Monday, 31 December 2012


It's getting close folks. It's that wonderful, magical time of the year again. Yes indeedy - it's time to celebrate the end of one temporal measuring unit with the start of another!! If you could only see how excited I get when I have to turn the page on my wall calender at the end of one month and the start of another - well, imagine that excitement, times twelve!!
It's also a time, apparently, for "resolutions". "Resolutions" are, as we all know, simply promises made in the knowledge that they will only be kept for a maximum of three weeks.
It's a great time for health clubs, gyms and sports shops. I would imagine that about 80% of their annual turnover could be made in the next few weeks, as they happily take membership fees from people who they know dam fine will, by Burns Night, have retreated into a life of loafing about the sofa, encased in elasticated sweat pants, filling their puddy faces with leftover Quality Street.
If you want to change/start something new/stop a bad habit etc. Then do it when the idea pops into your head!

Anyway. Don't let my negativity seep into your world. If you want to get caught up in the wake of the massive, steam powered, tartan, Leviathan that is "Hogmanay" then embrace it and have fun.

So. What of life away from "Planet-moaning-bastard"? Well. I'm Still keeping to the idea of runs every day that are 10 miles or more. Quite enjoying it. Although I think if I managed to get out for at least one run without getting battered by a gale I might enjoy it a little more. Out over by Spott way today, then along by Burnhead and Pitcox before heading back up Starvation Brae into a nice strong head wind. Keep telling myself it's doing me good.
What didn't help with todays run was the fact that the rubber "shoe goo" I had applied to the heel of an old pair of shoes decided to become frayed and loose half way round. I could hear it scuffing along for about two miles before I'd had enough. Sat down, got a firm hold and pulled. Bloody thing stretched to about two foot in length before it finally detached and snapped back - onto my thumb. Agony. Even when I got home it was sore. Stood with my thumb under the cold tap for a while to try and bring the swelling down.

The fifth of my top five? Well. I am a sucker for a good piano trio and they don't come much better than John Taylor's, and his last album "Giulia's Thursdays". An album of songs by Italian film composer Carlo Rustichelli.
This sounds more like a suite rather than a "collection" of individual pieces. Very romantic in feel and maybe a bit "old school" when taken in context with today's crop of post EST, Brad Mehldau trio and Bad Plus emulators. But that isn't a bad thing at all. I enjoy the new crop of trios. But I want to listen to them "as well as" more traditional formats - not "instead of".

Friday, 28 December 2012

C. C. C.

Been spending a very "traditional Christmas", like most people, by observing the three "C"s.....
Wallowing in the spoils of Consumerism, eating my own body weight in Chocolate and watching Crap on the telly.
So to offset this I'm trying to keep my daily training runs in the double figures.
Managed it so far. Though the wind and the rain are definitely doing their best to ruin it for me.
It had always been my intention to keep the mileage up but the effort down, by keeping the pace low. Sadly this isn't really happening. The pace is down a bit - but the effort is up - just to get through the wind!

The time off is giving me loads of opportunity to revisit some of my favourite jazz. And another of my top five from 2012 has to be Tom Bancroft Trio Red: "First Hello To Last Goodbye".
Tom Cawley on Piano (I love his own trio Curios) and  Norwegian Per Zanussi on bass join drummer Bancroft.
Some really good solos and improvisations here that just push the boundaries, while remaining on the safe side.

There are two versions of Bancroft's "Landa and Crawford's Theme" which appeared in an earlier Bancroft project with Orchestra Interupto. To me the more gentle treatment from the trio make this the better format.

A beautiful record and a great reminder of the talent we have here in Scotland.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


....But you've still got to get your arse out the door to go a run.
I would never want to be considered a "fair weather runner". But the weather, so far, during my Christmas holidays is really testing my resolve.
I don't mind the rain too much, and I don't mind the wind too much...but add them both together! Bloody awful.
Yesterday I could have quite happily not gone a run at all. But then as we were heading off to Knowes to buy the fruit and veg for the week we saw Theresa and Sheila, from the club, battling through the wind and rain along the A199 towards East Linton. Well, when you see someone else make the effort it's even harder to bail out of a run, isn't it?
Nice thing is once you've done your run you can loaf about guilt free (well, that's the theory).
Yesterday's run was a tough, tough, 8 miler. By the time I got home I was absolutely drenched. Soaked through to the skin.
In the shower afterwards I noticed what I though was lumps of mud stuck to my legs. I attempted to wash them off. Only to discover, to my dismay, that it wasn't mud - it was tar!! The council have this machine (a "jet packer") that they use in a  futile attempt to fill in the potholes in East Lothian. Basically it just shoots a mixture of small particles, bound with tar into the pothole.
All good and well in principle, but they don't know how to use it - we've seen them in the past blast this gunk into potholes that are already full of rain water. Obviously the roads should be dry before use! Net result? Well it would appear that all the tarry crap has been flushed out of the potholes by the rain water.
Anyway, I could not shift this stuff from my legs. Ended up getting a razor and shaving bits of my legs in an attempt to shift it (the tar would not budge from the hair). Much to Anne's dismay I also managed to get it sticking to the bath! Jesus, what a fuss she made...we're getting a new one soon anyway.

Luckily I avoided the tar today in my 11 mile battle through more wind and rain.
Forecast isn't looking too good for the rest of the holidays.

Next up in my top five? Keith Jarrett "Sleeper". Recorded in Tokyo in 1979, this is the same Jarrett group that recorded the albums "My Song" and "Nude Ants". Garbarek on sax, Palle Danielsson on bass and Jon Christensen on drums. Why this recording lay dormant for 33 years is any body's guess.
Sadly the wonderful "My Song" is not included and the material is mostly from "Nude Ants". But this live recording is so much better than the studio output. The near 15 minute long version of "Chant Of The Soil" is an absolute "lowdown and funky" joy!

Friday, 21 December 2012



The running is taking a pounding from the elements right now. Only a few of us were daft/committed enough last night to turn up for interval training (delete as appropriate).

However, as the grass track at Hallhill look as though it was more suited to the training needs of Matthew Pinsent and Steve Readgrave, normal interval training was shunned and we only went for a short run round the streets. Not exactly interval session effort, but it was nice just to get out for something, given that this was the last club night till after the holidays.

Hope the weather clears a bit for the holidays. While I will reluctantly go out in all weathers – I won’t always enjoy it – but I will do it.

Plans for 2013?? Got an email yesterday informing me that the Self Transcendence 50k is on again in Perth next March.


So what of jazz? Well, a nice blend of minimalist jazz and “modern” classical music is perhaps the best way to describe the music of Eberhard Weber.

A stalwart of the ECM stable for many years Weber, sadly, hasn’t recorded anything for a few years now, since a serious stroke left him unable to play.

However, for this interesting album “Resume”, he has contrived something unique (the next of my five). He has taken recordings of his bass “interludes” from various live performances over the last twenty years and “played” with them. These “interludes” are protracted solos that he improvises at live gigs as way of bridging between one piece to another. For the purposes of the CD the interludes have simply been named after the city they were recorded in.

For some of the recordings extra sections have been recorded by Jan Garbarek and added over the original.

Weber is certainly no stranger to this style of “sampling” (for want of a better word). For a long time now he has often utilised an “echo loop” – laying down a short bass “hook”, playing it on a continual loop – adding another small section – and so on and so on. In a way then, this is just a more relaxed “continuation” of what he was trying to achieve on the night.

The great thing about this album is it’s cohesiveness. It really does feel like the product of one live performance rather than the sum of twenty years worth of work.


Thursday, 20 December 2012



Matthew Halsall “Fletcher Moss Park” is the  first of my five albums that have grabbed me this year.

Though “grab” is probably a misnomer for this offering. It’s possibly one of the most relaxed and “chilled” albums I have heard in a long time.

A strange one to be reviewing in December. But if it’s your want to lie down somewhere in the grass on a hot summers day and listen to slow music while you drift off, then this is the one for you.

Halsall is a trumpet player and composer from Manchester and the album title is derived from a fairly well known oasis in Manchester.

Trumpet, sax, piano and strings – including harp, but this is by no means a “strings” album (though I do like a good “strings” album).

This is akin to what some call “ambient” music. But played on real instruments – with none of the awful electronic jiggery pokery that blighted ambient music in the 80’s and 90’s.

Simple bass hooks are built on by gentle spiritual trumpet and sax to create a truly beautiful hour of music.

Imagine Nils Petter Molvær “meets” Pharaoh Sanders or John Coltrane.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Managed to get out for a 14 mile run on Sunday. Which was nice.
In fact. I've been out every day now for about 12 days without a break and, while I might have a rest day this Friday, I'm now intent on being out every day while on Holiday, all the way through to the return after the hols'.
Even New Years Day is now "spoken for", as we've pre-entered the Promathon at Portobello.
Normally registration for this has been on the day and they've attracted in the region of 350 for it. But they've gone down the road of pre-entry, have capped it at 350 or so, and might "only" get 200 or so. I don't blame them one bit - from an organisational point of view pre-entry is much easier (I know it's not always popular with runners - but there you go). I've noticed that changes in the organisation of races are often most unpopular with runners who don't seem to actually get involved in much organisation (coincidence??)
Anyhoo. Like most runners I keep a "log". Mines is a pretty basic spreadsheet (time, distance, heart rate, comments etc). But it does have the advantage that I can tell very quickly how many runs I've done.
Last nights club run was my 353rd run this year. And yesterday was the 353rd day of the year.
Obviously I have had rest days, but some days where I do two runs obviously add up. All being well I could end this year (a leap year) with 366 runs under my belt.
The plan for the rest of December is to increase the mileage - while reducing the effort. Long(ish) runs at a nice steady pace.

Got to try and set myself some goals for the coming [running] year. Only did one marathon this year. Fancy doing two again next year. One in the Spring then maybe an Autumn one. I missed doing an Autumn marathon - I, personally, find that in the Autumn you are, hopefully, coming out of an injury free summer of long runs and races. It's probably when your at your best.

And what of "Planet-Everything-Else-Except-Running"?? Well. Apparently, "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" - or so I'm told. Things might "click into place" when I finish work on Friday - But it's not really "working for me" so far this year.
So... in an attempt to "get into the groove" I am going to try a wee experiment. I've really been enjoying the Jazz Breakfast's "Festive 50" (see link to the right). In an attempt to emulate this feel good factor I'm going to share with you my top 5 of 2012.
Here's the deal. They won't necessarily be albums produced in 2012. It will just be the five albums that have appeared on my jazzy radar this year, that have made an impact.

Thursday, 13 December 2012



Went my “usual” run from work today.

Up by the Water of Leith and towards Pilton. Beautiful biting cold weather and the path wasn’t too busy either.

A wonderful way to clear my head from all the work related sheeite that’s clogging it these days. “Clogging my head” may not be entirely true, as apparently there is a bit of foul mouthed “verbal spillage” of some of the angst and anger while I’m asleep – a sort of nocturnal tourette's.

Anyway. The run was cathartic. It helped clear the mind and soul….. so much so that I just kept on and on and on….I think I just went into autopilot. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t really know where I was headed.

However, by the time I got to Murrayfield I did think it prudent to turn and retrace my route.

Nice to do an impromptu long run every now and then. Maybe not the smartest thing, though, when you’ve got an interval session coming up later in the day.

Monday, 10 December 2012



Bit of a “wardrobe malfunction” this morning.

Normally pride myself on being a bit of a Dandy in the workplace (the old “mod” ethos still resides in there somewhere – pretty well hidden, true, but it is still there.)

Anyway. My 30” waist belt broke, the buckle came off – and “no” not because of my recent flirtation with German Biscuits. It simply had seen better days and gave up the will to live.

This caused a problem. The problem being that my 30” waist belt was holding up a 32” waist pair of trousers. I had visions of having to walk about all day holding my trousers up by hand!

This also raised a question in my mind. If my belt has been 30” for about 5 years – how old are these trousers (pre on the wagon days probably)??? Anyhoo.

Ended up tying the buckle back onto the belt with some yellow nylon parcel string. Maybe not the best look in the world – but it did the trick. The yellow string also matched the yellow soles on the old Brooks Adrenaline I often shuffle about in.

It was enough, anyway, to get me safely to Lidl at lunchtime where a rather expensive £2.99 replacement could be bought. Yes I know it’s a lot to pay – but what the hell. I like to look my best. Anyone who has ever been to Lidl in Leith will confirm you can walk about there in an old pair of running shoes, with your trousers held up by yellow string and still be a bit of a natty dresser!!

Sadly upon my return to the office I discovered that the “small” belt was still a bit on the long side – so a pair of scissors were brought into action and a new hole cut.



On a slightly different note. Apparently Creative Scotland have just released funds in an attempt to “make jazz hip” and remove it from its tired old image of being a music for scruffy, bearded, beer-bellied, pale males. What a lot of crap…where do they get these ideas??

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Off to Meadowmill Sports Center today. First time I've seen and run on the new track - very nice it is too.
The occasion was Haddington and East Lothian Pacemaker's (HELP) 30th anniversary 10k.
A nice friendly event. 10k for the seniors and a 2k for kids.
The course was basically a lap of the new track, out of Meadowmill, along a path that took you under both the A1 and A199, turn right and onto a road that leads up to Faside Castle, turn where George Armstrong was marshaling - then retrace your steps.
Sounds simple? Well that didn't stop a couple of us taking the wrong turn at one point and ending up on the road that goes to Pencaitland! In my defense  - I was simply following Dave Wright at this point - it was him that went wrong! We dropped about 5 places because of our wee detour and the extra "wee kick" we had to put in to get these places back saw my effort level click over from "just about holding on" to "jeeze this hurts"!
If you know Faside (or have even just seen it from the A1) you know, that like many castles it's built on a hill, so you will also have guessed that the route was more or less uphill for just over three miles, then downhill on the way back. This simple geographic fact is reflected in my split times (at last - a race with "negative splits")!
I seldom take notice of features, or the landscape, when I'm in "race mode", I'm usually too caught up in mundane stuff - like trying to breathe, or spit without getting it all down my chin, but I was determined to have  a bit of a look at Faside as we went by. It must be over 35 years since I've been up close to it (maybe longer).
Certainly larger than I remember. I do remember, as a kid, out bramble picking with my dad and brother and we met the bloke who had bought it with a view to renovating. He'd "gone to the 'local school', don't you know"... well, Loretto. Which, to be fair was a school (still is) and it is local - it's just not the one that the locals went to.
In those days Faside was little more than three crumbling walls and no roof, so, to be fair to him, he did do a nice job of the renovation. Lucky he did it when he did. These days he'd have Kevin McCloud poking his nose in every two weeks moaning about the "unsympathetic steel joists" or what-not.
Sadly we didn't actually run round the castle - just turned in front of it.
A really nice spread had been laid on for us at Meadowmill, so a nice feed and a natter with others afterwards was a nice way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.
Instead of a traditional "entry fee" for a race. Everyone came along with a gift-wrapped prezzie and after the race a "raffle" of sorts was held.
I came away with a nice bottle of "chocolate lovers" wine. Handy.

Saddened by the news, last week, of the passing of Dave Brubeck. So, as well as catching up on new jazz this weekend, I've been having a wee bit of a "Brubeck tribute" going on in the house. Wonderful pianist who led a truly great quartet.
I do like "Take Five" but it's one of those tunes that has become so iconic it's over familiarity has slightly diminished it.
I'm really enjoying the "Private Brubeck Remembers" album - a solo piano collection of wartime songs, recorded in 2008. The playing is wonderful and you really get the sense that these tunes were very personal and meant a lot to him. If you want to remember hi as the leader of a great quartet - I recommend "Jazz: Red Hot and Cool". It does exactly what they say on the tin.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Quite a high mileage week last week, but once more made up of loads of wee bits and pieces (65 miles). Included one day where I managed 16 miles, but that was split over three runs in the same day!
Really looking forward to the time off between Christmas and the New Year in the hope that I can try and get a couple of long 'uns under my [ever tightening] belt.
Anne's off today to the cross country at Fife, while I settled for a 7 mile bimble round the muddy roads of Woodhall. Met Andrew Crichton while I was out - he was doing some hill-reps along by the Brunt.
My run today was followed by my other favourite pass time ... a serious session of trying to get my arse to take root to the sofa while I caught up on some new jazz and lost myself in the new Rebus book by Ian Rankin (Standing In Another Man's Grave).
Not finished it yet and I don't want to give anything away, but I'm really enjoying it.
I like the way he's woven together the characters from the Rebus series with those of his later "complaints" series of books (though to be fair the character of Rebus did get a brief nod in both the "complaints" novels - without being specifically named).
It's maybe not the best Rebus book, but there's great comfort to be had in reading an instalment in a series you are both familiar with and enjoy. A bit like a visit from a friend - you might have nothing new to say, but you still enjoy the company.
I've put off reading the last of Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe books. That's another series I really like - so maybe it's time to revisit them next.
I do enjoy, after a run, and while reading a good book a nice coffee and cake (or biscuit). Can't really explain what got into me earlier in the week, but I had a go at baking! German Biscuits to be specific. Maybe not the most professional looking, but pretty good if I say so myself. A couple of "deviations" from the recepie. Instead of raspberry jam I used bramble jelly and instead of glace cherries I opted for the "common touch"  jelly sweeties!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


The best thing about working from home is...well, working from home.
I'm not a "people person" really and I like the solitude (certainly not a "civil-service-type-people person" at the moment).
It also affords me the opportunity, when on the phone, to look out my back window and view the comings and goings in the back garden and beyond - birds, cats, coos, sheep etc.
However, that in itself can be problematic.
On the phone this morning; to my boss of all people. He must have wondered what was going on when I interrupted him, mid flow, with a sudden cry of "Oh. You bad bastard!!".
I quickly explained it wasn't him (this time). I'd just seen a sparrow hawk swoop down and lift a wee blue tit from my bird feeder....honest.
Spent the rest of that particular phone call with my back to the window!

More feathery friends. About five times now in the last week or so, we've come across a wee tawny owl sitting in the road. Just up the top of Starvation Brae.
See it either in the morning going to work, or in the evenings coming home.
Just sits if its pondering something. Then, as Anne draws the car slowly up towards it, it just sort of slowly turns its us a bit of a stare for a few seconds, then flys away.
Same owl, same bit of road, same times of day. Cracking.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Woke up today to discover that Jack Frost had really done his stuff.
Beautiful blue skies, biting cold, and there was a hard, hard frost covering everything. Fairs fair - it is December!
Just the ticket for a nice cross country run.

It was off to Peebles for round 3 of the Borders Series. Always a good one.
Got down in loads of time and chatted to some folk then hooked up with most of the Dunbar team.
Sadly, I felt the need to remonstrate with some of my own club for breaking with etiquette and not being turned out in proper attire (vest and shorts). When the ice is one inch thick then, and only then, should tee-shirts and long sleeve tops be worn under vests!
Anyway. I think there was a slight change to the start of the race this year and the loop of the park seemed to go the other way around from previous years. This saw quite a steep climb thrown in right at the start.
The path along by the river was a wee bit slippy, but once on to the flat section that takes you under the viaduct and then onto the path over the viaduct I was able to pick up the pace a wee bit and managed to pass a couple of guys. I know, from warm ups, that along here you pass a cliff that has a converted castle on it. Looks fantastic - but I never register it when I'm racing
By the time we got to "heart attack hill" (Moorfoot's name - not mine) I was just behind Mr Sills and, that was pretty much how it stayed till the end.
Another change this year saw us double back on ourselves through a couple of fields and through a large patch of mud that Moorfoot had kindly thawed out just for the race!
The last stretch was over a muddy path that had been churned up and then frozen over. Rutted and hard it was incredibly difficult to run on.
Came in just behind Ian and just before James Addie.

I'd forgotten about keeping my Inov8 shoes "soft"!! So...this morning I just gave them a quick rinse under the hot tap for a bit and put them in a plastic bag. When we got down to Peebles and I went to put them on they were lovely and soft. I was able to get them nice and tight (feet are wet soon enough anyway).

I'd made up a flask of Hot Chocolate before we set off and even packed a couple of German Biscuits. Just the ticket.

The non running section of society sometimes looks upon what we do with amusement or even derision. And yet, as we were coming home we got kind of held up in traffic at the big Sainsbury's/Ikea/Hell-on-earth shopping centre as car after car after car flooded in. I know how I'd rather spend my Sunday.