Wednesday, 30 November 2011

From South to North

Haven't been around blog space for a while due to my trip to Chirthurst monastery, West Sussex. I volunteered to work in the forest for a couple of weeks in what turned out to be glorious weather. Not having many skills in the forest management department, my job was to haul logs of sweet chestnut and neatly pile them in rows. This was hard work but it was made easier with a handy log grabber tool. Over the course of the two weeks I learned the names of quite a few trees and got to grips with brush cutting, heathland promotion and tree planting. The forest is being returned to it's original state with the replanting of oak, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn and beech. This is an ongoing process, but has already produced some good results. There are a quite a number of badgers, deer and owls around!
While I was staying in the monastery, I joined in with the routine, which involved a 4 am wake up gong and lots of meditation. Together with all the sunshine and fresh air, it was quite an experience.
At the week ends I got in some running through the woods and managed a few sketch paintings.

This is a kuti called Brahma Vihara, I stayed in for five nights, just me the badgers and the owls

A view of the grounds below Chithurst Monastery

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Torch running around Haddington

Good news on the running front. I hope I'm not speaking too soon, but I went for a run with the club last night and the signs of recovering achillies tendinitis are encouraging. We decided to go out on a headlight run of about four miles through the Lennoxlove Estate. I didn't expect to stay with the fast guys very long and I was right before we got to Burn's Well they were out of torch range. I was anticipating a solo run the rest of the way when I spotted a light ahead and it turned out to be Frank, who decided to wait for me. When we got to the turn into Lennoxlove he said
"Let's carry on to Begbie."
"Okay," I said
As we approached the corner at Begbie farm house, Frank said
"Let's go to Samuelston."
"Okay," I said with a slightly more strained voice
When we reached the cross-roads above Samuelston, he said,
"How about going on to the old A1, it's safer in the dark'"
"Okay," I said and I'm glad I did because as the ran progressed I felt stronger and ended up having a really good run. We ran about 9 miles and that's the longest run on the road that I've done this year!

The last two weeks I have been doing a regular stretching routine for the achillies and hopefully it is  paying off... time will tell!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Anyone for... Chess?

'Haven't played for years,' is the reply most people give me when I have try to pin them down to a game of chess, it was true for me too, until this year. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Although my job at East Lothian Council involved planning services, when it comes to my own life, quite often the big things tend to 'just happen' rather than having a long run in on the 'Planning Cycle.' It's true that I planned to retire from work and take a trip to New Zealand and Australia this year, but the amount of planning wasn't as detailed as you might expect. Part of the fun in life and particularly in travelling is letting it unfold... it's the journey, not the destination da de da. I hadn't planned getting back into chess but I found that two of my relatives, like me, felt the urge to play. So I got into a marathon  chess series with my daughter's partner Vlad. At the end of series he thought he had won, but I pointed out to him that 4 - 4 is a draw... he still doesn't get it.

When I got home from Australia my sister and brother in law Terry visited me. As the visit progressed we found a mutual love of chess. It didn't look good for me when Terry took a 4 - 0 lead, but I pulled myself together and got back to 4 - 4. The final was a nail biter and I won. Not that it's the winning you will understand... it's the taking part - and winning.

So, well and truly hooked, I wanted to continue playing, but the problem was that Vlad lives in Melbourne and Terry lives in Weymouth. Everyone I asked to play had a excuse and I didn't want to resort to playing the computer (although on lonely nights... I have to admit I weakened.) Then the brilliant idea hit me of playing chess by txt. At present I have two long distance games going on against my old adversaries  It requires two chess sets with pieces that won't fall over and a basic understanding of vertical ( 1 - 8)   and horizontal ( a - h ) After that all that is required is a good thumb on the mobile. There have been one or two mistakes made, but we have managed to over come them. I have played two games with Terry and modesty stops me from revealling the score ( 2 - 0 to me ) When my running body finally falls apart, I know what I'll be doing!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Taking Advantage

Harvey and I took full advantage of the good weather this week end. On Saturday we did a canter up Trapprain Law. There were some great views over to Aberlady Bay and across to the Lammermuir Hills. While we  were on the top we took the a look around. Over by the quarry, where the Law race comes up, there is a new fence being built. You can imagine the Volalandi tribe living up there when you trapse around a bit. I had an ulterior motive for picking the Law for our walk. I have been painting a panoramic view of the Law from the south looking north. It gave me a chance to have a look at the point where the photo of the view was taken from!

Trapprain Law Cairn looking towards North Berwick

Aberlady Bay at full tide

Earlier today I took part in the Borders Cross Country race at Lauder. The whole race took place in brilliant sunshine and no wind... ideal conditions. Underfoot it was pretty muddy and I was glad I took the decision to wear my Ron Hill shoes... made me feel confident on the hills slippery hills. My last race was on 27 February which co-incidentally was the last of 2010/11 Borders Cross Country series. One of the reasons for not racing much this year has been a troublesome achillies ankle. I still have a problem with it, but with stretching and some massage it is being held in check. I felt great during the run and had a bit of puff left to race in at the end. Not a fast time but being able to put in a good effort and enjoying the race and the buzz was a real bonus.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Canine running

Harvey and his pal Sebby (a Rhodesian rigde back) have started a new section at HELP running club. For the last few weeks they have taken me and Sebby's owner, Richard for a headlight run in the countryside. We start off from the Augbinny Centre, go along the path by the river and over the pedestrian bridge. Then it's along the path at the edge of the field and on to Rabbie Burns well. After that the path ends and we run along the road to the 'Titanic' bridge (built in 1912.) After that it's up through the woods and into the Seggarsdean Estate. Through there and onto the Pencaitland Road. We then follow the road into the Whimpey estate and rejoin the River Tyne pathway back to the Augbinny Centre. Last night we ran it in about 42 mins and  Ian Carrick joined us , even took a short turn on the lead (holding it.) The two dogs love running together, loping along and making an occassional dart into the darkness when they smell something they fancy. I've heard that dogs have better eyesight in the dark than humans and this was confirmed by the way they avoided the puddles and we didn't. Mind you they can't hold torches so well as us!