writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March – the skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour – bless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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Food for free ramsons reminisences

Earlier this month I made wild garlic pesto with my daughter and thought it a very current thing to do. Foraging,making food from scratch and connecting with nature definitely seems in vogue right now.

The day before we had taken a walk to collect the wild garlic from a woodland path and then, with a 21st century twist to our attempts at wild survival,had Googled to verify the plant type lest we pick anything deadly and then referred to Google once more to find a recipe.

Was very enjoyable to first harvest the leaves, then make the pesto together – even if the pine nuts, pecorino and olive oil were neither free nor foraged locally. But satisfying still to make food with a tiny connection to the land and to enjoy a bit of mother – daughter bonding over a shared food discovery at the same time.

After our pesto adventure I  came across my ageing copy of Richard Mabey’s book -Food For Free – given to me as a school prize for Modern Studies in 1976. Prize winners were free to pick their own book and my choice of this guide to feeding yourself from nature’s larder was, I imagine, something that fitted with me going through something of a mildly hippy phase – along with dressing in cheesecloth and listening to Bob Dylan.

In the mid 70s at the school I attended my favourite teachers seemed to me very modern and liberal – certainly after my village primary school. My teacher of Modern Studies,with her views on the Russian revolution and questionable power of the media certainly appeared to be interesting, worldly and cool to my 14-year-old self.

Choosing the Richard Mabey book coincided with a rather fogeyish interest I had at the time around the disappearing skills of food preservation and cooking and wanting to know more about how things were done in the ‘olden days’ – quizzing my  farmer dad about how to preserve food, make butter and making a reasonably successful  attempt at crowdie – basic cheese making.

With the benefit of hindsight I could say  this was me reacting to the change  I saw in eating patterns and dominance of factory produced ready meals – Vesta curry, Findus crispy pancakes  and the like, but I don’t know that I was trying to make a social comment  or that I was ahead of the curve, more likely I was just a bit of an odd child.

Is interesting now as with a renewed interest in food provenance and craft skills  more prevalent to think of that curiosity and my childhood experience. Many things I took for granted growing up in the countryside  around freshly grown food and a kinder approach to farming now seem to pop up on lifestyle and food programmes,  magazine articles as a return to a better way to live and eat. Reassuring I suppose to know that while food trends and fashion ebb and flow the fundamentals of good taste, heathy food and craft survive.

These days I no longer live in the countryside so my foraging is of the urban variety and I am really just a dabbler in  trying to find food for free, but through the small act of gathering wild garlic and making pesto with my daughter, I felt I had gone some way to rekindle my latent hunter gatherer.

jar of home made pesto

 

Spring morning run – with local history bonus

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I don’t know why but having Tuesday off work this week seemed like a huge treat – so much so I reckon if I could work out a way to wangle a 4 day weekend every week, all would be good in my world.

I did not even feel the usual clocks going forward weirdness, such was the joy of getting up to do just what I liked. The only thing that could  have put the icing on my ‘life is good’ cake would have been some bright sunny Spring weather – but grey and cool was fine.

Tuesday or any day  – running early in the morning is almost always a special time – a quiet secret hour or two before the day starts proper – shared with birds and dawn wildlife, and fellow early risers- shift workers, bread and milk delivery folk, bus drivers.

Today although the pink sky peeked at through bedroom curtains earlier had turned a bit grey and overcast – the air was fresh and paths were deserted and quiet – save for a morning chorus of birds and the occasional dog walker.

Having  set out with no route planned and no distance in mind, it was nice to just keep moving. I meandered through Colinton village then onto the Dell path that runs along by the water of Leith running as far as Currie Kirk . A few months back while running along the same path, I met two local ladies who in the course of conversation, gave me a local history lesson and told me about St Mungo’s well, a local spring and shrine to St Kentigern (another name for St Mungo).

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I don’t know a lot about local history or saints but having lived and studied in Glasgow I do remember a bit about St Mungo – patron saint of the city. His miracles are remembered in the city coat of arms –  – Here is the bird that never flew,Here is the tree that never grew,Here is the bell that never rang, Here is the fish that never swam – Let Glasgow Flourish.

As the ladies had told me a while back – the well is not much to look at, in fact takes a bit of finding and is somewhat neglected, but given that I have probably run past it many times – it was good to seek it out. I did not drink from the spring but maybe will try it next time.

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Now if I had taken a drink from St Mungo’s well – I could say that renewed and invigorated I sprinted off with extra vim – but as I am not a fiction writer, my renewal came more from my reduced pace and ambling along taking pictures, rather than life enhancing water.

So continuing on the local history theme – I turned off the path towards the Pentland hills and the Poet’s glen.  As the knowledgable ladies had told me when we met – the name comes from a local man, James Thomson, who was a weaver-poet living near the glen and a contemporary of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns.

 

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I took this section of the run at an easy pace – walking up some of the steeper stony sections , then out of the glen to the path that runs alongside first the Clubbiedean then Torduff reservoirs to a big downhill and home for breakfast.

 

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Soul food running

If last Sunday was all about racing, this week it was all about running . Running the way I like best; no pressure, straight out the door with the sun shining and a good companion.

After what has felt like a very long wet winter, I was happy to be woken early by birds chirrupping outside and daylight with proper sun streaming through the curtains at silly o’clock in the morning.

If only I was  a bit more flexible I would have jumped out of bed – and cast the curtains open wide – ‘a la Maria in the Sound of Music’ – but as it was the rarity of a blue sky at 7am had me scampering skittishly and thinking how best to make the most of the day.

Edinburgh is a compact city made up of interconnected villages and skirted by the Pentland Hills, a low range to the west of the city. I live close to a country park at the foot of the Pentlands, and can be in open countryside within a 15 minute brisk walk.

My running companion Alison lives close and our regular route tends to be variations along the Dell – a path running alongside the Water of Leith following the route of a disused suburban railway.

But today with the sun in the sky early and not a breath of wind we decided to take to the hills – and do a circular route that took us from the Dell via the Poets Glen to the country park and skirting two reservoirs.

It was glorious.

Pretty much all the ingredients for a perfect run were there. Sun in the sky,no wind and with an equable temperature. Birds singing and buds emerging. Wild garlic carpets and trees losing their gaunt winter look.

When conditions are like this and there is no time pressure – it makes for a joyful outing. We stopped now and again to take pictures and chatted about topics wide and varied ( but to be fair we do that in all weathers ! )

The air felt clear and fresh and 7 miles passed quickly, leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the rest of Sunday.

Food for the soul 🙂