Reflection End of Week 1- Mark and Toni’s 2019 Learning and Growing Odyssey.

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So it begins

As we both sit on the 07.15 Eurostar in carriage 4, seats 21 and 22 we listen intently to the ambient pulsing noise of the electric train, stationary, soon to leave London St.Pancreas on the high-speed journey south to Avignon, Provence, France. The gentle hum blends with accents and languages of passengers, just like us awaiting the beginning of a journey, odyssey or just a vacation. The procession through passport control and customs to the train platform had been mercifully swift and virtually stress free, very much in stark contrast to LAX, those who have trodden that path know exactly my sentiment. Finally a nudge, the long-awaited jolt hails its departure, and ours.
Introduction and Context
How was our first week, the week that was the anticipated jet lag reset? A bit of context seems appropriate at this point. Toni and I have just left the blanket of vines that is Marlborough, our friends and colleagues, to live and work ( in the order we hope ) in Nelson. Many reasons have facilitated this change of scenery. New work opportunities, better shift patterns and to practice in a different way,  a more functional and holistic method and means, more of how we are developing both individually and professionally. Our family, less our middle lad Dale, are there too, as well as our adopted family. Dale, sadly to us remains in Blenheim, as an assistant brewer at Renaissance, to him our best wishes and love. We don’t own a home but rent, that boat sadly sailed long ago. It is an important point to note that probably the greatest topic of idle conversation in New Zealand is exactly that, success or failure in life is determined by that it seems. For us, however, not so, we intend to find a route to an alternative horizon. That is obviously part of our journey too but not now. We stored our possessions and hauled over to Tasman. Contracts signed, hands shaken, optimism topped up.
In Wellington, Sunday, 30th June, 2019. Another subject matter confronts us. Facebook “Thathumbleman”.
The Route
Many months in preparation, we decided to begin in Wellington, our cultural hub, it having sustained us during our time in Blenheim, a beacon of hope and culture we understand and enjoy. Then the long flight to London, a car hire and cabin booked in the North Downs for 3 nights, and short stay with friends in Cheriton, Hampshire. Beyond lies a French experience in Provence, The Dordogne and The Loire Valley in France. Designed to head north from the Mediterranean through a variety of traditional food regions and cultures, we intend to embrace and be part of the scene wherever we are. We then return to the UK and onward to Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado, USA. Returning via San Fransisco to New Zealand at journey’s end.
Preamble, Concepts and Aims
A night’s rest in Wellington followed after number of blood tests taken the day before, a waist to height ratio, weight and blood pressures were also done.  How we achieve improvements in all will be determined by behaviour, nutritional and movement changes. We both feel relatively well, although you never quite know do you after reaching 50 years and some. Still we do move a lot with plenty of sunshine all year round in the north of the south island. Our FitBit data will testify to that fact. However, stress is synonymous with and at times significant in our lives of late.  A history of family illnesses, house moves and financial strains have taken their toll. But, we are still a unit, still together and believe our road we tread will be meaningful and changing.
We do take supplements, Magnesium for bone health, Vitamin K2 mk 7 for calcium metabolism and heart health and Astaxanthin, a strong anti – oxidant. We probably drink too much alcohol being honest, I love craft beer and Toni, Rose. How we will change that behaviour to a less harmful state is a real challenge. More on that subject to follow I’m certain. I believe we eat healthily, previous learning has led us to a vastly reduced free/ simple carbohydrate intake, less bread but baked at home or from a friend using whole grains, sourdough yeast and a whole lot of love. We have grown and intend to continue, our own vegetables, mushrooms and made some functional foods.
We have also starting a fasting programme, a modified 16/8 method. It began with a test run in Wellington the previous Sunday. It is adapted for the benefit of our work routine with an 8 – 10 hour eating window and a 14 – 16 hour fasting window prior. We hope for some weight loss, better mitochondrial function and reduction in HBa1C/ blood glucose. Intended for everyday of the week, we however will try to stick to 5 days as a weekly minimum. We do enjoy breakfasts and croissants in France will be difficult to avoid, especially with Dave and Rachel’s honey, that to come.
The food journey involves what we believe is a whole/real food concept, complex carbohydrates with an onus on quality, seasonality, locally sourced, functional ( affording an additional  general health benefit ) and foraged. Quality fat and protein combined with green vegetables cooked with healthy oils, and salads, of course. No waste and smaller portion sizes are also on the menu. Eating out is at a premium as we are on a tight budget.
On the Road
We set off from London and headed to Puttenham, a little village lost in time in the North Down’s of Surrey. En route we stopped to eat a small Kebab, we were tired and jet lagged and hadn’t had much sleep. the opportunity to eat something tasty and “fast” overruled everything else. We took the smallest menu and we drove the Kebab to a quiet gentle spot in a nearby church yard. It wasn’t so much a religious experience or perhaps nutritional either but it was critical. I don’t think God would have minded either in the circumstances.
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The Thoughts of Prof. Grant Schofield, Nutrition and Sports Performance Thought leader, AUT, New Zealand

 Secrett’s Food selection, Wednesday, 3rd July 19

We set out to find locally sourced, seasonal and optimally nutritional food, low human interference, avoiding processed and ultra processed foods and drinks ideally. Apart from the above and the occasional treats in a weak moment we did well. It was interesting to see how food is presented in the Supermarkets, sadly covered or encased in plastic for obvious reasons but not for, it seems, our health. The burgeoning problem of microplastics and food miles adds to the conundrum of how to safely and ethically keep food fresh on the shelves, avoid waste and sustain shelf life. A paradoxically demonstration of this was Tesco’s and Secrett’s at Milford, Surrey. Secretts is a small food and grocery concern had most items as nature intended, the smell rich and the colours vibrant. Costly, yes but not much. Much of the produce grow literally on site or very nearby. The cheeses and cream are stored very much like Tesco, in a chiller. It seemed alive with understatement but rich in how, not so long ago, it was done. The big commercial stores were brash and alluring to the bargain, 2 for 3, half price and this or that percent off, ease of parking with additional alluring benefits like cheaper petrol. Have we become this disconnected and convenience seeking? Do we seek pleasure in volume or satisfaction in the perceived bargain? I’m not sure what to expect in France but from previous experiences we’ll stick to the local markets where at all possible and find places, we hope, like Secretts on our journey.
Movement and Mushrooms
Ancient distance markers along the A30 and a remarkable daily FitBit data achievement
The week involved a lot of emotional sentiment, I lived as a young boy in Surrey and as a family for several years too, up until 2013. We had moved here in 2006 to heal following a huge medical drama. We both walked a lot, along the Wey Navigation and to Guildford too. We had a dog and an allotment, it kept us sane in that dark time. This time, however, born of our previous life experiences in Surrey we decided to forage some food for our first dinner and a container of both Chanterelles and Ceps were soon in hand. With Sourdough Toast, local Broccoli, market place black pudding we were suitably satiated the next day.

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Our First Forager’s Dinner for sometime – Chanterelles, Ceps, local Bacon and Black Pudding, Sourdough Toast with local brocoli with a Chilli from yesterdays Dona Kebab… Nothing wasted
Nature Bathing 
Walking in the woods, or “nature bathing” is an important component of well – being and mental health and physical health improvement. Learning we are part and not separate from nature is important in my opinion, whether just to be or abide with it or harvest is fruits, be they mushrooms, berries or nuts is a decision for the individual but for me it makes the experience come to life and whole. Importantly when picking free food it takes your experience and knowledge to the next level. You need to study and reference critically literature on what you take for obvious reasons. You have to put your life literally in your research and judgement of nature, just like our fore fathers and ancestors. You begin to see the trends and time tables of their fruiting, their locations form in you memory for the next season. Importantly too you learn the association between the seasons, the trees and the fruit, the links between the Holly, the Oak or Pine with Chanterelles and the associations with Ceps and Fly Agaric.
Walking the Wey Navigation.
Meditation and Mindfulness via Sam Harris
Being present is a hard thing to do. Your mind works over time without your authorisation. It can be a menace at times especially when you want to focus. Toni and I are trialing an app by the author Sam Harris into a guided meditative journey. In simple steps and short timings initially it is making what feels daunting relatively straight forward, not easy. It also allows you to see distraction as just a moment in time and not an occasion to feel a failure. The incorporation of awareness of sounds was funny this morning as we were at the railway station, but still, it made sense. The days will continue to full of thought but some mindfulness too.
Garden and Go(o)dness
The Seasons In Sculpture, RHS Wisley.
Wednesday took us to RHS Wisley Gardens, a moment to find fruit and vegetable gardens and community allotments. The gentle English passion for gardening eludes me. If it is grown it either has to be used in the kitchen, eaten or sensual and healing, like Lavender. I found Wisley interesting  as it gave us both a commitment to return to the allotment in Nelson for locally grown and seasonal product with others, creating a community with friends to barter, exchange and be closer to nature and the food journey. The greater the nutritional benefits when grown locally with a lesser carbon foot print too. Other interesting things were learned there too regarding the medical benefits of certain plants. I am a convert to the thought too that gardening itself undoubtedly, whether plants eaten or not, brings great well – being and satisfaction, as well as community to all who participation and even those who don’t but just see and get pleasure and relaxation from its presence.
Seeds and Good Reads, Wisley.
Ralph and Hanna
Ralph and Hanna are two gentle souls who have been an indirect part of our lives since 2003. Both immigrants like us, they came to the UK from Africa. They are massively in touch with their health and well – being, super aware of the nutritional values and foods and are reflected in their life style behaviours after reflecting upon what was making them less well and engaging in crucial research as citizen scientists. We spent a great late afternoon, evening with them in discourse and celebration. They cooked a low carb feast and shared the experience outside in their garden. Perfection. Their Sauerkraut was particularly impressive with the addition of carrots and garlic, and a little less salt than indicated by their experiences in fermentation. We’ll put that to good use. Thank you guys so much. We’ll on their advisement look into rich sources of vitamin A for a greater nutritional health benefit too.
Us, Hanna, Ralph and their amazing Sauerkraut.
Belief and Me
Thursday brought us to Winchester, the Anglo – Saxon capital of Britain before the untimely intervention of William of Normandy in 1066, the later prevailed and Saxon Harold perishing. The Cathedral itself dates back to 1079. It’s a timely place to think about your health status and the fragility of life. In the west wing of the building lies Author Jane Austen, a truly literal heroine and genius. Her untimely death at such a young age should be testament to all of us to be mindful regarding our health and well – being but also to explore and cherish our innate potential for creativity and legacy. Spiritually the Cathedral does nothing for me but as a monument to man’s ability to engineer and construct vast structures it is very impressive. Surely both nature, the nature of man in science and spirit are a testament to a higher, more creative and unifying purpose, perhaps more so than religion?
Also, as a footnote, and very much like gardening, it appears as a place where people come to gather, to abide and commune, for protection, support, in faith and belief in a higher cause, greater than themselves and act/ behave in the interests of others as a collective. My “church” has a similar philosophy but less of a traditional, human construct but a reverence of power and majesty of nature and the cosmos itself. I understand and respect their belief systems, but wonder if they’d understand mind as kindly? There is a deep impish side to me, brought about perhaps by too many Sunday school moments in my early years. Scratching messages in wood and on stone has always absorbed me, fortunately I found a few “gems” at Winchester Cathedral to add spice to its regaled history.
Reverence, Remembrance and Irreverence revered.
Food for Thought 1 “Watercress”
In Bighton, a little north towards to A31 road lies an extremely rare natural feature, chalk and flint streams, clear as day, gently pulsing through the Hampshire countryside. The water itself has become the source of a very powerful raw natural super food, namely Watercress. Ironically We’d brought some the few days previously thinking it was locally only to discover it had been imported from Spain! How crazy is this? I’m certain this is only to tip of the iceberg so to speak. The growers are a company called, ironically, The Watercress Company and their website http://www.thewatercresscompany.com is an amazingly successful attempt at promoting the health benefits with referenced and sourced information set out in a clean logical way. I recommend you read it. Super food it is and blog to this effect will follow soon. I hope to visit their operation in Dorset soon.
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Food for Thought 2 Dave and Rachel – Honey Bee Good
Dave and Rachel are our family. They’ve been there for us always. We are proud and lucky to call them our dear friends. They have recently moved to Cheriton for lifestyle and health reasons. Rachel is still in dentistry but is gradually moving on and rightly so as her and Dave have become passion project Bee Keepers. The are not only this but have a very ethical approach to the care of their hives, colonies and products. They share their knowledge and support others who have swarms at no cost to themselves. They produce a raw premium product which is a super food packed with antimicrobial products, vitamins, minerals and proteins. Honey has one flaw from a purist nutritional perspective, Fructose. A natural monosaccharide ( Oligosaccharide ) it has become less of a season offering that presented itself to hunter gatherers historically to an over used, even abused product that is almost in everything, all year around. This has created health rated problems of chronic and huge proportions. I love honey and in New Zealand we apparently produce the best and have the best husbandry practices. If we ate it sparingly, as a health product, a raw super food can we claim its healthy for us? Another blog post needs attending to me thinks. Thanks once again to Dave and Rachel Annette, find their Facebook page at HoneyBeeHappy. They are the best.

Dave and Rachel’s Pet Honey Passion Project in Action and Production

Food for Though 3 Cheese
Finally, yesterday we travelled to London to be near to departure point of our journey to France. We stayed in a “Shed Up Attic Throw” but it was very near and very cheap. Suffice to say when in London go to Borough Market. Like homing pigeons we scented food and drink and flew towards it. Borough Market has a history, this it keeps true today. It is a centre of gastronomic desire, of a global food culture exposition. Along with line caught, locally sourced fish, wild mushrooms, truffles and meats or every description abides Neal’s Yard. This historic cheese monger allows the public to taste it’s wears and greats you with a big, wait for it, cheesy smile. Once again, cheese has been underrated as a super food, has it been dealt a bad press? Has to the low-fat movement and fears of heart disease, poor epidemiological research playing a tragic role in the delivery of bad health and nutritional information, resulting in damage to our metabolic and systemic health globally.? I believe so. Think of a super food and what do you want? Energy? Safe sugar? Macro and micro nutrients in abundance? Colonies of beneficial bacteria? A culture ( sorry for the pun ) of history going back centuries? Cheese has it all in spades. A blog awaits in line here too.
A Cathedral of Cheese, Neal’s Yard, Borough Market, London, 4th July, 2019
To Conclude
So back to the here and now, in carriage 4, seats 21 and 22 on the high-speed journey of a life time, 240 Plus KM/H awaiting arrival in Avignon at 14.15 pm. I’m eating Sourdough Baguettes with soft, “walking” Coulston Bassett Blue Cheese and Iberico Ham and Avocado. Our hopes for Provence? More of the same, well – being, peace and adventure. We’re in southern French nutrition heaven and it sure feels good. We wish you all Bonjour and Sante.

Captain’s Log Supplemental

Look at Watercress, Honey, Cheese and Mushrooms as nutritionally rich foods, benefits and short comings, Offal as a rich source of vitamin A and continue meditation to live long and prosper.

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