Strictly Rhythm – Headway 10k 2022

It must have been the last song I listened to the night before. Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing just played away in my head throughout yesterday’s 10k. There are playlists out there for runners, those that like to listen to music as they run. To my knowledge these lists don’t normally include Mark Knopfler and the boys.

Check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords, he’s strictly rhythm, he don’t wanna make it cry or sing…

This was the fourth year of the charity Headway’s 10k race around a flat and fast course up by the airport. A rather disappointing field of just over 100. For some reason Jersey’s many casual runners and joggers have stopped entering races leaving pretty much the hardcore. The morning is perfect for running and I’ve chosen my Jersey Spartan AC vest as we head off around the cycle track before heading out onto the airport road. Again I’m feeling confident enough to aim for sub-50 minutes which I know will put me up there with the better veteran runners, but of course miles behind the young whippets.

They’ve done a good job in these parts, providing safe pedestrian and bike facilities along the busy road and it’s along here we head on the outrun. There’s a guy, Tony Hancock, who is generally ahead of me in races. It’s early days but I slip by him as we head into the leafy lanes of St Peter.

A crowd of young boys are fooling around in the corner, drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles

The marshals are great, they usually are in Jersey. They actually look as if they’re enjoying the occasion, encouraging us runners and keeping us safe. I do my best to acknowledge each as we go by, I wish everyone did. We gradually circle and start to head back. I’m doing OK, bang on my planned pace thanks partly to Knopfler’s genius. Through St Peter’s Village and around the airport perimeter. I pass three guys running together. They annoyingly latch on to me for the ride but it brings out my inner racing animal as I accelerate away, create a gap, and see them no more. I love racing!

Inevitably the running cruise turns eventually into hard work and I have to begin recruiting the tricks you learn along the way to keep the pace up. A mile or two to go – remember Tony from earlier? I glance back, see his bright red and yellow vest right there and speed across the roundabout outside the airport to put a few metres between us again.

Another glance at the watch. OK, and I know I can generally hold onto my pace in the closing stages. If anyone comes by me they’ll have to run well. They don’t. Onto the cycle track and a few hundred yards to the finish. 49.40 for second place in the M60 category, and 46th out of 105 overall, with which I am well pleased.

They don’t give a damn about any trumpet-playing band, it ain’t what they call rock ‘n roll.

June in Jersey

(With a nod towards Peter Sarstedt)

Where did you go lovely sunshine
Just when we got used to you
The temperature’s dropped and it’s raining
And we’ll all end up with the flu (yes we will)

The visitors all dressed in T-shirts
And bright tops with uncovered arms
They’re all crowded into our cafes
And don’t wish to see Jersey’s charms (no they don’t)

And yesterday down at the cricket
It was like April again
Sad spectators huddled in corners
And peering outside at the rain (yes they were)

But at least Jersey’s farmers are happy
And the reservoirs do need the rain
So we shiver a while without grumbling
And the sun will return once again (yes it will)

For tomorrow the weather is changing
And our misery will be forgot
We’ll huddle in corners and grumble
Cos the weather’s too bloomin’ hot (yes it is)

An Ugly Word

I’m reading what is turning out to be an intriguing and quietly powerful book right now – The Phone Box at the Edge of the World. And, unusually, I’m bookmarking certain passages. Here’s one:

Takeshi was convinced that it was the survivors, the people left behind, who gave death a face. That without them, death would be nothing more than an ugly word. Ugly but, deep down, harmless.

What a myriad of thoughts, reactions, little side roads of consideration that quote has set off. And how true – we all tend to contemplate our own deaths with apprehension, but with nothing like the alarm we feel when thinking of when our own nearest and dearest will depart and exist only in the past tense. Do we have the capacity to look upon death dispassionately and therefore take the power out of the word? Probably not.

And for some reason I recall Anthony Trollope’s 1882 novel The Fixed Period. This concerns a country whose rulers decide that it would be good for the ongoing health and vitality of the nation that its inhabitants should be gently euthanised with honour at a certain fixed age. Like pruning a bush or deadheading flowers. The logic is embraced and the law unanimously approved. Inevitably doubts creep in as the first of the citizens approach the age decided on. Should there not perhaps be exceptions if, say, the person in question is in perfect health and his continued existence and acquired experience is in fact of benefit to the country? Inevitably the whole thing falls apart. I wonder if Trollope meant it to come across as humorously as it actually did?

But that novel, and one or two others since, imply that death – planned or unplanned – might be accepted as merely an extension of life and thus become merely a harmless word, though perhaps an ugly one.

Any thoughts?

Cannacord Half-Marathon 2022

A new course, out and back from Les Quennevais heading away to the north-west of the island and returning by the coastal route. Yes it looked a promising course but the rather nasty final two miles were to come home to roost.

An 8am start, a good innovation which gives clear roads for the first hour at least. After that time the whole of Jersey becomes awash with Sunday drivers going nowhere in particular. About 400 entries including a notable mainland contingent with a lively bunch from Watford Joggers. Conditions splendid as we set off with a lap of the cycle track to spread the field out before we venture out onto the roads.

As for me, I feel in good shape, hoping to get inside 1:55, so averaging kms of 5.30 mins. We take the lanes which snake around the airport’s west runway and dive down the steep escarpment towards St Ouen’s Bay – here I protect my ageing knees and the younger ones fly by me. Down onto Chemin du Moulin which winds northwards through the rather wild landscape of St Ouen.

I’m way inside my target time, running smoothly, exchanging banter with my fellow runners in the mid pack. It’s a feature of the longer races these days that the gals are as plentiful as the guys which adds to the race day experience. It’s odd to recall the times when women were only grudgingly accepted into road racing with some of the guys being affronted if they were “beaten by a girl”. Those “girls” are plenty tough and not afraid to beat anyone.

At five miles, looking good (it wasn’t to last)

So onto darkest L’Etacq, as far from civilised St Helier as is possible, and we turn for home, heading south via the Five Mile Road. There are fewer groups now, most running solo. It is easy to fall into the mindset of accepting everyone else’s pace as fatigue sets in. A few, me included, make little breaks, overtaking other runners, trying to keep the tempo up. As we approach the south end of the Five Mile Road, at La Pulente, my pace is holding up, assisted now by regular intake of fruit pastilles. But I’m flagging and the hard work is only just starting. There’s an off-road section around the Petit Port headland which slows us considerably – it’s rocky and dangerous. Out on to the roads again and then the long, mean climb at Corbière – a lot of walking going on though I manage to run it, though at much the same pace as the walkers 🙂 Finally, on to the Railway Walk which leads to the finish, just over a mile away. But now I’m bushed, I’ve lost all track of time, only aware that my 1:55 has probably gone. As I drag towards the finish, two legendary oldies – Bernie Arthur and Sue Le Ruez – glide by me. Sparked into whatever life I have left, as we hit the cycle track, finish line in sight, I manage to edge by them both again to finish in 1:57.45.

A great morning, well-organised race, excellent company. A tough old race but running is termed an endurance sport for a reason.

Around the Corner

Upon a dreary Sunday morning
May be June but hard to tell
A chilly wind blows in the drizzle
The hour tolled by the mournful bell
But we know the skies will brighten
If not today tomorrow sure
We can allow our hearts to lighten
Expectation is the cure

Day 4 at Lords the people gather
An England win they hope to cheer
But this England team is fragile
Talented but plagued by fear
Too many times our expectations
Turn to dust leave us forlorn
The previous night our hopes assemble
Resignation come the morn

The farmyard pig is loved by children
Playing in its muddy hole
The next day they will gaily chatter
Eating up their bacon roll
And when too soon the van approaches
Unsmiling men with kicks and blows
Transport the animal to the chamber
And as that animal goes it knows

The young man’s sure to get there early
Wait at the bus stop as arranged
For his date agreed to meet him
At eight o’clock and nothing’s changed
The eight o’clock bus isn’t stopping
The lad’s dismayed but not for long
For sure nine was the time agreed on
And so he waits his hopes still strong

Us Blues fans sing a merry ditty
Of lots of joys and sorrows too
For many years we’ve seen the sorrows
The joys are very far and few
The ghosts of previous generations
Sit on the roof and watch the games
Though we in turn grow old and weary
Our optimism never wanes

The wife stays with her drunkard husband
The more he hits the more she stays
You have to leave him say the neighbours
He’ll go too far one of these days
But she remembers those sweet evenings
When he was loving full of care
She prays that soon he too will recall
And things will become as they were

And as the years march quickly forward
It seems that they accelerate
We turn to thinking of our passing
For hopes and dreams it is too late
Will it come easy in the night time
Or will our end of days come hard
There’s only doubts as to the timing
The fact we cannot disregard

But in our world of war and famine
Of climate change catastrophe
Can our children halt the passage
Of things which we have failed to see
Or at least have failed to conquer
We’ve given up without a fight
Our selfish hopes inconsequential
The knowing clock soon strikes midnight

Jersey’s Heritage Fleet

I did a rare shift at Jersey’s Maritime Museum the other day – front desk, selling entry tickets to (mainly) our overseas visitors. It is, by general consensus, an excellent attraction. The museum is pretty big and showcases the Island’s long maritime history in an imaginative and interactive way. Young and old enjoy it equally.

A major bonus within the building is the Occupation Tapestry Gallery. This was created in 1995 and is a classy and poignant reminder of the unhappy Occupation years and had much input by the survivors.

My 30-minute lunch break came but the usual cubby hole had an electrician working away therein. I was directed instead to the Boat Workshop, accessed through ‘no entry’ doors deep within the museum. Like Alice climbing through the looking glass I found myself in a different world I only vaguely knew existed.

Over two levels lie workshops for carpentry and related works together with a big library of seafaring books and other assorted ephemera all connected to the sea. I found a kettle, made a coffee and sat down. There on the table I glanced at a French language glossy trade magazine which could have been printed yesterday but which, upon inspection, was dated October 1992.

One of Jersey Heritage’s remits is the restoration and maintenance of the ‘Heritage Fleet’, vessels that have a long connection to the Island. This work is done mainly by enthusiastic volunteers.

The boats bob happily in the nearby harbour to be taken out for a spin around the bay when occasion permits.

Shame on me that it took me so long, and a busy electrician, to discover all this.

Mythical Isles of the West

From the always excellent Roaringwater Journal blog, an entertaining look at the folklore and beliefs surrounding the islands which (might) lie off the Irish mainland.

Roaringwater Journal

The fine map, above, was drawn in 1375 and is attributed to Abraham Cresques (courtesy Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division). it is known generally as the Atlas Catalan. What interests us is that it depicts two islands off the west and south-west coasts of Ireland (see detail below): Hy-Brasil and Demar. These landfalls are shown on maps since then through the centuries, the last depiction being in 1865.

We look out to the hundred Carbery Islands in Roaringwater bay. The view (above) is always changing as sun, rain and wind stir up the surface of the sea and the sky and clouds create wonderful panoramas. But, generally, the view is predictable: we know that Horse island will be across from us, and Cape Clear will always be on the distant horizon, while the smaller islets break up the surface of the ocean in-between, and help calm down…

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Walled Garden

These eighty years the garden’s stayed unchanged
No, as the seasons turn they fade or bloom
The colours, textures somewhat rearranged
This time next year familiar scents assume

The gravel paths, the cared and tended beds
The birds that visit daily reassured
There is no predator that softly treads
Their safety at their grazing is ensured

But should the writer seek to fly away
To seek excitement, danger, far and wide
To seek out wond’rous places, for they say
We will regret our chances if denied

But here surrounded by wisteria
One cannot claim that it’s inferior

Ode to Alexa

*Might have been inspired by The Zombies*

Now I know I’m old and single
Maybe prone to a silly thought
There’s a woman called Alexa
Who is driving me distraught
Though she’ll turn the volume lower
And tell jokes without a care
When I want to know her better
She’s not there

When I need some information
Maybe learn some history
She will give me all that’s needed
She solves every mystery
But when night falls and I’m lonely
Alexa drives me to despair
I would marry her tomorrow
But she’s not there

She obeys my every order
Switches lights both on and off
She’ll suggest a piece of music
Maybe play Rachmaninoff
But when I ask her to come closer
Run my fingers through her hair
She is not so quick to answer
‘Cos she’s not there

Spring 10k 2022

Times past, this flagship event attracted many runners. For whatever reason(s), controllable or not, there were just 47 finishers last Sunday. Furthermore, there were few, if any, participants who were not regular and/or competent runners.

Still, it was a sunny if somewhat chilly morning as the race started, back to the Radisson before turning and heading west along the well-worn promenade along Victoria Avenue. Generations of runners have used this as their training ground, primarily for its traffic-free environment and its welcome lighting on winter nights. Perhaps some of those old runners were, invisible to us, sitting on the sea wall and casting a critical eye.

Personally, my aim was a consecutive sub-50 minute run – the math being easy as I kept my eye on my trusty Garmin timepiece. The leaders were soon in the distance and the chatty mid-pack bunch easing slowly ahead, chatty but still faster than me. I felt comfortable enough, hitting my 5min kms as we headed west. Richard Watson eased by me early on but I edged by him again as we turned at St Aubin for the run for home.

Money on no.5, just before the turn

Then a reality check as a moderate south-easterly breeze sprung up, right into our faces. The even-paced cruise turned into a bit of a battle, arms working harder, no-one immediately in front to latch on to, recruiting one or two tricks to maintain rhythm. The last long run-in from First Tower and an anxious check of the watch. 49.43, which I consider a good morning’s work.