Sunday, 28 February 2010


Well. That's that for the best part of another year (well, 9 months or so).

Cross country is over!! Hurrah!

Actually, I enjoyed the last one more than I thought I would and I felt quite strong during the run.

A damp, cold day with just a bit of snow falling gave the run in Peebles a real winter feel to it. Luckily the snow wasn't as bad as the snow we passed through on the way to the race

Quite a "technical" course that seemed to have a bit of everything in it. Starts off with a circuit of the park before shooting off along a narrow woodland path that takes in some pretty hairy little climbs over tree roots and slippery rocks, before heading through a pleasant valley, up and over an old railway viaduct, back into some woodland and then a horrible climb before a nice long descent through more woods and finishing off by the side of the Tweed. So - twisty, slippy, hilly, muddy and bumpy.

My time (26:27) was only slightly quicker than the last time I did that race, though since the route has been changed slightly it's difficult to tell if that's an improvement.

Had to hang about after the race for the prize giving. Nice to get a chance to talk to folk and the race organisers had laid on refreshments, including scones the size of a babies head, but it did start to drag on a bit.

Friday, 26 February 2010



Dunbar Running Club is lucky in as much as we have a running track. Indeed it’s a fairly unique track. Not for us the conventional 400m – no sir. We prefer to train on a 410m track!

Now, it would be easy to say that this is a simple mistake by the grounds man (or whoever occasionally sees fit to mark out the track), but I prefer to see it as a “cunning plan”. The plan being; if you train regularly and hard doing multiples of 410 then in theory you should get good times when you actually race at multiples of 400!! It’s a more simplified form of the theory that if you want to run a good half marathon ….. train for a marathon!

Sadly, this unique track is not an “all weather” track. It still sits there, obviously, in all weathers. It’s just that in really bad weather – you cant run on it – it gets all squishy.

We had bad weather last night. So the trusty track got a night off.

But while Dunbar might not have an all weather track it does boast some “all weather runners” and we headed off to do a few 1400m circuits round some of the local pavements. Now. I’ve never actually trained specifically round 1400m before so I wasn’t quite sure how to pace myself and therefore opted for the tried and tested method of “pelting it”. Eyeballs out, lungs lodged firmly in the throat type “run like you stole something”.

Must have done me good, because my legs hurt like hell this morning L

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Jesus. I’m low just now.. Don’t know what’s wrong with me, but everything, is getting me down. Work, life, the universe and everything (but mainly work).
I’m as low as a fat arsed limbo dancers butt cheeks, who's trying to get below an incredibly low bar. Even the trials and tribulations of *ahem* the “nations sweetheart” Ms Cheryl Cole is failing to grab my interest. Or perhaps that's it. Perhaps I'm feeling this way because of the fragrant Ms Coles agony. If someone as lovely and talanted as her is unhappy what chance for us lesser mortals??

Trouble is when I’m low my inner jazz fiend gets restless.
So. There I was walking past Fopp minding my own business and the little bugger dragged me in.

Now, I haven’t been in the Fopp in the *cough* “Dear Green Place” for quite a while now and I’d forgotten their unique pricing policy. Take for example Horace Silver “Doin’ The Thing – Live At The Village Gate”. Three identical copies priced at £10, £7 or £3.
I like Horace Silver and I love the hard bop Blue Note label. But I’ve got quite a few Horace Silver albums already so I wasn't really in the mood with parting with too much cash (well not £10)
However, I don’t have any “live” recordings and so my interest levels started to kick in at around the £7 level.
Then, I noticed that on this set, with his most successful quintet, he’s joined by Blue Mitchell on Trumpet. On seeing this the little fiend started jumping around shouting in my ear... "it's only three, it's only three".
Blue Mitchell is never the first name that springs to mind when you think of Hard Bop trumpeters from the Blue Note stable (Lee Morgan or Freddie Hubbard would probably beat him to first name status in your consciousness) but I really like his stuff (got a couple by his own quintet). He can be as cutting and firey as the rest of them, but underneath he's got a great soulful tone.
Anyway. His inclusion was enough to sway me, and how can you not love a song called “Filthy McNasty”??. ……. So I bought the £10 one

Tuesday, 23 February 2010



I’ve been listening to a lot of “live” jazz lately.

Sadly not live “live” in a club or concert hall, but recorded “live”. Jazz, possibly like some other musical genres, really lends itself to live recording. I know it drives some musicians nuts, but I don’t even mind if a wee bit of audience chatter or glass clattering can be heard (just gives it that sort of “clubby” feel).

One recording that I forgot I had until a few days ago is “Watts at Scott’s” – The Charlie Watts big band recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s a few years back.

A bit like the John and Alec Dankworth big band it’s a sort of inter generational who’s who of British Jazz. It includes Guy Barker on trumpet (at least included in the sleeve notes though Charlie doesn’t name him from the band-stand), Julian Arguelles on sax as well as old timers the late Peter King on sax and, the still here, Brian Lemon on piano.

Mr Watt’s appears content just to sit at the back and drive the band along and doesn’t go in for any show-off drum soloing.

Great variation of his “day job” band’s greatest hit, which this time round is simply called ‘Faction. Evidence if ever it was needed that jazz musicians can take any old crap and make it better.

Solid swing and bebop – probably disappoint dyed in the wool Stones fans.

Sound quality is wonderful and the audience reaction is so enthusiastic it really makes you wish you’d been there. He’s done a couple of tributes to Charlie Parker with his quintet some time ago. Have to try and seek them out.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Woke up yesterday morning to yet another load of snow (quite a winter we're having this year).
For once I was delighted, as for a few glorious moments I thought my trip through to Falkirk and the National Cross Country Championships might have to be cancelled.
Alas the arrival of my Saturday Guardian put paid to that dream, as even I reasoned that if my paper can get in - I can get out.
And, as luck would have it, by the time we got down to the A1 and past Haddington the roads were clear and all was well with the world (bugger).
Always a good atmosphere at this race, with so many runners taking part in all the different races. Pretty sure just about every club in Scotland is represented.
We picked up our numbers and made our way back over the road into the park where the junior races were already taking place.
Anne didn't have too long to get warmed up before her race started so I hung about for a wee bit to watch some of that.
Then "team Dunbar" went for a lap of the course for a warm up. It was a lot dryer than I had thought it would be and a lot firmer under foot as well. I regretted bringing my Inov8 "studs" rather than my Mizuno trail shoes that have a little more cushioning.
After watching the under 20 men race round we all made our way to the start. 450+ runners in our race always makes for a spectacular start for the spectators but is pandemonium for the runners. It's difficult not to let yourself get carried away and start too quick.
After my disaster at this race last year my main concern was simply finishing. On the first of three laps, as we came round the side of a large pond/small lake, I found myself quite a bit off the path and down towards the waters edge. As it was this was quite lucky as it allowed me to pass a few people before we got into the wooded section of the run where passing opportunities are limited.
I knew that the two Ian's and me were pretty close, but couldn't tell exactly where they were until we got through the woods and into the section that goes along by the ditch/burn/river bed/whatever. Then as we came into the main body of the house grounds again to start the little climb that takes you up towards the flats I realised we were pretty much running together.
First lap I felt OK but not really "settled" into a comfort zone. On the second lap I felt good and pretty much "in the zone". But by the third lap I felt knackered.
I could only watch as Ian pulled away from me and managed to pass a couple of guys and put a few places between us.
On the last 100m or so however, I could hear a runner coming up behind me and I just gave it everything I had left (which wasn't very much). Managed, just, to hold him off - we ended up with the same time but I got the position.
I was a about 1:30 slower than two years ago but the course wasn't the same then - so while the distance was the same I don't really want to compare times.

Ended up out today for about 15 miles and my legs are spent. Yesterday was only 12k, but it was on, mostly, hard ground with studs and I think it's just gone for my already tired legs.
Today's run was really nice. Started off up by the new wind farm then over, via a nice forest path, to Crichness and back down by Elmscleugh.
Though the run did remind me about a particular appendix to "Sod's Law" that applies to runners and walkers who think they are completely isolated when out in the middle of nowhere - "As soon as you start to 'write your name in the snow' - that is the exact time a vehicle will suddenly appear and pass you." - didn't even get a chance to cross the "t"s.

Going to have a bit of a quieter week this week. Same mileage but less effort. One last cross country race next Sunday, so it would be nice to have my legs a bit fresher for that.

Thursday, 18 February 2010



I think I speak for most calm and right minded individuals when I say that people who knowingly come into an open plan office when they are full of the cold or flu, should be buried up to their head in the sand, their head then kicked off from their body and the resulting bloody stump used as a public urinal……

Tuesday, 16 February 2010



On my way to the train station yesterday I passed a charity shop that I’d been in a few weeks past. Then they had a jazz CD that I had looked at and didn’t bother getting at the time…

Popped in again last night - and it was still there so I decided that an investment of £1.99 was in order.

Jimmy Hamilton Quartet - “As Time Goes By”.

A reeds player, though mainly clarinet, Jimmy was a member of Duke Ellington’s band from 43 till  the late 60’s. Then he spent the 70’s and 80’s in the Virgin Islands teaching music. As I’ve got more than a few Ellington albums I’ve obviously got a few that Jimmy is on, but I didn’t have any of his own stuff (though to be honest he’s not exactly got a massive back catalogue).

This is a nice set of covers of mainly Ellington standards though there is a version of a number many in Britain will be familiar with… “Stranger On The Shore”. It’s a nice underplayed “live” recording of the quartet from a small jazz club in the Virgin Islands in the mid 80’s. You can hear some of the banter between Jimmy and the crowd – he announces one number as having “more and more meaning as the years go by” before leading the band into “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”.

All very nice stuff and I enjoyed listening to it last night while doing some club paper work – nothing taxing. It’s nice to hear tunes most often associated with big bands played by a small combo.

But here’s the thing… I collect jazz CDs. I specifically collect cheap ones, where I can, and charity shops are a great place to find these (though you do have to trawl through a load of crap in the hope of finding something).

Also, what’s £1.99 in this day and age? It’s great to take a chance on something or someone you’ve never heard of at that price. If it’s complete rubbish what have you lost? Less than the price of a fancy coffee.

And occasionally you hit gold.. I’ve got cheap second hand CDs before that have completely got me hooked on some artists. But what of hitting gold in a more literal sense? I’ve had a wee look at this CD on Amazon Market Place – it’s selling for £26!!

I don’t do it for the money though. I’m keeping this.

Monday, 15 February 2010

KESWICK 34k (OR 34.6k !)

I did enjoy yesterday’s race at Keswick. It’s a nice low key event. It doesn’t seem to attract a large field and I don’t know if that’s because it is low key and not very well publicised or if the severity of the hills puts a lot of people off.
Certainly it’s a strange distance – 34k. Or more accurately 34.6k - this year as the organisers had to make a slight detour due to some local bridge works near the end.
Anyway. What about my run? Well; I don’t know how to feel to be honest. Didn’t do as well as I’d wanted, but in truth I did better than I should have given the type of training I’ve done lately. This is a road race – but it’s a hilly one. A very, VERY hilly one.
The first big climb comes just after the 10k mark and is Honister Pass – and it’s a complete bitch. Pull the brim of the cap down low, try to shut out all external stimuli and just dig in and suffer all the way to the top!
The first 10k had been run in biting cold conditions, but by the time I was half way up here I was grateful that I’d opted to leave the jacket back at the start.
Got to the top and my legs were like jelly – just in time to start the long and steep descent. For once I tried not to hold back and just "drop" to the valley below.
Thought I was managing quite well. Then a car came up beside me and slowed down to my pace – so that the passenger could have a chat with me as I tried to race my way to the bottom! I was trying to go all out and maintain my footing while they were bombarding me with questions – "where had we started?" "Where were we headed?" "Was it for charity?"
Answered as well as I could, as pleasantly as I could under the circumstances and they drove off to leave me to my lung busting "fun".
After that there is an "undulating" road through Buttermere.
It’s going through Buttermere that you meet all the "New Wave Wainwright Walkers" as I call them. All the gear and no idea!! Kitted out to the nines in layer upon layer of gortex this and fleece lined that walking along with the aid of two graphite carbon walking poles. You could probably market and sell gortex "Y" fronts to some of these bozzos. You could see the look of incredulity on their faces as dozens of bulging eyed runners dressed in little more than shorts and vests descended through the mists towards them (so surprised were most of them that they didn’t even have the sense to stop walking four abreast to make room!)
Once through Buttermere and the hordes of mint-cake totting walkers you turn and have another bugger of a climb at Derwent Fells. Luckily here the mist was hanging to the hills – so you couldn’t really see the magnitude of the task ahead.
That’s the last real big climb and the final 7k or so is mainly "undulating" (that’s a euphemism for "hilly" you know).
I had obviously set off a bit too quick as a few guys passed me in the last few kilometres (always a depressing thing to happen).
Got to the end in 2:40:30. About 3:30 slower than the last time I did this and even taking the extra 0.6K into account – that’s still slower.
So – it’s a bit of a wake up call! I can’t simply put it down to my injury last year and the crappy weather. To borrow a gardening term; I haven’t "over wintered" well this year. I’m not coming into the spring as well as I should.
What’s wrong? Well looking at my records I’ve not done as many long slow runs as I have in previous years. This was obvious – my legs felt ok for most of the race on Sunday, but I just didn’t feel I had the reserves of stamina that I should have.
Looking forward to getting the cross country out of the way (one on Saturday then another a week on Sunday) then spend some time at the weekend’s getting out for a few hours at a time.



starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent…..

Because we were running the Keswick Buttermere 34K race on Sunday Ian and Jane kindly offered to put a few of us up in their cottage in Kippford, near Dalbeattie over night on Saturday. This would split the journey and save us the problem of having to leave Dunbar in the early hours to get down for the race.

Never been to this neck of the woods before and I was really impressed by what I saw.

In the evening, after our meal, we went for a walk down into the village.

Ian had been telling before hand that Dumfries has recently been awarded a “Dark Sky Park” status (first in the UK). Certainly it was a little overcast when we went our walk so we didn’t even have the benefit of star light or moon light to help us (though we did have a couple of head torches between us J ).

From what I could see of it Kippford it looks like a stereotypical seaside village. Only it isn’t really on the seaside – its by the estuary of the river Urr, which flows into the Solway Firth. But there are loads of sailing boats moored or dry docked on or near the water and lots of little rowing boats that are obviously used to get out to them.

At a few places in the wall by the river you could make out openings in the wall that led out to slipways running into the water.

It was quiet. Very, very quiet. Or it was until Millie, Ian and Jane’s dog, got sight of a couple of other wee dogs and then all hell seemed to break loose!!

The overall impression I got was of a place very much like Llareggub, the village in “Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas, one of my favourite books. I couldn’t help but assume that all the cottages and houses would be inhabited by eccentrics (or what passes for eccentric in that neck of the woods).

Then, as if to confirm my suspicions, Ian took us a walk along a little pathway….

A local artist has created a sort of grotto or makeshift sculpture park full of bizarre carvings and statues that are embellished with, in some though not all cases, glass eyes and teeth. At one or two places faces are carved into the rock face and the viewer has to look into one of the carved eye sockets – only to find yourself looking into a sort of mini cavern right into the face of a creature staring back out at you. Crazy, wonderful stuff. I’d find it hard to define it but I’d suggest that it’s a sort of mix of Celtic and Voodoo.

Looking at these carvings and statues in the dark added to their sinister feel. Great fun.

Friday, 12 February 2010


This weeks unwind into the weekend (AKA "coffee, cake and jazz") was brought to me by the late John Dankworth.
To be precise it was the first recording of the "Generations" big band he had and co-led with son Alec, "Nebuchadnezzar".

The liner notes explain the concept of the formation of the band, and basically Alec chose some of his contemporaries and John chose some of his for the members of the band. So as well as two generations of Dankworths the band had/has two generations of the UK's best jazz musicians.

Lots of really good original pieces as well as few standards that have been arranged by the younger players - including a really good version of Carla Bley's Ida Lupino arranged by Alec.

If I'm honest I've got to say I don't have that many John Dankworth records (have a few). Probably not as many as I should have.

It's also probably fair to say that while this is an excellent record it probably doesn't present John's playing when he really was at the top of his game.

However, from what I've read about him and his enthusiasm for sharing his experience and the music with others the essence of this project probably is a good way to remember him.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


My run in the *cough* “Dear Green Place” takes me past two of that metropolises’ most important buildings.

The Sherriff and the High courts. It’s not unusual to see large crowds milling about outside either. Sometimes it’s simply family and friends awaiting an outcome and occasionally (outside the High Court) I’ve seen a braying mob waiting on some ner-do-well make their way to Barlinnie.

Today however, there appeared to be a larger crowd than usual outside the Sheriff court and most seemed to be in high spirits.

Perhaps they had each received a personalised “Get Out Of Jail” card….

To whom it may concern,

Rab here has been a good pal o mine for years now like. What wi him being on the panel and his maw bein poorly, to bang him up wid be a sin so it would.

Please could you also see your way clear to reinstating Rabs burroo money as the pair wee soul hasnney had a good swally since it wis stoped neither he has.

Yours, etc.etc” From the Office of the Deputy First Minister.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


I was at the dentist today. Never my favourite place to be, and I'm always looking for an excuse not to go.
So. While I was in the waiting room I noticed on of those "have you got swine flu?" posters.
It listed a whole load of symptoms and suggested that if you had two or more of the symptoms then you just might have Swine Flu. So kindly piss off because the dentist doesn't want you on his premises, never mind have to delve about your manky mouth.
I scanned the symptoms....
  1. "Runny Nose" ... well. I'd just come into a hot waiting room after cycling six miles in Baltic cold conditions.
  2. "Aching limbs"... Aching limbs? I'm a runner, that's a normal condition for me. I can't remember the last time I didn't have aching limbs!
  3. "Fatigue" .... Again, being a runner a certain amount of tiredness is the norm. Then again getting up just after 5 every morning doesn't help.
  4. "Vomiting or diarrhea" ... well I did get caught short that time I was out a really long run but that was ages back...
Still. I had three and I only needed two! Ya beezer a last minute reprieve from the dentist chair.
Sadly, just as I was about to report my swine flueyness to the receptionist and leave I was called in. But I shall remeber this for the next time.

Oh. And I might forget to tell them I've had the swine flu jab.

Monday, 8 February 2010

S. S. S.

Away down to Galashiels yesterday for another leg of the Borders Cross Country Series.
One or two slight changes to the course from the previous couple of years, but still a good un.
A couple of laps of a woodland walkway before heading out for a few hill climbs and a short spell up a muddy banking and through the woods before a short dash back along the path you set on.
During my, woefully inadequate, warm up I’d noticed that during the first couple of laps we had to cross a few duck-board type pathways and bridges. Quite narrow and they gave the place a bit of a sanitised “First World War Experience Theme Park” type feel. In reality I think these are placed there so that dog walkers don’t get their feet too dirty while they allow their lovely charges to be-spoil the woodland.
Anyway, from a runners point of view I saw them as potential bottlenecks and decided that the best way to avoid any jams was to try and get near the front early on…
All good in theory, but I think my early burst of effort cost me a bit in the later stages of the race.
Got in a wee group early on and just tried to hang in. Some of the climbs were real lung-busters and by the time we got to the home straight I was all in. Absolutely exhausted and sporting a frothy beard over my mouth and chin that consisted of the three “S”s – Sweat, Snot and Saliva!!
The route, apparently, clocked in at exactly five miles and I was fairly happy with my time of 34:22.
Strangely though this only gave me sixth place in my category. I say strange as I’ve only done three races so far in this series and in every one I’ve been sixth!
Perhaps I’ve just found my natural level.

Friday, 5 February 2010


Out last night to see the Fredrik Nordström Trio at The Lot down by the Grass Market.
Nordström on tenor sax, Palle Danielsson on double bass and Fredrik Rundqvist on drums.
This tour is to “promote” this trio’s second recorded offering, “Mayday”, the first being released about seven years ago (“Live At The Glen Miller Café”).
The earlier record was a selection of Jazz standards, but this outing sees them play a selection of original compositions, mainly by Nordström but one by Danielson, named after his cat “Mars” apparently.
I’ve listened to a lot by Nordström and I’m happy that when I finally got to see him live that this is the setup he was with. Not all, but a lot of, live jazz can be a bit sharper and edgier than it’s recorded equivalent. Playing live gives the musicians freer reign and does not burden them with so many time restraints. They get the option of “letting go” and experimenting. They probably feel a bit more confident to experiment as well, as even if some solos don’t quite come off how they hope, it’s unlikely that a live audience will pick up on this (unlike a recording that will be played again and again and every note can be picked up and commented on).
Whatever. As I say, in my opinion live jazz can be edgier. And some of Nordström’s early work is already on the edgy side….
This trio though play pretty much straight ahead modern jazz. There’s more than a hint of Sonny Rollin’s in Nordström’s playing.
The small intimate nature of The Lot seemed to bring out a nice little rapport between the band and the audience (as he announced the final number Fredrik basically said “ok we’ll come out and do another one..” even before the small appreciative crowd demanded it!).
The show (of two halves) was “bookended” both by covers and original pieces. During the first set the band played Kenny Wheeler’s “Everybody’s Song But My Own” as well as ending the first set with the original “Talk The Talk”.
The second set opened straight away with the fast paced original companion piece “Walk The Walk” before moving on to the wonderful Keith Jarrett number “My Song” (the one song I really wanted to hear- an all time favourite). Given that Danielsson played bass on the Keith Jarrett original, it’s perhaps no wonder that he got a wee bit free reign to solo on this, and Fredrik's biting tenor sax brought a new feel to it than the original ethereal sound of Jan Garbarek.
Fredrik Rundqvist performed more than admirably.
A great night out.

Thursday, 4 February 2010



One of those psychologically essential runs today at lunchtime.

In an even fouler mood than usual today, so it was nice to get out for a wee while in the *cough* “Dear Green Place”.

Only it wasn’t green it was nice and white with a light covering of snow all the way along the walkway. Nice steady 6.7 miles. Still noticed a few other runners but not as many as you see when the weathers a bit better

Strange thing. I’ve been getting a bit of a “twinge” in my right knee lately. Nothing to get too worried about – it usually goes away while I’m warming up.

For those unfamiliar with the hierarchy of runners ailments a “twinge” is right at the bottom of the pile (certainly below a “niggle”).

Anyway, as I say, it goes away after about half a mile or so warm up. It was there yesterday.

Most days I wear my road shoes (ASICS 1140’s for mild over pronators) but today I had my “neutral” MIZUNO trail shoes and my knee was completely “tickety boo”.

Natures way I think of reminding me to get new shoes (and gait analysis).

Another reason it was good to get out at lunchtime is that I’m missing the running club’s interval session tonight to go to see Fredrik Nordstrom at The Lot.

Jazz? On a “school night”? Whatever next?

Bizarrely, now that Im drinking water, my water looks more like Lucozade!!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Woke up to more of that white stuff yesterday morning - the snow was back!
Not quite a "shitload" but enough to give the place a nice covering.
However, what this also meant, of course, was - it was cauld. Bliddy cauld.
This in itself wouldn't matter too much, but the night before (Monday) our oil filled electric heater that we have in the kitchen decided that, unlike Terry Pratchett, the time was right to simply slip away unaided.
Sadly no amount of specialist attention from me and my vast collection of DIY accessories could bring it back to life (a small screwdriver from a Christmas cracker and a bicycle "multi-tool").

Reduced yesterday morning to standing in the kitchen making the rolls and breakfast with the oven on fairly high and the door open to try and get a wee bit heat into my bones.
Anyhow it's all sorted now. Anne popped into a local hardware place on the way home for a new one. Thank god.
Glad we got it fixed as the kitchen is the last place in the house that I go to when I'm getting ready for a run. It's usually in there that I put on my shoes and have a last drink of water if I need it.
Nothing worse than getting ready for a run in the cold.

My involvement in the world of "sports science" has reached mid point. I now have finished my mysterious "sports drink" but have to continue for the same period of time replicating all the in depth weighing and noting of widdle colour but fueled on nothing more than tap water!

My kitchen may be freezing but my water has more than a hint of warm summer sand dunes about it.