24 October 2015

Together forever

I stashed away a link to a live performance of this song some time ago - then messed up trying to complete a posting, lost the original link, and found another. But this one is better: it has Rabbie Noakes in it, and it was before Alan Hull's untimely death: and I feel moved to refer to a Lindisfarne song for two reasons. I also feel an attachment to this song, and its sentiments.

It's inevitable that as I get older (and much as I want to deny it, and contrary to a certain amount of evidence, that is happening) people who have been important in my life will die. Lindisfarne were an important part of my life, and now Si Cowe has passed away too I realise that the band, despite the fact that bands  have a sort of corporate identity separate from the individual members, had died too. Perhaps it died with Alan Hull, although his son in law was a brilliant substitute.

After Lindisfarne originally split, and three of them became Jack The Lad, I met them at a gig at university which I covered as the photographer for the Warwick Boar. At first, I wrote that I'd never met Si, but how then to account for the autographs on the last JTL album? But I did nearly meet Si another time ... and it seems I haven't told the story on this blog before.

Before travelling to INTA in Toronto, in - when? 2005? - and acting on a faint recollection that he'd moved there to brew beer, I somehow located a bar which had some claim to be his local. The landlord emailed me to assure me that he usually called in on Saturday afternoons. For reasons that I'm not sure I could have explained at the time, and which are certainly lost now, I resolved to go and see if I could meet him. I have learnt not to ask myself "why?". Just that the opportunity was there.

It was a long walk, and although I could have taken a tram, budgetary constraints meant I walked whenever possible. Still do. I spent an enjoyable hour or two in the bar, drank some nice beer, and chatted to a number of people, but no former members of Lindisfarne. Eventually the lady behind the bar phoned him. He could have been excused for worrying that he was being stalked by a dangerous lunatic, but he was happy to talk and I had a pleasant conversation with him. He declined the invitation to my firm's forthcoming party, and that was it. And as stories go, it isn't really very interesting either.

The other day I finally met the final member of last year's class from the Academy, or State University as I should learn to call it. (I can handle the original name in Russian, and substituting "university" for "academy" is no problem, but государственный is a word I just can't fix in my mind.) I hadn't met Marianna on my trips to Moscow because she was living in England. We went for lunch in Oxford, boarding a bus at the Park and Ride and (here's the connection with the song) at my insistence sitting in the front seats at the top, which I always do in a double-decker precisely because of Rab Noakes (who incidentally I have met). Over lunch - here's another connection - talking about regional accents, she asked if I could speak Geordie. "Way aye!" I replied, but refrained from adding "ye bugger". She might not have realised that it's a term of endearment.

Which brings me to my Saturday morning run - not just mine, but the Saturday morning run of thousands of people all over the world. Uneventful, over a minute slower than last time, Jean-Luc thought he'd beaten me when he passed me at about 2.2 miles but he was wrong as it turned out, and the Polish ultramarathon lady didn't pass me this time: I spotted her tee-shirt in the distance ahead of me, so no photos on Facebook this week of me looking unreasonably shocked to see her come past.

Having had some rather unflattering photos taken at recent events, giving the impression that I'm shuffling rather than running and my arms are flopping uselessly, I tried to pay particular attention to my form today - now waiting to see if anyone got any photographic evidence.

 

03 October 2015

Faster

Last weekend was one of those times which one remembers for ever. Beautiful sunny and extremely warm weather in Moscow - to think, I was planning to take an overcoat, and even a suit jacket proved to be too much. Time spent catching up with good friends, and getting to know a new group of students. A brief meeting with Victor, who gave me a copy of Реки и Мости, Машина Времени's greatest album (two vinyl discs). The discovery that they are playing in London in December. Asking directions of a stranger in the street, and impressing people by saying поехали. A delightful evening out with a former student, finishing by standing outside Куэнецкий Мост Metro station discussing Машина Времени. And the weekly timed 5K run, the name of which I won't write because of their inane directive (указ) which insists that it be spelt with a lowercase initial letter.
My plans to run my 50th such event that weekend, in Gorky Park, after a summer of intensive training (with the goal of setting an all-time personal best, which would have to be sub-20 minutes) foundered: too much to do, too little time for training. Life, as they say, got in the way. For "life" read "work", or at least the exigency of earning money, which resulted in my taking on a major piece of work for the University of Law and presenting a programme for LNTV, both of which took more time than originally anticipated. As for the books I should have written or at least updated, they are also waiting, like the intensive training.
In fact, as the PB plan was in tatters, I ran number 50 the week before the Moscow trip, to show myself that I could do it. When last I ran Gorky Park I was exploring my fitness to run a half Marathon the following weekend: I didn't want to injure myself, and I went very slowly. So I knew I would improve this time, and indeed I took several minutes off the previous time. I knew how to get from the Metro station to the start, and I knew where to turn round on the out-and-back course (and this time I could still see the runner in front, which was not the case last year!). I even bettered my time from the previous week's outing in Didcot by six seconds, and that had been only 2 seconds off a season's best. Taking into account that there are two climbs on the Gorky Park route - the same one in two directions, just enough to make it not pancake-flat like Didcot - and the heat of a Russian September, and a poor night's sleep, that seemed pretty good.
Today, Didcot was cool (I think it is fair to say that the Miles Davis sense of the word never applies to Didcot: I refer to the temperature). I joked with a marshal that at least I would be getting warmer. Jean-Luc told me he hoped to beat me, which I told him was highly likely. His biggest concern seems to be that his son will soon be faster than he is. My biggest concern was to count the laps of the field before setting off for the last mile on the paths: Jean-Luc suggested that, in order to achieve his goal, he would not alert me if I went wrong (as he did once before). Is it really so hard to count to three? Perhaps it is a symptom of my advancing age.
From the start, I found myself in close proximity to one of those irritating runners who not only sticks their elbows out but also keeps wanting to occupy the same piece of track as me. That could, of course, be put the other way round - I could be trying to take his track - but his frequent and unheralded changes of direction, without a look over his shoulder or even sideways, suggest that the first formulation is correct. After the first lap of the field he pulled ahead and didn't trouble me again.
Having run through that phase during which my legs try to tell me that this is not the right time for such exercise, I settled into a reasonable rhythm - maintaining my three steps breathing in, two out, regime most of the time (it breaks down when I am really pushing myself, or when I forget to count). That certainly seems to get significantly more oxygen into my system, as well as balancing the load.
Just before the final turn I was aware of another runner doing their best to pass me. I stayed ahead until we reached the final stretch, then she breezed past and although I mustered a reasonably fast finish it wasn't enough to take back the place. Glancing at my watch, I thought I might be on for a faster time than the week before: when I stopped it, showing an improvement of 50 seconds, I could hardly believe it. An improvement of 15 seconds per mile, and my age-graded percentage up to nearly the level my PB in this series of events, 22.22 about three years ago, achieved (68.09 per cent: I reckon I need to be nearly at 80 per cent to achieve my sub-20 time, but it's not impossible, as my IP lawyer/runner friend Rachel Buker encouragingly told me during the week).
The world seems a different, brighter place today compared with a couple of weeks ago. There's a tangible sense of things happening, not just marking time until another client pays a bill.