Thursday, 2 July 2015

top medium, last vulcan, summer arrives

we're all going on a.....

I've been putting off writing up this last week because it has been very busy and very varied and I'm still not sure what to make of last Friday night's night out. Mary got us tickets for Gordon Smith. If you didn't know he was in town you would never know from the (lack of) publicity. You may have heard of him: the Psychic Barber. Or, as the woman at the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre introduced him, (without so much as a nod to the linguistic juxtaposition) a top medium. The centre itself promises much: "A Spiritual Centre for the Mind, Body and Spirit. Providing Psychic & Spiritual Workshops, Spiritualist Church, Therapies, Art Music and Talks."
Holy spook-fest Batman!

By way of preparation I had read Gordon's autobiography. He grew up in a large impoverished family in the Gorbals in the early 60's (dob July '62) with a foul mouthed mother who would enjoy a fist fight. He enjoyed extended breaks with a terminally ill cousin in London, the parents of whom were more open to Gordon's sensitive ways. He saw dead people in his early years. And people's auras. He gravitated towards other "sensitive" types. While growing up he was abused by at least 2 adults. He started dating a girl not unlike his mother (loud and abrasive) in his teens and got her pregnant. Married, had 2 boys, then became estranged and realised he was gay. (His environment as a youngster would not have been a good place to be gay, although it seemed to be quite a surprise for someone with second sight.) He became a barber and hairdresser, only studying mediumship after bumping into a couple of spiritualists who recognised and encouraged his abilities. He tours the world doing demonstrations and allegedly doesn't charge for personal readings.

We (Mary) paid £20 per ticket and the hall we sat in held about 80 folk. Presumably he could have filled a hall 5 times that size, 10 times that size, but opted for small and intimate. It was a warm evening and a bit like weight-watchers. There were maybe 6 males, and the rest were female and a very particular type. If I were kind (clearly I am not) I would search for a euphemism, but fat is the word that sprung to mind. Fat with an elaborate or groomed dode of hair on top. And dressed as if for a night at the theatre with plenty of perfume. It was a hot night and beads of perspiration emanated from Gordon's hairline. He too looked well groomed, like he might be wearing a spray tan or thin layer of slap. But otherwise was entirely credible. He was working like a man possessed, bobbing back and forth, on his toes moving to the rhythm of the spirits, as he delivered messages from beyond the grave. He gave a small preamble then launched into the first of half a dozen readings. Almost identical to the the videos you can find on YouTube. His accuracy was very impressive as he pulled names (fore- and sur-) from the air, and there was almost nothing that looked like the kind of bet hedging that goes under the term "cold reading" where information is brought forth from the mark.

I had in my lap a pen and paper and kept a score card of hit vs miss, marking down an accurate name or stuff that rang true with the customer, vs info that didn't register with the grieving relative. Final score was 56 good guesses (or accurate statements from the world of the undead) vs 22 that seemed to fall on the customer unclaimed. I could see no trickery involved and Gordon was totally credible. He is famous for his accuracy and if something seemed in doubt he would not try to make it fit or work it in to his routine. Some messages didn't strike chords but the majority of his chat from the dead was spot on and I would have left the hall utterly convinced, had he not been selling the idea that people continue in the spirit world after they are dead, which I just cannot bring myself to believe. (Were he to give the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann I'd be impressed.) It's like ghosts and vampires: stuff of fiction and fantasy. I have no idea what Gordon does or how to explain it, yet I would not suggest he is a fraud or being duplicitous. His message is very much that there is life beyond death and that this should be a comfort to those mourning loved ones. 

I wouldn't recommend his autobiography - it is poorly written and spent too much time talking about his trashy relatives fighting in the street and not enough about his mystical powers. However he has written a few books about his mediumship, including the one he was selling last Friday evening. I didn't buy it but I'm now wishing I did. Some of the things he did were perhaps a bit dubious: or rather the traditional format of the medium is handing out information but never taking questions for the departed. Now that might get you thinking. Why can't I ask Aunt Alice where she hid her jewelry? If my father had turned up I had many questions that only he would have the answer to, but it would seem the process is that stuff comes through the ether in a misty and random way, although once he got into his stride with a certain spirit Gordon became animated and very accurate, giving out convincing info sentence after sentence. Although he also employed a stagey "yes, uhuh, I see..." in answering the disembodied spirit, which was cheesy as a cheeseburger. It was not made clear why the spirit couldn't just take centre stage and shout out loud. I'm guessing they would make mediums redundant if they did that. Its a bit like aliens making crop circles to communicate rather than just turning up and announcing themselves. Until they all come out of the woodwork I'm remaining on the fence.

In summary: how can I be so convinced by such a big crock of horseshit? I don't know but I am. I'd love to get a haircut and have a long one-to-one chat about it. The entertainment value of the evening was middling. About 80 minutes of listening to other people's dull (dead) relatives and that they are really faring very well in the afterlife, now they are dead, is not especially enlightening. Many of the dead said thanks for the candles and flowers (well they would, wouldn't they?) and many died of a tightness in their chest or lack of breath (and they would too.) The implications are however, staggering. Presumably Gordon has an inside line on the accuracy of any and every religion. And how heaven is decorated. Trouble is you may have to buy and read a poorly written book to find out. Sadly no deaders Mary or I knew, turned up. I think both of our fathers (who art in heaven) were too sceptical to show their faces.

Balmy weather, sunglasses, cold drinks, it must be summer, here at last. To celebrate M and I went for a jolly along Gullane. We had to drop off stuff at my mums on the way and sadly by 2.08pm were not quite as near to East Fortune as I'd hoped. There was to be a fly-past of the last Vulcan before it was put out to pasture. There is a dead Vulcan at East Fortune with flaking paint and looking a bit unloved, but this was the swansong of one of the most fabulous planes of all time before expense grounded the big beautiful triangle. 

First and last glimpse

As we drove towards Gullane I saw the plane: low to the ground and no doubt circling East Fortune. I suddenly realised I REALLY wanted to see the thing and shouted at Mary to make haste in that direction. She sighed and followed orders but despite going over the hill towards the airfield we were to see no more of it. I was sad. Here is what we should have seen...

The UK will never make another 4 jet-engined plane. It was the starting point that became Concorde although I much prefer the Vulcan. There is an impressive video of a prototype doing a roll here.  

However a lovely day for a run. Which was compensation for the lack of Vulcans. There were loads of races last weekend, but I enjoyed not doing any of them. Chance to re-group and have a relaxed weekend. Sometimes its good not to be dashing off somewhere for a race. Nice to be out with the camera just enjoying the warm air and sights. We did some intervals along the beach so weren't totally lazy. It was good fun and although we had taken wetsuits with a view to going for a dip afterwards, we decided to leave that till Sunday as we had a number of things to do before catching the 6.43 out of Waverley heading back to N Berwick to celebrate Ben Kemp's return to the land of living.

As you will remember, back at the beginning of the year, Ben K scared the living shit out of all his pals by nearly dying. More technically getting Sepsis (blood poisoning) thinking it was flu and manfully not getting sorted till it got a hold of him and he was put into an induced coma and onto a respirator to help his flagging lungs. Luckily no other major organ damage and within a short period of time was on the road to recovery and back home. He has been back to work for a handful of weeks and recently a short run was done without any bad news. So to celebrate his return, some pals and the locals who did a lot of child minding and helping Alison through her darkest moments, were invited round to drink booze in their back garden. I should have taken more photos of Ben and Alison but seemed to have been more focussed on drinking as much as possible before getting the last train home. 

Ben: well on the road to a full recovery.

I was up in the night to find something to assuage the unaccountable thirst, but mostly survived undamaged. Mary was a little hungover too despite drinking considerably less. We still had the swimming kit in the car so headed back to Gullane, where we hoped Summer still remained. Sort of but a bit more wind had blown up and the sea was a bit choppy.

We were fuelling up on Falko's coffees and breads when this artwork went past - had to get a photo.

It's been a while since I had a selfie in the public loos.

flowers were out

how to get sand in your hair

We did more intervals along the sand at Aberlady. 5 x 1min. Unfortunately there were some bits that required wet feet. It was good fun but we were definitely flagging by number 5.

Mary dreams of a mermaid haircut

back to base

water temps 14.5 degrees - quite a bit warmer than last time we swam here.

However it was a bit choppy - sort of day you would drink too much salty water. I came out feeling a bit pukey. Combination of drinking a fair bit (of salt water) and the visuals - looking at the sea bed going up and down as waves lifted and dropped you. Swum a bit but nothing of substance. Spent a fair amount of time taking loads of photos as sun was bright and water clear in parts. If you take enough you will usually find something later that looks interesting or like you meant it.

Went home super hungry. It does give you an appetite. Nice to have a weekend off racing and to go into the working week fresh rather than ragged and like I could fall asleep at lunch time. Hope this is the start of a long hot Summer.

ooooh nearly forgot. New Reekie the Titan Arum flowered after weeks of anticipation at the Botanics. I was too busy to make it along but there was huge interest and 2hr queues formed. It is the world's largest (and smelliest) flower. This one reached 2.6m. The smell seemed to lessen after a day or so. I had hoped to make it along but was just too busy. My pal Jennifer took this photo which gives a good idea of scale. I was pleased that something so sedate and non celebrity orientated could attract such a large interest. It has a real look of Little Shop of Horrors.

Monday, 22 June 2015

seven hills race 21/06/15

I am suffering from post holiday blues. A bit wiped out from all that travel, sunshine and exertion. And returning to a mid-summer that is cold, grim and dull. Nothing to light my candle. Mary allowed me to come along on her Saturday run and I cheered up just getting out and it was quite warm once we got going. And the activity stirs the sludge in the bottom of your cage, gets things moving. Then the following day I nearly woke up feeling chipper for the 7 Hills. Not super-keen but ok-lets-get-this-race-done.

On the way up the road I bought a large can of Red Bull thinking Mary would share it. However she was already maxed out on coffee so I drank a little too much before pouring the rest away. There's always a huge crowd for this race. Looking back at previous years it's hard to believe less than 100 did it in the early days. Mary had opted for the Challenge rather than the race, since it has been a long time since she has been near 1.40 for a half. She would be a fun target for me to try to catch before the end.

I had thought I would start moderately and try to pace myself. However the Red Bull insisted I leg it and it is fun to gallop up the High St to the surprise of the traffic and tourists. I was just in touch with the leaders and saw Iain and Mike head back down Johnston Terrace, (heading towards Morrison St) whereas David L and Stewart went through into Princes St Gardens heading towards the West End. I had thought I would go down Johnston Terrace and then Castle Terrace, Lothian Rd and through the West End. Nick was just ahead and this route pays out the altitude much more efficiently than dropping into Princes St. Gdns. down some hideous grass slides (Paul E cracked a rib or 2 here in a previous year,) before climbing back up to the West End. Johnston Terr makes for a long gradual downhill all the way to Lothian Rd where after dodging through the cars I looked to see how far ahead Mr Limmer and Mr Whitlie were. They were behind. I can count the times I have overtaken Stewart in a race on, er, one finger.

challenge start

Mary only realised this year that Ravelston Dykes road is an uphill. Having run it the opposite direction with GH a while back, it is v apparent it has a gradient. And being long and straight seems never ending. And when it does end it does so with a steep trail into Corstorphine Woods, which is no relief. Stewart began to pull away here. I can't remember who was in front but all of a sudden we are looking around, and having just been blindly following the person ahead into the trees after the water table, we have gone the wrong way. Usually I mess up the exit but this is a new one. Davids Limmer and Fulton are there. We manage to get the right line across to the check point then Stewart follows Megan off the sharp right, down tarmac while I return towards the water tables and take a good line back out to the clearing then sharp right down the dirt trail parallel to Kaimes Rd. I am hoping others are lost in the trees (David F went wrong here.) But Megan and Stewart bomb down the main road 30yards before I reach it. Well there goes the m50 trophy. (Actually short of an RTA I realistically waved bye-bye to the trip to the engravers when I saw Stewart in the queue to pick up numbers.)

However I hadn't thrown in the towel and kept the two of them in sight for over 40minutes, definitely a during-race record. We overtook challengers 36 minutes into the race. How is it possible to make up 30 minutes in 36 minutes??? Over the tram tracks – I wondered if anyone would have a run in with a tram. I crossed all the roads without incident however going across Gorgie Rd before Chesser Ave someone did shout loudly out the passenger window. Whether it was words of encouragement from a spectator or words of discouragement (I had just dodged between moving vehicles as there wasn't any substantial gaps in the traffic) from an irate motorist, I never found out.

photo thanks to Cat M

Craiglockhart hill was dry and dusty and very slippy. I was wearing Hoka Trail shoes and they were good although the sand pits of beech nut shells and dry dirt provided no traction for poorly placed feet. Olly went past. Last year I got to Arthur Seat before he overhauled me. Great to see Michael G and Martin cheering us on, although sad that neither were fit to run. On the downhill I made some ground on Olly and then the long haul up to the Braids I seemed to be getting a bit closer. Passed Doug Runner here. Olly asked me to tell him about my childhood as we set off across the golf course.”Brief” was my answer. He was ahead again by the Lang Linn path which I was glad about as I suspect I know a better line through the Hermitage. I called to David Limmer to follow me but he seemed intent on taking as many long cuts as possible racking up an extra mile more than some folk. Olly went left which is the right way but then headed down too soon which (in an unsporting manner) pleased me. I followed the path which zig-zags down to the stream but crosses the bridge and keeps feet dry. Up the near vertical dirt immediately and along the top to the stile. 50 yards ahead of Olly. Nick was just ahead and I was shouting encouragement to him (charge the sleepers!) as we jogged up the terrible steps to Blackford Hill. Cat and friends gave us a welcome.

Down to the allotments and past Johnny who was saving himself for the remaining Heb Halves. David L would catch Nick and I on the road running sections, get a bit ahead, and then take a terrible route. Then 10 minutes later would overtake again. He was also suffering from the cold. Despite all this he really seemed to be enjoying himself. As we ran up Ratcliffe Terrace turning right at Duncan St we watched as David continued along Causewayside, too far ahead to shout back. No doubt we would see him again soon.

Then the highlight of the run, I saw Mary just ahead. I crossed Minto St with no real memory of traffic or how I got through it, then started shouting stuff at Mary and how we were coming for her. She was shouting abuse back and in very high spirits. I knew from the good runners in the challenge I had already passed that Mary was running well. She was just behind as we all went into Pollock Halls and was able to follow the smartest line through to the limbo at the turnstile. Unfortunately Olly was just ahead and also took this best line. I knew if he was ahead here he would be ahead at the finish. I could feel twinges of cramp in my legs meaning I couldn't afford to race flat out in the descent from the summit.

As Willie J who took these photos put it...
a former Porty legend (Tony) meets a current one (Johnny)
with Portobello in the background

Last year I took the Gutted Haddie. This year I returned to the usual sleeper-steps going up Nether Hill then taking the line around to the left and up the wee gully to the summit. Getting through all the challengers was challenging and I found I was shouting COMING THROUGH and pushing folk (metaphorically) out the way. In my defence I did say thanks a lot and other encouraging things. Towards the top I could hear the dulcet tones of Tony the Tiger who likes to use your first and second names so everyone around can hear. Great support from him and Willie J who was cruelly taking photos of the battered corpses as we struggled up the last hill.

Off the top I chose the less vertical path (sort of tourist route) down to the first shoulder but then left to the steps and single track down to the Dasses and across the end of the bog to the tarmac track that leads to Holyrood Car Park. Cruella De Cramp is always waiting for me here and in the past I have been reduced to stopping and slapping my wooden legs. This year I was running beside Nick and had to reduce my stride and shout the f word loud and long while I wrestled with the iron snakes constricting my calves. I managed to keep going but dropped 30secs behind Nick. An EAC dude who had been with us for a few miles was stretching his legs in the car park and I commiserated. Unfortunately he recovered in time to get between Nick and I on the last ascent to the finish. I crossed the line 10th in 1.53.58 although I stopped my watch on 1.54 exactly. (Faster than the last 2 years by less than a minute both times.) Another beer mat. Stewart W had accelerated 7+ minutes or more away to place third in 1.46.32! Megan had dropped back a bit to just a couple of mins ahead and first lady in an impressive 1.52.36. Dessie had an amazing run and came first in 1.38.31. Iain dropped out leaving Mike in second place just seconds behind Dessie. There was never going to be any doubt about Carnethy getting first team but I was proud that Porty came second and got towels and beers despite David doing the 8 Hills of Edinburgh. (Joke on loan from Willie J) Well done to Dougie leading Porty home in 1.51.09 just 3 secs behind David Fulton in fourth and one place ahead of Megan. I was second m50 and got a more generous envelope than many first50 prizes. And a beer. The best news of the day was that Mary had found a form she hasn't really displayed since her procedure for Atrial Fibrillation. I suspect this was because she got caught up in the challenge of the event (she used to enjoy (up)hills more than anything although we haven't been training for them other than 10 flights of hotel stairs) rather than having suddenly mended. Great to see. It is an event that really grabs you. The daft nature of the course and the mix of challengers and racers all running about the city with enough dirt and hazards to keep your attention makes the couple of hours whiz by. Great fun!

(If you can do the thing in under 2.10 you should really be in the Race not the Challenge.)

It was tempting to go to the pub but after standing around chatting till nearly everyone had left we went home. But not before Kathy had talked an ebullient Mary and I into signing up for Craggy Island Tri. So that gives us something to train for. A couple of months to hone the open water swimming and mtb-ing. Fingers crossed for better weather.

swim from here to there? (Then cycle and run over the hills.)
pic: thanks to boardinbob (flickr) linked off the Craggy Island Tri site.