June Challenge #2 - Donate Body to Anatomy Department

While working for the BBC, I filmed in the dissection room at Dundee University.

The boss, Professor Dame Sue Black, wanted to go on television to appeal for more people to leave their bodies to anatomy departments.

The doctors, anatomists, surgeons (and more) of tomorrow learn most from human cadavers.

We expressly did not record pictures of bodies.  We focused on the students doing their work.

It made a big impression on me,and I must have spoken about it quite a lot because, years later, I discovered it made an equal impression on Liz.  In particular, I was impressed by the respect shown to the ex-humans, for whom they hold a group memorial service to which relatives are invited.  Students almost always attend too.

I've always carried a donor card.  When I die, the nearest transplant team can have first call on any organs.  But as I approach my 60th birthday I have to be realistic - they might not want my bits!

However, my body and that of Liz, might still help someone learn a little more about what goes on inside a human.  So six months ago, I telephoned the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee and asked to be sent two sets of bequest forms.

Then we paused.  This is not something to rush.  On and off, Liz and I talked about it, during drives, over dinner, whenever.  Then we read a book.

All That Remains is written by Sue Black and is an absolutely fabulous book.  It's about death, based on which Professor Black has made a fascinating career.  Few people have been on such nodding terms with the grim reaper.

Her book answered many of our outstanding questions and more we hadn't even considered.  For example, we know for sure we wouldn't want to be part of the USA style 'fresh/frozen' approach, where universities can order 4 legs and a couple of arms.  Where's the dignity in that?

Since I filmed at Dundee, the centre has pioneered a new form of preserving a cadaver that makes the flesh more realistic.  The old approach, preserving in formalin, left the bodies looking and feeling like air-dried tuna.  The new method is the one we would prefer.

So Liz and I signed the forms with witnesses and sent them back.  I also dropped a line to Professor Sue Black to explain this background and to thank her for writing such a good book.

Oh, and to hope it's a long, long time before I meet her students again.

June Challenge #1 - Tackle Another SwimTrek

Day one, and if I look apprehensive, it's because I am.

Firstly, I'm the only one swimming in a wetsuit.

Secondly, my injured shoulder hasn't fully healed and swims over 1km hurt.

But mainly because I'm read the bios of the other swimmers on this SwimTrek.  Oh boy.

Most had been swimming competitively for well over twenty years; one was hand-picked at 5 for special development squad; another played serious-level water-polo for twenty years; oh yes, and one has swam the English Channel.  Twice.  Once doing butterfly stroke.

Don't Buy Winter Swim Socks Until You Can Get These

The Tri-X swim gloves have been my favourite for winter swimming for several years.

Now the team at Lomo are making swim socks.  I have tested samples and they're every bit as good as the gloves.

The production versions might be several months away, but Lomo will put them on their website as soon as they arrive (so please don't email asking when they'll be in stock).

Hopefully, they'll be for sale before next winter.

I'm writing this now because, if you're planning ahead and thinking of buying some new socks now, it might be worth waiting.

They are different to the Lomo Surf Socks because the samples have a cuff around the top.

May Challenge #2 - Charity (Video) Work

I started this particular challenge earlier in the year.  Now seems an appropriate time to explain it in more detail.

Last year I helped organise and photograph a few local charity swims. This year we put the organisation on a formal footing and registered as a charity.  I'm one of the five trustees.

You can read about the swims we're running at HighlandOpenwaterSwim.com and on Facebook.

As (bad) luck would have it, the best weekends for our swims are also weekends when I'm already committed to filming work for The Adventure Show or I am out of Scotland on holiday or business.  Consequently, I'll miss most of this years swims.

I did manage to attend our swim across the Sound of Mull last weekend, so I used it as the basis for our promotional video.  Soon it'll find its way onto our website, but until it does you can take a look here.

May Challenge #1 - Attempt a Craft

When I told friends we were heading back to the Isle of Muck, one of our favourite places on Scotland's west coast, they assumed we'd be kayaking, swimming or running around the island.

"We're doing a two-day basket making course", I explained.  I was greeted by stunned silence.

Basket making was never on my bucket list, but my #yr60 campaign is more subtle than that.

It's about doing things I'd never got around to doing - for whatever reason.  Crafts are really not my thing, but I suspected basic basket making might be more about knowledge and experience - time actually doing the thing - rather than specific skills.  Turns out it was great fun, in good company, with great food, in an idyllic location.

Cyclists Visiting the Dordogne

Cyclists heading to the Dordogne, looking for good routes to ride, could do a lot worse than hooking up with The Dordogne Cyclist via his Facebook page.

Over 9,000 sq km in size, Dordogne is a big Department, and very popular with British visitors.

It does, however, have at least one quiet corner which I've marked on the map alongside.  This is Perigord Vert, so called because of the trees and lush fields.

It's great for cycling.  There are no massive climbs, sweeping vistas, or huge tourist attractions.  Those might sound like negatives but the locals love it that way, because it means the roads are amazingly quiet.

April Challenge #2 - Ride with my Best Friends in France

Good friends are hard to find and, arguably, harder keep.  This challenge has been about the latter. 

I've been friends with the bloke in the orange shirt for 33 years.  Last year he sold his business and moved to a quiet part of the Dordogne with his wife and dogs.

We waited until they were settled (and had the house live-able) and then decided - now is the time to visit.

It's too easy to procrastinate, to put off visiting friends for a few months which easily drift into years.  None of us know how long we can keep doing that.  

So while we were visiting London, we left our wee dog Maggie with Liz's family, hopped a cheap-ish EasyJet to Bordeaux and here we are.  The photo was taken in PiĆ©gut just before one of their local French cycling club outings.  It's a multi-cultural affair with French, Belgian, Portuguese and British languages circulating through the peloton. 

The temperature topped 35C and it felt fantastic to roll along on almost traffic-free French roads.  It's a far cry from our early cycling days, thrashing around on mountain bikes with my mate in Northumberland and Scotland.  And yes, we do know exactly how lucky we are to have our health, time and just enough money to enjoy it.