Department of Coffee and Social Affairs coming to Canary Wharf

While out for a walk this morning, I noticed that there’s a new coffee shop coming to Westferry Circus here in Canary Wharf: the brilliantly-named Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. I’ve only visited one of their outlets, the one around the corner from Liverpool Street. If memory serves, the coffee was delicious – but I was in a rush.

I’ll check them out once open and will of course report back here. It’s a short walk from my apartment and could be a new Saturday morning routine hangout, if they don’t mind me hanging around the place…

Again, what a superb name for a coffee shop!

A lunchtime dash

Being my own boss and working from home regularly means I can ‘step out’ of work when it suits me. And today at lunchtime, it definitely suited me.

Although really cold, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I’d spent the morning huddled over my keyboard, furiously re-writing a new workshop, so I needed some exercise.

Shoulder-pain aside, I was up for a run, so I grabbed my gear and headed out into the sunshine and the riverside. I love running by the Thames as there’s such a sense of space and there’s always something interesting to look at.

Even if it’s the hordes of other runners who take a lunchtime dash around the docklands. I’d forgotten about them!

I got as far as Tower Bridge and headed back through St. Katherine Docks and around Shadwell Basin, which despite its name, looked glorious in the sunshine… plenty of wildlife floating on its eerily-still surface, while the Canary Wharf skyscrapers were almost perfectly reflected in the water.

I’m still using Apple Fitness on my Apple Watch, rather than Nike+, to track my running. It seems accurate enough and I just want to maintain a log so I can see performance improvements. I’ve no triathlons in the calendar this year!

9km in 50mins isn’t my fastest ever run – not by a long shot – but I was trying to avoid aggravating my shoulder any more than necessary and was also plagued by some unhelpful cramp in my calf muscles. Humph.

All the same, it was really enjoyable and something I really should do more of seeing as a) my boss is such a supportive (and good looking) chap and b) I live so close to the river.

Beating the meat sweats

I’m really not proud of myself this evening. I’ve done absolutely nothing except eat far too much and then regret my actions. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Yesterday evening, @FrankDJS booked us brunch at the local ‘Big Easy‘, kicking off at 11:30am. My plan was therefore simple: get up early, go for a run, then reward myself with an all-you-can-eat brunch of various meats. It’s worked well in the past. 

It worked out beautifully. Except I spent an extra hour in bed instead of a run and I consumed enough meat to feed a small family. The BigEasy’s ‘Big Pig Gig’, outlined below, gives unlimited food and prosecco for the extremely reasonable price of £29.50. My deeply unscientific estimate is that I consumed about three time’s that amount in meat alone. Not counting the few glasses of prosecco. 


I’m not critiquing the staff at the Big Easy – the service was great, they were attentive and generous with the food and drink, and had no way of knowing that my stomach resembles a black hole when it comes to buffet or all-you-can-eat situations. Rather than a marketing gimmick, I see this phrase as a challenge and almost always rise to it. 

We finished eating at just after 1:30pm. Two solid hours of pulled pork, BBQ beans, ribs, chicken, corn bread and Prosecco. I’ll admit there was some conversation thrown in too, but not much. We two became a meat processing team. And the team at Big Easy refilled our plates regularly and with glee. Our glasses too. 

Despite finishing our meal-slash-pork-orgy so early in the day, I haven’t touched food since. No mid-afternoon snack, no coffee, no dinner. Only water. I was hit with big-time meat sweats and @FrankDJS had to have a lie down. I managed to stay awake and then spent an hour in the sauna to expedite the sweating. I think it actually worked, as I feel a lot more human now. 

But still, there’s no chance of me eating anything this evening. I’d like to say I’ve learnt my lesson, but I think we all know I’ll be back at the Big Easy again soon. It’s too tempting an offer and too good a meal to pass up. 

I’ll just need to clear my calendar for the rest of the day.

A musical pal

On my way back from Cheltenham on Friday night, I passed though Paddington Station (which, bizarrely, now seems to smell almost permanently of burnt cooking oil and chips…). Stink and slightly drunk Friday night commuters aside, I was surprised to find a brass band performing at the end of one of the platforms!

They were from one of the railway companies and consisted of employees playing a selection of well-known tunes. The band attracted quite a crowd and as I got closer, I discovered why so many of my fellow commuters were leaning in to take photos with their smartphones.

One of the trumpet players was accompanied by a little friend, sat patiently next to him and watching everything else going on in the busy station.

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He had the air of a dog who has seen a few concerts in his time and was very happy to be photographed. He didn’t budge from the towel he sat on (presumably to save him from the cold floor tiles) and looked up at each person taking his photo.

After I took a couple of pics of the little fellow, (I’m a complete and utter sucker for a cute dog), I stood back to enjoy the music for a few minutes. I noticed how so many others had gathered around, not just to look at the dog, but to enjoy the music. Smiles everywhere and a lovely feeling of shared enjoyment and positivity.

A few moments on Google revealed that they were the Great Western Railway Band, who play at Paddington every Friday evening. As a non-communter, I’m lucky not to have to pass through Paddington at 9pm on a Friday night. But if I were, I know I’d enjoy listening to this band and the positivity they created in the station.

Royal Parks half-marathon 2016

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I live! I didn’t just survive this year’s Royal Parks half-marathon, I enjoyed every minute of it! It was, as ever, a well organised and very picturesque race. But the addition of some unexpected sunshine was simply an added bonus.

My pacing was a little off due to navigating early crowds and needing to stop for an emergency toilet break about a kilometre in. Nerves! But the remainder of the race was a joy. I kept up with the pace-setters aiming for a 2:00 finish. Bear in mind that while my personal best on this course is 1:42, I didn’t think that was realistic. Instead, I aimed for an injury-free sub-2:00 run.

And I succeeded! I came in at 1:56. Hot. Sweaty. Exhausted. But elated.

I had enough in the tank for a final sprint, but I somehow managed to hurt my left should doing so. I know – only I cold hurt my shoulder while running. A few painkillers and a snooze on the couch later and it’s a lot better. I’m guessing it was due to some overly-vigorous arm-pumping over the final 400m.

And now for some photos of the morning, courtesy of @FrankDJS who gallantly accompanied me to the race, held my valuables and snapped me as I ran around in the sunshine.

The best news was that as I passed over the finishing line, I got an alert on my watch letting me know of another sponsorship pledge, taking me over the £500 mark. All raised for Epilepsy Action. If you’d like to add a pound, euro or dollar to this, you can do so via this link.

Royal Parks Half – here we go!

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I’m sitting in my kitchen, sipping a coffee and preparing to get dressed. At 0900, I’ll start the Royal Parks half-marathon and run 13 miles / 21km around London’s stunning parks.

All in aid of Epilepsy Action.

Training has gone well and I’ve been very pleased with my longer runs, both in terms of pace and energy. Today’s the day it’s all been leading up to and I have to admit I’m slightly nervous. And excited! I’ve genuinely enjoyed my last few long runs and hope today is as fun.

I’m aiming to finish, injury-free. And I’m aiming to beat my last race time of 2:02. I don’t anticipate smashing my personal best of 1:42, but let’s see how the morning goes!

If you’d like to support my fundraising, you can donate a pound, euro, dollar or any other currency via this link. It all goes towards Epilepsy Action’s great work in education and advocacy for those living this with most common of neurological conditions.

See you on the other side!

Finally! Matcha green tea frappuccinos in London

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They’ve been a guilty pleasure on every trip I’ve taken to Asia…a visit to a Starbucks for a delicious matcha green tea frappuccino. Malaysia. Singapore. Japan. It’s always the same.

That said, I’m not normally a frappuccino drinker – if I go to Starbucks, I have a very ordinary coffee. No syrups, no cappuccino, nothing flash. And especially no pumpkin spice abominations!

But the green tea frappuccino is something else. Made with matcha, ice and some cream, it’s ice cold, definitely not too sweet and very refreshing. I know that matcha is an acquired taste – but it’s one that I acquired on my first visit to Japan four years ago.

And despite the extensive menu in London’s Starbucks coffee shops, they’ve never offered this delicious green tea concoction here.

It was purely by chance that @FrankDJS came across them within the Starbucks app. A couple of hours later, we were in our local Starbucks in Canary wharf, quaffing one each and reliving some very tasty memories.

I’ll be honest. It doesn’t taste 100% the same, but it was enough to trigger happy memories of drinking one while looking out on Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and that’s fine by me.

They’re definitely not an ‘everyday’ drink, given how calorific they are, but for an occasional treat, they’re excellent. Let me know if you’re a fan or if you’ve been inspired to  try one!

Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera

I’ve had the new iPhone 7 Plus for a little over a week, but I’ve still managed to put it through its paces, indoors and out, and I thought I’d share a few of those photos here. Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of pics.

The camera app seems faster and more responsive than in my iPhone 6s Plus (of course, it could be my imagination!) and the focus is sharper. But have a look below and let me know what you think. Photos were taken in a variety of locations and conditions – there’s no central theme at all!

I’ve included a few shots from last week’s overnight trip to Dublin and some from outside a local bar here in Canary Wharf.

I haven’t shot any video with it yet, but might do during this week’s trip to Barcelona and Sitges. At this rate, it’s beginning to feel like a high quality camera with a mobile phone attached.

Royal Parks Half-marathon: Taking it up a notch

I ran 9km over lunch yesterday, in the wonderful London sun. And despite waking up to glorious sun this morning, it seems to have evaporated and gone elsewhere. Nonetheless, I topped up my (very depleted) caffeine levels and hit the streets.

(As an aside, my running is fuelled by caffeine, not enthusiasm. Running sans cafe is invariably a slow, wheezing misery. I guess it how I’m built).

I managed a very comfortable 15km around the City, only slowed down by the copious volumes of dog shit on the pavements of Shadwell, the gaggles of tourists blocking all the routes around Tower Hill and the people chasing Pokey-men (I know!) all around Old Street roundabout.

Seriously – look where you’re walking! Sigh.

I’d aimed for 15km this morning and was really pleased with my pace (very even throughout) and how I felt afterwards – absolutely brilliant.

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It left me feeling very positive about the Royal Parks half-marathon, even to the stage where I’m pretty confident I can come in under my 2:00 goal. Securing that time, injury-free, would be superb.

And it’s all in aid of Epilepsy Action. If you’d like to donate the price of a coffee to my fundraising efforts, you can do so via this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/RunningForEpilepsyAction. Every single pound will be much appreciated by me and the nice folks at Epilepsy Action. Snd the good news is that I’m at 71% of my fundraising target of £350!

Big thanks to everyone who has donated so far. If you can’t, please consider sharing this blog post or the fundraising link to raise awareness.