Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Big Freeze

Everything has ground to a halt. The town is like a ghost town.
Not a Special in sight.

I was a little sceptical at the weekend about the forecasts of doom regarding the weather we were to expect during the week. However, for once, they've been right on the money.

It was already freezing cold on Saturday evening.  I know that because Virgin invited us off the warm train at Alnmouth. We had to alight in order to catch a connection. It was 8pm. We had been up Edinburgh getting some scrambled egg at the City Café and some culture at the Lyceum. A treat. It was no treat when we found out that the station was closed. Dark. Brooding. Polar. Ice Station Zebra without Rock Hudson. Six of us were stranded without sanctuary and without fur lined parkas; banished to hide away in alcoves, competing with the pigeons. Crouching behind cars to keep out of the penetrating and biting wind. I half expected to see John Carpenters 'The Thing' scuttle from under a vehicle. 'That'll teach me to go and see Jacobean Theatre' I mused. In the olden days, I imagine we would have waited, sitting by a real fire on chairs of green velvet, tired upholstery. The bespectacled, grey haired station-master would have offered us tea in china cups and a rich tea, maybe some shortie.  I can just see Will Hay and his side-kick fussing round us.

Anyway, I digress. Sunday was fine. But the snow arrived right on schedule two nights ago and it hasn't stopped since. Aunt Aggies been out 'trapping' and insists on hanging her wet furs over the radiator. She came back late last night with two kinder eggs.  She said they were free range.

Yesterday at lunchtime, I slid my feet into plastic bags and strapped on the Salomons. I was chomping at the bit for a run in the snow and had a stop-start run with the camera through the woods at lunchtime between the snow showers (although, I realise, that I said earlier that it hadn't stopped...cut me some slack). The sun came out and I had a wee sweat on tramping through the fresh scrunchy snow. Beautiful.  That Panasonic weighs a tonne though.

However, this mornings meteorological offerings were rather more hostile. I stood at the window and shook my head a few times for a good hour before Aunt Aggie finally let me in. Seriously, I was geared up and out the door into blizzard conditions for 5 miles, first thing. The traffic was sparse and crawling. Several drivers gave me a thumbs up for sheer stupidity.

I've spent the rest of the day watching the snow creep higher and higher up the steps. I was back out again tonight for an hour as the light failed and another dark icy night blew in from east. Mrs Mac is stranded at work and covering for others tonight.

I have postponed both the appointments I had tomorrow, but the forecast for next week is still pants. On the plus side, however, I feel another snowy run coming on in the morning assuming I can physically get out the door. Much as the draw of the snow is irresistible, the mid-range forecast is not good at all and I feel the need to stock up on kindling, cous cous and grapefruits, currently my food fads; obviously not the kindling. I've noticed my appetite mushrooms when the snow arrives.

All the races including the cross country have been cancelled this weekend. So it'll be me, Phillip K. Dick's 'Man in the High Castle' and my copy of Steven Wilsons CD 'To The Bone' which is fab and the sort of music you buy and just stick on repeat play; just like old times.  I might even watch a Will Hay film, maybe 'Oh Mr Porter'. Can you believe that was made in 1937?!         

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

'The Time Machine'

I hatched a plan on Monday night after failing to summon up the energy or application to get a Monday run in during the day.

I would do double the distance on Tuesday. But how would I avoid ducking out? I would accompany Missus Mac on the six thirty dawn bus to Newcastle and run back home. I felt fine after my 15 miles on Sunday and I've clocked out a steady 50 mile week for the last month. Another 14 today would be good.

There’s not a big field in the Loch Katrine Marathon. It’s in March and only for charity, probably not even a measured course; but I would like to drop in a sub 3:20 if possible. Evidently, the weather will have a big influence but I reckon that, given that I have been injury and niggle free for a couple of months now, it’s not too ambitious a plan.  As I watched the news this morning, I realised that a southerly wind was forecast with snow on the way. I stepped out the door in the dark. It was two degrees. brrr.

When the bus arrived, I committed; I made the £5 investment and bought the ticket. Contactless. We live in changing times. We were off.

Missus Mac got off at her stop and I was left to watch the red and purple hues of the dawn horizon take on a brighter but greyer look. The cars kept coming; all those on their daily pilgrimage to ‘the office’. I thought computers and the internet were supposed to do away with the rush hour. 

Getting off the bus in Central Newcastle, I took a leaf out of the strategy of fellow bloggers and went for a coffee. It was a two pound small Americano. By 7:45 I was fizzing. I plugged in the orchestral earplugs, zipped up the bum bag and took off along the pavement from the café at Eldon Gardens and got into my stride. It was cold and grey. But I was immediately aware of a big, blousy southerly behind me and blowing me along. I was running north. 15 minutes later, as I ran through the deserted Exhibition Park, the home of the 'Toons weekly Parkrun, the moor-hens and mallards were picking through the ice in the pond. They looked bored already.  They were in for another bleak day.

I was welcomed into Gosforth along the Great North Road by Simple Minds and I was aware I was getting a bit ahead of myself, but the tailwind was irresistible.  Mark Knofler was invoking the memory of Elvis through the High Street and by North Seaton, 40 minutes and 6 miles into my run, I was cooking. I stopped to dispense with the wind jacket.  By Wideopen (8 miles) the wind had dropped and the weather front moved in, dusting the wet road with a carnival of sleety flakes and then cold, steely rain. Stannington came and went, a few crisp brown leaves and the clouds of my exhaled breath preceding me and confirming that I still had a tailwind. But I was fading at 11 miles and, given that there was nothing riding on the morning’s efforts, I stopped by the A1 and fished out a green gel. Yummy! The viscous and sickly fluid vaguely resembled apple something and I drained the pallid liquor. Two miles to go. Grace came on the ipod and I was slave to the rhythm for the next mile. How come they can fit in a stadium sound into a piece of metal the size of a box of matches? My running had become ragged and I was tired, but I was home by 9:30am.

Galvanised by my efforts, I spent the next few hours tidying the house in preparation for the arrival of the plumber. Royalty. An air lock somewhere in the system resulting in a cold bedroom and bathroom. When I come back next time, some-one remind me to sign up for plumbing. 'Name your price' stuff.

Aunt Aggie checked herself out of her care home last week and is back in the potting shed, knitting doilies. She doesn’t like 'being with the old folk' she says. 'Its dull watching the birds' she says. Who can blame her? But life is moving on. Time just keeps passing. She says unless you're Rod Taylor, you can’t slow time. So, instead, you need to do memorable stuff; stuff like today. I’m inclined to agree with the wizened but loveable old bat. I shared a pot of tea with her. I told her about my next 'point to point' test before Loch Katrine. I have an idea to do 'Consett to Newcastle' along the old wagonway; It’s all downhill. Nice Plan. She just nodded and said ‘amaideach'. That care home has a lot to answer for. She couldn't speak the gaelic before she went. But that's St Kilda for you.