Sunday, 31 January 2010


Well, today saw me return to the world of competitive running - at last!
After injury, holidays then races being cancelled it was finally time to don vest, pin on number, warm up, stand in a line then test my metal against others....
The Berwick On Tweed leg of the Borders Cross Country series. And a cold, windy and wet experience it was. And I loved it!!
Usually at this event the tide is out, and for the first long straight section along the beach, then on the return, you are able to run down towards the waterline to take advantage of the firmer sand. Not today.
I don't know exactly when high tide was, but I'll bet it wasn't very long after the start of the race. So we were forced onto the softer rougher sand that just seems to take it out of the legs.
Still. It's a race and it's the same for everyone.
Along the beach, up a path to the cliff-top walkway then along there for a bit before turning and coming back the way you came. Only this time into a biting cold headwind.
On the way back I was trying desperately to catch a couple of guys ahead of me so I thought I would try to find some firm sand. Mistake!
Moved down a wee bit towards the water - just in time for a big wave to crash into my right hand side and right over me up to my dangly bits. Very refreshing.
Happy enough with my time (29:57) but I'll have to see the results to get an idea of how I did compared to others.
Main thing is. I'm back. Another cross country next wee, then a 20 miler in Kesswick the week after that.


Friday was quite a good day. Not only for me but also for my little friend the inner jazz fiend.
Found myself in the Record Shak - one of Edinburgh's better second hand CD shops, with quite a substantial and reasonably priced jazz section.

As I said before the jazz fiend was still upset at having to "choose" between running 13.1 miles round Inverness in March or going off to see Dan Berglund at the Queens Hall the night before. He needed cheering up.....

First thing to catch my beady little eye was an Alan Barnes CD "If You Could See Me Now". I can't get enough of Alan Barnes. One of the UK's most consistently good saxophonists I've yet to find one of his offerings that disappoints. This one sees him exclusively on alto sax (being a multi reeds man he often chops and changes within a single album). 11 tunes on this that are all covers but a personal favourite here is Bud Powell's "Bouncin' With Bud". A nice fast paced boppish number with a really good duet interlude with Barnes and piano player Jim Watson.

This CD is on the Zephyr label an independent from Portsmouth who appeared to be very active in the late 90's and first few years of the 2000's. Sadly, I can't seem to find any new releases from them (this one dates from 2002) or even find a web site for them. I fear they may have gone out of business. An all too familiar tale.

Anyway. I also saw an early "live" recording by Roy Hargrove ("Of Kindred Souls"). Well... I just couldn't let that go!

Much more mainstream than most of the other Hargrove albums I've got and certainly more so than when I saw him live last year. But you can still make out his "sound" on this album that dates from 93 and captures the quintet as they were starting off and finding their feet.

Came out of the Record Shack and went across the road into a nearby Oxfam shop.... Gerry Mulligan and his Concert Jazz Band on the splendid "Compact Jazz" series. Oh happy, happy day. The fiend was in his little element .... or so he thought.

Because, later, I was informed by my co-jazz-collector Mr Brown that Dan Berglund is playing in Newcastle a fortnight after the Edinburgh gig. On the Saturady, in the afternoon.

A quick look at train timetables informs me that a train down to Newcastle - a gig - then a train home should be achievable! :-)

Things are looking up!

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Maybe it was just an exercise. Maybe not.
But when I was out my run today up by the Clyde there was a large Police vehicle on the other side of the river and a few police cars. In the river was a small craft and there were a few police divers bobbing up and down.
Quite near one of the bridges I go under.

Anyway my inner conflict has been resolved. Is it the Dan Berglund gig or that there Inverness Half?? I’ll give you a clue…. If I don’t get a PB I’ll be miffed. Feel a CD purchase coming on to console my inner jazz fiend.

A rare photo of the lesser spotted "inner jazz fiend"

My beverage of choice may be java but my water has the hue of Assam with a slice of lemon (dehydrated?).

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Quite a nice run at lunchtime. Through in the *ahem* “Dear Green Place” so I went for a run up by the Clyde.

Now, I’ve not done this run for a good few months. Primarily because I was injured at the tail end of last year and latterly as they are working on the paths along the walkway. Well, what they are actually doing is cutting down most of the trees at the side of the paths.

The work isn’t finished yet and technically the pathway is closed but one of the blokes working there let me through for my run. So I more or less got the path to myself for 4 miles! Good bloke!

Said it before but running at lunchtime is good for two reasons: (1) It improves my mood (no small task in itself) and, more importantly, (2) it keeps me out of record and book shops.

Didn’t run yesterday. Ended up with a new book by Edward Marston (bought admittedly with a token that was a gift) and a CD by Phil Woods and Herbie Mann. Bought with cash…. That wasn’t L.

Reading Ray’s blog and he asked the question “do you keep a note of the books you’ve read?”. Well, sad to say I don’t. Perhaps I should, because while I don’t really get through many “worthy” books, I do get through a few (though who defines a book as “worthy”?).

So. A wee experiment for 2010. I will endeavour to keep a list of all the books I read. This will not be the Times Literary Supplement, all it will be is a list with perhaps a word or two. Anyway the list is here: .

A list of all my CDs? Don’t be daft – I buy far too many for that.

Some may say I am well read.... though my water is most definitely yellow.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Been out today for the longest run I've done in months (certainly the longest since my last marathon in October).
Took it nice and steady - but I'm feeling it in the legs just now. Think I did about twenty miles (so probably closer to 18). It's strange, but I'm getting a bit nostalgic for the snow - everything looked nice and clean and fresh, but now the world just seems to be covered in a layer of grime. Also, while I don't mind the crisp biting cold of the snowy weather I hate this dank, wet drizzly stuff we've got now - it seems to seep right through to your bones. Maybe I'm getting old - or not running fast enough!

Nice easy 4 mile "recovery" run tomorrow I think.

It's not often that my two main interests meet or cross paths, but I've got a wee bit of a conflict going on just now.
I want to see Dan Berglund's new band playing at the Queens Hall on 13th March.
I want to do the Inverness Half Marathon on 14th March (and being in Inverness refreshed and ready to race means going up the day before).
Ohhh..... decisions!
On the positive side of jazz - I've been spending my non running hours this weekend reacquainting myself with my Fredrik Nordstrom collection in readiness for that gig in two weeks time.

My legs may be burdened by a dull ache but my water is blessed with an effervescent fizz reminiscent of lemon sherbet sweeties!!

Thursday, 21 January 2010



Hurrah! Found myself working in Edinburgh today, so a nice opportunity to bring in the running gear and reacquaint myself with my route round the Water Of Leith etc.

Feel like it’s ages since I’ve managed this route and today the conditions were ideal so I thought I’d “go for it” and managed to get round about a minute quicker than usual (but with the old heart rate fluctuating between the blue and the red zones). Enjoyed it and I’m starting to look forward to the idea of actually racing again soon.

Another thing I’m looking forward to soon is getting of my lazy butt and getting out to see some live jazz.

A few years ago now I came across a CD by the Norwegian tenor sax player Fredrik Nordstrom. A bit “free” but it really grew on me, and since then my senses have been a bit more “open” to free jazz in general.

Difficult to source some of his stuff but I’ve managed to track down about another four albums by him and I like them all. So I was delighted to find out he’s playing at the Lot in Edinburgh in a few weeks (even more delighted to find out that Anne was happy to forego a running club night to go along). On one of the CDs I’ve got,  by the same trio that’s coming to the Lot funnily enough, he plays a version of  Keith Jarrett's "My Song". If he plays that in a few weeks I’ll be a very happy man.

Only [slightly] negative thing about this gig? It’s the same night as Brian Kellock and Julian Arguelles are playing in Musselburgh L

But what of “that there science”?...

Today; unlike a Civil Servants understanding of a simple concept, my water was clear..

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


It saddens me to think that Vaseline was invented in 1872, while Alexander Graham Bell made his first two way telephone call some four years later in 1876.

What a missed opportunity!! To think that no one in those quieter, less hectic times, had the foresight to bring these two great inventions together – so as to ease the transition of Mr Bell’s invention as it is thrust where it rightly belongs!

My mood is one of dark and weary resignation though my water is full of the joyful optimism of a meadow of buttercups on a Spring morn

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Had one of those rare moments at the weekend whereby I came serious close to possessing something that had a very close approximation of, what I believe is called a "joie de vivre". Luckily the moment was short lived and normal service was resumed.
The cause of this giddy euphoria? A CD I've owned for nine years... Charlie Parker "The Washington Concerts".
These are recordings that originate from two concerts in 1953, were recorded privately, and lay dormant till they were remastered and released in 2001 (in essence "bootlegs" that have now made it to the legitimate market).
The playing on these tracks is wonderful but it's the audience reaction that makes this recording really come alive. Apparently, Parker had failed to turn up for a similar gig previously, so for this gig his presence was unadvertised and unlisted (just in case). So, the crowd thought they were going to listen to the Joe Timer's orchestra - and what they got was the Joe Timer's orchestra and Charlie Parker!
The sound quality is surprisingly good for a "private" recording. Also, Bird played this set with no music, no prior knowledge of the scores and no rehearsal with the band - he just winged it! But still manages to pull off fantastic solos.
Can't imagine why I've left this so long, but I'm loading this one onto my MP3 player right now.

However, what about the descriptive science of running? Well. Today my weight was short, the run long and mellow, but my water had the livid hue of a short tempered seagulls stare.

Friday, 15 January 2010



I don’t believe in “signs”, or portents, or omens (good or bad), or any mumbo-jumbo like that.

No. I’m a firm “believer” in little more than circumstance and the continuing absurdity of this existence that we refer to as “life”.

So…. It was completely circumstantial that I happened across a CD in a charity shop yesterday that I fancied. Bill Evans and Stan Getz “But Beautiful”. This album is, I believe, only the second such recorded encounter with these two (I already have the other one).

Then this morning when I turned on Radio2 – they were playing Stan Getz “The Girl From Ipanema”. Not his best – but Stan never the less,  and at least Jazz! Radio2 never play jazz at that time – never mind Stan Getz!!

I once saw a film with Whoopie Goldberg (Corrina, Corrina), where she describes listening to Bill Evans play piano as being like “looking at candlelight through a beautiful piece of crystal”. I couldn’t put it better myself (so I won’t try).

Enough to say that to use similar imagery, listening to Stan Getz is a bit like being wrapped in velvet – smooth and warm.

It’s a shame that these two musicians didn’t do more together. But, I believe they kept having fall-outs (I’ve heard that while a great musician Stan was not an easy man to get on with).

So. Was it “chance” that I came across this CD? Because after the day I’ve gad I need something powerful to “mellow me out a bit”. And this may just be the thing - an ideal end to an otherwise crappy day – look forward to listening to it (in the company of a large mug of java and a slice of cake that big you could use it to stun a pit-bull).

Last night saw me take part in the clubs interval session again for the first time in what seems like ages. Five 1km intervals and I felt like I was giving it 110% , but even so my km times were still slower than my usual 10k splits. Need to work on the speed a bit.

But what of the on-going dip into the world of “that there science”? Well - the exercise may have been strenuous, my mood may be dark, but today my water has the lustrous sheen of an avenue of Yellow Poplar trees bathed in a cold Autumnal sunrise.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


In April last year I went to see Norwegian trumpet player Mathias Eick at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh. And mightily pleased I was that I did!
Like an awful lot of European trumpeters Eick is influenced by Miles Davis (perhaps less so, however, than Enrico Rava or Paolo Fresu).
To my mind he takes the soft, melancholic, plaintive tone of pre-electric, pre-Bitches Brew, Miles (or as I, purely personally, put it "Miles before he lost the plot"). But he then transposes that sort of sound to soft, ambient, rock influenced jazz. Don’t get me wrong some of the tunes can get a bit heavy but his signature sound is a very "gentle electric" rather than "full on electric". Hope that makes sense.
If not (or even if it does) then source the album and see for yourself.
Anyway, during the gig he explained how his tunes titles don’t really hold any "hidden meaning". He tends to name his tunes after what he happens to be looking at at the time, or where he is. So the tune "The Door" isn’t about a door – he was just looking at one when he composed/created it.
Anyway, I was over the moon to come across a recording of a gig he did seven month later in Berlin. More or less the same band (different drummer) and more or less the same playlist. Only there’s a new tune on it. Simply called "Edinburgh". Wonder when he wrote that?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I'm a "lab rat". And so are a few other runners from my club.

We're taking part in an "experiment". Graeme from the club is a "boffin" who works at the sports science centre out at Hampden (where the nations chaps try to play "association soccer"). Anyway him and another bloke are doing tests on a leading brand of sports drinks. Drinks manufactured, I might add, by a company who used to sell medicinal remedies strangely wrapped up in orange cellophane, the sort you only ever drank when you were off school sick... then in the 1980's they gave a wee bottle of the stuff to Daley Thompson, made a wee TV advert and "boom" a whole new market was created!!

Anyway. The experiment involves us drinking prescribed amounts of the prescribed drink at prescribed times (no problem), and then taking our weight daily (no problem), and checking the colour of our piddle up to three times a day.... right.

To assist in this task we've each been given a laminated colour chart that appears to graduate in hue the entire range of dulux yellows (think I can figure out why they felt the need to laminate it).

Thing is the description of this chart is all very boring and clinical. It ranges from 1 - 8.

"1" all the way to "8" ...deary me, not using your imagination much there boffins.

So starting the test today I thought I'd liven things up a bit and rather than a boring number I'd "describe" my colour instead. Less scientific - more fun!

So. This morning I weighed in a few pounds below "tickety boo", my water was plentiful and the colour of a pre-smoking ban, pub ceiling!! There you go they'll get a barrow load of "science" from those findings.

Bet Daley Thompson never had to go through this.

In my defence of the colour. Last night was the first time for a while I've been out running post snow and thaw, so it was quite a quick and strenuous affair ... probably a bit dehydrated.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Does knowledge of a piece of musics title or it's provenance alter how you perceive it? If you had never heard Debussy's "Skaters Waltz" before and no one told you the title - upon first hearing would you think of winter or more specifically skating? I don't know.
What I do know is that this weather is affecting what Im listen to.
I'm veering away from mainstream jazz and bebop at the moment and edging towards a lot of north European folk influenced jazz (Bjornstad, good old Garbarek, Tord Gustavsen - that sort of stuff). Maybe most traditional forms of jazz are pretty "urban" in their sound, where a lot of the new European stuff is a bit "pastoral" ???I don't know.
By "urban" I'm not meaning that drum n' bass crap that youngsters listen to or vacuous, slack-jawed, baseball-capped feck-wits have pounding out of their cars.
About the most "raucous" thing I've listened to lately is my favourite EST album "Strange Place For Snow". Now why would I pick that? Anyway, it also includes my favourite track "When God Created The Coffeebreak" (hence the blog title [partly] - in case anyone thought I'd abandoned my atheist principles after finding the lord lurking at the bottom of a mug of java).
Also find that when it's cold and icy then some piano solos hit the spot. Been revisiting my Keith Jarrett solo stuff a fair bit (part 1 of the Koln Concert - that would get Douglas Bader tapping his feet).

I'm also "re-discovering" a lot of my music. Don't mean, by that, that I have that many CDs I don't know where they all are (though that is a problem). No - for about a year now I've been listening to my MP3 player with inferior headphones.
It's amazing that given the amount of music I listen to I am fairly unwilling to invest in the kit to listen to it properly. I generally look at money and see an opportunity to buy more music, but this year I decided to invest in a good pair of headphones.
I've always been wary of hi-fi "geeks" or "audiophiles" as I believe they are called. The kind who spend thousands and thousands on turntables, amps, and speakers .... but only have about two albums!! I'm the sort of diametric opposite of that - I'll shell out a fair bit on the music but listen to it on fairly bog standard kit.
Anyway. That was then and this is now... Got a decent set of headphones now.

Friday, 8 January 2010



More snow last night. I’ve devised a new unit of measurement for snowfall (I’ve decided that measuring snow in inches is a bit old fashioned). So – between last night and this morning we had another “shitload” of snow.

To watch the news though you’d be forgiven for  thinking that rather than lovely white crystals of frozen atmospheric precipitation the nation was in fact covered in the cloying red weed of HG Wells “War Of The Worlds”. Bliddy hell to view the nightly telly coverage you’d think that this was Armageddon masquerading as a Christmas card. To back up their worrying tales of impending doom they always back it up with some “vox pops” style interview. This usually involves some domestic tragedy whereby school-run mum can’t get the 4x4 out of the drive way to take little Trinny and Susana to ballet school or some such. Or people wailing and gnashing their teeth because the local Waitrose hasn’t had a fresh delivery of sun dried bollocks.

Yes – it’s cold and uncomfortable. Yes – it’s difficult to travel. But for god’s sake – it’s winter! It’s supposed to be like this! Adapt!

Last night we couldn’t use the running track for training (as is our usual Thursday habit). The roads and pavements were a bit “iffy”. So we just adapted – bunged on a head torch and headed off road and into the hills. It was different, and it probably wasn’t “quality” training – but it’s better than sitting there in front of the telly and getting all upset about things.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Said it before, and I'll say it again- "Oh for F sake!!"
We've hardly been "out" during these holidays (of which today is the last day).
Now. By "out" I mean "to the shops", "travelling" and generaly doing
"stuff". We have of course been out of the house to run or walk, but
other than popping "out" for the groceries (or one cancelled race) we
haven't been "out."
So today we thought we would pop "out" and went down to Berwick. Quite
nice it was too. Though very, very VERY quiet. We got down OK, but it
definetly had the feeling of a place that had been beaten by the bad
weather. Some of the shops were closed (including one of my favourite
book shops) and the ones that were not shut were empty.

Anyway. It started to snow on the way back. By about Grantshouse the
road was pretty bad. Passable but there was a covering of snow and the
road markings were covered.

Got home in time for the one o'clock news. To sit and marvel at
"Scotland freezes" type stories. So wrapped up in these stories was I
that I failed to notice that we have had about another three bloody
inches of snow since we got home!!

Will this ever end?

First club run of 2010 tonight (hopefully) IF we get down. Just heard
that the next race in the cross country series has been cancelled as
well because of the weather. So that's my first two races of 2010

Monday, 4 January 2010


The cause of Scotland's Grit Shortage

Don't see many of these...

Starting to wonder if the snow is ever going to shift. That's about two weeks now that we've had snow to some degree or other now.

Saw a bit on the news today where some councils in Scotland were claiming that they had either ran out of grit or were very close to running out. Well .... I think I know where a lot of it is going - sheep are eating it!!

We've only seen a gritter about twice in as many weeks. But last week, when one did make it this far, the chap left a big pile of rock salt at the end of our house (in the field).

Since then there's been a flock of sheep at this thing, just about all day every day - they can't get enough of it. Very strange.

Anyway, we decided to go a bit of a walk today and headed off up the back from our bit. About a mile up the road there is a cottage that stands very much on it's own - the folk that live here really do get cut off from everyone else for days at a time when he weather is bad.

However, these last few days they've kept a car down near our place ... walked down and can therefore get out and about.

So. Today we were a walk that took us past their place. And we got accosted by their horse (I say it's a "horse" Anne insists it's only a "pony"). I don't think they keep it locked up - but just let it wander around.

It obviously was lonely, and decided that it wanted to follow us... Now, I hate when animals do that, start following you. I end up feeling responsible for them. Also, because of all the snow and ice that we have had all the cattle grids are full and iced over. The horse was able to cross them no bother. I started to worry that this thing was going to follow us back to Woodhall. I've also got a theory - cats, dogs and horses can all tell when someone is allergic to them - and then they home in on them!! Put 100 people into a room and introduce a cat, a dog or a horse and I guarantee they will make a bee-line for the poor sod who's allergic!!
This thing kept walking right up to me and trying to knock my hat off my head with it's nose!!

No amount of "shooing" or telling it to "feck off" had any effect. Maybe it just liked my hat - but it was way too cold to take it off and try to use it as bait to get it to bugger off (anyway, I like that hat).

Anne ended up having to do a "U" turn and head back with "Dobbin" (don't know its real name) happily following. Took a bit of persuading, but so far back it finally decided just to head for home and we were free to carry on with our walk.
One more day off a nice morning run in the snow, followed by coffee, cake and jazz ... then it's back to reality.. Boo.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Still happily residing in "planet holiday". Only I've traded down a wee bit from planet "Christmas" holiday to bog-standard planet holiday.

This involves pretty much the same activities (or lack of), but alas these activities are done without the glow of a Christmas tree.

The tree was removed today - the festive period is officially over.

I don't like and I don't "do" New Year. I've never been a huge fan to be honest. I've always viewed it as a poor relation to Christmas. New Years day always finds me thinking "I wish it was a week ago" etc.

Like a lot of things in Wee Eck's Scotland it's seen as tantamount to, if not treason, then at least "thought crime" not to go for the full blow tartan-hellish-thingumyjiggish-hog-ma-feckin'-nae. But I hate it.. It is after all little more than the mathematical anomaly that sees the number at the top of your calender change by one.

I wouldn't want anyone to think, by the way, that my dislike of New Year coincides with my stopping drinking. It doesn't it pre-dates that by a good few years. After all in this day and age you certainly don't need New Year as an excuse to have a drink (well- I didn't).

Anyway. Try as I might to bury my head in the sand and ignore it I cant (so in a lot of ways it's like Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing and crap like that). It envelopes this wonderful country of ours like a big manky tartan travel rug every year. It's supposed to keep us warm and cosy, but to me it just feels cloying and makes my skin crawl.

It descends, assisted by the media, like a foul mist and takes us back to a twee Brigadoon type state of artificial sentimentality.

Anyway. To show that I am not against all things Scottish (which I am NOT) I celebrated with a bit of real culture and downloaded from Bogards Tapes a gig recorded last month or so with Tommy Smith, Scotland's finest jazz musician, and Arild Anderson. Beautiful stuff....

I also tried to keep my own little tradition alive of "book-ending" my year with races.

My first run last year (2009) was the Portobello promathon on New Years day - so my last run of the year was the Dunbar Black Bun Run. A quick 1.5 mile dash through the snow and ice (in vest and shorts!).

Today, sadly, the race at Portobello was cancelled :-( The prom was covered in ice and I think the organisers made the right decision. Strange though that almost everyone who turned up for the race ended up running the course anyway! Albeit at a much more relaxed and leisurely pace. While I did miss the race itself it was a great "event" just jogging along with so many others.

Anyway, don't let my misery infect you. If it is your bag then Happy New Year.