Bath Street, where all the cool offices live.
City foxes aren’t even shy any more.
There’s a garden a few houses down from us that’s a Prime Development Opportunity, which means that it’s abandoned until someone works out how to afford to build the totally underground house that’s the only thing that could get planning permission in that space. Because ‘it would be impossible to return to the usage the Victorians had envisaged for it’, even though that use was as a garden and it seems to be doing fine at that at the moment. Aaaanyway, it is a very overrun garden that hasn’t been touched since about 1972, 15-foot-high rose bushes and all, and it’s a good place for the local urban foxes to settle down and raise the cubs. Pictured: teenage cub.
I thought he was a cat when he came down the path, because the neighbours’ cats often stroll through our garden on their daily tour of small-bird murder and mayhem. But when I leant over to look at him, he was not only obviously a fox, but a fox who saw me and came trotting over to say hello. We were about six inches apart from each other, separated by the glass, him sitting on the back doorstep looking curiously at me like he was just dropping by on a social call and what had happened to friendly conversation around here anyway?
Alas, by the time I’d grabbed my iPhone, he’d gone off to investigate the rest of the garden; he’s sniffing some of the feral mint in this picture.
In the middle of the heatwave it is too hot to run, too hot to garden, too hot to do anything much except wilt sweatily over chairs and doze. So I feel for the scaffolders working right outside my office, because God knows it can’t be fun working outside. Still, there’s a limited amount of time I can work inside in a slowly-baking room with scaffolding being banged on loudly a few feet from the window, in the heat that’s already induced a low-level temporary insanity in much of the city (viz. – mass decisions to walk down Byres Road at midday dressed only in bright green shorts and an all-over sunburn), without absolutely losing my mind.
So I gave up at four o’clock and took my work home with me, because reading about lecturing techniques is pretty location-flexible. (And would you like to hear about lecturing techniques, now that I have read all the assigned reading? I have so much to share with you! First: you should communicate to the students what they need to learn, audibly and clearly. Second: you should use ‘blackboard and OHP technology’ where available. Ta-da! Don’t you feel more informed already? Also, don’t you wonder when OHPs will replace phrenology heads as the chic academic desk accessory? I know I do.)
It only takes me fourteen and a half minutes to walk home, if the traffic lights work in my favour, but by six and a quarter I was already flagging. The sun was relentless and sapping all the strength out of my body, and I could feel my arms and face starting to burn (this doesn’t take much – I got sunburnt in Iceland). But luckily, my heat-addled brain could just about put together two useful pieces of information: A) we need food, and B) the place that sells food has air conditioning. Onwards, brave feet!
Inside, Waitrose was busy but strangely quiet. People seemed to be walking around in a serene, peaceful glow, all tie-dye-maxi-dressed up with toenail polish to match their sandals, loving the hell out of the weather. At first I was surprised, and then slightly guilty, and then settling on befuddled, because how on earth were they managing to cope with this?
And then, in the milk aisle, the serenity was shattered by shrieking pandemonium. A baby being held by one worried-looking adult was furiously yanking off all of its clothes, much faster than either of the two other worried-looking adults with it could put them back on. This was not mere casual sock-flipping, oh no – this was an all-out ruthless and determined campaign, by the wriggliest being I have ever seen this side of an octopus. It was awe-inspiring.
“We don’t want to throw away our hat!”, one of the adults was saying earnestly as I passed them. “Not your Tigger hat! You need your hat!”
Baby looked at her, pulled off its sock, and threw it into the milk cartons.
How happy was I about the thought of this race last night? Not very happy, is how happy. Not very happy at all.
First: I had really not been training for it, due to a combination of poor weather and apathy. So while I was fairly sure I could manage the distance (probably? maybe?) I was a lot less confident I could manage it in a time I’d be happy with, let alone in the pace for my starting group. I had estimated 59 minutes when I signed up; 59 minutes now seemed like a pale and distant dream. Actually, 6.2 miles at any pace now seemed like a pale and distant dream, let alone the sub-10-minute-mile pace I was dearly hoping for.
Second: the weather has been awful this weekend, and the forecast did not look any better for today.
Third: omghill. Here is mapmyrun.com’s elevation map for the route:
I have made my peace with hills, by and large, but throwing that in right at the end is just sadistic.
Fourth: this was the first race I’d ever run. Going from running alone to running alongside 10,000 others? Potentially worrying. Going from running alone to running alongside 10,000 others, half of whom would probably be tripping over me because I couldn’t manage the right pace for my starting group, when getting there and getting started meant finding my way to a place I’d never been? Actually worrying.
But I’d signed up, after all, and they’d promised me a free banana at the end. So off I went.
Getting there was seamlessly easy. The underground was open early just for the race, and there were shuttle buses set up at Shields Road to get people to the starting point, so no part of the process really required you to know where the hell you were at any given point. It did, though, mean that I got there much sooner than I’d planned to and spent forty minutes dawdling around the muster point before the warmup started. Which! Yes! A mass warmup to music! Seriously, they’d thought of everything… except the weather, which was not only cold and windy but now cold, windy and raining.
I was in the yellow startup group, third from the front. We’d been gradually moving down towards the start line after the first few staggered starts, and the transition from ‘jog towards the start line’ to ‘start running the actual race’ was so smooth I almost missed it. But there it was, because we had crossed the start line and were actually running.
The first stretch was fine, easy and encouraging. It took a little extra brainpower than I’d usually prefer while running to navigate the crowd of other runners, but at least I was keeping a fair pace and not getting in other people’s way. And there were spectators, actually applauding! And there were people with drums! The atmosphere was fantastic, and I coasted past the 1k marker and then the 2k marker and then the 3k marker, thinking, well, this is all going to be fine.
It was in fact fine up until the 6k marker. We had still been on roads up until that point (and how cool is it to run down the middle of a main road while the traffic sighs at you from side streets? it is very cool, I tell you), but a little before 6k, we turned into Pollok Park, and it started feeling tougher. I am not entirely sure why it started feeling tougher – maybe my unfit muscles and lungs were starting to surrender? maybe it was the challenge of running in a pack that was suddenly a lot more tightly clumped together? maybe I was dreading the hill coming up ahead? – but tougher it felt, and tougher it was.
Pollok Park is when the spectators and race-side-entertainment really started to pick up, though. Spectators went from shouting general encouragement to shouting things like “you’re over halfway there!” and “you’re not far off the 7k mark now!” and “you’re looking great!” (we weren’t, but thanks!), and there were drummers and pipers and dancers and a mariachi band I was not entirely sure I wasn’t hallucinating (I wasn’t, it turns out) and the Clyde 1 folk with a megaphone telling us that we could go straight to McDonalds after this with no guilt at all. And because it’s Pollok Park, there was at least one Highland cow lying down under a tree to watch the race go past, so that was cool.
Running the hill was bad – but not too bad, and not as long as I’d feared. The worst thing about it was navigating the bottleneck near the bottom where a bunch of people were slowing to a walk. once I was past that, I managed to keep running okay up to the top. But oh, Lord, that hill took it out of me. By the time we started descending the other side, the tiredness had sunk deep into my muscles, and I really really felt like collapsing into a heap of comforting leafmould by the side of the path. My legs were aching, my hips were aching, my feet were aching, my lungs were aching, and the long downhill stretch was far less of a relief than I’d hoped. By the time we came out of the park onto Dumbreck Road, and the rain started coming down with grim yet enthusiastic determination, it was taking all my willpower to keep running, one more bit of path at a time. One foot. Two foot. One foot. Two foot. Ohgodthere’sstilloveramiletogoIcan’tdothis… one foot. Two foot. One foot. Two foot.
And then, after what really, really did feel like forever, we turned off into Mosspark Boulevard, and then Bellahouston Park was up ahead and someone with a megaphone was shouting out that we were on the final stretch. And I couldn’t walk then, could I? So slowly, achingly, exhaustedly, blisterdly, but still running dammit, I made it down the last long straight path and crossed the finish line.
And I did get a banana.
And a medal.
And a fiancé waiting with a warm raincoat and a towel and a bottle of Marks and Spencers lemon-and-lime-flavored water.
And by that point, who cared about the rain?
My chip time was 1:02:19. So I didn’t get the sub-60 time I was really hoping for, but I was only three minutes off my goal time all the same – and behold!
A banana, a medal, a warm coat, and a sub-10-minute-mile-pace. I am pleased as peanuts.
I walked down to the wedding dress shop last weekend, because it wasn’t too far and the weather was decent. A little under three miles in a little under an hour, which was not bad going given that I’d set out wearing running shoes with no socks in a temporary but regretted moment of madness, and they’d rubbed the hell out of my feet by the time I got there.
The area i ended up walking through, by the Clyde west of the city centre, isn’t a part of Glasgow I know very well. It’s still going through an uncomfortable growing period between its industrial past and the promises of a regenerated future. Walking over the road bridge marked with important events in the Clyde’s shipbuilding history is probably meant to invoke a sense of pride in its heritage, but given the timeline it feels more like a guided tour through its death. All those yards opening and all those ships built, and then the long decline of the industry with closure after closure passing under your feet.
But now, regeneration! And the grand panorama of the new flats, still looking somewhat lonely out on their own:
They don’t seem bad, up close. Theres always loads for sale or rent, and i cant imagine people flocking to them when anyone who lived there would have to cross the expressway to buy a pint of milk, but there were lots of expensive-looking cars outside so the must be filling up . There’s even a shiny statue commemorating something about the Clyde’s regeneration into luxury executive apartments:
And between the buildings, you can still see the cranes of one of the few remaining Clyde shipyards, BAE Systems at Govan.
Decorating my study, which is really just a tiny Ikea desk + bookshelf crunched into the corner of a bigger room.
I got this from the orchid fair at the Botanic Gardens, which was amazing (and beat the wedding fair hands down). Stall after stall of orchids, along with cacti and a beehive behind perspex to show all the honeybees crawling industriously around. (Well… crawling around, anyway. On an individual scale they always look a bit aimless. But then, their strength doesn’t really lie on an individual scale.)
Anyway, there were a lot of orchids to pick from, but I fell in love with the colours of this one. The brown of the buds against the dark stems and the pale pink flowers is just gorgeous, and it looks great next to my desk.
We’ve had a much colder winter than usual this year, leading to closed airports and Travel Chaos! and bitter grumbles about suing the transport minister for not having the winter infrastructure of Helsinki or Toronto. -12 in the daytime? Temperatures staying below freezing for weeks at a time? This is not something we’re used to dealing with, and the first snowfall in November took everyone by surprise.
But it’s beautiful, with all the grime and slush conveniently frozen away and hidden under the snow. The Victorian buildings look like they were built for this weather (although, as all the frozen pipes will testify, they really weren’t; my own heating broke down in December, leaving my flat so freezing cold I didn’t even take my scarf and gloves off while talking to the electricians). For weeks back there, there wasn’t even an ounce of warmth in the air.
And it has other, less expected, advantages too: for one, the city’s wildlife has suddenly become a lot more obvious!