Sunday, 28 November 2010


Oh deary me. If I thought we had a lot of snow yesterday I was in for one hell of a surprise this morning.
It came as no surprise at all that we got no paper this morning. Must be over a foot of snow out there - more where it's been drifting.... and it has been drifting.
Oh well. If I wasn't going down to Gala for the cross country I was still determined to get out for a run. So, regardless of the cold, the wind, the dark threatening skies and the threat of more snow, I decided to don a couple of extra layers, my trail shoes (for a more aggressive sole) and head on out....
Decided though today not to try the hills, but just stick to the roads. A good run, though obviously a bit slower than I'd expect. I'll maybe try for a bit of a hill run tomorrow.

Fundamentalist? Perhaps. Mental? Yes.

At one point the snow was belting into my face from the left had side, and I ended up having to run along with my hat pulled low and my buff pulled up - I looked like some lunatic "running fundamentalist".
Not too far from Woodhall I passed an abandoned car. I had expected to see that right enough.
The roads were very, very quiet though. At one point I did get a four wheel drive coming steadily up behind me. I jumped into the side of the road to let him past. Ended up jumping up onto the verge at the side of the road - where the snow had drifted and ended up up to my dangly bits in snow! Then a couple of minutes later I had to repeat the process of jumping out of the way to allow the snowplough past who was coming towards me. I don't mind this to be honest - after all they're working and I'm just out playing.
Couple of minutes later... there's the four wheel drive, stuck at the side of the road. With the driver out with a shovel digging the snow out from under the wheels, complaining that the plough had "forced him off the road and then wouldn't stop to help him out"!
I stopped to see if there was anything I could do, but to be honest a 9 1/2 stone runner trying to push a 4X4 out of a snow drift was never going to be a winner was it? Luckily a minute or so later a farmer came past on a tractor and offered to help tow the guy back onto the road. I just ran on at this point.
The tractor must have got him out because he passed me a little later.
Ended up being quite a slow run and was a bit "stop/start", but at least it's something to put in the training log.

Supposed to be going down to York on Tuesday for a couple of days. Hmmm... we'll see about that.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


What a "shit-load" looks like.

Awoke this morning a happy man. A man enjoying the first morning of a week off work. Oh yes. Life is good.

Then I looked out the window. "F.F.S"....
It would appear that like a hell of a lot of the country we've finally had "proper" snow. Not just a light dusting like the other day, but a "shit load" as it's know in meteorological circles.
Anyhoo. Can't let a wee bit snow spoil my holiday. Had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed another episode of Northern Exposure from my DVD selection - somehow this show really fits the bill during the winter!
A bit later, out paper arrived. Always a good sign - the thought process being, "if the van delivering the paper can get in - we can get out"!
So, out we went to Dunbar to drop stuff off at the recycling place - then headed off to Knowes Farm shop for the weekly fruit and veg. The A1 was damn near deserted. But it was at least moving.
While we were out, getting the veg the sky was darkening all the while and the snow was coming down heavier and heavier. We were keen to get back.
As it was, other than one little point on an uphill section, where I had to get the shovel out and dig a little in front of the wheels so that the car could get a grip we got back OK.

Then. As any right minded person would do... we went a run. Up the back into the hills! Great fun.
Not a run for pace or getting the old heart rate up this one. In fact truth be told even using a stopwatch was a bit pointless.
Just an excuse to get out and play in the snow for a bit.
The only problem was it was so dark and the snow was coming down so fast, a couple of times we missed the track or the road all together and ended up running off into the ditch at the side of the road.
Out for just under an hour.

It's very strange, it's only late November, but what with the weather and being on holiday I'm almost getting into Christmas holiday mode... get up, go a run, then spend the rest of the day slobbed out reading, catching up on some jazz and watching crap TV. And why not?

Sadly, it's not all fun and games. The first leg of the Borders XC series due to be held at Gala' tomorrow has been postponed. I'm not surprised to be honest, but I'm still disappointed.

Ah well. I'll just try to get out for a bit of a long un' in the hills.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Strange combination of weather this morning at 5 when I woke up. Snow, thunder and lightning! Very strange.
Threats of more snow on the way. Bring it on! I enjoy heading off for a wee run in the snow (especially at night with a head torch). It's also natures way of slowing the pace a wee bit.
Whether I'll still be as keen when we are trying to travel down to Gala for the cross country on Sunday remains to be seen.

Anyhoo. Snow. In November. Not exactly unheard of, but still a bit earlier than usual. Signs of a cold winter ahead?
Which is why I'm keen to get our fire seen to by the engineer. It "blew up" last week.

My "stove" - hand drawn by me.

It's a converted cast iron wood burning stove that now runs on gas. Anyway. A week past Tuesday when we got back from the running club I went to turn it up. Not "on" but "up". We had left it on low while we were out so that it wouldn't be too cold when we got in.
On turning it up however, there was an almighty blue flash... a hell of a bang... and the cast iron lid came shooting off (luckily it didn't come fully off as it would have broken something - probably my head).
Now. The fire has been on (I could see the pilot light), so it was not a build up of gas that suddenly ignited.
Anyhow. I got over the shock. Turned off the gas. Let it cool down, then put it all back together.
It worked.
Then.... I saw a bit I has missed when reassembling it. I hate when that happens. You take something apart...put it back together...then find a bit you've forgotten or left out.
What to do? Just accept, "ah well it's working", or try to start all over again? I'm an option "a" man myself.
Anne is pretty much option "b" with the added condition that we get an expert in.

However, not to be beaten, I've done a little bit of digging about in that goldmine of trivia and dross "google".
Turns out the "bit" is a "choke plate" and comes from the flue. It's probably been a "blow back" of stoor or dust from the flue into the fire that's caused the bang (according to the engineer not common but not unheard of). If you are old enough to remember the days when schools actually offered an education, I think it's the same principal as that experiment we did in science that involved blowing custard powder into a tin that had a candle in it!
The fire will work fine for a few weeks till he can come out to look at it, suck air in through his teeth in a semi-professional manner and state "Oooh, this is going to cost...", and then hopefully fix it. It will work for now, but because the flue is now fully open it might not be quite as efficient as usual (long as it warms the room I don't care).

Monday, 22 November 2010



Strange thing, post-fall. My left knee is sore when walking – but ok to run on. Weird. Don’t know what the fall did to it – maybe just a bit of internal bruising?

Anyway. Despite the generally appalling weather I managed a couple of half decent runs over the weekend. So my pitifully low moral of the end of last week was raised from “pitiful” to it’s default setting of  “feck-me I cannae go on like this”.

On Saturday I went out with Ian “S” for just over 16 miles on a hilly route that took in Crowhill, Cocklaw and Oldhamstocks. We managed round in a steady 7min/mile pace or so.

Then yesterday it was a shorter 11 mile run. Strange for me to do the longer of my two weekend runs on the Saturday but, I suppose, a change is as good as a rest. Quite a fast pace yesterday, but I think it was driven more by a desire to get home and get out of the driving rain and hail than anything else.

Got back from my run and spent the rest of the day in front of the [non-exploding] fire reading and listening to the “lords music” (aka Jazz).

I had been full of good intentions to spend a bit of time going through all my running gear at the weekend and throwing some of it out. I’ve lost count of how many long sleeve tops and tee-shirts I’ve got. But I only ever seem to wear the same one or two all the time! I’ve a red long sleeve top that I’ve had for years now – but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. It’s a form of “running log” for the nose – it carries the odour from every winter training run I’ve done for about the last seven years.

Even after a wash this thing could be classed as a WMD. I’ve had to stop brining it to work – not because it offends my co-workers, but because its presence in my bag is tainting my lunch!! Even rolls with peanut butter on smell like stilton!

I’m off work next week, so I might try to sort my stuff out then.


I’ve had advance notification from Santa that a replacement Garmin might be getting built for me, as we speak, up at the north pole. Good man. I’m just going to stick to tried and tested (and more importantly per-measured) training runs till then.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Jazz of the decidedly “smooth” variety has it’s place and time – but not here and now.
Occasions often demand that the jazz should “swing” (often coupled with times when the band should be “big”) – again though, not here and now.

Some prefer their jazz “free”. I’m happy enough with “cheap”.
However, after a troubled week like mine it can only be-bop. A weekend of Bird, Diz and Monk awaits.
Troubled thoughts of sore knees, broken garmins and blown up gas fires (oh yes indeedy…but that’s another story) have all contributed to a week without apparent end. Working for a bunch of servants of the uncivil variety hasn't helped much.
But end it most thankfully has and the end is here and “Now’s The Time” - let the dissonant harmonies of Bird’s soaring song bring order and peace. Let the angular twists of Monk’s melodies straighten out my twisted thoughts.."Well You Needn't", but yes he does.  And let Dizzy’s effervescence bring sparkle to the end of a gloomy lacklustre week.
It may not be everyone’s beverage of choice but it’s just my cup of java.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010



It’s a funny old thing this running malarkey. When it’s going well – it’s great. You get on a nice wee roll. All is well with the world. PB’s are there for the taking.

And then? Well… it turns to crap.

And that is exactly what has happened – again.

To quote that great wordsmith of our time, Ms Britney Spears, “Woops I did it again”.

Not as spectacular, or quite as painful – physically, as my last wee run in with the tarmac. Twixt Granton and the office this time. Brought down when I failed to notice a bit of that plastic binding stuff that they use on boxes etc. (the really tough ribbon stuff).

Blooter. Hands, knees, chest, and thigh all skinned and road rashed. Helly Hansen top – now with added ventilation. And worst of all my beloved Garmin completely f***ed L L

Feeling a bit sore and stiff at the moment. Including, worryingly, my chest (the same side as before). With luck it’s just cuts, grazes and bruises this time.

Left knee is sore when walking, but again hope that might just be the knock I gave it and it will wear off.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

LET IT SNOW ........

A few of us from the club set off this morning to join HELP for their annual "Goat's Gallop" run.
A multi terrain romp that starts and ends at Longyester that takes in the climb up Lammer Law then sees you drop down to Hopes Reservoir before heading back on fast, quiet country roads.

Got up fairly early so that we could have a relaxed breakfast before the race and it was when I went through to the kitchen to wash the dishes that I noticed it had started to rain ... a lot!
However, by the time we got ready to leave the house and went to meet Ian, it had cleared up quite a bit.
But as luck would have it the only sign of good weather we saw on the way to the start was in the rear view mirror, and the view in front of us was become increasingly bleak...

When we got to the start at the cottages at Longyester we were probably the first there and started to wonder if it would be cancelled in these conditions (I've since been assured by a few HELP stalwarts that it's never cancelled).
Anyway, before long there was quite a crowd of HELP Musselburgh and Dunbar runners. All milling about in various degrees of eagerness that ranged from "I just want to start now" through to "f*** this for a laugh".
The rain was battering down right into our faces and the wind was simply displaying it's contempt for the inadequacy of my HellyHansen top and jacket.
Gordon Eadie wasn't really helping either by confidently predicting "there'll be snow on the hill"...
The start was a "staggered" affair and I found myself off at the back, along with Ian, Brian Marshall, Eddie Balfour and Callum Reid.
The start of this race is usually a fairly pleasant affair with the first mile or so spent in the running equivalent of a cycle race's "neutral roll out". Where everyone just plods along together, getting into their stride before the race proper begins.
Not today. Oh no..
After about the first 200m it was obvious that Callum had a plan.... get to the front as quick as possible and stay there. Brian Marshall reacted and was soon hot on his heels. The three of us obviously felt obliged to play along (even although there was no way we were going to catch them) and within the first half mile I was pechin' like an old horse and felt I was really working. Not an ideal situation when I still had the climb up Lammer Law to come.
Just before the first mile. Soaked and freezing already we passed Ray Harris who cheerily told me that "it's sunny in Innerwick". Cheers Ray.
The climb came sooner than expected and I must say wasn't quite as bad as I remembered. Thing is, I had the head down against the wind and driving rain, so I don't quite know when it happened.... but suddenly Mr Eadie was proved correct and I found that we were trudging through slush and icy, muddy, bogs.
Eddie passed me just before the turn at the top of the Law and I thought I was doing a fairly good job of catching him up. Then we came to my least favourite part of this run. The bloody drop down to the valley that leads along to the reservoir. I looked down and saw that Eddie was already at the bottom. Jeeze - he must have jumped down in about three steps.
I on the other had adopted my usual manly, limp wristed, hands out to the sides approach while I skippity hopped my way down.
By the time I got to the bottom he was nowhere to be seen.
From there its about three miles of just steady down hill (mostly on well defined tracks or roads). So I knuckled down and tried to catch him up. Sadly, despite catching up some of the early starters I never managed it.
Finished in 1:00:54. Slower than last year but not too bad given the conditions.
Couldn't get out of my wet gear quick enough when I got back. Soaked through to the skin and absolutely frozen to the bone. Great fun!! I loved it.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


I look like a fool.
But at least I look like a fool ...on medical advice.

While talking to the tinnitus specialist the other day I was advised that if I really, really must listen to music on an mp3 player (and yes...I must), then I was best to do it with "open" style headphones.
Apparently, the in ear type that I have favoured are manufactured by the devil himself.
So it was a wee trip to the shops for me to get kitted out......
Technically I'm quite happy with them the sound quality is good.
On the "con" side however they do not cancel out as much "ambient background noise" as the in ear type do. They still allow quite a lot of seepage of noise. Noise, the type of which can equally be described as "the banter" or "incessant weegie shite" (depending on whether one resides on the east or west side of the Falkirk meridian -that invisible divided twixt the DGP and civilisation).
Ner the less. If they are to help my lug then I will just have to put up with it.
However. I have been confronted by a "fashion dilema" (yes. there is a first for everything). Namely, when wearing headphones and a wooly hat? Does one wear the headphones under or over the hat?

Earphones: by Sennheiser
Hat: by "George" at ASDA
Scowl: model's own.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Beautiful day for a run again at lunchtime.
Clear as a bell, the wind had died down and it was biting cold. Wonderful stuff.
Anyway. Felt really good as I knocked out my usual 6.7 miles along by the mighty Clyde.
Picked it up at one point - when I was being chased by a big dog! I always live in the hope that with all mankind's scientific and technological advances that at some point in the not to distant future we may be able to develop some form of physical restraint to keep dogs "under the control" of their owners.
Until that far-off day I'll just have to run faster! While I took exception to the owners instructions to the dog to ... "leave 'it' Barney" I decided on this occasion to let it pass. It's a sort of rule of mine not to get into debates with men with tattoos on their faces.

We were out last night and stayed over night at my Mum's and she made up my lunchbox today. See if you can spot the difference:

"Normal" day: Roll (cheese): 1 off. Fruit (apple): 1 off.
Today: Roll (cheese): 1 off. Fruit (apple): 1 off. "Elevenses" (kitkat) 2 off. "Afters" (Mars Bar) 2 off.

Mind you, if I'd known I was going to meet "Barney" I might have taken one of the Mars Bar with me - dropped it to distract him while I got away.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Beautiful running weather again this weekend - though it is getting a tad chilly (quite a bit of ice and frost about this morning).
Decided today to try and get in a bit of a long un'. Just to try and keep the old mileage up.
But for whatever reason I just didn't enjoy it. Started off with freezing cold hands, then within a couple of miles realised that a long sleeve top and a tee shirt was probably too much and I was getting too hot!
I felt slow and sluggish all the way round. Just couldn't seem to settle into a decent pace or rhythm at all! And every time I time I tried to pick up the pace I seemed to be rewarded by my GPS "beeping" another mile at me telling me I had actually slowed down! It was like one of those dreams you have where the faster you try to run towards something the further away it gets!
Felt quite despondent when I got back.
Until.. I looked at my log. Turns out it was more or less what it always is for that particular run.
Strange how your perception of a run can affect things though. Not really that keyed up on the old sports psychology malarkey, but I think once you get a negative thought stuck in there it just doesn't budge.

Perhaps I need something to aim for. Other than the cross country I've not really got anything lined up.
Time to check out the fixture lists.


Picked up a real bargain the other week. A 3 CD set of Dexter Gordon tunes for £5 (including P&P).
Now. I've been a bit of a Dexter "fan" for a good while. Pretty much since I got into jazz to be honest, and certainly the first CD I picked up was one of his Blue Note albums.
Anyway. This "box set" (actually it's a gate fold sleeve - but lets not quibble) is all stuff culled from his discs on Prestige, Jazzland and Galaxy Recordings, and is billed as being stuff from 1950-1977.
Now, the "1950-1977" part is slightly misleading as out of the 25 tunes presented, only 3 are pre 1969.
What the collection mostly represents is the later years that Dexter spent living in Europe as well as the very early stuff after his return to the states in 1976.
This has opened my eyes (ears?) to quite a "gap" in the stuff that I already had in my collection. I already had quite a lot of his early bebop stuff from the 40's, all of his Blue Note output and quite a bit of his later work that came out about the time of the movie "Round Midnight".

Long Tall Dexter

A few years ago I was given an "evaluation" copy of a CD by the George Cables Trio of music by, and made famous by Dexter (George and his trio accompanied Dexter on many of his later recordings). It was such a good CD that I salved my conscience by replacing the "evaluation" copy with a ligit' one at the first opportunity. Anyway,  on that album the trio do a wonderful version of "Polka Dots and Moonbeams". Before they start playing Cables very slowly and in a drawn out lazy sounding voice recites the first few lines of the lyrics.... "a country dance was being held in a garden... I felt a bump, and 'Oh. I beg your pardon'. Suddenly it seemed that polka dots and moonbeams.....". In the sleeve notes Cables says how this is how Dexter would introduce many songs when giving live performances. He would "speak" the opening few lines of a tune in that low, quiet, alcohol and nicotine marinaded voice of his.
It's always been a favourite of mine, so I was delighted that a "live" ten and a half minute version is on this CD set.
Beautiful stuff.

Years ago I had a photograph of Dexter. It was one that had been taken in the early 60's in London. In the picture he looks every bit the 60's jazz musician - short hair, sharp suit and the obligatory cigarette. But he's standing with one foot up on a stand having his shoes shined with a look of incredible joy on his face. Which given that, at that time, in his own country, the thought of an African American having his shoes shined by a white man, would have been almost unthinkable, isn't too surprising.
I always liked that photo but lost it about 12 years ago in a house move.
So yesterday acquiring another copy really made my day. Sadly the source that I acquired it from has asked me not to publish or share it... so I wont.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Off to see the tinnitus nurse yesterday. Or should that be "off to hear the tinnitus nurse yesterday"? My hopes were not high.... “There’s good news and bad news Mr Hay. The good news is that your hearing loss isn’t severe enough, yet, to warrant a hearing aid. The bad news is that without a hearing aid your tinnitus will still bother you.”

Well, I know I’m a negative “glass half empty” type, but I was buggered if I could find the good news tucked away there. Oh. and thanks for the "yet".
Apparently. I have reverse “cookie-bite” hearing loss. What?? It was on the tip of my tongue to inform the nurse that “a” in this country we refer to them as “biscuits” and “b” other than ramming a rich-tea, a jaffa-cake, or some such into my lug, how the hell can biscuits cause hearing loss?

Not a Biscuit
But no. It simply refers to the shape of the wee graph produced from your hearing test.
Sadly I have full hearing in the “mid range”. That, apparently, covers most “normal” conversation. I say “normal” because I can’t really make out high pitched sounds, so quite often that hideous high pitched nasally whine that passes for speech in the DGP goes right past me (oh – there’s the good news).
Anyhoo. This biscuit induced form of loss means that bass sounds and high sounds are lost and replaced by the static hiss of tinnitus. So, as I pointed out to the nurse I’m twice dammed as I can’t really hear Arild Anderson bass solos or Andy Sheppard soprano sax solos, BUT I can make out my colleagues talking shite?
Strangely, silence makes the tinnitus worse (seldom a problem when working for civil servants). So it’s been suggested that having noise in the background can help. Now, this means noise that you don’t want to concentrate on as such. You don’t want to be distracted by it. Something bland…. Michael-bloody-Buble for example.
Sadly, for me, actively listening to music (i.e. concentrating on it) can heighten awareness of the dreaded hisssssssss as well. In general, having music on in the background is OK, but concentrating on it sparks it off. Bollocks. That's why I buy music ... to actively listen to it. If I just wanted background music I'd probably be able to get away with about a quarter of what I've got.
Now. I don't know what sort of "vibes" I give off, or indeed if the nurse had already spoken to someone who knows me, but apparently tinnitus can be aggravated by tension and stress (oh...goody). So it might not be a bad idea if I were to "try and lighten up a bit". Well, lets not hold our breath waiting on that one.

I was so despondent that when I came out I immediately headed down the royal mile to one of my favourite second hand CD shops ("Unknown Pleasures"). There I purchased five albums from my Jedburgh winnings that I shall now try to listen to "inactively".

I'm also going to fiddle about with my equalizer - see if I can't increase (slightly) the frequencies that I'm having problems with.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


As much as I like little dogs I feel the time is long overdue for “Nipper” to be taken on a one-way journey to the vet for a few kindly words, a little scratch from a needle and so to begin a long and never ending sleep…….

Talking metaphorically of course. “Nipper” being the little dog who for years was the face of HMV “music”. I can’t recall when HMV actually stopped using images or likenesses of Nipper but then again I can’t recall the last time HMV could, with any degree of honesty or self respect, refer to themselves as a “music” shop.
A trip to their premises is, at least for a grumpy middle aged jazz collector, a feckin’ awful experience these days.
Not only has jazz been ghettoised into a hideous coral amongst other “specialist music” it has been systematically and brutally ethnically cleansed until only a select few recordings deemed fit to be “jazz” are allowed. And “deemed fit” by some moron who’s never actually listened to jazz, never mind “got” it. Their stocking policy is probably “planned” by one of the sullen-faced, multi-pierced, colour-haired, acne covered, feck-wits who lurk behind their tills
I do not mind the following (indeed in some case I’m very keen on them): Louis Armstrong, Nat “King” Cole, Bix Beiderbecke, Ella Fitzgerald. However, while their canon of work, collectively, is vast. It can not be summarised into seven or eight “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” compilations. Neither is it the B-all and end-all of “jazz”.
Anyway jazz is a vibrant, organic and evolving art form, but do any new jazz artists warrant any shelf space in HMV’s bland new world? Do they feck. And it’s not only new and up and coming artists who are excluded. Go into any HMV (possibly with the exception of London) and try to find the latest Charles Lloyd offering, the new one from Yaron Herman, anything by Alan Barnes, the re-release of almost anything by Stan Tracey or Kenny Wheeler……. Hopeless.
HMV is nowadays little more than a toy shop for gutbucket, lard-butts to go to buy their soddin’ kiddy “video games”. They even sell sweeties at the counter? What next? A burger franchise in Waterstones??
I buy almost all my “new” jazz purchases these days from the internet. Not because I want to, but because I have to. I didn’t kill off music shops (I’m more than happy to support them) – they simply excluded me from their world. And to be honest a “world” of Cherly Coles and Nadine “what’s-her-name”s and soddin’ various “X” Thingummy rejects is, quite frankly, a world I do not wish to be part of.
I honestly get more enjoyment going into specialist second hand shops. It’s like stepping back in time to when shops were there to tempt, to assist and cater for their clientele. Go into one of these places with the thought of spending a fiver, you’re likely to come out about forty quid lighter.

Rant over……