Like Father, Love Son: Walking Back to Happiness, by Alan Nolan

Like Father, Love Son: Walking Back to Happiness, by Alan Nolan

Alan Nolan and his son Ian have become estranged over the years, both emotionally and geographically. Alan proposes they bridge the gap that has grown between them by embarking on a long-distance walk, the Tour de Mont Blanc together.

Considered one of the classic long-distance hiking trails the TMB circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering 170km with 10,000m of ascent while taking in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Described as “a blend of travel, autobiography and family history peppered with humour”, Like Father, Love Son is more than just a book about their trek. Alan feels that he never talked enough with his own father and is left with many unasked questions about his life. He hopes to use their time walking together to bridge the gap that has grown between himself and his son, and to share his experiences of growing up and becoming who he is now.

However, despite his best intentions his son remains indifferent to his attempts to make the walk any more than a shared adventure, and the book itself serves the purpose of providing the intended legacy from father to son.

Born and raised in Southport, Alan Nolan shares the typical Liverpudlian humour, exhibiting a tendency for rather blatant, cringe-worthy puns. Upon encountering the first few of these I experienced some initial misgivings, but as Alan’s life story drew me in I came to view them as intrinsic to the tale.

All in all a good read.

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa, By Matthew Fort

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa, By Matthew Fort

I was drawn to this book because it appealed to me on so many levels. I love food and cooking; I am considering moving to Italy post-Brexit; and I am drawn to the idea of an extended European road-trip, be it in a camper-van, a car, or by motorbike. In the nineties Jude and I even spent a holiday riding around the Greek island of Thassos on a moped, although my only gastronomic memory is of having egg and chips in a taverna that opened out-of-season especially for us. Perhaps because of this my expectations were set too high, but for me this is one of those books which attempts to combine travel and cookery without quite hitting the mark. The sum is somehow less than the parts.

Matthew Fort is a well-respected food columnist and writer. He was Food and Drink Editor at The Guardian for 15 years from 1989 to 2006. His accolades include Glenfiddich Food Writer of the Year, Restaurant Writer of the Year and Cookery Writer of the Year. His food credentials are undisputed.

This is the second in a series of (so far) three, chronicling his Italian adventures on a Vespa, along with Eating Up Italy and Summer in the Islands. All have been well received and well reviewed.

In this book he returns to Sicily,  an island he first visited with his brother some 30 years earlier, on a gastronomic road-trip. The renowned chef Giorgio Locatelli, himself an award-winning author, is quoted on the front cover describing it as “Elizabeth David meets Jack Kerouac”. This, sadly, is simply not true.

As primarily a food book it works well. It is impossible to doubt Matthew’s enthusiasm for Sicilian cooking. His examination of Sicily’s vibrant food culture is comprehensive and thorough. He writes passionately about how the younger generation are abandoning the traditional ingredients and techniques in favour of convenience. The Elizabeth David reference is perhaps a valid one, but Matthew is no Kerouac.

As a travel book that it fails to satisfy. Despite the clever conceit of travelling on a Vespa it lacks the depth of detail that makes me feel part of the adventure. I would like to know far more about the ordinary people he meets, the hotels he stays in, the petrol stations, cafes and bars.

The entire book rather reminds me of the last chapters of Chris Stewart’s Last Days of the Bus Club, which leave the impression that a pressing deadline compelled him to throw in a few recipes to make up the word-count. I frequently found myself having to doggedly continue to the end of a chapter.

In conclusion, Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons is a book better suited to foodies than travel buffs.


Online productivity tools I use and recommend

This is a curated list of online productivity tools I use and recommend. The list will grow over time, but inevitably some of them will move or disappear. Please let me know in the comments if you find a missing or broken link.

Edit HTML tables

Professional HTML Editor is an online WYSIWYG HTML editor which allows you to easily convert any document file to clean HTML code, or clean existing code. I find it particularly useful as a tool for editing HTML tables. You’ll need to subscribe (or know your way around Developer Tools) to use it on a Friday. Try it out at

Extract images from PDF files enables you to extract images from PDF files and save them in your chosen format using it’s browser-based web app at


As 2017 draws towards a close I find myself living in the interesting times referred to in the (possibly apocryphal) Chinese curse.

I am therefore in the process of actively evaluating my future plans on both a personal and professional level in order to try to find a path forward that will maximise my success and happiness.

This will involve a number of changes to how (and in due course possibly where) I live.  As Tupac Shakur eloquently put it in his hip-hop classic Changes

Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other.
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive.

This is really intended as an introduction to a number of themes that I hope to touch on in forthcoming but as yet only half-formed and unwritten posts:  I have of late and Reboot 5.2, exploring  my continuing experience of mid-life existential angst and how I intend to resolve it.

Today is a snowy Sunday in Ellesmere however, and as a small first step I am devoting it to moving my blog to my new WordPress hosting platform and giving it a much needed makeover.


The 5BX plan, or how to achieve physical fitness in 11 minutes a day

I first came across the 5BX plan back in the early 1990s. Since then I have probably started the programme a dozen times or so, on occasion reaching my target level.

The cover of the Penguin paperback copy I have dating from 1990 describes the 5BX plan as “the 11 minute exercise plan for men…for getting fit, feeling fit and staying fit”.

In the late 1950’s one third of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilots were considered insufficiently fit to fly. Bill Orban, a Canadian athlete, scientist and academic working for the Canadian Department of National Defence, was tasked with developing a fitness program to address this issue.

The result was the 5BX (5 Basic Exercises) plan first published in 1961. Described as an early version of the now popular HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) program1, the 5BX program is ideal for those of us searching for the holy grail of fitness programs. Firstly, because many RCAF pilots were located in remote bases in northern Canada with no access to gymnasium facilities, the 5BX plan does not require access to specialised equipment. Secondly, the plan requires only 11 minutes per day to be spent on the exercises.

The 5BX plan consists of six charts arranged in increasing order of difficulty. Each chart is composed of five exercises that are performed within 11 minutes. The five basic exercises remain the same throughout the charts, but more difficult variations are introduced and number of repetitions increased.

The first four exercises are callisthenics and the last an aerobic exercise, as follows:

  1. Stretching
  2. Sit-up
  3. Back extension
  4. Push-up
  5. Running in place

The final exercise can be substituted for a walk or run. I opt for this choice.

The aim is to work through the levels until you reach the appropriate one for your age. In my case as a  50-60 year old man I should reach and maintain Chart 2, Level C+, although inevitably I’m tempted by the level suitable for Flying Crew aged 45-9 (Chart 3, level B). This is partly in homage to my dad, and partly because I am, after all, a marathon runner and (part-time) triathlete.

The first stages are almost ridiculously easy but by the time you reach your target level are just taxing enough to abandon through lack of time. Last year I reached my target level on holiday, but then failed to carry on while travelling home and all was lost. This year one of my resolutions is to begin once again, and to stick with the programme this time.

The exercises have somewhat fallen out of fashion in later years, partly because they are considered to be unsafe due to the fact that they are unsupervised, and partly because the sit-up exercises in the higher levels are potentially damaging to the spine. The former is just silly, the latter can be resolved by replacing the sit-ups with crunches. John Walker, founder of Autodesk, Inc and co-author of AutoCAD, has developed a version that is suitable for everyone as part of his (excellent) Hacker’s Diet, which I hope to write more about on another occasion.

I am currently on Chart 1, level D+. You can follow my progress, or lack of it, on my personal twitter account at

Download a copy of the 5BX plan here.

1 Amy Lewis, Good Housekeeping, How to get a body like Helen Mirren, 25 September 2014

Adventures on a Grand Scale and the Theory of List-Making

I have always been a list-maker.

As a child I frequently made lists of my dreams and aspirations for the future. As a teenage schoolboy I distinctly remember filling my homework diary with an ever-increasing list of Latin verbs that I intended to learn, always starting tomorrow. This was an early example of the act of list-making itself replacing the action of completing the list.

Sometime in my early adult life I conceived the idea of the 7-year plan, based on the adventurous highs and lows of my father’s life. I began to believe that identifying and recording a series of desired life goals or outcomes for each 7 year period of life made their achievement much more likely. This built upon the theory of visualisation that was presented to me as a motivational tool early in my sales career.

Then, in the summer of 2014 I finally got around to compiling a Bucket List of sorts, listing a fairly random selection of the almost infinite things I wanted to do or achieve during my lifetime. Once again it seemed that by making a physical list of things that I wanted to do or achieve, they became part of an agenda and thus much more likely to happen. Seeing Pete Doherty play was a typical example – having added it to the list it went from being a vague wish to an actual plan. I followed him on Facebook, saw a reference to a guerrilla gig later the same day, and seized the opportunity. Tick.

The following list is of Adventures on a Grand Scale. Everything one does in life comes with an opportunity cost, and in all honesty I suspect that the personal cost of these adventures will prove to be too high. Nevertheless, before I die I would to spend three of my remaining years doing the following things:

  1. Spend 6 months driving around Europe in a camper van
  2. Spend 6 months driving around the USA in a camper van
  3. Spend 6 months driving around Australia/New Zealand in a camper van
  4. Spend 6 months driving around Asia in a camper van
  5. Spend 6 months sailing around the Med
  6. Spend 6 months sailing across the Pacific

To be continued.

Reboot 5.0

A sustained period of healthy living earlier this year saw a new me emerge. I liked him. He looked good, and because he didn’t drink or smoke he was happier and more even-tempered than the old one. My wife and children liked him too.

To mark turning 50 I had completed Ellesmere Triathlon in May this year. My time of 2:47:57 was just over 12 minutes faster than 42-year old me in 2008. The holistic combination of swimming, cycling and running saw my weight fall below 190lbs. Continued running and healthy eating lead me to me reach my target weight of under 185 lbs in July.  This meant that I had a “healthy” BMI  for the first time since records began – I’ve been monitoring my weight for the past decade.

On holiday in Spain this summer I managed to get below the 180 lb mark, albeit for a solitary week.

However, on returning home I took up the challenge of drinking the vast quantity of wine we had brought back from Spain with vigour. At the same time I fell  out of the habit of running regularly due to work pressures, and abandoned my diet to counter the black dog of depression brought about by yet another British winter by comfort eating. This has resulted in my weight ballooning back to a peak of 199.1 lbs last week. I no longer feel a mixture of pride and smugness when I look in the mirror.

Time to reboot. Here is my manifesto of change:

I will resume using the MyFitnessPal app to religiously count my calorie intake, good or bad.

I will begin to follow the GI diet again, which worked so well for me last time.

I will resume the 5BX exercise plan, starting once again from Chart 1.

I will run or do some form of exercise every day until I once again reach my target weight – in this case to weigh under 180lbs again.

My only cheat days will be Christmas day and my birthday on New Year’s Eve.

Viva la revolution!

Domain Junkie, revisited

Back in 2008 I wrote a blog post cataloguing my domain portfolio. 8 years have passed and it is time to revisit the subject, as I enter a new phase of business planning and development.

I’ll run through the list as it was then, update it and then look at the new additions to my addiction. I’ll also list my aims and ambitions for each property.
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.com registered




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