10,000 Kettlbell Swing Challenge...

Remember  this? Well, I started on the 1st January 2016, and yesterday I completed my 1000th swing. The delightful Mr F counted my last set for me with a flourish... 998, 999, 1000! So, 1000 down, 9000 to go. Somehow I feel much better about this now I am in four figure territory. 

I am quite impressed with myself in that I have managed to train so consistently.  I haven't missed a session since I started, training three times per week. And I have to say, I feel jolly good on it. I am feeling stronger and generally more chirpy. 

We train in our garage which the Delightful Mr F as set up as a dojo/gym. My only moan is that when it is cold the kettlebell handles, which are metal, are freezing, and they chill my little hands to the bone*. 

Under the guidance of The Delightful Mr F, I am doing on the minute training, the 16kg kettlebell being my weapon of choice.  At the start of the minute I complete one set, and then I get the balance of the minute to rest, before the start of the next minute rolls around and I do another set. I started at 6 reps per minute for 10 minutes, and am now at 9 reps per minute. I'll work up to 10 reps per minute for 15 minutes, and then move up a kettlebell size, drop the reps back down and start working back up again. It is all terribly satisfying, and being me of course, I have a spreadsheet to collate the data. I am pleased to report that so far, my 1000 swings mean I have moved 16 tonnes worth of weight. 

So there we have it, not a bad start at all, and all being well I shall be able to keep this up until I hit 10,000 and then the habit of training three times per week will be well and truly ingrained*. 


* I'm such a wimp. The Delightful Mr F will often do his training first to warm the handles up for me. He's such a gentleman. 

* And with any luck I will have a body like a warrior goddess. Or possibly not. We'll see. I will at least have swapped some flab for muscle. 

Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie

Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie

Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie

This is another Christie that starts on a train. Newly returned from overseas, former policeman Luke shares a carriage with an old lady called Lavinia Pinkerton who announces she is off to Scotland Yard to report that there is a serial killer on the loose in her quiet English village. Luke puts her down as a batty old woman, but starts to change his mind when she is killed in a hit and run before she makes it to Scotland Yard.

Intrigued by the series of murders Lavinia clams have been committed he heads off to the village for a spot of undercover detective work. There he meets a wonderful cast of villagers, and it appears that Lavinia might well have been on to something, a lot of people have died in odd ways.

This is the funniest Christie I have read in my challenge so far.  The conversations between the characters are hilarious. They are full of that restrained level of insult English people can trade when they don’t want to be outright rude, but need to make a point.  I read parts out to The Delightful Mr F, and we were both in fits of laughter.

The mystery of who is bumping people off, is extremely satisfying, and quite unusual a motive for Christie, it is actually quite sinister and somewhat gothic which sets off the laugh out loud moments perfectly. I think this might be my new favourite. 

Reader's Reads #13: Richard Staples

Of late I have become an obsessive listener to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Clever, famous (not necessarily the same thing) and interesting people are interviewed and asked to choose eight records they would like to have with them on a desert island. I wanted to get to know some of my readers a little better, so thought it would be fun to feature readers and their favourite reads. This spawned the rather natty, although probably not originally named "Reader's Reads".

If you would like to be featured, please contact me via the email button (bottom left of the main page) and I'll email out the bits and pieces to you. 

Each reader has a comfy seat, anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, a beverage and snack of their choice and a bookcase which will only hold eight books. 

Today we have Richard, the bold founder of our local book group, his patience in putting up with my ever increasingly bizarre suggestions for book club reads is endless. Over to you Richard!

Beverage of choice: Kir -  For me, drinks go hand in hand with places and settings, and what might be a perfect marriage in one setting could easily be a nightmare combination in another.  My drink of choice has therefore largely been dictated by the location of my comfy chair and bookshelf.  If the chair were to be in an English garden on a summer’s afternoon, then I would have to go for a pot of tea or maybe a Pimms.  Similarly, if it were to be by the fireside on a winter’s evening in a Scottish castle, then a single malt would be the obvious choice.   As it is, Kir is the perfect fit for where I would like my chair to be, bringing back many happy memories of time spent in the brilliant southern French sunshine. 

Snack of choice:  A bowl of ‘posh’ crisps -  Whilst I can take chocolate or leave it, I am a complete sucker for salty, savoury snacks.  A bowl of Kettle chips or similar at my side would be the ideal accompaniment to my Kir and chosen reading material!

Location of comfy chair and bookshelf:  On the terrace of a villa, overlooking the sea in the South of France -  I have a mental image of my dream home, which is on a hill in the south of France, overlooking the Mediterranean.  The sun is blazing in a cloudless sky, and my deckchair has been judiciously placed in the shade of an umbrella on the terrace, giving an unbroken view over the sparkling sea.  The chilled Kir and the crisps are waiting for me on a small table beside the chair, along with the stack of books and the much needed hat and sunglasses.  Perfect.

The one which kick started your reading habit:  Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

One day when I was six years old, my dad came home from work with this book for me, - the first in the Famous Five series.  The book was a total revelation to me, being my first “real” book, with text rather than pictures.  I found the book wildly exciting and very quickly worked my way through the entire series of 21 Famous Five books.  I took great pride in having them all lined up in order on my bedroom shelves.

Although it is now easy to criticise Enid Blyton for painting an outdated and idealistic view of the world, I would defend her skills as a children’s story teller, and for me there is no question that my love of reading was triggered by the Famous Five.

The one which changed your view of the world:  Roots – The Saga of An American Family by Alex Hailey

Having been brought up in a very conventional “middle England” environment, I spent my early life blissfully unaware of many of the terrible injustices which blight the history of what we consider today to be civilised nations   Roots and its sequel Queen gave me a much needed wake-up call in terms of my understanding of the horrors of slavery.  I was a little too young to see the famous 1970s TV adaptation, but the books made a powerful impact on me when I read them in early adulthood.

The one you go back to again and again:  The Collector by John Fowles

If there is one book which I wish I could have written myself, it is this one, - for me it is literary perfection.   Dark and disturbing, and with the interesting technique of presenting the same set of events from the perspective of two protagonists, this short novel contains one of the biggest shock moments I have come across in any book.  The fact that it is John Fowles’ debut novel makes the achievement even more impressive.

The one you comfort read:  Christine by Stephen King

My guilty pleasure is horror or psychological fiction, - possibly a legacy of the James Herbert novels which were furtively passed around between classmates in the fourth form at school!  There are many examples of the genre which I could have picked, but Christine is one which I found particularly unnerving.  The idea of a possessed car sounds ridiculous in the abstract, but works only too well in this case. 

The one which you had an unexpected response to:  Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos

Les Liaisons Dangereuses was a set text on the curriculum of my degree course.  An epistolary novel made up of letters sent between French aristocrats in the 18th century was never going to have much appeal for a 20 year old British male student in the late 20th century, and I put off reading it again and again.  How wrong can you be?!  The depth of intrigue, sexual tension, sophistication and sheer malice at the heart of this novel is simply breath-taking, and stands comparison with anything that could be written today.  I was utterly gripped when I first read it, and have since gone back to it several times, as well as having seen the stage and film versions.  It is a real pleasure to be able to include in my list of all-time favourites a work which I had initially so easily dismissed.

The one you wish you had time to read:  War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The sheer size of War & Peace, along with some mixed experiences of Russian literature, have meant that I have never had the courage to tackle this.  Everyone I know who has read it says it is brilliant, and I have a permanent ‘note to self’ telling me that I really should grasp the nettle and plough in.  Proust’s In Remembrance of Things Past is very much in the same category. 

The one with sentimental value:  Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

A previous partner of mine was a big fan of Thomas Hardy and it is on her recommendation that I read Tess, along with many of the other Hardy novels.  I find the storyline in Tess absolutely heart-breaking, and the novel contains some of the most poignant lines that I can think of.  I am not ashamed to say that this is one which always brings tears to my eyes.  Absolutely beautiful.

The last one you read:  The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is right up there on my list of all-time favourites, and I had mixed feelings when I saw that someone had been commissioned to continue the series after Larsson’s death.  Happily, David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web has met with generally positive reviews, and I completely agree that he has not made a bad fist of it at all.  It was always going to struggle to achieve the heights of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but then what could?!

Thank you Richard! This is a wonderfully diverse list of books, a few of which have ended up on my  "would like to read" list!

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper

This is the second book in The Dark Is Rising Sequence, confusingly also called The Dark Is Rising and is all part of my The Dark Is Rising Read-a-thon.

In this book we leave the Drew siblings, who found the Holy Grail in Over Sea Under Stone, and we join Will Stanton, the seventh son of a seventh son the day before his eleventh birthday. His birthday is the 21st December, Midwinter’s Day, and when he wakes he finds a deep blanket of snow. He also finds that he has left the modern world and outside is the world as it was centuries before.

He goes on to meet Merriman Lyon, one of the Old Ones of the Light, pitched in an eternal battle with the Dark. Merriman tells Will that he is the Sign Seeker, an Old One, with a special role to play. Will has to collect the six signs, which will make the ring of power, required to help defeat the Dark.

The book is incredibly atmospheric, with Will travelling backwards and forwards through time as the Dark pile on ever more destruction in the modern day. There is never ending snow, bitter cold, and then floods. The village in which Will lives in is set in the Thames valley, and the descriptions are stunning, as is the plotting. The whole story slowly builds momentum until the Dark unleashes the peak of its power on the twelfth night and Will truly starts to understand what being an Old One means.

It all sounds quite full on, and it is, but lovely family scenes break the tension as the Stanton family prepare for Christmas. Seeing Will go from being an ordinary eleven year old boy to an Old One with ancient knowledge is wonderful, and your heart will be in your mouth as he finally faces The Dark. 

PS. Don't judge the book by the film, which was a travesty. 

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne

This wonderful novel is by the same author who wrote The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which I haven’t read, but have never met anyone who didn’t rave about it.

This story is set over the course of the Second World War, it follows a young boy, Pierrot, born in France to a French mother and German father. His dad is deeply psychologically scarred from fighting for his homeland during the First World War, and Pierrot is eventually orphaned when both parents die. Aged just seven, and with war in the air he leaves his best friend, a young deaf Jewish boy called Anshel to live with his Aunt in Austria.

It transpires that his Aunt is housekeeper to Hitler and Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing. Over the course of the war Pierrot becomes, what we would now call radicalized, and his behavior and actions lead to some devastating consequences.

Despite being set over seventy years ago, the book has some very strong contemporary messages about ideology, how good people can be swept up into behavior they never would have thought possible of themselves, and the devastation which can be caused by those who feel alone and isolated, despite being surrounded by others.

This might nominally be a children’s book, but it has a message for all of which we can’t afford to ignore.