Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bending not breaking

The big clock is now ticking for getting this darned dissertation written. It's due in in the middle of August but there are only so many days a week I can work on it. Well two days really. The weekend. I did quite well on Friday evening, doing a good 4 hrs before dinner and bed. Then yesterday I put in a good few hours too but I was getting grumpy and narky. It was too hot, what I was doing was annoying me, I couldn't think very well and I wasn't getting anywhere....except deeper into a mood. I backed off and did some chores. Then Peter and I watched 'The Cement Garden'. We got this off Love Film at my request. It was partly just a way of taking charge of the choosing. Peter usually chooses what we watch because he can be bothered to read what the critics say about films. This works out most of the time, but we have had the odd Korean film where the grandfather is a ghost...and well...who really knows what was happening. Neither of us, that's for sure. I had a vague memory that the Cement Garden was about a family where the parents have died and kids just carry on without adult assistance. Beyond that I couldn't have told you. It's quite a shocking and very atmospheric film.

Anyway. I thought today might be better. Peter was away to run the 7 Hills race today. (He warmed up by racing Largo Law yesterday.) I was too slow putting an entry in for this this year. It's now pre-entry by entry central with no last minute entries or exchanges with other runners. I was firmly ruled out. Part of me wanted to do it, I think I've done it about 7 times, and it's a Porty Championship race at which I'm likely to do better than at other races....but then it's quite good not doing it too. I was going to stay home and take advantage of having a quiet house. But I was also bored and there was an up-rising starting inside. I was reminded that the me that wants to get my dissertation done is not the only me. There is also the me that has been working all week and wants a weekend. I was going to go my well trodden recovery run and then I had a better idea. Why not just take a small jaunt to Gullane and go and run about in the undergrowth?

I've been having more van trouble. I developed a bad vibration during the week. I took the Berlingo in to the garage yesterday morning and told the man. "Maybe you haven't been to the beach enough!" he said. (I think this was a reference to the Beach Boys.) He wasn't wrong though. I hadn''t been to the beach enough. It turned out my bad vibration was my silencer flapping on the end of the exhaust as it had rusted through and broken. There was another bit higher up the exhaust pipe (the guy let me come under the van with him and see) where the pipe was rattling against another bit. He had to order a bit so it'll go back in on Wednesday, but he'd put on a new silencer which took care of most of the problem.

So the van was there, all ready to go. I drove carefully so as not to rattle it further but it was sounding fine. Better, in fact, than it has in ages.

My legs were a bit stiff because I did some hill-reps yesterday but I eased off after a while. I've run the same routes round Gullane much too often now so I changed it up by heading up beside the big posh houses next to the golf course and over the hill and down onto the beach that way. The sun came out, which hadn't been forecast. There were flowers everywhere, and the sea and the sky were very blue. As I ran along in the sultry warmth I kept thinking that maybe I should go for a swim when I was finished but I doubted I would. I KEEP thinking I'll go for a swim after I've run and then it seems like too much effort. Part of the problem is that we've been swimming in wet suits this last couple of years and dragging them on over your skin if you've been sweating is a nightmare. But today it seemed just possible that I could go in without a wetsuit on.

When I'd finished I'd only run 5 and a bit miles. My plan was not to exhaust myself. After all there was studying to do. This was just a little time out, not a whole day off. The idea that I should swim wouldn't go away though, although I didn't want to. It was the thought of that first shock you get when the cold water reaches your tummy.

But I went down to the beach anyway and got changed into my costume, which I had in the boot.

I talked myself into it by telling myself it might do something for my muscles. They were a bit achy yesterday. It would be therapeutic. The first bit was pretty awful. There was a small child in the water, and a black lab, and then there was me, with my farmer's tan, some very white bits and some quite brown bits. I stood for a long time with the water at my waist summoning my courage and then I dived in. It never gets any easier. It was a horrible shock to the system. I swam a few strokes and then jumped back up. And then the adjustment takes place. I wasn't insisting that I go back in but then I found I wanted to. Maybe it wasn't so bad. And then I found I was swimming quite comfortably...except there was water in my ears and I was a bit dizzy. The black lab made a bee-line for me, sensing a kindred spirit, but I discouraged its advances. The last thing I needed was some doggy breath and getting hit with a wet smelly tail.

So that was it. I came out the water to get the camera to take a very cautious selfie for "proof". Once I'd been out the water going back in lost its appeal. I'd been in a wee while and was starting to shiver.

So I drove home. But I felt amazing. I'd forgotten about how good swimming in the sea makes you feel. It's made me want to do it again soon.

Well you know the drill. I better get a shower. I have work to do n'est-ce pas?
Soon Peter will be home and whether I want him to or not, he will tell me the story of his race. The adrenaline will not allow him not to...

Sunday, 15 June 2014


Mindfulness is getting more and more attention as a form of therapy. I've been interested in it for a while, and there's training available for my job so I've been thinking about doing it. It's all about learning to relax and not getting so caught up in your thoughts that you lose touch with the present. Or maybe it's about being in the present so much that you do lose touch with your thoughts from time to time. Anyway, I thought I might go and spend a day "doing" mindfulness to see what it was like. I'd come across a day of mindfulness organised by some Edinburgh buddhists - the Wild Geese Sangha, who particularly follow the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, who I think is a Vietnamese buddhist who runs a retreat called Plum Village in France.
Peter was a bit scathing, because it's not a race. "Why do you want to go and stare at a wall?" Quoth he. The truth is I didn't want to stare at a wall and that wasn't part of the day's curriculum.

Before you start, I'm not a Buddhist. I'm not an anything, but the Buddhists do mindfulness, and their day of mindfulness was inexpensive compared to other options. I was curious to see what it was like. I got up super-early so I could get a run in first and then headed up to the Gillis Centre.

Well the mind is a monkey and an uncharitable one at that, or at least mine was. I think I was a bit hungry by kick off and I was thinking that the lady who plumped herself down in front of me and obscured my view of the monk at the front had a rather fat back. I concentrated on that for some while and then my attention was increasingly pulled to the fact I was hideously uncomfortable, my back in particular. I'm not good at sitting cross-legged. I suspect hill running makes your hip-flexors strong but rather stiff. I decided to observe the sensations in my back. "Burning!" said Spock, "Captain, I think I feel...pain!". It was a long half hour. Next up was tea (and a biscuit, thank goodness) and then mindful walking.led by Brother Chan Phap Vu, who had flown all the way from New York State to be there. He was a nice tall man from Vermont. And he was funny. He told us about getting stuck in Chicago airport for 12 hours because there was a hurricane going on somewhere and all the flights were messed up, and him doing mindful walking on the travelator to pass the time productively.

We walked, like ducks, in a line behind him at less than 1 miles an hour. The brother was in a long brown robe, reminiscent of an HBT. I heard someone asking a nearby coach driver about us. "I don't know, I think it might be some kind of procession..." said the driver, as he stood beside his coach, having a fly puff. I could hear them thinking that they were glad they hadn't bought tickets for this. The walking was much better than the sitting for me. As luck would have it I quite often walk about without much going on in my head.

After this it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. I rather unbuddhistly thought I might see if I could get down to the refectory first and get first dibs on whatever was there. It was not to be though. Everybody, collectively, wanted to go for a pee, myself included. There was a big line so I went exploring and found some other toilets a bit further down the corridor. I went there, and then came out in a hurry, aware that I didn't know where the eating bit was and I had no-one to follow. As I came out the door to the toilet I tripped over something and was only stopped from crashing headlong down the stone stairway before me by slamming into a little wooden gate which had providentially been placed there. I was observed by the same lady whose back I had earlier been critiquing, so possibly it was karma. I may or may not have said "arse".

Anyway (I have to hurry this along). Lunch was to be eaten in silence for the first 20 minutes, which suited me absolutely fine and I was a little disappointed when the bell rang and we could all talk. I like just eating when I'm eating. Ask Peter. Thinking about it, I'm already quite Zen. Sort of crabby Zen.

For the first part of the afternoon session we went into small groups to discuss different topics. The topic of my group was true love. This was meant to be about mindful speech and mindful listening and I thought it could be interesting. Then the "people" element entered the dynamic. We had a monopoliser in our group. It would have been surprising, I guess, if we hadn't. I don't think I've ever been at a work training or day workshop where there wasn't one. They take the explicit agenda and work it around to talking about themselves. Lets have a metaphor. There we are on the football field and we've an agreed goal. We don't know how it's going to play out but we all have, quite literally, the same goal. Then along comes this chap...he appears to be playing the game...he finds a space and calls "pass the ball to me" (You can tell I watch a lot of football. It's so real.) ...the ball gets passed to him. It wouldn't have been passed by me. I already have my eye on him because at the start of the day I didn't like the way he walked into the room. He walked in late, walked on everybody else's mat and then held up proceedings further to insist that a rose, which he is waving around in his hand, gets put up on the little alter at the front. I think that the rose looks like it has just been plucked out of someone's garden....anyway, I digress. He now has the conversational ball and he is making off with it. First of all just going in a slightly odd direction and people are looking a bit puzzled. Then after a while he is frankly running off with the ball, and then having a game of keepy uppy with it, all to himself. He is now talking about how his wife never listens to a word he says and how this seems unfair. I feel such a wave of compassion for his poor wife. We are under buddhist rules and I don't think it's my place to tell him to shut up. This is standard people stuff and I've been getting it all week. It's not a holiday for me. Being with so many others is not doing it for me....I'm glad when it's over.

Then there's a question and answer session with Brother Vu. Again, I've come to a part of the day that doesn't sit well with me. I don't mind any of Brother Vu's answers to be fair. It's the questions. "Tell me how to be..." I guess that's religion for you. I don't really approve of people asking other people how to be.

It was a generous day organised by generous people though. It hasn't put me off mindfulness particularly, but I'd like my mindfulness secular, thanks. I've put up a clip of Jon Kabat-Zinn who teaches mindfulness in America. He wrote a book called Full Catastrophe Living which is really interesting, and started up a clinic for people with chronic pain who were not getting any relief any other way. He showed them how to use mindfulness and got some very good results.

Anyway, I didn't mean to say so much about all that. I'm not going to run off with the Buddhists although there are worse things I could do.

Today I went a run around the Water of Leith. It wasn't meant to rain, but it did. I carried an unnecessary rucksack with an unnecessary rain jacket in it (It was raining but I never put it on.), a fairly unnecessary camera (but I used it since I had it) and an unnecessary bottle of water which I never touched. 13 and a half miles a bit slow but I was weighed down by stuff and it was humid. The picture of the moon was from out the window at the end of last week. It was a lovely pink evening with a big atmospheric moon rising over Arthur's Seat. As you can see I have done a liberal amount of "camera-bagging" to jazz up pictures of a damp day in Scotland.

It will come as no surprise to you (if you've made it this far), that I should really be doing something about this darn dissertation. Yep. I'm running down the same corridor being chased by the same demons. Heaven help me. I better get to it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Yana Every Day

I need to squeeze in doing stuff  for my dissertation when I'm not working, which is fine, but it means I'm never really truly off the hook. I try to be a bit disciplined but it doesn't always work. Yesterday for example I did 45 minutes of reading and writing after a whole day of avoiding it. Surfing the net is a good option when you're avoiding something. We had watched a Swedish film called Hunters the night before and it had a recurring musical theme that I knew I knew but I couldn't think what it was. I was wondering if it had any bearing on the film so I wanted to know what it was. In fact it seemed urgent that I find out! It turned out to be in Tosca, "E lucivan le stelle" and it didn't have any bearing on the film, or not that I could see.

It wasn't a very good film anyway.

I listened to the whole of Tosca (with Peter going "What's that bloody racket!") while folding my clothes and colour coding them according to the spectrum, red on the left, purple on the right and then everything black, white and grey. My trousers got sorted into jeans and trousers I could wear for work. God it was exhausting. When I finally sat down to do something I had to try and write a thing and found my writing was stilted. Then I remembered what my blog is for! If you have to write then it's a good idea to write frequently or else you get rusty and it gets much harder. Writing was one of the things on my course I found the easiest because I was in the habit of writing regularly.

I've been making the mistake of thinking there isn't anything to say. There's always plenty to say! And it doesn't have to be about running.

In other news, on Saturday when I was out running I saw Yana Thandrayen, out running herself, at Portobello. Then on Sunday I just went for a wee "recovery run" up the cycle path and who should I see, running towards me, and moving considerably faster than I was? Yep it was Yana again. So today, after a hilly 9 miler around the Seat, and on a final sprint up Abbeyhill, I shouldn't have been surprised to hear someone calling "Hello Mary!". I looked up and there was Yana Thandrayen on a bike!

In another bout of not really doing what I was supposed to I downloaded some software for tinkering with photos (Camerabag 2) on Friday night. Now I can make everything look old fashioned. And I intend to.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Action is the Cure

I went to bed at 9pm last night, tired after a starting a new job week. Everything went well. It's just a relief.
So this morning I was awake at 5am and couldn't quite figure out what I wanted. After having to meet externally set demands all week I was somewhat puzzled by the notion that I should figure out what I wanted to do. Of course I was going for a run, but what kind of run? And where? And what was I training for? And what was my next target? I didn't know.

In the end I just got into my running kit and set off along the coast.

It was warm already and when I got to Portobello I bumped into Thea Macmillan who was looking uneasy in gym kit. She had organised a bootcamp on the beach thing to help raise money for equipment for her daughter Greta. I should have hung around and taken photos but I was enjoying the run and feeling fresh as a daisy. Almost as soon as I'd left the house I'd realised my mistake. You don't need a reason or a plan to go for a run. The run's the thing. Especially on a nice warm morning....

I did a loop round Musselburgh, loosely thinking maybe I'd run 13 miles. On the way back the wind was behind me and suddenly the heat intensified as my body heat wrapped around me. Getting back to Portobello I was just too late to get photos of bootcamp. The crowd was dispersing. This time I met Ian Macmillan, who has been missing in action from club for some time and running with the Porty Dads. He gave me a hug and I warned him that I was a bit smelly but he said I always have been.

Then I saw Sarah who was on my course up until last year. We walked along the prom together for a chat. Then she had to turn up a lane and I had to get running again. The clouds were boiling up in a spectacular way by this time. Definitely some kind of front rolling in.

The moral of today's story being don't overthink it, just get out there. You don't have to be training FOR something. Especially when it's warm outside.

For the last couple of weeks I've been bumping into loads of people that I haven't seen for ages. I was thinking it might be fate but also thinking it might be because it's nice enough outside - at least some of the time - that people have stopped scurrying along with their heads down and are actually lingering a while. So suddenly Scotland's  a much more social place...