A Half Dram in Dundee…

When is a dram not a dram??? When it’s a half marathon in Dundee. I’ve been looking to do a half marathon in ages and was kinda attracted to the small size of this one and the setting….Dundee….I’ve visited Dundee many times but never fallen in love with it somehow. It seems somehow back-to-front – a bit like Fort William where the road feels in the wrong place.  Couldn’t they move the road back and the nice buildings to the front to over look the water?

Anyway back to the run. As usual I was last minute to decide. Story of my life. Set the alarm for 6.15 am (in Edinburgh). It didn’t go off so only left the burgh at 7.30 for the trip there.  Made it to Camperdown Park just after 9 and set myself into one of the many queues to see if could enter on the day. Managed to persuade the nice, friendly organisers to let me do so, taped on my number 875…and looked at the huge queue for the portacabins.  Wow! Decided against the huge queue and entered another queue to start the run. Then suddenly the queue all moved in the other direction so then I worked out what direction the run  was going in! Phew! As my phone was playing up (hence the alarm issue) had to ration the music. Thought would need it for the start so as the gun went (I couldn’t really work out whether I was in the right place or not) I put it on.

The start of the run seemed more like Tough Mudder than a half marathon. Mud, mud, mud…and the nettles which I’d seen mentioned on one of the sites I read were in abundance. The first miles seemed up, up and up and I was slow, slow and slower.  We eventually got out of the park and onto some routes through housing estates. It was quite nice actually. Local folks lined the roads and the police people at the junctions did a great job of keeping traffic at bay. Hadn’t really realised how much park land there was in Dundee but most of the 13.1 miles seemed to be through these little trails through parks…one was particularly nice with a wetlands area and houses overlooking it. There was a long loop back at one point (obviously to get the mileage in) and then a bit of an uphill. I think this was about the 10 mile mark.  On the approach to 11 miles, which was an upwards one, in the by then excessive heat, some peeps looked to have run out of gas. It was a lot hotter than I’d expected and promised myself shorts for the next time.

After 11 miles (or round about) it was a nice downhill with highlights being some folks with jelly babies standing in the street (or was this a mirage) and sprinklers directed to hit runners with some cool water. I wondered also whether it was a mirage during the run that I only saw peeps with “FULL DRAM” numbers next to me. At various times, I chastised myself for not checking the route in more detail but resisted the temptation to disclose my silliness by asking anyone. I’d just stop at 13.1 miles on the dot I’d decided….no matter where that was! No one would see me…I could disguise by pretending my lace was out. That’s what I’d do. Then I’d find out where I was and make my way back!

The final road crossing seemed a little haphazard as it was at the bottom of a downhill and runners and cars weren’t sure what to do. I got across ok and then there was a nice bridge and a view of the water. This part of the run was glorious. On one side the Firth of Tay, on the other a wildflower meadow complete with poppies. We crossed a funny bridge at about 12 miles (or maybe a bit after). It seemed fine at first then wobbled gently underfoot – kind of a nice sensation really. A few cyclists seemed awkstruck by the number of runners.

And then it was along a bit of road, a pavement and to the end. The end was lovely.

Take a right for the HALF DRAM, take a left for the FULL DRAM.

I took the right, with relief. The sun was high, it was super hot and it was kinda nice to cross the line! It truly was time for a dram to celebrate my first half marathon!

TIME 1.48.51

CONSUMED 4 plastic cups of water, one gel.

BEST VIEW coming along the First of Tay (with the breeze in the face)

TOENAILS LOST- only one – result!

NEXT EVENT – mmmmmm we’ll see!IMG_2130 IMG_2140 IMG_2151 IMG_2154 IMG_2155 IMG_2156 IMG_2158


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Orbit pretends she is in Thailand…

Now Orbit likes to travel…and take me with her….she mentioned Thailand en route and I thought goodness will I make it back on time for work..well she is dynamic right enough…so just trust I guess….

But then I realised what she was talking about. We cycled past the signs to the ferry to Harris, past some houses and then we arrived…and I mean arrived…white sands, sheep with blue tags matching the blue sea, islands in the distance…I knew now what she was talking about..the beach at Berneray had once been used by the Thai Tourist Board for their ad campaigns and I saw why. Truly wonderful!

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The Gatliff hostel is also a highlight. A lovely little white washed cottage with an annex. The kitchen has the atmosphere of your gran’s house…warm, the fire on, board games lying about which may or may have all the pieces, half a jigsaw on the table…I grabbed a bunk in the room adjoining the kitchen. Alan had arrived at the same time. I’m not sure what age Alan was but his energy was twice of that most folks half his age! With 6 children and some of those retired I could only guess. He had come with his tent for 3 weeks touring the islands. He loved these islands he said and had come before with his wife cycling and camping all over. We went a walk over to see the point. Alan was faster than me and regaled me with tales of doing mountain marathons with his daughter and trekking across Corsica with his son! A true inspiration indeed!

Skylarks soared above us – why is it impossible to see them??? Are they transparent?

We spent ages in the old cemetry reading the inscriptions and were amazed by the wonderful condition of the gravestones even the old ones.

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Tired we went back to the hostel for tea and biscuits. Some others had arrived. A couple – him Scottish, her Italian, I’d met them in Nunton. She’d looked a bit bored and I asked if she was enjoying the trip. She said yes but that there was nothing to do at night. I thought about it then realised she was exactly right and that the fact there was nothing to do at night was what I loved most about a trip like this. The beauty of the scenery and physical tiredness of the day followed by chilling in a wonderful location I (or Orbit) had propelled myself to for the night. I met the guys from Ayr – of the “Eriskay is flat” saga! One of them, Boaby (Bobby but that’s how we say it) had climbed all the munros twice and was on a mission to see all the islands. This trip they’d gone to Mingulay. Chat moved on to Shetland and a Londoner said she had been there and the weather had been awful. Boaby said he’d been there several times and the weather was always awful so I guess that was that!

The Gatliff warden popped along later to collect the fees (£12) and see how we were. Alan remembered her from before and promptly she joined us to partake in some red wine! Like so many folks of the islands, she has more than one job and was dressed in her carer’s outfit to head straight to her next job. The guy at Nunton hostel had a hostel, a croft, a b and b, was a builder….I guess it’s interesting what it takes to survive at what felt like times to be the end of the world!

And with that Orbit and I retired to rest before our next adventure!

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Orbit heads to Berneray…

Orbit wakes up early. She doesn’t like to lose the mornings she says. And she was keen to see Berneray again after all these years. She recalled the white sand beaches and said she had once been photographed in front of the small Gatliff hostel there.

We set off and managed to grab a local shop at Balivanich. After the somehow bleakness of South Uist with its slightly abandoned feeling it was nice to see some life! With a low population comes a feeling of peacefulness but also a feeling of remoteness and I guess loneliness. A local teacher had said to me the evening before in the Nunton Hostel that most young people move away and don’t come back. A Sunday cycling on Uist couldn’t be more of a contrast to a city if it tried. I wondered where all the folks were hiding and what they were doing. If it’s raining do you just stay in and read a book I wondered?

Anyway Orbit didn’t let me hang around. I was allowed to stop for a break at Balranald where I got a delicious custard cream and a coffee from the campsite. I saw a great washing line in front of a lovely beach! My cousin Hev would love it!20140602_113746 20140602_120442 20140602_120649 20140602_122238


Near Newton I left Orbit for a bit and went to explore an old broch over some stepping stones!


And then it was on to one of the things Orbit and I had been looking forward to most….Berneray….Orbit could hardly contain herself speeding me faster and faster past the lovely beaches….well she knew the way so what could I do???

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Orbit gets wet…

Now as I said Orbit had been here before so I had to let her lead. Anything else would have been bad form…but as I awoke in my overheated B and B and ate a cooked Scottish breakfast – the black pudding was a dream..I wondered what Orbit would do with this wet and windy day…maybe she’d let me miss out Vatersay and we’d go straight to Eriskay..yeah’s that’s probably what she’d do…she wouldn’t want me to get soaked first day of the trip…

Full from my brekkie, I paid the B and B owner. She gave me a few pounds back as “she felt bad as the weather was so bad”. She suggested missing out Vatersay owing to the conditions and said “it’s just up and up anyway”. She had that look in her eyes I have seen often during my trips which says “are you crazy? You are in a perfectly warm place where you could read a nice book and drink coffee and instead you are heading out dressed like a fisherman on a bike of all things”.

So at the junction at the top of the B and B drive I waited for Orbit’s lead. Damn…left to Vatersay…and it was raining cats and seagulls again…in a big way..within minutes I was soaked to the skin. And a nice big hill to get sorted. My mantra…you can’t go backwards on the bike so forward it was! I met Andy and Helen, my inspiration on this rainy day!

Ange and Orbit


I’m sure Vatersay would be lovely on a sunny day. Wet feet and wet everything else took a little of the joy away but still the scenery was nice. We went to the end of a road passing a beach which would have felt at home (and perhaps happier) in Thailand! When the road turned to dirt we headed back. Orbit said it was time for Eriskay.

The ferry to Eriskay leaves at 11.10 so it was a prompt cycle through the wet to get there in time. The small shelter had an optimistic sign outside – teas and coffees inside…ya dancer! Of course, Scottish style, the machine was broken. I was well envious of 2 guys from Ayr who had a little gas cooker with them and promptly brewed up some tea! I got chatting to 2 americans from Idaho who had come from Paisley with their bikes. An inspiring pair I was to bump into them again along my trip. They had funny little mirrors attached to their specs to see traffic. Helen joked they could do dentistry in their spare time!

It was a bit of a rocky ride over to Eriskay. Guess the weather was not so good. Still there was a warm waiting room inside to warm the cold feet.

And then that ambigous question came up…”is Eriskay hilly?” Helen asked one of the guys from Ayr. “No it’s flat” came his reply. A pause ensued. Then “well undulating”.

Off the ferry at Eriskay we got. To be faced by a huge hill. Undulating Orbit asked???

Still the beaches were beautiful and the causeway over to South Uist magnificient.

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I took some lunch at Daliburgh where Andy and Helen were spending the night. I met a guy from Airdrie there over to work on the island for traffic management for the new broadway connections.

It was raining still so wet anyway I continued on…to Nunton on Benbecula. There I was welcomed into part of the former home of the Clan Chief of the Clan Ranald and more importantly a wonderful fire….

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It was time to rest, dry off and exchange stories with the other travellers..2 of whom had just returned from 5 days camping on St Kilda…..

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Orbitting the Outer Hebrides

So Orbit and I became friends some time ago. We met through a friend of a friend. Unfortunately over the winter we’ve not been together much so a week off and a changeable forecast (ie a change from rain now and then) made us decide to set off to the Outer Hebrides! Spontaneity being my middle name, we planned our trip very last minute and while it was easy to get me onto Scotrail Orbit took a bit of time as spaces for her were full on many of the trains. Not to worry, 12 years before, Orbit had travelled around the Outer Hebrides so if I got lost I guess I’d just let her do the leading! The train was all rather fun. It’s funny being a local tourist in your own country. It opens me up to lots of fun stuff I never did before. So on the train I met some lovely tourists. A lady from Brazil working in a gluten free food plant in Bathgate and a lady from Germany off on a retreat to Iona. Coming off the train in Oban I met Andy and Helen who were doing a similar trip as me but over 2 weeks. Oban looked lovely. Doesn’t anywhere in the sun? Full of bikers eating large portions of fish and chips. The resident seagulls at the harbour tried to prize a piece of my crab sandwich but I didn’t let them. These seagulls are the size of a medium dog.  There should be a warning to keep small children tethered. I took a late afternoon ferry over to Castlebay on Barra. Weather wise all was well. We glided past islands, looking at houses and wondering how they were accessed except by a boat. We failed to see Tobermory as we were looking out of the wrong side of the boat! Still Orbit would keep me right on directions once it came to the Outer Hebrides – have faith! I had chips on ferry. It seems like something of a tradition the eating of chips on a trip of this nature. Arriving in Castlebay something had happened…it was raining cats and seagulls.  Oops…A little stiffness of the front wheel – the mudguard had moved during the journey – made me worried. Was Orbit up to it? Andy assisted and a small tweak later (with seagulls hitting land around us) I was all set. I had booked a B and B as the hostel was full. Off I went. Thankfully there was a nice dry place to put Orbit. She’d be well angry if she had to stay outside in that rain! Now I wonder why B and Bs always require to be overheated. This one was like an oven. And had the smallest bathrooms in the world. It resembled one of those plastic, all in ones you find in caravans. Still from there I had a view over the water. My plans to take an evening ride over to Vatersay disappeared owing to the weather so it was an episode of Grand Designs and an early night….. shortbread on train...tourist angieout and about 20140531_125531 20140531_161057

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Ruby Wax enjoys the Glesga patter

I’ve always liked Ruby Wax and when I saw she was performing her new show Sane New World about her thoughts on mindfulness I jumped at the chance to see her.

She didn’t disappoint.

Her show somehow strikes the right balance between humour and honesty in dealing with her struggle with depression and her use of mindfulness to deal with the insanity of the modern world. There are jokes in abundance…her replies to spam mail being one…she simply cannot resist replying to emails even dealing with erectile disfunction “I don’t need you now but keep in touch in case I do in the future” she replies…

She has recently completed a masters at Oxford in Mindfulness and is now using this as a tool to deal with the constant bombardment of modern life. She regaled with examples of focussing her hands on the steering wheel when faced with the imminent onset of road rage. She even got the Glasgow audience to fall silent for a few moments as she lulled them into mindfulness, focussing on the feet I felt the solidity of the ground beneath me, focussing on sound I heard breathing and the lull of the studio lights..but she was right..the thoughts returned within seconds..”what train would I get?” “should I cook something in the slow cooker tomorrow?”…her next prompt and now back to the feet brought me back to peace for a few moments..

She chatted about retreats promising that after a weekend you would find your inner elf? Hiding under a toodstool she joked. She made light of the “positive thinking” manuals promising you that if you thought yourself beautiful you would be. Really???? How would that work? She wanted to be a ballet dancer but wasn’t blessed with the long legs for it. Thinking herself longlegged had, surprisingly for those convinced that what we believe we become, hadn’t worked so, after a tough childhood, her only options as she saw it were serial killer or comedienne. She chose the latter, thank goodness!

After her stand up show, performed with great energy, she did a workshop. A man in the balcony above asked:- “would mindfulness help his mate clear his mind block about buying a round (of drinks)?” She laughed it off!

Others posed her tricky questions which she dealt with well and openly not acclaiming to be an expert but just someone talking about her own experiences.

I met her afterwards when she signed her book for me. She looked great and was lovely.

“Has anyone ever told you you look like Cate Blanchett?” she asked me.

That alone would have made her my friend for life! IMG_0109 IMG_0112 IMG_0114 IMG_0117

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Swimming around an underground car park

Visit Fleming House, 134 Renfrew Street to see an underground car park transformed into an imaginary swimming pool…the walls painted as if you are underwater, heads pop out of the tarmac wearing goggles! Imaginary changing rooms complete the look! Part of Glasgow International Art Festival.IMG_0069 IMG_0074 IMG_0079 IMG_0081 IMG_0089 IMG_0093 IMG_0094

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