Permaculture; a new word for you.

Periodically I like to rant.  That’s one of the best things about blogging – you can let go a bit if you really want to.  One of my fave rants is about sustainability; how eternal growth is impossible and that nothing lasts for ever.  You can see past rants about this here and here.

Then I get this call from Faheemah Luqman who in the sweetest of Jamaican accents tells me about Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) and asks me for my advise on how to promote her visitor-friendly and wholly sustainable eco-resort project Blue Paradise farms.  Like.

Here is a woman who has put her life savings behind a project to create a mecca for Permaculture in Westmoreland, Jamaica.  And she’s looking for students to come and learn about how to live and farm sustainably.  She’s devised courses and gathered teachers who are qualified in soil improvement, water management, solar energy and construction all with an eye to a harmonious relationship with nature to make our lives more sustainable and productive whilst reducing the work required.

If, like me, you believe that sooner or later and not by choice but through deliberation we will all have to think this way then check her out at or share this blog with others who might be interested or think they might be able to help.

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Three villages in Cambridgeshire; a 7k run.

Generally speaking I like trails, not roads. But when the roads are country lanes or when there is a mix of road and trail I’m pretty happy. I also generally like to know where I’m going but when you’re in a flat landscape it’s fun to just strike out with a rough idea of where you’re going and just chug round the lanes taking left after left after left (or R, R, R) and hey presto, you end up where you started.  Eventually.  Usually…

Sanger_Institute_and_Hinxton_Hall,_Cambridge,_UKThe village of Hinxton where I started is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Hestitona. It’s also the home of the Sanger Institute – they of the human genome project where DNA was first sequenced so it brackets a whole millennium.  From the north end of the High Street take a left down Mill Lane to see the restored 17th Century mill then join Duxford Rd. and follow your nose over the River Cam (it’s a wet ford but there’s a bridge for runners and dog-walkers – Labradors are expected to wade) and the main Cambridge to London Railway crossing on to Duxford village.

Duxford is best known for its Air Museum but it to has a history that is known to go back to the 10th century when it was known as to Dukeswrthe meaning “The enclosure of Duc” – we don’t know who Duc was but I bet he was teased as a child what with a name like that. The Airfield was active in WW2 and was the home of the famously legless Douglas Bader’s Squadron.bader

Jog down Duxford’s main St Peter’s St to join Ickleton Rd with a left. You leave Duxford village on this wide road (not too much traffic and a wide grass verge if you prefer the soft stuff). It’s about 1.5m to Ickleton and on this leg you get a good feel for the Cambidgeshire countryside. The views are long and the sky is wide. You can see rain approaching in the distance but it can miss you by miles. Bright pools of sunshine steal across dark, loamy fields and crows scatter as the bird scarers crack.

Into Ickleton, probably the most historic of all three of these pretty Cambridgeshire villages. Too much to write here but one early occupant rejoiced in the name of Alsi Squitrebil so there’s another unhappy schoolchild ill wager.

Hook the first left as you enter the village and stick to Brookhampton Street which will take you past impossibly old buildings, leaning like cripples, inwards towards each other as if to share their secrets.

Brookhampton Street takes you to back to Hinxton – you’ll see Hinxton High Street on your left after only another mile or so where if you have time you should stop for a refreshing pint of “Rusty Bucket” from The Red Lion before heading home.

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The sadness of the winter mow.

All things have their season.  Their moment in the sun.  As I drag the mower from my shed for the last time this year I glance skywards to see if I have the minutes I know I will need to finish the job before the heavens open and moment is lost to bleak rain.

The winter mow is not a happy ritual.  It is the closing ceremony to the summer’s games, a recognition of the inevitable onset of the new season, an acceptance of celestial supremacy.


I rake crisp leaves and pine needles to prepare the way, each pile a palette of golds and browns.  The grass is studded with small and fragile fungi, damp with cold, mingling with the autumn fruits.  There is sun, but weak and low it is more of a privilege than a right.

The Hayter coughs then fires, settling to a steady thrum.  Together we lurch out as I engage the drive.  A warm October has fuelled a thickening of the grass which is eagerly consumed leaving ordered strips of  lawn, pocked with flattened worm-casts and fringed by a fine blend of ground grass and leaves.  Roses look on, once fat and splendid now withered-limp and mildewed.  I bump over fir-cones, hearing them vaporise in the blades like moths in a fan.

The job done, the mower is parked amid spiders, cans and tools.  I imagine it hearing me, its jailer, lock the shed and recede; knowing that the frequency of summer weekend visiting-hours will change now.  Frosts will come and days will shorten.  The wildlife know this and like me they head for protection.  As the engine cools its heart ticks, rapid at first then slowing.  Eventually to silence.

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Decisiveness; how it works, maybe…

I got to talking about decisiveness the other day.  I watched someone who generally does make good decisions being tortured by indecisiveness.  Weighing up pros and cons, reaching a conclusion and then acting on it can, for some people, be an intensely painful experience.  And it can defy logic – we’re all familiar with trying to help someone make their mind up only for them to choose what you think is completely the wrong thing despite the evidence.


So what goes into making a decision and how might one be guided to making the right one?  Here’s how it works:

1. Choice has two paths: do something or do nothing.  Each of these is an active decision with varying degrees of impulsiveness with an outcome which will be either positive or negative.

2. Impulse is our on-board decision-making engine and its accuracy is determined by the amount of experience it has to draw upon.  Rely on it and you’ll get more positive outcomes than not.

3. Both impulsive and considered decisions are governed by varying amounts of desire and experience.

4. Desire and experience can easily get out of balance turning a good decision bad: too much desire & not enough experience = greed, ramifications, selfishness.  Too much experience & not enough desire = caution, deliberation, risk, regret.

This can be expressed in a formula for decision-making that looks like this:

q = ((c-e)xj) x (BS+BO) / o

where q = quality of the decision, c = cost, e = effort, j = joy, BS = benefit to self, BO = benefit to others and o = outcome.

Use this easy formula each time you feel a bout of indecisiveness coming on and you’ll be right every time!  To get you started, put it to the test on the important decisions that confront you as you travel through your daily routine:

- Getting dressed: Y-fronts or boxers?

- Sausage rolls: Wenzels or Greggs?

- Exercise: Go for a run or watch telly and drink beer?

- Music: Beyonce or Jessie J?

- Technology: Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy?

- Politics: Nigel Farrage or David Cameron?

I look forward to hearing from those of you who have turned their lives around (and those of others) with this simple idea.

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Human 2.0? Why it’ll never work.

Some years ago now and shortly after they were launched, I bought an iPad.  It was the earliest version and for a brief moment in time I was the proud owner of a new, the newest, technology format.

Not long afterwards the second and then the third version came out with cameras, retina screens and so on.  Now, many of the apps I want to use on my modest non-retina screen and IOS 4(?) no longer want to update, telling me in a rather patronising way to upgrade to IOS 6 or later if I want to be in the club.  I liked my iPad and was quite happy with the basic model but I’m able to use it less and less and soon it will become unusable due to its incompatibility with the very things it was supposed to be used for.

“Nothing is so easy that we do not appreciate it being easier” 

I heard a woman say that on the train today and elegantly put it sums up the problem.  We always want things to be easier, faster and better.  We, and the companies that produce our consumer goods are addicted to this cycle and I wonder how and if it will ever stop.

Strangely though, and somewhat reassuringly, human beings and the biology that goes to make them is steadfastly refusing to upgrade.  Our bodies are so Windows 95.  So Ford Anglia.  So Nokia 6310, so retro.

Humans were ecstatic when we broke the 4-minute mile in 1954.  Since then we’ve shaved all of 16 seconds off that.  Good, but no cigar. Instead of improving, human biology is actually getting less efficient as we succumb to clever viruses and the germs we find antibiotics for learn to ignore them faster than we can re-design them.

Efforts to update our bodies are at best temporary and in most cases epic fails.  I’m not suggesting we all turn into robots or terminator-style bionics.  No, I think of it the other way.  Let’s start a revolution against the pace of change and take a moment to enjoy the things we have or as John Lydon put it to Jon Snow this week “bloody learn to love each other properly”.

You can see the John Lydon interview  for now at least here:

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The Move Partnership

This week I finally finished a new video for a charity called The Move Partnership.  It’s a mini-documentary about the work they do for disabled kids at a School called Lakeside.  I wrote about it before in “Why we must never take running for granted“.

Now that the film is done, you can see the impact that a structured combination of education, physio and other activities can completely change the lives of severely disabled kids and in doing so the lives of their parents and carers too.

This video was produced pro bono via so if you want to support the charity you can do so by donating at

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Paris review; more do’s than don’ts

Just back from a short break in Paris. It’s been quite a while since I was there and it was a most enjoyable refresh of a city with high scores on art, history, architecture, weather and food for any city in the world. I took a new camera with me too – a Sony A7 which underwent a rigourous trial and came through with flying colours.

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Staying on the edge of town (17th) albeit in a nice little hotel (Hotel de Banville) was probably a mistake as regular taxi rides into the more interesting areas proved expensive. Still, we digested plenty of good stuff and if you’re planning a trip, here are some do’s and don’ts:

- Visit Le Marais district – can’t believe I never went there before. Gorgeous little streets, cafe’s (Bar du Marche), shops and spaces (Place des Vosges). I can understand why French nobility chose to live there since the 16th Century.

- Have lunch in L’atlas, Rue de Buci it’s pure Paris and a seafood delight, fresh as you like and good value too.

- Drink chilled Bandol rose with your moules, just do it. I didn’t think I liked Rose till I tried this. It’s divine.

- Visit Galleries Lafayette and admire the glass dome but don’t buy anything. It’s very expensive.

- Go to the Musee D’Orsay and see the impressionists gallery.  Bet you’ll recognise something in every room.  Unquestionably the best art Gallery I’ve ever been to – there’s even a Frank Brangwyn painting there (Swansea boy) and free to all on every first Sunday of the month.

- Skip the vascular monstrosity that is the Pompidou Centre unless you want to see what a town planning disaster looks like.  Parisians hate it.  And while the sunset from the Georges restaurant on the 6th floor is excellent the food there is average.

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