Vinyl is back – well not for our bikers!

January 30, 2014 by · Comments Off on Vinyl is back – well not for our bikers!
Filed under: France, Living in Rural France 

Vinyl is back!

Clearing up in our loft and decided to see what all the fuss was about the “comeback” of vinyl LPs.

So hooked up my old Thorens TD160 turntable in our cycling guest’s barn to the hi fi and put on an old 1978 album.
I have to say it sounded fantastic, miles better than the CD version. But had the CD been digitally remastered etc etc?

I still have separate amp and CD player of at the time (some 20 years ago) was quite expensive. We’ve got it hooked up to Bluetooth and with an Ipod dock biker guests can play their music of their Apple phones etc through the hifi. It sounds pretty good in our barn as you can really wack up the volume.

Vinyl is back









Anyway the LP was of old friends of mine who were mildly successful back in the late 70’s early 80’s – The band No Dice  (Facebook FanPage) with their debut album called No Dice.
Still think it’s great….


No Dice











Roger Ferris the vocalist used to play football in my team and then when I got married I lost touch with him. I hadn’t realised him and his band were so good. They released a few singles and another album called 2 Faced on vinyl.

They were also on The Old Grey Whistle Test and even had a track named after them on Eric Clapton’s LP Slowhand. An instrumental called Peaches and Diesel, named after Roger’s nickname Peaches and the lead guitarist Dzal Martin. Dzal has since played with Van Morrison, Tom Robinson and Meatloaf.

They actually had a reuninion gig at Dingwalls in London in 2012 and Roger tells me they plan another one this year. If it doesn’t clash with our biking holidays I’ll be going. Here is a link  on YouTube from their Dingwalls gig.

Here is one of their original songs from Youtube: I keep it to Myself

I’ve kept about 100 of my old LPs, the really well worn I gave away before I moved to France. Looking forward to hearing Dark Side of the Moon again!

Author: John Despard

Subaru Impreza hauling logs in our woods

January 22, 2014 by · Comments Off on Subaru Impreza hauling logs in our woods
Filed under: France 

Richard’s Subaru saga

Impreza hauling logs

Richard in the Subaru



Recently, John’s been felling some trees to provide logs for the fire and we needed some 4×4 transport to bring them back to the house from the forest.

Aileen’s family and friends of mine in Exeter will recognise the Subaru Impreza that provided very reliable transport over the years – mostly to Aileen’s Dad Eddie who owned it from new until he passed away two years ago. I took it over then and used it as my main car until I moved here permanently to Mas de Flory our base for Lot Cycling Holidays. It came in very handy as at the time as  I’d just lost my treasured BMW convertible thanks to the actions of vandals in the Exeter City Centre.

As it would have proved too expensive to buy a dedicated log hauler in France and as the Subaru was just a bit too tatty to provide transport for our cycling holiday guests we decided to try it out as a log moving vehicle!

We had a certain amount of optimism about its off-road abilities, as Eddie had often claimed to have used the Subaru to rescue Land Rovers in Scotland! It has proved to be very capable on the forest tracks, thanks to its low ratio transfer gearbox. It’s just a question of not overdoing it with the load, as there are some sharp rocks about ready to rip a hole in the sump!

Impreza hauling logs

Impreza log carrier!










I’m pretty sure that Eddie would have been chuffed to hear that his Subaru was still being put to good use – and that’s a good excuse for a wee dram of fine Malt! (Eddie’s favourite).

Owners club link:
The Subaru International Driver’s Club

Author:  Richard Smith

Slim despite fab food on our bike holidays?

January 19, 2014 by · Comments Off on Slim despite fab food on our bike holidays?
Filed under: Foodie cycling holidays, France 

So how did I lose that weight with all that fab food?

So how did I lose that weight with all that fab food?

Well first some history.

Up to about aged thirteen I was about the same height and weight as everyone else my age.

But from then onwards most of my friends grew taller – and continued to grow. I just grew until I was nearly five foot seven inches – and stayed there. Then the weight started to creep on, even though I was very fit.

A typical week for me was getting up early for a paper round by bike, then bike to school and back again. Lunchtimes in the summer involved running around the athletics track with weights around my wrists and ankles sometimes. This was supposed to make me faster when removed? I was running competitively for the county and higher. I was also in the school rugby team and playing at weekends football (soccer). But, like most youndg people, I ate a lot of chocolate and sweets together with fizzy drinks. I also drank quite a lot of alcohol after leaving school and did a lot less sport. Then I joined a local semi-pro football team.

A typical week then (age around 19):

Tuesday go for a thirty minute solo run as a warm up for training with Saturday team, followed by five a side.
Wednesday go for an hour run (with others) as a warm up training for my Sunday morning team followed by five a side.
Thursday go for a thirty minute solo run as a warm up for training with Saturday team followed by five a side.
Friday play five a side with a work team.
Saturday a full soccer match.
Sunday a full soccer match.
Plus if the games were fairly local I would cycle to them.
In the summer when no football I did more running and cycling.
Of course I was still drinking beer….

John in 1971 - too much fab food.

John in 1971 but very fit?













I never lost any weight from when I was aged fourteen! At one point I even went vegetarian and gave up alcohol for seven years –  still no weight loss.

I’ve continued to play football, run and cycle throughout most of my life only giving up five a side aged about fifty. This was not because I wasn’t fit enough just that it was interfering with my triathlon training!

When I was training for triathlons I took it very seriously (I used to train about twenty two hours a week plus races and at the beginning football) I kept a spreadsheet of all my food and drink intake. But of course I had read all the current info and was carbo loading, having isotonic drinks during training and races to replace water quicker? Also protein replacement and recovery drinks. I still wasn’t losing weight and I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I had a thirty four (five maybe as everything felt tight) inch waist and could not reduce any more. I wasn’t overweight – but I was definitely ‘chunky’!

In September 2006 we moved to France and I carried on running and biking but not as much as before. I put on a bit more weight as I was finishing off the croissants and pain au raisins left over from the guests’ breakfast! Plus the local wine – well it is Malbec! Aileen is also a very, very, good cook and we were both eating pretty much the same  fab food as she cooked for our bike holiday guests.

So just over two years ago Aileen started reading about the Paleo diet and lifestyle on the Mark Sisson Blog  and it all seemed to make a lot of sense to us. Plus I was pretty impressed by his results!

Mark Sisson aged 58 fit and different fab food!

Mark Sisson aged 58













So we started following the Paleo diet.

I remember when I was younger if you were putting on a bit of weight people would say “cut down on the bread and potatoes.” Of course now there is also pasta and rice, pizza and pies, plus a plethora of fast food and packaged goodies everywhere you turn.

Basically on the Paleo diet, you cut out the starchy foods and all grains. I don’t believe we are designed to eat grains.

The first three months I just ate what Aileen cooked for lunch and evening meals keeping my muesli or porridge for breakfast. But I started to lose weight and my waist started to decrease. I also discovered that if I ground up some nuts and added yogurt it replaced my muesli and tasted better – so I kept that up too.

So now I weigh about 150lbs/68 kilos and am a 32in/81cm waist. The slimmest and lightest I’ve been since I was 14!

More details on next post?

Author:  John Despard

Running not biking in the winter

January 15, 2014 by · Comments Off on Running not biking in the winter
Filed under: Living in Rural France 

I run in the winter rather than cycle to keep fit.

Here in the Lot in the winter temperatures can drop overnight to -10c (-22 is the record)

It takes quite a while for the temperature to rise to a decent rideable temperature. Sometimes it can be warmer, today it is 9.30 am and about 6c but there is a slight drizzle. I am definitely a warm weather cyclist now!

I used to commute every day on my bike to work when I lived in Exeter (Devon, UK). But of course the roads were treated and there was a lot more traffic around to keep the roads clear.

I now really only bike in the summer, usually with our cycling guests, but I need to keep fit!

I could mountain bike, and I have tried a few times! We back on to a forest with lots of trails that go on for miles but I do find mountain biking challenging. It’s one of the few times I actually wear a cycle helmet – to avoid hitting my head on low level trees and branches.

Of course if I had a decent mountain bike maybe I’d hit the dirt more! My bike is at least fifteen years old and was bought second hand for £100 from a fellow bike club member in Exeter. It’s an old Saracen with no front or rear suspension! So on the trails with all the small rocks it is very jarring on the hands and shoulders. So why don’t I buy a new one? Well I’d rather buy another road bike (I have four). I still don’t think I’d use a new mountain bike.

So I run off road during the winter normally with my two dogs early in the morning. Not every morning, normally every two to three days. I don’t believe running every day is actually good for you. Back in the UK I used to play a lot of indoor football (soccer) and also was very keen on triathlon. So used to swim before work, then bike to work and back followed by a run. Sometimes even running lunchtimes as well.

John Triathlon racing









I used to think I was quite fit. But I actually think I am fitter now, maybe because I’ve lost about ten kilos over the last couple of years. This makes it a lot easier to run up hills and also of course it helps with my biking.

How did I lose that weight? Next blog post?

Gourdon in the winter sun

January 5, 2014 by · Comments Off on Gourdon in the winter sun
Filed under: France 

Topless in Gourdon.

The Pug Is back in action after it passed the Controle Technique, which is the French equivalent of the UK MOT test – except it lasts for 2 years. It had a problem with overheating, but now has a working fan. I didn’t expect to be driving it with the top down this early in the New Year though! Couldn’t resist it with so much sun around!

The pic with the scenery in the background was taken in Gourdon this morning – it’s our local bastide town with supermarkets and a mainline station. Climb to the top of the hill and you get a magnificent 360 degree view of the local countryside.

Peugeot 205 in Gourdon









The last time I remember driving topless in the Pug was driving back from a visit with our cycling holiday guests to Chateau Chantelle in the Lot Valley, which is the main wine supplier for Lot Cycling Holidays. One of our guests insisted on travelling back with me, not in our minibus. I think he got a bumpier ride than he expected! If any of our 2014 guests are reading this – don’t panic! – the C-Crosser pictured today with the Pug at Mas de Flory is our preferred mode of transport (with our minibus) for airport pickups!


Peugeot 205 near Gourdon










Peugeot Owners Club:


Author: Richard Smith

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