Crosby Parkrun

The last two months have been a bit hit and miss with parkrun. Me and my lovely wife did Stretford parkrun in early January and then I missed three weeks. One of those weeks was due to icy conditions at both Morecambe and Lancaster, and then we both came down with Covid. As a result, once I was feeling up to running again, I’ve stayed local.

However, yesterday I feeling in the mood for a tourist parkrun, and as my Nearest Event Not Done Yet (NENDY) was Crosby, that was where I went.

As always, I set off far too early, but it did mean that I managed to nab a parking spot in the busy little car park. I also went for a short run along the prom. I should have taken more photos as Crosby is the location of the Anthony Gormley sculpture piece entitled “Another Place”. The installation consists of 100 life size cast iron figures, based on the artists own body. Each sculpture weighs 650 kg. They are dotted across the whole beach and draw tourists to see them from all over the country/world.

Back to the parkrun, and with ten minutes before the start there still didn’t appear to be anyone around. I then spotted a man walking onto the beach carrying a “start” sign. I followed him. Within a few more minutes dozens more people arrived.

The course started on the beach, with a couple of the iron figures donning hi-vis vests. The beach section of the run was a little slower, even though the sand was firm, there were still ripples from the tides and a short section in deep sand as the route climbed onto the prom. Roughly, the run was one mile on the beach, one mile on the prom and one mile along the grassy bank which divides the sea from the town.

I tried not to push too hard, but surprised myself to finish in 13th place overall and 2nd in my age group.

I hadn’t known that the iron figures were located on the beach at Crosby, and if I had known, I would have insisted that Helen came with me, as well as our silly pooch, who even at the grand old age of 12, still loves to run up and down a beach.

Definitely a parkrun I would recommend.

Black Fell and Holme Fell

Sunday is adventure day, so my lovely wife, Helen, sorted out a route, which included two of the lowest Wainwrights, namely Black Fell and Holme Fell, located to the south west of Ambleside.

Amazingly, it took less than an hour to get to Tarn Hows car park from Lancaster. The car park is owned by the National Trust, and because I’m a life member, I can park for free all day. I like National Trust car parks. We pulled into the car park just after 8, and we were the only people there. I joked with Helen about how full it will be when we return.

Our route headed north around one side of the Tarn, which had a notice to say that swimming was prohibited so as not to damage the leeches. I’m guessing that would put off most people.

From the Tarn our route gently climbed, past a group of placid cows and onto a higher fell. We suddenly found ourselves at the top of Black Fell, which seemed very easy. Our starting point was quite high up. From Black Fell the plan was to follow a farm track onto the A593, which we would cross so that we could head up Holme Fell. Unfortunately, the farm track was for authorised access only, so we had to detour and walk along the A593 for a short while. It wasn’t too bad as most drivers were very courteous.

Off the main road we started to climb, summiting a number of smaller unnamed ridges all joined together, as we slowly made our way to Holme Fell. I have to say, that at only 315m high, it was proving to be quite a tough climb. When we did reach the top we stopped for a snack and some water, only to look across a small saddleback and realise that we were at the top of Ivy Crag.

Ten minutes later we were at the top of the correct fell.

We then dropped quite steeply down to Yew Tree Tarn and back across the A593. From here the route followed Tom Gill as we climbed up past the Tom Ghyll Waterfalls. It was quite a sting in the tail, and we were fairly worn out when we reached Tarn Hows again.

Back at the car park it was complete chaos. It was overflowing with people and cars, and was a little intimidating. We fed Nelly and as we did we were asked if we were leaving. Nelly doesn’t take long to eat and we were soon back on our way home, narrowly avoiding a complete tosser of a driver who overtook a number of cars at extreme speed as we drove past Ambleside. The vehicle must have been stolen, the driving was that dangerous.

Anyway, our route was 12.5km with 600m of climbing, and ticked off another two Wainwrights.

Dry January

Me and my lovely wife, Helen, had a very good Christmas and New Year, so much so that it seemed a very good idea to try out Dry January. To help us with this Helen found an App, simply called Try Dry.

Each day you enter if you were dry or not, and if you drank you added the type of drink, the alcoholic strength and the quantity. The App will then work out how many units you consumed. You can also add in a weekly units target, which we have both now set to 14.

How did January go? Did we manage it? I’m happy to say that we both successfully managed to avoid drinking over the course of the whole month. It wasn’t always easy. Some nights after a long tiring week at work I would want nothing more than to crash onto the sofa with a film and a beer. Helen would often crave a glass of wine on a Friday or Saturday night.

Fortunately, Brew Dog have an excellent range of alcohol free beers, and Helen bought a bottle of Tanqueray alcohol free gin, which when mixed with a good quality tonic is incredibly close to a real gin and tonic.

We also purchased a smart spirit measure. I like a rum every now and again, but when you pour a measure yourself, it is very easy to go a bit over the top.

The smaller end is 25ml and the larger end is 50ml, but there are also lines inside the measure for 15ml and 35ml. It is quite scary to see just how small a 25ml measure is. This size equates to 1 unit with a 40% spirit. Last Saturday we shared a bottle of wine, which gave us 6 units each.

The app isn’t perfect as the total number of units displayed on the main screen are rounded up. On Friday I had a 330ml can of beer which was 6.5%. This would be 2.145 units of alcohol, but the app rounded this up to 3 units, which is quite a jump. However, if you delve into the app there is a chart with an accurate unit count. Last week I drank 11.8 units of alcohol.

Overall, I like the app as it is an easy to use way of calculating how much we are drinking, and an aid to stop us from slipping back into our habit of having a beer most nights.

Finally, I used to run a pub, and one of the things you had to know, was how to calculate units of alcohol. It’s quiet easy. Take the quantity of the drink in litres and multiply it by the strength. For example, a 500ml bottle of beer (0.5 litres) at a strength of 5% would be 2.5 units. (0.5 x 5 = 2.5). A large glass of wine (175ml) which has a strength of 13.5% would be 2.36 units. (0.175 x 13.5 = 2.3625). A pub double measure of whisky (50ml) would be 2 units. (0.05 x 40).

Did you try dry January?

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

A collection of short stories from the master story teller.

Without doubt Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers of all time. Fahrenheit 451 is a must read classic and one of the best dystopian future books ever written. Definitely up there with Orwell’s 1984.

The October Country is a collection of 19 short stories, all of them written in the 40’s and 50’s. Because of this, some of them feel a little dated. There is a definite Cannery Row vibe to the feel, which was written by John Steinbeck, looking back on the great depression era.

However, even a dated short story from Ray Bradbury is a great short story, and even if one story doesn’t grab you, there’s another one in a few more pages. With almost 20 stories I’m not going to even try to write about them all, but I will highlight three of the best.

The Crowd was made into a TV episode, possibly for The Twilight Zone, as I distinctly remember having watched it. A random man is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is involved in a bad road accident. A crowd appears almost out of nowhere. He survives, but then has the misfortune to witness another road accident. He is sure that the same people from his accident are in the crowd. He starts to look through old newspapers for photographs from other road accidents. Sure enough, there are a number of individuals in most of the crowds. Who are they and what do they want?

Imagine a corn field where every stalk of corn is a person, and someone has been tasked with cutting each stalk when their time has come. This is the basis for the chilling tale of The Scythe. A family are driving across America in search of a new life when they stumble upon an old farm. There is a dead body and a note that whoever finds the body is to take over the farm. The man does just that, and to begin with everything is ok.

The Man Upstairs is a strange old fellow. He works nights and sleeps all day, staying in a hostel with a dozen rooms. The woman who runs the place looks after her grandson, who is inquisitive, especially with the strange man upstairs. The grandson has been warned not to make any noise during the day, but as soon as his grandmother leaves the house, he shouts as loud as he can outside of the strange man’s bedroom. In the evening, the other guests remark upon the disappearances in the city. Is this related to the strange man? Is he a Vampire, or is he something far worse?

All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories, especially as more than half of them were nice and dark. Ray Bradbury was an incredibly talented writer across many different genres. Almost every score on Goodreads is a four or a five, with very few lower scores. I gave the book four stars, although I would have liked to have given five, but not every story hit the mark.

The Lives of Brian by Brian Johnson

I do like to read rock biographies, and Brian Johnson has been the lead singer of AC/DC for 40 years. I wasn’t too impressed with Francis Rossi, as he came across as a bit of a nob, but Rob Halford’s biography was an amazing read as was Bruce Dickinson’s.

If you’re looking for an expose on the life and times of the band AC/DC, then this isn’t the book for you. The book is mostly all about Brian’s life before joining the band, and the last few years when he lost his hearing and had to leave the band. The album Back in Black is heavily written about as it was a ground breaking album, very much make or break. If the album had flopped then AC/DC would probably have ceased. No pressure then.

What is surprising is how much Brian accomplished before joining the band, with tours and hit singles with his previous band Geordie. He was also a successful business owner repairing cars when AC/DC came calling. They also weren’t the first large band he auditioned for, although he declined to try out for Uriah Heep.

There is definitely scope for a second book looking at Brian’s time in AC/DC, but I found this to be an enjoyable read, although without too many warts. Whether that is because Brian doesn’t have any “warts” or skeletons in the closest, or because on the whole he’s a genuinely nice bloke. I think it might be the latter.

Anyway, a good read, but possibly only if you’re a rock fan.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I picked this up in Waterstones, partly as it looked interesting and partly because Stephen King recommended it. Not personally, obviously, although how cool would that be if he had.

The blurb on the back mentions that Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern has been awarded a place at Yale. She will be monitoring Yale’s secret societies as they tamper with forbidden magic, raise the dead and sometimes prey on the living. However, a local girl has been murdered and everyone apart from Alex thinks that the case has been solved.

There is a lot going on in this book, and the first fifty pages can be confusing with eight different secret societies, all of whom specialize in different aspects of magic. There is also a very detailed map of Yale University at the start of the book, which I found myself never actually looking at. Slowly over the course of the book we find out about Alex’s past and that the reason she was drawn to Yale is because she can see ghosts.

I was a little unsure about the style of the book early on, worrying that it might be an adult version of Harry Potter meeting The Sixth Sense. However, once I’d pushed on through the first fifty pages, Stephen King was right, in that it was impossible to put down. The story cracks along at a good pace, with twists and turns aplenty, although a couple are telegraphed. My only quibble would be with the ease in which magical devices are appropriated, seemingly from nowhere. The secret societies have been a law unto themselves for too long, and they’ve never met anyone like Galaxy Stern.

I gave the book five stars, which was a little generous. However, a sequel has been written which I am very much looking forward to reading.