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!

 

 

 

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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!)

 

 

 

 

Leonard’s gone!

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Photo courtesy of John Wilderspin

New arch rival at Cambridge parkrun! Unusually, I’m running and smiling as we we approach the finish line and we come in within a second of each other. Cambridge has the good fortune to have a consistent photographer in John Wilderspin (for example, this week he’s put up 400+ images). There’s something confirming about a personal running picture even if it’s not flattering. There’s always the next one!

Running’s not very complicated at the moment. I’m tending to go for short 2 mile runs 3-4 times a week and 5k parkrun on Saturdays. Unfortunately, I’m not finding last year’s form at all but on the plus side I have the pleasant delusion that I am faster than ever. There’s a satisfying feeling of speed despite my stupid watch telling a different story. Possibly I’m running so fast, I’ve gone back in time. I know Superman can reverse time by flying around the Earth multiple times faster than the speed of light (I stand to be corrected on this with reference to the specific DC Superman comic). But then again, I know in my heart of hearts, being given a parkrun token with place number 172  emblazoned on the plastic coating is not compatible with magical running powers.

Talking of magic, I read a very enjoyable review of Elf Queens and Holy Friars :Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church by Richard Firth Green, £36. (London Review of Books : don’t worry, non London people, you too can have access to this literary mag). Widespread belief in fairies and mythical creatures meant they were given responsibility for all manner of unfortunate occurrences and circumstances and their influence waned slowly as society became more rational. Even today many people still believe in evil fairies and a malevalent Fairyland, chiefly UKIP voters and Daily Mail Readers.

Leonard Cohen’s death is a very sad event. He’s been a cultural and emotional part ofmy life since I was a teenager in the 1960s, listening to his first album in our 6th form common room. Drone, drone, drone. Powerful songs expressing adolescent feelings and a wonderful backdrop to growing up, reading Krisharmerti, Kafka, Hesse, Mervyn Peake, Oz, the International Times, walking the streets of London and seeing the best bands in London.

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Cute butterflies and pollinating insects most welcome : rabbits and deer, remember you are edible!

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Green Minds, the therapeutic gardening project, continues to develop slowly but will need to speed up considerably now the growing season has arrived. The rabbit proof fence is almost fully intact and I am hoping other wildlife will not be a problem. I went out in the field with Rupert the dalmatian and surprised two roe deer. Rupert gave chase to one and I saw the deer leap over a 1.3m fence with ease so if they see something really delicious in my little compound it won’t be difficult for them to get in. I’m thinking about venison at the moment.,

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Since this pic was taken I’ve acquired several more tables and planted a lot of seeds. I’ve got a lot of digging to do both inside and outside the polytunnel. I’ll also need to install sliding doors at the entrance where you can currently see green netting. We had some very strong gales last week and the net openings could not cope with it.

Wimpole estate parkrun last weekend.Blue skies, sunshine and warm enough for me to wear shorts and long sleeved top. It’s one loop over park land and includes a short, steep hill, a run along the lake side and a route which takes you to the front of the big Hall and down the main drive. Trail shoes needed. I usually walk up the hill, striding as strongly as I can. This time I jogged up which wasn’t any quicker, really, and took me longer to recover at the top. This is followed by a flat 400 metes before a descent to lake level and a view of the folly on the far side. Sometimes you need to run close to large cows with dismayingly sharp curved horns. This requires a degree of bravery. Other runners refer to us as possessing “Wimpole courage” and I accept the compliment. One can gradually acquire this unique form of courage by acclimatising to danger by running past sheep which are also thick on the ground at Wimpole. This stage is known as  Wooly Thinking.

I met an old running club friend whom I hadn’t seen for some time while I waited  for Lorna to come in.  After a fine coffee with running chums, I took myself off to the pre-loved book shop where crazy people actually donate their unwanted books, an oxymoron if ever I heard one. I limited myself to two essential purchases.

Today, I went for a short 2 mile run and tomorrow, if I get back from East Londinium in time, I’ll go road running with the club.

 

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.