Sunday, 24 December 2017

eskapade / december tb

So what exactly was I doing tip-toeing round a graveyard in the pre-dawn light last Sunday? Looking for soldiers! There was a sign saying Commonwealth War Graves outside Portobello Cemetery off Milton Road. I know this because Nick and I looked for them 2 years ago before running the Eskape (as it was known that year) and failed to find any. This year I gave myself 15 minutes in addition to the hour to run 7 miles to Goosegreen Cres. where I'd meet the troops, the later crew, and we'd run the Eskapade - a Carnethy based 25mile social from the mouth of the Esk to Carlops. So was 15 minutes enough to find the war graves we failed to find 2 years ago? Well yes and no. There was still no sign of anything like the large central memorial in Rosebank (see photo in linked Eskape), but I did find a solitary headstone of a soldier, Private James Stirling of the Gordon Highlanders, who died exactly 100 years ago past May, tragically aged 19. It was a sombre start to the day, standing in the rain, looking at this marker for a boy, a teenager, no doubt mown down before he even reached his twenties, a reminder of the fatuous waste of war, started by politicians and paid for by Stirling and and his mourning family, and for what? Let the fuckers who start wars lead the troops from the front, and let's see who is still keen.

Meanwhile I just had time for a pit stop at the award winning toilets beside the Quayside, where I contemplated who exactly judges such awards and whether, like Michelin restaurant judges they trial the facilities in full, and anonymously, prior to making the award. Not an honour to be sniffed at.

I have been getting a little nostalgic of late; looking back at a couple of my blogs from this time of the year. I definitely find this the most objectionable season as the spirit of christmas seeps like oozing corpse juice into the coffin end of the year; from September onwards, smelling worse and worse until the festering carcass is finally buried early January. It would seem to be a common theme in my spiritual repertoire. Here is a link to my complaints in my first ever blog, and they remain very similar year on year. Check out the Eskape blog: I was swimming against the tide of xmas shite back then too, with very similar grumbles...

"I have been in a filthy mood for most of December and find as the days shorten so does my temper. It's like there has been a shower of meteorites and the majority have been blinded to the perfume ad banality and low-brow blanket of shite that has settled on the country, except for a chosen few. The only eskape from this money and drink fuelled tawdry telly spectacle of tinselly fucktard-nation is to go running. And this, from before sun-up till after sun-down, was what we did."

Progress has been made! I now no longer watch terrestrial tv. When we do exit Netflix and inadvertently catch perfume adverts or 2 lines of River City or something gruesome made for the daytime housebound, we are shocked at the levels to which things have descended, or maybe it was always that bad but we were inured by partial exposure. It certainly hasn't improved in our absence. Also, I agree (although for different reasoning) with Morrissey and urge you to stop watching the news. Life improves greatly and an unnecessary weight is lifted off one's shoulders. If people on the other side of the world want to do awful things to each other, there is nothing I can do to make things better and therefore making myself unhappy by learning about it is detrimental, without any likely resolution or benefit. And to accusations I am burying my head in the sand, ignoring world politics and should be aware of important ongoing flim-flam, I'd say yes, fuck off and refer them to the Serenity Prayer. You know that old chestnut...
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Now there are a LOT of people who would do well to pay attention to that nugget of wisdom. I have stopped signing online petitions because the only real outcome of doing so is the several follow on emails from folk who enjoy lighting the torches the villagers are going to carry to the lynching. 

This, and playing a musical instrument (doesn't matter how badly)(ask Cat M!) is the way forward. Occasionally I will switch on the news; in fear of becoming a total ignoramus, but it's like eating a pork pie - I am quickly reminded why it's not a regular aspect of my life.

So after a bit of climbing walls and crossing bridges we ran through the Duke of Buccleuch's. I have to apologise for the quality of photos. A slight mizzle was in the air and the camera (my older camera) got a bit damp and the light was pretty crappy. Digby also reported getting less good quality results than anticipated. Auren and Graham (above) posed heroically in that empty niche on the bridge but the scale is not quite right and the camera didn't help. The atmosphere of the runners was in contrast to the weather  - very jolly and there was a lot of banter. We had given the main body of the group (about 25~30?) an 80 minute headstart and hoped to catch up by lunch at Penicuik.

Most of us had done the route before but we would regularly come to a junction and not quite be able to determine the "correct" route. We would opt for the direction of whoever was shouting loudest but occasionally Graham would get out a laminate. And sometimes we just did a similar or parallel route, perhaps to avoid a trip over a wall and through a housing estate or under the culvert and obligatory walk through the river that undercuts the Borderline Railway (as 2015). Sometimes we would lean down and examine the tracks of Inov-8s to see if they smelled of fresh Pentlands.

the war memorial at Polton
used on the last visit here for December 2015's TB.

The following section is a magical ridge run I only ever visit on this particular day out. It is visually splendid - even on a dull day with all the leaves on the deck, the ground falling away dramatically on either side. I really must find out where it is (Polton/Loanhead way) and visit in the summer.

Jeff was the man of the match today. He realised that the Stewart Brewery (based in a godawful industrial estate just a mile off the route) was doing pre-christmas tasting all weekend. A piss-up in a brewery? Seriously? I think we got there about midday. It was possibly the highlight of the run and may well become a regular feature of the event. The staff were welcoming and happy to do a whistle stop tour of the premises while giving us samples to taste and small mince pies. I also had a lager and halved a pie with Nasher. The steak (or cauliflower curry) pies were £5, hot and just tremendous. Perhaps a little large to manage a whole one each - half was just right. We left the brewery in considerably better shape than we arrived. We are now best friends.

look BEER!

so this is exactly how it looked afterwards
but with a warm happy feeling inside

some people looking at a laminate

then lots of this sort of thing for ages

We were a bit late arriving at the pub in Penicuik. An unusual establishment it looks normal at ground level but on ascending the stairs you realise they have not decorated since the 70's in order to avoid making us feel self conscious about being filthy from the knees down and dressed in damp lycra. The remainder of the bacon rolls they provide for the main group were left on the tables, and the main group runners were just on the point of setting off as we arrived. Lots of hellos and friendly faces. We had a pint and things to eat, then followed on giving them about 20~30minutes head start. We had trouble finding a decent route out of Penicuik (what do you mean any route out is a decent route?) and had to backtrack and climb fences and stuff. There then followed quite a lot of running and sliding on iced up trails that were melting, giving us the worst of both worlds, slippy and muddy. It made you run with a tension in anticipation of falling over at any point. Not great.

After a surprisingly long trek across tussocky fields and climbing fences I half recognised from years gone by, we caught sight of the main group and began to overtake them by the pipe bridge crossing. The route then climbs up into the hills, almost the foothills of the Pentlands except on the other side of the A702. There is a lot of cross country type ground, mostly of an unpleasant nature; rutted with cattle hooves, plenty of mud and swamp and those jaggy marsh grasses. Now and then I'd step into a hidden waterhole up to my knees. My socks had been pretend dry till this point and the only (smallish) compensation was exchanging pleasantries with Digby who was towards the front of the main group. We regrouped at one of those big pillar things.


wet feet

big pillar thing

I was fairly sure the end - the pub in Carlops - was just across to the right and about half a mile. I had forgotten a whole load of riverside trails and then a climb out of the valley and across a couple of fields. We managed to get to the pub before headtorches were required. There was little of note or any reason to get the camera out in the last mile or 2 and no doubt I will have forgotten about those miles again by the time I do this run again, complaining about the hardships of the arse end of the year as I go, probably next year or the following. It was lots of fun and much nicer than the photos suggest. Many thanks to Nicky Innes, in whose marvellously warm car I stowed away, and hitched a lift back into town. She dropped me at Fairmilehead and I ran a further 2 miles into town before I was overtaken by a bus which took me all the rest of the way home before 6pm. Most stayed for food and drink at the Allan Ramsay. A fine day out and nice to tick off December's TB in such amiable company! Cheers! I'd wish you all season's best if that didn't smack of hypocrisy.

32.5 miles plus a further 2 to the bus

1 comment:

  1. The bit about the musical instrument is spot on - it hardly matters how bad you are at it, the experience is so different from listening to however good a player (although that is also a fine experience). But unless you make an effort to improve, I suspect the enjoyment dwindles.
    Your quote about knowing the difference between stuff you can do something about and stuff that you can't is also spot on.