Friday, 31 December 2010


Well. Just over half way through the Christmas holidays and I'm pretty much stuck in a groove. But a "groove" that I am all too happy to sit in.
Get up. Long slow breakfast while watching an old episode of Northern Exposure. Run. Coffee, cake and jazz. Watch crap on the telly. Read.....
And on and on it goes. Wonderful stuff.
Other than a wee trip the other day to stock up on fruit and veg we haven't been anywhere since Christmas day (other than out running).

The running is coming along.... slowly. Knee is still not 100% but it's much better than I had hoped it would be. Haven't gone over the ten mile mark in distance (yet) and I can't really push the pace much over about 7min/mile pace.
So. While I think I will go to the Portobello New Years Day race tomorrow it'll be more of a gesture than a serious effort.

Jazz wise, all is well right now. Managed to listen to each of my new albums a few times now. Couple of real finds in amongst Santa's bag this year...
"Old And New Dreams" - got two albums by this group. The two albums formed part of the five CD Charlie Haden box set. Made up of alumni of various Ornette Coleman groups this quartet, consisting of Haden, Don Cherry, Dewey Redman and Ed Blackwell bring a real sharp free-jazz edge to the tradition of acoustic quartets. Not easy listening - but rewarding. A sign that my tastes in jazz are widening. A few years ago I would have run a mile from any "free jazz" and, while I still find some of it daunting I do kinda "get it" now.
The other three CDs in the box show a much more laid back and melodic side to Haden; two in much more traditional acoustic trio settings (piano, bass and drums) and one where the trio is joined by Chet Baker in what was to prove to be his last ever recording session. The knowledge that this was Chet's last session adds poignancy for the listener (or at least - for this one). Baker's trumpet was always cool and mellow and here it's even more so. But it's the broken, off-key vocals to "My Funny Valentine" that make the listener aware of how badly his life style had affected him. That's the only vocal on the album (thankfully). The rest of the set is made up of a couple of originals and a couple of standards from the bop era that are rendered into late night ballads - the version of Round Midnight is one of the classiest I've heard in a long time.

Monday, 27 December 2010


Well. Hope everyone had a good Christmas.
Looks like Santa has brought us all a bit of a belated Christmas gift - a bit of a thaw! Not before time.
I like the snow as much as anyone, but enough is enough. With a bit of luck some of the cross country races early in the new year might actually go ahead!

Anyway, three days into my holidays now and its time to "wind down" the eating a wee bit and try to get into shape. Christmas day and Boxing day is a bit of a two day food fest. Very enjoyable for a wee while, but I couldn't go on like that!

The old knee is still not 100% but its good enough to get out for a couple of "easy" runs - with my new Garmin that Santa brought! Don't intend to do too much while I'm off - just enough to keep ticking over. And while I would like to do the race at Portobello on New Years day I'll wait a bit before I make my mind up. I was out for about 8 miles earlier today and it was the first time in ages that I've been able to run on clear, snow/slush/ice free roads.

Anyway Christmas also saw me come into possession of a "shit-load" of new jazz records (11 new albums) so much time will be taken up between now and the unhappy return to work just getting into them. But remember, please, if Santa brought you any jazz this year - "jazz is a way of life ... it's not just for Christmas".

Just away to start ploughing my way through my new Charlie Haden box set......

Friday, 24 December 2010


It doesn't seem that long ago, but in 2001 Andy Sheppard brought out the album "Nocturnal Tourist", his most adventurous project up to then (and probably since).
Anyway. It saw him use tapes and mixers etc. and play all the instrumental parts himself. As well as "dubbing" sounds recorded from various street scenes.
It worked very well indeed and the technique was "revisited" to an extent when he and Northumbrian Pipe playing folky Kathryn Tickell recorded the album "Music For A New Crossing".

And he's at it again! This time as a free Christmas gift.
His promoters "Serious Music" have put on t'internet a 12 track sampler "The 12 Songs Of Serious" (link: ).
Loads of good stuff here, including the Portico Quartet, The Bad Plus and Yaron Herman.

But it's Sheppard's version of "Silent Night" that interests me most. All the other tracks are lifted from albums I either have or intend to get. This though is unique to this web site.

It's mainly solo soprano sax minimally doodling along to the well known melody (bit of guitar at one point as well). No, fancy solos or flights of fancy. The tune just flows along nicely.
All the time in the background there are children's voices at play. The frantic pace of the squeals, laughs and shouts shouldn't fit this music - but it does. I don't know why, but it gives the feeling of an isolated outsider lookin in on others Christmas cheer.
Might not be every ones cup of tea but it's a welcome change to the usual bunch of festive toons that are getting on your wick by about now (quite frankly, never mind murder - Phil Specter deserved to be locked up for that bloody Christmas album).

Only problem is you cant download it. You have to listen to it online (but then again it is free).
Although theoretically - if you had an output from a half decent sound card with a "line-out" and an old MP3 player that had a "line-in" then you could maybe copy it in real time.
Who would do that?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Life on planet recovery is going well.
Knee feeling kinda better every day. I'm "using" swimming as part of my recovery plan/fattness damage limitation strategy.

These guys went pantless
for your freedom
 I've "discovered" Victoria Swimming Pool in Leith is open at 6 am. So with a bit of a mad dash I can get in there do a few lengths and then still get back to the office in a reasonable time.

I've been trying to "be clever". By that I mean go prepared ... have the old trunks on under the normal gear. Get in pay.. whip off the toggs and away I go. Reception desk to pool in about three minutes.
As plans go it's not too bad....
Until ... today. Did my wee routine (36 lengths)... showered... got my gear out of the locker....
And then realised I hadn't packed a pair of pants to change into !!!

Just have to go commando at work till the trunks can dry out on the radiator. Then I'll change into them.

I't like the start of some truly awful work related nightmare.
It's also a bit bloody cauld to be out and about "sans pants".

Sunday, 19 December 2010


Couple of new discs managed to find their way into my collection this week, and both have proved to be pretty rewarding contributions.
One in particular: Stan Getz "Live at Midem 1980".  "Midem" being a recording industry "get together" in Cannes. According to the pretty sparse sleeve notes this was a one off gig. Every year at the Midem convention there is a "guest artist" who does a gig in front of peers and contemporaries (which may explain why the producer of this album is Lionel Hampton). Getz flew in, did the gig... and flew home again (a 72 hour round trip). Apparently problems with the 24 bit recorder almost meant this concert wasn't captured, but luckily, the problems were resolved at the last minute.
Bit of a different Getz outing this one. It sees him with a younger band than usual, and sees him "dabble" in a bit of near fusion-like jazz. Though for me the eleven and a half minute cover of Parker's Billie's Bounce, with guest appearances by Paul Horn on flute and a harmonica player called "Sugar Blue"(?) who, apparently plays/played with the Rolling Stones, really hits the spot.
Many, many people (me included) talk about Getz's distinct "velvety" sound. But the truth is, like most jazz musicians, with any longevity he had numerous "sounds". I've never really heard a Getz sound that I didn't like. Even his brief forays into fusion, like this, or "soul/pop" (Apasionado) offer the listener something to "think about" and work at. Even at his "coolest" or most laid back his recordings always seem to offer a little more than just pretty musical wallpapers. For me the work he did that gets closest to being "bland" is his Bossa Nova period which ironically is his best known and most commercial stuff.
This particular CD only has 5 numbers on it weighing in at a mere 44 minutes. Though a wee trawl through the murky depths of t'internet suggests that this concert was fairly extensive and other, fuller CD releases of it are out there somewhere.
Something to keep an eye out for.


Oh F.F.S.
This snowy weather is a real bugger when it comes to trying to organise any athletics events. That's the third round of the Borders XC series in a row cancelled.
We were just about set to leave the house when info came through from the organising club. Well done to Moorfoot for trying, and I think the final decision to cancel was the right one. Travel to the event, and travel back for that matter, may have been a bit difficult.
I had no intention of running anyway (knee still iffy), but I was going down to watch/take photos/shout abuse etc. Then I was supposed to collect the results for processing etc.

Who knows? By the time we can actually have a XC race my knee might be fully recovered! Or perhaps, the way this winter is panning out, the whole series will be decided on the outcome of a single race hastily reorganised some time in May!!

Sadly, the snow also means I can't really get out on old [T]rusty either. Opportunities for swimming and visits to the gym are going to be curtailed this week as well, for various other reasons, so not much at all in the line of exercise!
Normally this wouldn't bother me, but Anne appears to be gripped by some demonic baking frenzy at the moment and the house is full of various cakes, sponges, bowls of melted chocolate and biscuits etc!! Aaarrgghhh.

Thursday, 16 December 2010



Things are ticking over nicely here on “planet recovery”. Discovered on Tuesday that swimming is OK with the dodgy knee and so is cycling and the cross-trainer/Nordic skier thingummy at the gym. So… been swimming a couple of times, plan my second visit to the gym in three days tonight and I tapped out a brisk 17 miles or so yesterday on old [T]rusty – all the while trying to keep the heart rate up in the cake and mars bar burning zone. I’m ashamed to say that over the last 12 years or so I’ve neglected my bike. It really could do with some new bits and pieces. Like a new group set, a new bottom bracket, a new saddle, new wheels and maybe some new handlebars. Put another way …. It needs a new “everything”. But I’m loathe to get rid of it.

I’ve always been of the belief that money should be no option when it comes to health care etc. So I have splashed out and bought myself a  neoprene knee support from “Poundland” to assist in the recovery process. And you know, it seems to be working.

Well. I say “working”, what I think is actually happening is that the insufferable itch caused by the constant flow of sweat is detracting my mind away from the pain in my knee

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Lets take a piece of folklore, or “folk wisdom” if you prefer, and put it to the test.

Statement: People say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
Test: First commute through to the DGP in about five weeks.
Findings: “People” really do talk shite, don’t they?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

I'M DREAMING OF A ........

Altogether now..... No?
Ah well, as the snow finally vanishes perhaps we can start to think about the impending season of over eating and gorging.
I like this time of year. It's a time of tradition, both societal and family ones.
It's the time of year to put up my tree (do that on Monday), it's the time of year to dust off my collection of festive tunes and, believe it or not, I'm pretty sure somewhere I do have a copy of old Bing "Bong" Crosby singing the titular smash (as well as one by the saintly Ella). It's the time of year that I "traditionally" steal Anne's supply of marzipan left over from the Christmas cakes.
It's also time for a bit of a "new" tradition of mine (is there a statute of limitations on when something can be called "traditional"). Anyway I'm now calling it a tradition.
Yes. Its the traditional festive injury!! Well whoop-de-feckin-do.
It's the knee this time (the left one).
I'd like to say I don't know what caused it - but I do. It was caused by me being an arse.
It's been "iffy"/"niggly" for a couple of weeks now, but it's not really been getting any worse (not been getting any better truth be told). And all this time I've adopted the ostrich approach and buried my head in the sand in the hope that it will go away. Until Thursday night - when it went... big time! Did a five mile run round Dunbar and it was a bit sore. Then after the run, in the changing room, soreness left and made way for bloody agony.
Now. Not being a medical man I'm pretty clueless as to what exactly it is, and trawls through the murks of t'internet have left me none the wiser, other than reinforcing what I already knew. The knee is like "central junction" for all manner of tendons, ligaments, muscles and blue, red and purple fibrous what-nots. And one of those has gone "ping".
I've only my self to blame as a look back at my training log reveals that even on a  "quiet week" I've been doing about 50 miles. In the snow! When I'm not even training for anything!!
It had been my hope that in 2010 I was going to do 365 runs. This self appointed "target" was not to include interval sessions.
By Thursday night (day 343) I had managed 347 runs. IF I did take into account interval training it goes up to 368.

A "knee". Not my knee, but a knee none the less.
 Bottom line? A bit of a painful reminder of the importance of REST. Normally I rest one day a week (but then again I often run twice a day).
So. What now? Well on Thursday night I could hardly walk. By Friday I could hobble but stairs were problematic. Today I can manage stairs a bit. So, progress is being made.
Loads of anti-inflammatory pills and rest. Then next week. I might try a bit "damage limitation" and try a swim or a visit to a gym for some low/no impact cardio work. I might even dig out old [t]rusty, but I'm not sure on the wisdom of cycling with a knee injury? Depends on the type of injury I suppose (might just have to "suck it and see").

Yesterday saw me make regular visits out to the car park at work, armed with a plastic bag. I filled the bag with slush and then sat behind my desk with my home made "ice-pack" on the sore knee. Seemed to work.
Apparently, and I don't know the truth of this, ice packs should only be applied for ten minutes, as after that the tissue trys to adapt to the cold by increasing the blood flow (the very thing your trying to slow down). So the tip is ten minutes a go, maybe every two hours. It also saw me being forced into the lifts to go up all of two stories! I could feel the eyes of the wheezy-fatties on me as I stood there in the lift. "Your one of us now!"

Forward thinking? Well, I want to see how the recovery goes, then I might try to get out on Christmas for a four mile bimble.

Thursday, 9 December 2010



Does Bad Weather + so called “austerity” + massive hikes in electricity bills all add up to a much more tasteful Scotland?

Don’t know if it’s just me. Admittedly all my runs of late have been rural rather than urban and we haven’t been “out” that often (or journeys this week have been limited from home to work and back). BUT there does seem to be, thankfully, a lot fewer houses infested with tasteless bling this Christmas. And long may it continue.

Of course it may simply be that the bad weather has put Christmas “on hold” for a few weeks for some people. This weekends promised thaw might see them emerge, after hauling their fat butts off the sofa, from the warm brain-melting glow of x-factor or some such crap, and out of their nests of “slankets”, empty crisp bags and sweetie wrappers, to once more festoon their house in electronic crap and put strain on the national grid and their neighbours patience.



“Live and let live” – that’s my motto J

Tuesday, 7 December 2010



Enjoying running in the snow. Especially at night with a head torch. However, I’m going to try and wear my road shoes for a wee bit, rather than trails. My knee is still “iffy” and I think I could do with that wee bit extra support and cushioning.

Sadly though it’s not all fun and games in the snow. That’s the second leg of the Borders Cross Country series cancelled. Well, I say “cancelled” it’s actually postponed as there is talk of rescheduling it, and the first race, perhaps in March (bit late for my liking – thoughts are turning to road races by then).

And it’s not only running that’s getting affected by this weather. Oh no. For about ten days now we’ve not seen a postie up our way. Looks like we might have to make a trip to the sorting office to collect our post ourselves. Especially as Anne is due a delivery of contact lenses or some such nonsense while I’m waiting on a deliver of a much more important Julian Joseph CD. Optical health is neither here nor there, but the feeding of a jazz habit must go on!!

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Well. I'm getting used to running in the snow and ice. Which may be just as well, because it looks as though it's going to be around for a bit yet.
Although last week was a bit of a low mileage week I still managed to get out every day. My left knee which has been a bit "iffy" since my last run in with the tarmac has remained ..."iffy". I'm pretty sure that this is down to a couple of snow related factors. "A" trail shoes: much better grip in the snow, but not much cushioning, also they are "neutral" and while that's ok for the odd run, if you need a bit of support I do think it starts to have an effect after nine days or so. "B" the nature of the snowy terrain. It makes every run like cross country. Your for ever up and down and into hidden dips and ruts etc. puts a bit more pressure on the knees. "C" you run like a big Jessy in the snow .... well I do anyway. Don't think its a conscious thing, but I'm aware that I run a bit "tensed up", perhaps that's not helping.
Anyway a few anti-inflammatory pills before a run and slathering the knee in Tiger Balm seems to be helping.

Did the "Festive Half" with the club today. A half marathon through John Muir, out onto the North Berwick road, up to Law Head, past Knowes Farm shop, before retracing your path through John Muir and finishing at Hallhill.
Quite a bit slower than the last time (1:35 today), but given the conditions and the terrain I happy enough.
Ran most of the way with Ian S until about the last four miles, when his competative streak kicked in and he started pulling away.

Been listening to a lot of new music while I've been off. Highlights have included a couple of "bootlegs" that I have acquired. Rita Marcotulli and Andy Sheppard recorded live at Bonn in June 2010 - wonderful stuff this. Only four tracks long, but who cares? Andy Sheppard has always been one of my favourite saxophonists and I tend to get disappointed that his own releases have been so few and far between in later years (though I thinks that's more a problem with labels etc). He seems to be more of a "serial collaborator" than a recording artist in his own right these days. But his duets with the Italian pianist Marcotulli are really wonderful.

Another "live" recording that's really hit the spot for me is one by the Portico Quartet recorded in Salzau in July of this year. Bit a danger that the Portico Quartet turn into a "one trick pony". They feature (a bit too heavily??) an instrument called the "hang" that's a cross between a steel band type drum and a xylophone.
Anyway. I like the sound, but worry if it will be enough to carry them beyond the two albums they already have out that feature it.
Well, if this live set is anything to go by they should be ok, as here they still feature the hang, but it seems to be taking more of a back seat role to Jack Wyllie's saxophone. The hang is used as a rhythm piece while Wyllie weaves wonderful almost free style solos through and around it.
Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but well worth trying.

The other thing I've enjoyed while off work has been reliving part of my childhood. To wit... watching Colditz on the telly. Brilliant stuff! Though I suspect that Anne was not quite as enthused as I was.
I've not seen this since I was eleven when this was first on. And this is the first time I've seen it in colour! I was glued to the telly on Friday for the last episode (even though I knew the end).
A 36 year old TV series and it's still head and shoulders above the dross they try to feed us now.

Friday, 3 December 2010


It's bloody cauld. On the plus side, other than a few flakes we haven't had a lot of snow today - but it IS bloody cauld.

This week, which I have enjoyed, has been a strange one.
Started last weekend with basically getting snowed in for a couple of days. Not too problematic as we were not planning on going anywhere. And, just because cars couldn't get out or in - we could still don our trail shoes and get out running.
But we were supposed to be going to York on Tuesday morning. By Monday afternoon it looked very much like we were going to have to cancel. But then ... a life line. Well, it wasn't a life line. It was a JCB with a bloody big shovel on the front and he had dug all the way from Innerwick to Woodhall. But past experience has shown that once the road is ploughed and "cleared" it can be blocked again in 24 hours or less. So what to do?
Should we risk the journey? The telly and those awfully smart chaps in Transport Scotland were telling people not to travel unless it was absolutely necessary.... Well Anne wanted to see her mum and I wanted to visit "Rebound Records" that IS necessary.
So, almost as soon as the JCB was away we packed our bags and put them in the car ... then got into our running gear. Drove the car to Ian's (closer to the A1 see) parked the car there and then ran home (in the dark - with head torches). The run home on Monday night was surreal. Really heavy snow and frequent flashes of lightening. The whole landscape would just suddenly shine. It happened a few times as we were running through the woods - for a brief second or so I'm convinced that there was more light in the woods than you normally get on a summers day!
Then on Tuesday morning all we had to do was run down to Ian's pick up the car and away we went. It was quite strange The start of a couple of days "holiday" and we were starting the journey with a three mile run. We left Woodhall at the same time as some of the neighbours left in their cars - and we still got down to the A1 before them.
Was there a "down side" to this cunning plan? Yes! Having to sit in a car for three and a half hours in smelly running gear after a run.
Also. It has to be admitted - you do look like a bit of a diddy turning up at a B&B in your running gear - especially when everyone else is walking about like Eskimos!
Anyway. Got down to York - and it wasn't too bad. A bit of snow yes - but nothing like what we had.
Until - Wednesday morning. Yes. Yet another "shit-load" of snow.
Quite enjoyed going round York in the snow to be honest. And it didn't stop us going for a six mile run up by the river either, before breakfast.
There was a bit of a feeling of York being a "city under siege" on the Wednesday though, and it soon became apparent that all the shops etc were closing early.
Thank God then that I had paid my respects to Rebound Records on the Tuesday afternoon. Though the slight rise in prices meant that I didn't unburden the chap from quite as much of his stock as I would have liked to.
Thursday saw us leave York a bit earlier than we would normally have done, and to be honest the journey home was a bit slower than normal, but uneventful and certainly not as bad as the press/telly/radio would have you believe.
Till the last three miles from the A1 to the house! That was like a bob-sleigh run. Hard compact snow and ice on the road and massive banks of snow either side of the single lane where its been ploughed.
One of the few times I've ever had to dig my way IN!
Spent quite a bit of yesterday afternoon helping one of the neighbours dig the road in front of the cottages. I quite enjoy doing stuff like that every now and then. Probably just as well, because I think it may be a bit of a "theme" this winter.
Out for a bit of a run this morning and, while we haven't had any significant snowfall today I notice that it is drifting over the road. Bollocks.