Rescue would see me more easily in something bright yellow. I’ll have to wait for a bit to get a replacement though given current financial circumstances.

This has been long and rambling, so I’ll finish for now by saying that I do feel so much better since starting the walk. Okay, my legs have ached, my feet have been sore, I’ve got wet, I’ve got cold but the payback is that I’m already feeling much more able to do physical activity of all kinds. Can only be a good thing!

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Remembrance Sunday

Okay, I’m a day late posting this!

Yesterday morning I decided to head down to Leicester’s Welford Road Cemetery with my camera. Now, I know some of you may think that’s an odd thing to do, but this isn’t just any old cemetery you see. Welford Road Cemetery was only the third of the great municipal cemeteries to open in the country. It has been described as ‘The Highgate of the Midlands’. There are lots of wonderful Victorian ‘gothicesque’ monuments and like most places of this kind, it’s a little green haven of peace and quiet in the middle of the city.

The main reason for my visit was to try and shoot some of those wonderful Victorian monuments. I’d walked around the place several times before although I hadn’t visited for quite a few years. I guess my memory was jogged as I now walk by here twice a day (I used to drive by, not quite the same) and I enjoy the little stretch of road with relatively fresh air and the smell of forestry.

Over recent years quite a bit of restoration work has been performed at the cemetery. The old wooden fence has been replaced by metal railings, all of the memorials have been checked for safety and many have been worked on, or are being worked on to restore the ravages of vandalism and time.

The site where the chapels used to stand (demolished in 1958) has been marked out with a series of 100 plaques which will in time be used to give details of 100 of the most interesting burials located within the cemetery.

In all, around one million pounds has been spent on the renovation work so far.

So, I started walking around and firing off shots like the one below of some of the wonderful Victorian masonry. I know some people will find this a little macabre, or just plain not to their taste. Others might question my motives in taking photographs of graves. I have to say that what went through my mind as I fired off shot after shot was what would the Victorians who commissioned these grandiose memorials think about images of these being visible to millions of people all over the world?

And as I wondered around the avenues I noticed a couple of things. Firstly, the rich and powerful still dominate even after death. Many of the ‘prime locations’ were taken up with enormous edifices that must have cost a small fortune to install. Secondly I started seeing small crosses bearing poppies on the graves of war dead.

Now I was aware that it was Remembrance Sunday, but I’d never seen this before. I found it quite touching to see these crosses with names, dates and details all meticulously and neatly hand written on them. It also drew my attention to just how many burials there were in this cemetery from the World Wars of the 20th century.

This seemed a little odd to me at first. After all, here I was in Leicester - far away from the battle fields of continental Europe. And yet here were soldiers who had fallen at the Battle of the Somme, and there were some who had died well after hostilities had ended. Then I remembered that Leicester had been home to a military hospital, indeed it had stood very close to the cemetery where the buildings of Leicester University now are. I’m sure that is the explanation for many of the graves I saw - these were the wounded who were returned home and sadly did not make it.

I visited the World War One Memorial within the cemetery. I shot a few photos of all the poppies (see image at start of this posting) and just stood and reflected in silence on the ages I was seeing on all these little crosses. 18 years of age, 22 years old, 37, 19… All of them younger than me when they were killed, some of them half my age or less. Sobering to say the least.

Near the end of my visit I dropped into the new ‘visitor centre’ and chatted with the warden there. He told me that this year they had put out over 500 of these little crosses all over the cemetery, a task that must have taken a considerable effort. And not only in the physical distribution of them all, but also in the research of all of the details for each casualty. Now, after Remembrance Sunday they will all be collected in again and the research will continue for more details of the war dead buried here. It seems like an enormous task.


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These Feet Are Made For Walking

Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with walking to and from work each day. It’s 4.5 miles each way and takes me just over an hour to walk. Now, crazy as it might sound - it can take me very nearly that long to drive to work sometimes. And taking the bus takes about the same as walking from door to door. Weighing things up I decided that it might be worth giving it a bash.

I used to pay money to go to a gym and I remember thinking at the time that if I just walked to the gym rather than driving, well - I wouldn’t need to go to the gym and I could save myself some money!

I’ve learned a lot from my experiments over the last few weeks. Good shoes are essential, as are good socks. I gave myself awful blisters from wearing poor shoes and socks that let my feet slip around too much. So this weekend I invested in some good Merrell shoes and a pair of Thousand Mile walking socks. These have two ’skins’ to prevent your foot from rubbing. Great investment!

The new regime is going pretty well now that I’m over the blister problems. Every time I walk I’m feeling less knackered and I’m sweating less even on a relatively mild day like today. Energy and stamina haven’t been a problem at any point, although I do notice that I’m ‘recovering’ more quickly already.

Walking gives me time to think about things and is one hell of a lot less stressful than driving to work. The traffic is so bad where I live that I would usually arrive at work stressed out before I even began work. Walking gives me time to think about the day ahead and I get to work feeling energised, alert, awake and alive.

I’ll just have to see if I can convince myself to keep up with it during the wet, dark, icy months that are ahead now!


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Back Home Again

We’ve been back from our trip to Colorado for two weeks now. It took me almost a week to get over the jet-lag this time. I never seem to have much problem flying West, but coming back East always seems to floor me. It was worse than normal this time because I was ‘hitting the ground running’, straight into a lot of projects at work and some early mornings and late nights.

All through that first week I was almost gasping for the weekend. But that weekend just happened to be the weekend of the Leicester Marathon, which my employers were sponsoring this year. Long, long ago I’d expressed an interest in going along to shoot some photos and this had been remembered. So, another early start, but well worth it. It was very inspiring to see all these people running marathons and half marathons, including our Chief Exec. who was running a marathon for the first and (he claims) last time. He finished in 3 hours 48 minutes, a really great effort. There was also the manager of one of our stores running the half marathon, although she had never run more than three miles in her life before. She finished in 2 hours 32. And I felt knackered just watching (and taking photos).

Finally this weekend I managed to relax a bit and I got out to Rushton Triangular Lodge to kick back and take some photos. I didn’t end up with anything spectacular, but I enjoyed taking time out with my camera.



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40 - 1

Well, today I hit my 39th birthday… which I guess means I’m into my 40th year. It was the first time I’d spent my birthday outside the UK. We left Shelly with her grandparents for the day and headed into Denver to snap a few photos. We had a little look at the Colorado State Capitol Building and then made our way up to Molly Brown’s House, though we didn’t go inside. Then it was along the 16th Street Mall just to look at all the groovy painted cows they have down there at the moment.

After we’d finished off downtown we headed up into the foothills of the mountains near Idaho Springs. We ended up driving up Lookout Mountain and visiting Buffalo Bill’s Grave, mostly for the great views of Denver you get from there.

When we got home we found Shelly had decorated the place with balloons to celebrate my birthday and then we sat down to a great birthday dinner of steak and birthday cake! Can’t go far wrong!

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Bugs and Butterflies

Just time for a quick update before bed. Today we headed out to a butterfly house that Shelly had really enjoyed last year. They have a lot of other creepy crawlies too and we all got to have a tarantula crawl over us. Lots of photos to process from that trip, but the one below is my favorite so far.

butterfly 1

After that I was heading out to pick up my new suit ready for the wedding on Saturday and spent the rest of the day just ‘catching up’. As the sun started to go down I headed over the road to the vacant plot which gives me a good clear view of the mountains. As the sun sank behind them I was firing away, trying hard to get shots that didn’t reveal the houses too much. The mountains are about 40 miles away from here, so there’s a lot of sky in the shots I took.

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Mountain Man

As you can see, we got up into the mountains yesterday. This was one I snapped of myself using my Sigma 10-20mm lens at about 12,000 feet. The air was noticeably a bit thinner up there and by the time we reached this point I was feeling a little fuzzy headed. The sun was great, though it did make it rather too easy to blow out the highlights when shooting with the snow around.

The tallest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis at 4,409 feet, so up here I was getting on for three times that altitude and there were 12K to 13K mountains all around. I have a map and I’m hoping to be able to identify a few of the mountains I was seeing at a later date - too many to make a note of on the day.

I’ll post some more photos once I get some post processing done.

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Arrival in Denver

We flew out to Denver on 23rd September for a two week break. The nine hour flight direct from Heathrow was fine and the extra security measures really weren’t too much bother at all.

It was getting dark by the time we arrived at Linda’s parents’ house, so my first real chance to see the mountains was this morning. I went out for a short walk with Linda’s father, Bob, and his dog Hank and snapped the following picture from just around the corner from the house.

 

Breakfast was next, and a welcome visit to the Golden Corral which saw me fulfilling my desire to stuff myself with pancakes and waffles.

More updates once we’ve settled in a bit more!


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