Friday, 28 February 2014

Track and Circuits.



The old pegs were more than a little sore this morning. It was definitely a matter of rolling out of bed rather than jumping up. The cause of today's middle aged aches was last night's training session or more accurately training sessions.


After the mandatory warmup we ran 8 x300m with 100m jog recovery between efforts. I managed the efforts in a constant 51s. It doesn't sound that fast and it isn't but by the last 300m my legs were screaming with the build up of lactic acid. After the warmdown we were not released from exertion until we had completed twenty five minutes of circuits, 40s on, 20s off. Definitely a night which demanded a restorative, "gow."


Thankfully today is the week's training free day.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Almost Spring


No rain this pm so I was able to get out into the garden. For a time the clouds rolled back and it was even possible to imagine that it was a spring day. Cold yes but at least it wasn't a dull and dank afternoon.


The croci planted around the yew trees are now in flower and after a few years of a rather sparse show the numbers seem to have multiplied at last. Oh that they would propagate themselves as easily as the snowdrops.


With March very much on the horizon today's task was to start preparing the vegetable patch for planting the early potatoes and the onion sets. Despite an autumn weeding weeds always manage to reappear over the winter months. If the rain holds off for a few days and there is a drying wind I would hope that I might be able to dig some of the compost heap's contents into the potato patch over the weekend.


Another year of vegetable growing has commenced.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Lee Valley - onwards and outwards,



Another weekend when I have tried to tell my ageing body that I am not the age that it says on the Heinz tin. This time I was in the company of a few hundred individuals with the same notion. Sunday saw Lee Valley host the UK inter regional Masters championships and I was one of the willing participants at this jamboree of running, throwing and jumping. It was a bit of a late decision to go and the Northern Ireland contingent was somewhat, (actually very), small.


I have been going to these, "senior athletes," events for over sixteen years. Since I fell within the defininition of, " veteran athlete," the powers that be have decided that you are a , "vet," if you are over the age of 35. The rationale for this is that it should result in more individuals remaining within the sport. Personally I question this notion. When I was 35 I still viewed myself as a standard male athlete, still wanting to be in the mix and not wanting to be anyone other than another competitor.

These championships did not have the normal five year age categories, I was obliged to compete in the over 50 and under 60 category. There wasn't an awful lot in it, but positions one and two in my race were filled by v50's. Another v55 and self were third and fourth. The rest of the field were substantially in arrears.

I must train more.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Crawford Square, Londonderry

A communal garden set amidst a Georgian or Victorian square is a feature which adds much to the urban landscape. There are numerous examples in London. Little islands of green tranquility in the urban grey. Outside the metropolis they are not as common but most of our substantial towns and cities do have their copycat examples where a local developer or entrepreneur sought to add a sense of gentrification to his commercial venture. The only instance of such a square in Londonderry and unfortunately it was not given architectural symmetry is Crawford Square. True it never was going to have substantial Victorian houses next the Northland Road but it would have been visually pleasing if the remaining three sides had all been developed as an entity.

Whilst it was a handsome villa looked at in isolation what became the Ardowen Hotel at the bottom right hand corner of the square never fitted in. The apartment block which the planners permitted to be constructed on the site of the hotel or, "Bap House," as it was colloquially called and on the site of 24 Crawford Square is a rather bland construction. The gaudy and clashing colours of the paintwork of the houses on the left hand side of the square do not add to the overall aethesetic quality. Gerald Grosvenor, aka the Duke of Westminster, definitely has it right with the decorative covenants which he has imposed upon his London estates. Uniformity is pleasing to the eye.


Clearly I don't remember the communal gardens in their Victorian and Edwardian heyday but even in the early nineteen sixties they were well tended. On a map from the eighteen seventies they are referred to as, "pleasure grounds," and the layout of the paths is clearly visible. Today's patch of green is not as manicured as it once was.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Old Socks.

Today was a sad day. The end of an era. This was the day that my last pair of socks with my name emblazoned on Cash's woven nametapes was consigned to the sixty pence a kilo bag. Forty two years they have served me, off and on, but the holes that have now appeared are beyond the possibility of repair. I have had to accept the inevitable. One of my few remaining momentoes from my school life is now no more.


Cash's went into administration in January of this year after some one hundred and forty years. It looks as if they have had their day as well.


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Argory Run


Today took me slightly outside my normal beat. The reason for this aberration was the servicing requirements of my horseless carriage. I suppose I could have travelled home in the courtesy car which I was supplied with and returned some hours later for my own vehicle, but I decided to remain in the greater locale of the garage.


I drove out to the National Trust's property known as The Argory. Unfortunately it was closed but I parked at the nearby Bond's Bridge and headed off for a run down small country roads. My route was totally unplanned. It was a perfect day for running, no rain, no wind and quite mild for this time of year. I ran past a couple of avenues leading to substantial late Georgian or early Victorian piles. Their outbuildings were ivy clad, the grounds tending towards decrepitude. I was reminded of some of the short stories of William Trevor.


My exertions took me into the apple county of Armagh. Surprisingly some of the orchards have been planted quite recently. Others display a much older planting with their knarled boughs.


Once I had completed my run I drove to the village of Moy for a late lunch. The proprietor of the eating establishment which I decided to favour with my business turned out to be from the Antipodes. She tempted me with with a multitude of sandwich fillings. The family at an adjoining table regaled me with the hospital experiences of their son who they were about to spring from his enforced confinement.



Tuesday, 18 February 2014


The cobnut trees which I planted last winter have managed to survive my initial tender care. Indeed they are now displaying their catkins. With a bit of luck, a fair wind and a few bees I will hopefully have some nuts to pick come October. I know that it will be a few years before I have a big enough crop to worry about storage but I am looking forward to that time. It will be another tick on the self sufficiency check list. I have planted four trees and once they get into full production I should have more than sufficent cobnuts.
Oh that I could grow peanuts!


Monday, 17 February 2014

Garlic Past and Present

It is good to see the spears of my autumn planting of garlic thrusting through the soil. Maybe the spring isn't that far off after all. The recent gales and incessant rain tend to disguise the drift from season to season but inexorably we are moving towards warmer and drier days. Days with more sunlight and more heat.
I think that I might have planted slightly too many garlic bulbs last year. The below picture displays the remains of the 2013 crop. I suspect that I will be unable to munch my way through all of this before the bulbs start to grow. Not willing to loose out on my agrarian efforts I think that I will peel off the dead papery leaves and consign the denuded cloves to the freezer.


Tooth & Maw

It may not be long before tadpole time but unfortunately this is one Frieda Frog who will not be adding to the frog population. I wonder who the assassin was? Who ever did the dastardly deed must have taken a correspondence course in dissection.


A propos of that and not much else apparently there is no longer a dissection practical on the biology A Level syllabus. No longer do students have the joy of delving into the biology lab fridge and bringing forth a plastic bag containing a dogfish or rat drenched in some strange embalming fluid. No longer do they have the joy of pegging out the damp corpse on a dissection board and cutting into the fetid flesh and pairing out the yellow globules of fat. The purchase of a dissection kit was one of the rights of passage from O level to A Level biology. Happy days.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Training Again

T'was a trifle windy this morning when I surfaced from my night's sleep, but nothing compared to the gales that had been buffeting the south of England. Even that modest blow of fresh air subsided quite quickly. The temperature gauge on my car indicated an almost equadorial five degrees centigrade. (Unfortunately the manufacturer of my horseless carriage neglected to install a gauge which is calibrated in understandable farenheight.)

I had thought that the weather for this morning's training session was going to be much less salubrious than it turned out to be. True there was a short hail shower but by way of climatic pay back there was also a period of tentative sunshine.

The training group was somewhat depleted today. Only four of us pulled up at the venue for the morning's exertions. The non attenders had cited work or trips to Madrid and New York as the reason for absenting themselves. After debating the merits of these excuses for absenteeism we who had adhered to the call of the training calendar commenced our warmup. That completed we ran two pyramid sets of nine hills. Somewhat surprisingly the second set was easier than the first set. It was probably the youngest member of the quartet who found the session the hardest. He is moving up from 200/400m to 800m and is still working on his stamina. We concluded our exertions with half a dozen acceleration runs and a ten minute warm down. Lunch then beckoned.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Black and White Blackbird.


I was parking my car this morning prior to venturing forth for a short run when I espied a white throated bird flicking through some damp leaf debris. Initially I didn't know what it was but it was then joined by a plump hen blackbird. The mystery was solved. What I was looking at was a piebald male blackbird. Apparently it is not uncommon to come across birds which a have a degree of albinism but I have to concede that this is the first example that I have come across.


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A Ripping Good Yarn

The Riddle of the Sands - Erskine Childers - Oxford World's Classics

I have been reading this book over the last couple of weeks. It was strange therefore, almost a trifle diconcerting, when I paged through Saturday's Telegraph magazine and came upon an article that had borrowed the title of the book for its own banner headline. One of those collisions of coincidence I suppose.


Childers' gentle spy novel reminded me of Buchan's writings. They aren't separated by that many years and their heroes are from the same Oxbridge stratum with very similar views towards King and Country. Public school, Trinity College Cambridge, service in the Boer War Childers was initially very much a son of Empire and a believer in it. I wonder what damascene event resulted in his political volte face and led him inexorably to his early death on the wrong side of a firing squad?


Childers draws extensively on his knowledge of yachting and the Fresian Islands in this his only novel. There is no doubt that this is an author who wrote well about what he knew. He didn't have to swot up on the subject. There is a deftness in his use of nautical terms. Perhaps the denouement is a trifle weak and predictable but the author navigates the reader through the sinuos channels towards the conclusion with more than a degree of competency. Not a spiffing yarn but a jolly good one.


Monday, 10 February 2014

By the Riverside

A river in spate is a noisy entity. It is an angry force wanting to escape the constraints of its banks, wanting to attack the surrounding fields and bring them within its aqueous domain. So different from the languorous river of summer with its addis flies and rising trout, the blue flash of the kingfisher, the splash of water on stone.


Brooke's Park Londonderry

Acts of Parliament tend not to make for scintillating reading and the Brooke's Park (Londonderry) Act 1899 is no exception. However the preamble to the Act which extends to some six pages does provide the local historian with some background to the establishment of this municipal park. Locally it is referred to as Brooke Park, but section 10 of the Act clearly states that it is to be called Brooke's Park. Philanthropy seems to have been very much a part of Victorian life.
The Brooke of Brooke's Park was James Hood Brooke of Brookhill, (now owned by the Walker family.) Brooke died on 2nd August 1865 having previously made his list will and testament on 13th April 1865 in which he appointed James Thompson Mackey, John Cooke, Edward Reid, Robert Allen and his brother John Brooke QC as his executors with the first four of these individuals being nominated as his trustees. His will was proven at the Londonderry District Probate Registry on 21st October 1865.

Brooke left his entire estate to his trustees upon trust to sell and convert same into money in so far as same should not already consist of money stocks or securities for money. After payment of debts, funeral and testamentary expenses and two pecuniary legacies Brooke directed that the income from his estate should be paid to his brother the aforesaid John Brooke and his sisters Mary Brooke, Margaret Brooke and Elizabeth Brooke and to the survivors thereof in equal shares. After the death of all four of his siblings his trustees were directed to utilise the trust funds in the purchase of lands suitable for a public park in the parish of Templemore in the City and Liberties of Londonderry for the perpetual use, enjoyment and recreation of the citizens of Londonderry. The trustees were to retain a, "moderate fund," from the trust funds to maintain the Park. The will went on to stipulate that the moderate fund should in fact be one quarter of the trust fund. He stipulated that the park should be kept open on Sundays as well as all other days of the year.

John Brooke died on 27th January 1877 and Mary Brooke died on 2nd May 1881.

Margaret Brooke in her will bequeathed her entire estate to her sister Elizabeth Brooke for life and thereafter or upon her own death should Elizabeth predecease her she directed that her net estate, ( save for legacies of £50 to each of her three executors), should be paid over to the trustees of the will of her brother the said James Hood Brooke in aid of the the fund bequeathed and given by him for a people's park. By a codicil to her will she stipulated that if the people's park should not be completed or in the course of completion within two years of her death or that of her sister Elizabeth should the latter survive her then the residue of her estate should pass to the Royal National Life Boat Institution.
Margaret Brooke died on 8th November 1897. Her surviving sister, Elizabeth ,died on 8th November 1897. By this time the trustees of the will of James Hood Brooke were Sir Edward Reid, William Tillie, John Cooke and John Fitzpatrick Cooke and as of 31st December 1898 the trust fund stood at some £9,100. Margaret Brooke's net estate stood at £1460.
The Act states that Brooke's Trustees had made various enquiries with a view to purchasing land which was suitable for a public park but that the funds available to them (£10,460) were inadequate to purchase, lay out and maintain a park. The most suitable land available was the 19a 2r 8p belonging to the trustees of the Gwyn and Young's Endowment. They were willing to sell it for £13,000. Clearly the Honourable the Society were approached to help fund the transaction. The Act states that the Irish Society had agreed with the Brooke Trustees that if the Corporation of Londonderry were to be willing and enabled to take over the Park when formed and laid out and provided that they should thereafter for ever maintain same that the Irish Society would make up the purchase price and pay for the laying out of the park provided that they should not have to provide a sum which exceeded £6,000.
The Act goes on to authorise and enable the Brooke Trustees to purchase the lands with the assistance of the monies from the Irish Society and without any requirement to retain any funds for maintaining the Park. Once the park was formed and laid out the Act states that it is to be transferred to the Londonderry Corporation and for ever maintained by them in perpetuity in accordance with the provisions of the Public Parks (Ireland) Acts.



Saturday, 8 February 2014

Winter Leeks

Oh that our winter temperatures were five or seven degrees farenheight warmer. It would extend the growing season appreciably and enable one to have a much enhanced selection of fresh vegetables available for cropping during the twilight months.

At the moment I am limited to perpetual spinach, chard, winter cabbage, swedes and leeks. Of course there are still some peas and runner beans in the deep recesses of the freezer as well as gooseberries and blackcurrants and there are supplies of onions, garlics, potatoes and even a couple of cucumbers in the cellar, but that isn't quite the same as being able to walk into the vegetable patch and pull or pick veg for the evenings repast. I dug half a dozen leeks (Musselburgh) this afternoon between showers. They have now been consumed.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Government House Londonderry

Situated on the Letterkenny Road on the outskirts of Londonderry this listed property was constructed for the Honourable the Irish Society. The grounds extended to just over thirty two acres made up of three lots, the two smaller lots being separated from the house and pleasure grounds by the county road and the Great Northern Railway.


The property passed into private hands in the early years of the twentieth century being bought by Archibald Fitzpatrick Cooke of 6 Clooney Park, Londonderry for £5,500. When he died on 30th June 1929 he left Government House together with its contents to his trustees upon trust, inter alia, to allow his wife and daughter to have the use and benefit thereof during their lives and the life of the survivor. The executors and trustees of his will were his wife, Gertrude Caroline Cooke, his daughter, Iris Frances Lyle Cooke and his brother John Fitzpatrick Cooke of Glengallaugh House, Retired County Court Judge. Although the Cooke family retained ownership of the property until 23rd September 1968 when the then trustees of the will sold the estate it would seem that it was rented out for a period. An entry in the Belfast Gazette of 1956 states that it was at that time the residence of John Talbot McFarland, (now 3rd Bt.)

The 1968 purchaser was the Congregation of Christian Brothers. The purchase price was £30,000. The house and main grounds, (24a 3r 33p) were sold by the Christian Brothers to a private purchaser in the 1990's. It has now been renamed Termon House. The remaining lands were gifted to the local Council on 18th June 1990 for use as, "a park or recreation lands for the leisure and recreation of the people of Derry."


Monday, 3 February 2014

Winter Run



Looking out of my kitchen window this morning I was in two minds as to whether I would head into the great outdoors for a run today. The rain was battering against the glass. The eucalyptus trees at the entrance to the rear yard were bowing to the power of the wind. It was tempting to stay indoors, but the worm of conscience was proding me outwards.

In view of the weather I determined upon a forest run. Sensible you might think, but as the forest roads and paths act as firebreaks they tend to be very straight and if they happen to run in the same direction as the prevailing wind then you are in a wind tunnel. I was for the first thousand yards of my run. Not enjoyable. Not easy. But then I turned right. Suddenly there was no wind pushing at me. Suddenly I was running free of the clawing fingers of winter's draught. This was easy running. Another ninety degree turn and the wind was at my back accelerating my progress. Oh that I could run at that speed and with that lack of effort all the time. Two long thirty minute laps and I called a halt to my exertions. The weather had not been nice. It had been windy and it had been wet, but at the end there was a sense of achievement.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Dogs and their Owners

During my exercise fix yesterday I came across several dog walkers and their faithful canine companions. Thankfully they all had their mutts on leads and I was not obliged to remonstrate with them and suggest that they take steps to secure their dogs if they did not wish to be hosting a visitation from their local dog warden on the morrow. It is all very well for people to say that their little fido won't hurt you, but I am not prepared to take the chance. It sounds as if I don't like dogs, but I actually do and indeed I have a notion of purchasing a dog in the next year or two.


They say that people tend to have dogs which reflect their own physionomy and I do think that there is something in this postulation. Among those that I espied with their dogs yesterday was a rather portly lady, short of stature and with that one buttock look. She was probably approaching her eighth decade. Her canine companion lolling along beside her was a low slung clumber spaniel. Another walker of dogs was a small and thin, citrus lipped female in her forties with a tight perm. Her dog of choice was a whippet.


What type of dog will I decide upon? At the moment I am leaning towards a Weimaraner. Maybe it could teach me to play the piano.