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!

 

 

 

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CAUTION : very slippery

 

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Icworth House, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and the venue for the first Hoohaah 10k of the year. Beautiful setting and a lovely trail course (in the main) BUT VERY MUDDY.

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In fact there were hundreds and hundreds of metres of mud and easily qualified as the most muddy race I have ever taken part in. To enter the restaurant/cafe, shopping emporium and second hand bookshop, one had to don these blue plastic over bootees! One didn’t look very cool.

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Fair enough. I wasn’t impressed by their bookshop, however. Not a patch on Wimpole Hall’s and I didn’t buy anything. Highly unusual, highly irregular but a memorable experience thanks to the blue bootees.

Still, the race was very enjoyable and later we had coffee at an outside cafe with our chums.

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I found myself inadvertently sitting on the orange side and consequently ruined the symmetry.

Tuesday was running club and we did a “country fartlek” from the University of Cambridge Athletics Club to Grantchester Meadows, along the Cam.

Today, we ran Cambridge parkrun. Cold but a great deal dryer than last week. I couldn’t catch any rivals. I’ll have to choose new and slower rivals.

Tomorrow, it’s the London Marathon. Spectating, not running. It’s not easy devising a training regime for marathon spectating. I’ll know tomorrow when it’s all over.

 

 

Muddiest ever Cambridge parkrun

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The entire Cambridge parkrun course was replicated in this short section. I took this pic on my warm up route and met a runner who warned me I would need a boat to proceed further. Many of the puddles occupied the entire width of the path so avoidance wasn’t an option. The rain held off but temperatures were low (for me) at around 2-4c. Despite the weather, 359 splashed their way round and it really was good fun.

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Here’s a good picture of Lorna (in the middle) with running (and chatting) chums. Looks completely normal.

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Here’s Lorna at the end of the race and about to receive her number token. Something has happened in the time these two pics were taken and I’ve yet to receive an adequate explanation. How long was she running while munching her glove. This certainly isn’t normal!

Tomorrow I’m doing a 10k race at the Icworth Estate, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. This promises to be another mud bath which raises the possibility that we mud splattered runners won’t be admitted to their very nice cafe/restaurant. or even worse, I’ll be turned away from their second hand bookshop.

Me : Do you realise I’m a National Trust member and therefore entitled to benefit from the full panoply of facilities and privileges which are accorded to my subscription?

National Trust official : On your bike, sunshine, and come back when you’ve had a bath and smell a lot sweeter!

Thanks to Stoke Gifford Parish Council, parkrun is national news following their decision to charge parkrun or parkrunners for using the open spaces of Little Stoke park as a course. They’ve been roundly condemned for this move because it contradicts the founding principles of parkrun and constitutes a degradation the philosophy of a free, inclusive, volunteer organised, run for all. There are nearly 400 UK parkruns and around 850 worldwide. Additionally there are about 90 Junior UK parkruns. Stoke Gifford Parish Council are very naughty, very foolish, very short sighted and probably Tory dominated.

 

Cambridge half marathon a fortnight away, walking along the cam and those evil Tories again.

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A cold, sunny Sunday in Cambridge yesterday. Plenty of eights on the river powered by the gilded youth, loads of runners and cyclists to knock you flying, hordes of couples mooning  around (St. Valentine’s Day) and shoals of tourists shimmying from one photogenic setting to another (it can be such uphill work getting people to believe you’ve actually visited somewhere unless you are able to show evidence of yourself in a snap with relevant backdrop).

I’m a creature of habit when I go into Cambridge. I always go into WH Smith to look at the magazines and usually buy one or two, I often go into Heffers bookshop or Waterstones, walk around the market square and visit the second hand book stall and take photos on a particular bridge over the Cam. Out of preference, I like to have a nice coffee and a tuna and cucumber baguette in the marvelously anonymous Eat cafe and possibly wander around John Lewis, a rather civilised department store. I like to trip through the extensive cosmetics area in a vain attempt to identify any of the sales operatives who have abstained from caking themselves in their own products. They are always immaculately turned out and attractive but wearing no or minimal makeup doesn’t appear to be an option. Are they contractually obliged to over do it?

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These grand and beautiful trees are on Jesus Green. How lucky are we?

Cambridge half marathon is only two weeks away. I haven’t done the training I would like to do because other things have got in the way. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that despite not having put the mileage in, my overall level of fitness enables me to step up quickly to do 13 miles. It’s speed that suffers, of course, but if speed is your objective you are following a false god! The very shallowness of the concept of speed! Does anyone really care about this over valued aspect of running? I rather like these fall back arguments when you’re getting slower and slower.

Anyway, I did 13 miles today and 9 miles a week ago plus a 5 miler and a parkrun since the beginning of the month. I might do two more parkruns and a couple of long runs up to 10 miles and that will be that.

A government task force has published a report, A Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which is very critical of the state of Engand’s mental health services, click here to read Observer article Today’s Guardian headline is NHS vows to transform mental health services  with extra £1bn a year. The report talks about a sharp increase in the number of suicides, estimates three quarters of people with a psychiatric condition do not receive help and documents that children are being sent all over the country to an available bed that may be hundreds of miles from their families.

The Tories and the coalition government have presided over savage cuts to bed availability, support services, staffing levels and overall funding of mental health facilities. Cameron in his ever so reasonable, we have learnt lessons, we must all pull together and defeat stigma, senior Tory style is presenting the spending announcement as an innovation and Tory triumph. David Cameron and his mates are duplicitous, fraudulent, own class supporting, unfeeling,  and lacking in basic humanity. They appeal to the voters who share their values – the cruel, the selfish, the self centred. May God help decent and vulnerable people.

 

 

Everyone is running except me! It’s criminal!!!!!!!

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Good witch and tailrunner Diane tries to give me the evil eye as she accompanies this 80-84 category parkrunner at Wimpole Estate yesterday. I was marshaling by a long straight stretch adjacent to the lake and combined this sacred duty with taking a couple of hundred photos. That’s so like me. Just selflessly working on behalf of others without a thought for my own needs or comfort. Well, all that’s gonna change when I recover from my already-one-month old injury. It’ll be about me me me from then on. Still unsure when “my time” commences. Having fallen heavily on rubble and then run 12 miles on a quadriceps injury, it’s slowly getting better but it really is at a snail’s pace.I haven’t attempted to run over the last month because bending my left knee has been painful and movement is limited.

Anyway, I have a cunning plan! I start running prematurely and to my intense surprise and shock, re-injure myself. Obviously I wouldn’t be that stupid, would I? Unfortunately, it’s a great temptation. It’s sooooo frustrating watching Lorna and my running chums take part in races that are currently forbidden to me due to a ridiculous injury. I blame the farmer for laying down rubble to give traction to his heavy farm machinery during muddy weather, gravity for pulling my foot down causing me to stumble headlong, my running shoes for not thinking out of the box and warning me of impending danger and the weak megaphone which caused me not to hear the race director’s specific mention of the section of dangerous terrain (I was warming up at this point). In  a nutshell, my accident wasn’t my fault and I had to de-friend someone who suggested I don’t pick my feet up sufficiently. Condensed version of the above : I don’t like being unable to run.

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Lorna powers ahead to finish our local Bonfire Burn 10k while I languish like a beached jellyfish on the sidelines.

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These are runners. They have run 10k. How lucky are they?

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This is Diane, hardworking race director at Wimpole Estate parkrun addressing the throng and again, with a young parkrunner.

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Small compensation in the Wimpole pre-loved -but- now -wickedly -discarded -and -crying -out- for -an appreciative -home book shop.

I rest my case. Good night!

Books, bookshops, a polytunnel, running, Tories scupper Humanity, an old door.

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The Oxfam bookshop in Durham, where we stayed, and a short train journey from Newcastle and the Great North Run. Second hand books on three floors. Lovely shop, huge selection of books but substantially more expensive than any other comparable shop.

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Oohh… look!  A load of orange Penguins and old Pelicans.

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I toyed with the idea of hiding in the shop overnight but decided against it. The sheer volume of all these pre-loved  books weighed heavily upon me. I didn’t want to risk overdosing on the written word.

Back to the running world. I’m doing a half marathon on the Wimpole Estate in 8 days and only started training for it 5 days ago. In those 5 days I’ve done two 10 mile runs without any problem and I’ll probably do another 10 or 11 mile run and a parkrun before the half. This should be adequate for me to get around the course without the pressure of going all out. It’s nicely undulating and mainly trail. The last time I ran it (2013) I came in at 1 hour 55 minutes. I anticipate 2 minutes longer this time.

I often run along the river Cam, which, depending on the time of the season, is littered with anglers. As a rule, they never acknowledge anyone passing and continue to stare vacantly into the water in the forlorn hope of catching a luckless fish. They are invariably alone and occasionally smoking. All appear to have a sense of humour bypass otherwise they would be continually laughing at the notion that fishing is a sport. Anyway, for the first time in 16 years of running by the river, one of the fishing people actually turned around, smiled and said hello. And then, to add to the sense of unreality, he made a comment expressing surprise that a group of young lads who just  passed us were not in school. I responded in kind and had to stop myself commenting that he wasn’t following accepted protocol governing angler/runner interaction. I ran on, light in heart, relishing our transgressive behaviour. If I see him again it’ll be my turn to take the initiative. I hope he hasn’t been cast out of the fishing world for unauthorised contact with a runner. Only joking (mildly).

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My polytunnel is up and running! This is Guy who masterminded the construction. Green Minds, my fledgling therapeutic gardening project is progressing very, very slowly. The actual site is being developed by friend and charity trustee, Rebecca and myself but referrals to Green Minds have yet to materialise. The timescale for things to happen is a lot longer than I had anticipated. It will happen, I’m sure, and I’m very grateful for generous financial and plant donations from friends Elaine and Robert.

This Guardian piece on the “downfall” of Cambridge’s Addenbrookes hospital is worth reading for its perspective on so called “failing” hospitals.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/22/cqc-jeremy-hunt-nhs-hit-squad-addenbrookes-hospital

Strangely enough, here’s another Guardian article, this time on the baleful nature of drug pricing. Beyond dismal. Sort it out Jeremy!http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/23/uk-cancer-patients-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-expertsents-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-experts

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Finally, here’s a lovely old door, currently attached to Durham Cathedral. What’s behind it, God only knows!

Fast Fruit?

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Wimpole Estate parkrun. I look like an escaped banana pursued by smoothie bounty hunters but this astute and discerning photographer saw through the comic potential and recorded this classic, timeless running image. And to top it all, I was the first person to come in at number 76.

The weather was very kind on Saturday, the cows with their scary pointy horns sat around playing Monopoly, forsaking their menacing poses and ignoring the runners  and even the sheep, famously daft, kept out of our way. Three of our friends from deepest Essex, came up to run with us and we gave a lift to another pal who usually runs at Cambridge. Post race, we had coffee and a bite to eat in the National Trust café and sat around chatting for an hour. A brief visit to the pre-loved bookshop yielded only three old OS maps despite being horribly tempted by serendipity, and then home.

Gorgon Brown, ex Labour prime Minister for a month or two after Tony Blair, gave a speech today containing a “coded message”, warning against choosing a Labour leader who would be divisive and make Labour unelectable at the next election. Using skills gained during a visit to Bletchley Park several years ago, I rapidly decoded the hidden message and concluded he was referring to Jeremy Corbyn. This is the same Gorgon Brown who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer so proudly boasted of light touch regulation of the banks and financial institutions which allowed them to run amok. The same Gorgon Brown in the Blair government that was utterly determined to pitch into the Iraq war with the Americans. The same Gorgon Brown, who along with all the other Labour heavyweights and the Miliband shadow government, utterly failed to address the evil Tories’ onslaught of rhetoric which continually blamed the Labour party in power for all the debt and economic ills whilst affecting a “we care about the common people and your NHS” stance. An extremely poor judge, to put it mildly!

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This pic features Ms Alive and Running establishing whether or not it was safe to go near to the edge. This was an independent decision, undertaken without my consent. I’m sure if I had done this, severe  criticism would have ensued.

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Part of the Seven Sisters, East Sussex between the Birling gap and Beachy Head, the coastal bit of the South Downs. Very hilly. Excellent running country. Useless for high diving or cliff top homes.

Cambridge Half Marathon, end of February 2016 : interest registered.