Sunday, 27 December 2009

Chariots of Fire

Went running in the snow and ice today and passed a very young looking Nigel Havers running in the opposite direction. I immediately had a Chariots of Fire moment ...

Apparently the film was to have been called 'Runners' but Colin Welland ,the writer of the screenplay, heard the phrase during Jerusalem on Songs of Praise.

Will leave you with the famous Vangelis title theme of the film - all together now ( in slow motion) ...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Boys' Xmas shopping trip

Each Christmas, Mark and I, our brothers and our sons ( occasional daughters) go on a London shopping trip - this involves meeting in a pub in Covent Garden, followed by a Chinese meal in Soho, finishing off with cake, expresso and grappa in Bar Italia - we sometimes also wash it down with a half pint or so of bitter from the rather wierd French House, also in Soho. No shopping is involved.

As we poured out of the Joy King Lau restaurant behind Leicester Square, I saw the banner below:

Now, St John in Smithfield is one of my favourite restaurants and specialises in nose to tail eating ie eatring all of the bits of a pig.

Coincidentally, later the next week I was in Smithfield buying the Xmas turkey, ham, beef etc and celebrated a toughand challenging purchasing session with lunch at St John. I bumped into Fergus Henderson, the founder, at the bar and plucked up courage (after a pint of Black Sheep bitter) to ask him about St John's plans for Leicester Square. He was charming and funny and told me they had acquired the site where Manzi's used to be - a famous old fish restaurant apparently - and they are planning a St John restaurant plus hotel . Perhaps their famous Eccles cakes will be served at breakfast.

Would recommend you looking at Fergus's alternative food videos on St John TV
My 2 favourites are how to eat a pork pie and eating a doughnut.

Lunch was excellent - I went a bit off-piste and had Woodcock for main course - they were very kind and served the head and beak as well .

The tiny feathers that are located at the tip of the Woodcock's wings are referred to as "pin feathers" and these are much sought after by artists for fine painting work.
They are also sought by game shooters who will place them in the band of their hat to show friends that they have shot Woodcock. It is thought that the phrase "a feather in his cap" is derived from this practice.

Amazing what you learn on a boys' shopping trip ...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Led before bed.

Had a very heavy week - went to the British Premier of the film IT MIGHT GET LOUD at the Hammersmith Apollo. This is a documentary featuring Jimmy Page , The Edge and Jack White in which they chat about and play the electric guitar. Lots of great live footage and we almost exploded with excitement when Jimmy Page came on stage to introduce the film.

Jimmy had some of the best lines and one of the many highlights was when he started to play the riff from A Whole Lotta Love in front of the other two , who both immedialtely put their guitars down and were clearly transported back to their early guitar playing days. I knew that Jimmy Page was the best guitarist ever but had never realised how good he was at air guitar in his front room ...

Later on in the week I went with youngest son to see Them Crooked Vultures - also at Hammersmith Apollo - with Dave Grohl on drums, Josh Homme on guitar and John Paul Jones on everything else.

My 13 year old son was beside himself that he'd seen half of Led Zeppelin in a week.

Highlights were JPJ playing slide on his base and Dave Grohl's animal-like drumming .

Would highly recomend their new album. John Paul Jones was born in Sidcup.

I also found a good quote from Jimmy Page on wikipedia on how they met-

'I was working at the sessions for Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man, and John Paul Jones was looking after the musical arrangements. During a break, he asked me if I could use a bass player in the new group I was forming. He had a proper music training, and he had quite brilliant ideas. I jumped at the chance of getting him'

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Culture workout.

No running planned for December due to various party and shopping trip commitments - also its a bit cold and slippery ...
Managed a fair bit of culture in December - the highlights being RED at the Donmar Theatre (all about Mark Rothko) and a visit to the new Medieval and Renaissance galleries at the V & A. Fortunately, I had seen Graham Dixon-Taylor on the Culture Show and he introduced his top 5 pieces. One of them was a very rare wax model of a slave by Michelangelo used to make a final marbel sculpture now in the Accademia in Florence for the tomb of Pope Julius II.

Apparently, when he was carving a large marbel sculpture, he would place a wax model in water and gradually raise it to reveal more of the form.
My next favourite was this silver hand which is a reliquary - not something I had come across before. Valuable relics would have been put inside the reliquary- these were often modelled on parts of the body.

In this one the relics, now lost, would have been visible through the windows in the fingers .
My other highlight was the Luck of Edenhall Goblet - the glass beaker was made in Egypt or Syria, probably in the 13th century. At the time the Arab lands produced the world's finest glassware, which was decorated with enamelled and gilded designs.

Its true origins were forgotten, and a legend grew up to explain its presence. According to this tale, a party of fairies were interrupted while making merry round a north english spring called St Cuthbert's Well. As they fled, they left the beaker behind, and one of the last cried out, 'If this cup should break or fall, Farewell the Luck of Edenhall'.
Well worth a visit.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Top 10 albums of the decade

The Hazards of Love - the Decemberists

Hail to the Thief - Radiohead

Time The Revelator - Gillian Welch

The Mirror Conspiracy - Thievery Corporation

Community Music - Asian Dub Foundation

Hymns for the Exiled - Anais Mitchell

Black Holes and Revelations - Muse

Re-Foc - Rodrigo and Gabriela

The Great Destroyer - Low

Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Swine flu recovery requires copious amounts of music

Not running through swine recovery - did lose 3/4 of a stone so not all bad.
Actually I was too busy going to brilliant gigs - after the wonders of Yes, I did The Decemberists, who did the entire Hazards of Love album - my album of the year.
Then saw Duke and the King at the rather squalid Scala, who started with a fantastic version of their song, if you ever get famous, followed the next night by my favourite Mexican heavy metal acoustic duo, Rodrigo and Gabriela - would really recommend their recent 11:11 album .
Finished this gig fest off with an evening with the Unthanks - the Observer 50 albums of the year had them in at 48 and the only folk album - the Bairns - the Observer best album was the Streets, Original Pirate Material so probably not much of a guide to what we should have listened to over the past 10 years.
Will have a go at my top 10 for the last decade next week.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Yes meet Hendrix

Swine flu has hit - so no running at the moment.
Went to see Yes at Hammersmith - now got Rick Wakeman's son Oliver on keyboards and the lead singer is the singer from a montreal-based Yes tribute band - is this how old bands will carry on in the future ?
All fantastic prog stuff - Roundabout and Long Distance Runaround were the highlights.
Would recommend a great interview with Chris Squire on when he first met Hendrix at the Marquee in London -

More running next week ...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Winter beckons

As the days draw in and winter beckons we start to look for ways of making running easier.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

East is East

Long run this weekend - almost 2 hours. Started in Spitalfields and headed north to Haggerston to the rather wonderful Regents Canal - this time we went east via shoreditch and mile end.

Could barely contain my excitement as Mark showed me round the Mile End climbing wall -

Outside was the owner's car , there is clearly money in walls with knobs on ...

I liked this subtle choice of number plate.

Then found a disused railway line over the Mile End Road - new technology in my camera meant that I was able to capture this image - to the human eye it would be just a blur.

Made our way back through Stepney Green with fantastic old houses and cobbled streets.

Found this old bakery near to Whitechapel Road - Daren bread appears to have been a patent bread for the 1880's onwards - made of wheat, wheat-germ and rye - which claimed nutritional advantages and was aimed at the diet-conscious, middle-class consumers of the time. Other new brands included Traigon ( wheat , maize and rice) and Kermode (wheat and maize), but the eventual winner was Hovis (reinforced wheat-germ).

No stunning sculpture on our run this week, so we would recommend you catch up with a fantastic Irish sculptor, Redmond Herrity - picture below is a work in progess that Mark saw on a recent visit to Donegal - also see

Finally, video and song of the week is Phoenix with 1901.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

New York runnings

On holiday with the family in New York this week - found a surprisingly good running route from Midtown down though the Chelsea and Meatpacking districts - where you can see excellent doorways ...

and finish along the very excitng and new Hudson River Park -
Each of the 7 segments to the park, which stretches several miles along the east side of Manhattan, have been designed by different people to reflect the different areas of New York. The renovated pier below has lamp posts which were designed using the Empire State Building as inspiration - you can see the real thing in the distance.

The highlight of the run was travelling along the newly opened High Line - - the High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s, to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan's streets. When all sections are complete, the High Line will be a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell's Kitchen.

I particularly liked the old rails hidden amongst the newly planted grasses and bushes

The only sight spoiling the many magnificent views was this massive billboard of Posh and Becks in their undies ..

Oh for an end to the cult of celebrity ...

Sunday, 18 October 2009


This week Mark has jetted off to Donegal to recharge his batteries - I managed to get some late cancellation tickets for a tour of the last working bell foundry in the UK. We saw this on one of our recent east end runs, located on Whitechapel Road, where is has been since 1570, see .

We found ourselves with 20 or so older men and women who turn out to be avid bell ringers - suddenly we realise we are hopelessly ignorant about the wierd and wonderful world of bell casting.

So what did we learn ?

1 All bells are female but are often given male names.
2 The cope is the outside mould and the core is the inner mould.
3 Bell metal is made up of 23% tin and 77% copper.

4 Talculm powder is used to stop the inner mould sticking to the molten bell metal.
5 The cope and core are made up of a mixture of sand, clay, goats hair and horse manure.
6 Tuning the bell is an incomprehensible process.

7 Big Ben was cast here as was the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

A fascinating trip, however we were not tempted to join the rest of the tour for some handbell ringing at the local church.

Back to running next week I think ...

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The men who knew too much (about Alfred Hitchcock's films)

This week, being Young and Innocent, we ran North by Northwest from Spitalfields, through Haggerston, followed the Regent's Canal westwards and were Spellbound by Hoxton and Shoreditch.

The canal is an ideal place to hide a Secret Agent or to Catch a Thief and is Notorious for good photo opportunities ...

He's always been in a bit critical ... but at least he's happy that he's not the Wrong Man or a local Psycho...

We then found ourselves for the first time in Shoreditch Park, being buzzed by the local Birds and got a bit over-excited and in a Frenzy about a huge granite boulder - did you know that granite is made of quartz (white), Mica (black) and a Suspicion of Topaz (pink) - I didn't, I Confess, so it was lucky that I was running with a granite expert ( and not a Stranger on a Train),

Shoreditch Park and Mabley Green, which is further north, are now permanent homes to two massive pieces of solid granite, each weighing up to 100 tonnes and measuring over four metres high - almost impossible for a Saboteur to Sabotage.

They are, without A Shadow of a Doubt, impressive. Boulder 1 (above) and Boulder 2 together form Boulder, an ambitious public space sculpture project by John Frankland.

Frankland intends that people should engage with the boulders in a direct and physical way through rock climbing, or "bouldering". We'll be taking our climbing kit and Rope next week and will probably be suffering from Vertigo ...

See for great pictures of the 39 Steps it took to quarry and install these boulders and see the video opposite if you are as excited as we are about big rocks ...

Even more exciting is that the new building in the background is on the site of the old Gainsborough Studios, where one of my favourite films, the very funny "Oh, Mr Porter !", starring Will Hay, was made. In it, a Lady Vanishes down an old railway tunnel but is finally found when they find a Torn Curtain blocking the entrance to the tunnel.

More importantly, this is where Alfred Hitchcock started his career in 1920, designing titles for silent movies - as someone who has watched all 50 of his films and is halfway through his many made-for-TV programmes - my Family think I've lost the Plot - this is clearly hallowed ground and will need to be revisited ...

Our Foreign Correspondent chooses his top 6 Hitchcock films -

Rear Window
The Trouble with Harry
The Man who knew too much (1956 version)
North by Northwest
Dial M for Murder.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Wapping running tales.

This week we started running from the new Smiths of Smithfield restaurant in Spittalfields, call The Luxe. We ran east along the river to Wapping High Street - this is a real treat for London history enthusiasts. One of our favourite parts is Wapping Pierhead -the buildings date from 1800. Customs officers responsible for examining and taxing goods imported via Wapping had their headquarters here. The cobbled street adds to the feeling of antiquity of the group of old houses around the central garden.

Further down the high street is the Town of Ramsgate pub which claims to be the oldest on the river. In the 1750's, there were more than 140 ale-houses in Wapping High Street and all with a doubtful reputation.
The bar is long and very narrow, because the pub was squeezed in between the path to Wapping Old Steps and the building on its other side. Ship's passengers arrive and departed via these steps.
One of the most notorious was Judge Jeffreys, who was called "the hanging judge" because of his cruelty in sentencing the followers of the Duke of Monmouth in his attempted rebellion of 1685. He planned to escape retribution by fleeing the country. While waiting for his ship to depart from Wapping Old Steps, he went to drink in the Town of Ramsgate.
Although disguised as a sailor ( ooh hello, I'm Sandy and this is my friend Julian), he was recognised by a man who had once come up before him in court. The latter said that he would never forget a face as evil as that of Judge Jeffreys. The judge was arrested, held in the Tower and later executed.

Just across the way is St John's school, which was founded in 1695. On the front of the building are statues of two of the pupils in their traditional uniforms.

Talking of uniforms, Mark has been working hard on colour co-ordinating his choice of running kit - reminds me of an old London rhyme...

Oranges and Lemons

"Oranges and lemons" say the Bells of St. Clement's
"You owe me five farthings" say the Bells of St. Martin's
"When will you pay me?" say the Bells of Old Bailey
"When I grow rich" say the Bells of Shoreditch
"When will that be?" say the Bells of Stepney
"I do not know" say the Great Bells of Bow
"Here comes a Candle to light you to Bed
Here comes a Chopper to Chop off your Head
Chip chop chip chop - the Last Man's Dead."

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Royal Park tour.

This week we ran for two hours through the central london parks ie Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St James's Park and Green Park. Inevitably, there were many distractions:

We marvelled at the ultra bling style of the Albert Memorial,

Risked life and limb to get this picture of a coloured drain cover in the middle of the Hyde Park Corner gyratory system ,

Spent a very emotional 5 minutes with Len from New Zealand, recounting his current trip to find the grave of his Great Uncle who fought in the First World War - this memorial is for all of the New Zealand soldiers who fought for Britain in the two world wars,

Wondered what this sign could be about - beware headless shadow boxers ?

Turned away persistent admirers who seemed determined to present us with garlands of flowers,

And sat down at the end for a rest and to enjoy the Indian Summer (the term possible originates from raids on European colonies in America by Indian war parties; these raids usually ended in autumn, hence the extension to summer-like weather in the fall as an Indian summer.)

Time for a long lay down ...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Running with your mouth closed

This week we have upped the ante with a few short midweek runs, together but apart . We call each other at a designated time and then head off out into the pouring rain - if we didn't make this arrangement we would never go .

At the weekend, we had to do this as well due to various other commitments. As I didn't have my normal chatty running buddy with me, I started to daydream. This time it was about the dangers of swallowing flies whilst on the run - something that has happened occasionally over the years, with rather disturbing results. I tend to double up, retch horribly and scare the shit out of passing dog walkers.

So I try to run through the woods with my mouth closed or more often with my toungue sticking out to deflect attacking insects - all of which also makes me look a bit demented and certainly untrustworthy.

My daydreaming soon took me to a darker place - excerpts from the film 'The Fly' flash before my eyes or, even worse, long forgotten memories re-emerge of Val Doonican singing "I once knew a woman who swallowed a fly ....

Time for the old jumpers and cardigans to make a comeback ?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Up and running again - concrete and pykrete

We finally got it together and ran this weekend - this time on Saturday. We were surprised how busy it was compared to a Sunday morning but part of this was due to the Mayor's riverside festival on the Southbank. It is also clearly a big tourist tour time - we are always amused as to what some of them wear ...

Do you think some one should tell this stage assistant that Marilyn Monroe passed on some time ago - also interesting that her name is totally mispelt but it takes several glances to notice this.
At the end of the run we crept into the Smithfield poultry market to gaze at the amazing roof ...

Horace Jones' original Poultry Market was destroyed by fire in 1958. The replacement building was designed by Sir Thomas Bennett in 1962–1963. The main hall is covered by an enormous concrete dome, shaped as an elliptical paraboloid, spanning 225 feet by 125 feet and only 3 inches thick at the centre. The dome is believed to be the largest concrete shell structure ever built in Europe by that time.

More research on getting home revealed that during World War II, a large underground cold store at Smithfield was the theatre of secret experiments led by Max Perutz on pykrete, a mixture of ice and woodpulp, alleged to be tougher than steel. Perutz's work, inspired by Geoffrey Pyke and part of Project Habakkuk, was meant to test the viability of pykrete as a material to construct floating airstrips in the Atlantic to allow refuelling of cargo planes in support of Lord Louis Mountbatten's operations. The experiments were carried out by Perutz and his colleagues in a refrigerated meat locker in a Smithfield Market butcher's basement, behind a protective screen of frozen animal carcasses. These experiments became obsolete with the development of longer range aircraft and the project was soon abandoned.

Looks like they finally found a use for pykrete ...

P.S. New Smiths of Smithfield restaurant in Spitalfields now open - called The Luxe probably because they couldn't call it Spit of Spitalfields...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Driving on the right.

Mark managed to get into a fight with an Irish fencing post and a road this week - he won on points - but unfortunately no Sunday run.

Talking of roads, I was taken with the story about the Samoans deciding to switch the side of the road they drive on from the right to the left. They only drive on the right because of a short period of German rule at the start of the last century .

Apparently, in the pre-industrial era horses kept to the left so that riders could draw their sword. Napoleon changed Europe to the right - all because someone called him short - watch out for what Sarkozy does next.

The Samoans have wangled themselves a special two day bank holiday ( but with a 3 day ban on alcohol sales) to help them into the new regime. There were also reports of some people attempting to drive on the left before the official changeover- a Samoan spokesman was heard to say "though I don't know if they were doing it by accident or because they are crazy".

It reminded me of working in Holland with some Dutch colleagues - all of their jokes were based on the myth that all Belgiums are not that bright. One of their favourites was about the Belgium plan to switch from driving on the right to the left - but to make it easier on the population the first week, it would be lorries only....

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Staycation running 3 - the new slow

I think I've cracked it - don't drink the night before and there is a chance of running the next morning - Camber Sands beach is vast and wonderful - if I can stop looking down to pick up razorclam shells or stopping to take pictures of degrading groynes I can run for hours ...

The light first thing on the run was also amazing

Now groynes have always fascinated me - was it just a schoolboy snigger at the name or was it more ? A quick trip to Wikipedia reveals the following essential facts -

Groynes may be classified as attracting, deflecting or repelling. Attracting groynes point downstream, serving to attract the stream flow toward themselves and not repel the flow toward the opposite bank. They tend to maintain deep current close to the bank. Deflecting groynes change the direction of flow without repelling it. They are generally short and used for limited, local protection. Repelling groynes point upstream; they force the flow away from themselves. A single groyne may have one section, for example, attracting, and another section deflecting.

Fascinating and useless information ....

Best of all you sometimes get terminal groyne syndrome where sand doesn't do what it is supposed to do

So I managed 3 runs in 3 days - the answer seems to be no alcohol, flat vast beaches and be careful at all times of terminal groyne syndrome ...