Ducks, Daves and Detours

Some of you may have read my post An Impromptu Mother’s Day Adventure or How We Survived the Vortex that is Our Local Bermuda Triangle …, and were kind enough to say you found it amusing, well, here’s a little sequel for you…

But first, I must tell you that the other day someone used the search phrase ‘how far away from Fiji is the Bermuda Triangle?’ and guess where they were directed? Yep, my Mother’s Day post! If you’re reading this too, I am so sorry I couldn’t be more helpful answering your question.

On with the sequel: we have established that my husband has a reputation for going off road, or at least off the road he’s meant to be travelling, and ending up somewhere else. What you may not know, is that he’s also terrible with names, and since he knows an incomprehensible number of Daves, he tends to use this generic name whenever he gets stuck. This is relevant later on.

IMG_1448After the earlier post, he invited me to accompany him to his bike-fit session at a bike shop called Bicycles By Design. The shop is 15 miles away – more or less, depending on whether or not HB is doing the navigating: when we did our recon last week, it was 30 miles away because we made several unplanned detours! As you may recall from the earlier post, a bike fit involves setting up your bike to fit your particular physical quirks so that you can ride in comfort and avoid those niggling aches and pains from riding in the wrong position.

As exciting as that prospect was, I politely declined, citing hair washing and nail filing, and I looked forward to having a few hours on my own playing indie (or Indian as hb insists on calling it) music very loud, while eating raw chocolate almonds* and bantering on social media. No car keys to find, no bike parts to admire, no iPad problems to sort out (despite spending years working with computers, he just can’t fathom how to tweet or message on Instagram).

Friday morning came and all went according to plan. Hb left early for his bike-fit. It was a lovely morning and I had breakfast outside, while listening to the birds and watching the bees. Bliss.

He arrived home, happy with his bike adjustments and no impromptu sightseeing – or so he reckoned. However, on putting his bike away, he noticed Dave, the bike-fit guy, had left a shop quick-release on the back wheel instead of replacing his own. He had to take it back. He was going to have a quick bite to eat and set off. The sun was out, the bike shop is on the river, it was going to be a quick in and out, so I decided I would go with him.

Surprisingly, we had an uneventful drive and pulled up outside the bike shop. It was in a lovely setting, part of an old building that used to be the china works but is now a Youth Hostel, café and the bike store. The cherry blossom was breathtaking, the sun was shining and it was so quiet. Just the river flowing behind us and the occasional whoosh of beating duck wings flying by.


Hb went in and returned the quick-release to Dave, then we spent some time by the river and the canal which runs alongside it which used to serve the china works with its bottle kilns, tar tunnel and tracks, but is now home to a large colony of mallard ducks.

 Bottoms up!

We realised it was getting late and we needed to set off home before the rush hour.

First, though, we had to find our way out of the vortex of these 4 small towns!

I don’t really need to say it do I? We got lost. Again. No, we still don’t have a Sat Nav. In all fairness, the signage in this area is woeful, and that’s putting it mildly. Several times, you arrive at a junction and the sign will indicate that the town you are aiming for is in fact in both directions at once! So you ‘discuss’ the alternatives and whichever you choose, inevitably end up having to go back on yourself, spinning round and round the local plughole until it finally spits you out, dizzy and exhausted, and barely speaking to each other, as both are adamant their way was the right way!

On the way there, we had passed what looked like some lovely public gardens and I suggested that on the way back we take a look to see if Mum would be able to manage a visit – she is coming to stay for a few days soon. Needless to say, we couldn’t find them. They just disappeared. I had made a mental note of whereabouts they were, I could describe the row of cottages nearby, the railway bridge and so on, all of which we found, but no gardens. Apparently sucked into the vortex.

By this time, we were both tired and hungry so we agreed to give in and made it home without further issues.

Apart from the energy-sapping journey home, it was a lovely afternoon. Next time though, can we just borrow the Tardis?

Oh, and Dave the bike man? His name was Rob!

*Highly recommended, but be warned, very moreish!


The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Zingy Kale Salad Juice

Are you ready to ditch the festive food yet and get healthy again? 

I am.

Food is a real problem for me when all the family get together. My juicing routine is interrupted and meals take so much time and preparation that I end up compromising and eating things I know are going to leave me feeling uncomfortable if not in great pain.

Yesterday was one of those days.

With a houseful of meat-loving teenagers, there are only so many times you can get away with vegan nut roast or pizza, fruit salad, and raw chocolate treats, before you have a mutiny on your hands. So yesterday, their final lunch was fish and chips from the local chip shop! There was no time for juicing or making salads as they were on a tight timetable for their journey home. I ended up having a few chips, my first potatoes of any kind for 18 months. They were crisp and freshly made and tasted good with Himalayan pink salt. I ate them slowly and mindfully. I asked them to be kind.

Those few chips caused me so much heartburn and acid reflux, I was in pain all night and had no sleep! What’s more, the skin on the back of my hand began to itch (see How I Juiced My Skin Clear: A Rash Decision?).

This morning, I decided that was it. Back on the juice.


This is one of my husband’s concoctions. It’s a throwback to summer days in the garden. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, hold your nose and cross your fingers, but this turned out really well!

Wash all the ingredients, keep the peel on unless you’re using a waxed lemon, in which case pare it very thinly to leave as much pith as possible, this is where the micro-nutrients live and we need them in the juice. It helps the kale to go through the juicer more easily if you chop it roughly and feed it through in scrunched-up batches between apple and cucumber. Feed the lemon in with another item and leave the celery to last if your juicer doesn’t cope with it too well.

This juice has protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, healthy omega fats, electrolytes, fibre and is hydrating and good for your skin.


Large handful of Kale

2 Apples

Half an unwaxed Lemon with peel

3″ Cucumber

1 Stalk of Celery

Handful of Green Beans

1/4 of Avocado

Wash and juice everything except the avocado which is blended into the juice.

(Begin with apple and end with apple for best results).

You can chop and freeze the remainder of the avocado to use for future blended juices or in guacamole etc.


Juicing in the garden during the late summer while hb mends bikes – it’s his thing. It’s very messy and that’s as close as he gets!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

‘What Do You Eat If You Can’t Have Anything Naughty?’ – What Vegans Eat

imageMy husband does bike repairs and refurbishes second-hand bikes* which he sells on if in good condition or gives them away if they are past their sell-by date in terms of age and design.

This means that there is a lot of foot traffic through our back garden as people bring their injured steeds for some TLC or to ask about a bike we might have for sale. Some like to chat and put the world to rights, especially those who are retired.

Yesterday was one such day. A regular customer came to collect his bike. The sun was making a rare appearance and I was -unusually for me – sitting outside under the umbrella. We had met some time ago, when I answered the door to him, but had never really had a conversation. He is retired and likes to amble around on his bike enjoying the fresh air and countryside. He does t’ai chi and chi qong, but had injured his knee recently and inevitably the conversation turned to health, nutirition, exercise and ailments.

Having worked selling potatoes for many years, he is quite knowledgeable about how food is produced and marketed, eats little meat except for organic chicken and pork occasionally, some oily fish, and takes flax seed oil supplements for his joints. He knew that my husband is vegetarian but raised an eyebrow when I mentioned I am vegan.

He had just been regaling us with advice about washing fruit and veg because it is sprayed to within an inch of its life and how he had witnessed such cruelty in modern farming methods, yet he was puzzled by my dietary choices.

It seemed to come down to puddings!

His face twisted and he asked ‘So, what do you eat if you can’t have anything naughty?!’

I grinned and said, ‘We’ve just had a 13 year old boy visiting for a week and we’ve had puddings every day!’ ‘Really?’ he replied, surprised and sceptical. ‘What do you do then?’

I explained that we still made ice-cream, for instance (see below for recipe links)he asked how and was impressed, he didn’t realise you didn’t need cow’s milk and refined sugar, chemicals, artificial flavourings and preservatives. I added that if we want something sweet we use fresh or dried fruit or occasionally maple syrup in the recipes (he had assumed we used honey).

I added, all you need is a blender and a food processor. ‘Well,’he responded, ‘We’ve got those.’

Now, he knows I have a long-term back injury and as I started to expand on my dietary habits, he interrupted, looked me up and down, sitting there in my shorts and t-shirt and pronounced that I looked well despite being vegan – ‘You must have been a child bride!’ (cringe) – I was slim so there was no need for me to ‘diet.’

My husband spluttered and I smiled indulgently and shook my head. Here we go, I thought.

Before I could reply, he proceded to describe how he was reasonably fit and healthy, wasn’t fat and did alright without medications before adding that he had some pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories for a previous condition that he was now taking for his knee: ‘But they don’t do any good!’

Eventually, I corrected him.

‘I look well, slim and healthy because I am vegan and because I juice, not despite my food regimen. I don’t take any medications and before I changed my lifestyle I suffered with unbearably painful sinusitis, twice-yearly chest infections that would last 6-8 weeks and often resulted in a cracked rib or strained muscles from coughing, I had painful IBS and asthma.

Since I began juicing and more recently became vegan, I no longer suffer the symptoms of these conditions.

He was sceptical. My husband laughed and backed me up. ‘It’s true, and you won’t win the argument, she’s heard it all before!’

He persisted: ‘No pain medications?’

No. They make me ill, bring me out in a rash and don’t work. They damaged my stomach lining and gave me gastritis. (I juice ginger and turmeric daily for inflammation and use Devil’s Claw herbal drops when it flares up in times of stress).

But to get back to our cycling friend. Once he was reassured there could still be puddings and I didn’t need medication, he was smiling again and kept saying how well I looked.

But he was very disappointed that he couldn’t bring me some trout or salmon from his fishing expeditions!

Later, our neighbour shouted over the hedge for my husband to come and help himself to some plums from his tree. We made a plum crumble last night for our visitors today, with no animal products or refined sugar. (Recipe link below).


See also Raw TreatsRaw Chocolate RecipesTiger Nut Recipes

Nana Rhys Cream with Mango, Cacao & Peanut Butter

Açaí, Blackberry & Coconut Gelato

Vegan, Gluten-Free Plum Crumble – Nice, But Not Too Naughty!


Copyright: Chris McGowan

Passing It Forward

Many years ago, a good friend was visiting from overseas with her young daughters. Of course, despite only being September, the weather was wet, grey and chilly. She observed me struggling to dry the family’s clothes on a plastic airer in front of a heating vent on the wall of our tiny kitchen. There was nowhere else to dry them and we had problems with condensation and damp.

My friend insisted on buying us a drier. It made life so much easier and I never forgot her generosity.

Several years later, when our circumstances were much improved, I became aware that another friend, a lone parent with a young child, was in difficulties: her ancient fridge freezer had finally given up the ghost and she had no money to replace it.

I gladly offered to buy her a new one.

I was, as the Americans phrase it, ‘passing it forward’ and it felt good to repay the original act of kindness in this way. I knew the second friend would do the same when she was able.

These gifts were expensive but much-appreciated, they enhanced the lives of the recipients for a very long time.

But it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – or even any money – to Pass It Forward.

Next time you do a clear-out of your wardrobe, your loft, your children’s toys, your shed or garage, think carefully about who might benefit from your passing it on. The local charity shops will welcome clean, useable clothing, toys, kitchenware and so on, many even take small working electrical goods. Playgroups and nurseries are sometimes short of good quality toys, books and play equipment. Women’s Refuges are often crying out for clothing and baby equipment.

We sometimes send books and refurbished bikes to our local Combat Stress centre.

Occasionally, we put an item at our gate with a note saying ‘free if you take it away’ or a serviced secondhand bike with a minimal price on which is donated to our local hospice.

Remember all those times when you were in need and someone helped you out, then pass it forward when your circumstances allow it. It can even just be the giving of your time.

I promise you, the recipient won’t be the only one who benefits.

Copyright: Chris McGowan