Cambridge half looms and Spring’s nearly here (almost)

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Here’s proof winter’s nearly over. Now it gets complicated. What is the plural of crocus? Actually it’s crocuses or croci. I’ll opt for the correct Latin plural. Anyway, the aconites, snowdrops and hellebores are out and so are some daffodils. Other stuff is poking through and I’ve already cut the grass. Another week and we’ll be planting potatoes.

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It took a lot of effort to fence around the Green Minds gardening project but here’s proof the defences are working. Those wiley little rabbits have been making a concerted effort to break in by tunneling under the wire. Unfortunately for them they meet wire I have laid horizontally under the grass and can’t progress. Having limited brain power they simply move along the line rather than start digging again a little further out (or using ropes and grappling hooks).

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We found these chickens in our garden. I had a little chat with them  and they explained they were admiring the late winter flowers. However they simply admitted defeat when I asked them which came first, the chicken or the egg.

We bought some of their produce (not directly from the chickens but from their middleman/woman, the farmer). Here’s an action picture of  alien royalty choosing an egg for breakfast.

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Anyway, time to be sensible (always a struggle). The running is going okay. I gave up running every day five weeks ago because I felt too tired. In terms of mileage it wasn’t huge, often a couple of miles at a gentle pace. However, I think I needed rest days to recover. So, for me, I can do individual long runs of 6-10 miles but a rest is vital. I recently did a couple of hour runs and then followed this up with a two hour training run of 13 miles. This did make me tired although I would regard it as a good tiredness rather than one caused by stress or demands. I certainly felt much better for it.

Cambridge half marathon is a fortnight away. Today, I ran around 12 miles. The actual mileage wasn’t a problem but I struggled to get out. The light level was poor, it was cold and I possessed a minimum of motivation. I ran steadily, not swiftly and took just over two hours. I was glad to get back home.

Today is Wednesday. I’ll do parkrun on Saturday and go to the gym in the afternoon. I may do an hour’s run on Sunday and perhaps 45 minutes on Wednesday. Then parkrun and the following day is the half marathon. Or something like that. If the sun’s shining this programme won’t be problematic, if it’s a Stygian gloom I may jump into the river Cam.

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Sculptures possibly taking over.

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“Keep on running, grandad!”

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My daughter, Sophie, running in Cambridgw parkrun today (loving the camera, obviously). On this occasion she just beat me. Another daughter, Isobelle, ran Dulwich parkrun and son Dan did Valentines Park parkrun, coming in third but unfortuntely forgetting his barcode (so recorded as unknown).Doh!

I’m trying to get into better form for another couple of half marathons and the first one is next weekend at Wimpole Estate. I think I’m having  a little trouble with this distance at the moment because I’m not running the training mileage. I did, however, do a long run into Cambridge along the river Cam yesterday and found several hundred school kids walking towards me on the narrow towpath. I don’t believe they came out en masse to obstruct me but they certainly did not know a top class runner was at work. Several girls gave positive encouragement but just imagine my chagrin when one boy called out “Keep on running, grandad.” What! Surely I look like the young Clint Eastwood circa the Dollar films. Obviously the lad had perceptual difficulties. Anyway, I avoided crashing into the people looking down at their mobiles or falling into the river and ran 13 miles. I needed a rest after this but after a good night’s sleep parkrun was fine, albeit a bit slower.

Apart from the St Neots half in November, I’m doing a couple of 10k races in October including the Cambridge Town and Gown (around central Cambridge).

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Three unfinished models. So many more in the pipeline.

Boris Johnson! With a bit of luck, he’ll be the next Tory leader and bring the evil Tories into complete disrepute. A mildly successful comedian but a dangerous politician. A number of rungs down the ladder from Trump’s malignant narcissist. God save America and us all!

Our first born courgette!

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I feel the wheel barrow adds a certain dramatic licence to the harvesting of our first courgette. And do they grow quickly! I could hardly believe it. In complete contrast with purple sprouting broccoli which took almost eleven months before picking (in fact I had to issue a series of warnings about their behaviour and was about to grub them up when they condescended to perform. If vegetables could be said to be lazy and moody, look no further than sprouting broccoli).

G reen Minds therapeutic garden is looking good at the moment. I’m extending the area to make new crop beds and I’ve got some money to buy a 3m x 3m shed which will free up the polytunnel of clutter and provide more growing space. I’ve also bought a small green house.

And so to running. A week ago, when it was hot, I went for a run of just under 10 miles. I’m still not running very frequently but I’m still going to the gym and maintaining a reasonable level of fitness. I needed to go for a longer distance than 5k or my standard 5 miler. What did I learn from running nearly 10 miles in the heat?

1. You get hotter, sweat more profusely and become thirstier compared to cooler weather.

2. The heat doesn’t seem to put many people off running.

3. It felt very manageable while I was running but I sweated buckets when I got home.

4.I felt lethargic for a coupe of hours afterwards.

5. I took my blood pressure and pulse as soon as I got home and again 4-5 minutes and 15 minutes later. This ranged from 113 over 69 with pulse 110 to 95 over 66 with pulse 94 at 4-5 minutes. At 10pm the best of three readings were 113 over 62 with pulse 54. I was happy with this. I know my blood pressure is much more under control compared to the past and prior to my heart attack eight years ago but it’s still nice to know running is helpful.

6. You need to drink over several hours to get properly hydrated.

7. I felt sheer delight when a couple of butterflies accompanied me along the riverbank for around 70 metres. They kept pace with me and danced around each other. Wonderful.

I may have learnt other things, currently lost to recall. If they present themselves, I’ll big them up in my next blog.

Drabness with knobs on – beyond dreigh!

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Extremely dull weekend. Grey blanket cloud, drizzle, sleet, occasional cutting winds, temperatures around zero. The poor light affects my mood so even more reason to go running.

I ran around 7.5 miles this morning. From where I live it’s  3 miles to the river Cam and I ran about 4.5 miles along the river path. Loads of runners out, mostly training for the Cambridge half marathon. After the A14 flyover a dozen or so university rowing eights were on the Cam with all their support personnel. They looked cold! I think there’s a lot of hanging around. I suppressed an urge to advise them to retire to their refectories or libraries and have a game of darts in the warm. Instead I wove a path between oars and the coachs et al and sprinted on into the gloom, my bravado unacknowledged. 25 minutes later, I met up with my own support team (Lorna) who picked me up at the Green Dragon pub. This run was an outward journey only. Oh yes, and a first tryout for my new shoes. Loads of standing water and mud on the path. They felt very good.

Yesterday the conditions were very muddy at Cambridge parkrun and trail shoes were essential. Again, very overcast and cold. I wore suitable kit to combat the weather but it was still uphill work. And that’s saying something on a totally flat course.

The pic at the top shows the Shard tower and to the right the giant chimney stack of the Tate Modern gallery. The rectangular building on the right is a recent extension, Switch House and you can see the outside viewing level just below the top. This viewing level attracted much criticism from the residents of multi million pound flats who were overlooked by the gawping proletariat determined to enjoy all aspects of the 360 degree panarama.

I have some limited sympathy. Some of the apartments  have visible blinds. But I also assume that buying such transparently open accommodation fits in with their comfort zone which includes living in a goldfish bowl. I didn’t actually see anyone moving inside or much evidence of clutter. Or books. That’s outrageous.

You can access the sandy foreshore  of the Thames when the tide is out ( not recommended when the tide is coming in). To walk along the beach feels exciting and remote and very different despite being within a few metres of the madding crowd.

Back to the Tate. We saw The Radical Eye exhibition of photograhy including Man Ray and later this month or next, we’ll see the David Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain. In May, the Alberto Giacometti retrospective opens, he of the magical elongated pointy men (and women) figures.

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By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46682587

In my mid teens, I wandered around London on Saturdays and often visited Giacometti’s sculptures at the original Tate (now Tate Britain). I still find them beautiful, mystical and mesmorising (other adjectives are available).

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                                                             Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1268495

Mr Giacometti moving his stuff around while munching a ticket.

The Church of England has received substantial criticism from 14 retired bishops over failure to provide leadership concerning gay relationships. It’s expected that the general assembly synod will approve a recent report from bishops in post which upholds the traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. The church insists that gay clergy must be celibate and clergy are forbidden from conducting same sex marriage services. An open letter rebukes the former bishops’ successors for marginalising the views of LGBT members of the church.

It’s these kinds of beliefs and and thinking that reveal the wilful ignorance and lack of compassion and humanity of organised, traditional religion. It doesn’t recognise healthy sexuality as a fluid spectrum or as a biological imperative. Far better to rely on a dodgy set of scriptures for guidance. God help the LGBT community.

And finally, the Tory goverment can’t help reverting to type. The nasty party abandons it’s commitment to unaccompanied refugee and migrant minors. Such a good idea to let them fend for themselves. I read a comment that the tabloids relinquished their support for the policy after pictures of teenagers benefiting from this programme were published last year appearing to show some of them as looking like young men. So it’s justified, then!

 

My mother living the wildlife!

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My mother at Christmas. I can’t say she wore this giraffe mask for the entire festive period but the motivation wasn’t lacking. I clearly see where my genetically driven urge to be daft originates!

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January sunshine on Jesus Green. And heart warming to see the wild life enjoying the lovely weather on the river Cam.

Last week I ran two 9 milers which is probably enough preparation for the Cambridge half marathon in March and the next one in 2018. I went to the gym once and did Cambridge parkrun yesterday. The conditions were similar to the week before. Dry and cold. The field was 540 and it took 30 volunteers to put it on. Icy puddles were a considerable hazard on some parts of the narrow path and small stretches needed to be coned off. By one churned up muddy/icy patch in the centre of the running line yesterday, a volunteer stood continuously calling out for people to run around him to avoid catastrophe in the slippery gloop.

It’s a big responsibility to minimise the risk to a large number of runners in limited space in such conditions and cancellation of the run is a practical option. As far as I am aware it all went off very successfully on both consecutive parkruns. Very nicely managed.

Trump continues to behave beyond the normal reaches of parody (and by the way, it’s only a couple of days into the new administration). Apart from his stream of consciousness, I’m not-going-to-allow-anything-to inhibit-me-because-I can-easily-contradict-myself-tomorrow utterances, he has a fascinating range of facial mannerisms and hand gestures. He’s trying to convey sincererity, straight no nonsense talking, charm, flattery, personal recognition of the underdog’s predicament and personal one-to-one communication. He’s the genuine article (not). Try and catch the footage of Trump talking about his last, apparently triumphant, meeting with the CIA.

 

 

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!)

 

 

 

 

London and Greenwich : a bit of running and a lot of walking

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And so to London for a four night break. We stayed in Greenwich, walked heroic distances along the Thames footpath and travelled up and down the Thames on the Thames Clippers, the speedy catamarans used by commuters, tourists and elegant, sophisticated travellers like ourselves. I also did a bit of running between Greenwich and the O2 Arena. There’s still a great deal of new building work and development along the banks of the Thames, in the main high priced speculative flats for investment and people with more money than sense. Nevertheless, many of the wooden quays and landing stages have been preserved or part preserved and the history and character of the river is still intact.

I’ve discovered I like running through industrial landscapes and wending my way through building sites or cement works. We’re not talking about trespass here, just following access paths created to negotiate past all the development. Strangely, I didn’t meet many people during sections of my run. Obviously not every one shares my enjoyment of running past heavy machinery, cranes, temporary fencing and portacabins. Odd, that! To me, it’s reassuring that despite the business and congestion of London, you don’t have to go far off the beaten track to lose the crowds or feel alone.
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I took this pic at Greenwich and caught this large passenger liner travelling up river to dock alongside HMS Belfast, just past Tower Bridge.

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Another interesting aspect of the Thames is the opportunity to walk along the shore line at low tide which you can do at many points.

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The view from Greenwich Park adjacent to the Greenwich Observatory with a fascinating panoramic landscape of London spread out before you.

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CycleSuperHighway. We came across this dedicated 2/3 lane road way for cyclists and runners at the Embankment. It goes on for miles but if it’s like this section, it’s impressive. The Highway is properly separated from traffic by curbs and you feel safe (unlike us poor pedestrians trying to traverse it). A miracle must have occurred to bring it into existence in the teeth of London traffic congestion.

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The docked liner with Tower Bridge closing in the background. Cruises start at around £14,000. Think of how many books that could buy!

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Back to Cambridge. People and punts together are endlessly interesting and I can’t stop snapping them.

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I’m not doing much running at the moment, perhaps just parkrun and one other run between 45 and 60 minutes a week. I am doing an average of 13,000/14,000 steps a day, however, and I’m happy with that. We went to Wimpole Estate parkrun last Saturday and that went well. As usual, I walked up the short but steep hill and this enables me to start off at a reasonable pace at the top without feeling all in. We had a tasty coffee with our good friends before I repaired to the Wimpole pre-loved bookshop and rescued some old maps. Incredible how some people can abandon their books. I’m sure there’s a treatment for it somewhere!