Last week, as it looked like Moray was going to remain in Tier 3 lockdown restrictions while the rest of Scotland moved to Tier 2, I wrote my friends and colleagues in Moray a song:
When the COVID’s sky high in Findrassie and Roseisle
Where the police block the streets if more than two people meet
When masks are in bins because “we got the vaccine!”
When we’re ruled by the SNP but we all voted for a Tory…
That’s a-Moray! (A-Moray!)
Of course, three days later it was announced that Moray was not the only region to remain in Tier 3, Glasgow was also going to remain in Tier 3. Which means that we can no longer travel outside the city as the rest of the country will be Tier 2 and you can’t leave a Tier 3 area to go to an area with a lower rating.
Which means, for the moment, I cannot travel to Celtman or to some of my favourite swimming spots. With four weeks to go, unless anything changes, it looks very unlikely I’ll be taking part in Celtman as: (a) I might not be able to travel to the Highlands; or (b) even if I could, I won’t be ready to swim.
I’ll see what happens in the next four weeks but I put my chances now at less than 25%.
Some places are badly named. Greenland is not green, Iceland is filled with rocks and volcanos and DR Congo is not a real doctor. The Empty Quarter, the desert stretching from Oman to Dubai is however very well named – it is almost entirely empty and devoid of, well, anything but dust and rocks. It barely has a hill as it stretches for hundreds of miles of large, featureless and frankly empty terrain.
It may seem strange to recommend a video about two adventurers – Alastair Humphreys and Leon McCarron – attempt to walk from one end to the other unsupported and pulling a large car as there is very little to see. They walk. They pull the cart. They don’t show any scenic sites as there are none. They just keep walking and pulling through miles and miles of desert rocks.
Yet, despite that, it provides a good insight into why some people have the desire to explore even when the rewards are minimal and the only question being asked is “why am I doing this?”
A couple of years ago I worked with a guy who was an enthusiastic but rubbish sailor. And an alcoholic. Not a great combination – especially when you throw Ebay into the mix – as, one night, he bought a inflatable dirigable and arranged for it to be shipped from China.
Now, you and I, when faced with a blow up boat ordered while drunk from a country not known for it’s accurate descriptions of products bought on quasi-black markets may have be cautious in opening the box when it arrived. Not so, our drunken and excited sailor, who decided he couldn’t wait for an ocean and instead decided to open it in his living room. At which point he pulled a cord which should not have been pulled and automatically inflated a 10 feet dinghy in his front room. Whoops.
Even worse, he hadn’t realised you needed a specialist pump to deflate it so couldn’t get it out of any door or window without going to back to Ebay and buying a very expensive pump from the same Chinese sellers. Sellers who had very smartly spotted the opportunity to sell very cheap boats but very, very expensive parts…
I share this story because while most of us will never know what it’s like to wake up with a hangover and the Titanic blocking your telly, if you have a Dryrobe then you’ll know what it’s like to live with something that takes up more space than a frigate in a bathtub. DryRobe’s are huge. They have to be as you use them to get changed underneath so need space to take on and off clothes and swim gear. But they also take up loads of space in closets and coat hangers. They, like a dog on a sofa, expanding to take up all available space.
That’s why I’m praising something very simple. A vacuum/compression bag. A bag that you store clothes in and then sit on to expel all the air before sealing it shut with a simple air plug. It’s brilliant, it condenses clothes until you can almost fit a robe into your pocket. It also makes it the robe easy to store as it no longer fills your house like an unwanted guest.
And while DryRobe sell a branded bag, you can use any bag, just search vacuum bags on Amazon and you’ll find plenty of cheap bags you can use.
They’re brilliant. They’re perfect for Dryrobe, perfect for taking clothes on holiday when you need space and it’s just a pity they don’t have one big enough for a lifeboat in a living room.
In a world where sporting champions images are carefully controlled and managed by PR advisors and social media managers it would be refreshing to see a genuine sporting great film his own videos while sitting in an empty train carriage on the way home from a race, which is exactly what four time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has done.
Chris Froome joined Israel Start Up nation at the end of 2020 after many successful years at Team Sky/Ineos Grenadiers. Following a horrendous injury in 2019 Chris Froome was looking for a new start and team to support his ambition of competing again for one of cycling Grand Tours. It would have been easy for him to keep a low profile as he returned from injury but, instead, he has posted regular updates on his training and races as he tries to regain his place in the peloton. And what’s refreshing is that while it’s clearly a result of his contractual requirement to promote his new team, it’s also done in a way which appears open and sincere about his challenges as he films himself at training camps, at races or working on equipment or technique.
I cannot lift my arms. Every time I try and raise them a ripple of pain runs from my elbows to my shoulders. The same happens when I try and lie on them. Any weight on them leaves them throbbing and numb. After an hour of trying to get to sleep I get up and get some painkillers before sitting in the living room waiting for them to kick in. It takes three hours, 4am, before I can move an arm without hurting. I finally go back to bed cursing every stroke I swam tonight.
It’s mid April and Pinkston Watersports has reopened for swimming in Glasgow. As it’s April, and the temperature is hovering around seven degrees, I decide to swim in full hood, boots, gloves and an extra vest. Unfortunately so much lycra twists my body in the water so I’m gliding through it like a broken corkscrew made of concrete. Every stroke feels like I’m trying to contort my body round a u-bend. After a couple of laps, one kilometre, I can’t swim any further. I think I’m just out of practice, my technique poor and my arms weak, but through the rest of the evening my arms become more and more sore.
In six weeks I need to swim three kilometres, that night I couldn’t even lie down for three minutes.
The following week, I don’t bother with boots, swim slower and concentrate entirely on stretching out flat in the water. It helps. I don’t need to raid a pharmacy on my way home but it does show that trying to get to a 3K swim in just a few weeks is a big ask. I’ll keep adding some distance with every swim and hopefully I’ll build some confidence that I won’t need more drugs than Lance Armstrong to complete the bike leg after the swim.
Saying that, I’m still not sure the race will go ahead. Triathlon Scotland are limiting waves to 30 people (including support and volunteers), which would mean Celtman would need have starting waves. I believe Celtman is not part of Triathlon Scotland, so doesn’t have to follow the guidelines, but for insurance, I wonder how it can avoid them completely. Further details on how the race will be run will be out in the next few weeks. For the moment, I continue to try and get ready to start.
I wrote a few entries a year ago and then decided not to publish them given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. It seems okay to publish it now to look back at this time last year.
We are living in historic times. Which is just like living in non-historic times except there are fewer books written about it.
Years from now people will look back and ask how we coped with lockdown. I can say this: “today, I cleaned out the shed and catalogued all of my old paint pots by room and colour. Result.”
I also emptied the shed and found a patio strimmer. I don’t even know what that does. Do patios need strimmed? Are they not made of concrete? How do you strim concrete with anything but dynamite? However as it’s in an unopened plastic box I can only imagine it was bought at a point when I did know what it was and thought I would need it but not at a point where whatever it did was actually required urgently as I never opened it. In fact, there was so much junk in the shed that behind the leaf blower – something else I’ve never used – I found the Ark of the Covenant.
Today, my wife and I decided to go the local Morrisons for a weekly shop. I volunteered to go on my own as it seems selfish to both go together when shops are limiting numbers. We make a list of what we need for the week and think about taking latex gloves – another shed surprise (were we going to carry an operation in there?! Maybe an amputation with the patio strimmer?) – but decide against it as I’m not a serial killer.
Outside Morrisons there are barriers set up to direct people to queue to get in. We stand two metres apart, self isolating, until one man walks out the shop, and decides to push his trolley back along the queue rather than going straight out into the car park. It’s like watching the boulder coming towards me from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Do I run? Jump out of the way? Or just let it flatten me? Luckily I’m next to a gap in the barrier and he takes his plaguemobile out of it.
Inside the store a couple wander round the veg aisle touching carrots and onions and saying “These are no good. Not this one.” Well, not now you’ve touched them!
Another man walks round in a white tracksuit and a Burberry checked facemask. I might not be able to see his face but at least I can still tell he’s Glaswegian.
At the checkout I ask if the store has been busy today. “It wasn’t safe earlier,” said the man at the checkout, “but they’ve reduced the numbers coming in and it’s okay now”. Oh, that’s good, because Coronavirus is like a cool party. Once people leaves, it’s doesn’t hang around. (This may not be medically accurate).
I then drive home with an itchy nose. I don’t touch it. At home I try and open the groceries with my hand wrapped in an arm of my jumper, which I’ve pulled down.
“That’s smart,” said Mrs TwinBikeRun, “now you won’t get the virus from that jar of Jalapenos.”
“Exactly!” I said.
“You’ll just get it on your jumper sleeve that you’ll wear for the rest of the night instead.”
I throw my jumper somewhere I know I’ll never touch it again: the shed.
I wrote the following entry a year ago and then decided not to publish it given the uncertainty over how COVID would affect everyone. I didn’t want to publish an entry talking about going to the swimming pool when it might have been safer to stay at home. It seems okay to publish it now as a way to look back at this time last year.
I am the last person who should be giving medical advice. Except maybe for Doctor Who, who’s neither a medical practitioner or a PHD, just a conman with a phonebox. Or perhaps Dr Hannibal Lecter, who’d eat you as soon as cure you. So, when I try to answer a medical question, can you still train with the coronavirus, I’m not being too serious…
Can you train with the coronavirus? If it was a cold or flu or a broken leg then, for most runners, the answer is “yes, just run it off!”.
Amateur athletes are notorious for training and racing while ill. We assume any cough or headache or Ebola virus is just a sign that the training is working. “Of course, I’m not well,” we say “I’ve been training!”.
But, yesterday, I went swimming and I thought: “Should I be here? Should I be in a swimming pool that’s a coronavirus cocktail of sweat and spit and whatever else has washed off the bodies of a thousands swimmers?”
And what about the changing room? Do I need a hazmat suit to change out of my birthday suit in a room filled with perspiring bodybuilders?
Or do I assume that this is no different to any other cold or flu or bug and live life normally until the government says otherwise?
It seems as if many have already started to panic. There are no toilet rolls or pasta on supermarket shelves. Personally, if I was stockpiling, I’d be stocking up chocolate biscuits and cake. Stuff fusilli pasta, if I’m coughing and hacking, I want a KitKat.
I don’t get the obsession with pasta either. After the virus started in China there were numerous people saying they wouldn’t eat Chinese food. Now the virus is in Italy, we’re eating Spaghetti Bolognese like our lives depended on it (literally). It seems we’re only suspicious of our food when it doesn’t come in a cheese sauce.
We’re also washing our hands for 20 seconds. The Government says you should sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. I don’t think you need a song though – just wash your hands like you’ve just killed a man and don’t want to get caught. You don’t need soap to clean hands, just pretend you have a guilty conscience.
But, if water and soap is effective, then all you need to do if you want to swim in a swimming pool is pour some liquid soap in the pool. Turn it into a sink. That way 2000 metres will leave you cleaner than an hypochondriac throwing out his Kung Pow Chicken.
And, if you’re adding soap, then why not also add conditioner for your hair? I was told by a hairdresser that if you want to avoid damaging hair with chorine then apply some conditioner before you swim. Now, you’re not just training, you’re protecting yourself too. With all the soapy water, you’re immune from the coronavirus. And you have great looking hair.
However I’m not a Doctor and this is definitely not medical advice.
[Postscript – it turned out this was the last time I was in a swimming pool]
It’s funny. I can remember swimming, but I can’t remember learning to swim. Instead all I remember is trunks and towels.
We would swim on holiday in the small Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. It has a sports centre with a 25 metre pool and every day on holiday we would go for a swim. We would get ready by grabbing our towel, folding it lengthwise in half and the rolling it up with our trunks inside. We’d then carry it under out arm up to the centre. We’d then unroll it, get changed and then repeat again on the way home – except this time our armpits would get wet because we were carrying a soggy towel and trunks.
We never thought to use a bag. There was no need, once a towel was rolled up with your trunks then you didn’t need anything else. Not even goggles because for some reason our Dad didn’t believe in goggles. “You don’t need them”, he’s say, “If you duck your head under the water, it’ll sting for a minute but you’ll soon adjust.”
Which was okay for him, as, due to an illness, he only had nerves attached to one eye so was basically a cyclops when it came to swimming. He’s suffered an aneurysm behind an eye and been subject to a medical procedure that he said “used a soup spoon to pop out my eyeball so that it could hang down my face like a Christmas decoration.” Somewhere there’s a medical case study describing the procedure he went through. We’ve never looked to find it – in case there’s photos of our Dad sitting proud with an eyeball like a yo-yo.
Because of his operation, he would never use goggles and would dive straight in, swim back and forth for 20 minutes and jump out with bright red eyes. “See,” he said, “you’ll get used it!”
I could never put my head under the water. I still struggle now when water gets into my goggles. I need to stop and clear it.
But we never got our own goggles. It never occurred to me. Just as it never occurred to me to get a bag. I was learning from my Dad and we just did what he did – even if he was medical miracle who thought he was Aquaman – and somehow I learned to swim. But I don’t remember how. It certainly wasn’t by listening to my Dad.
I’ve covered the White Loch before – see here – but as you’ll see, if you look back, it was less a review and more of a complaint about the weather. So, having been back a number of times, here’s the updated review….
Which is Glaswegian for really, really, unbelievably busy.
The White Loch is about five minutes drive from the southern edge of Newton Mearns and around 20 minutes drive from Shawlands. It is therefore within easy distance of around 200,000 people, all of whom are looking for somewhere to swim, which is great but… there will be times when you arrive and you’ll struggle to park. For parking see the previous review.
You might feel a slight sliminess after you swim but according to swim forums on Facebook that is due to peat and nothing to be alarmed about even if you might feel like the Creature of the White Loch Lagoon when you come out of the water.
Excellent location for different lenghts of swims. If you just want a dip then a paddle round the entrance is nice and shallow. If you want to complete a full lap then it will be around 1000 – 1200 metres. You can aim for the opposite bank at 4, then a bright and obvious life buoy post at 2 then a wind turbine at 3 before coming back to the start.
I’m told that some people experience a slight pull in the water around the dam at 1 so keep away from it.
At least one person every time I’ve been. If it’s been sunny then I’ve seen 10 people here, including swimmers, paddle boarders, a canoe – and one dog swimming laps after it’s owner. It’s a busy place so…
Avoid. I want to swim here and find a car parking spot so don’t swim here too! 🙂