Category Archives: 2008

197. The Hog’s Back Road Race, Guildford 2008 – It’s All About the Hill

hogs-back-road-race-2008-two-hundred-million-years-of-fog-guildford-surrey-england-by-roadsofstone“Upon the whole it was an excellent journey & very thoroughly enjoyed by me; the weather was delightful the greatest part of the day…  to my capacity it was perfection. I never saw the country from the Hogsback so advantageously.”

So wrote Jane Austen of her trip along the Hog’s Back, in 1813. But today is a different kind of day. The view from the top shows nothing but fog. A December morning, chill, damp and misty. That’s how we live.

And yet, I can’t complain. An hour ago, I was still tucked up and fast asleep in bed. Thirty minutes of muesli, tea and fast driving delivered me to the start in Artington. Five minutes to jog to the start, another five minutes to score a race number, and I almost arrived too early for my geological odyssey. But not quite.

hogs-back-road-race-2008-the-climb-begins-mount-pleasant-guildford-surrey-england-by-roadsofstoneTime at the start line is always good. A few minutes to share notes on the course, and establish credentials.

A woman next to me is wearing London Marathon leggings from 2006. I ran it that year, too. Her son is a huge rower from Belfast. He’ll struggle on the hill, as will I.

And yes, the Hogs Back Race — it’s all about the hill.
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196. In Shelley’s Sussex footsteps – running from Horsham to Warnham

autumn-on-the-causeway-horsham-sussex-england-by-yoshi-san-virtual-tourist-comO Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing

Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley — 1819

A new season in a new town. Autumn has come and gone here in Horsham, scattering her falling leaves behind new footsteps across the park.

September laid a blank canvas all around this pretty Sussex town, and running set me free to paint. It’s invigorating, exciting and refreshing to explore anew.

Horsham is over a thousand years old. Standing calm beside the River Arun, amid green fields atop the Wealden Clay, historically this town gave birth to bricks, and beer and Catherine Howard.

Two centuries ago, Percy Bysshe Shelley set forth upon his life from here — a journey cut short before his 30th birthday in a shipwreck off the Italian coast. One of the great lyric poets and an unconventional and uncompromising radical, Shelley was expelled from Oxford for his atheist and anti-monarchist views.
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195. The arc of history – USA election 2008

“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.

barack-obama-and-family-chicago-illinois-usa-4th-november-2008It’s just three miles and a lifetime’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to Grant Park, and I can remember every step.

How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.

I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.

That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.

My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.

washington-monument-capitol-from-lincoln-memorial-usa-h4num4n-flickrThe view from the Empire State Building. The sound of dusk on Broadway. The New Jersey Turnpike. The Smithsonian. The Capitol.

A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).

My love affair with America had begun.
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194. The US Electoral College: a From Scratch guide

new-england-leaves-in-fall-by-roadsofstoneThis longest race is nearly run at last – and as autumn 2008 falls inexorably into the arms of winter, the US election beckons with its promise of history in the making.

Because by the time the October New England leaves lie buried under fresh January snows, the new course of our free world will have been decided.

And after months of Primaries, Conventions and Rallies — the millions of words from Hillary, Barack and McCain, and thousands of column inches on Sarah, Joe and even Joe the Plumber — how, exactly, will America elect her new President?

We’ve heard about the battleground states — the races for Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. But surely, every vote counts, right across the country?

This week, I’m indebted to Ella, our long-standing America correspondent, for writing this timely From Scratch guide to the US Electoral College.

new-hampshire-snow-by-atonal-at-flickrdotcomAll across the lower 48, Hawaii, Alaska and the farthest reaches of the Upper East Side, America decides.

And this is how it works.

* * * * *

Click for www.electoral-vote.com

On November 4, we Americans will be voting for a new president in no less than 51 separate elections — one in each state and the District of Columbia.

On that day we won’t elect the new president, though; that won’t happen until December 15, when the electors, chosen in the primaries and by state party meetings, gather in their respective state capitals to cast their votes.

And the president won’t count as duly elected until those electoral votes are counted in Congress on January 6.

In a nutshell, those three stages define how our Electoral College works.
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193. Through the Gherkin’s glass darkly – nightfall and fear in the City of London

gherkin-london-england-from-bishopsgate-by-roadsofstoneAccessibly tall and inspiring from the riverside earlier, the Gherkin hides shyly behind Liverpool Street’s offices now.

And it’s true – this building recedes as you draw ever closer.

Five minutes later, she lurks half-hidden down an alleyway off Bishopsgate, and by the time we reach St Mary Axe, the hem of her crystal skirt is all that remains.

gherkin-london-england-from-st-mary-axe-by-roadsofstoneFar above, Norman Foster has urged glass and steel triangles into unseen high perfection, but from here only memory and reflections conjure the peak of her profile.

Imagination in architecture – that is the Gherkin.
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192. Ending the streak – America wins the 2008 Ryder Cup

valhalla-golf-club-hole-6-valhallgolfclub-comThe streak ends today.

So read a banner beside the fairway at Valhalla yesterday as the final day singles of the 2008 Ryder Cup were about to begin.

jb-holmes-kenny-perry-celebrate-ryder-cup-2008-valhalla-kentucky-usa.jpgThose words showed how much the Americans wanted to win it this time. And win it they did, as Paul Azinger and his players delivered the first USA victory since Brookline in 1999. The Kentucky twilight fell to wild scenes of jubilation and joy.

This was a true team achievement. Lining up as underdogs, without the best player in the world beside them, the Americans played wonderfully, and they putted even better.
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191. Two years of Roads of Stone

roads of stoneThe second anniversary of this site passed midway through a busy August. An office move and a new computer have diverted me since, but the milestone seems worth marking all the same.

There hasn’t been much time to write. This isn’t a site for daily updates – the past twelve months at Roads of Stone have seen just 28 posts.

Still, that adds up to around 20,000 words, squeezed into odd moments here and there, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve been busy.

Those words have extended to travel writing on Kenya (seven posts), Scotland, Texas, Bermuda and France.

Conversations have extended to cover geology, music, golf, UK and US politics, the history of horseracing and Shakespearean theatre, petroleum economics, global warming, the urban development of London and French cooking.
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