Saturday, 30 March 2013


You can't be a runner and get hung up on the weather....
BUT. I can hardly remember the last time I woke up and looked out of the bedroom window without seeing a fresh covering of snow! Admittedly, it's hardly more than a dusting and it's mostly gone by mid morning, but give us a frickin' break here!
It really does start to erode your willingness to get out there.
But "getting out there" I am. Quite happy with this last weeks mileage, but I still think it was the right thing to forgo the 50k in Perth (tomorrow).
Instead I'm going for a few long un's this weekend at a nice steady pace. See how I am after that then maybe look at the fixtures for something.

Being off work yesterday I did briefly think about going out a run, but decided that "no" rest is important to overall performance too, and ended up just having my normal rest day.
Did 13 this morning and enjoyed it. Although I did overdress a bit and was starting to feel a bit too hot towards the end. So I was quite happy in the last mile to stop for a wee while to let a couple of the local sheppards and their dogs move a flock from one field to another (over the road I was running along). Don't normally like to stop during a run, and especially towards the end - it's always harder to get started again. However, while the snow is a bit of a pain for me it must be a complete nightmare for these guys right now, during lambing season. And also, the bottom line is I'm lucky enough to just be out "playing" - they are working.

In keeping with weather, when I got home from my run, and after my shower, I had a coffee and a bit of Christmas cake!! Oh yes indeed. We still have more than half our Christmas cake left!

Got a fantastic new jazz acquisition to work my way through this long weekend.

If you were to ask me - and there's no reason why you would - who my favourite sax player is, I would probably list about a dozen or so straight off the top of my head. And Hank Mobley wouldn't be one of them....and I don't know why.
So why am I enjoying the Hank Mobley "Capitol Vaults" box set so much?
Mobley was a fantastic hard-bop tenor sax player and a stalwart of the Blue Note stable of musicians. He made a load of records as leader (got a few of them) and appeared on many more as a sideman for other musicians (got a load of these).
It maybe happens in all artistic fields. You get a few "stars" who grab all the limelight and a whole host of amazingly good, proficient journeymen, tapping out quality work time and time again...but never quite getting the attention.
This set that includes all the master takes of nine Blue Note albums from 1958-59 does not have a single bad take among them!
You get Mobley in quartet, quintet and sextet settings and, while no individual piece is going to change your life, the collective works make you realise what a great player he was. I sometimes feel that a box set is too much to listen to in one sitting. Not this. Some albums or collections are "great" because they contain one, or a few, outstanding pieces. This is great, because the entire thing is so good.
The collection also features some of the Blue Note greats from that era (Horace Silver, Art Blakey etc.) And stands as a testament to a great time in jazz history.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Went out a wee bit early for my long run today.
Being snowed in yesterday, meant we had to do the shopping today and I was keen to get back for that.
So... don't know if it was the fact that I went my run fairly early after two large mugs of strong black coffee, the horrendous cold wind blowing round my nether regions, or what. But I had to stop half way round my run today to write my name in the snow.
And I'm not talking about a simple "Stu wiz 'ere" type scrawl. Lordy no. This was a full bladder "Stuart George Hay passed by here in the year of Our Lord two thousand and thirteen." in copperplate italics - complete with punctuation and a nice squiggly flourish at the end.
Think I may have got a bit of a chill or something.
Think the audience of sheep were pretty impressed though.

Pleased that despite the wind I chose to add a wee loop onto the end of the run and extend it by a couple of miles. Finished the run by going up into the hills a little towards Weatherly. The folks who live up there really do get snowed in a lot. On the way back down to our bit I had to jump off the road and into a drift that was about waist deep to let a plough get through. Think the driver got a bit of a shock when I came round the corner and met him (I didn't hear him because of the wind). The plough was trying to shift the worst of it and he was being followed by a gritter.

The rest of the weekend in planet "snowed in and nowhere to go" has been quite pleasant.
Watched the first episode of "Boss" last night (copied it a few nights back). Looks very promising. If you enjoyed The West Wing and/or The Sopranos you'd enjoy this.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Sorry for slipping into the vernacular of young persons.
Anyway it's not "cool". What it is, is "cold". Frikin' cold to be precise.
I was really looking forward to getting home on Friday (as I do every Friday). Grabbing myself a nice crema, a dawd of cake, sitting there listening to a rather exciting "new" (to me) recording of Chet Baker from '65, and at the same time getting inspiration from the sage words of John Fordham's jazz reviews in the Guardian.

What I didn't bank on was having to dig our car out of a frikin' snow drift over by The Brunt!! Or the fact that we would have to double back on our journey and take another route home. So by the time we did get in the old coffee and cake routine was a bit curtailed. Our disappointment was compounded by the fact that our Guardian hadn't been delivered (we had been "substituted" with a Scotsman). Now this upset Anne more than me... Other than the cartoons and the musings of Mr Fordham, I don't bother with the Guardian.

It may seem strange to some that living remotely, as we do, and living in the hills, as we also do, that we get a paper delivered at all. But we do.
You may think then, that our paper boy must be one hell of a cyclist to cope with that route. Well no.... he's about 70 and delivers the papers in a van - though he IS a hell of a cyclist (but only in his spare time when not working).

One of the good things about getting a paper in weather like this is - "if he can get IN to us, then we can get OUT". It's an early warning sign of being snowed in. So it was a bit upsetting today when we got no paper at all.
Oh yes indeedy - snowed in again !

Went out a run though. It's weird. All the roads are clear - except for a couple of stretches, each no more than a couple of hundred metres, where the snow is blowing off the fields and collecting in massive drifts on the road!!
In a way I had hoped for a little more snow on the road, as I quite enjoy running in it.
What I didn't like running in was the cold, cold wind. You feel as though your face is being peeled off as you try to run into it.
Horrible run, for about the first four miles - into the wind, but then surprisingly nice on the way back.
I actually quite like a day loafing about the house - long as I can get out for a run first. Then I don't feel too guilty.

Friday, 22 March 2013


There’s a new standard unit of measurement in Dunbar….
The “football park”.

The winter’s relentless wet and pissy weather has left our 415m grass track in a bit of a state (indeed last “Summer’s” wet, pissy weather didn’t help).
So we’ve been forced to seek out new areas for our interval sessions on a Thursday night. And the path around the football parks at Hallhill pretty much fit the bill.
A “football park” is 600m (or there about), so you can still cook up a half decent wee session.

I was on watch duty last night so had them going round 10 times in about 3 minute intervals (i.e. you run it in 2 you get 1 rest).
A bit “exposed” to the elements there and last night there was a nasty easterly wind for the first half of the circuit – but it’s character building (I just started them off and hid behind a wall for shelter).

Once I’d ended with my watch duties I set off for a wee 5k trot on my own at a nice sedate pace.
Managed to get over 50 miles in this week, so I’m pretty happy with that.
Couple of long training runs this weekend (weather permiting). Need to get some distance in. Running is going quite well at the moment but I've got my doubts about distance/stamina etc. As such it looks like the 50k in Perth next week has been scrattched off my dance card.

Oh joy!!
Another 546 days (and counting) of listening to this fat bawbags.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Couldn't wait, this morning. I rushed Anne out of the house in my desperation to get to our destination. I'd been looking forward to this all weekend. The baggy shorts and vest were packed. As were the sun glasses.
Blue skies, golden sands, beautiful, supple hipped, young ladies in grass skirts and that funny fat bloke with the high pitched voice and a ukulele doing bad Judy Garland impressions. What's not to like? After surviving another Scottish winter I was keen to get some warmth into my weary body.
Sadly I'd got it completely wrong and Alloa on a dreech, cold, March morning as is far removed from paradise as you can get.

Still. I wasn't there to loaf about anyway. No indeedy. I was there to run my first half of the year.
The organisation appeared to be spot on, and we collected our numbers quickly and headed into the local sports club hall to pin numbers to vests, and attach the compu-chips to shoes. We also had enough spare time to meet and natter with a few other runners before heading off for a short warm up.

These days I like to keep my warm up going till the last moment if I can. But at this race the field was so large there was little option but to head to the start early to ensure a good position - this resulted in a seven or eight minute period standing about getting cold and listening to the usual starters instructions.

Soon enough though we were off. The first mile appeared to be a rather uninspiring loop around the block in a housing estate, but after that we soon headed out of Alloa itself, and the roads became more "rural" and pleasant.
The first mile had passed in about 5:43 and I went through the usual crisis of confidence and suddenly thought I'd perhaps bolted off too quickly (not an unusual occurrence for me).
Just got the head down and concentrated on keeping, if not the pace constant, then at least try to keep the effort constant.
There were a couple of climbs today - but nothing that gave me any real trouble - keep the effort the same and accept that the pace will drop a bit (it's going to be the same for everyone).
What I had heard about in advance though and I didn't like were the long, long straight sections.
You have sight of runners ahead of you - but they are way ahead. Maybe you are catching them (slightly) but it doesn't feel like it. I just pulled the brim of the cap down and kept my eyes fixed a few meters ahead of me.
Mile markers were quite a bit out, and at one point as I passed the 10 mile sign I dared to dream that I was on for a PB...... until my Garmin "beeped" the arrival of the real mile 10 about 90 seconds later!.
To be fair to the organisers the mile markers did "even themselves out" by the end.
Crossed the line in 1:18:45 by my watch. A bit off a PB, but still the fastest half I've had in 3 years or so - so I'm chuffed. Have to wait for the official results to see my position.
Anne too, got a quicker time than her last few outings, so a good day all in all.

I'd love to have finished the whole day off under a palm tree with a cool drink served in a coconut shell.... sadly all we got was a disappointing coffee and a German biscuit in the local ASDA.

The drive home confirmed that at Hermiston queueing for donuts is still popular among the SFB's of Edinburgh.

Friday, 15 March 2013


I toyed, briefly, with the idea of doing a short run today. But I’ve decided that two weeks without a rest day is enough for anyone (tell that to Ron Hill).
I’ve managed just over 50 this week, so that’s not too bad.
Importantly my calf “niggle” has gone. And I’m giving these the credit…..
Sod all your fancy made to measure orthotic-dooh-da insoles. £3.99 from Lidl !!  That’s what you need. Really nice gel heel pad on these wee beauties and they do seem to support my foot quite well. Not saying they would work for everyone – but they seem to do the trick for me. That’s me got a couple of pairs now.

It would be nice to say that a week’s easy running had helped the niggle – but I haven’t even had that “luxury”. Pretty hard interval session last night and a tough run round Dunbar on Tuesday put paid to any ideas I may have had in that direction. Though to be honest, Tuesday's hard run was my own stupid fault for trying to keep up with young Andrew Crichton!
Another good reason for a rest today is that I’ve got the Alloa half this Sunday. It would be nice to go into that without legs that are completely spent.

Going to kick start the weekend with my coffee, cake and jazz ritual. And today’s jazz comes courtesy of Clint’s wee boy Kyle Eastwood.
Again, I’ve only skim-listened to this one so far. But what I’ve heard of it it’s very good.
Got a few of his offerings and, while I enjoy them all, they have been a wee bit “bass heavy”. Not a strange thing given that he is a bass player to be fair. But this album seems to move away from that. It’s a bit more of a Kyle Eastwood – composer/band leader type album, rather than Kyle Eastwood – bass player type album.
While the previous albums haven't been exactly progressive or avant-garde, this album seems to take an even more backward glance towards past jazz influences. Nice trumpet and sax work on the album by Quentin Collins and Graeme Blevins. At times a couple of the tracks have a really laid back and cool, Miles Davis, late 50's feel to them - a bit "Lift To The Scaffold" type era.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


Happiness is.....
Sitting on a crowded cattle truck through to the Third World.
For a meeting...

Only to discover that the meeting was cancelled yesterday ........ at 7pm!!

Ah well, the train back to civilisation* beckons.

* Or as close an approximation of "civilisation" as you can manage in Leith.

Sunday, 10 March 2013


Decided, on Friday, to forgo my usual "day of rest" and went out for a 6 mile trot.
I really don't like doing that but commitments during the week had kept the weekly mileage down a bit and I needed another run to tip my total into the 50 mark. I know other runners have more "scientific" and well-planned training regimes and can probably get by on less. And perhaps it's a bit "obsessive" but I really need to do at least 50 a week. Seldom a problem in the summer months, but it can be a real pain in the arse some times.

This weekend has seen me do back to back 12 milers, so I'm off to a decent start this week I suppose. The weather has been decidedly unkind (especially this morning) and any thoughts I may have harboured of doing anything longer soon went out of the window. This morning saw me, at one point, fighting my way into a fairly stiff head wind, with hard snow battering into my face. Ended up running along with my buff pulled over my mouth and nose to try and stop the discomfort. That didn't really help much as it just hinders your breathing. So when I got to a point in my run just past Crowhill, at about the 6.5 mile mark, the decision about whether or not to turn towards Oldhamstocks (and hence a 16 mile route) or just turn towards Innerwick and home was pretty much already made.

Training not looking good for a 50k in three weeks.

Been feeling a bit low lately so I felt I could do with cheering up a bit. I suggested to Anne that we could pop out to see Edinburgh's latest free visitors attraction at the weekend.

Yes indeed folks, I wanted to go to Hermiston Gate and watch the "stupid-fat-bastards" queueing for donuts! It's a bit like the chimps tea-party or the penguin-parade at the zoo, only with infinitely less lovable creatures. Jeeze - I love cakes, but who the hell makes a special journey and then sits in a car queue just for a feckin' donut??

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


I was out all day at a meeting yesterday. Never my favourite way to pass the time.
I don’t care if a meeting is work related or not it should be run efficiently. What you ideally need is someone in the role of “chair” who has three eyes… one on the agenda, one on the constitution and another on the clock. A chair with an iron fist is also useful.
Get into the room….discuss what has to be discussed and say what has to be said … then get out.
I despair of the type of person who sees meetings as a sort of social get together. Or people who view meetings as “their workload” rather than a means of achieving or defining their ultimate workload.
Might, partly, explain my utter contempt for [un]Civil Servants who view meeting attendance as justification for their continued existence – regardless of whether anything is achieved or not.
Anyway. At least it gave me another chance to view this really nice work of art by Eduardo Paolozzi located close to the office where the meeting was.
Really like his stuff, and there is quite a bit of it around Edinburgh.
This one is very representative of his stuff. It’s a sort of industrial/mechanical man who has been kinda “discombobulated” then reconstructed. Which was pretty much how I felt after the meeting.
Still, luckily the feeling left by the time I got myself down to the club last night (that may have been thanks to a relatively quiet train journey in the audio company of Mr John Coltrane).
Last night’s club run saw, possibly, the last Town Run at full “eyeballs out” pace this winter. Two of the 6.5 miles were run at sub 6:00 pace.
The good news (for me) was that the right calf didn’t give me any problem at all. It was a beautiful night clear, cool and not a breath of wind.
Not a fan of Spring (overrated season IMHO) but I am looking forward to a bit of light to go further afield on a Tuesday. Probably still do the Town Run for a couple of weeks - but I ain't going at that pace.

Friday, 1 March 2013


Scunnered last week to miss the latest concert by the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. A man only has a limited number of heads and last weekend the running club hat was firmly affixed to mine while the jazz hat remained home – hanging forlornly on the hat stand (the running hat is of the "beanie" variety, while the "jazz" hat is a much more splendiferous and jaunty affair)
Anyhoo…. I shall make up for that tonight. While I missed out on the gig last week I didn’t miss out on the “launch” of the new SNJO offering “In The Spirit Of Duke”. A wondrous collection of songs by and associated with Duke Ellington.
Mr Brown who was at the gig kindly picked up a copy of the CD for me. A copy of the CD “signed” by the great man, Tommy Smith himself, no less…

Q: What’s more rare than a signed Tommy Smith CD?
A: An unsigned Tommy Smith CD!*

This is a “collection” of live performances from 4 nights of a short tour carried out last year when the SNJO were joined by Brian Kellock on piano. Very well edited with just enough "banter" and introductions left in to make the listener forget that its not one gig, but an amalgam of four that they are listening too.
It includes one of my favourite Ellington Ballads “Sunset And The Mockingbird” from the “Queens Suite” (in truth, simply "one of my favourite ballads"). It’s a beautiful cover of the song with Kellock joined by Martin Kershaw on clarinet for a wonderfully slow, languid almost lazy duet. What I didn’t know about the Queens Suite was “[that] Ellington wrote the "Queen's Suite" for Queen Elizabeth II who was presented with a single pressing of the recording which was not commercially issued during Ellington's lifetime”.  How much would that pressing be worth??
This song is the gem in the album for me – but it’s all good really. Some really well known “Cotton Club” era stompers and a few more classical orientated pieces from Ellington’s many suites.
Just buy a big one !!
I’ve only really skim-listened to it so far. I’m going to try and take a bit time out tonight and give it a really good listen to. Trying to get back into my old routine of coffee, cake and jazz on a Friday. Add to that mix the chance to sit and read John Fordham’s jazz reviews in the Guardian on a Friday and you have a pretty good start to the weekend.
Anne buys the cake on a Friday. Her approach to cake purchases are not like mine. She goes for a sort of aesthetic approach based on looks, textures, fillings and general “fanciness”. My main criteria is along the lines of “is the cake the size of a breeze-block”? If “yes” then it’ll probably be fine.

* This is an old joke that I first heard attributed to Terry Pratchett books.