Musings about wanderings

Month: October 2013


I have at my disposal, some of the most technologically advanced communications tools available to the general public. I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, several e-mail addresses, a mobile phone capable of accessing any of the former as well as text messages and calls and a land line.

And yet I find it increasingly difficult to stay in touch with friends and to have any meaningful relationship with them. It seems to me, the more ways to communicate, the harder it is to do so.

Go back two decades and the only way to stay in touch was by snail mail and phone calls. As a somewhat impoverished student, phone calls were a bit of a luxury, especially at the price of phone boxes. Thus I kept in touch with some friends by writing to them. I would take the time to sit down and write sometimes long and rambling letters to them, get a stamp and make it to the nearest post box to send the letter on its way. The arrival of a letter meant that time was set aside to read what was written. The extra effort involved somehow made it special and something well worth doing.

Move to a decade ago and mobile phones with text messages and e-mail had arrived on the scene. Mobiles weren’t really capable of reading and writing e-mails so text messages were “pub, 8pm”. E-mail was something you had to be in front of a computer for and as such behaved more or less like the snail mail that had preceded it. And you really only had e-mail addresses for a few friends, so again the communication was precious and time taken over it.

Today we live in a hyper connected world where it is theoretically possible to get in touch with any person at any time. There are large circles of “friends” on Facebook, making news feeds full of information that isn’t really communication on any meaningful level. And keeping up means constantly checking all these different channels leading to what’s called Fear Of Missing Out, the worry that there is something cool happening somewhere and you’re missing it. It also leads to living vicariously, a sort of second hand experience synthesised from other’s experience.

Add to this the ability to tweet, post or Instagram any little detail at any time and communication becomes a flood of trivialities. It sometimes feels that proper communication is cast aside in favour of superficial contact. What’s latest, what’s new? Time isn’t taken to deepen relationships, there aren’t friends who’s letters and phone calls are looked forward to, that contain ideas that make you think. Instead we have vast amounts of information thrown at us, phones and computers constantly beeping with the latest tidbit. And there is so much of it that sometimes things are missed or even thrown overboard in the effort to stay on top of it all.

So as I sit and ponder all the recent messages I’ve put in digital bottles and thrown in to the sea of the internet, I wonder if we are not drowning in communications.

Your Place In The Country 19OCT13

This week, the site guide from the Camping and Caravan Club arrived in the post. I always look forward to it and the Caravan Club one arriving. In its pages are so many destinations both new ones promising adventure and old favourites with their familiarity.

I’ve only just started to look at it but I’m thinking that the Lake District will be getting a few visits. Lots of walking to be done and many things to see. And at only three hours or so from home, perfect for a weekend away. Load the van on a Friday morning, take a half day from work and I can be pitched up in beautiful surroundings by tea time.

Lots to peruse through the dark winter nights but I’m looking forward to planning 2014’s adventures.

Great Scottish Run 1/2 Marathon Glasgow 6OCT13

My second 1/2 marathon of the year but actually the first that I put an entry in for, Sunday it was time to challenge myself and try to run 13.1miles in the fastest time I could.

The day started badly with chaos on the rails. There were overrunning engineering works causing all trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow to be cancelled and a strike by staff in Glasgow was causing disruption there.

But Scottish City Link came to the rescue and I was soon heading away from St Andrew’s Square bus station on a very comfortable coach. It looked like I wasn’t the only one with a fair few runners on the bus as well.

Arrived at Buchannan St Bus Station in Glasgow and the first order of business was to dump my bag. I’d been given the tip that I didn’t need to go down to the baggage at Glasgow Green after all, instead I put it in the left luggage, paid my £5 and headed for George Sq and the start.

The transport chaos was making itself felt. The 10Km run was earlier than the 1/2 marathon and so many had turned up from Edinburgh late that they added an extra wave just for Edinburgh runners. And even then there were a few who didn’t make it. Well done Network Rail and Scotrail.

I found my place in the last wave and waited. And waited. And waited. The extra 10Km wave meant that course changes were taking longer than expected. It was also taking ages for my GPS watch to make a lock on the satellites. But then I was among tall buildings.

Eventually the start and up the supposed famous hill of St Vincent St. A bit of a climb at the start but not much. Then round the streets heading for the Kingston Bridge. This was interesting as they’d only closed a couple of lanes for us and the traffic was still flowing on the bridge. But we got a wave and a toot of the horn from many drivers and this kept us going. At this point I was pulling just under 5min Kilometres and going well. Mostly thinking if I don’t slow down I’m going to really suffer at the end.

After the Kingston bridge there was the long drag down to Bellahouston park. Drizzle had started and it was turning to rain. Welcome actually as I was getting somewhat hot. I skipped the water station at 3miles and kept going for the park.

In the park the road narrowed quite a bit so there were a few moments of getting boxed in. I also took some water at this water station and drunk most of it. But round the park, seeing the first casualty that I’d come across waiting for help and then back toward the clyde. There was a steady support along the road and many people were handing out jelly babies to the runners. It was fantastic to see them and a real push along.

Round by Pacific Quay and then across the river on the Clyde Arc we turned left along the Clydeside expressway to the Riverside museum. This was the 10 mile mark and I was beginning to suffer, my pace climbing to 5m 15s a Km.

But the end was almost in sight and I dug deep and kicked for home. The Daily Mail Motivation Mile came up along with more water and a shower for those feeling the heat. The rain was off by this point and I was tempted by the shower to cool me down.

As we approached the finish in Glasgow Green the crowds along the sides increased in number and there were lots of shouts of encouragement.

Into Glasgow Green, under the arch and I crossed the finish line. It was a relief to be finished but I was elated as well, having run my second half marathon.

I picked up my goodie bag with things to eat, a t-shirt, some water, the medal and a very welcome space blanket. I dropped off my timing chip and walked slowly to get the bus home (though I changed my mind and got an actual train that was running by this point). Putting on my medal I felt like I’d won the Olympics.

Mass participation runs like this are fantastic to do. You challenge yourself and you only compete against yourself and the clock if you really want to add to the challenge. There’s lots of support, especially if you do it for charity and the feeling at the end is one that will stay long after the sore legs are gone and the t-shirt has faded.

And my time? Official time was 1h 48m 26s, a new personal best and well under my goal of 1h 50m.

Dunsinane at the King’s Theatre Sat 5OCT13

Saturday night there was the chance to indulge in some culture as I went to see Dunsinane at the King’s in Edinburgh.

This play, written by David Greig, represents a sequel of sorts to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The story take place just after the death of the tyrant and represents the actions of three protagonists as told by a young member of the English army.

Siward, played by Jonny Phillips, heads the English army. Sent north to Scotland to kill the tyrant and install a new king. He represents a man of action with a simple goal, to bring peace to Scotland.

Malcolm, played by Sandy Grierson, is that kings albeit a reluctant one. Installed in Dunsinane castle, he is a man steeped in politics and sees the world in shades of grey.

Gruach, played by Siobhan Redmond, is the tyrant’s widow and represents a thorn in the side of both Malcolm and Siward. She has a son that she believes is the rightful heir to the throne.

For those that don’t want spoilers, stop reading now and take my word for it that the play is fantastic and worth a viewing. For those who want to know more, read on …

Siward bounces between the two other protagonists trying to get them to see reason as he sees it. He wants peace in Scotland but cannot understand why the Scots don’t want it. He is aided by a local general MacDuff who explains the shifting sands of allegiance between the clans.

The clans themselves want to continue with things as usual. They are more interested in their own goals than a greater goal of peace. And into this is thrust Malcolm. He is a politician rather than a soldier and has a greater understanding of the complexities of inter-clan relations than Siward. He really only wants to play them off against each other and survive, believing to annoy one or more of them invites the assassins dagger.

Siward cannot understand why Malcolm does not want peace. Malcolm cynically suggests that peaces is mearly interruptions in periods of war rather than the other way around.

The English army was sent north for what seemed a simple and quick goal. But the reality of the situation means that they have to stay for longer than is expected causing some grumbling between the men. As the play goes on, the army are picked off one by one by fighting and what might be called terrorist attacks.

Gruach wants her son on the throne and will manipulate any and all around her to do so. She attempts to seduce Siward offering him kingship if he follows her will. Siward instead tries to marry her off to Malcolm but this fails.

Siward resorts to ever more brutal methods to try and bring peace and that goal fixates him, eating away until the desire for peace is all that matters. He eventually has the son of Gruach killed.

He heads off in to the wilderness to find Gruach, she having escaped the castle previously. Finding her, he returns the body of her son and demands that she submit and that there is peace in the country. She refuses and he’s last seen heading off into the darkness, leaving her to grieve.

If the above sounds familiar, then it could be a tale of Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. The play is suggesting that peace cannot be imposed by outside agency nor by force, there must be a genuine desire for it from the people.

Does this abdicate our responsibility to try to bring peace? Killing the tyrant in Iraq only brought forth every inter clan feud that had been simmering. Not handling the occupation and reconstruction properly didn’t help in any way.

I’ve seen this play twice now and it remains as thought provoking as anything else I’ve seen in the theatre.

Well recommended, see it if you get a chance.


Stopping Times

There was a fairly annoying squeak coming from Harmony the last couple of weeks. Mostly when running down the motorway but occasionally at lower speeds as well. Two possibilities came to mind.

The first is that the fan belt (ironically named as the one thing it does not turn is the fan. More correctly it would be the accessory or auxiliary belt) was going with one of the components it turns failing. This is reasonably common and the reason you sometimes hear vehicles screaming when they first start up.

Second option was the brakes. They could be binding or similar.

So off to the garage to get it checked. This did not initially go smoothly with poor Harmony breaking the hoist they had. But they did the check and there were a few things to fix. Front pads and discs, rear brake shoes and a brake cylinder. Irritatingly the squeak was nowhere to be found. They checked the belts and everything was ok.

But I’ll have Harmony back soon and in good running order. I’m thinking there might be some hill walking to be done before the winter sets in.

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