An Aberdeenshire dawn. In deep December. At eight o’clock it’s still almost dark here in Northern Scotland, but I’ve been awake for a while.
A gale has been howling across the sand dunes all night, rattling the windows of my hotel room, whilst the branches of the tree outside are still swaying as if in the aftermath of some apocalyptic explosion.
I grab my windjacket, and head downstairs, past the hotel bar and restaurant where we ate so well last night. I nod in deference to this holy shrine – the hallowed tables where they serve the most famous sticky toffee pudding in all the world.
The weather for this year’s Brighton 10 km was every bit as calm and sunny as in 2005, if nowhere near as cold.
Returning to this race made for a much more pleasant encounter with the scenic seafront esplanade, a backdrop which features so memorably in Graham Greene’s classic 1930s novel Brighton Rock.
And that tale of sordid seaside strife and natural justice found more than fleeting echo as I recalled the sad and painful script of last year’s race.
We were ready for our run around the banana plantation – laces tied, route mapped and dog ready. That’s when Adam told me his last marathon time was 3:15, over an hour faster than mine.
‘No problem,’ he said. ‘You set the pace. I’ll just hang on your right shoulder.’
I ran that first lap too fast. Then halfway around the second, I turned left instead of right.
‘This way !’ chided Adam mildly, racing down another, seemingly identical trail between the bananas.
And if that was at all remarkable, it was only because Adam is blind.
Seven human lifetimes ago, the mountain behind me was alive.
Smoke, fire and brimstone poured into the blue Atlantic sky, day and night.
The crews of three small sailing boats watched the terrifying spectacle from the safety of the next island, fearful of such a bad omen whilst their epic journey had hardly commenced. The captain of their little fleet had no choice then but to portray it calmly, or maybe not quite so calmly, as a certain sign of heavenly goodwill instead.
Two weeks later, in September 1492, the three tiny vessels left the safety of the Canary Islands, slipped their moorings in San Sebastián on La Gomera, and bravely sailed off the edge of the world. The first voyage of Christopher Columbus and the Santa Maria had begun.
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care ?
Words and music by U2, October 1981.
A lot can change in just twentyfive years. And this year, the trees aren’t bare, or even brown.
This October is different, because all the trees are green.
Who knows what the world will be like in another twentyfive years ?
But we know that answer already: October will be just another summer month.
As it already is in England, right now. Today.
133. Tomorrow – Avril Lavigne and global warming
69. Running low on fuel
105. A crisis of energy
110. The hands that built America – Houston skylines
43. A sense of time – Earth history and the London Marathon
75. The Cruel Sea – the Indian Ocean tsunami
‘I aim higher’. Altiora peto – that’s the motto of my old school, and it’s been a great maxim to take through life, whether for study, sports (especially darts, of course) or business.
Persistence and patience are the keys to achievement, in just about all things, especially when allied with a burning desire to learn and to improve.
I’ve found that sticking to a task, and simply pressing on, regardless of distractions and disappointments, is often the best approach to reaching a challenging goal.
I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
Are you looking for another girl ?
Billy Bragg, July 1983;
Kirsty MacColl, December 1984
It might seem a stretch to link political activist and singer Billy Bragg with the new leader of the Conservative Party, but both featured in the news this week.
Billy received a write-up in The Observer for his new book on English patriotism – a decidedly risky concept within the social landscape of modern Britain, fitting entirely comfortably neither on the terraces of Upton Park nor on the East London streets of Bragg’s childhood home in nearby Barking.
And David Cameron was everywhere it seemed, following his début at the Tory Party Conference, where he made that speech – a decidedly risky exercise within the political landscape of the right, fitting entirely convincingly neither in the Conservative Party conference hall nor in the white middle-class streets of Bournemouth which surrounded it.