Monthly Archives: July 2017

We all scream

blog ice cream

Coffee with, er, extra cream and sugar



‘I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream’

Ancient Dinka proverb.


That’s a coffee ice cream in the picture. I ate it on the run, when I’d severely miscalculated how long it would take me to get to my free sports massage at my current happy place, the North London School of Massage and hadn’t left enough time to have the coffee and bagel I promised myself in Dalston. It was a sanity-saver and no mistake, as after 14 miles on a measly bowl of Crunchy Nut I was beginning to feel wobbly.

Lapping up my overpriced cornet (this was bought from a posh gelateria – I expect it calls itself artisan, although I was too faint with hunger to check – in Stoke Newington) and continuing on my way I pondered all the times ice cream has cheered, sustained, energised and generally made life look better. And then I remembered what a useless vegan I am.

If there’s one thing that keeps me out of Vegan Runners it’s my weakness for ice cream. That’s quite childish, isn’t it? Most failed vegans bang on about missing cheese, then talk themselves into very rare goat’s varieties or obscure types like Cornish Yarg, because the milk that goes to make them (we all persuade ourselves) is freely given with pleasure by cheerful beasts with pretty names.

For me, it’s the ice cream. I love it, and though I stick with Swedish Glace and Alpro dairy-free varieties at home, my resolve collapses like a 99 cornet left out in the sun at the prospect of a lovely overpriced Loseley tub at the theatre, or a gorgeous, melting New Forest cone at the beach hut.

On one 20-miler, during which I’d arranged to take a lunch break at a friend’s house and she, on some kind of diet (yeah, not a runner) fed me pea soup and NO bread, I had to make an emergency refuel at McDonalds…

…then found I only had a pound coin on me. I bought a very synthetic ice-cream cornet for 79p and enjoyed it immensely.

When I worked for a year in Sudan, I used to go to the market and take refreshment at the ‘Scream’ stall. That’s what the chaps who manned the blenders called their concoction, a whizz-up of whatever fruit was to hand (often bananas), ice and dried milk. Great drums of dried milk and energy biscuits were often delivered to our village as part of foreign aid packages …they found their way onto the sparsely stocked market stalls, but the Scream merchants made great use of the freeze-dried white stuff. The resultant frothy, fruity, ice-cold blender goblet of goodness would have been a massive boon if I’d been a runner in Sudan. As it was, I moved pretty slowly in those days, on a big clunky bicycle or in my big clunky Birkenstocks. I was too weakened by heat and ever-present dysentery to do much else.

These days my ice-cream habit make me feel guilty, especially when, like last week, I find myself in the company of an ice-cream refusenik, whose body is a temple. This woman, one of the better athletes in my running club, has been off sugar for a month and looks radiant. She runs fast (eats cheese) and lifts weights. She’s often first woman in my local parkrun and, yes, I am quite jealous of her.

I’m thinking about forgoing sugar in the weeks up to the Berlin Marathon (24 September), when a sentence in Runner’s World speaks to me.

‘Aim to eat healthily 90% of the time it says….whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats…The other 10% of the time? Enjoy your favourite treats.’

So an ice-cream Sundays, after The Long Run? That might just work. Apart from feeling guilty about the cows.

Oh, and no more Crunchy Nut. There’s no way I can justify that addiction.


Farmer’s Walk, or Pick the Ruddy Thing Up!


Assembly League July…running a little easier


Like many urban runners, I try to avoid busy pavements, crowded concourses or wherever I am likely to irritate other pedestrians. But even when I’m not running, my own irritation levels reach crisis point when, hurrying through city streets, I get stuck behind meanderers. In my head, I’m screeching at the slow moving wall of humanity in front of me:

‘Don’t stroll three abreast at snail’s pace!’


‘Stop looking at your sodding phone!’

and, lastly, and perhaps most harshly

‘Pick the ruddy thing up!’

That last imperative is what this blog’s all about. Wheelie suitcases. The kind that are, apparently, compulsory on ‘The Apprentice’ and, increasingly in all walks of real life. I’d have them banned. Unless the user can cite an actual injury, old age or illness that necessitates their having their luggage trundling along behind them. Then they’d have to have a special licence that they show the inspectors I have just dreamed up.

Obviously this will never happen, and obviously I am intolerant and quite possibly unhinged. But everyone who has ever fallen headlong over a wheelie while trying to run for a train might have a shred of sympathy for my cause. Why are able-bodied people now incapable of picking up their cases?

What makes this sudden universal inability to lift weights in normal life I even more laughable when you consider the posturing that goes on in the gym, where people are apparently proud to show the world what heavy things they can lift.

There’s even a weight training exercise called the Farmer’s Walk, which, in fact, I was advised to practise years ago when I consulted trainer to the stars Rob Blair for some help with the pain I was suffering from a herniated disk. It’s all fine now, the back. I think it’s because I carry my own suitcases.

The Farmer’s Walk is a fine exercise for engaging many different muscle groups. It helps to stabilise your core as you work to stay erect while being pulled down by the heavy weights you’re carrying. You’re improving your grip strength in wrists and hands (and after 50, you need to work on this). Your upper back helps the shoulders and chest stop sagging, the legs are propelling you forward with the weight and your heart beats faster with all the effort. That’s ‘cardio’ to people who think that ‘exercise’ is somehow unrelated to daily life. A full workout! You can either do this with a couple of 10kg dumbbells in the gym….

Or you can pick up a couple of suitcases and walk across the airport arrival/departure lounge.

Or you can carry full shopping bags from a local store.

Or you can use your body to transport sacks loaded up for the charity shop.

Last week I was contacted by a new MeetUp group called The Carry Crew. They told me:

‘We’re not a running club. We aren’t training for a 5k, 10k or marathon. We don’t know our PB times. We love carrying heavy objects for distance. It makes us stronger! What does The Carry Crew do? We meet at Firs Farm N21 on Saturday mornings at 08:30 and walk a lap (roughly 1 mile) while carrying weights and other random objects. Simple not easy.’

I do hope members of this crew also pick up their own sodding suitcases.

Today I learned Giles Coren is man after my own heart – in this respect at least. In his Times column he redefined a few well-known terms for those readers who are sceptical about Wikipedia. Here’s his definition of ‘suitcase’; it was a bit sexist so I changed it where I could:

‘A box with handles for transporting clothes, which an adult with any sense of personal dignity carries in [his or her] hand, rather than wheeling along like a little old [lady/man] on [her/his] way to the pound shop.’