A vertical garden

I first saw this a few years ago and was intrigued at the time but then forgot about it, being elderly.


I’ve since seen it a few times, it being in my favourite part of Madrid and the last time, a couple of months ago, I decided to try and find something out about it.

This vertical garden, or living wall was designed by somebody called Patric Blanc (a French botanist it seems) in 2008. It contains over 250 different species with over 15000 plants that all seem to grow well, even in the harsh dry climate that exists in Madrid, especially in the summer.


Curiously it seems to generate its own sort of micro climate, I had noticed it previously whilst walking around it, but after having done a bit of research, my feelings were confirmed. The temperature around the wall, during the middle of the day, is several degrees lower than from where I took the photos.

Its strange to see this in the middle of a capital city, but its welcome and looks stunning.

By the way, should you ever happen to be there and see it, move 50 yards to the left and there is a terrifying overhanging roof, from memory a civic building, that I avoid like the plague, convinced its going to fall down.


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Retrospective testing

And so last night, in a blaze of camera flashes and pulled hamstring, the most recognisable athlete of his generation, the greatest athlete of his generation and up amongst the best athlete of any sport of all time hung up his spikes.

usain-bolt-2 (1)

Its certain that he wouldn’t have wanted to have left his sport like this:

World Athletics Championships

but Father Time (maybe the husband of Mother Nature) catches up with all of us, and he had reached the natural end.

A brilliant showman, a man who, up till now, restored faith in  a sport that had lost a lot of credibility. He provided moments of humour, of genius and of genuine “did I just see that?”

To have a sprinter so dominant and charismatic as him on the track at the same time as a distance runner so prodigously talented as Mo Farah was great for a sport struggling to recover after countless drugs scandals, as I write this Russia is banned, as a country, from taking part in Olympic sport due to an alleged state managed doping program.

I hope Mr Bolt has a great retirement, plays lots of football and cricket, puts back into the sport in his beloved Jamaica and generally enjoys life, I’ve never met him but I suspect he will.

My only fear is the title of this post. The man is prodigously talented, of that there is no doubt, his times have gone down and then back up as would seem normal for a runner who trained hard but then got older, all seems to be normal, he has never had anomolies in his countless blood and urine tests.

But its there. Because of the sport, because of the history of the sport, because he was so good, so dominant, because of answers he gave to the press towards the end of his career, because of the amount of other Jamaican sprinters that have been caught doping. Because of all of those things there is just that nagging doubt that he has been like all the others.

I hope, I truly hope that as life goes on, that as retrospective testing improves and happens for samples given in previous Olympic Games and World Championships, that he continues to restore faith in the sport, that he always tests clean, that nothing is ever found that destroys once again the reputation of a tarnished sport.

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Something I want to do.

As I was talking only yesterday about bucket lists, I happened to ask for help about something I really want to do in the UK. I am really keen to see a kingfisher, the most beautiful British bird in my opinion, in the wild.

I´ve seen one once. Well, I was actually walking alongside a stream somewhere in north Wales  years ago with my dog and I realised about five seconds after I´d noticed that microsecond of flashing electric blue, that I’d just seen my first one, but i didnt actually “see it” if you know what I mean.

So I asked a few friends for advice which came freely, and I thanked all and sundry.

But as often happens on the World Wide Winifred, it just so happens that not only does somebody know something about this subject, but in fact they know somebody who goes and takes photos like this:


AND WHO WILL TAKE ME WITH HIM TO TAKE SOME MYSELF (although nowhere near as brilliant as this one.

Kevin Pigney you are a master Sir, and I am looking forward to spending some time with you to see the little things in their natural environment.

I may have to write my bucket list after all so I can start ticking things off.

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The ubiquitous bucket list.

After having read about Helen Fawkes’s bucket list I had a period of reflection myself about what there is that I’d still like to achieve. I don’t have the same terrible health concerns as Helen had, it was just a flight of fancy.

I decided I’d give myself 100 things I’d like to achieve before shuffling off this mortal coil, and set to work writing them down and then trying to arrange them in an orderly fashion.


It was incredibly easy to think of 100 things, my passions have always been travel and sport and learning, but once the list was first done I realised that everything I had written down was expensive.

So I wrote another list, trying to think a little of my dwindling fiscal resources, and saw it was still going to be very expensive.

The bucket list is a fairly modern phenomena I’m sure, I’m convinced that I remember my parents and their friends talking about the one thing they would do if they could, which in a generation has moved to an entire list of “things” to be consumed.

Although I’ve been lucky and have travelled widely and seen loads of incredible things, not all good, the world is a huge place, although certainly smaller than when my parents were talking with their friends all those years ago. There are still so many things I want to see and do. I want to see evolution in action in the Galapagos Islands, i want to watch a Lions rugby match somewhere in the Southern hemisphere, I want I want I want.

I’ll have another go at writing the list I’m sure, there are things I want to do still, many of them in fact, and some of them WILL be done, there is no doubt at all, I’m just not sure if I would suddenly become a slave to one should I ever actually publish it.

For now I’ll just sit and dream as I look at miles and miles of sand out of my office window.

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8 minutes 39 seconds.

To a man tied to a chair looking down the barrel of a gun, a lifetime, to an elderly Galapagos tortoise, an insignificant period.

For me, probably the most frustrating amount of time that currently exists. I am obsessed by it, to the point where I have written it on top of my mirror so that I see it daily as a reminder.

A couple of years ago, after several months of training, I rode up the Beast of Provence, Le Mont Ventoux, a full hour faster than the first time I’d tried it. An hour is a huge amount of time to take off such a short distance so all logic says I should have been delighted and the reality is that when I looked at my stopwatch at the top I was euphoric.


I might not look euphoric, but I really was. That feeling though didnt even last until I’d reached the bottom. I called the friend who’d ridden it with me the first time to tell him the  good news, but very soon the feeling of that time being not quite good enough started to nag away at me.

2 hours, 8 minutes, 39 seconds.

I rode it again last month, for the sixth time, with absolutely no training at all in 2.45 or so. Rubbish, but I got up without stopping and I am aware  that no training doesnt make that climb easy.

But I know that I have to lose those eight minutes and thirty nine seconds. They gnaw away at me like a demented beaver trying to stop the Aswan.

The problems though are myriad. I work away from home for four weeks at a time. There is no possibility of riding a bike during my four weeks away. Once home I could ride most days, but dont as I’m aware that all fitness gains would be lost once I get back to work. I am not getting any younger. People of all ages climb Le Ventoux, and “Chapeau” to each and every one of them. It’s a beast of a climb and reaching the top is an achievement in itself, but its a physiological fact that with each passing day I am losing a tiny amount of my physical capability. I’ve lost my mojo. When I rode my fastest time I was loving my cycling. I was riding every day, regularly over 300 miles in a week, which helps hugely. There are no proper hills where I live, but there are a couple of short steep climbs that I used to repeat until I couldn’t at least once a week. I doubt I rode 300 miles last year, and I know I haven’t this year with the inevitable weight gain that comes with it.


The only way I will lose those minutes is to spend several months riding my bike every day. Ideally I would rent my friends gite at the bottom of the hill for six months and ride the hill every week, with plenty of miles ridden on less demanding roads for the other days. This however is impossible for myriad reasons.

I read something recently though that applies. If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not you’ll find an excuse.

Watch this space.


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Disaster has struck. Perhaps.

So, that book I had finished and was going to leave alone for a while before editing.

Weeeellll, I knew there were a couple of scenes that were missing and that needed to be added for continuity. I didn’t need to blow any dust off, it hadn’t had time to gather any, so I just grabbed it and started to write the two scenes that I knew were missing.


As anyone who writes fiction knows (or maybe its just me) I write a scene that I know needs to be there, which gives me an idea for something that I didnt know when I started, which leads me down a whole new road that I hadn’t even envisaged 10 minutes previously.

I am now wondering if this single stand alone novel could be the first in a series based around a city.

Curiouser and curiouser said Alice.

And me too.

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El Mezquita de Cordoba

After the scandal caused by my celery post (no, dont worry, it wasn’t visible to most) I have decided today to return to safer ground. A visit to a new city is always fascinating for me and so a trip to Cordoba, all in Spanish if you please, was a good way to spend a day. The mosque or cathedral of Cordoba is an incredible building, steeped in history and a real melange of building styles with no less than five different additions to the original building.



There has been a religious building of some sort on this site since ancient times, there is still, as far as I can work out, no definitive date for the first use, and has been at times Christian,


Islamic, shared between the two and a tourist attraction whilst still functioning today as a place of worship. Bits have been destroyed over the years, either by accident or design, other bits rebuilt, with some of the old materials being used in the newer rebuild.


The columns all over the inside give it a strange feel, almost claustrophobic in places and yet when you are aligned with them it seems as though you’re in a never ending tunnel.


I visited during the day, but I saw that there is also the opportunity to have nocturnal visits, which must be very special.

I really enjoyed Cordoba but I must offer a word of warning. It is noted as being the hottest city in Spain, and the time I spent there certainly gave credence to this theory. Sun cream and head cover wouldn’t go amiss if you visit during the long summer.


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Its true, it does grow again.

I read one of those things about  how to save money, one of them said cut the base of your celery, place it in water and it will grow again.

Dubious, but tighter than a Breton, I thought I’d give it a try.


Only I misread it at first so put it straight into soil. I reread it again a few days later and it definitely said water, so into water it went and after a few days…


It got bigger in the kitchen and eventually it went out into the garden where its currently like….


Living in Bretagne it rains a lot, which is lucky as it likes a lot of watering, but its growing really well. The stalks are currently very thin but will grow thicker and I’ll do the same again with it at the end of this year.

It works. Celery is a cut and come again plant. Me likey.

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You’re different to me, I don’t like you.

Last night, this man:

16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 - Day One

made his country proud, by winning the 10,000m in the World Athletics Championships. He is British, he has a British passport, although it’s true he wasn’t born in Britain. By birth he is Somali, but came to Britain aged 8, through no fault of his own. He learned English, integrated into the British system and way of life and starting running. Very fast. For his services to athletics as well as his charitable foundations and his work with young people, he has been awarded a CBE and a Knighthood by the Queen.

And yet this morning, after an hours rummaging round the World Wide Winifred, I note that a lot of Brits, his fellow countryman, watched his win with eyes akin to Hitler in 1936 watching Jesse Owens. Why?

In a country with a long history of both immigration and emigration (why is it that people coming to the UK are immigrants and yet Brits abroad are expats) Mohamed Farah isn’t a white English Christian, and in today’s society a lot of people have problems accepting it. He’s different, I don’t like him.

It’s a mentality I simply cannot understand. I’ve never been able to understand it, but I would very much appreciate somebody who is of this mindset to explain to me why. I am an intolerant person by nature, I don’t suffer those who I consider to be fools, but I don’t dislike them because I don’t like the colour of their skin, the country of their birth or their religion. No, it’s because as a person I find them insufferable.

In some aspects of life I have been very lucky. I have been married to a Jamaican and a Scot, both wonderful people deserving of far better than I, the most wonderful person I have ever met is Spanish and the woman currently sharing my house is French. One of my two best friends is half Jamaican and I count myself priveleged to have known all of those mentioned and many more besides. If my mindset was the same as some of those I’ve read this morning, I would never have entertained the idea of even talking to any of them and yet my life has been enriched immeasurably by having them in it. I don’t get it.

I, for one, salute this man:


as a shining example of what hard work and dedication can give you, there were tens of thousands last night in the Olympic Stadium who feel the same and many hundreds of thousands more around the country who would have also cheered him on. To the worringly vocal minority who couldn’t bear to watch him being successful wearing that vest, please feel free to tell me why. I would be very interested in hearing your views.

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A hidden corner of home.

A recent trip to see friends meant that I drove, without knowing beforehand, through a most wonderful valley, Les Gorges de la Meouge. To be fair, where my friends live is also pretty spectacular.

After a fairly heavy first night at their house I woke early, as always, and went and sat in the garden on my own with a coffee. Looking at this:


and this:


which eased the head slightly. After a weekend with them in Gap, I headed across to Bedoin to see my favourite hill in the whole world. Along the way, blindly following the female automaton talking to me from inside my car, I came across this:


And this


And this


Beautiful. Just stunningly beautiful. I’ve said it many times before, no doubts I’ll say it again and I already know it to be true, but although there is so much beauty around us its often easy to forget it as I strive to visit the far flung corners of the globe as yet unconquered.

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