First impressions of the ASICS Gel Nimbus 20

Disclosure, before I even start my review

I am an ASICS Running Influencer, and, on the advice of my running coach & an excellent ASICS store manager, I chose the new Gel Nimbus 20, in which to run and train.

A couple of weeks earlier, I had bought the DynaFlyte3 & I alternate between these 2 pairs in my runs, as I prepare for a half marathon this week, a full in January and another full in February.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be putting in a lot of mileage together.

I must point out that ASICS has placed me under no obligation whatsoever to write a review, favourable or otherwise, of these shoes.

So, what do I think about these shoes so far?

I have run 119.5km in my Gel Nimbus 20 (shall we call it 120km for simplicity’s sake?!) and am totally and utterly in love with these shoes.

I have run in my Nimbus 20s on several different terrains in New Delhi, India, where I live – roads, parks, tracks, grass, & even some outdoor gym equipment, and the cushioning of these shoes, especially on the roads, is brilliant.  Absolutely fantastic.

Just take a look at the cushioning on the heel:)

The shoes felt totally comfortable from the word go, and I have had no teething problems.  They feel super light, despite the solid heel cushioning.

Here are some technical specs that I downloaded from a website called dickssportinggoods.com

I find the shoes light, as I said, and surprisingly sleek.

They offer great support and I love the look of them.  They are discreet, with the logo only hinted at on the sides.  Love the feel & look of the laces (if that doesn’t sound strange!)

Obviously I am totally in love with the colour 🙂

So, 120km together.

We have many more kilometres to go, many of them on the hard, unforgiving Indian roads, so I’ll report back after we’ve run together some more.

But so far, so good.

How good are La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots?

Although I have climbed a few mountains, I still feel a tad wary of describing myself as a “mountaineer”.  So this review of my new La Sportiva G2 SM climbing boots might not be full of pukka technical terms, but it most definitely comes from the heart.

By way of background, I started climbing very late in life, and most of my recent climbs have been in the 6000m+ range, and all of them in the Himalayas in India (where I live), and they have all brought me huge joy.

With one caveat.

The only blot on my climbing horizon had been using hired climbing boots, which are usually heavy to carry and to wear, and exhausting to lace up, especially on summit night, when fingers inextricably turn to thumbs, and nerves are at their most tightly-wound.

As a not too experienced climber, I came to dread putting on and lacing up the double boots I would rent.

So in April this year I invested in a pair of La Sportive G2 SM boots and my life has changed for ever.

They are THE most wonderful boots ever.

I am beyond in love with them.

If the truth be told, I fell in love with them the moment I unboxed them.

But there was that $64,000 question – did these beauties need breaking in?

I imagined they did, BUT I had less than a month between purchase and leaving to climb Banderpoonch, a mountain in Uttarakhand in India.

I live in Delhi, where May temperatures are in the upper 30sC/low 40sC, so there was no way I was going to go for a walk in my boots, to break them in.  I’d probably have passed out from the heat.  So I wore them a couple of times inside the house, clumping round inelegantly in shorts against the heat, and wearing my boots.

And then off I went to climb, secretly wondering if I was being foolish & was going to suffer from blisters or other aches and pains, having not worn my boots enough.

No need to worry at all.

These beauties were like slippers from Day One.

I wore them on an acclimatisation hike up from our Base Camp to Camp One, and the boots were fabulous from the word go.  This was the only time I wore them before we hit the snow and the proper climbing started.

     

Comfortable, super easy to put on, and oh-so-blissfully easy to lace up.

I was in heaven.

I never had one moment’s discomfort or stress in these boots.  Not one.

They were easy to put on, requiring none of the contortions I remember from the hired double boots.

The inner is super easy to put on, and fastens with Velcro, and so is easily and painlessly adjustable.  They weigh next to nothing, and each night I’d pop them inside my sleeping bag and we were all as warm as toast.

The outer boot…what total and utter bliss the La Sportiva G2 SM Boa lacing system is.

It is so easy and simple, and is perfect for folks like me, who get slightly stressed on summit night.  On earlier climbs, I remember beginning to hyperventilate as I tried to bend over and lace up first the inner and then the outer boots, with all my layers of clothes on, in the cold, and inevitably in the middle of the night.

No such stress this time round:

1.Velcro the inner boot.

2.Snap the outer boot tight – the Boa lacing system is super easy to use, with 2 dials allowing you to adjust the tightness of your upper and lower feet.

3.Zip up the incorporated gaiters and you’re A for Away.

Here is the one and only Simone Moro (the SM of the name) talking about these boots.

They were light to wear, and so (obviously) light to carry.

They were blissfully comfortable and stress-free to put on.And – call me shallow – I think they are pretty cool looking.

I bought the boots myself, and neither the supplier nor La Sportiva knows that I blog and review.

So, to answer the question I posed in the title of this review – how good are these boots?

They are wonderful. Totally, 100% recommended.

How good are “Nature Forever” bird feeders?

They are brilliant.

End of review.

Seriously, what’s not to like about the Nature Forever range of bird feeders, which are very reasonably priced, available here in India on Amazon (don’t worry – the relevant links are below) and, in our case at least, have attracted loads of birds and squirrels, almost from Day 1.

The bird feeders are made from plastic, and can easily be attached to a hook, or to the branch of a strong enough plant.

We put “bajra” (millet) in the bird feeder, and from the moment we hung it up on our balcony, we’ve had birds non-stop, as well as squirrels.

Pigeons (you have to accept their presence, there is no way of discouraging them), doves, bulbuls, mynah, parakeets – they all come to feed, all the time.

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Because the squirrels were guzzling all the millet, we moved the bird feeder a little out of their reach, and then bought them their own squirrel feeder…of course we did!

Like so:

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In a tit-for-tat revenge move, the pigeons have also muscled in on the squirrel feeder and we have had some hilarious encounters.

The best one, which sadly I didn’t manage to film, featured a young squirrel sitting happily inside the feeder – that’s the joy of the glass panel, you can see what’s going on – when a pigeon stuck its head through one of the side holes.

One startled squirrel shot out of the feeder scattering millet all over the place, and scarpered, leaving the pigeom happily tucking in.

As I said, what’s not to love?

They’re cheap, you’re encouraging nature to come to your balcony or terrace, you’re supporting a good cause, and there is always something to watch.

Warning, you might well end up like me, doing time-lapses of the frenetic feeding activity.

Like so:

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Totally recommended.

Here are the links to buy both types of feeder.

Enjoy!

DARKEST HOUR

Other than the irritating “Cigarettes are injurious to health” warning which stayed on the screen almost all through the movie, I had nothing to fault in this fabulous film.

So this review is actually going to be little more than a song of praise for outstanding acting, wonderful period detail and the creation of amazing tension, even though we all know the outcome.

Gary Oldman is extraordinary as Winston Churchill, brilliant orator, quick-thinking, irascible, insensitive to those around him who love and like him, and a street-fighter of note.

His outsmarting of his War Cabinet through his emotional speech to his Outer Cabinet, in which he liberally quotes people he just met on the Tube is a classic moment, demonstrating his amazing oratorical skills.  The Tube moment is, apparently, fiction.  But it makes for good cinema.

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clemmie is sublime, looks utterly fabulous in those chic 1940s clothes and brings out a more vulnerable, likeable side to Winston Churchill.  Clementine was clearly the ballast for her husband and although Ms Scott Thomas’s screen time might be limited, she fleshes out Clemmie’s character so perfectly that we feel we do indeed know her.  When she toasts her husband on becoming Prime Minister, it is a masterclass in how to deliver a rebuke with love and respect.

Lily James as Churchill’s secretary Elizabeth Layton is gorgeous., with that winning smile of hers.

Oh dear, that’s hardly a deep-insight-y kind of thing to say, but Ms James really is so lovely, and makes Ms Layton into a delightful, vital part of the PM’s life.

Samuel West, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn – they are all perfect and visually perfect, Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI in particular is wonderful.

The atmosphere of England in the late 30s and early 40s, when it was a world of privileged white middle-aged men, with hardly any women and ne’er a non-Caucasian face visible is superbly re-created, with the scenes in the House of Commons bringing home, if ever one needed a reminder, of how Britain has evolved over the decades.

Having said that, the only false note was, for me, the presence of a black Londoner on the Tube.  I’m no historian, but I just cannot see Winston Churchill sitting and chatting like that.  Maybe I’m wrong.  That scene was just a tad too PC for me.

But that minor criticism aside, this is a stunning film, and I cannot praise it too highly.

And, as a matter of interest, is it an Indian thing (I live in New Delhi) to have that tobacco warning on the screen each time a character lights up? Which is almost all the time.  Or do other countries do this as well?

Victoria & Abdul

Oh dear.

What a let down.

The story, that of the unlikely friendship between an ageing Queen Victoria and her Indian servant, is not only a delectable one, but the additional fact that Abdul Karim’s diaries were only recently discovered is also thrilling.

Add the incomparable Judi Dench to the mix, and we should have had the blockbuster to beat all costume-historical-sweeping-blockbuster-epic-y thingies.

Except we don’t.

Judi Dench is her usual incomparable self.  Not one word of criticism about her performance.

She is absolutely perfect as Queen Victoria.Perfect.

But for the rest of the cast…yet again, at the risk of repeating myself, what a let-down.

Stellar names delivering flat performances, with Eddie Izzard a notable exception.

I haven’t read the original book, nor do I know enough about that period of British & Indian history to speak with any authority, but I’m pretty sure that an Indian servant like Mohammed would not have slightly cheeked off the British, used words like “bloody” and been so, well, so 21st century in his open disdain for the British and their way of life.

Also, and I may be over-estimating Queen Victoria, but would she really not have known the background to the Koh-i-Noor?  One of her prized pieces of jewelllery?

And now let’s move onto young Ali Faizal, who plays the charming, handsome and likeable Abdul Karim.

Great eye-candy, totally, but what a sadly one-dimensional portrayal.

The actor is utterly charming, and you like Abdul unwaveringly, but other than smiling sweetly and affectionately at HM, what else does he do?

Victoria and Abdul
Judi Dench (left) as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal (right) as Abdul Karim

Lovely visuals, as one would expect, but that was it.

Didn’t care about any of the other characters, they were all so 2 dimensional.

Liked Ali Faizal.

Loved Judi Dench.

But left the cinema feeling slightly cheated.

This movie could’ve been fabulous.

Could’ve been epic.

Instead, it was formulaic, and even a little silly at times.

But, having said that, it is still worth seeing for the wonderful Judi Dench.

How good is the new “Juggernaut” mobile app?

Very good, is the answer.

This recently launched app for mobiles here in India, is set to change the way we read, make no mistake.

Without being remotely qualified to write an in-depth technical review of the Juggernaut app, let me just say that it was easy to download, is super easy to use, and the one query I had was replied to promptly by the support team.

Basically, with Juggernaut you can download and read books on your mobile –  & access the same books on a device like an iPad.  (This was actually my query to the support team).

Books are very reasonably priced, and what is refreshing is that the initial titles are focusing on and promoting Indian writers.

But how does reading on Juggernaut differ from reading in, say, a Kindle?

Well, for starters, you don’t have to invest in a separate piece of hardware.  Your smart phone is enough.

Plus, there is an interactive aspect to the app, whereby you can ask the author a question, straight from the app itself, which is pretty cool.

In the interests of full disclosure, I was contacted by Juggernaut towards the end of June, asking as a blogger and, especially, a book blogger, whether I’d like to review books using their app.  The first book that I read using the app, “How to kill a billionaire”, is reviewed in my other blog, and was sent to me, free, by the good folk at Juggernaut.

I was initially a bit of a techno-loser, forgetting to report back to Juggernaut that I had indeed downloaded the app, but once this hiccough (entirely my fault) was cleared up, they have been in regular contact.

So, step 1.

Download the free app.  I now have it on my iPhone & iPad.

You can quickly personalise the app, by going to one of the 23 categories they list & seeing what’s on offer.

Step 2.

Download a book – and here I must be honest, I don’t yet know how smooth the payment mechanism is, but I suspect it will be seamless.  The app as a whole seems to be that way.  Certainly the book is downloaded in a trice, with an instantaneous follow-up email.

This was the first book I read, and I deliberately read it on both my devices, and the transition between the 2 was flawless.  It picked up on one where I had left off on the other.

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You can increase the font size, as well as the background colour:

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When you’ve finished, you can chat to the author – haven’t tried, but fully intend so doing – and leave a review.

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There are many books, all very reasonably priced, and then there are some free books, so (naturally!) I downloaded a couple of these, starting with “Tale of a Tub” which, to my shame as an Eng Lit grad, I haven’t read.

This is how the book is presented:

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And the acknowledgment that the download is complete:

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All blissfully straightforward.

In its portability – eliminating the need for even a Kindle – I think the good folk at Juggernaut are definitely on to a winner here.  We all of us carry our smart phones everywhere, and as I have discovered, it’s no different than reading a book than, say, reading an email which we all do all the time on our phones.

What is super exciting about the team at Juggernaut is that they are not only promoting reading, but they are simultaneously promoting writing.

See.  Read this message:

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Now HOW exciting is this?

So, in summary –  a free app that delivers books quickly and inexpensively to your smart phone.

Clear, nice look.

Simple to use.

10/10.

Would I recommend it?  Hey!  That is exactly what I am doing here 🙂

PARTITION Stories of separation by Sonam Kalra

Currently this is, perforce, a Delhi-NCR-centric review, but one hopes that this latest show by Sonam Kalra will travel the country and beyond…

“Partition Stories of Separation” was performed for the first time at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre in front of a sold-out audience this weekend.

A show devoted to the trauma and sorrow of Partition was never going to be easy viewing and there were moments of great sadness.  Great, heart-wrenching sadness.  When the elderly Sikh spoke about the death of his sister, I could hardly breathe, it was so raw and painful.

But this pain, which Sonam Kalra talks about in the programme, cannot –  and must not – be avoided or ignored:

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This trauma is part of the DNA of the subcontinent and it has to be commemorated and shared, especially with the gradual passing of the brave generations who lived through the horrors of Partition.

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Through song, and poetry, and interviews with amazing people who lived through Partition, this traumatic period of history is brought to life by Sonam Kalra, Salima Raza and Sonam’s team of amazing musicians.

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But for me, what moved me the most, was not so much the looking backwards at history, but the positive looking forward towards peace and reconciliation.

And here the energy and thrust of a younger generation with a different mindset was in evidence.

I loved the inter-active feeling of the show –  from old fashioned postcards on which we were asked to write our message of peace starting with the positive words “When we meet…”, to the hashtags to be used on social media to build a dialogue with “The Other Side.”

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There were cute, quirky touches, such as a “postbox” for the postcards for Pakistan.

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We were even given pens, ensuring that there we all had no excuse not to write.

A pile of old luggage in the entrance to the auditorium spoke volumes.

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I hope that this show travels the length and breadth of India, and more than anything else that it travels to “The Other Side.”

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Shabash to Sonam Kalra for giving voice to painful memories, but than anything for presenting the pain with so much love and, most importantly, hope.

Travels with my coffee mug

If you are a coffee-holic & a bit of a coffee snob to boot, then this review is tailor made for you.  Especially if you travel/hike/climb/trek.  And even more so if you can’t stand instant coffee.

Wearied by frankly revolting coffee in so many (otherwise amazing) places, uncaffeineated at the start of days in (otherwise amazing) remote parts of the globe, this gift, below, from a fellow coffee-holic & trekking friend was beyond perfect.

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It’s a thermal portable coffee plunger mug from Kathmandu – the company, not the city.

So all you need to do is pack a bag of ground coffee, get boiling water from your hotel/camp cook/boil it yourself (hey, you can figure this bit out, right?) and Bob’s your uncle.

The only teensy flaw in this jug is that when your pour out the coffee, it leaks a little from the top, but that is such a small price to pay for having one’s morning caffeine fix that it hardly counts.  I checked the website just now, when sharing the link with you and, guess what I found?

  • Lid is not completely spill proof

There you are, then.

In the 3 years I have had this mug, it has travelled all over the place with me, since it weighs virtually nothing and saves my life every morning.  It’s tough, and in 3 years in backpacks it has precisely one scratch, and I’m still trying to puzzle out where it came from.

Together, we have been up to the Himalayas (I live in India), we have been climbing in Ladakh, to Africa (where we used to live) to Myanmar, Sri Lanka.

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Have Kathmandu coffee mug, will travel is now my new mantra.

Indian Summers Season 2

I have no excuse.  No excuse whatsoever.

A little under a year ago, in this very same blog, I shared with you my thoughts on Indian Summers, a TV drama that…well, let’s just say underwhelmed me totally.

Hey, why mince words?

I thought “Indian Summers” was absolutely terrible.  Truly terrible, despite all that money thrown at it.

Here are a couple of relevant stats (courtesy of the thinking man’s paper, the Daily Mail)

  • Indian Summers is Channel 4’s equivalent to ITV’s Downton Abbey
  • It’s the most expensive drama commissioned in the channel’s history

Anyway, obviously when Season 2 came out, yes, of course, we HAD to watch it, just to see if it was as bad as season 1.

Actually, I approached Season 2 with the hope that perhaps the good folk over at Channel 4 had put a bit more thought & attention to detail into Season 2, and corrected some of the more glaring mistakes/errors/inconsistencies.

Whatever.

No such luck.

Season 2 was every bit as bad as Season 1.

So compulsively bad in fact, that, hooked like addicts on the sheer awfulness of it all, we simply has to watch it right to the weird, rushed, inconclusive end.

But that was the end, I gather.

Channel 4 has mercifully pulled the plug on what should have been a fantastic series and which was, on the contrary, a total disappointment.

I won’t bore you all with repeating the litany of inappropriateness from Series 1 – the locale, the people – because the series is now over.

When the end finally came, I realised that there was not one single major character about whom I cared.

Not one.

Ralph Wheelan?  Nah.  He got his come-uppance.

His wife? Nope.

His sister?  No. Despite her horrid, spivvy husband and her inter-racial love affair, Alice remained boringly one dimensional throughout.

Cynthia? Shudder.  What a truly appalling character.  I cannot for a minute imagine that in colonial Shimla, in the 30s, a woman as common as Cynthia would have called the social shots.

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Tell you what, though  – what I’d love more than anything else is to be proved wrong here, with someone promptly telling me that Julie Walter’s character was based on a real-live person, and then I can re-evaluate the whole thing.

The only nice Brit is that young Scot, Ian McLeod.  And he turns “native”, so there you are.

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On the Indian side…well…they are all portrayed more sympathetically then the Brits, but they are by and large so totally stereotyped.

Roshan Seth is great, and one of the few truly good actors in the series.

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Ayshsa Kala’s character is appealing, and she has the most winning smile and sparkly eyes.

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Way more pizzazz than her brother.images (1)

Don’t get me started on Art Malik as a Maharajah wearing costume jewellery.

Maharajah (Art Malik)

Anyway, it’s all over, a series that was addictive because of its awfulness.

PS: And clearly Channel 4’s answer to “Downton Abbey” it was not.

How good is the Anker Solar Charger?

It’s very good, to answer my own question.

I have nothing but praise for the Anker portable solar charger.

I bought it before I went climbing in the Himalayas 2 summers ago, and it worked brilliantly, charging mobile phones mainly, both mine and my fellow team member’s.  Even though there was no connectivity for most of the climb in Ladakh, it meant I could use my phone to record video clips.

Some days, I attached the charger to my daypack (as in the photo below, which is not mine.  It’s from the internet) & I even charged my phone on the go.  Initially I did worry about the charger getting scratched on boulders (it didn’t, of course).

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Once we arrived in camp in the afternoons, out would come my charger and it would sit quietly there, as we all unpacked and set up camp.

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Super impressed and it is now a regular on all outdoors-y type trips, where power could be a problem.

Here are the charger’s vital stats:

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It has 2 USB charging points.

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It weighs in at 14.7oz / 417g so isn’t a liability in your day pack.

Totally recommended.

No one at Anker knows that I blog.

I paid for the charger myself, and bought it online.  As you can do now:

All the photos are from the internet.

AND…as I was looking for photos online to illustrate this review, I found this one, and learned a useful tip, which will be put to good use later this summer, when I’m back in Himalayas – hurray!

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