Aliveandrunning April 30 2014


Someone sent me a draft hard copy of the forthcoming UKIP general election manifesto. It’s not light comedy but you’ve got nothing to worry about if you are British, white, bigoted, racist, unkind, stupid, 100% heterosexual, xenophobic, thoroughly prejudiced, thrive on condemning others, attack minorities who are non British, like “cheeky chappies” who drink and smoke, and have a tendency to predict the end of society as we know it when the assumption is British culture is under attack from foreign forces.

I went running with the club yesterday evening and very pleasant it was too. We road run from the University Sports Track which is on the edge of Cambridge city but only a 15 minute walk to the city centre. It’s adjacent to countryside and fields and also a big new University development. We ran a couple of kilometres to a village and did 4 x 6 minutes at faster than 5k pace with 3 minute recovery times. It’s timed by blowing a whistle so the fastest among us can go further and then we run back in the direction we just came from. The slower ones get overtaken and this doesn’t matter because we are all timed by the whistle and everyone is tested no matter what your ability. There were around 25 of us and about another 35 chose to do training on the track. I always chose road running because it’s so varied and this includes running in darkness in the winter. We are a sociable crowd but it’s also OK to just run or stand alone if chatting amiably is difficult as it is for some people. I am able to chat comfortably when I want to but the conversation tends to be running dominated (race times, Garmin stats, training plans, races coming up, injuries, club news). In the past I’ve tried introduce topics of interest to me, for example UK lamp post design between 1910 and 1933 and convey my passion for lichen but it never seems to capture their attention sufficiently. Still, I’ll persevere.

I like walking around Cambridge, even when it’s packed full of tourists clogging up the small streets. They are particularly good at clogging the pavements when they move around in groups and there is a lull in their itinerary. My inner  sheepdog comes to the fore and I feel I want to run rings around them so they trot into the nearest place of interest in double quick time.

I went into John Lewis to claim my monthly free coffee and cake in their cafe. The counter was double ended and two identical queues of about 15-20 people  clutched their coupons. We all appeared to be in our 60’s. Of course some people didn’t have their coupons and had to pay with real money. Boy, did we laugh at them. What losers! Anyway, I got served just before I lost the will to live and sat down with my Americano, scone and butter in little plastic containers. Unfortunately the task of getting butter onto scone proved a challenge too far. I completely failed to break the thin plastic seal and lift it off. The corner of the container partially broke but stubbornly wouldn’t pull off. My fingernails were useless as was brute strength.Minutes of hard effort yielded no results. Sweat broke out  on my forehead as I attempted to cut the seal with the serrated knife that waited patiently to spread the butter within. I couldn’t do it. The little butter pot had defeated me and I ate the scone dry. I’m sure I heard one of the cash payers laugh cruelly at my plight. I’ve learned my lesson. Next month, when I return with May’s coupon, I’ll be carrying my Swiss Army penknife. No contest!


Aliveandrunning April 27 2014

Ickworth_House,_near_Bury_St_Edmunds,_Suffolk,_England-2March2012            11297833013_641a01d5cf_h

Ickworth House, Suffolk, owned by the National Trust, and can be visited by any undistinguished plebeian during opening hours in exchange for a small fee. And you can belong to any social class. They don’t turn away even the lowest. Anyway, I digress. The Ickworth House Estate provided the course for today’s 10K race and very enjoyable it proved to be. We ran along country paths, through woods, estate roads and by the sides of fields. The weather was much better than expected. The rain held off and the temperature was fine for running (albeit a little cold when you finished). The course included a couple of long steepish hills which took the stuffing out of me. I didn’t feel like an immortal god at this point and genuine Greek gods don’t get colds. I got in around in 52 minutes 42 secs on an undulating course and not feeling 100 % so I shouldn’t complain. I was thrashed by my arch rivals but only by a few minutes so there’s still room for a cunning plan.

I ran with a Cambridge and Coleridge vest and Lorna has joined a very sociable and friendly new club, Fen Edge Runners. 10 K is too far for her at present but she’s making plans for a 10 K in the near future. We know most of the Fen Edge Runners and tend to socialise with them which always adds enjoyment to any race.


This is a pic of some of my C & C chums. I am the uncoordinated one in yellow. The runner in pink is a Fen Edge Runner who is lurking around hoping to pick up running tips and inside information from loose C & C tongues.

I’ve just seen a news item concerning today’s canonisation of John Paul 11 and John xx111   The ritual involved a container with a vial of John Paul’s blood and a container with a sliver of John’s skin. As my son Nick said “they were thinking ahead.” So these body parts were preserved in the expectation that one day in the future, possibly decades away, they would be central to a saint making ritual. Nice forward planning, Vatican!

The ceremony seemed entirely populated by elderly men with sufficient wealth to clothe themselves in very expensive fancy dress and some great hats. Didn’t see many women participating either. I’m sure that nice new Pope Francis will reform the millennia long habit of the Papacy to cross dress and add further layers of spurious gravitas to their ridiculous theatre which greatly helps to pull the wool over so many eyes.

To end on an even more depressing note, I think the English growing season for Brussels sprouts has ended!

Aliveandrunning April 26 2014

13912376981_87917aec4c_b (1)

We finally tracked down a photo of my son Nick, (who did his first Cambridge parkrun last week)  on Flickr, courtesy of Bruce Grimley. Nick’s the one on the right of the picture, of course. The chap leading is my chum Maurice who has  a happy disposition when running unlike my own photo which catches me with an expression between extreme constipation and utter desolation. I have tried to smile for the camera occasionally but usually look like I’m deranged. In my head I’m more akin to the young  Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman or even Brad Pitt, gliding along with a cool detachment and causing less stylish runners to jump into ditches lest they impede my progress.

Today’s Cambridge parkrun was slow but I ran with a cold so I wasn’t displeased. Tomorrow, I’ll be doing the Ickworth 10k just outside of Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk with loads of friends and acquaintances and Lorna will be taking pictures. My arch rivals will lord it over me because I’m not fully fit but no matter. I will arise like the phoenix from the ashes next weekend when I’m doing four races ( 2 x 5k, 1 x4.5 miles and 1 x 10k).

Very well done to son Dan who came third out of nearly 200 at Valentines parkrun in East London. I came 165th out of  405. How the mighty have fallen. Once I was a young running god and drank ambrosia from Waitrose. Now it’s tap water (although I sometimes indulge in a little tea ritual but that’s another story).

Just time for a couple of rants. I’m feeling increasingly sorry for the check out staff in my local Tesco who obviously have to follow a tight script with each customer. They are now obliged to thank customers for waiting if there is more than one in the line irrespective of how long the wait is, even if it’s only a few minutes. The other day the security guard caught my eye as I left and said “Thank you”. For what? Not shoplifting? Not starting a brawl? I’ve managed to stop myself screaming hysterically when a (usually young) checkout person implores me to “have a nice day” but it’s only a matter of time before I succumb. I’ve begun to long for the days when staff avoided eye contact and said nothing or were even surly. I tend to chose the oldest check out people because they frequently go off script and sometimes moan. How refreshing!

Pope Francis is due to canonise John Paul 11 tomorrow in St. Mark’s Square, Rome. Is this one of the Popes who successfully ignored the growing sex abuse issues concerning it’s own priests, took no remedial action, allowed them to carry on abusing children in other dioceses and effectively put the interests of the Catholic Church before the interests of the victims. I listened to an apologist speak on BBC Radio 4 (Saturday PM). He spoke about John Paul’s piety and holiness and instanced his assistance in overthrowing Communism and inspiration of young people to be Christians. How credulous people are! He was CEO of a ruthless, self serving organisation devoted to it’s own ends and wealth but obliged  to maintain the fiction of having the ultimate moral compass. Just like the pharmaceuticals and armaments industries but with added divine pretentions.

Aliveandrunning April 20 2014


Excellent day at Cambridge 5k parkrun yesterday. My youngest son Nick,16, did his first parkrun. He had a clear choice as a rite of passage. Either do parkrun or be dropped by helicopter onto an uninhabited island just off Iceland to fend for himself for two weeks. He wisely chose the latter and did well. Without training or ever having run outside of minimal PE at school and with a history of developing a stitch after a hundred metres, he successfully completed it, nonchalantly, in just over 27 minutes and is now motivated to run again. Great!

 Four out of five children were running yesterday. Shanti got a PB at Valentines parkrun, East London, Isobelle got the same time as Nick at Cambridge and Sophie beat me by ONE second having improved her PB by around 3 minutes. One second is nothing, of course, and barely qualifies as a tie. In fact, if I had thrown myself forward like the 100 metre sprinters at the line, I could have triumphed with a two second winning margin. So am I still top dog, at least in Cambridge? Technically no. I fully concede her victory Almost. Did Sophie take a banned stimulant? We’ll never know for certain because, inexplicably, there is no compulsory drug testing facilities at parkrun. Did I instinctively slow down at one point in response to the beauty of a nightingale’s song drifting through the trees? Quite probably. Anyway, rest assured I’ll be working on that second in the coming weeks. Not that it matters to me because parkrun is not a race. We are all winners. Particularly Lorna whose Achilles tendonopathy seems to be successfully resolving. She’s back running consistently and carefully, this week being her third parkrun since her serious injury.

Afterwards, the children went off together and we had a lovely cup of coffee with friends at the park cafe. I chatted about yurts and planned to get several following a win in the evening lottery draw (we were given 3 tickets at a wedding reception a few days before and expectations were high). Unbelievably, we didn’t win anything, not even the cost of  an entry to the next race.

This disappointment was not yet a reality after returning home from parkrun and I was able to enjoy my bowl of porridge. I like to eat around the edges and create a steep sided mound. Or alternatively I’m carving out a yurt like shape. Or is it mammary shaped? One thing’s for certain, it’s not just porridge, Dr Freud.

Another significant disappointment are the condition and taste of Tesco Brussels sprouts at the moment. I guess it’s the end of the season but Tesco must have abused these innocent vegetables in some way to produce such a weird taste. I’m thinking of setting up a Tesco sprout support group for therapy and lobbying purposes. On the other hand, broccoli quality seems to be holding up well so there’s a silver lining in the cloud.

Just back from Sweatshop Cambridge where I bought a nice angled bottle belt to  prevent dehydration on longer runs in the summer. It’s really an own goal when you become dehydrated when running and then require medical attention if it’s available at a race like the Cambridge half. I don’t understand how people an do this. They must have porridge for brains.<c

Aliveandrunning April 14 2014

DSC_0974    DSC_0958    DSC_1066

A wonderful day at the London marathon yesterday. Arrived at Canary Wharf in time to see the elite men but not the elite women. At this point the runners are at the 19 mile mark and Mo Farah is around 40 seconds behind the leading group. We met up with my arch rival Mike and his family plus my son Dan and friend Julian. Very enjoyable, very relaxed, great atmosphere, hugely good humoured. It was humbling to see the older runners and appreciate the effort of will and determination that was self evident as they passed by.

DSC_1041    DSC_1039    DSC_1032   DSC_0937    DSC_1099    DSC_1119

The leading elite group looked comfortable and relaxed as they passed and were actually chatting to each other. They made it seem oh so easy. They obviously carried the Gods’ favour. I noticed Zeus sitting on one of his bespoke clouds, looking down on them benignly, and hovering nearby, I spied Aeolus, God and Ruler of the winds, speeding them on with a favourable breeze. When the new boy and upstart Mo Farah hove into view more than a half minute behind them, Zeus’ countenance changed, appearing mildly regretful as if to convey that his time will come but not in this race. Thus spake the King of the Gods (or at least this is what was going on in my head and even my whackiest thoughts, if I could acknowledge I had weird thoughts (which I don’t), could never compete with the belief system of the  Church of Scientology. They really take the biscuit!

DSC_1021    DSC_0991    DSC_1062

Watching the marathon runners is really motivating and inspiring but, unfortunately, I won’t be running a marathon again. So I will have to divert that motivation and inspiration into half marathons, 10 k races and 5 k parkruns. Last Saturday, having swung a kettlebell around for a few days and concentrated on some core exercises I ran a parkrun only 15 seconds slower than my personal best and well under 24 minutes which I hadn’t been able to do since last year. This may or may not have anything to do with the Greek temple I’m building in my garden.

Aliveandrunning April 11 2014


     I decided to post this  snap of Rupert despite his objection that it didn’t flatter him. I countered this by asserting it was in the public interest to publish. It wasn’t everyday that you saw a dog with 5 “o” clock shadow! He growled something about entitlement to privacy and me acting like paparazzi but I overruled him.

Tomorrow is Cambridge parkrun. Last week I restricted my food intake Friday evening, hoping this would result in a better than usual time but this wasn’t successful. Tonight I’ll be eating up to midnight  and so I’ll be able to contrast and compare.

It’s Lorna’s birthday next week. Her Achilles tendonopathy continues to improve and she’s back running. Her joy at running again was reflected in prematurely ripping open her wrapped present, extracting the Garmin 10 from the shredded paper, immediately charging it up and then running in small circles, grinning inanely when the readout informed her that she was below the set pace.

On Sunday we’ll be spectating at the London marathon. The weather is expected to be reasonable ie not cold and not raining, and we’ll go to Canary Wharf in Docklands which was a good spot last year. Amazingly we saw a number of runners known to us.

“Pope Francis asks forgiveness for child abuse by clergy” is one of the items on BBC News. The report shows a great pic of the Pope looking as if he is overcome by overwhelming sorrow, contrition and empathy for the suffering. Nice piece of acting  by the caring Pope who is frequently puffed up as the man of the people destined to bring about real reforms. The Catholic church, like other long established religions, is as self serving as wealthy conglomerates such as the pharmaceuticals and armaments industries. The only real difference consists of the involvement of millions of good, reasonably well intentioned people who still, inexplicably, are motivated to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

Aliveandrunning April 6 2014


Cambourne 10k, near Cambridge, today, with a field of 960 and I came in at 51 minutes 28 seconds, 32 seconds slower than last year. Not quite so windy as last year and probably the best temperature for running (for me) around 14c although I don’t mind it up to 23-24c. I am such a sensible person and therefore it was in keeping with my sensible nature that I drank at the half way water station and managed to stave off dehydration that cruelly beset me at the recent Cambridge half marathon. My two arch rivals, Mike and Kerry, beat me by about two and a half minutes, a margin which I found acceptable so we will remain friends (until the margin becomes a yawning chasm and then I will review the situation).

I noticed the Greek God Hermes sitting on a cloud watching my progress and smiling wryly but declining to assist me to run faster. At one point he swung his winged and sandalled feet back and forth to taunt me. So, no help from Mount Olympus today then.

Next weekend, we’ll be watching the London marathon in the docklands area with family and friends. This worked very well last year and we saw a lot of people running that we knew from Cambridge. We also caught the  the elite runners but if you blink at the wrong moment you’ve missed them. They are running machines like the the new improved cyborg T-1000 in Terminator 2 : Judgement Day. I wouldn’t want to accidentally stumble into their path. They’d use my body as a springboard and leave a sympathetic god to scoop me up.

Aliveandrunning April 5 2014


Hurray! Chinchin! Lorna’s back running again following prolonged recovery from her Achilles tendonopathy injury which not only stopped her running last August but also made walking painful. She successfully completed Cambridge parkrun (5k) in around 33 minutes and so far her ankle is OK. Cue renewed interest in all things running. Excellent!

Last week I ran Cambridge parkrun in just under 24 minutes which represents a reasonable return to form. Today I ran 8 seconds slower, coming in at 24 mins 4 seconds.I was roundly beaten by my two arch rivals, Mike and Kerry who both got personal bests of 22 mins 21 secs and 22 mins 20 secs respectively. A lingering doubt continues to trouble, despite my outwardly calm exterior. Did they conspire to take a short cut, away from the beady eyes of the marshals? Should I request a marshals’ inquiry? Or are they simply faster than me? No, that cannot be. I’ll definitely call for an inquiry.

Tomorrow I’m doing the Cambourne 10k alongside Mike and Kerry. I’ve arranged for 20 “spectators”, strategically placed along the course, to ensure fair play. If they beat me by more than a minute I’ll eat my (old) running shoes and post it on You Tube.



Last year, work on renovating a neglected pond came to a grinding halt when I uncovered a small colony of bees located under the old liner. What to do? I rang my old mate Tony Blair for advice. He took a few seconds free time from his Special  Middle East Envoy role to consider the problem and then gave me his sincerest view. He said “Let them live in peace…allow them their allotted life span…don’t destroy their habitat.. they’ll be gone in the Autumn… complete your pond at that point.” Thanks, Tony,” I gushed, “you’re a sage. Now, please return to sorting out the Middle East on behalf of everyone”. Two days later I received an invoice from the Tony Blair Set the World to Rights Foundation for £31,321 with reference to services provided via a phone call from Bahrain. This seemed a tad expensive but I accept this kind of top advice doesn’t come cheap.

Anyway, that was last year. The above pic is the current state of development of the pond. It’s still a work in progress but I’m reasonably happy with it. It quickly got colonised by a variety of water dwelling creatures including newts and a frog (do frogs eat newts?). water boatmen and skaters and the newly created rock garden overlooking the pond looks good. I daren’t let Tony know the good news. I know he charges £500 a second just for listening!