London weekend, art and protest

It had been a while since I had last visited London after a spell of working there last year.

This weekend was a time to visit my daughters and see an exhibition or two and the date turned out to coincide with the People’s Vote march – an event that had passed me by in the blur and Groundhog Day noise that Brexit has become.

I did not join the march, but witnessed some excellent placards and did enjoy a good conversation and an expression of solidarity on the topic with a marcher I met on the tube.

Last year my spell of working in London was brief, but during that time I felt I had, like millions of others before me, been welcomed as a temporary Londoner.

Now back home working in Edinburgh, I do sometimes miss the vibrancy of London, and the diversity of people and experiences that were an everyday occurrence.

London is ‘always on’ and can be a hard place to work & live – keeping up with the energy and pace can drive you to weariness, but that energy is also exhilarating and challenging in a good way mostly.

This weekend trip was not about challenge but more about family and a chance to discover new places. With my grown up children living away from home, I was looking forward to spending time with them in their new neighbourhoods.

We had art on our agenda but also time for chatting and wandering, eating & drinking and catching up on news.

In between and by accident almost, I visited three different art exhibitions and as is often the way, the best one was unplanned.

Despite being a fan of pop art, I had not heard of Corita Kent – Sister Corita – and my visit to the House of Illustration was prompted more by wanting to see an exhibition of drawings by Ludwig Bemelmans – from the Madeline books.

The ticket included entry to 2 other exhibitions – Journeys Drawn – illustrations from the Refugee crisis and Corita Kent Power Up. A trio of very contrasting exhibitions.

Journey’s Drawn was a powerful and moving testament to the experiences of refugees seen both by observers and drawn from experience.

Moving on to the Ludwig Bemelmans exhibition felt like a more innocent interlude after the reality of Journey’s Drawn – a brief glimpse into how the stories and characters evolved and a window into his approach and style of Illustration.

Carita Kent was a revelation for me – I had not heard of this pop art nun – whose art combined messages from Holy scriptures with advertising slogans. A mash up of Los Angeles billboards and mass media, creating motivational and uplifting messages screen printed in day glo.

She talked about her art being like the original books of illumination – where Illustration ‘throws light’ onto a message.

Was a joyous, colourful exhibition and a new discovery for me.

On Sunday – we all visited Pierre Bonnard – The Colour of Memory exhibition – at Tate Modern. His was a different use of colour and his ability to recreate landscapes from memory created beautiful paintings and his skilful way and modern composition of painting nudes and landscapes was very evocative.

I liked the paintings but whether because I was overfilled on art or my expectations were on the high side, it did not have the same impact as any of the exhibitions I had seen the day before at the House of Illustration.

Before visiting either of these exhibitions my first exhibition visit was to see Dorothea Tanning also at Tate Modern.

On Friday evening after a long and tiring day travelling – I took advantage of late opening at Tate Modern and decided to visit the Dorothea Tanning exhibition.

I think as a canny Scot and with my annual membership of the Tate coming to an end, I was trying to use it to the max by seeing as many exhibitions as possible!

I can’t say I really enjoyed the exhibition save for a few pieces, ( e.g. her sketch of tango below ) maybe I was just too tired. I whizzed round the galleries desperate to get beyond the Surrealist paintings and fur fabric sculptures so I could sit down and have a cup of tea.

Although I like visiting exhibitions, I am not a true art aficionado and sometimes whether through tiredness or just sensory overload, I find it overwhelming to process the visuals and grasp what the artist is trying to convey.

Walking out of the Tate onto the riverside picture of night time London, hearing birds singing in the midst of the city was perhaps the best painting for me.

springwatch

This past week the sun has been shining most days and at last it feels as if nature is coming to life after a cold long winter and slow Spring.

I have been watching the BBC programme Springwatch these past couple of weeks and learning a lot about nature that I did not know. I tend to think I am fairly unsentimental about animals and nature and understand the natural order, ecology and how food chains work ,but it has been a bit of an eye opener to discover that birds I previously thought of as fairly benign garden visitors with a veggie persuasion are much more carnivorous and predatory than I realised.

It highlights the struggle that birds go through each season just to survive and keep the family line going.

Each year we have a pair of blackbirds who nest in our garden, and these together with sparrows, tits, starlings and the odd toad give us our own Springwatch. And coinciding with our garden wildlife getting active  – a week of sunshine has brought our neglected garden to life, perfect to sit in on these longer June days.

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Day 22 – running everydayinmay… in May

I used to think the saying n’er cast a clout till is May is oot – meant you should keep wearing your vest until the end of May – and living in Scotland as I do that makes a lot of sense.

Then one cold May day, I was at some event or other and just chatting during a tea break to two very nice ladies and they kindly pointed out to me that the saying referred to May flowers – or the blossom of the hawthorn tree – which made more sense. Although of course as it happens, May blossom is often not fully out until the end of May certainly in Scotland, so I guess it works either way. There is a lot of folklore associated with the Hawthorn tree but folklore aside, May blossom in full bloom just so, so lovely.

This weekend I was visiting Cambridge and as I am running everydayinmay – on Sunday my day 22 run was a very enjoyable and easy trek along by the river Cam out of the city towards Fen Ditton and Horningsea following the towpath.

Although you can see and hear the motorway from some sections of the route, and now and then a glimpse of a train rattling along a couple of fields away, it feels very rural and pastoral and peaceful. I love how with running you can be just a few miles or minutes away from a city and yet be cast back in time and place and surrounded by nature.

It was a warm, sunny morning and my legs felt surprisingly fresh given that Sunday marked day 22 of consecutive running.  Surrounded by the heady fragrance of white hawthorn blossom, running everydayinmay in May – with a flat route, sunny skies, and a wonderful wildlife soundscape did put a spring in my step.

Everydayinmay May22 - 1 (20)

Day 22 Miles run 10 – total miles 99

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You

All out of sequence – days 9 and 10 everydayinmay

Everydayinmay Monday 9 - 1 (5)

My quest for life perfection ( hahaha) is a road full of twists and turns and with quite a few cul de sacs and wrong turnings to boot, so while I can just about manage to fit running everyday around working, eating and sleeping – finding time to write about it has stumped me once again.

It is true of course that much as I enjoy running and writing about running,like most of my fellow everydayinmay folk I am fitting time to do this around everydaylife .

So as I tick ‘writing a witty daily column in a national paper’ off my potential career change list, here is a bit of a recap of everydayinmay progress featuring  days 9 & 10 -the murky days in the middle.

Day 9 –  I ran in the evening as just could not drag myself out of bed on Monday morning to run before work, but as it turned out it was worth holding off until the evening as it was a beautiful sun filled, May evening with magical light and blossoms looking very pretty.

After a workday Monday this was a very pleasant end to the day.

While I am not doing big daily mileage – I have been doing some longer runs at the weekend and work is a bit full on just now – so today was a kind of rest day for me. Running on my own and without any time pressures, I was mostly ambling along stopping to take pictures, enjoying the sunshine , and amusing local dog walkers with my attempts at ‘selfie under blossom tree’.

Next to running with friends , this is my favourite kind of running –  it’s meditative,therapeutic and after a day at my desk  a perfect way to tease out the workday tension knots.

Everydayinmay Monday 9 - 1 (6)

Day 9 3.21 miles

Everydayinmay total 42.66 miles

Everyday tips and tricks – day 10

Everydayinmay Monday 9 - 1

As a 10 min mile pace runner, 3 songs usually equals a mile covered ( unless listening to my Ramones playlist). This otherwise useless fact is one of many of the mind games and tricks I use to get me get through the occasional patch of running ennui.

It is not that I find running boring – but not all runs are created equal and I do sometimes need to find some extra motivation. As a veteran of taking part in daily running challenges I know there will be days when I don’t feel like running but I also know that once committed to the task my stubbornness and desire for completion will not let me miss a day or give up.

On this current challenge – I don’t even have to run everyday if I don’t want to – I could be mixing it up with walking or cycling or such like – but having started running I recognise that I am now in that mildly addicted trainspotter mindset that I fall into.

I take pleasure watching the days tick off and seeing my monthly mileage increase, so allowing myself a day off running would feel like cheating on my self-imposed target.

Crazy me   

Of course I am only running 5k each day – and it’s a bit of a leveler to consider people who have chosen to run longer distances regularly – most recently thinking of  Eddie Izzard and his inspiring 27 marathons in as many days.

But as a fellow everydayinmay participant – Thomas –  highlighted the other day, most of us taking part in this challenge are doing it alongside our day to day lives, and without a team to offer support finding a time to run or walk or cycle 5k in between taking kids to school, working shifts, travelling on business, eating, sleeping – generally living.

 Just trying to be normal

Everydayinmay Monday 9 - 1 (2)

Day 10 3.17 miles

Everydayinmay total 45.83 

 

  

 

 

Inverness half, sunlight on the river and no regrets

River Ness, Inverness

As I should really know by now – I never regret a run , and with the small exception of how I feel around about mile 3,7, 8, 9 ( insert as appropriate) I never regret entering a race.

I love that euphoric feeling of bouncing over the timing mats and crossing under the finish gantry – and while I have not and am unlikely to ever, experience tearing across a finish tape, one of the many reasons I enjoy taking  part in the Inverness Half is that it finishes on a running track, so I even get to attempt my version of a sprint finish. For someone whose teenage experiences of athletics in this very stadium was only ever as a spectator – it never fails to give me a small ripple of joy.

Not that you could  tell how joyous I felt if you check out the running photos , but mastering that perfect race finish look is still on my ‘to do’ list.

So despite my anxious day before reflections, the worries about jinxing my chances by contemplating improvement and my usual pre race jitters – it all turned out fine in the end.

More than fine really.

I was feeling in better shape than in previous years, and hoped that this would convert to a better time. The night before the race I had spent with my niece who is a competitive swimmer, and we had talked race tactics – or more accurately she patiently explained the concept of pacing to me.

Strangely talking about pace and races was quite settling , and maybe I stored some of the advice somewhere, as on race day I ran faster than I have done before, 9 minutes faster than on the same course in 2015, and 6 minutes faster than my previous half marathon PB of 2.08.

Running into the stadium on the race track, I was pretty sure I was going to meet my goal of 2.05 and so was very pleased to see the clock showing a gun time of around 2.04, but even happier when my chip time was confirmed as 2.02.09 .

Looking at the race splits – I can see how my mid race wobble was my main  undoing but more importantly it feels achievable to target a sub 2 hour half marathon time. Which means I will more than likely be doing this all over agin this time next year.

Ness bridge Inverness twilight