How to get a good Night’s sleep:

What can we learn from Wine Rides about getting a good night’s sleep?


Exercise: is a great way to help you get a good night’s sleep. However: try not to do a vigorous work out after 7:30pm. This is because a major physiological part of sleep is a drop in core body temperature. If you leave it too long into the evening to do a hard workout, it will delay when your body temperature drops and the onset of quality sleep.

Interestingly Athletes, who are fitter, have a greater variation in core body temperature during sleep.

The best form of exercise to help you sleep is swimming. I have been told to do 20 lengths plus one for every year you have been alive. I don’t swim particularly well, so if I go swimming I drop those first 20 lengths.


Wine/Alcohol: This is a great way to help get to sleep. It is a powerful sedative. The only trouble is that just like using caffeine to get you up in the morning, using wine to get your head down, is a slippery slope. If you don’t deal with the root cause and try and drug your way to a good night’s sleep, eventually you will habituate to a dose and have to up it to have the same effect. Also, the problem with Alcohol is that it totally disrupts the cycle of REM and deep sleep and induces snoring. Alcohol induced sleep is pore quality.

The only healthy dose of wine is about one teaspoon. It is a medical dose. The best reason to drink is for pleasure and to understand that it comes at a cost to your health. Wine is a wonderful social lubricant and should be used as such. As a crisis method: a glass of wine is a great way to de-stress and get-off-to-sleep. As a long term stratagem for sleep it is totally inadequate.


Light: cells in the eye: Intrinsically photosensitive Retinal Ganglion Cells, reset your biological clock every day. It works because the rising sun is so bright that it sends a signal to the brain and tells it when the day has started and you need to get up.

This system means we are diurnal animals: awake in the day and asleep at night. The issue you and I have is: we live in a world that seems “designed” to disrupt this system. When Tomas Edison created the first commercial electric light bulb in 1880, an all-out assault on our sleep began. Even worse is the artificial blue light of our TV’s, computers and phones. Most of us also make sure to stand in the brightest room in the house for 5 minutes just before bed: the bath room. We brush our teeth in front of a mirror under a bright light.

As ridiculous as this may sound, there are apps that can help with this: F.lux is a free program for PC’s that will make the screen more red after the sun has set in your location. Twilight is the free android smart phone equivalent.

In general: it is a good idea to avoid any bright direct lights and screens 40 minutes before bed. Reading fiction instead of watching TV is a good suggestion if sleep is a problem. The trouble with non-fiction or work related reading is it can get your head spinning.

Less Sleep

More can be less: Use your smart phone to wake you up at the right time. Down load an App that wake you up earlier, that you set your alarm but when you are in light REM sleep rather than deep sleep. This means it is easier to get up in the morning. There is no point allowing yourself back into deep sleep if it means you are left groggy as a result.

NB: Nature the world’s most eminent scientific journal is skeptical about these apps. I am skeptical about their skepticism. They make the fair point that the accelerometers in your phone aren’t good enough, to tell what stage of sleep you are in. I agree; they probably are not. However a bad measurement is better than no measurement at all. I use this app and find it helpful. It feels like I’ve pinched a bit of extra time in the morning.

But don’t take the graphs produced seriously at all. They aren’t measuring your “health”.


Blood Sugar: I use and abuse coffee. I drink a strong cup of fresh coffee every morning before my work out. Caffeine is actually a performance enhancing drug as it helps your muscles contract harder. I actually tend to sleep ok. The problem I have is that I am very bad in the mornings.

I love a lie in and find I am dragging myself out of bed. The one thing I have found that seems to work is to have a teaspoon of almond butter just before bed.

Apparently it is crashing blood sugar levels that leads to this groggy feeling. The almond butter acts as a blood sugar buffer and slowly releases sugar into your bloodstream well into the night. As a result you aren’t quite so low in the morning.  This has worked really well for me.

If none of the above helps, there are further suggestions by Tim Ferris in his book The Four Hour Body.

Well Done Carr-Taylor: Grower of the Year

 View from a Bell tent

View from a Bell tent



Well do to Carr-Taylor vinyard for becoming this year Hortoculture weekly, winner fo grower of the year!

Open Thank You to: #GuardianLive

 Film - The Apartment (US 1960) dir. Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine. Credit: Ronald Grant Archive. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Film – The Apartment (US 1960) dir. Billy Wilder. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine. Credit: Ronald Grant Archive. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive


Thanks to #GuardianLive and @guardianfilm for putting on a fantastic discussion of the upcoming Oscars and for screening one of my favorite ever films.

The Apartment is a wonderful film. I jumped at the opportunity to go and see it in my favorite cinema: The Ritzy Brixton. The evening didn’t disappoint. Seeing this film on a big screen was one of the best cinema experiences I have ever had.


My two-cents on why The Apartment is an exceptionally good film is:

It is a perfectly balance romantic comedy that is grounded in reality.

Most old film are intolerable to watch because of the irritating mannerisms and exaggerated statements people from past eras use. You are always noticing bits of jarring odd behaviour that pull you out of the story and make you think about how we live in a different world now.

Before I went in last night I believed from memory of having seen the film before, that the Apartment somehow didn’t have these things. That was the reason it felt so modern.  That isn’t true.

On closer inspection it is full of these “old timey” things. But The Apartment is so gripping and seems so modern because by comparison to most romantic comedies, it is much more realistic.  It keeps you firmly focused on a time in your life where you loved someone and they didn’t feel the same way about you. As a result you can’t be thumped out of the story by the odd old-time things people do from time to time.

One of the Guardian panelist said this film is about: “where you go to have sex”.

I think The Apartment is about bullying. And what it feels like to be bullied at work. It always puts me in mind of the first time out of university I got a “proper job” and was astonished to find that it was like being thrown back into the playground. After a couple of years you harden up to it and don’t let bits of bad behaviour affect you. But when you first start work years of school have taught you how one should behave. You then discover that adults often don’t live up to the high standards they would lead children to believe are appropriate.

A classic trope in modern romantic comedies is that the female lead misinterprets the actions or intensions of the male lead. So take for example the Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Something happens, the girl gets on a plain to go to Lass Vegas and marry the “bad guy”.  Adam Sandler then has to chase her down and buy a plane ticket and singer her song on an airplane. That’s very sweet and I like that film. That is both way less dramatic and less realistic than what happens in the apartment.

Baxter the male lead, grows-a-pare and is so discusseded with the people he works with he finally, breaks and just chucks his job in his bosses face. That is massive! That is much bigger than buying an overpriced plane ticket. That is chucking it all in.

Then rather than the female lead misinterpreting Baxter’s intentions, like an intelligent 3 dimensional human-being, she understands exactly what his motivations were, and runs to him. Rather than being passive idiot that needs man in the room, with guitar spelling it out, she works it all out and goes to him: She is active rather than passive.

That why the last scene in the film is so Romantic. He tells her he absolutely loves her. But it isn’t necessary. She has already worked that out. Otherwise she wouldn’t be there. So that last I love you, has no function, other than to make her feel good. She knows he loves her and he tells her anyway.

That is the kind of thing real people do every day and that why this film is so great.

How do you prepare for kid?


(I couldn’t think of anything to do with wine or cycling this week)

Hayley and I have a baby boy on the way. Adults are supposed to know what to say and how to be sensible.  I know that in a distant future, my son may read this blog. In case he does discover it and I am not yet an “Adult” I will be careful about what I say.

I have a big sister and two younger brothers, so initially I felt a little bit worried about what I would have to share, if we had a daughter. As soon as I discover that we were having a boy a new fear gripped me. “I am going to have to role model: being a good man”.

What does that even mean? I know since I discovered the news I have been trying to up my game around the house. I have downloaded apps onto my phone for organizing to-do lists. I have also got another one for making flash cards and I have continued to try and get in the best shape of my life.

It’s almost like I have the feeling that our life is about to get hit by this massive wave, and I am a surfer trying desperately to get my board in the right position before I get hit.

Knowing the baby is on the way has created all these phantom problems in my head. I have started learning coding again out of self-interest: I enjoy it and I really want access to the world I know it will open up for me. But Also I want to share in that world with my son. I want to be computer literate, so I can be his guide in that world. I don’t want us confined to the “can’t code” side of the fence. Nor do I want to see him frolicking about having fun with code while I stand on the side lines cheering a game, with rules that are a mystery to me.

I have no plans to be a middle class parent who is led around by the nose. Always acting out of fear that they are “failing” their kids: At the end of the day we are all only doing the best that we can. And perfect is not a sensible goal. Being optimal is what I want to achieve. Realizing that I have limits I will fail, but that I am persistent and I do keep striving for the things I want: That is probably the best I can manage.

If I can set that example I will be happy.

I am sure there are skills and knowledge I have that other dads are lacking. I am sure that despite my best efforts, I will discover massive blind spots but I can’t help trying to prepare for what is now inevitable: filling a few of the known gaps in my knowledge, so I can help prepare them for the world.

It is kind of crazy, how much the opinion of this little person already matters to me and I haven’t even met them yet. ….

How to have your wife in hysterics

shopping basket


On Friday I left the office and declined to go for a drink with the guys. Truth told, I just fancied cooking and it was set to be the first weekend in ages where I didn’t have to shlep around the Home Counties. As I was going back to the flat Hayley called me and told me that we needed bread and milk.

Thus began one of those chats where you both try and work out what else you need. And settle on the lie that there are only 3 things you need, because remembering more than three things at any one time is hard…

A couple of months ago in a moment of uncharacteristic helpfulness and self-awareness I managed to think up a tool I now use loads.

food chart As I have mentioned before, in our relationship I am the clown and Hayley is the policemen. Understandably Hayley does our online food shop. But she asked me if I could find a way to help her keep track of the food items that I had used up.

So I came up with this bad boy. It’s a table of most of our food. Not everything is on the table. Just the most common things and basically what I could think up off the top of my head. I have split it out into the three meals of the day, and into 3 food groups: plants (carbs), fat and protein. Food items appear in the first meal of the day that they are used.

It’s on the fridge and in the kitchen. So when I use something up, at exactly the moment that I am panicking because I can see we will need more peanut butter I can cross peanut butter off the list. The chart has been laminated, and we use a board marker to cross things off.

If you use flash on your phone to photograph it, the board marker becomes semi-transparent, and means you can read what has been crossed off when refer to the image as shopping list.

When I am heading to the shops for an item I want, I can pick up the other things we are low on. There is no need to hunt through the cupboards, or ask Hayley what she has used we always know what we are low on. I just snap the list and refer to it when I am in the shop.

On this occasion, all though I know I had updated the table earlier. I had neglected to photo it.

poo peppers Whilst grabbing the bread, I had a sudden realization. There would be an old picture of the table in my phone somewhere. Although the crossed off items would be wrong there was a good chance, with a prompt, I would be able to remember what we needed.

Incidentally, this is why as an adult dyslexic, I read fine but my spelling is still atrocious (attroshus). Reading is prompted memory, spelling is unprompted memory. The former is much easier than the latter.

Guess what? It worked. I recon I was able to remember 90% of the items we needed, just by using the table as an aide-mémoire.

I was so elated, I snapped the title photo. And thought “shit that was so good I have to work out how to write a blog about this. I am smashing this husband malarkey”.

I got home to discover a whole in my system. We seemed to be low on toilet paper and I couldn’t find where Hayley had put the other rolls. So I sent Hayley the following text.

I swear: I know what I typed: But in the instant between me finishing the typing and pressing send my phone found it necessary to add some enhancements to my message.

As you can see: my phone changed ‘loo paper’ to ‘poo peppers’

I notice the loo/Poo swap but not the paper/peppers. I think; ‘Oh my god she is going to think I am simpleton!’ so I quickly fire off the ‘I typed ‘loo’. ‘text.

Hayley knows a couple of things: I am super proud of myself for getting all this shopping done. She knows I am trying to gloat about the ongoing usefulness of the BainesBuffotron Food Organizational Table, but that I can’t spell for toffee, and so may or may not have missed typed that text.

Anyway the result was a pregnant lady bent over laughing on a crowded Train. As she stood up to look around the carriage, tears streaming down her eyes, she considered explaining what was so funny to the other commuters, but decided, that would go horribly wrong. I know this because, that same night just before we went to sleep Hayley was struck by another, secondary bout of laughter.