Wednesday 30 December 2015

A very blurry Christmas and fuzzy New Year......

Christmas activities flashed by in a blur - literally. Neither are things looking good for the first few weeks of the New year. But hopefully, by the end of January, I'll have my Rt eye back and functioning properly so I can resume normal activities. Until then, life is restricted to 4 hour slots between squeezing drops into my fuzzy eye. The Consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Musa, seemed rather non-committal when first asked if I could run, but the word 'running' didn't appear on the list of things I couldn't do so I assumed it would be alright!
Setting off by the river - Christmas Day  (Click pictures to enlarge)
Since we met a quarter of a century ago it's become traditional for my wonderful partner and I to run on Christmas Day morning as a prelude to the day's indulgences. These begin with bubbly and nibbles in a neighbour's house at 11am, then continue unabated until bedtime with never an empty glass. I'm glad Christmas comes but once a year. I'm getting too old for such things!
Returning by the quiet beck in Hebden Ghyll - Christmas Day
The riverbank was surprisingly quiet as we made our way towards Burnsall under a blue sky with glorious sunshine, the only sounds being the chattering river and a storm cock singing loudly from a tree top, perhaps presaging the following Boxing Day gales.
Running on Christmas Day - because no-one said I shouldn't
Running along a rocky path where I'd previously fallen and fractured ribs I'd to be ultra careful picking my way along in a blurred semi-blind state. Intense concentration was beginning to hurt by the time we reached Loup Scar. I'd had quite enough and turned for home.
Pouring the 2nd bottle of bubbly (amazingly without spilling) - Christmas Day
Touch wood, my temperamental nether regions have so far survived their onslaught of festive fare. On Christmas Eve I'd staggered across to the car with our regular meat order in a bag I wouldn't have wanted to carry very far.  Perhaps all the wine and bubbly is making it more palatable?
Then relaxing beside a pile of presents. Cheers everyone...
Boxing Day was a bit of a stinker but I was told "We can't just sit here all day doing crosswords" so I'd to don boots and waterproofs to combat lashing rain, flooded landscape and impassable riverbank.
Down by the fish farm - bridge over Hebden beck on Boxing Day

Down the ghyll the ground was like a sponge, oozing water at each step, and it wasn't long before I was flat on my back down a slippery slope. Bang - courtesy of a very old pair of boots with no tread. Why wasn't I wearing more sensible studs?
A raging Hebden beck on its way to the Wharfe - Boxing Day
Another glorious day followed, too good to resist a 4 mile run into Burnsall and back along the Skuff. The temperamental and noisy River Wharfe had dropped sufficiently for us to once again use the path along its bank - just. Farther downstream the build-up of water later demolished an 18th century bridge, cutting off gas and electricity while splitting the market town of Tadcaster into two halves.
Path by the Wharfe as floods receded
Apart from a local lady with her dogs and an elderly neighbour sweeping away storm debris, we'd the circuit to ourselves. Not a mallard on the river, a rook in their treetop village or any bird in the sky. Even the storm cock was silent, presumably resting  until time to shout warnings of the next oncoming holocaust - Storm Frank.
The benign looking River Wharfe between Loup Scar and Burnsall Bridge
Away from the river an ominous silence brooded over the sunlit Dales landscape as we jogged gently home along the Skuff. Viewed from above through a camera lens the Wharfe between Loup Scar and Burnsall Bridge seemed peaceful and benign. Little did we know what devastation was about to be executed in its lower reaches......
......oh, my bleeper's going, time for more of those stinging drops.
Happy New Year everyone
......but until then, here's a little something to amuse.

Monday 21 December 2015


Dunno what sins I committed to deserve such retribution but currently I'm battling a gang of little demons conspiring to stop me running and cut me down to size. "Let's give him a good dose of flu for starters, that'll zap him" the little blighters had said back in October. And it worked, possibly because I missed having a flu jab this year. It sent me to bed for a wee while, feeling weak as a kitten. As it does.
It's not quite this bad, but bordering on it......
Then they said "Let's make sure he's totally zapped. How about activating his diverticulitis. Oh, and let's stir up his IBS for good measure. That ought to drain the goodness from his system and stop him doing all that silly running he seems to enjoy". And they were right, it did stop me. I was reduced to walking streets of my home town like a zombie while becoming quite knowledgeable of all the best loos and refusing to venture into unknown territory.
Who wants to run in weather like this anyway? A November view from my study
Then the crafty sods must have noticed I'd started working out in the gym, pumping iron and using a treadmill in an attempt to get fit again. It wasn't long before they came up with their Coup de grâce. "There's only one way to stop him, let's blind the b-gger, he can't run if he can't see".  And they very nearly succeeded. In spite of having one of the best eye surgeons in the world (Mr Fayyaz Musa) to perform a cataract operation, the demons somehow sneaked into the theatre to make jolly sure things didn't quite go according to plan. I left the theatre with only one functioning eye, my left, the weakest of the two, and strict instructions to neither bend down, lift anything heavy, go swimming or get soap in my eyes. A disaster.
 "So far, so good eh, one down and one to go" I can imagine my nasty little demons bragging in a cackle of ecstatic glee.
Drops that govern my comings and goings......possibly for months ahead
So life is currently confined to 4 hour slots between 4 sets of drops - with a 5 minute rest between each drop. Patience is not one of my virtues, and my memory isn't too good either. I've bought a timer and set it to ping every 4½ hours throughout the day. Not that I always hear it over the loud music, radio or occasional TV. And it's the farthest thing from my mind when I'm sat in my friend Abdul's chippy down town, or dreaming of warm faraway places over a cappuccino in Caffe Venezia. I've to be careful. Buses past my home in the sticks run only every two hours.
Victoria Tower beckoned me upwards on Sunday - glad my camera can still see clearly!
It was a beautiful day yesterday, though bitterly cold, and Castle Hill was beckoning through my kitchen window. I donned my running shoes, just to enjoy the feel of them again, and set off with a camera to enjoy the day as best I could.  It's a strange sensation walking with only one eye. Unless I cover my right eye its blurriness affects the clarity of my left eye which is a bit disorienting. I'm a little nervous crossing roads in traffic and frightened of bumping into people walking the pavement. Of course, I'd always blame them!
Gorse flowering on the slopes......
I'd no such problems walking through open fields and strolling gently uphill to a favourite viewpoint. The sun shone bountifully. Little brown birdies (couldn't see what they were) chirruped among the flowering gorse, possibly sheltering from the icy wind that stung my face. It was a delicious wind that prompted a feeling bordering on ecstasy as I wandered around the perimeter of the hill I've circuited on scores of occasions during morning runs. Even as I walked plans began to form in my mind. Half of me was endeavouring to bring panoramas and misty horizons into focus. My running half was taking measurements, working out sensible distances in suitable open places for strides or repetitions.
While walking home I stopped to take a photograph of a herd of sheep. A friend caught up and predictably asked the stock question. "Why aren't you running?"
 I had to laugh...
'But those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint' (Isaiah 40, v31)    Photo from the Internet.
Words of inspiration and power at times like these.  They roll around in my head while putting drops in my eyes, before going to sleep, or while 'lifting my eyes to the hills'.

Talking of hills I've been reminiscing (again) about Munro-bagging experiences with Stuart Scott while pondering over his excellent photographs. Here's another of them.
A winter jog over Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhor (Photo courtesy Stuart Scott)
To shorten the distance to those remote Munros we'd spent a wild sub zero night in Bhearnais bothy after being wind-blasted off our feet during the approach over the bealach from Gerry's Hostel at Craig. I remember waking to find a starving mouse picking crumbs, or something, from my beard. I flicked it away and it went skidding across the floor to collide with Stuart! Then, while washing up after breakfast, Stuart's plate got caught by the wind, blown into the swollen river and washed away at great speed never to be seen again. I remember it as if it were yesterday - yet often have difficulty recalling what I was doing a couple of days ago!
Oh dear, Heston Blumenthal is pinging to say it's time for more drops, so enough of my ramblings until the next installment.
Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the time when I can Run, run, run...
Have a wonderful Christmas everyone....Cheers!

Tuesday 10 November 2015

70 years young.....

   Friday 6th dawned dreich and miserable with a threat of heavier rain before the day was much older. In fact, the weather was not in a very pleasant mood at all. But we were. It's become traditional for us to begin each birthday with a celebratory run, or even race if there happens to be one on the day, so hell or high water wasn't going to stop us on the occasion of my wonderful partner's 70th.
A hug for my wonderful birthday girl   (Click to enlarge pictures)
With 153 accumulated years between us, we set off at a rather sedate pace round a 4½ circuit we'd sussed out 5 days earlier - on a sunny day when the temperature was around 70ºF (See my previous blog entry).  Shame it wasn't the same for her birthday.
Enjoying a 70th birthday run.......
After parking the car at Skirethorns we climbed steeply for 600ft around the lip of Threshfield quarry onto a hilltop overlooking Malham Moor. Not that we could see much of the moor through thickening clag and increasingly heavy rain.
On the stony track round the quarry
 Over wet grass and rocks we descended carefully down to join the track that links Mastiles Lane with Malham Moor Lane where we turned left at the latter. Sheep grazed with their backs to the wind. Beef cattle, seemingly replete, sheltered under the wall or blocked our gateway until we shoo-ed them away.
.......and skipping down from the high point to Malham Moor
From thereon it was a pleasant 1½ miles back to the car, mainly downhill through autumn leaves and russet bracken that lifted our spirits again after the eerie emptyness of the open moor.
Downhill in the rain - back to the car after 4½ miles
In the afternoon, before our evening celebrations began, we were joined by an old mountaineering and Munro bagging friend, Dr Stuart Scott who, with his wife Maria, had driven from Crapstone in glorious Devon to join in the fun.
Dr Stuart Scott - on Angel's Peak, above the Lairig Ghru, during a 38 mile Munro-bagging run in the Cairngorms. We were fit in those dim distant days....
I hadn't seen Stuart for many years so it was good to chat and reminisce about long days in the hills together - prior to his marriage to Maria in 2002. Sadly, there have been no such days since!
Yours truly on a run over Ben Hope - looking across to Ben Loyal  (Picture courtesy Stuart Scott)
Stuart is a wonderful photographer whose pictures have graced front covers of climbing magazines, illustrated climbing articles and even placed one of yours truly soloing Tower Gap on Ben Nevis in Ken Wilson's iconic book 'Classic Rock'.
Winter mountaineering - on a climb over Ben More Assynt and Conival (Picture courtesy Stuart Scott)
He handed me a bundle of photographs (three of them featured here) he'd taken of me over the years, all taken in Scotland, in all seasons of the year, running the Munros, winter mountaineering in Knoydart and some serious climbing in the Cuillins of Skye.
On Blaven, Isle of Skye "Just climb down to that chockstone, should make a good shot" he said.  (Picture courtesy Stuart Scott)
Come evening, thirty friends and neighbours gathered with us in Hebden's Old School Tearoom for a convivial get together that went on well into the night. Our thanks to Martyn, Margaret and Ann who served up such a delicious treat, never let our glasses run dry and made it an occasion to remember.
Quite a few members of the over 70's club at the birthday celebrations
Most appropriate was a birthday cake shaped like a snowy mountain that had a wee tent with a climber peeping out, and a lady running round the perimeter. Well done to whoever thought of that.
Some close friends. Lt to Rt - Maralyn, Barbara, Sue, Helen (seated) talking to Margaret
All in all, it had been a wonderful day and rather different, I'd imagine, to the average person's 70th birthday celebrations. 
Roll on her 80th!
STOP PRESS. Four days after her birthday my wonderful partner flew to Australia visiting relatives. An email, four days after her arrival, said she'd just run a Parkrun in Brisbane and set a new LV70 course record.  Yay, she's an International star!

Monday 2 November 2015

On the mend........

Well, I'm 'sort of' back running inasmuch as I managed almost 5 miles round Grimwith reservoir on Saturday.
Starting our run round Grimwith reservoir    (Click to enlarge pictures)
 The local shoot were out in force, some quite close to the path, but we managed to run the gauntlet with no mis-haps from stray shot or falling pheasants.Thousands of birds are reared annually on the Grimwith estate specifically for the fun of blasting them out of the sky when they're fully grown.  A pair of peregrine falcons that nest locally must feed quite well off them too and a feral ferret we once saw was the fattest we'd ever seen.
Easy running on the wheelchair path
We'd been tempted to run there by an article in the Craven Herald, a local newspaper, which said the rough track at the far side of the reservoir, over a narrow bridge followed by a steep, muddy climb, has now been bypassed and made suitable for wheelchairs. This had to be investigated in case we should ever find ourselves in need of such a commodity. Well, with more than one and a half centuries between the two of us, who knows?
Thatched building at Grimwith where kestrels nested
It was a glorious day for running, not too warm with the gentlest of breezes ruffling the water and keeping us cool. Only distraction was the constant sound of gunfire which one couple found rather intimidating, so turned back. Or maybe it was their dog that got frightened. We ran past, through the collection of vehicles that resembled Tesco's car park, stopping only once to photograph one proud hunter's trophies displayed over the sides of his pick-up truck.
A good day's shoot - if you're into such things
Being the first run for three weeks I kept to a very easy pace, but with 10 - 12 short bursts of around 6min/mile pace to hopefully raise my cruising threshold to something like it used to be.  All went well and a crispy bacon sandwich, by way of a reward, never tasted better..
A misty Sunday morning in Hebden
We awoke to thick mist on Sunday morning but it thinned as we ate breakfast, then gave way to a cloudless sky by morning coffee time. Autumn colours around the village never looked more spectacular, as if that great artist in the sky had somewhat gone a bit mad with the saturation levels.
Our pleasant Sunday stroll
After Saturday's run my geriatric bones were feeling a bit stiff so wisely, I think, opted to take them for a walk instead. We parked and locked the car on Skirethorns Lane before striking upwards in the direction of Malham Moor.
Waterfall in Threshfield quarry
A waterfall we'd never seen before ran prisms of rainbow light through the autumn foliage invoking the first of many photo shoots along the 5 mile circuit.
Path round the rim of the vast disused quarry
Our path steepened round the lip of the quarry where tiny little pink flowers kept a low profile among the limestone clints.
Rest stop to view the tints
We passed through a gate at the head of the quarry and turned left to follow a drystone wall even more steeply towards Malham Moor. The sun blazed down and the temperature rose into the low 70's, the highest ever recorded in Britain in November. Had we known it was going to be so hot we'd have dressed accordingly, in shorts and T-shirts, rather than tracksters and thermal tops. We envied a lady runner in more sensible attire crossing the moor with her dog.
Runner - dressed for the weather over Malham Moor
After crossing Moor Lane we veered left at Height Laithe, following Rowley Beck through Cow Close Wood to the caravan park at Wood Nook.
Approaching Height Laithe
A young couple passed us, swinging their trekking poles as they went along. Noting my disgust at such needless gimmicks, my wonderful partner suggested I might well need some in the none too distant future and thought they might make a good present for my 90th birthday!
Trees by Wood Nook. That 'Artist in the sky' may have gone a bit OTT this year
Colours of dying bracken and changing leaves against the boundless blue sky were a sight to behold resulting in countless pictures being taken in hopes of one good one that might implant the memory of the day forever in our minds. We got more than one and yes, they came vividly to mind as I commuted back to Windhover today through dense fog to ramp up the heating and thaw my chilled bones.
Weekly totals:
Running: 5 miles/261ft ascent
Walking: 5miles/758ft ascent

Tuesday 20 October 2015


Runningwise it's been a fruitless week, or 10 days to be more precise, so the animal is not very happy.  Not one scraggy little mile to record in my log book.  A half mile walk as far as the river to view the autumn tints was as much as I could manage on Sunday. Church was out of the question too (it's not the same when I can't sing!) though it's only a couple hundred yards away.
Autumn tints by the river - farthest I walked last week  (Click to enlarge pictures)
Today, whilst my wonderful partner was enjoying a 10 mile circuit around Nidderdale with her U3A walking group, I ventured into the garden to pull up a load of weeds and generally tidy the place up. Being north facing, and mainly sunless at this time of year, my lawns have never dried sufficiently for me to mow them, but yesterday I made them have it. Scarified them too, so they look a right mess!
Did you say something?  Coal tit at the feeding station
My bird feeding station has attracted some colourful visitors, long-tailed tits, goldfinches and a great spotted woodpecker the other day, but the little blighters fly away as soon as they spot a camera!  A vain little day flying moth was more accommodating and stayed on the same flower for a whole 10 minutes - posing. Or maybe it was tired....
Silver Y moth posing on late flowering phlox
My big holly tree and cotoneaster hedge are dripping with berries which some would say portends a harsh winter. Bring it on. I love running in snow, or even ice, so long as I have the right footwear. Read Yaktrax Pro.
Food for the winter thrushes
Oh, and because I forgot to post it at the time, here is one of the pictures I took of that lunar eclipse in September. I took a series of shots, at various stages, and this was the last one before mist came in and shrouded everything out.
Eclipse - September 28th (I think!)
So that's all I can think of to keep my blog running for another week. Hope everyone likes the pictures - if nothing else! Next week's will be even sparser, or non-existent, for I've no intentions to run until after the clocks have gone back.
Total Mileage: Zilch

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Alive, but not much kicking.....

Inscribed across Spike Milligan's gravestone, in Gaelic, are the words "See, I told you I was ill".  I haven't reached that stage but I'll refrain from using Spike's words so as not to tempt fate.  Let's just say I'm a little under the weather, confined to barracks, heating thermostat switched to Max, gazing at the beautiful weather and birds feeding outside my window - but quite incapable of running.
Through my window - that beckoning hill.......   (Click pictures to enlarge)
I did try. On Saturday some lunatic inside my head was urging "Go on, get out there and run it out of your system". I wont describe the disgusting details of what followed during that eventful six miles in case anyone should to be eating! Until then things weren't going too badly, although I'd admitted to a fellow runner I was 'struggling a bit, probably starting with a cold, or something'.
Autumn tints at Linton Falls on Saturday's 'eventful' run
Friday had been a funny morning, far busier than I've known it at that early hour. Running round the rim of Castle Hill as dawn was breaking I was conscious of a figure pointing a camera at me with a long telephoto lens.  It introduced itself as a Times photographer and took a few more shots of me silhouetted against the sky before allowing me to go my way.  Another professional photographer had positioned herself ready to 'shoot' the imminent sunrise, though I told her she'd chosen the wrong morning and should have been there on Thursday when the sky had been almost cloudless.
Last Thursday's spectacular sunrise......
Two more people had a blanket spread on the grass and were practicing Thai Chi, or something like that. And no, that's not a euphemism!  There were other runners too, three besides me, and a few dog walkers. Three large dogs, one an Alsatian, got quite excited when they saw me and came hurtling towards me - just to say 'Hello'. I hadn't seen them for some months but, according to their owner, they still recognized me. It was a pleasure to meet them.
....and Friday's pastel shades with mist and cloud
Well, that was the week that was. I'm afraid it's back into quarantine, otherwise known as bed. Or until that obsessive running lunatic sneaks into my head with enticing words of how much I'm missing those breaking dawns with all their gorgeous sunrises.
Oh, just one thing before I go, I'd better put my kit to wash. Gotta look respectable in case I meet that Times person again.....
Totals for week: 16 miles, 1,434ft ascent

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Indian summer......

During his record breaking attempt on the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail, Kilian Jornet  (of Matterhorn fame) writes in his book, 'Run or Die' of feeling really good, as if his feet preferred not to touch the ground as he swerved through the trees at top speed, flying on silent strides, breathing in the fresh air, alert to everything around. Sometimes he imagined himself as an Indian brave in pursuit of an elk that was running away, or carrying an urgent message to a neighbouring tribe. Initially his watch was recording a pace of around 10mph whilst latterly he was virtually running in his sleep. His narrative of that 38 hour run is utterly compelling. He broke the record by about 7 hours.
Kilian, with pacers, running the Tahoe Rim trail  (Click pictures to enlarge)
My fertile brain associated Kilian's mention of Indian braves with something my mother said shortly before she died. "I suppose you know there's Indian blood in the family?" she said casually. I didn't, but said I wasn't all that surprised given that some of our Scottish forebears sailed with the East India Company. Who knows what or who they might have brought back from Far Eastern shores in those dim distant days. "Not that sort of Indian" she said, "I mean Red Indian".
She couldn't elaborate further and I couldn't help laughing at such an outlandish idea. It was one of those snippets passed down through the generations and mother firmly believed it was true. I jokingly suggested it might have been one of 'Buffalo' Bill Cody's Red Indian troupe that went on the rampage, raping and pillaging, when  his fabulous Wild West show came over to tour England and entertain Queen Victoria. Might even have been the great Sitting Bull himself. Anyway, it's something to amuse me next time I'm tripping through the woods in the half light of dawn, except it might not be an elk I'm pursuing but some dusky maiden who, unbeknown to her, is destined to become the stuff of legend!
On the Bare House trail
In the meantime we've been enjoying the glorious Indian summer that warmed Britain through most of September. It's a good job we made the most of it for it disappeared as we stepped into October. To round off September we ran a delectable 7 miles together around the Bare House circuit - a steady 700ft climb over the first 3 miles then some fast sprints, airplaning downhill over springy turf into Grassington with sheep looking somewhat bemused at our antics!
Blea Ghyll
To open my October account I ran another 7 miles with similar ups and downs over Grassington Moor returning by some wonderfully wild country alongside Blea Beck with its newly planted trees and extensive views over Grimwith reservoir to the heights of Simon's Seat and Nussey Knott. Apart from just running, I have something else in common with Kilian in that we both sing - he when he's getting tired and me on the rare occasions when I'm 'in the zone'. Also like Kilian, I can never remember all the words and repeat certain phrases, mostly in Italian, over and over again. Last Thursday was one of those days when the closing stanzas of Rapsodia kept breaking the silence of the lonely landscape. Fortunately, there was no-one else there!
Hebden Suspension Bridge and Autumn tints
To keep my legs loose in the afternoon I walked to the newly refurbished suspension bridge that spans the River Wharfe below Hebden Village. Leaves of Horse Chestnut are turning russet while various other trees are beginning to display their Autumn tints. The bridge had only re-opened five minutes prior to my arrival so I was able to cross the river and mount the hill for a bird's eye view, and photograph, of that enchanted corner.
Smoothing out the rough bits over Bycliffe Hill
"I'm struggling a bit today" I rasped to two walkers while jogging up onto the moor on Sunday morning. Their presence ensured I kept moving, uphill, with little respite for 4 miles until it eventually dawned I'd got into a nice rhythm and was actually enjoying it! The rough, uneven terrain over the final steep part of Bycliffe Hill could have been a bowling green as I ran unfaltering across it as if to the beat of a metronome. I was growled and snarled at by a very unfriendly collie on reaching the Mossdale track but it's owner thankfully kept it in check. A raven cronked 'Hello' down the long wall but didn't follow me like its predecessors used to do.
Bent tree at descent to Hebden Ghyll

Pretty soon I was passing the bent tree that welcomed me back to the friendly confines of Hebden Ghyll.
'Burning Bush' - Cotoneaster up the ghyll
The sun came out. The path beneath my feet felt smooth as a treadmill as I slid past the 'burning bush' and back into the village feeling rather smug in having transitioned from morning struggles into a reasonably well oiled machine. It's amazing what can happen if only we're prepared to take that first step.......
Weeks totals: 22 miles, 1,549ft ascent