The Orchard Tea garden, Grantchester, mid October.

 

We arrived at the Orchard early on a chilly, sunny morning. All the deckchairs and tables were out but it was virtually deserted. In the sun, it was warm enough to sit out to eat or drink tea or coffee, and it soon began to fill up. We had walked from Newnham along Granchester Meadows and on the way there, walking by the Cam, we  spied this chap swimming towards Cambridge. On the way back, this group of cows blocked our path and despite negotiation, mediation, persuasion and a few more concepts ending in -ion, they stubbornly refused to move. Guess what? We went around them.

Last Sunday, I ran the Histon Bonfire Burn 10k. This went pretty well, by and large. The weather was cold and bright, all my running chums beat me and I met old running chum, Dominic, whom I hadn’t seen for a year or two. He also beat me!

Three years ago, I ran this race in the worst weather I have ever run in. Scouring wind, low temperature and driving rain.It gets worse every time I describe it. This was the only race I ever considered stopping prematurely apart from when I was injured. Subsequently I have always preferred over dressing for a race rather than wearing too little. I can run when I’m hot.

Today, Cambridge  parkrun was another mud bath as it was last week. As usual we were exhorted to run through the myriad puddles rather than dodge them and run into someone else’s path. This did happen last week when a runner was tripped, fell and broke his ankle. These kind of accidents are relatively rare, surprisingly since sometimes over 500 people are charging around narrow trail paths.

One last half marathon, for the year, next weekend, at St.Neots.

Poor America! Poor world! Donald Trump continues to make jaws drop with his wild disregard for truth, compassion and basic decency. The evidence for corrupt practises is slowly stacking up but how long will it take?

Good news on treatment for schizophrenia research. Trials are starting which explore the possibility that for some people, schizophrenia could be a disease of the immune system. Oliver Howes, a professor of molecular biology at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and a consultant pschiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, and his team, have uncovered evidence, with other teams worlwide, that abnormalities in immune activity in the brain may be responsible for the illness.. Good Guardian article on this November 4th.

 

 

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Hoohaah Wimpole Estate half marathon. I survive it much better than expected!

 

In September I ran a half near Bournemouth and just managed to stagger across the finish line. The last couple of miles were really difficult but a month later I ran the Hoohaah Wimpole half and felt much better. Why was this? Was it due to the encouragement and support of two dragonflies accompanying me for the last three miles and constantly whispering in my ears or the applause from the water nymphs by the glistening lake? Or had I simply run more consistently and put in the training miles in the interim? Mmmm….I think I’ll go with the dragonflies!

My parkrun times are gradually improving again although I still have the impression I’m running faster than my watch shows. This is a bit disconcerting. On top of this, my running pals are all doing well and I can’t keep up with them. This is criminal! I’ll have to come up with a cunning plan.

Just over a week ago I did Cambridge Town and Gown, 10k race around the town centre. This went reasonably well but I ran it wearing a thick hoody. The weather was good for running but Midsummer Common, where we started, was swept with a bitter wind and I couldn’t stand waiting around in the cold. Of course everyone else ran in short sleeves or vests and I must have looked a little odd. No matter. I’m more able to run and feel hot rather than freeze before I start. I let my son Dan come in 13 minutes before me. Well, you have to encourage the young!

I’m having difficulty stopping constructing models at the moment. Perhaps I’ve got modelitis.

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Wings for Life Cambridge 2017

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Oh dear! The camera cannot lie. Here’s me snapped at 3k and 15k running Wings for Life in cambridge. Actually I didn’t feel half as bad as I looked and I went on to 18.3k before David Coultard, the F1 racing driver (rtd) caught me up, deactivating my chip.

A few thousand of us started in Cambridge at 12am exactly and we are pursued by Dave in the catcher car who starts out 30 minutes later at 15kph and gradually increases his speed. It’s great fun, run on closed roads and well organised. It’s sponsored by Red Bull and there are plenty of free samples, if you like it, including at the drink stations. Like most runners, I favour water at a drink station and that was plentifully available. But here’s where the story turns dark and sinister.

As I ran diagonally to grasp a cup of water, I gently collided with a another runner and was deflected helplessly to a more remote area of the drinks table full of what I thought to be weak fruit cordials. Reader, I drank one in haste and ran on, fearful Dave had me in his sights. I quickly comprehended I had imbibed Red Bull instead of aqua and took off like a rocket! Actually, the only negative effect was a feeling of thirst caused by the excessive sweetness and I knew I would be caught within a few kilometres. On the return bus, we were all given a bottle of water so I have no complaints. It was a good day and I’ll do it again next year. The winner this year did well over 60k before Dave caught up with him!

It was a great running weekend. The previous day, Saturday, I ran Cambridge parkrun at 9am and then went over to a nearby village and ran a 7k at 10.30am. It’s all manageable if I don’t expect to run at peak speed. I particularly like the Cottenham 7k. It’s a charity fund raiser, Lorna volunteered and I always buy a load of plants from the local Horticultural Society stall.

Here’s me risking life and limb in the cause of increasing diversity in the natural world. I’ve created a pond with different levels of depth but I haven’t thought sufficiently about putting in the water lilies which sit around 75 cms deep. I think I’ll get a scaffolding plank which shoud be much stronger. I’ve nearly fallen in twice. This pond is situated in the Green Minds therapeutic gardening project Web site: www.greenminds.co.uk or you can follow me on twitter:  https://twitter.com/GreenMindsCambs

Beyond irony! The evil Tory party are championing increased workers’ rights  as part of their election manifesto. As if.

 

 

Cambridge half marathon and Tate Britain

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This is not the Cambridge half, of course. This is Cambridge parkrun the day before. And very muddy it was, too. Photo taken by Rob Moir who is able to twist around, whilst running, and take a good quality picture without falling arse over tit, before accelerating off. Thanks Rob.

I was very lucky to run the Cambridge half. Four days before I did a bit of light lifting without an obvious problem but overnight my knee became painful. The following day it was very sore and stiff and I thought this might be the second Cambridge half in a row that injury or illness would stop me running. The next day, Saturday, I did parkrun but the knee held up and for the rest of the day. Just over three miles is one thing but thirteen miles is something else. Nevertheless, I did the half, and miraculously, with no ill effect to my knee except a little aching and stiffness. Phew!

I’m not running very consistently at the moment and not for very long either. I did run my fastest parkrun this year, yesterday, but I’m still catching up on last year’s times. Today, I ran the Swavesey 5 miler. Swavesey’s a village 10 miles from Cambridge surrounded by very flat fenland fields and when the wind blows, as it often does in the fens, there’s no protection. It was windy today but the temperature was mild. Nevertheless I ran in my jacket to avoid the wind chill. I came in 22nd out of 69 but two and a half minutes slower than last year.There was also a half marathon at the same time in which 134 ran. Another half was a temptation but physically I don’t feel 100%.

After the race, as I was leaving, I came across a gaggle of St. John’s Ambulance standing alone in the wind. They asked me how my race went. I revealed it went okay (this is not fake news!) and I said their presence was very reassuring to me because of my heart disease (they also had a couple of bikes out following the runners). Good people (does Trump use this phrase, it sounds familiar).

And so to the Tate Britain gallery, Millbank, London to see the David Hockney exhibition. Well worth visiting to see all his iconic pictures and pictures of various periods. Very enjoyable wandering  around the galleries again and absorbing the wonderful creativity.

Lorna is contemplating Jules Olitski’s Instant Loveland. There’s more going on in this picture than appears at first sight, particularly in the lower left hand corner. Thankfully there is no danger of Lorna being overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of lurid colours. Actually, I am sympathetic to this type of art but I still find it highly amusing.

This is Edward Halliday’s Christian and Hopeful Arrive Before the Celestial City, 1926. I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress and I don’t remember it as a naked journey.

I walked into Cambridge’s premier bookshop, Cambridge University Press, with confidence and purpose. I found the hardback book I had seen in the window display and optimistically scanned it for the price. £60!!!!!!!! I staggered back, weakened in body and spirit. The staff were familiar with such reactions, helping me to sit down and wafting smelling salts under my nose. They gently prised the £60 tome from my immobilised hand, glanced at the price and offered the standard treatment response. “Don’t worry, sir. This title will be issued in paperback in two months at less than a third of the cost. I’m sure you’re  feeling better already, aren’t you? I was!

 

 

 

Cambridge half marathon next Sunday

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Not the most flattering picture of me running towards the finish line at Cambridge parkrun recently. But, on the positive side it does show me ahead of my arch rival Eric (in red). We are both running below par at the moment. I haven’t got a good excuse but Eric has. I hope he regains his previous level of running fitness and I hope I can keep up with him.

Part of my problem is I’m running less and going to the gym more. My all round fitness has probably increased but at the cost of running speed. Not that this matters, of course. Speed is a false god ect,etc. Nevermind, I should be okay for the half marathon although my long runs peaked several weeks ago. I’m also booked for the Swavesey 5 miler later this month, the Cambourne 10k in April and Wings for Life in May (starts off in central Cambridge and the idea is to outrun a celebrity in a car). This was very enjoyable last year. Did around 7000 take part? Very nicely organised.

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Oh dear! I seem to have taken up clay modelling. These are a couple of basic prototypes which are part finished. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot like this and hopefully with more finesse. Interestingly, it has prompted a newfound fascination with wire (the armature within) and wood textures (for the base).

I blame Kevin Spacey and the House of Cards series for Trump and his self serving, manpulative and fascist policies. We’re quietly working our way through th 50+ episodes on Netflix and there’s a fifth series starting in May. Kevin Spacey is excellent as the dangerous snake who becomes President and given that the series aired years before Trump was elected, there are some very eery parallels.  He’s currently (Kevin) spending billions on creating jobs to ensure popularity and has excluded critical elements of the press from attending White House briefings. I’m certain Trump has devoured this series and has adopted Spacey’s President Frank Underwood as a positive role model. God help America!

As I write, the House of Lords has just defeated the government over the rights of EU citizens. They’ve voted in favour of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Wonderful. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the nasty Tories will be able to get a reversal at a later point. Arch nasty Tory Lord Norman Tebbit voted with his nasty party, of course and in his little Lord’s speech rhetorically asked why everyone was getting worked up over “foreigners.” This attitude sums up Tories in a nutshell!

Trump vows running community will pay for wearing out sidewalks (and by the way, runners are losers).

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Cambridge at night and approaching the Garret Hostel bridge over the river Cam. Strangely no tourists in sight which is a pity because the weather made it super spooky. It’s only around 7.30pm and there were very few people around.

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Trinity Lane also deserted apart from vaporous apparitions passing through the dank walls. You can just make out a couple of them in this shot. We did decide to take this route but with Lorna walking forwards while I walked backwards. Just as a precaution.

Tip : BBC, Taboo, 9pm, Saturday, two episodes gone, six to go. Wonderfully atmospheric thriller set in early nineteenth century London. Top cast, top production (Ridley Scott).

Did a bit of Cambridge half marathon training yesterday. I ran 9 miles in the most dreary of weather – cold, miserable light and raining. Didn’t see anyone running until I got to the river and then came across around 20-25, some in groups, some running alone. Most returned my passing acknowledgement, some got their salutations in before me, some looked straight through me. The latter group tend to be young and fast. No bitterness intended! Anyway, good to get the training out of the way. If I can do 9, I can do 13. It’s at the beginning of  March and there’s plenty of time to do some occasional long runs to remind my legs what they are in for.

My times at parkrun are still on a downward trajectory. I put this down to building up muscle at the gym. If this carries on, I’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger but come in with the tail runner. No matter. In two weeks it will be Cambridge parkrun’s 7th birthday and I’ll be running my 306th parkrun. I first ran it at #5 in 2010 when 88 took part. The current maximum field is 558. Another 10 years and walkers will be an endangered species!

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My haul of Christmas books. The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and things that draw them together, about sexuality, mortality and the magical possibilities of art. It profiles some odd but very creative people.

Emily Witt’s Future Sex is a non titillating investigation into different modern expressions of sexuality. Could be challenging to some, hilarious to others.

Permaculture magazine. A kinder, natural, way of growing and living with land and nature.

Writers’ and Artist’ Year Book to kick start my writing mojo (again).

Zealot – The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 2013 (controversial) biography of Jesus.

The Trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by Sybille Bedford. This is a short, contemporary  account of the DH Lawrence book Lady Chatterley’s Lover which was published in its unexpurgated form in 1960 by Penguin and resulted in a famous trial for publishing obscene material . A very entertaining description, and the prosecution’s case is wondrous to the modern ear (as in the prosecution barrister asking the jury “Is this a book you would wish your wife or servant to read?”

Finally, The Big Watch Book, £6. It’s full of images of obscenely expensive watches. The manufacturers and purchasers of said items should be subject to prosecution under conspicuous and extravagant display of wealth laws. Unfortunately I am beguiled by these objects and their descriptions and this type of advertisement book is a guilty pleasure like the occasional buying of the Saturday Telegraph.

The more I see and hear Donald Trump condemn, pontificate, insult, sneer, lie, insinuate and intimidate, the less faith I have for people in general to make a reasoned judgement of what conduct is required to govern a country with wisdom and compassion. He’s a high functioning narcissist with a pronounced cruel streak (and by the way, he’s in charge of America!)

 

 

 

 

2017 – my goals, resolutions and other possible fiction

 

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Cambridge parkrunfirst timers briefing on January 7th. Another large field – 526 turned out to run in muddy conditions. To put on this parkrun takes around 30 volunteers and it was time for me to join their ranks. I chose to marshal. I enjoy marshalling because it’s so interesting watching the different running styles. Many people respond to the clapping and encouragement and for a substantial minority, it really is an impressive achievement. All in all, it’s a very positive experience for everyone concerned.

I’m not sure if Cambridge parkrun can continue to grow. The paths are narrow, there is a repeat circuit and parking appears to have reached capacity. There have been rumours about a new parkrun but nothing has come to fruition as yet. I spoke to someone a couple of years ago who was involved with an abortive attempt to get a new run off the ground. I was surprised how difficult the process proved to be and how much time and effort was required. I know how much a commitment it is for a core team to put on a run each week.

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Rather eery weather in Cambridge on the weekend. This is Trinity Lane arond 7.30pm.

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This is approaching Garret Hostel bridge over the Cam. I sent Lorna over first. She can deal with anything!

My goals, resolutions and aspirations?

  1. Be more consistent.
  2. Focus on creativity.
  3. Allow myself to be more eccentric.
  4. Create towers of books.
  5. Have a go at vlogging – subject reviewing book reviews with a view to describing their particular enjoyment.
  6. Take some things very seriously but take most things not too seriously and some “serious” things as  only worthy of spontaneously laughing out loud.
  7. Continue writing my crime novel at a much faster pace.
  8. Run and run and run.
  9. Pray Trump implodes without causing too much damage.
  10. Find someone with whom I can play chess and Go.
  11. That’s enough for the present.

Cambridge half marathon in 8 weeks. Time to start training.