Longs on

I had no inclination at all to run this morning and it wasn’t until I had consumed my huge espresso that I could even countenance it!  This lack of inclination, in addition to a chilly wind, meant that the longs came out for the first time since the spring.

The mind is fascinating though, as when I actually started running it was at a far brisker pace than normal… my legs were on good form, only my mind had been in denial! 

I took a shorter route rather than push myself too hard and there were several times when I needed to pause for breath or slow down, but each time I got to an uphill I would push against it, almost racing myself (gently) to the top.

Despite the slow bits and the pauses, I managed 6.2 miles in 55 minutes, which is an average speed of 6.77mph… not bad, bearing in mind how little I’ve really been running and that I was running on my own.

Kim and I are planning to do some circuit work this week, so we’ll see what effect it has!  Good I hope, as Nick is about to make a reappearance after his rib recuperation and it would be nice to run him ragged for a change!

Michael Clayton

I’m suprised to report that we’ve not been to the movies since the middle of August, but this is mainly due to the traditional lull in the launch of decent films at the end of the summer holidays.

Ironic then, having raved about the Bourne Ultimatum, to go and see another film penned by Tony Gilroy, although this time he directs too. 

George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a fixer in a greedy corporate law firm whose largely honourable motivations are misunderstood by those around him, to his detriment.  It’s a tense thriller for those people that like to have to think about what’s really going on… in fact, I overheard one of the women who had clearly only gone along for George Clooney (swoon!-), having the sub-plot explained to her afterwards!  Tom Wilkinson gives a stunning portrayal of a brilliant laywer pushed way beyond his principles for too long, while Tilda Swinton gives fascinating insight in the two-sided personality (the perfectly composed side you see and the one that worries like the rest of us) of a top executive.

Cracking plot and brilliantly executed, I give it 5 stars!

Old news


Our good friend and Italian walking guide Lorenzo Gariano sent an email around today with some photo’s from our summer jaunt to Italy… La Via Marenca Ultra Trail.

It’s fair to say that Dai and I only did the half marathon (you might have read Dai’s comment that it was actually around 25km long and about 1km in height gain), but Cliff, Pete, Lorenzo, Steve and Colin all completed the Ultra at around 99km!

Anyway, the photo is me finishing in a relaxed 4 hours 13 minutes or so (good for a half marathon, no?) and you can see all the other photos at the site of Adolfo Ranise.

I feel exhausted just remembering!

Leaden legs

There are several effective ways to get the heart rate over 120 beats per minute, which is a good cardio zone for someone of my tender years: interval training is my usual way but yesterday I decided to scarify the grass. 

Now, those gardeners amongst you will know that scarifying by hand is a long and tedious task, but essential to keep your lawn looking great.  The combination of planting the legs, exerting downward pressure with the arms and twisting the trunk whilst pulling the rake through the grass pushes the heart rate quickly skyward… in fact after every ten minutes of rigorous work, I need a break and I’m sure that someone else could count my heart beats just by listening.  I certainly could.

So, three hours and lots of breaks later and I had reached a decision… to buy an electric scarifier!

This morning my shoulders, back and arms were all (more than) a little tight and I thought a run would be the perfect antidote.  The weather was beautiful and I set out on one of the short run routes.  Twenty minutes was all I managed however before I was walking for five, another twenty and I had decided to walk home.  My legs were heavy, but that’s not normally a problem: it was actually my mind that wasn’t in gear.  They say that grass can do that.

Walking back did give me an ideal opportunity to gaze at lots of beautiful houses, either admiring them or silently assessing how they might redesign their house or garden to add value or panache… although I dare say that people passing me must have thought I was just  a weirdo walking along in my shorts!

So, hardly a run this morning, but I do now own an electric scarifier.  I only mention this in case anybody would like to borrow it!


My parents dropped in for a cup of tea this morning and we sat in brilliant sunshine on the micro-climate of my deck, fearful of moving too far in case the first bitter breeze of the autumn discovered us.

I was reminded of Iain Banks brilliant book The Crow Road and the famous line about his grandmother that hooks you expertly into the plot. All four of my grandparents lived into their late eighties and nineties and were cogent and active most of the way. One grandmother even fell down a perilous flight of stairs when in her eighties and broke her arm: the doctors warned that at her age it was probably shattered but were stunned when the x-ray showed a neat, clean break that went on to heal in under six weeks. Good genes.

This time last year, my mother, doing her bit for recycling, was busy flattening a milk carton, by rigorously jumping up and down on it (as you do?), when it tried to escape by running away. 

Alas, this left my mother suspended in thin air like an outwitted cartoon Tom.  The animators made the most of the scene as her downfall moments later was accompanied by a huge CRASH and a loud THUD!  In finest Tom & Jerry tradition it upset the nearby chair and table, my father, whose dinner landed robustly in his lap and my mother whose arm had, until then, managed to remain break-free for 77 years.  

Time is a great healer, but I have to confess that I was unable to suppress a childish snigger when my mother announced this morning that she had fallen out of the cupboard

Now I could leave it there and let your imagination play with this tidbit on its own, but I feel that I should add her own clarification, that she had slipped and had actually shot out of the cupboard backwards! 

I should also mention that the doorway through which she so gracefully sailed is eighteen inches above the floor… I can almost imagine Tom, Jerry and all of the animators jumping visibly at the THUD! when she hit the floor!

Suffice to say that resilience is in our genes and my mother, although slightly tender around the shoulder-blades, is undaunted by the experience.  I do hope that they’re not playing a game of one-upmanship though, exploding onto the pages of my blog with each new and more daring exploit!

The morning after

After yesterday, the run this morning was always going to be a slightly more genteel event!  I had the privilege of being joined (though that may have been followed) by Kim as we vaguely followed Daren’s route on a gorgeous, sunny morning. 

Kim looks very appealing in her running stuff and as a result we almost got eaten by a herd of growing calves who thought that she might be a tasty snack.  Dai had carefully explained how to whisper to a horse yesterday and so we (sufficiently savvy to know that these were not horses) ran away.  In a straight line! 

We also surprised a railway engineer laying down on the job in a most dangerous fashion… face down along the parapet of a railway bridge with no safety harness, pointing the brickwork below him!  He almost jumped out of his skin when I said good morning!  Sorry chap!

Between our bovine escape and Kim stopping to chat up a few people en route, our time was not great, but it was a lovely run nevertheless.  9km or just over five and a half miles in one hour ten minutes.

September gathering

Wow!  What can I say except that it was a great day: the sun shone, the beer was cold, the prams conquered, the chili was awesome, the Oyster Bay Sauvignon was a hit, no blood was spilled (although there were a couple of cracking bumps!)and the garden survived!  Although I’m really not quite sure how!

Notes: Children are happy to eat chili from bone china plates if you give them the opportunity.  In a contest of strength between an air freshener and a two tonne Mercedes, the latter is not inclined to yield.  Children of around two have a favourite game which is wanting to do whatever you don’t want them to do.  Also worth noting, they usually win that game. 

Overall feeling from day: good friends are priceless!

Intolerant behaviour

Dai joined me for a really lovely run this morning, during which we apparently talked a load of rubbish… I thought it was quite a profound conversation but Dai is an intellectual so it probably just sounded like idle chitchat to him. 

We pretty much duplicated my run from last week, but the superior technology of his Garmen confirmed that it was 7.26 miles in 1 hour 10 minutes and that our best pace was 5 minutes 57 seconds per mile… which can only have been the ten yard sprint down the hill at the end, otherwise the run would only have taken us 43 minutes!  Statistics huh?! 

Although the Garmen is pretty advanced, I would be interested to pit it against Kim at some point, who runs at exactly 6 miles an hour.  She doesn’t come in a shock resistant case, but she has many more appealing features (many!), particularly as you don’t have to carry her around on your wrist.  Alas, she doesn’t much care for idle chitchat so runs on her own, which makes it more difficult to gauge distances. 

Which is why I have to make uneducated guesses as to the distances I’m running and how long it’s likely to take.  Dai was surprisingly intolerant of this approach to estimation… as an educationalist and teacher of CDT he is used to working within very fine tolerances indeed.  Give or take four miles did not impress him at all.  Oh no sir!

Breakfast did though!  Daren introduced me to Mooch76 and it’s fair to say that I have been more impressed with each of my, um, three visits now.  Part of the reason is professional admiration, as this little cafe-bar encompasses many of the aspects of customer focus and service that I hold dear.  The rest just has to do with the great standard of the food and the deliciousness of the coffee!  Dai had the small, healthy option (aka big bertha breakfast), I had the ultra healthy option (small bertha’) and Kim the vegetarian delight (wails ‘they didn’t give me any bacon’)  Duh!

Tenuous segway to short verse that I particularly like from Roger McGough which goes something like this (apologies, Roger, if it’s not quite right!)

‘There are fascists in the park pretending to be humanitarians, like cannibals on a health kick eating only vegetarians.’

Veggie steak, anyone, or do you have a fool intolerance?