Sunday 26 August 2012

Great North Run Training in Glasgow

There are now only 3 weeks to go until I try running my first half-marathon, so this weekend was time to see how the training has been going and do another long training run. The aim today was to run the full race distance. I get bored at times jogging along, so thought that if I had a few goals to aim at today it would keep my interest up. Also I decided that if I live-tweeted what I was doing on twitter, I would force myself to complete my loop to avoid public disgrace. Looking at a map of Glasgow last night I came up with a route which started in Partick, was 13 miles long and would take in all the professional football stadiums in Glasgow. As the distance fitted perfectly it seemed like a sign that I had to give it a go.
I passed my 40th birthday two years ago, and with my wee brother decided 18 months ago to train for the Glasgow Great Scottish Run 10K as my dad was talking about doing it. Since getting myself fit enough  to shuffle around that distance I've managed to keep it going. As I'm diabetic, requiring insulin injections, it has caused me a few challenges, which I've solved with some advice from the charity Diabetes UK. So this year having decided to try to run a half-marathon, I plumped for the Great North Run, a 13 mile race from Newcastle to South Shields which this year has the bonus of having the great Haile Gebrselassie and Mo Farah running it alongside 55,000 others. I am running it to raise money for Diabetes UK and if you wish to you can donate at JustGiving.
So early on Saturday morning I headed down to the Clyde from Partick and crossed at the bridges beside the SECC and Science Centre, a typically grey summer's day as you can see. 
10 minutes gone, crossing the Clyde..
 This bit was familiar to me from occasional visits to support Partick Thistle at Ibrox, when usually I'd catch a pint on Dumbarton Road and walk this way to see Rangers. Nowadays it is the home to a Third Division outfit, and they have a fine wee ground. Perhaps if they improve from the standards that they achieved today (drawing 1-1 with Berwick Rangers) then in a few years time I'll be back to this place of fun and friendly smiles.
20 minutes gone, 4km in, Ibrox Stadium
Heading eastwards towards the next stadium was a bit of a challenge for me. As a typical westender I rarely venture to the part of Glasgow known around here as "the Southside", but as I had spent a tense and ultimately rewarding evening here last week at Hampden I soon found my way to my next target. Known to most people outside Scotland as our national football stadium, it is home to "The Spiders", Queen's Park Football Club founded in 1867 with the motto "Ludere causa Ludendi" (play for the sake of playing). Still an amateur team after all these years my trip here last week to watch Partick Thistle win 5-4 in the dying minutes of a Ramsdens Cup tie will live long in my memory. 
50 minutes gone, 10km in, Hampden Stadium
Halfway (or half-time) now and with having diabetes once I've been running 50-60 minutes I find that I need to top up the sugar levels with a handful of dextrose tablets. I've found jelly babies are easier to get over with a dry mouth when running.
Next stadium is a bit of a cheat as Shawfield is no longer a football ground, as Clyde FC left here in 1986, leading a nomadic existence, briefly sharing Firhill, before settling in an anonymous concrete stadium in a Cumbernauld wind-tunnel, where famously there seems to be a mechanism for turning off the hot water for the visiting players' dressing room.
60 minutes gone, 12km, Shawfield Stadium
Right. Half-time break on the southside over, second half about to start. Back across the River Clyde at Glasgow Green and into Glasgow's East end. Coming over this way always brings back memories of a CIS Cup game against Celtic in 2002. Alan Archibald was in the team that day which was drawing 1-1 after extra time, and we were into sudden death penalties, almost tasting victory but missed the chance again and again, and Celtic squeezed through. That was a long walk home. Today was the first time I had seen the new velodrome and sports arena across from Celtic Park. I hope the area around here does benefit from the Commonwealth Games, as it has looked pretty desolate in recent years around here at times.
1 hour 10 minutes, 14km, Celtic Park at Parkhead
Leaving Celtic Park I ran past the stall holders at the Barras setting up shop, then through the city centre, over Cowcaddens and up Maryhill Road.
The last bit of this run was always going to be a bit of a slog, so I had saved the stadium of Glasgow's current form team, Partick Thistle, as my final goal. I've been coming here since I was a boy in Maryhill Primary School, and they are still my local team. It has been fantastic fun this year at Firhill watching them winning games, controlling possession, passing the ball and playing some confident, classy football. The 3-0 victory yesterday over Dumbarton could easily have been 6-0 and there were lovely periods of play in that game. A few years back I went to the football for almost 3 consecutive years without seeing a single Thistle victory as we plummeted through the divisions and although we've been stuck in mid-table of Division 1 for a few years now, this looks like our best chance for a while of promotion. However, it is early days, and if you haven't been in a while, come along. You might like what you see.
1 hour 45 minutes, 21km/ 13 miles. Firhill Stadium
(NB me running in my "Blurple" away strip in which we've won every game so far this season)
Anyway, I managed to achieve my aim of a 13 mile run, taking in Ibrox, Hampden, Shawfield, Celtic Park and Firhill. I did it in a decent time and I feel ready to head down to Newcastle and Sunderland and see what football grounds I can add to my list above. I still had a bit in my legs as I slowly warmed down on the shuffle home and am pretty sure I passed Danny McGrain walking his dog in the Botanic Gardens on my way home, who managed to play top level football at Celtic whilst dealing with diabetes. If he could do it with the equipment and medications that they had back then, it is clear that diabetes needn't be an impedement with all the help and technology we get now. If you feel like sponsoring me, just follow this link to JustGiving. Thanks

P.S. Thanks to for covering this. Here is a link to their article.

P.P.S. One person asked about my diabetes management with this type of exercise. When exercising regularly I find that I need to reduce all of my insulin doses across the day and I don't make tweeks before specific runs. I aim to start a run at least an hour after insulin/ a meal, with a blood glucose between 7-11mmol/L and if exercising for over an hour will need a sugary snack during a run. As I mentioned above a handful of jelly babies I find easiest to get over. Doing this my blood glucose was 6.9mmol/L after the above run, but extra testing is required for a couple of hours afterwards as it can still fall. This is what works for me. PC

Monday 20 August 2012

12 Hour Blitz of Edinburgh Festival 2012

Over the past few years I've annually tried to spend a day or two through at the Edinburgh festival. So, buoyed by a successful trip through on Saturday to the mysterious eastern side of Scotland to watch Partick Thistle beat Dunfermline 1-0 in Fife, I was back east again today, this time to do a 12 hour blitz around the festival.

First up something for the younger children, Petya and the Wolf, by Theatre Pushkin at the Assembly Roxy. My children's reviews of it suggest that they found it interesting but ultimately rather bamboozling as a pair of Russian clowns act out the well known story. It is maybe something that more appeals to 42 year olds like their dad, brought up on Czechoslovakian animated short films on BBC2, and I think the demographics of the audience reflected that with slightly more unaccompanied adults than children present.
Sunny morning at the Edinburgh Book Festival venue
Over at the Edinburgh Book Festival I went to see Michael Grant with my 12 year old son. He is the author of piles of books but has found recent success with his teenage fiction, the GONE series and his new series BZRK which he revealed has got Sam Raimi lined up to direct the film if/when it gets made. I haven't ever read his books but my son devours them. Michael Grant has clearly lead an interesting life and was an engaging and honest speaker, a big shaven headed guy who manages to call people "dude" with a straight face and it doesn't sound odd. He tries to temper his language for the age of the audience and almost succeeds but would clearly be good company discussing cigars and whisky.

Quick dash along to the Pleasance in time to see Horrible Histories Barmy Britain, based on the popular books and TV series, a light hearted romp through British history, jammed with gory stories and facts in the usual Horrible Histories manner. The two performers through a variety of costume changes go from the Roman diet as "Manky-Chef" characteers, to WWI with Earl Haig reporting back to Lord Sugar on the Apprentice. The show is an adapted version of the longer one running in England just now and they've played up the Scottish stories for playing in (Jessie King baby farmer, Burke and Hare, William Wallace) but it is funny how a show about British history jars a bit when the Scottish vs British vs English bit gets a little hazy.
City Art Centre's exhibitions this year are a bit disappointing after David Mach's dramatic show there last year. The Leslie Hunter and Scottish Colourists are a bit of a safe option and very familiar. The top floor has "Human Race", an exhibition allegedly "Inside the History of Sports Medicine", but its a bit of a jumble of disparate items and feels more like a cash grab for Lottey funding in an Olympic year.

More memorable and as mad as a sack of badgers are Harry Hill's paintings, My Hobby, up on the second floor of the clothes shop White Stuff on George Street. If I tell you it has everything from a coconut painted with the face of Jarvis Cocker to a painting of a multi-headed Chris Tarrant running about on the surface of Mars, you'll understand that his work has something for everyone.
Past the sale rack and upstairs to Harry Hill's stuff
Walking about I now had Bruce Springsteen playing in my ears to get me in the right mood for the next show, Sarfraz Manzoor doing 'The Boss Rules' at the Assembly Rooms. As I am ages with him, his stories of living through the80s, finding Bruce's music, starting a family and finding song lyrics chiming with what is going on struck a chord with me. He makes great play in the opening that he's not a comedian, but it is a humorous and warmhearted show and I was inspired to buy his book afterwards. I don't know why I bother as I feel foolishly self-conscious at these things ("yes, sign it to Paul, nobody else would thank me for it") and you can always get the books cheaper on Amazon. It just seems polite.

As the rain was now pelting down outside I decided to try and stay in one building for a couple of hours. Last time that I was at the Assembly Rooms on George Street I think was at a fundraising ceilidh to help the Eigg islanders buy out the landowner. The space which I was in back then now seems to have become Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Edinburgh so I had a wild rabbit tagliolini where last I'd done a Gay Gordons.

Arranging what shows to see sometimes was more to do with what was on at a free slot I had than any great plan, so it was good fortune for me that Stewart Lee's show at the Assembly Rooms was on at 6pm as it was one of the best things that I saw all day. He appears prickly as he delivers a fine monologue/rant about not having any material for a show and complains that half the audience aren't knowledgeable enough to get the jokes anyway. But it is comedians that are really the subject of his gaze. People tweeting and those emailing abuse also get it in the neck as he nicely lands back at the Carpet Remnant World of the show's title at the end.

Finally I'd saved the thing I'd been looking forward to most of all for last, James Kelman and Liz Lochead back up at the book festival in Charlotte Square. Familiar faces such as Irvine Welsh and Jackie Kay were in the audience too. I've long been an avid reader of Kelman's books and Liz Lochead's plays are some of the best I've seen in recent years. Her poetry I've only come to recently. Kelman is promoting his new book "Mo Said She Was Quirky" and gave a good reading from it. It was great to hear him read his stuff. In my head I find his writing makes perfect sense, it just sounds like real people's thoughts, ideas, actions and voices and he reads it as I envisage it when reading. I cannot equate that with some of the uncomprehending and sniffy reviews his books get. When asked about reviewers he breezily shrugged it all off. His early influences maybe explain my affection for his work as he basically read off my youthful reading list when asked; Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Zola and Camus. Interesting too was his comparison with the visual arts in how he works and admiration for Cezanne, Rodin and Modigliani. Also nice to hear the Pewter Pot and Rubiyat bars getting a name check. I swallowed my pride again and bought his book to get it signed, he feigned signing my book "to Pall", one of those occasions you think of the witty retorts on the drive home. Also the only time anyone has ever made that funereal pun with my name - dark humour, eh? Back to Glasgow.

Friday 17 August 2012

Parisian Street Art

If you have seen the excellent film by Banksy about Street Art, Exit Through the Gift Shop, you will be familiar with "Space Invader", the French street artist, introduced in the film as the supposed cousin of "Mr Brainwash". Space Invader or Invader makes mosaics of the pixellated low-res  characters from early 1980s video games then, starting in Paris, they are put up on walls around a city as an invasion. Several cities around the world have now been "invaded" but Paris is where it all began and I believe there are now over 1000 of the characters stuck up on the walls and buildings there. Not everyone approves, but my children have always loved Banksy's stuff and spotted their first Invader piece when we were in London a few years ago. So when we were in Paris a few weeks ago, staying at no. 53 Rue de Turennes in the Marais district, they were delighted to find a large space invader next door to us. That was the start of there game where a scoring system was devised to see who could spot the next one. I cheated and spotted more when I went out jogging, so my score was the highest, but by the end of our trip we were all walking about the streets of Paris craning our necks upwards the whole time, peering around corners to see who could spot the next one. Here are a few we took snaps of. One of their favourites was spotted from on a train outside Montparnasse station, a Nintendo mushroom, but there are hundreds more out there. If it has a number and points beside the photo below that's for the anoraks out there, Invader's own naming system and points score. Go have a look!

Rue de Turennes

At the Metro station across from the Catacombs, Paris

PA_575 50 points

"PA_746 50 points"

PA_926 30 points

The wee Octopus guy underneath
is spreading too

PA_682 30 points
Q-bert, in the Marais, good game, better mosaic

PA_769 50 points
I think Invader is getting peeved at some of them being pulled down?

Opposite the Pompidou Centre, someone has added a ship shooting at it, made from Lego

A Galaxian at Place de la Bastille, PA_555

My favourite, a sombre black one near Père Lachaise cemetery

"PA_961 50 points"

A day-trip to Chartres to marvel at the medieval cathedral soon became a day of "who can spot the next Invader mosaic in THIS invaded town?"






So Invader has started a rash of other street artists/ vandals plastering their stuff over Parisian walls, with varying degrees of ability and imagination. An honourable mention goes to Gregos who has casts of his face eerily pushing through the walls all over the place.

Or what about a bit of humour from Clet Abraham, "Lifting the Taboo".

Monday 13 August 2012

Chartier Restaurant, Paris

I've just returned from a short holiday and want to quickly jot down my praise for one of my highlights. On our trip we had our first visit to the Costa del Sol in Spain to attend a wedding in Gibraltar. Nice apes, the Alhambra at Granada is a sight to behold, Ronda is lovely and had me picking Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" off the shelf for the first time in years. Then a few days in Paris, climbing every tall structure in the city and taking our first trip into the catacombs at the request of our children, which was excellent by the way.

However there were two highlights for us. For my three children it was competing with each other to be the next to spot a mosaic by the street artist/ graffiti artist "Invader" (more on that another time). For me the highlight was getting to go back to Chartier Restaurant again. I'll do a quick blog to extol its virtues as I'm amazed to find when I mentioned it on twitter from Paris that only my brother had heard of it!

Since 1869 they've been preparing decent French food at decent prices, with phenomenally good service here. The first time I was taken there was as a 9 year old on a "Paris Travel" coach holiday to the city and it made a lasting impression on me. The elegant dining room with it's hat stands and mirrored walls, the cramped tables where a stranger is likely to be sharing a table with you once it starts to fill up and the waiters memory skills and tradition of annotating your order on the paper tablecloth, then jotting down the addition to work out your bill. When I went there last week, over 30 years since my first visit, none of that had changed and I sat with a smile on my face through the whole meal.

It is across from metro station Grands Boulevards, up a short courtyard at 7 rue du Fauboug Montmartre. It opens at 6pm most evenings, but get there early if you don't want to queue, however the queue moves along quickly.
Inside it looks like a made up Parisian cafe should, but it is all genuine and the interior is listed so
unlikely to change. Every time I've been to Paris since that first trip with my parents I've made a point of returning to Chartier's and everything that I liked about my first visit is still the same today on my umpteenth visit.

The menu changes regularly but here is the menu on the day we were there.

It is all standard French fare, but well cooked and reasonably priced and I could happily spend a whole week going back every day to work my way through it. The wine by the glass, pichet or bottle is tasty and inexpensive.
Trying to expose my children to maximum Frenchness they started with snails, whilst I ordered the steak tartare (raw minced beef, onions, capers, etc I think and it went down very nicely too, thank you for asking).
 We all had a great time, great food and for the five of us to have three courses plus wine and coffees it came to about 120 Euros, the addition scrawled on the tablecloth as usual.
"Your bill, sir"

Anyway, here ends my public service announcement. If you have been to Paris and haven't been to Chartier's I think you are missing a treat. We left fairly early in the evening as the service is quick but this was the queue outside as we were leaving.

You have been warned.