London life – rekindling a love of reading

It’s a sad admission but I think that come the end of this month I may have read more books in January 2018 than I did in the whole of 2017.

My rediscovery of books has undoubtedly been helped by me having a 4 and half hour commute twice weekly between Edinburgh and London, not to mention a couple of nights in hotels where I am that lone diner trying to perfect the pose of nonchalant reader and eater ( whilst really not reading anything but earwigging on the conversations around me).

Late to the party I was given a Kindle for Christmas, and although I love proper books and everything about them – the paper, the cover, the typography, the smell, the craft, the mystery- my new electronic library has got me ticking off an oft-stated but rarely achieved new year’s resolution to read more, and managing it with aplomb and joy over endurance and forbearance.

Like a child in a sweet shop, I am dangerously addicted to the ‘1- click’ ordering and immediacy of Kindle downloads.

And alongside my newfound love of digital over analogue books,  I am slowly mastering the art of vertical reading in close proximity to many others – reading while commuting on the London Underground.

Here the Kindle comes into its own- as even while standing and swaying, I can hold it in one hand and turn pages with the gentlest inflection of my thumb. Rattling through pages as the Central line rattles through London.

I feel so modern

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I am not a fast reader but so far my 2018 reading list has included: Ann Cleeves – The Seagull ( crime drama featuring detective Vera Stanhope), Catherine Gray – The unexpected Joy of being sober ( true life account of reformed drinker – uplifting & enjoyable read from the self-help genre), Bernard MacLaverty – Midwinter Break, (poignant and beautifully observed tale of a long marriage). 

Now switching between Dr Rangan Chattergee – the 4 Pillar Plan ( prescription for balance and health and importance of relaxation ) and Tina Brown’s the Vanity Fair Diaries ( enjoyable page-turner telling the story of her time as editor of Vanity Fair ) 

 

Hair raising tales of sub zero running

Excuse my feeble attempt at a clickbait headline, I must be spending way too much time reading Buzzfeed quizzes and letting those  ‘lose belly fat now’ Facebook messages seep into my consciousness.

In the interests of accuracy, this tale is short on drama and is mostly an excuse to share some pictures taken during a beautiful cold day on Sunday, when my hair froze when I was out running.

Nothing alarming really, and although chilly at minus 5 degrees C the air was dry and the paths easy to run on.

Give me frozen hair over a slippery path any day.

That’s it for another year – screeching into 2018

Got the last day of the year off to a great start by completing my last run of the month and year with my best running chums. Has been a big year for me on the running front and a few other areas.

So to be brief – very pleased to have ticked off goals of:

1. running a full marathon and 2. running a half in sub 2 hours, and 3. once more running every day in December.

But as always my favourite running memories were had running with friends.

Happy New Year !

Ice,Ice,baby – December 18 Jings!

December rattles on a pace as it always does – is it just me or is December the month that goes faster than any other?

Thanks to my new ‘make it up as I go along’ rules for December running – I have, with a wing and prayer, managed to tick off a run every day so far. With my secret weapon of kidology up my sleeve- where I tell myself I will just do 1 mile –  that gets me out the door and then once out I usually manage to run a bit further.

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After a few years of shoehorning  3 mile runs around dark mornings, party outings, business meetings not to mention two December birthdays, this year I thought rather than give up the challenge completely – it was OK to switch it up a bit and maybe cut myself a bit of slack.

Working in London weekdays – fitting in a 40 minute slot to do 3-miles running and a wash before work is a bit of an effort  –  and when it takes a further hour to get to the office – the thought of getting up earlier than 6 am to squeeze in a dark run in the suburbs of Ealing is a big ask.

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My run dedication is obviously a bit lacking.

That said, running in the dark of December is not the worst, especially as now there are lots of outside lights to cheer you up. Hugely unscientific, but my research indicates that in the past 6 years of running in December – there has been a gradual and wonderful shift in the general vibe of illumination and decoration – collectively we have embraced the joy of the outdoor flicker and exterior decoration.

So here I am- at December 18 – comfortably beyond the halfway point and so far the biggest challenge has been in these past few days when temperatures dropped and pavements turned to ice rinks.

Ice is my big run fear.

Recent runs have been of the stop-start variety – tentatively slithering along the way – peering at pavements for icy patches and tensing up all the time. All said not very enjoyable- save for the uplifting feel of crisp, cold air and strange as it may seem to others – the calming, soothing effect that a cold winter run brings.

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Luckily today the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees, the ice had vanished and I did a lovely twilight run for day 18.

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Total mileage 60.08

Days of running 18

Days to go 13 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Home run weekend – December days

IMG_2679After the hurly burly of London life, it’s good to get back home and run in more of a rural setting. I run these same paths all year and have done now since I started running in 2009, but now that they are temporarily reserved for weekend running, I really appreciate the space and peace and realise how restorative time in the countryside is.

And of course to run with friends.

I had slightly fallen out of love with the Dell path and its variations after miles of marathon training.  I stopped seeing the tiny changes of nature and instead only saw trees as milestones of intervals and tempo runs.

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This weekend was icy cold with temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees on our Sunday run. Face tingling, crisp air gasping, cold runs with chums.

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Days 4 to 7 – the London runs and the solidarity of runners

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I am working in London at the moment mid week, travelling from Edinburgh and this means an early start to get me there on a Monday or Tuesday and a late finish on Thursday.

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Knowing I would be in London throughout December is one reason I was a bit tentative about committing to the marcothon – where the challenge rules say 25 minutes or 3 miles running each day of December.  I am following the spirit of marcothon , but unlike in other years I am not running 3 miles every single day.

I am enjoying my time working in London but the weekly commute from Edinburgh then the daily commute from where I stay to the office makes for a long day,  so to allow me to tick off year 6 of December running I have adapted the challenge to be –  run 100 miles in the month and this to include a minimum of 1 mile run each day.

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All these daily exercise challenges are somewhat arbitrary – but the underlying theme is about making a commitment to movement – and perhaps recognising how easy it is to kick exercise off the daily menu when you have competing demands on your time.

 

While my family find my December running habit a bit irritating – I try to reassure them by suggesting how unbearable I might be to live with if I did not exercise – and without the nudge of this challenge, it would be very easy for me to take a day off.

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Anyhow – this makes me sound a bit of a swotty herbert on the running front and truth is – last week, in particular, I was more of the class dunce and would very happily have taken a day off when the run ahead was a cold, early morning venture into the dark suburban streets of Ealing.

These midwinter morning or evening runs are the ones that are tough to start but joyous to accomplish.

 

 

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On Tuesday by way of variety, I ran after work before catching the tube home. This run was a loop along the river from Waterloo Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge with lots of  London landmarks to pass by and nighttime lights to enjoy – topped off by Tate Britain’s neon 70s style Christmas decorations.

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I had seen this from the other side of the river like a beacon of tackiness, and close up it was quite magical.

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A fellow runner stopped to take pictures and we chatted for a bit. One thing I have found pretty much wherever I run is the friendliness of fellow runners. Sometimes this manifests itself as an imperceptible nod in passing – but occasionally you stop and chat and in a few minutes can swiftly exchange run goals /history and race experiences before heading off with a ‘enjoy your run ‘ salutation.

 

Christmas cake baking – and running of course. Day 3

IMG_2451Today I decided to bake a Christmas cake. I used to get a bit hung up about baking the Christmas cake on a set day in November, but I decided it does not make any difference to the flavour so I just bake it a few weeks before Christmas whenever I can find some spare hours.

Making the cake is pretty straightforward – especially since I have started using a recipe recommended to me by my friend Sally at fitnaturally. Sally got this recipe from her neighbour and friend – Mrs Williams – sadly no longer around – and it is both the easiest and nicest Christmas cake recipe I have tried. I also like the thought of Mrs Williams skills in baking being shared far and wide, and enduring. That’s the lovely thing about baking and passing on recipes.

So Mrs Williams Christmas cake recipe is kind of an ‘all in one’ method – where you put the fruit, sugar, butter and spices into a pot then heat them up.

Then you add all the other ingredients to the cooled fruit mixture, give it a good mix and that’s it!

I find the hardest part of baking a Christmas cake is lining the tin, and with the long slow cooking, it is important to line it properly.  But though it is a fiddly job – it is an enjoyable ritual of sorts – wrapping the cake in its jacket of brown paper and string. And there is something very comforting about the gathering of ingredients, the preparation and then the aroma of Christmas cake baking that gets me in the festive mood.

Before baking the cake – I went on my day 3 run with Alison. Today we went on another of our weekend routes where we run from Colinton to Stockbridge. It is around 6 miles and pretty much downhill all the way following the water of Leith – so lots of running through woodland. We then get the bus or a lift back, so it’s an easy 6 miles.

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We could run there and back and many runners would do this by way of a longer Sunday run, but I am not training for any race at the moment and one thing I have realised over the years of doing run streaks- is that there is no point adding in extra mileage if you don’t have to.

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As it was, we had a very enjoyable social run rounded up nicely by a breakfast of fried egg roll and coffee at the Water of Leith bistro.

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Day 3: 6.01 miles

December total : 14.32 miles

Weather : fresh and sunny 4 degrees

Day 2 – first Santa sighting, gold shoes outing and a small graveyard detour.

 

Bit of a cheat as this Day 2 roundup headline says more about what I did after my run rather than tales of daily running – but on this year’s December run streak I am adopting more of a devil may care – new rules for old traditions mindset – so who knows what I might write about next ? 😉

As to the run, with it being a Saturday, it meant day 2 of running was just the regular weekend fixture and at more of a relaxed pace with Alison.

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new shoes

Lots of good chat and observations, including navigating a few detours due to ongoing works along one of our favoured routes.  I gave my new running shoes their first outing ( Mizuno Wave 20 bought in Black Friday sale ) – and ‘almost’ managed to avoid the mud. At this time of year, it is pretty nigh impossible to keep my running shoes mud free – but I do try to scamper over the deepest muddiest sections of paths when my shoes still have their shiny newness about them.

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New Gold Brogues

After my run, I headed into town wearing another pair of new shoes – lovely gold brogues I had bought on impulse a couple of weeks back.

I stopped off to visit a local craft market – and spotted Santa – as you do.

 

 

Then before hitting the town proper, I wandered into Greyfriars Kirk – historically interesting church and cemetery in Edinburgh and resting place of Auld Jock – Greyfriars Bobby’s master. And it turns out last resting place of many other notable figures some worthy, some unworthy who knows – but certainly names I had heard of.

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Edinburgh skyline

Despite me living in Edinburgh longer than I have lived anywhere else ( 30 years), like many residents I don’t take as much interest in the local history than I might if I was a visitor.

 

Something else to add to my ‘to do’ list of self-improvement.

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Day 2 miles: 5.06

December total: 8.32

Weather – grey and overcast 3 degrees C

 

 

December – Ho Ho Ho and the comfort of traditions

So here we are again – another year is coming to an end and my all time favourite month is here. I say favourite but it is a bit of a love/hate thing. Mostly I love December – it’s my birthday month and I can deal with winter even if the older I get, the more I find the short days a tough gig and increasingly look to December sparkly excess to carry me across to a new year and longer days.

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There is something about approaching a year end that makes you even more aware of your unfulfilled life ‘to do’ list and take a reflective view of the story so far. Then for me anyhow, I just end up carrying forward unticked life goals into another year !

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Back when my girls were younger – December heralded a kind of rabbit in the headlights – let’s just get through this month kind of vibe. In between badly crafting Nativity costumes, baking for the Christmas fayre and watching the end of year dance shows, I poured flame on the December fire by creating extra, arguably unnecessary, traditions of ‘our family advent’ and Christmas morning baking.

Then as my children became young adults – I switched my December madness to a different focus so for the past few years, I have opted to run every day in December – following a Scottish based challenge –  the Marcothon – where you run a minimum of 3 miles every day in December.

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And just in case running every day was a bit too easy – the first time I did this, I decided to write about running every day in an aptly named blog Decemberism and found that writing about running every day was almost as hard as running.

Time passes and I am more of an established runner now – but alas not an established writer. It is tough to commit to running every day for sure – but I find it a lot harder to write daily, or even to just  get into a writing habit.

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So this year I am going to make a big fat effort to write more, and if I can I will run each day in December even if it’s just a run around the block on some days. I will keep to this daft December habit not least because, after 6 years of doing this, it has become a December ritual and maybe like many of us I find comfort in the salve of habits that over time become traditions.

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