Swimming Data Overwhelming Options

I’ve found the collection of precise data about my swimming habit has been helpful for at least keeping me reassured that despite the fact that I am way short of my main goals, I am making progress. As such, if other people were wondering whether it was worth their while even though they can barely swim a length, and sure it’s a bit of overkill, isn’t it, I’d say, if you have the money and a smartphone and a computer, get it.

The problem is around what to do with the data in terms of analysing it. There are no perfect solutions.

Currently, my swim watch populates 4 data outfits. Obviously it feeds Garmin because it’s  a Garmin watch. I also send the data to Swim.com which tells me how I rate compared to other swimmers in my pool (this is great when I am swimming in Syrdall because I’m top of all the rankings but have no competition at all. Even in dCoque, for distance I rate 10th out of 11 swimmers although the top 6 I will not catch unless someone stops them swimming), to Sporttracker.mobi which for various reasons I slightly prefer and as of this week, and therefore missing two months of data, Speedo’s brand new tracking site at on.speedo.com

As a special aside, I also log how I feel about the swims in a notebook because I feel better writing it than typing it. But that does very little number crunching.

For the number crunching software it is hard to say what’s best. Swim.com has some really nice features, and it taps into the population of swimming pools which is handy because it also means that you can find swimming pools in strange places. However, the guidance in terms of setting up the data transfer at the outset wasn’t clear and in the end, I have no idea how it comes to be working because I didn’t do anything the site told me to do.

Speedo has some really nice features – its goal setting feature is user friendly compared to the Garmin one, for example, which focuses on challenges involving other people. And Speedo has monthly challenges. It also has a paid option which allows you to feed into coaching. On the other hand, you’d need to be sure you wanted all that stuff, plus, the site advertises Speedo gear that might support your training – you may or may not find that good.

Desktop wise, I tend to favour Sporttracks although I haven’t nailed down how to get goals into that system, it tends to be a bit better for adding notes to workouts and certain information is easier to find in the summaries than it is on the Garmin site.

Mobile access wise, I’ve not found Speedo to be great in how it displays my data – my rest periods confuse it and to be honest, Garmin is probably the best for that. What’s a little bit frustrating I guess, is that in real terms, I’d like to be admining just one of these accounts – this is what it boils down to at the end of the day. I’d prefer to be swimming than operating 4 separate accounts which all basically describe the swimming. But because none of them cover all bases, it’s not really easy to decide which of them to let drop at this point. I will be revisiting this later, I think.

Swimming Pool Review: dCoque, Luxembourg

I expect this to be the last pool review for a while as I won’t be swimming pool hopping so much until next summer again I guess.

dCoque is basically the home of Luxembourg’s national sports and entertainments centre and it has a swimming complex. It also has a climbing wall but I haven’t been there yet as all my time is Swimming. All the Time, All the Swimming.

It was closed for most of the summer, and while I was there back in February once before I had managed to structure my life in such a way as I could fit in the two hours you need for a reasonable swimming trip, I hadn’t built a habit and when I started swimming more seriously in the summer, I’d pretty much forgotten the details of the pool. So I decided to wait for it to reopen before writing it up.

If you look at the swimming pool reviews on Swimmer’s Guide, you’ll find a lot of positive things said about dCoque. I tend to concur. The complex has a bunch of pools to which the public has access to three, namely the paddling pool for kids, a shallow 25m pool and a 50 pool. There is also a separate diving pool but I do not know how much access is granted to the diving section. When I was there on Wednesday or Thursday this week it was being used for scuba training and it has several diving platforms as well. I’ve done the diving board  thing twice, and gotten profoundly sick both times so regretfully I’ve given up on ever being the type of person who can dive from a 10 metre platform and land successfully and gracefully in the water.

Swimming wise, I believe there are two training pools, a 50m and a 25m which are used for clubs and classes. I have not seen them Outside those, there is an arena 50m pool which is 2.2m deep and a learning pool which scales from 0.6m to 1.35m. I swam in both of them.

People have told me they find the pools in dCoque cold. I don’t quite get this as for me,they are not the coldest pools I have swum in in Luxembourg – I really think that’s Bonnevoie – but unlike Les Thermes, the temperature is comfortable enough to swim in. During the week, evidence suggests the pools can be busy.

Of the two of them, I swam most in the 25m pool because that’s the length I’m kind of used to at this point. It’s a stainless steel pool – I didn’t remember this from the last time I was there, and the main disadvantage is the 60cm depth at one end as my freestyle stroke has enough of a sweep for me to hit the floor if I’m not paying attention. I wasn’t alone swimming lengths in that pool which on one front is gratifying; on the other hand, plans I had around my own training ideas for the next three months are being reframed in terms of “get used to the 50m pool”. Despite being busy, the 50m really is a very easy pool to swim in for the short space of time I was in it. It’s a novelty to be in a pool that has a standard depth start to finish.

Unlike the 25m pool it’s a tiled pool which for some reason I tend to prefer. The fact that it is a wide pool helps in spreading the crowd of swimmers around – I’ve found 25m pools can look crowded a lot more quickly than the 50m pool does and that beyond there being more than double the number of swimmers in a 50m pool. Does not make sense to me mathematically but finding gaps to swim through was far easier.

Anyway.

Facilities wise, the dressing rooms are fine; there are plenty of showers. The lockers lock with your card or bracelet and unlike most of the other pools I’ve been to in Luxembourg, they tend to be short and comparatively wide rather than tall and narrow.

You can swim until 9.30 most days and it is open 7 days a week unlike most of the other pools in the area. It opens at 8am 4 mornings a week and I think, at around 9 on weekend mornings.

Transport wise, it has a car park but it is also served by a bunch of buses, definitely 1, 16 and from town by a few of the RGTR buses as well. 8 goes nearby as well.

Saturday mornings

I like those Saturday mornings where I wake early, and get up * reasonably * early and have a chance to ease into the day. I like doing it during the week as well but for some reason that’s not happening much lately.

Facebook has been begging me to install their mobile app on my phone for ages but I’m just not interested. I took twitter off my iPad and I’m getting close to pulling it off my phone although if I do that at least on the phone it will stay logged in on a browser. I get a lot of my news and quite a few interesting bits and pieces through Twitter – far more than I ever did through Facebook. But it is too easy to get hooked into reloading twitter all the time and that distracts me from being distracted by my own thoughts. Saturday morning’s get me back there sometimes.

I never feel all that great if I stay i bed late on a Saturday morning. Mostly I like to be up before 8 if possible, well before 9 at best. After that things start feeling not great. I feel behind, unrelaxed. Online social media often contributes to my still being in bed at 10am on a Saturday morning and it frustrates me.

I sometimes wonder how much of this is evidence that in fact, and in agreement with all appearances and a selection of calendars, I am getting old. Not so much the getting up early – because I mostly did that anyway – but the feeling that social media is not bringing so much to my life any more.

Saturday mornings bring the opportunity to relax a little, think about where I am in the world and what I want to do. They are always much better if I am not also trying to frantically catch up with things. There is pleasure – surprisingly enough – to be got from the sound of getting the washing machine done on time and listening to it going through its cycle early on a Saturday morning. It gives me a feeling of control. And relaxation because at least I don’t have to scrub the clothes thanks to technology.

I wonder sometimes – coloured a lot by what I read on line – how much time we devote to not being stressed, not being under pressure. Even our hobbies can add pressure by adding a time dimension to them – three of my local swimming pools close at 12 on a Sunday which puts you on a bit of a time table. The please on Saturday mornings for me is not being on that much of a timetable. Not needing to rush out the door.

I like Saturday mornings. Above and Beyond in the background. A leisurely breakfast and the knowledge that no bus I get on today will be the same as a sardine can fitted with a sauna.

Productivity and the need to speedread

Amongst the many things which the internet has brought me are productivity blogs.

I’m sure I have written those lines before but I can’t find them. Possibly I meant youtube videos but I still can’t find the post I thought I wrote about them either. So I’m guessing I deleted it from the drafts at some point and said “meh, I never did finish that post and now it’s like six months old; what’s the point

Clearly I hadn’t Dealt With My Issues there.

One of the saddest things I saw on multiple productivity blogs – and I mean multiple – like lots of – many tens of – many minutes of my life I won’t get back – was how to read efficiently.

How to read books really fast. How to get the gist of a book efficiently.

I remember thinking then; you know, they’ve lost sight of what reading is all about. It’s not something you do efficiently (and anyway if you try to, you’ll just forget the content). There’s no glory in being able to read 100 books a week, particularly all the ones by famous entrepreneurs, about entrepreneurs, about how to be get rich, be rich, be productive, etc etc etc. I got the feeling these people would have some difficulty with Pride and Prejudice.

When I say I saw many sites pushing the how to read books really quickly, I mean, I saw lots. It saddened me. There were a couple of problems with this approach, I felt.

  • you’re not going to remember much
  • you’re not going to be a better or worse person for it
  • you sound like you’re trying to impress someone.

I’m not sure how you can impress someone by speedreading a load of books. This, however, is a side issue. My personal view is that you’re better off reading fewer books, and choosing judiciously, than you are reading a load of books. I’m not against reading loads of books. I’m against the idea that you can efficiently do it as fast as you can and actually get any benefit from it other than misplaced bragging rights.

(yes, I’ll come to the Alex Stubb stuff in a bit).

The issue as I see it is that we’ve produced a narrative that Every Minute Has to Count As Productive. If you’re starting from that point of view, the more pages you read in an hour, the more productive your reading is. After all, no one is testing you on the contents of a Steve Jobs biography; what matters is that you can claim to have read it and not look completely out of it when your peer group is swapping notes on getting up at 4am.

I have issues with that narrative.  Mostly because I think it matters what and why you read, and not how much. For this reason, I think the world would be better off if more people read Pride and Prejudice and not, for example, Steve Jobs autobiography.  But that’s by way of an aside. There’s an additional problem and it’s this: sometimes there’s a focus on what people should be reading. This leads to lists of Books That Famous Rich People Think You Should Read or more to the point books that a journalist would like you to think that Bill Gates thinks you should read. Amongst others.

One of the things I liked about Alex Stubb’s reading program (and he has it on his own site here by the way) is that he made no comment about what books he was going to read, or appears to even have suggested that he’d do so over the course of the year while he’s doing this. I think this matters. Books are a journey, and reading is exploration. I think we need to recognise that. I recognise reading lists are good door openers but they should be guidance rather than instruction. The downside is that Alex is also talking about how many books he will get throughas well  and I sometimes wonder how good that is as a goal.

One of the very best books I have read is SIlk Roads by Peter Frankopan which is a tour de force of history. I strongly recommend it. I also admit it took me about 18 months to finish it because sometimes I read it, and sometimes I went on holidays from it. It doesn’t make it any less a book and since the last couple of books I read, I polished off in 3 or 4 hours, nor is it because I read at a particularly glacial speed.

The point I’m trying to make is your reading will not be any better if you are trying to fly through it just to move on to the next one. Plus, the speed at which I fly through books varies. Some things are binge read, like a back of Pringles, other things are savoured, like a box of Fazer chocolate (try getting that in Ireland). There is no productivity solution to reading other than to sit down and switch off twitter.

In the meantime, I’m putting a page on this site to cover the books I am reading, or, rereading since the start of September. I have to be honest and say the whole hour every day hasn’t been working out for the last 2 weeks despite the fact that there’s time set aside on my alarms to remind me to switch of and travel elsewhere in my mind so there is not a huge amount to report as of yet.

 

I must buy all the things!!!!!

Someone posted a craft link to my Facebook feed the other day on how doing craft stuff and buying craft stuff were two separate hobbies. I totally understand this.

Yesterday, I bought some mechanical pencils. When I lived in Ireland, basically, if you wanted a mechanical pencil, it was a 0.5mm or a 0.7mm you got. And the choice in the cheap price range was a bit pathetic. This is why I tended to bulk buy mechanical pencils when I was out foreign. They had pretty pencils. They had good pencils like Uni Kuru Togas and Uni Shalakus. They were pretty, and they came in a nice range of colours and as 0.5s went, they tended to stay fairly pointy.

When I started drawing I realised that I needed something slightly finer again to deal with fur. I drew mice.

And evil looking kittens.

And I struggled to find anything finer, like that really nice 0.3 the guy on the Youtube video was using. I tore Dublin apart looking either for a clutch pencil that was nice and long (duh) or a 0.3. I eventually found a 0.35mm Faber Castell. For a long time, that was the only 0.3 pencil I had. I bought some class of a Japanese one in Delfonics in Paris once for a friend who liked particularly lethal stationery and spent months afterwards regretting not buying two.

We’re talking about 0.05mm here but the other problem with this is the lack of replacement leads.

Which brings us to yesterday. I discovered another stationery shop in Luxembourg a few weeks ago and yesterday, I got to go and Check It Out. It didn’t have Uni Kuru Togas (pity) but it did have a few Pentel Orenz in various sizes. I have coveted a Pentel Orenz for ages. I actually owned one (having picked it up in Delfonics in Paris a few weeks’ ago) but they had them in a lot of different sizes and colours. And they had other Pentels that I didn’t see too often. I’ve a bundle of Pentels in the mechanical pencil role but they are 0.5s and 0.7s.

You know, when you start drawing they keep telling you to, you know keep trying stuff till you find what you like. I have a lot of pencils both wood case and mechanical and clutch. I’m finding that I like different pencils for different things.

Anyway, my little eyes lit up, and I bought 2x 0.2s and 2x 0.3s. I was strong on the 0.7 and 0.5 front, even to the extent of not buying a 0.5 Pentel Graphgear which I sort of thought I didn’t have but rationalised it on the grounds that I had about 4 Kuru Togas and 5 Shalakus, all 0.5. And that wasn’t including all the other 0.7s (hello Faber Castell and Caran d’Ache). There’s a moratorium on a number of stationery items at the moment although it’s possible if they were selling Kuru Togas in anything other than a 0.5 I’d have capitulated.

Today then, I needed to find homes for these new pencils, the joy of my life, which which I would be drawing fur till the cows came home, metaphorically. I have seen no cows since I left Ireland. As part of that job I also did a census of boxes of mechanical pencil leads. I took the opportunity to tidy out the pencil section of my tool box (this means I didn’t deal with the fineliners) as well. From this experience I learned that I have a lot of 0.3mm mechanical pencils. Now, the one that was in my handbag pencil case has been causing trouble but because it was one of 3 Staedler Mars I’m not entirely sure whether it’s the same one that came out of my handbag pencil case (it’s a small case to impose discipline), these new ones which I got yesterday and the infamous Faber Castell 0.35 which I bought a few years ago from the only shop in Dublin which did, at the time, sell something that fine.

As a result of this exercise – I deliberately did not take any photographs, I have discovered that

  • the reason my tool box wouldn’t close was because it had LOADs of pencils in it. It’s still pushing it tightness wise but it looks less uck than it did this morning
  • I have enough pencil lead to open my own shop but surprisingly enough, the lead I am least well supplied in is 0.7 of any graphite grade. I have more 0.3, and 0.2 than I have of 0.7. I think this is linked to panic buying. IF you know every shop will have some variety of 0.7 then you don’t panic about it. Given that historically I’ve found it impossible to get either 0.3 and smaller pencils and associated lead, I clearly binge bought it any time I saw it.
  • My desk is nice when it’s tidy.
  • I also have a lot of international ink cartridges, colour blue (they were in the same drawer as the pencil lead supplies). I have no idea what to do with them; I have plenty of fountain pens, this is true, and many of them even take international cartridges (I have loads of Lamys too). But I really have no idea how I accumulated so many blue cartridges because I do not buy them. I’m pretty certain I did not ship them from Ireland. And while you tend to get a cartridge or two when you buy a cheap fountain pen (like 10E worth of neon colour plastic things), I still seem to have an order of magnitude more blue cartridges than can be reasonably explained by the number of dirt cheap plastic school kid fountain pens I have acquired in the last year.
  • If I had any guts I’d do something about the fineliner supply in my tool box but to be honest, I think one of the key issues there is the inability to differentiate between the “live” fineliner and the “spare fineliner because the wretched things go dry at the most inopportune times”.

Anyway, courtesy of this morning’s work, my pencil lead selection is currently tidy, and there is a moratorium on buying any pencil lead at all. Whatever I have, I need to work through and this includes the random colour lead I seem to have acquired as well. No more. Although, no wait, I am allowed get graphite when I run out of that. But we’re talking about an event sometime in the long term here.

I’m getting good at actively not buying any more cheap plastic fountain pens (I dread finding out about the colours of next year’s special edition Lamys). This at least is not adding to the orgy of blue ink in one of my stationery drawers.

I need to spend more time drawing. I did a dragon for Inktober the other day but I seem to lack the time to actually do anything major, any painting lately. I also started designing this year’s Christmas card – I’d apologise but the Christmas card designs tend to need to be done several times. I don’t have any of my large format watercolour paper with me so it gutted me this morning to do this, but I bought some. I have about 150 sheets of the stuff in Ireland. That aside, I think one of the key reasons I don’t draw much is that my desk suffers from Flat Surface Law Syndrome, the one that says No Flat Surface Remains Uncluttered for more than 5 seconds.

For weeks I’ve considered that a good solution to the lack of desk space would be buying more desk space but really, I think what I need are more shelves. It frustrates me that I can’t keep my home desk tidy when my work desk looks immaculate. I think it’s because my electricity bill does not travel to my work place. Things wind up on my desk though because there is no home for them.

There was a time I used to buy books and CDs. They did, in all fairness, take up more space.

Swimming Pool Review: Les Thermes, Bertrange Luxembourg

Truth be told, I was not that lost on Les Thermes which I finally got to visit yesterday. I can see why families might like it but for me, it didn’t do it. With Coque due to re-open on Monday, I cannot see myself going to the trouble of going to Les Thermes unless absolutely every single swimming pool in the area is closed.

On paper, it looks like it should be brilliant. It has a lot of pools – a wave pool, an outdoor pool, a pool with some bubbles, a paddling pool, a short pool which looks around 15m or so, and a 25m pool The 15m pool has an adjustable depth. The 25m pool ranges in depth from 1.8m to 4m. There are 2 diving boards at the 4m end, a 1m board and a 3m board. There is also a water slide that obviously has a landing pool although I didn’t check that out. I didn’t examine the paddling pool in any great deal. All of the other pools appear to be stainless steel. This ties in with the vaguely futuristic style of the building which looks a little like what people in the 60s imagined what the future would look like, vaguely circular and UFOish. The interior has a bunch of red faux leather panels and the windows of zones looking over the pool from on high are weird shapes.

So, to the good points. The wave pool is terrific, it generates really nice breaking waves and they aren’t exactly weak either. I’m not going to say you could go surfing in there but if the pool was a little bigger…bodysurfing wouldn’t be impossible, apart from washing up on stainless steel rather than sand.

The bubbles/jacuzziesqe relaxation pool behind the wave pool is very sweet and the bubbles are likewise, not exactly weak.

The outdoor pool was a bit smaller than I expected, but again, it was quiet enough, the water was plenty warm enough even though the air temperature wasn’t all that high.

For me, the primary issue was with the actual swimming pools as opposed to what you might call the leisure pools. Being somewhat of a wuss, I’m surprised I’m even making this comment, but I found the water too warm. The 25m pool was also, well, difficult to swim in. The diving boards were closed off to swim in and the rest of the pool was populated by people swimming very slowly. And I was much slower than usual in the rather too warm water. I can live without the leisure fun stuff but I’d like a sports pool to be reasonably easy to swim in.

Even the shorter pool – which was beautifully empty – was just too hard to move around in because it was too warm.

Dressing room wise, differently to other pools in Luxembourg, it has gender separated dressing rooms and they are communal with one private dressing room in the set I used. Showers have 2 private showers in the women’s shower sections. Lockers wise, they work with the entry bracelet (I really like that technology) and the lockers are a little wider than is my experience in other pools. Les Thermes also has much wider opening hours to the municipal pools which would possibly make it attractive if you had a car.  But I don’t, so a feature of any pool review for me is always going to be “and how much hassle is it to get to”.

For this reason, Les Thermes has wound up not on top of my list of pools here. Currently, I’d rate the pool in Syrdall to be a better pool – its swimming pool is noticeably cooler than the leisure pools and it’s somewhat easier to get to (one bus as opposed to 2 or 3, against that, a little further away). For actual swim training, I’m not commenting on Coque until I’ve been back in there next week but Bonnevoie is probably a better pool. If you’ve kids though, it’ll be a toss up between Les Thermes and Syrdall and if the wave pool matters, then it would be Les Thermes.

 

 

 

 

Multilingualism Day at the European Parliament – 30 September, 2017

Yesterday was international Translators and Interpreters Day and lined up with that, the European Parliament ran a Multilingualism Day at the Parliament buildings in Brussels. In particular, I think, it was targeted at would be interpreters and translators and featured some specialist talks; some briefing talks in the debating chamber, and some games and try it out stuff. The interpreting service had temporary interpreting booths set up with a bunch of recorded speeches for anyone to try.

Because of issues between Luxembourg and Brussels, I wound up arriving later than I would liked so I missed a bit of a talk about life long education for interpreters, and also because I decided to do what they called a Hemicycle briefing tour, I missed the tips and tricks talk. I sort of regret that because I’m sure there were some great war stories.

One of the things which struck me about the population of visitors which I saw is that it was heartening to see the range of ages of people who were interested in knowing more about the language careers, particularly the interpreting. You could see this watching people having a go at interpreting – there was a broad range of ages stepping into the booths to voice their versions of Plastic Waste or The Beetle in French.

I’ve been in the Brussels Hemicycle a couple of times now between the Open Day in May and this. It’s quite a stunning room – my eyes are always drawn to the interpreting boxes, and English in number 2 and Gaeilge in Number 23. We had a terrific speaker who didn’t just talk at us about the Parliament but also engaged us in debate about the present and future of Europe, and the contexts which sometimes get forgotten and how they feed into the choice of representatives sent by the different countries. I’d strongly advise anyone who hasn’t seen either it, or the hemicycle in Strasbourg to grab opportunities when they present themselves. May is usually good for both and the plenary sessions should be accessible as well I think. It was heartening to see young British people attending, even now when it seems as though the EU may not be a part of their country’s future. It seems to me they still hope.

The one interpreting talk I did get to was interesting in terms of listening to the questions people ask. The young Dutch interpreter who gave the talk admitted that it took him about 4 years to get any newly acquired language operational for interpreting and that yes, learning for interpreting caused different learning strategies with a focus on passive understanding more so than active writing, for example. You could understand that too. I kind of wished things like this existed when I was a recent graduate – I would have killed to sit in those rooms wishing and dreaming.

As for the interpreting itself, I was slightly disappointed not to get to sit in one of the hemicycle booths to look out on the room but I had a go at the plastic waste speech which didn’t go too badly. I can’t complain.

On a vaguely related note, uncomfortable and all as they are, I’d really like to know how to get my hands on headphones similar to the ones the Parliament has. Yes they are flat, yes they are plastic and sure they are fairly austere compared to my nice puffy on earphones that look like they date from the 1970s but the sound is crystal clear from them.

Anyway, I think outreach events like this are great – I loved both this and the SCIC Europe conference thing in the Berlaymont in May – and I really do think any one with an interest in working for the institutions, particularly as an interpreter or translator, should try to get to them when they turn up. Finding out about them – well the best thing to do is follow both the European Commission and Parliament Interpreters on Facebook.

 

Wandering through pages

I’m not entirely sure how but this popped up on my twitter feed this morning:

Alex Stubb wrote a piece for Finnair’s inflight magazine on the question of reading and the fact that he seemed to be doing less of it. I must confess I was a bit envious of his 4000 books. I cleared out a good lot last year when I was moving house, much to my sadness. What he said about the place of reading in his life resonated. I have been thinking about this on several fronts myself lately. I’ve recognised that I read far less than I did in the past. This despite the convenience of a Kindle which currently has a queue of about 200 books to read. The fact that I have not been reading much has not necessarily meant that I have stopped actually buying books.

So far this year, I have finished reading 12 books. This is about 8 more than usual lately and this is mostly because I decided to make a concerted effort to read more. I just haven’t formalised it in a 1+1+1 plan like Mr Stubb has. But I am inclined to follow his lead, or at least give it a shot. I’m not able to do 1 hour of exercise every day on the grounds that in theory, most weeks I go swimming 3 to 4 times and that’s a minimum 2 hour cut out of my day. I also feel that twitter absorbs a good deal of my time but not necessarily productively. So in addition to reviewing and rebuilding my reading habit, I’m also looking at chopping the number of accounts I follow on twitter.

Two things led to the loss of reading from my life. I felt the loss of Terry Pratchett enormously. Additionally, I used to read a significant amount of children’s fiction and with Harry Potter, I seem to have tapped out of that lately. Most of what I have been reading of late has been non-fiction. I’ve just finished Motherfóclóir which is the better of the two books focused on using the Irish language which I read this year. I also finished Silk Road by Peter Frankopan which is a book I had been travelling with for some time. More frivolously I have started reading Calvin and Hobbes again. But I have also drawn heavily on the field of science and genetics for escape.

I have a massive reading queue, and it is hard to know what to start with. I have some frivolous German stuff, and a classic of travel writing by Heinrich Boll lined up. In a way, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of books both on my kindle and on my Amazon wishlist and I wonder if that perhaps, contributes to the paralysis I sometimes now feel about reading. Like I have a lot of books to get through.

Mostly recently acquired are the memoirs of a US interpreter which I expect to be relatively easy to read, and apart from that, I have been journeying with Empire of the Word by Nicholas Ostler for some time. I think it is sometimes more difficult to make progress through very in-depth, long books on kindles. We lack the visual evidence of progress; the movement of the bookmark through the pages. I regret that and somehow, I need to be practical as well.

What I lack at the moment is a way into fiction. The last piece of fiction that I read that truly took my life by the scruff of the neck and pulled me out of reality – and it was a re-read – was Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I have another of his other books to hand but I have somehow not found a route into them.  In a way, I think for years I was sated by the escapism guaranteed by a visit to the Discworld but I don’t think Terry Pratchett would appreciate the idea that he had spoilt me for other books.

I need to get involved in a little exploration. Just as soon as I’ve read a few more of these books I have lined up for the last 5 to 10 years.

 

 

 

Sennelier, on the quays in Paris

Not too far from the Louvre is an art supply shop I have been angling to get to for years and yesterday, I managed it.

The shop is called Sennelier and it looks like time has not really changed it in a century or more. I got there yesterday and I fell in love.

I wanted to go there because I paint mostly with Sennelier paints, and also, I just wanted to see it. Absolutely everyone who has been there has said it is exceptional.

It is.

I finally found some Strathmore 400 books in there, and some of the new Canson Heritage water paper. Upstairs, they had a section pretty much dedicated to drawing pens and brushes. I did serious damage there and could have done more if I hadn’t exerted a little discipline over it.

It is unquestionably the best art shop I have ever been in. I will be going back when I next need stuff.

Shopping for swimming gear

Back in 1996, so 21 years ago, I decided to start swimming (again) and needed swimming gear because I actually had none. It must be the only time in my life that I had none but such is life. I was living in Paris at the time, and for some reason I took myself into the sports section of Samaritaine, one of the big Parisian department stores; less expensive than Printemps and Lafayette, but in a beautiful building which time had forgotten. They had a huge sports section.

I tried on a bunch of swimsuits that day and eventually bought a Speedo suit which was sort of holographic. I loved it. There’s probably a cutting from it in one of my journals from when I eventually realised it was just falling apart. Even now, it’s probably still my favourite swim suit that I’ve ever owned. It was basically navy with blue shiny bits arranged in squares. They brought out a coloured version of it afterwards which you can actually see on the Sports Illustrated site. I never got around to buying it which I sort of regret.

It was the start of a very long commercial relationship which basically amounted to me giving Speedo money almost every time I needed a swimsuit. In fact, until yesterday, the only time I didn’t buy a Speedo swimsuit was when I made a last minute decision to learn to surf and didn’t have a swimsuit with me. I wound up buying a Zoggs one that day. I think I only actually used it for that surfing lesson which seems a bit extreme.

I’ve had lots of Speedo swimsuits over the years, too many to list. But I put on weight and buying swimsuits got harder and harder. I can look back in nostalgia on that gorgeous turquoise one that I really was reluctant to let go, for example, and it won’t change anything. The last 5 years have been difficult. On one front, my weight and thus size has been inconstant. The size translations seemed to have moved around. More than once I bought a swimsuit that turned out to be a size too small despite it being a size bigger than the one I was looking to replace.

The whole buying of swimsuits became more stressful than buying pairs of jeans. I hated doing it because very often, my size just wasn’t available, it bore no relationship to their translation based on normal dress sizes. And it was a job that I was going to have to do again because I lost my swimsuit while I was on holidays last week. Now, I own at the time 4 other swimsuits all of which had failed to fit me at some point in the last year. It transpired I had lost enough weight to fit into the next one down so that’s now in service. I hate it, however. It isn’t that it’s uncomfortable because it isn’t. I loathe it because it’s black with a radio activecoloured peach piping. I imagine some people in the world might like the style; I’m not one of them. It only has two advantages in my view: a) the breast stuff wasn’t “ooh we should do cup sizes for swimsuits but are too lazy” and it fitted. I think the only reason I even bought it was in theory, on the occasion, it was the only suit in the shop which was my size. And it turned out not to be.

Any searching I did through Speedo’s available options for people who are not Olympic swimmers, you are looking at black. Their pregnancy ones are black. It’s like they want you to just vanish, and not aspire to having pretty stuff. I found it irritating. But escaping was hard.

One of the primary reasons I have stuck with Speedo over the years is I wanted swimsuits made by people who understood people who went swimming as opposed to people who wanted to sunbathe. But after reviewing what they had in their “Sculpture” range this summer/autumn, I gritted my teeth and went and had a look at what Arena and Maru had on offer. Arena’s range this year both for their training set and their “we know you’re not a size 0 flat chest” range was significantly more attractive, even their plain branded ones. And they had a dedicated shop in Paris, in Bercy.

I went to that shop yesterday, and spoke to a shop assistant who eventually sold me two Arena swimsuits. One of them is absolutely beautiful, and I love it. It will probably be my main swimsuit for the next couple of months. The other one is a bit plainer and I like it far more than the plainish black Speedo I’ve been wearing for the last two weeks. I hope to be down another size when they need to be replaced.

There are two swimsuits the next size down in my swimming drawer which are not black and which I do like, so I don’t expect to have to revisit the swimsuit thing for another year at least. But the truth is, my loyalty to Speedo for swimsuits is gone. Arena’s suits this year are just so much nicer. I still don’t get their nose clips or their goggles, so Speedo will continue to get money of me for those.

waves and numbers and stuff