Monday, 6 November 2017

rum, bum and concertina

I have stolen the title of this blog from George Melly's autobiography. Despite the lack of concertina. He played the larger-than-life eccentric, too diverse to label as merely jazz singer, critic and art enthusiast and I had the good fortune to meet him and see him perform on more than one occasion. He crossed the binary sexual divide long before it was fashionable, although this is not a post-Spacey kiss-and-tell publicity-seeking grievance. I liked his ridiculous suits, flamboyant style and individual approach to life. I doubt he ever ran a step, but he knew how to title a book. Must read it sometime. 

Anyway, to celebrate Matt's 42nd birthday a Rum Run was planned: 42k (or thereabouts) and with a coastal or nautical theme, while drinking quite a lot of rum. I have to confess here that I have not drunk rum since an incident about 30 years ago when I poured most of a bottle into myself and then back out. Funnily enough I haven't ever felt the need to return to the scene of the crime and wondered if I still had an allergic reaction. On the train to Dunbar (the delayed 10.08) bottles and cups were passed around and I thought "well that is okay as a breakfast drink, tastes more like gin." It was gin. Flavoured with rhubarb, and very considerate of Jim to start the adventure with at least one of our five-a-day. 

The forecast for the weekend had been improving and we left the train to blue skies and a promise of excellent weather all day. Spirits were high, and there was a vague plan to hug the coast as much as possible for as long as possible. And stop every few miles for another rum flavoured treat. What a great idea!

In order to get photos of the crew crossing the bridge to nowhere I hung back. This gave me the advantage of seeing the water being kicked up and I took the coward's wider line over the rippled sand, keeping socks dry till later. Shortly into the dunes at Belhaven Bay we stopped for Pina Coladas. A gloopy opaque mix was shared round into which a dash of rum was added. And glacé cherries. Nothing if not sophisticated. 

Jim pops his cherry

nice to see the Foxlake folk gathering in the markers from the trail run earlier

aiming for that prominent group of pines on the rise
but first the bridge.

So instead of following the trail to the A198 and taking the long way back to the coast via Limetree Walk we opted for the rickety old bridge, the last crossing before the Tyne meets the sea, hoping it wasn't locked. Happily it wasn't! But felt so wobbly that we crossed it in ones and twos. There was also a lack of cattle in the riverside fields although I was still keen to get back to the more public paths near the mouth of the estuary, where we stopped for another rum, this time a bottle of Doorly's Barbados rum.

Tyninghame House
opinions differed as how to pronounce the Y and A in Tyninghame

there is something special about this spot beneath the Scots pines,
and it wasn't just the strong drink.

I helped drain the last of the bottle
As Mary J said in her blog "Peter bravely overcoming his aversion to rum"

The next few miles are some of the most outstanding coastal trails in East Lothian if not the world! and especially when enhanced with a skinful and the November sun blasting across the landscape. A couple of Red Admirals fluttered by and I knew I was in heaven. It was like a beautiful dream!

There is an excellent trail through the trees just above the beach, then through the woods and out to the ugly bench at St Baldred's Cradle. Jeff made us a little uneasy by cantering along the top of the ridge. I had to look away and take pics of the Bass Rock. From this angle you can see the His Master's Voice gramophone on the far right. (Fog horn, I imagine.)

hmv horn far right

land ahoy!

Then round the corner and the big reveal of Tyninghame Beach surely one of the finest in Scotland. About a quarter of the way along there is a rock promontory that (unless the tide is out) determines whether you get wet feet or climb up and over. Ever the fan of dry feet I headed inshore and up-and-over while others waded through the knee deep waves. I also know there is a very fine viewpoint from the top of the outcrop (photo below), then a pleasant path down through a grove of trees (popular camping spot) to the beach.

3 versions: 
number 1, panorama 

number 2, normal (wide)

number 3, zoom

this chap was far more interested in coming with us and had to be restrained

At the West end of the beach there is the Peffer Burn exiting into the sea. Sometimes it can be crossed with nearly dry feet, but not today. I mentioned to those around that I would be taking the pussies' option of going about a quarter mile upstream where a bridge crosses the stream. There were only a couple of takers as the rest blythely sploshed through the water. However my choice wasn't just hydrophobia; the beach beyond the burn quickly becomes very poor running, and soon you are slowed to a walk, hopping over bricks and boulders and risking twisting ankles and dinging shins. I have done this coast so many times I know it's a far better line to go inshore and follow the fields for a bit until you climb over the next headland, especially when the tide is right in. We waited, full of dry-footed smugness on the rest hauling themselves off the shoreline and following.

field of sprouts

obstacle course at Seacliff

The beach at Seacliff is often a highlight but today the low sun
 left the sands in shadow and it was bit cold, shady and bereft.

across the stubble to Tantallon


We stopped at a spot familiar to those who have done the Alternative JMW run with Keith B. Far enough away from the castle grounds not to be troubled for an entry fee but able to enjoy the view none the less. Here we had some VERY excellent rum truffles that Jeff made. People have started businesses and founded dynasties with less professional delicacies than these. A highlight of the run! I think there was more rum flavoured drink but can't remember which. I should put up the tasting notes emailed round before the trip; it wasn't really us just swigging from a bottle despite the evidence to the contrary.

Round a couple of corners and I found the going about the worst of the day. Really lumpy tussocky paths with grass leaning over the single track so you couldn't easily judge where you were putting your foot or into what. Also the others ahead (fastards - copyright Mary J) didn't seem to be having any trouble floating along. After an age, and some close ups of the B Rock, we eventually hit the golf course this side of NB. After a regroup to cause minimal golf rage we took what we hoped was the most considerate line across the fairways. It was delightful running, the sun was shining and we were bombing downhill.

Mary made and posted this dazzling gif and it sums up the day perfectly

Helen, Fraser and Willie had arranged to meet us at North Berwick. We were about 90mins off ETA and had phoned ahead to warn of late arrival. Willie's response was to order chips at just the right time so as soon as we arrived we all got a portion of just-perfect-temperature chips handed to us. Magic! And just what was required. There may have been some drinks and hip flasks passed round as well.

more golf courses
and subliminal lens flare pina colada

We pushed on through the brilliant sundown to the small cave under the crag at the other end of Archerfields. I think this stop was a more traditional Rum and Coke. Though a slice of lime or 3 was a rather nice touch.

The sun and sky were doing spectacular things as we cruised along past THAT boat, still stranded on the high water line. The sun was going down exactly behind Arthur's Seat on the horizon and I was keen to get as far in the remaining twilight as possible, before headtorches were required. Hopefully over the bridge at Aberlady, which would take us beyond the most treacherous terrain.

Aberlady beach was deserted and I chatted to Jeff, Phil, and Jim to make the time fly by. There was little sign of anyone behind and I wondered how long a wait we might have at Aberlady. The good news was the others had taken a more direct line missing the beach and taking the trail inland to the bridge so we all arrived together without anyone having to stand shivering their timbers in the chilly air. It couldn't have been arranged more efficiently!

thousands of geese arriving at Aberlady

Was more drink consumed? I really lost count and spent most of the day in a low level fuzzy state. Never shouting drunk as happens 2~3 drinks in on the Whisky Chaser but never absolutely sober either. We ran through Aberlady and onwards on tired legs. Willie, Fraser and Helen had parked at Longniddry Bents and had a last snifter there before we headed off for the 6.35 at Longniddry Station. It turned out to be far closer than I had worried it was and we actually saw the 6.03 pulling out just as we arrived. The rest of the team regrouped for a last drink in the waiting room. The best had been saved for last - a hot rum toddy! A very well judged hot water infusion of herbs and spices was added to a dash of rum. Even without the rum the hot herbal tea was a winner. I had meant to lead a warm down stretch and bend yoga session on the short hop from Longjohnniddry to Waverley but somehow was too busy yabbering to get everyone to flex and rotate those weary limbs. 

It wasn't too bad though uncoiling off the train and slowing working up to jog down the road home. The advertised 42k (26miles) turned out to be about 29 or 30miles depending how you ironed out the gnarly coastline, and an extra couple up and down to/from Waverley, meant November's Tynecastle Bronze was in the bag, nicely ahead of schedule. For the war monument I took a photo of the poppy decorated church in Aberlady. All the poppies are hand crocheted or knitted or woven. And they travel along the hedges as well as forming a wall on the church. I liked the sombre, respectful yet positive vibe of the warm spotlights picking out the flowers and brickwork against the cold blue sky.

Big thanks to M&M enterprises for the meticulous planning and exquisite supplies. They pretend it was cack-handed luck and last minute sticky tape but it surely wouldn't have been such a seamless day from beginning to end if that was the case? Happy Birthday Matt and what a tremendous day out!

30 miles rumming

tasting notes!

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