Wine Rides Meets Tally Ho

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One of the best things about starting a new company is the people it has opened me up to. As Hayley and I drove back from the Wine Rides pilot weekend, we noticed that a company called Tally Ho cycles had liked us on Facebook. I had seen the name Tally Ho before. It is a great name, but I hadn’t remembered where they were based. 

In fact, if I’m honest, I had remembered their name wrong and thought it was a “Ahoy there Cycles” which is presumably some marina based guided cycling tour company which Jack and I have yet to create.

It turns out that Tally Ho run guided cycle tours through central London on vintage style Pashley bicycles. As a result of Jack the owner getting in touch with me, I thought it would be wise to go and meet and have a chat with him. He’s run Tally Ho for three years and Trip Advisor gives him five stars. They are also widely regarded as one of the best things you can do in London. It therefore seemed wise for me to go out on one of his cycling tours and see “what good looks like” when it comes to giving people an excellent bike tour.

I also have to confess that I’m absolutely addicted to guided tours of cities. However the one city I’ve never done it in is London. Which when you think about it is mad. Having a tour of Dublin or Barcelona is fine, but you don’t live there, so you have no historical context and are very unlikely to remember the information. If you live in London, that information will be stored and is infinitely more useful to you because you can share it with anybody who comes to visit and appear to be super knowledgeable.

Having done Jack’s tour, I have to say it does not disappoint at all.

Firstly, the Pashley bicycles are amazingly comfortable, and wonderfully girly, especially if like me you chose the girls option: the Princess. The riding position is really different, when you ride a Pashley, it really is a more laid-back experience. The saddle is one of those wide Brooks leather jobbies, and the riding position is almost completely vertical. As a result, the entire three-hour East London tour that I went on was taken at a leisurely pace, equivalent to a stroll. 

We covered 9 miles of London and I managed to see places that I’ve yet to come across, even having lived here for over a decade. The magic thing about living in London is that it’s so large, even when you’ve been here for a third of your life, it can still surprise.

Guided by Jack, we set off through the back streets of Waterloo. We passed the only street in the UK where graffiti is legal, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre before heading up to Brick Lane and back around again to Tower Bridge. 

It dawned on me, taking a walking or cycling tour through London is probably the best way to do it. Obviously I had seen about half these sites before. But the point is, even though I had walked along the street with all the graffiti almost daily when I worked on the South Bank, I had never realised that it was a world mecca for graffiti artists. It came about because Banksy had started the “Can festival” here. It’s only by doing something like this that you get to see your city as though you were a tourist and in so doing you see it with new eyes and learn to love it again.

So what did I learn from Jack about giving tours? The way he was with his guests was fantastic. I was really impressed by his ability to seamlessly share his own knowledge and also incorporate things that his guests happened to know. On the tour I went on, all but one of us was from London, and the last person was from Tokyo. I don’t think many in the group were cycle commuters; most people were taking this opportunity to be guided through London’s beautiful streets down safe routes by someone who’s taken the trouble to study the history of the city, and I will definitely be incorporating some aspects of Jacks style into my own on Wine Rides.

The other aspect that made this a hugely enjoyable trip is that riding in a flock of Pashley bicycles with their loud bells gave us real road presence. Although we could only have been doing about 7 miles an hour for the vast majority of the ride, I was two abreast with the other guests chatting freely about cycling and the everyday trials of living in London.

If you’re looking for something interesting, and special to do this weekend and I can’t recommend Tally Ho highly enough. I don’t have any financial relationship with Jack at all, but he’s been a really generous and friendly person, he’s given me a lot of good advice. His tours are great, and as far as I’m aware they are the only opportunity you have in London to try out a bicycle called “the Princess” and use the excuse that it’s easier to get on and off of while you’re seeing the sights.

Wine Rides (entirely fictional) Interview with KATE MIDDLETON

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Wine Rides has amazingly got an interview with KATE BLOODY MIDDLETON! Surprisingly, as since February 2006, Kate received her own 24-hour security detail supplied by the Royalty Protection branch (SO14) which led many to speculate that she and Prince William would soon be engaged as she would not otherwise be entitled to this service.

Despite that, Kate bored out of her mind waiting for the Royal Push to start decided that what she would like to do more than anything else was have a chat to a perfect stranger about her love of cycling, her enjoyment of wine, and her desire to learn more about the history of East Sussex, which as it turns out, is dominated by the family she has married into.

Alex Q: So Kate, when did your love of cycling begin?

Kate A: Well Alex, I first became passionate about cycling as a young child growing up in Chaple Row: a settlement that lies near to the A4 road, and is situated approximately 5.5 miles (8.9 km) north-east of Newbury between 1982, the year of my birth and 2002, when I enrolled at the university of St Andrews.

Alex Q: Kate, I don’t think many are aware of the fact that you are such a big cycling nut. Why have you suddenly decided to go public with this now?

Kate A: Alex, when you start a family, it’s a hugely important moment in your life. It’s a time when you start reflecting on your own achievements thus far. I’ve achieved a lot in my life. There are many things that I’m proud of. For example in 2012, I was selected as one of The 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine. That was nice. I was awarded the accolade of ‘Best Celebrity Smile’ in May of that same year, after placing first in a poll by Bupa. That was fantastic and obviously I have married into a very rich and powerful family, which has been a huge leg up for me, but the one thing that I still hold up as my greatest success, is completing the Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France in a time of 1h and 7 minutes. Although not quite the world record, it is only five minutes off Iban Mayo’s time which is the fastest.

Alex Q: that’s amazing! I’m surprised we didn’t hear more about that at the time.

Kate A: It was back in 2009, before my engagement with Willy. At the time I was claiming damages against Rex Features Ltd who took photos of me playing tennis on holiday in Cornwall. So when I did the stage I opted to do it incognito. I chose to disguise myself as Thor Hushovd. He’s a family friend, and we go way back, so he didn’t mind at all, stepping out of the race and letting me take his spot between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

Alex Q: Now you are about to have a baby, what do you want for them?

Kate A: Alex, nobody knows this baby may be a boy, it may be a girl. But I’ll tell you one thing that’s absolutely bloody sure, it will be a cyclist! In 2011 I visited the UNICEF Supply Division Centre for supplying food to malnourished African children in Copenhagen and that was nice. But I tell you what was amazing! Copenhagen’s cycling facilities! Everyone cycles there, it’s MENTAL. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

Wills and I broke it off for a while so, I could pursue a career as a cycle courier, we got back together, I forget the exact date. But since that Copenhagen trip. I haven’t been able to think about anything else. That’s why in 2013 I became patron of Sport Aid. They told me it was a cycling charity. It turns out it is just for starving children. I tell you what, when I found out I totally lost my shit. I don’t mind doing it, but the bolloxing bloody Palace still haven’t let me do anything to support cycling, which is why I had my SO14 guys tell your sister in law who works here at St Mary’s to go get you so we could have this chat Alex.

Alex Q: Well Kate I am very glad you did. can I just Ask, what is your favourite wine?

Kate A: Well I really like Carr Taylor’s English Sparkling wine. But I am also a fan of Sedlescombe’s First Release

Alex: Of course you are!

Kate: Alex I think we better call it a day there.

Alex: Why?

Kate: My waters broken

How I Dropped Two and Half Stone (it wasn’t exercise)

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My name is Alex and for the past 6 years I have worked in Documentary TV, researching and producing science documentaries for the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery channel.  I now run my own Holiday Company Wine Rides Ltd that offers cycling trips that stay on Vineyards in the south of England. I want to share my experience of losing weight through the appliance of science and some revelations I have recently had about the importance of good food in maintaining healthy stable weight.

Until September 2012 I was just shy of 17 stone. Then I started the 5:2 Diet Promoted by Michael Mosley and my weight dropped precipitously. If you haven’t come across this, then the 5:2 diet is when for two non-consecutive days a week you cut down to 600 calories a day for men or 500 calories for women. It works because you only have to maintain concentration and motivation for a day at a time. So the psychological load is smaller than being good all the time.

On the 5:2 diet I lost a pound or 2 a week until 16 stone and then my weight just stuck there for weeks and weeks and weeks. This was upsetting, as I had hoped to get to 15 stone.  At 16 stone I felt I was still fat, so it was on a knife edge. Would I keep going or stop and go back to eating as I had before?

For once I decided to apply my TV researching skills to my own health to see if I could fix the problem. I found the Bitter truth about sugar.

My background is in Biology, and I have always worked on science shows for TV, including Jimmy’s food factory for BBC 2. So for some time I have been aware of the problems sugar can course. After watching the lecture and checking the facts out I became convinced that I should try adding these suggestions to my regime. As soon as I did the weight started dropping again and has been ever since. I now weigh 14st .7 stones. I totally smashed my target and have been comfortably under my goal weight for months.

In addition to losing more weight two other truly amazing things started to happen after I cut sugar out. My long standing enormous appetite went away and I stopped craving sweets and chocolate.

People now ask me what I have “cut out” of my diet. But the truth is that I have added much more to the list of things I eat than I have taken away and I am much, much happier with my new selection of foods.

Basically I have ended up with a Real food diet.

I now only eat one sweet thing a week. I tend to go for something I really like, like an apple strudel. I don’t eat chocolate, biscuits, drink coke or fruit juice and I don’t miss any of it. On the other hand I do eat butter, lots of cheese, nuts, and cured meat. It feels like I have a much more decadent diet now than I did before. I certainly have a better tasting one.

I’m not special. I don’t have good will power. The problem I was facing and the majority of the population are constantly battling with was: an addiction to sugar and the onset of metabolic syndrome.

The average person now producers twice as much insulin as the average in the 1970s, this means the hormonal environment inside our bodies is under a huge amount of strain. One of the early warning signs I was able to pick up was a very small amount of Acanthosis nigricans. This is dark skin, where your skin folds. I found this starting under my left armpit and it was a terrifying wake up call. Both my brother and my father are diabetics and the dark skin starts in the folds because excess insulin is accumulates there first.

It is very likely that my famous ability to keep eating was due to excessive insulin levels desensitising me to the hormonal signals that tell me I have had enough food. It is likely that I was well on my way to becoming diabetic. When I was fat I was doing about 10 hours exercise a week so my activity level was not the problem. The 5:2 diet and this book Fat Chance: bitter truth about sugar have been a revelation to me.

If you want to lose weight exercise is not likely to be the most effective strategy. Of the 2000 calories you should eat every day 1800 are used by your critical organs. 200 are used by your skeletal muscles in movement. Therefore the percentage increase in work you need to do from exercise is enormous compared to the increase you need to do, to have the same effect through dietary control.  The other problem I have always found was that if I start doing more running I would find I was eating more. By fasting I am using my internal organs to do the work of losing weight, and it is harder to miss a fast than a session at the gym.

So is it hard? Yes, but it is manageable.  

To get into the 5:2 diets was tough. Now it is absolutely fine (As I write this I am on a fast day). I did what Michael Mosley did in the horizon documentary. I committed to fast for five weeks. That equates to 10 fasts. The results for those first ten fast were so good I decided to go for another ten. Somewhere in the second ten I lost count. But they were working so I carried on.

My recommendations is, no matter how unhappy you are, don’t start out with the intention of fasting and cutting sugar out. Don’t try both interventions at once. This will make life very hard for you and you are more likely to fail. One major change in diet is more than enough.

For me at some point though it stopped working and I hit a plateau. My next stage was to cut out all added sugar. This sounds horrendously difficult. It isn’t. It is much easier than 5:2. It is basically just a matter of eating “real food”. However I was amazed by how much stuff has additional sugar in it!

It took me 2 weeks for the sugar cravings to go away, and I haven’t looked back since. I now fast and am very suspicious of any food with and ingredients label. If it is in a packet and can sit on a shelf for weeks at room temperature then I need to have a good look at the label before I eat it. If there is any sugar in it or trans-fats I tend to give it a miss.

Should you do this?

I am not evangelical, about 5:2. I can only say it worked well for me, and how I find myself now. The health benefits of fasting look promising, and I certainly think I will be healthier as a result of being able to control my weight for the first time in my life. However I do think everyone should cut down on the amount of sugar they eat. Added sugar has to be bad for you and it should be avoided. We truly didn’t evolve to eat food that has added sucrose or High fructose corn syrup.

Cost

In total I spent 8 quid on the book above. So it is cheap to do what I did. But if you want to do this, I suspect that success is more likely if you get the support of those around you. Tell people to stop offering you things with sugar. And don’t listen to anyone who talks about diets and say “the body” while telling you some “fact”. In my experience the words “the Body” are almost always followed my completely unsubstantiated rubbish.

What have I learned? What will I do?   

We are sadly living in a healthy-food desert. Only the edge of the supermarket is safe. If you find yourself in the aisles there is a good chance you will be tempted by something bad for you. Our environment is Obesogenic. I went to the pub the other day and was told my chips were triple fried! It was said as though that was a good thing, but who asked for that?

This whole process of investigating weight loss has lead me to one inescapable conclusion. My company, Wine Rides can’t be one more organisation that makes money by feeding people hidden sugar. Well-meaning food providers are all trying to please us by offering more and more decadent and indulgent foods. But at some point we have to say. “No Thank you- please can I just have something normal?”

Wine Rides now only do one thing with sugar and it is a desert. Everything else we serve is free from added sugar. I hope that when people look at our food they will understand what they are eating because I have personally checked it is what we say it is. For myself, my employees and my clients I want our weekend to be free from damaging hidden sugar.

Chris Froome: Why we should be proud to see a Kenyan win for Britain

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Last night’s finish to the Tour de France was wonderful. It was great to see the second Brit finish in Yellow, but for me the experience was tarnished by the commentator’s tone of voice as they told us Froome’s back story.

Possibly I am sensitive because like Chris Froome I am an economic migrant. As a child I grew up for a while in South Africa and now live in the UK. To be honest though, the real reason I am an economic migrant is that I went to school in the West Midlands and chose to move to London for work.

I now describe myself as a Londoner. I have adopted this identity for myself, because this is where I have been for the last 3rd of my life, longer than I have lived anywhere before. The truth though, is I and Chris Froome are part of the 5th largest nation on earth. It is a nation with no name and no flag. It will soon have a population bigger than the United States, it is currently bigger than Canada and Australia combined and has one of the fastest rates of population growth in the world. It is the nation of people with no home; it is the nation of people who live outside their country of birth.

So is Chris Froome British? Yes, of course he is. Using the site GBnames you can see his surname has its centre of origin in Berkshire: http://bit.ly/12GJsMG. But so what? He is British not because we view him as British but because that is what he has chosen to be.

Chris Froome is Kenyan-born, was brought up in South Africa, holds a British passport and currently resides in Monaco with his Welsh born, South African fiancée, but he chose to ride the Tour under a British licence.

Last night I was gutted to see Mark Cavendish miss out. I am always awestruck by Cav’s power. He is a force of nature, watching him gives me a similar feeling as watching a swarm of starlings. These men are amazing. Their talents are fleeting ephemeral flames. They are a rare combination of physical and psychological traits that makes these remarkable feats of speed and endurance possible. That is why it pains me so much to hear sports commentators all but apologise for athletes’ personal histories.

If you take a look at a city and then look at individual streets, you will find that the streets with the greatest diversity of surnames, are the most productive in the city. The streets that all have local surnames tend to be the most impoverished. The streets that not only have foreign names but also have names from other parts of the UK tend to be the ones were people are getting richer fastest.

The reason is movement always comes at a cost. Whether it is a few calories burned having a gentle ride around the beautiful British wine country or the agony of winning the Tour de France, movement always requires something. So people, who have gone to the trouble of moving away from everything they know, and away from their support network, don’t tend to arrive and put their feet up. They are focused, they work hard and they get results, often they have made the journey for a reason and they have a goal in mind.

In the future more and more world beaters will come from this nomadic global tribe. As movement becomes easier it will become harder to find elite people in any walk of life who conform to this outmoded notion of nationhood. The first country that drops geography from its sense of identity will have a huge advantage, not least because they will be able to welcome talent in from anywhere with open arms without judgement or prejudice.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could stop thinking of Britain as a location, and start seeing it as a destination? Froome epitomises many of the things that made Britain great. He is intelligent, worldly, hardworking, eloquent, humble, and calm. Rather than neglecting to mention his past, or lamenting the fact that he wasn’t forged in England from British steel like some kind of Victorian rivet, we should celebrate the journey he and his family went on. The sacrifices he has made to achieve his win and the fact that “Britain” still means so much, that a man who had the choice, picked us.

Wine is a good example of a British industry that is taking the world by storm. The British wine industry didn’t emerge as world beating by being insular. They went out to Germany, France and the New World to discover the skills, talents and techniques that made us world beaters. Like Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, I am sure we will see future British-born athletes, rising to the top of world standings. But the intense competition, of professional sport is casting a light on how the world really works. It will become harder and harder to find people who can take on the world and beat them on their first outing from these shores.

Rather than pretending this isn’t the case, we need to find a way of embracing it. If you agree please like and share this post. :-)

How to get 1°C cooler in just 6 minutes

 

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Yesterday I cycled my bike across London. And it occurred to me that to many people that would seem like an absolutely mad thing to do. But if you ride a bike often you’ll know that on hot days. All you need to do is take it really slow. If you expend as little energy as possible, then you don’t overheat through exertion and while you’re coasting down hills the gentle breeze over the surface of your skin keeps you nice and cool.

So if the trick to staying cool on a bike is primarily behavioural, then I wonder: if when we find ourselves struggling with heat in general, should we first look to our own behaviour?

Apparently the outside temperature is 25° C and all morning I’ve been working in our two-bedroom flat in Crystal Palace. As usual I chose to work in our south facing living/dining room. It is a very Large open plan area which makes up about 50% of our flat. So usually it is the nicest place to work.

My Twitter stream was begrudging the temperature and a few people mentioned that they happen to work from home without air conditioning.

Unfortunately I find it almost impossible to resist an opportunity to be a know it all, even when I am making exactly the same mistake. So I’ve just told someone to do what people did before we had air conditioning and moved to a different part of the building. http://bit.ly/15H4WNs

I think the reason we have fallen out of the habit of changing rooms when the temperatures become uncomfortable is because of the existence of air conditioning, but more importantly because we’ve become used to working at desks in a fixed location. But if like me you are working on a laptop in a Wi-Fi area then staying put doesn’t make any sense.

I think the reason we have got out of the habit of moving to a more comfortable place when the temperature goes up is because over the last hundred years or so the majority of us have become desk bound. We’ve got so used to having to stay in the same place to do our work that we now don’t even see the opportunity that these new technologies are providing us with. The advantage of mobile working is that it is mobile, even if you happen to be in your usual place of work. So unless you’re in a large office and there is no other rooms where you can move to, to do your work, have you thought about moving to the north side of your building?

 

In order for me to change the room I was working in, I had to unplug my printer and remove all the papers from my desk, carry my laptop through to the other room. Take the legs off the table, carry the table through to the other room, screw the legs back on and set up a seat by the new desk. In total that entire process took me six minutes. In return, I’ve moved from a room with a temperature of 25.5° C to a room with a temperature of 24.4° C. So I’ve lost a degrees C in temperature and am now sat in a pleasant breeze. Hopefully this move will have increased my productivity today.

 

It’s amazing how we’ve lost the skills that presumably came naturally to people in the past. It seems like our recent industrial history has turned us into fully domesticated animals. Through no fault of our own, we sit here like battery chickens overheating, when if we just thought a little bit more like our wild ancestors, I’m sure many of these issues would be easily overcome.

If you don’t work from home, and your office is currently sweltering, then how do you think your boss would feel about you working from home over the coming days, which are set to be scorchers?

If this week your office is particularly uncomfortable, then there really doesn’t seem to be any advantage in travelling across London to sit in a room which is reducing your productivity. How do you think they’d feel if you asked to work from home and be logged in to Google hangout so that they can keep track of you and make sure you’re still doing your work, and that you’d still be easily contactable, but you could place yourself in an environment which made you more comfortable happy and productive. Working from home every day is not ideal. It’s great to have that face-to-face contact, but are we all being absolutely mental, by travelling into work during a period when it’s hampering our progress?

Is this hot weather a good time to reassess how we work? Who knows what your team could learn by experimenting with Google hangout’s homeworking and moving location to be more comfortable in the heat? You might find some really useful new tools that you can use for the rest of the year.