More ouch to 5km than couch to 5km part 3 FalcondaleLife blog

If you’ve been following my blog you will know I’ve taking up running. I was using the NHS Couch to 5k running app. I find running less “ouch” than walking, because for the last 19 months I’ve had a dodgy left foot. My left big toe joint has been painful and inflammed. My first blog post explains I overcame my shyness and, quite frankly, my itchiness to get started on this running programme. My second blog post tells how I re-started the programme after a long break caused by a flare-up in my foot. I’ve decided in future not to blog too much personal stuff – I don’t want to be accused of over-sharing – but I don’t want to leave you hanging. So for now it’s time for an update.

I started using the NHS Couch to 5k app in January and it’s a nine-week long programme. Eight months later I have not completed it, despite running two or three times per week when my foot allows. I’ve had to go backwards a couple of weeks each time I was forced to take a break. Then, quite honestly, I found after the end of week 5 of the programme that the running became tougher. I wrote about it in my second Ouch to 5k blog post. I followed the NHS advice to repeat some days or weeks to build stamina more sustainably. So you will understand that I was delighted to reach the end of week 7! I was running two to three times a week for 25 minutes.

couch to 5k ouch nhs running app 5km

But something didn’t feel right. It wasn’t getting any easier. I realised I’m going slower, my stride got even shorter. 25 minutes of running was about 4km of distance but a week later I’d only managed 3.5km in that much time. I’ve also noticed that I’m walking even more slowly, and it turns out that the top of my toe joint is extremely tender to touch. So it was in this condition that I went to an appointment with the Podiatry consultant at the hospital. Its taken 7 months to get this appointment, which was a referral from another podiatrist whom I had waited 4 months to see, who was in turn a referral from a podiatrist whom I had waited 5 months to see. The pace of referral was even more leisurely than my walking pace!

The consultant suspected a cyst inside my toe joint. I was given a steriod injection that hurt so incredibly much I lost my marbles and actually jammed my phone in my mouth and bit down hard. I began to black out and the phone fell out of my mouth. It was all over in a minute! I limped out of the clinic, ridiculously hopeful that this treatment would work.

Things definitely improved after two weeks and two more weeks after that I felt fantastic! Some “ouch” on a bad day (or in bad shoes) but much better overall. Then the steroid wore off and it went downhill a little. It’s still far better than it was, less painful and swollen to touch. At my follow-up appointment I got a telling-off for not buying better shoes (I’ve been too busy! *whine*). It’s not all better and there are suspicious clicks, but the consultant was fairly pleased. However, then I received The Threat.

What is The Threat, you ask? He said if I don’t rest my foot, or if I use it when it hurts, and if I don’t buy much better shoes, then I will be put in a cast for six weeks to immobilise the toe. A cast! I’m aghast! (sorry-not-sorry) He also said I can’t go on hikes or walks for pleasure. You won’t see me dancing (lucky you). And if that doesn’t work, it’s surgery (properly ouch!).

My Couch to 5km is over having reached only the 4km mark. What a pity. I do hope I make it one day, but I’m not sure if maybe that’s the end. I didn’t dare ask the killer question “will I ever run again?” just in case the answer was “no”. I am not ready to hear that yet. For now I’m going to have to get back on my bike if I want any exercise.


If you want to use the NHS Couch to 5k app here are some pointers:

  1. You’ll need a deep pocket, arm strap or bum-bag to carry your phone. Don’t carry it in your hand and don’t do what I did and put it in a shallow pocket from where it fell out!
  2. Don’t bother taking water with you, it’s only about 30 minutes and you won’t get too hot unless … (read the next point)
  3. Don’t run in hot weather unless you have trained for it! Go early in the morning instead. A more common hazard are slippy pavements in the damp or cold.
  4. It’s hard on your knees and your feet so wear good trainers. This applies to everyone, not just those with injuries.
  5. The app lets you play music from your phone in the background. Take time to prepare a playlist, it will really lift you!
  6. If you have to stop for a few weeks, backtrack at least two weeks in the programme when you start again.

Good luck!







You don’t really need to know a lot before setting off for the beach or swimming pool in France but they do have some rules that may surprise you. It’s best to be prepared. I get the impression that French people spend a lot more time at the beach than we do. Not only do they have a lot of lovely coastline but also the weather is just that bit better. (Okay! Quite a lot better!)

French beach rules lifeguard flags, beach monitoring station report

In 1986 the Coastal Law was passed in France to protect the seaside from building and development and to enshrine the principle of public access to the coast. Public access and state regulation go hand in hand the French coast.

Lifeguards and “baignade surveillee”

Public beaches have monitoring stations and may display flags. Many of those beaches also have a lifeguard station in the summer and this makes sea-bathing in France feel a lot safer. The flag system is three colours. Green means “safe to swim”, yellow means“not recommended but monitored” and red means “bathing forbidden”. On these beaches you may only swim between the blue flags set out by the lifeguards. Lifeguards will select an area unaffected by dangers like rip-currents, personally I trust them to know! If you try to swim just next to the lifeguarded area you will get shouted at, it’s really not allowed. On a large beach you could swim at your own risk further away and you will be left alone by the lifeguards. Outside these monitored areas you may find surf schools and water sports which have their own permissions. In some places lifeguard stations do not open until afternoon but I can’t complain because it’s such a brilliant safety service.

National laws or By-laws

Under French national law most beaches ban smoking (often flouted), alcohol, fishing and wood fires.  Some town halls have banned barbeques at local beaches. If there’s nothing on the beach display board or if you’re not sure about a rule, it’s best to ask at the local tourist information office or town hall (la mairie). In theory if there’s no sign at the beach they can’t enforce a fine, but I don’t recommend that you have this argument.

We visited La Baule beach which had signposts for “no picnics” and “no cycling”, but everyone was eating and a bike zipped right by us. Then we got out a kite and the lifeguard told us kites were forbidden on La Baule for safety reasons, despite there being no signpost. The beach was nearly empty and there was no particular danger from using a kite but I do admit that La Baule would normally be packed. The lifeguard did helpfully tell us that nearby La Turballe beach did allow kites so next day we went there. Slightly irritating but never mind!

Sign board at a French beach. Map with legend showing lifeguard and watersports areas.

Swimwear – the beach

France has been making laws about clothes for centuries and this sort of thing comes as no surprise to the locals. However it really raises British hackles! There aren’t really very many rules, although they can be amended with local by-laws. You’re not allowed to wear clothing on a nudist beach, but there’s plenty of signage so you’re unlikely to fall foul of this rule. I suppose it wouldn’t be very fair on the naturists if people in clothes were there too.  On all other beaches it is illegal to “bathe without a swimsuit or other nautical combination”. So no swimming in your clothes, and no skinny-dipping either. It’s not unusual for women to go topless, but it’s less common to see naked toddlers as you might do in the UK.


To date only a few dozen local mayors have imposed by-laws banning the burkini on beaches. Laws banning religious attire of all types exist in various places in France such as schools. France is a firmly secular republic with a very high proportion of athiests and the law-makers reflect this. The enforcing of the burkini ban has been a shocking thing to witness on the news this month (August 2016). It looks like these rules may change over time with political pressure. I’ll say no more about it but will review this post for accuracy next year.

Swimming pools

Men are not allowed to wear baggy swimming trunks or board shorts at most swimming pools and water parks, especially on campsites. You can wear Speedos or the slightly more flattering “Daniel Craig Speedos” and longer leg shorts if they are skin-tight. Why? Well, the reason usually given is hygiene, because board shorts look like normal clothes and may be worn for other activities. They may get all dusty and then go in the pool. Also these shorts will easily balloon in waterslides, which would hurt. Some British swimming schools ban these baggy shorts because they are too loose for lessons, so perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

Pool hygiene rules may also mean that you are banned from applying suncream before swimming as they don’t want an oil slick on the water. I’d suggest you apply suncream 20 minutes before going to the pool and it should all sink in. I saw plenty of people flout this rule on holiday this year; no-one wants sunburn.


Dogs are generally banned from French beaches but out of season they are sometimes permitted. Read the display board at the beach to find out. You should assume there is a ban unless told otherwise, as this is a national law. British dog owners may find this disappointing but there are many coastal paths instead. French dog owners do not pick-up as much as the British, so it’s a worthwhile ban.

Advice sign board at a French beach in English and French. Beach and water safety.

Have you encountered any strange bans or permissions at pools or beaches in France?

See ideas of places to visit in France on my Pinterest board.














In Praise of Handbags FalcondaleLife blog

I’ve got a birthday coming up soon and I’d like a handbag. Or two. My family gang up on me over the issue of my handbags. Not one of them – neither my husband nor my two daughters (a teen and a tween) can see any point in my ever having more than ONE handbag, and they like to tell me this loudly (especially the girls). I can just about get away with “special occasion” handbags as extras but for every day ONE is enough, they say. They see handbags as entirely functional, practical objects for Carrying Stuff. If I say I’d like another one, I get laughed at. A zip has to break or the lining come to shreds before it’s acceptable to replace it. Christmas or my birthday has to come around before an extra handbag can be excused. Accessories get very low billing in our house.

Latona Fringe Hobo Handbag House of Fraser

Image Credit House of Fraser

Choice of Handbags

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no dreams of handbag excess, I have no wish to become to handbags what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. I don’t even feel the need to fill one entire cupboard with handbags. I just would like to have an option of large or small, summery or wintery plus a choice of colours. I’m not even asking for lots of fabrics or shapes. It’s the point about choice of colours that I don’t seem to be able to get through their heads. For months I had only a red leather handbag and although it looked great most of the time oh boy, it really looked odd with my favourite turquise trousers. I coped with my colour clashing appearance by not looking in the mirror and just generally hoping that most people aren’t really fashion police.

Linea Tote Handbag

Image Credit House of Fraser

Most women are well aware that a good handbag is a wise fashion investment. You will never get too fat or thin for a handbag. One can improve a drab outfit or pull together a look. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve heard, I don’t think I have ever worn an outfit fashionable enough to be called “a look”). But in my house I am alone in my appreciation for handbags.

Orla Kiely Stem Handbag

Image credit House of Fraser

And the Husband Bought …

I do, however, appreciate my husband’s unique role in my handbag life. That is, he has never bought me a bad handbag. Impressive, huh? I explained to him that I am forever accidentally tipping my handbag upside-down. I just keep putting it on unsteady surfaces and it rolls off and things fall out. So he carefully buys me bags with fully sealing zips, and no little gaps at either end. This, from the man who needs help telling whether or not his green t-shirt will clash with his blue trousers, and yet he has never bought me a naff handbag. I shall keep him.

(not a sponsored post)


Here’s my Pinterest Board called Style – Bags





Father’s Day is just around the corner and quite honestly I find that men are very difficult to buy gifts for. Do you? All the same sorts of Father’s Day presents like socks and miniature whiskeys get trotted out every year. So I’ve been keeping my eyes open for new ideas. I hope you like some of these and there’s something for all budgets.

1. Banksy T-Shirt

Banksy T shirt from Shot Dead in the Head

This T-shirt at £16.99 is from Shot Dead in the Head, an online shop which sells a lot of funny and sweary T-shirts and mugs. There are a lot of wordy gags as well as some smarter visuals like the Banksy T-shirt pictured above. Most t-shirts come in a choice of colours and if you fancy getting one for someone else there are womens syles and sizes too. *NB the website is a little bit NSFW*

2. Weed puller that sounds like a shotgun

Fiskars weed puller a bit like a shotgun

You might remember the TV ad for this one. The Fiskars weed-puller has a kind of pump-action shotgun movement to make the guy next door jealous. It doesn’t shoot anything at all, it pulls the weed gently out and then you have to use the pump action to release it into the bin. It certainly looks like a fun gadget and is really useful in the garden at this time of year. Available for around £28 to £35.

3. James Bond Apron

James Bond apron from Amazon mens gifts

A perfect gift to use for the barbeque or kitchen and pretty suave to boot, this James Bond theme apron is only £4.44 including delivery from Amazon uk and perfect for the kids to buy for Dad on a pocket-money budget. Licence to Grill!

4. Gift Set from the Chilli Jam Man

Chilli Jam Man Fathers Day gift set

We’ve encountered the Chilli Jam Man and his delicious chutneys and jams at a few farmers markets, and they are available in shops too (see website for UK-wide stockists). A Fathers Day gift set includes a selection of three different jars, two sauces for the barbeque and some spicy pork scratchings for £20. The website has a great barbeque recipe for chilli-jam marinated ribs cooked on a garden rake!

5. Leather washbag


Leather washbag from Aldi gift idea

This is a more traditional gift. It’s a leather washbag from Aldi which caught my eye because of it’s classic look. The full-length double zip opening top is really practical and as it’s durable leather this will help guard against damp and spills. It will never go out of style and is available instore or online at £12.99.

5. Rochester Ginger drink

Rochester Ginger non alcoholic drink from The Grape Tree gift idea

This non-alcoholic ginger drink from The Grape Tree is made to a Dickensian recipe and the label claims that it contains “the kick of two very angry mules”! At only £3.99 it’s another idea for kids shopping for gifts on a pocket-money budget.

6. Animal print tie

Animal print ties from Elegant Extras gift idea

Ties are a great gift but they don’t need to be boring. I’ve found a shop called Elegant Extras which sells quality silk ties with animal prints, most very tasteful! There are dogs, horses, chickens, pigs, cows, elephants butterflies and birds of all kinds. There are also ties with sporting patterns and interests like music. Prices range from £16.99 to £38.00.

7. Slab Teak Click Clock

Teak Slab Click Clock from notonthehighstreet gift idea

This stylish slab teak clock is an irresistable gadget with a number display that seems to float magically on the surface. It has alarm settings, temperature display and night-time dimming. It’s sound-activated too, so for added coolness just snap your fingers! Available in several different finishes including walnut and marble, from Not On The High Street for £49.99.

If you liked my suggestions please leave a comment!

Prices correct at time of writing. This post is not sponsored or affiliated. Image credits belong to each individually identified vendor or manufacturer.
















Summer has barely started and we’ve already had both bees and wasps making nests on our property. It’s always a surprise when we find them, after all they didn’t call ahead before arriving! This is the first year we have had both bees and wasps at the same time. When this happens we have to decide if we’re going to do something about the nests. After all, my first thought is “oh no, they sting!” but this isn’t always true.

Bumble bee in flight

They are really hard to photograph! Blurry 🙁

Wasps’ nests

About ten years ago we had a wasps nest in an airbrick outside the kitchen door. They were a small species of wasp and not agressive so at first we thought we could ignore them, but they became so numerous it was a real problem. They got everywhere. My husband put on clothes with elasticated cuffs and a hood and squirted wasp-killing powder in the brick. Then he ran! The wasps didn’t chase him and the nest died. The powder was definitely the right thing to use in the airbrick. Within a week we started getting quite a few spiders and flies and we realised that the wasps had been killing other bugs. You win some you lose some.

We’ve let other wasps nests live undisturbed if they are not in our way and have found that they didn’t last. We were briefly worried last year that a nest was growing but I think it was just a few solitary wasps. I prefer not to use chemicals or kill bugs if I can avoid it. Besides, a few wasps can be beneficial in a garden by killing unwanted caterpillars and aphids.

Bumble Bees

Two years ago some bumble bees made a nest in our extension roof. I didn’t know what to do at first so I took some photos (very tricky!) and identified the species with the help of the internet. They were Tree Bumblebees. I learned that they would only live there for about three months and they are not aggressive. In fact, I can get away with telling the children that bumble bees don’t have stings (my parents told me this and I actually believed them until I was about 30 years old!).

Tree bumble bees in the extension roof

This year the bees are back. They nest in the roof above our sofa and in the evening we hear them making a noise like two balloons rubbing together. It’s kind of cute. They love our blackcurrant bushes and last time we hosted these bees my blackcurrant bush gave me nearly 6kg of fruit instead of the normal 1.5kg. That is an amazing increase in yield, these bees did me a huge favour. This year I’ve netted my blackcurrants already as I’m not prepared to share them with the pigeons!

blackcurrant bush with netting


These bumblebees are so benign that we can sit on the bench right underneath their nest entrance and eat a meal in peace. They don’t like to get too close to us. Just rarely they fly by and investigate. I bet their inner monologue goes like this: “Ooh is that a flower? Sniff-sniff. Hmm. What do you call that smell? BO? Yikes! I’m off!” Most of the bees sound the same but there is one huge one with a deep bass buzz, I call him Barry White. He always makes a bee-line (yes I know) for my neighbour’s blossom tree.

Tree bumble bee in the extension roof

Destroying a Wasps’ Nest with Foam

We had a wasps nest in the garden shed a couple of weeks ago. It took me a while to spot it. I was using the shed and sometimes a loud buzz would make me jump. Eventually I spotted a wasp nest about the size of an apricot in the apex of the roof, just inside the door. That was no good, we couldn’t share this space and they were large wasps.

Wasp nest in the shed

This sort of wasp nest can grow to be enormous. There was nothing for it but a can of wasp-nest destroyer. We used this one from Homebase. It comes out of the can like hair mousse, but there the similarity ends. It covers the nest and the wasps are history.

Foam Wasp Nest Destroyer from Homebase

I have to confess that my use of the word “we” is misleading. You guessed it, my dear husband deals with the wasps. I merely admire the bees and try to learn about them.

We are quite lucky in the UK because we don’t have some of the more large and aggressive species of wasps. Nor do we have wooden houses, which can be damaged by a lot of bee honey or all kinds of insects. A relative in the USA had a lot of bother with a massive bee swarm in his roof. Anyway, I hope my experiences are useful and reassuring. Of course any buzzing insect nest can cause a great deal of trouble if it gets too big or grows in an unacceptable place. I enjoyed reading this article by a photographer who tempted some wasps to build brightly coloured nests.

How to deal with Bees and Wasps Falcondale Life