Monday, 31 October 2011



Friday night saw us away to see Bobby Wellins at the Queens Hall, with the SNJO, playing his Culloden Moor Suite and his Caledonian Suite. Neither works, apparently, have been recorded – yet (or at least never released). And what a crying shame.

The Culloden suite was superb. It’s in 5 parts. The Gathering, The March, The Battle, Aftermath and Epitaph. The opening to the Gathering was vintage Wellins and bore, to my mind, more than a little resemblance to the haunting solo opening of “Starless and Bible Black”. But the real wonder of this suite was “The March” that included the entire band stamping their feet in time to the march. It also included a solo by Alyn Cosker that saw him solo on one snare drum using sticks (both ends) and hands to hit the skin, rim and side of the drum. One man, two sticks, two hands… and it sounded like a whole troop of drummers with a roomful of drums! Amazing. Alyn Cosker is really challenging my long held prejudice against drum solos.

“The March” wasn’t a nervous, weary and frightened approach to battle, but was a confident one, that exuded all the arrogant cocksure swagger you’d expect in an SNP election broadcast.

The section based on the battle rather unsurprisingly transformed into a bit of a confusing, multi horned, free jazz cacophony before the “Aftermath” and “Epitaph” sections brought everything back to ground with long plaintive saxophone solos.

The Culloden Suite is a wonderful piece of music and despite it’s title is probably an evocative musical representation of any doomed militaristic campaign.



The second suite was more of a “bits and pieces” affair, loosely revolving around writings about Robert Burns (rather than by Burns). Favourite here was actually the last song “Dreams Are Free” that saw Wellins and Tommy Smith share the work on tenor sax and hammer out some great improvisations between them.

All in all a great gig.

I noticed that this gig was being recorded by the chap on the mixing desk (as I assume most gigs are these days). The Culloden suite was written in the early 60s. God forbid we should have to wait another forty off years to hear it again.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Did the Jedburgh Half today. Tough, tough, tough.
Got down there and went along to get our numbers and compu-chips. Now. Compu-chips. I've a problem with the lace through type - and I only discovered it today.
The problem is that since I tripped and split my knee I've started cutting the excess yards off my laces so that if they do come undone I won't trip on them!! But, because I cut them they become somewhat frayed at the edges. Could I unlace my shoes and then re-lace them easily? Could I bugger. Took me about twenty minutes just for this "simple task". I will need to re-asses what I do with my laces.

Anyway. Got them done at last and went for a wee warm up. There didn't appear to be anywhere to leave a bag so we left ours in the car. So.... my warm up took me past the finish area where I concealed an old tee-shirt in a hedge (something that I could put on at the end to stop getting cold - but if it got lifted I wouldn't miss it).

Went back to the start line and met up with the rest and have a natter to some others that I knew.

I know my hearings bad, but I was standing right up beside the starter and I couldn't hear a word of what he was saying. Anyway, he said what he had to say and we were off.
A fast start, as per usual with this race. Starts on a slight hill and then theres a couple of tight corners through the town centre, where everyone seems to be trying to get a good position.
It's always hard to tell where you are in the field with this half until about the 6k mark when the 10k runners peel off. I discovered I was probably in about the top ten at this stage and looking at the mile splits on my watch I dared to dream that an equal of last years PB of 1:18 was on the cards.
Indeed, it looked fairly good till about the 7.5 mile mark and we turned into a stiff head wind.
By this time I was running beside a bloke from Carnethy and, even working together and taking turns at the front our splits shifted from about 5:50s to 6:20s. No talking was taking place as we were both working flat out.
The hill at 11 mile was a wee bit tougher from previous years (again, because of the breeze) and on the last mile and a bit into Jedburgh Mr Carnethy managed to get away.
Just kept the head down and ploughed on. Felt strange, in the last half mile, to be overtaking some of the stragglers from the 10k race.
Got across the line in 1:20:33 (by my watch). Happy enough.
Stood at the finish line for a bit talking to Theresa, who had done the 10k - I'd seen Brian walking at the 11 mile mark (pulled out injured). As we were talking I noticed the back of a van was open that contains all the computers and "gubbins" for the timing mats.....
Had a wee peek. I think I was 7th or 8th overall and possibly first MV40+.
However when we went back to the registration hall we discovered that there was no "prize giving" as such. Apparently the first three across the line got their prizes at the finish area and the rest are just posted out (i.e the category prizes).
I shall be checking the results as soon as they are published.
The wind obviously didn't bother everyone. Anne was about a minute and a half quicker than last year.

Thursday, 27 October 2011



Bothered by a “hilly” on my run this morning. Not a “hill” mind you (that runs pretty flat). A “hilly”. A Black and red Hilly to be precise.

It was there on the ground as I stepped out for my early morning jaunt up the Water of Leith (“there” being about 25 yards from my office door) – A black and red “hilly” sock.

A sock exactly like the ones that I wear.

Now, a few other people go running from the office – I’m not the only one. So, I have to assume that more than one person could, theoretically at least, own a pair of black and red hilly socks.

But I am clumsy, untidy and feckless. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve lost kit out of my bag.

BUT – I didn’t want to stop and pick it up (it was still there on my return from my run). Who stops to pick up discarded socks in the street? I didn’t want to run carrying a spare sock either – how mad would that look?

I can’t even think if I’m missing a sock, but then again – would I notice? I just bung stuff in and out of the laundry basket without looking (same goes for the washing machine to be honest).

I hope to god its NOT mine – I really like those socks.

I might pop out this morning and, if its still there, hide it away somewhere. Then check tonight and if it IS mine collect it tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


I have no idea what possessed me on Monday. But I made the rather foolish mistake of going into my local *cough* "music" shop in the vain hope that they would have at least one copy of the new Stan Tracey offering "A Child's Christmas In Wales".
When will I ever learn? What used to be places where young and ...."not so young" mix and buy music of all genre's and all styles are now little more than slightly more tacky versions of "Toys 'R' Us", where in among the brightly coloured "headcandy" headphones and cute animal shaped "docking stations", tucked away in a corner - just behind the collection of fatties drooling and playing demo versions of "Fat-Arse-For-Play-Station", there dwells their meagre collection of music. Well, I say "music", but this Monday all that seemed to be on offer was the latest arse-trumpetings of Mr Chris Martin and his beat combo "Cold. Play".
Tried two other shops yesterday through in the Third World....same story.

Buying jazz in shops is almost impossible these days.

I have always considered myself a "collector" of CDs. The monetary value of CDs, rare or otherwise, has never really been important to me, but I do like to own a physical CD. I like to have a tangible presence to signify my acquisition of an album - you don't get that with a download.

Sadly I'm now having to reconsider that and redefine what I do as a collector of "music". The vast bulk is still on CD but I'm getting more and more downloads - legal and ....."other".

Sadly jazz fans are being hit on two sides right now. The shops are not stocking what we want when it IS released on CD and even worse a lot of great stuff out there is not seeing public distribution on CD anyway.
Then, just to add to our woes the 50 year copyright laws that should have seen a lot of great stuff from the late 50s and early 60s come into the public domain and become readily available have been changed to 70 years to suit the greedy machinations of leathery-necked-scrotum-faced-god-botherer Cliff "bloody" Richard.
Luckily some dedicated fans are using t'internet to fill the gaps.
Acquired two albums that have never seen the light of day on CD. Both these albums are good quality "rips" from vinyl copies. There's one or two wee "snap, crackle and pops" but nothing that detracts from the music.

Stan Tracey "The Latin American Caper". A big band recording from 1968 that sees Stan in a joyful Latin/Bossa Nova groove. Big band arrangements very similar to Duke Ellingtons Latin American Suite. Duke Ellington a constant influence on Stan. Though to be fair to Stan, his recording pre dates Dukes by 2 years (so did Stan influence Duke?). It also has some really fast and furious piano work from the great man with his trademark clunky thunking chords.
Not his best, but a really nice part of his output. Someone somewhere must own the master tapes! Why hasn't this seen the light of day on CD?

Another one is Tubby Hayes "Tubbs in N.Y." This is a 1962 recording from one of the the British jazz men of all time, that saw him visit NY and play with some of the big name hardbop artists of the day. 49 years old and this has never been put on CD?? Or, at least, not in it's original format. I believe it made a brief appearance on CD in the early 90s as a mish-mashed "New York Sessions" album - before being withdrawn. Vinyl copies are changing hands on Amazon for £227!! Now I would never pay that (don't have a turntable anyway). Again, someone could bring it out on CD. Yes it's not going to shift a huge number of copies, but those who do want it would pay a bit more for it.

If the record companies don't want to bring this type of stuff out on CD then why don't they at least make it available as a download?

So. Until then I'm just going to have to rummage around in the murky depths of the inter web for bootlegs.
I don't want to go underground, and it's hardly a defense, but I feel that it's a "choice" I'm being forced into.

As for Stan's new one? I'll buy that directly from Stan's website. Cut out the middle man and Stan gets more of the money (and I salve my conscience about getting "The Latin American Caper" for nowt).

Sunday, 23 October 2011


Hostilities between me and the virus are pretty much over.
The drugs have been put away again until next we meet.
However, I didn't feel up to any real recreational LSD today so settled instead for 11 miles at pace.
A route all too familiar. Down by Innerwick, through Crowhill and back via Thurston Mains. A "bread and butter" training run if I'm honest - a lazy choice of route.
But I did enjoy it. I felt quite good and managed round feeling quite comfortable.
Met Susan and Brian who were out running part of the same route and stopped briefly to chat.
Probably won't do too much this week. Got the Jedburgh Half to look forward to next week, so there's no point in knackering myself prior to that.

Rest of the weekend has been exhausting and has mainly involved me reacquainting myself with the work of Bobby Wellins prior to going to see him in concert this Friday at the Queens Hall.
Found myself drawn a few times this weekend to the CD "Birds Of Brazil". Could hardly believe its 22 years old. I remember buying it after hearing a track played on Humphrey Lyttelton's "Best Of Jazz" shows. It was my first introduction to Wellins work (I didn't get Under Milk Wood till a few years later).
The album is split into two. The first part is the "Birds Of Brazil suite" for orchestra (in three parts), while the second part is three jazz cover versions for a smaller combo (a quintet I think).
Strange to that I "discovered" while looking at the sleeve notes again that the Birds Of Brazil suite was arranged by Tony Coe. The name would have meant little to me when I first got the CD, but I've become relatively well acquainted with his works since then. Note to self: "revisit old records more often - there's loads of "hidden gems" laying dormant in there."
Both "parts" of this CD are excellent in their own ways, but I'm not sure that they "segue" all that well. Probably best to listen to one part... have a bit of a break...then listen to the other.

The gig on Friday showcases two of Wellins orchestral works: The Culloden Moor and Caledonian Suites.
Never heard any of them before. Looking forward to it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011



The “lurgy” that was lingering took a turn for the worse yesterday – it was time to hit back.

I adopt an approach to the fight against illness that owes a lot to British military strategy during the Great War. Yup, it’s a war of attrition between me and the virus.

The standard procedure owes a lot to the methods used in the Somme. So yesterday saw a continual barrage of the big guns as I relentlessly pounded the virus with everything in my arsenal in an effort to soften it up prior to today’s “big push”.

Benylin “mucus” syrup was quaffed from the bottle (measuring spoons are for girls), Vicks synex was snorted, Lemsip was …well. “sipped” and brufen was necked. Can’t say if it was shell shock from the barrage or, more likely, simply  on cold remedies but at one point yesterday I did get a wee bit disorientated and confused and found myself sleeping at my post.

Anyway, the barrage went on through the evening into the night and the early hours of the morning.

Then today, sometime before sunrise the barrage stopped and I “went over the top”. Seven miles hard….advance towards the enemy. Death or glory!

Lets get the old heart rate up, the blood pumping and a bit of a sweat on…. Its me or the virus.

Seemed to go OK(ish) The old heart rate was up a bit but that might just be the drugs. And a bit like the old Vickers machine guns of old the run was accompanied by the constant “rat-tat-tat” of gallons of phlegm being expectorated along the water of Leith pathway (narrowly missing a passing cyclist at one point – should have had a light on!!).

Don’t know if I fully eradicated the virus, but I at least expect it to petition for an armistice any day now.



Got a bit of a row from Anne for going into work full of the cold. “Think about your colleagues”.

I reminded her that I don’t have “colleagues” I work beside Civil Servants. If I had anthrax or smallpox I’d be at work trying to spread it.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011



Cold season is upon us.

Not the climate or the weather – but the virus. Yes. It’s “lurgy” time again!!

I’ve had a wee bit of a change from the old routine this year. My Early-Onset-Autumnal-Lurgy has only skimmed around the outer reaches of my nose and throat, barely registering in my consciousness, before taking up residence in my chest.

This is, I fear, a slight breaking of etiquette on the part of the virus, but I’ll let it go this time. Normal procedure suggests that it should hop around twixt head and throat for a couple of days or so, before setting off to take up residence in the chest area, not simply barge into the best room in the house like some unwanted, uninvited guest.

Common sense should tell me not to run with an “iffy” chest. But then again (a) I’m asthmatic – an “iffy” chest is par for the course and (b) me and common sense have never seen eye to eye anyway.

To ease me through this horrendous illness, and to ensure it does not evolve into full blown Man Flu, I have bought a jumbo sized bottle of “Chesty Bennolyn” ….. which I’ve left in the house L. Bollox.

On the plus side the “runners gob” is much more fun when you have a bad chest. Loads and loads of throaty ammo J


It may not just be in my chest to be honest. It may be affecting my head slightly – making me a bit woozy and befuddled. Which may explain why yesterday after a nice hot shower after a run at work I stepped out of the cubicle and found out I’d left my clothes out by my desk! No fun having a shower then having to put the running gear back on.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Seem to have found a recurring theme in a lot of my races this year..
The pain and effort seems to be up on last year but the times are getting slightly slower.
I don't know how you would quantify effort. But I did the Berwick 10k trail race today and it felt every bit as sore as last year and yet my time was slightly slower.

Maybe time to reevaluate the speed/endurance mix of my training.

Anyhoo. Quite a good race. Lovely course. Well signed and marshaled.
I noted last year that I might have been better off with road shoes rather than trail, as a fair bit of the run is on road.  So today that's what I did and when me and Anne did our couple of mile warm up (one mile or so out then back) I felt I had made the right choice. Nice and firm under foot.
The race starts near the car park at Spittal beach and then goes along the seafront, past some houses and shops before a steep climb up to the cliff top path and then a wee loop that takers in a couple of fields before heading through a couple of wee villages and then back.
My choice of shoes looked a good one. Until about 20 yards after where me and Anne had ran up to. Then it turned into a bit of a quagmire and the lack of grip left me slipping about. Luckily, the bloke I was neck and neck with at this point (from North Shields Poly) had made the same mistake.
Very warm today, and what little wind there was always seemed to be against us!
By the time I got to the five mile mark I had pulled away from the North Shields bloke and was third behind Adam Fletcher in second and Ian Harding of Morpeth who was probably back and changed by this time.
Sadly, the route did not follow a bus route and I was just going to have to run to the finish!
Luckily though the last mile was fast and pretty much down hill so I just went tonto.
Got in in 38:23.

Great wee race and one that's a nice precursor to the Borders XC in a few weeks.

Thursday, 13 October 2011



My favourite sports shop had a sale of running accessories today – Lidl!!

You have to be quick in there to get anything before it’s all gone. So I was there for them opening J Sadly so was the old boy ahead of me who scooped up an armful of all the white running socks that had been put out. Still I’m happy enough with black (better colour for the cross country season anyway).

So, I ended up getting a few pairs socks (cos you can never have enough) and a couple of skull cap type thermal hats for the winter! Magic.

And the icing on the cake was the fact that one of “this seasons” colours in the new Lidl range was green. The same shade of green as Dunbar’s colours.

So while I hadn’t intended to get a jacket a new jacket did indeed end up in my basket as well.


Wouldn’t touch the shoes with a barge pole mind.


Oh. And how the four big bars of chocolate ended up my basket is anybody’s guess.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Went out for just under nine miles today. Up into the Lammermuirs and round the windfarms.
Quite enjoyed it. It's not exactly "off road", but what roads there are, are pretty battered and rough works-access roads that tend to get a thin layer of mud on them that seems to last all year round. Save for a few hot weeks in the summer when they turn instead to dusty tracks. So the trail shoes were the order of the day today.
Another nice thing is that I can go out for nine miles without seeing a single other person. Sheep, cattle, deer and pheasants - yes. People? No.
I love the solitude - nothing to listen to except the wind. Well not entirely true.. inspired as I obviously was after listening this morning to Brian Lemons album "My Shinning Hour" I did regale some of the farm animals and wildlife with a lovey rendition of "It's Only A Paper Moon" as I struggled up the hill after Weatherly.
Some people don't think cattle have facial expressions. They're wrong - I clearly made out "disgust", "bewilderment" and "pity" (all from the same coo).
Don't know why but sometimes I find singing helps when I'm struggling. But fear not.. I stopped doing it in races about ten years ago after I passed a bloke going up a hill singing "Mack The Knife" and he told me to "shut the f*** up" (maybe not a jazz fan).

It's one of those damp, dank, dark, nondescript October days today - lovely. You never know really if it's long sleeve weather or not when running at this time of year (or even gloves?).
I opted for the long sleeves - only to roll them up within about the first two miles as I was starting to over heat.
Other than a 10k and a half all I have between now and the end of the year is a couple of cross country races.
In other words "I've nothing specific to train for". So, even if I don't ease back on the weekly mileage (and I might), I'll at least cut back on some of the effort in some runs. Have a wee while where I'm just running for the fun of it (not that it isn't normally you understand).

Sunday, 9 October 2011


My "bounce" is returning a wee bit (literally speaking at least).
Had a complete rest day on Friday (from the running). And yesterday although I did 10miles it was at a relatively moderate pace.
The club had decided that after we had hosted the Dunbar 10 mile race that those of us who had marshaled, or had helped out in other ways, would then run the route. So once the prize giving was over, the last runner had departed, the final large arrow sign removed and the room that we had been using at Hallhill returned to some semblance of order - we all got changed and off we went. In conditions similar to that the runners faced a few hours earlier .... wet, windy and slippy underfoot.
Quite a nice turnout, and we just split into a couple of small groups or pairs and went round the route at a pace conducive to nattering while running. What was a bit strange though, and more than a little worring, was that quite a few, who had been marshaling themselves earlier on, still managed to get lost!!
So today I went for a nine mile run and took the tempo up a little and have to say that the legs are starting to feel a bit like their old selves again.

Bit of a busy couple of days though, so I have a bit of catching up to do with my other hobbies; listening to new jazz (Joe Lovano "Bird Songs"), reading ... and seeing if I can sit for long enough doing nowt whether my arse will take root to the sofa!

Thursday, 6 October 2011


I’ve lost my “bounce” – literal and metaphorical.
Literal? Still suffering the effects of Sunday’s efforts. Been a few runs since then but the legs are still a bit on the heavy and “dead” side yet.
Metaphorical? I’m not sure. Just don’t seem to have any “joie de vivre” right now (maybe it’s lurking down the back of the sofa beside my “raison d'ĂȘtre”). I don’t think it’s entirely uncommon for some runners, after a big race, to go through a wee bit of a downer. But this one just seems to be feeding my old companion the black dog…L
Found one thing that helps (a little).. Dexter Gordon “Daddy Plays The Horn”. Jeeze, I’ve been after this album for ages. Honestly. At one point I even considered buying an 8 CD box set, most of which I already have, just to get these six songs that weigh in at a mere 40 minutes.
This was recorded in 1955 and is a nice “bridge” between Dexter’s earlier pure bebop style and his much more popular hardbop phase associated with his recordings for Blue Note. This doesn’t have the fuller tone of the Blue Note records, but you can tell he’s getting there. More so with the title track which has a sort of bluesy soulful quality to it.
Pianist Kenny Drew gives a really beautiful rendition of  “Autumn In New York” while Dexter swings alongside and Leroy Vinnegar on bass and Lawrence Marable on drums keep the pace. But Dexter steals the show on the Parker song “Confirmation” proving that he was a contemporary of Bird rather than a mere follower or imitator.
The version of Darn That Dream, that was to become a favourite song of Dexter’s, could be used as an example of what late night jazz ballads should sound like. It’s as close to perfect as you could get.
Too often I’ve been hunting for particular records and when I finally do get hold of them (or at least get to hear them) I’m disappointed. Not this time (I even love the sleeve).
If you don’t like Dexter Gordon then listen to this…if you still don’t like him after….well go find yourself a cliff and jump off it.

And here for Ray, and anyone else who may care to listen, is a slightly latter version of "Darn That Dream" from Dexters album "One Flight Up" from 1964....

Wednesday, 5 October 2011



Things to do in those quiet moments…..

Number 1: Using a pen top to scrape out the crusty-build-up from the chest strap of your heart rate monitor.

Monday, 3 October 2011


The 2011 Inverness Marathon was a classic. Well for me at least.
By that I mean it was a "classic" S Hay signature marathon.
The start of the Baxters Marathon is a surreal experience. Thousands of runners get disgorged from a fleet of buses, to hang about in the middle of nowhere listening to Bryan Burnett tell us how excited we are and remind us not to piddle in the residents gardens (Bryan - nobody lives within a mile of the start line). If he told us once he told us a dozen times that "this is the most scenic marathon in Britain". Well, "yes. It is". But only on days when visibility is greater than about twenty feet!! On a personal level it didn't much matter as the heavy rain had made me decide to run without my specs anyway - I like to inject a hint of danger into my marathons!
To be fair at least Bryan Burnett is a runner he's a lot better than some of the diddies I've had to listen to before races.
As I stood there on the line I ruminated on my options for "a race plan"....
I could (a) try to run steady miles and attempt to get a comfortable 2:55 or ...(b) blast off like a man possessed and try to beat my PB of last year.
So. First mile in about 5:55.
Oh yes. It was always going to be (b). In my defence the first mile is a very steep downhill and 5:55 didn't really take up too much effort.
Sadly the weather was not favourable this year. Hardly any wind at all (not like last years lovely stiff tail wind) and the forecast "drizzle" was "drizzling" drops that were, in my untrained opinion, a bit on the big side to be defined as drizzle, and they were coming down with a fierce regularity. Indeed, if I were a meteorologist I'd probably have used the term "pissing down".
Anyway. After the first fast mile I calmed down to a sensible pace and just tried to take advantage of the drops and conserve a bit energy on the climbs - of which there are many (it's a very "lumpy" route).

Spot the tell-tale blood

Things were going fairly well till the hill at 17 mile. This hill isn't steep as such. It's just long. Maybe goes on for about 2 miles? So I slowed down to take it easy. No great rush.
I felt fine going up. Got to the top and thought "ok, time to pick it up again". Could I? Could I feck.
My legs were just spent. I tried and tried to get them to turn over a bit quicker - and they were having none of it.
The last six and a bit miles were the hardest I have run in a marathon in a long time.
The chance of replicating the PB was gone and I really thought the sub three was going to slip by.
I ran in with a bloke who like me had "overcooked" the first part of the run (we'd passed each other a few times).
At about 23 miles we passed two wee boys who shouted something along the lines of "here come the slow coaches". The temptation to stop and kick their arse was immense but we both decided just to keep on rather than waste precious seconds.
Got in at 2:59:12 to a massive cheer....sadly the massive cheer was for the first lady crossing the line just ahead of me.
Not too annoyed with myself but it could have/should have been better (I would have been upset to go over 3).
Normally don't get bother with the old nips, but because my vest was wet all the way through the race I ended up bleeding quite badly. A bit of chaffing in other areas that don't really show up on the photo... dam sore in the shower afterwards!
Good points? Well a £1.25 bag of Percy Pig sweeties is every bit as good as numerous expensive "gels". And it's a really nice "techy" tee-shirt this year.

Watched other runners coming over the line until I saw Anne coming over in 3:51 then went for our complimentary food before hobbling back to the hotel.
Went out for a small "recovery run" this morning. Legs were like lead, but I think just turning them over was the best thing to do.
10k in Berwick in a couple of weeks, hopefully manage to do the Jedburgh half, then it's cross country season after that.