Friday, December 31, 2021

Parkrun Tourism Part 05 - 2021

All over the place. 2021.

This year added five more venues in the last five months of 2021 (showing location, date, my time and number of participants) bringing my total to 30 unique locations. 

Parkrun in the UK resumed on 24/07/2021 after lockdown eased and the parkrun team decided the criteria for resumption had been met. Many landowners were reluctant to give permission for the resumption of parkrun even with the government relaxation of the rules. The organisers had decided that a certain percentage of events had to get the go ahead to prevent overcrowding caused by migration of runners from events not yet re-opened. Not a popular decision with everyone but, in my view, the right thing to do.

Workington. 28/08/2021. 26:31 [36 / 114]

We went to Solfest music festival at North Lakes Country Park, Cumbria. 28/29-August-2021. It is a long time since I sat in a field listening to music.  Saturday morning, of course, we had to check out one of the nearest parkruns so went to Workington and ticked off another tourist venue.

A small friendly crowd, a simple out-and-back course and a very respectable time for me of 26:38.

Salento. 02/10/2021. 27:14 [16 / 49]

Not a new tourist venue to add to the tally but I have to mention this here as it was both my 100th run and their 100th event plus it was the weekend of the 17th anniversary of parkrun itself. Lots of cake! I have written more about this special event at Salento parkrun 100.

Curiously I have done Salento more times (29) than my original home parkrun of Tooting Common (28) or my current home parkrun of Penrith (19). 

Crichton. 23/10/2021. 27:55 [84 / 152]

Heading north to Scotland for a Galashan family event we decided to do a bit of parkrun touristing. Early start and stressful journey as we were predicted to only just get there at 8:50 and still had to find the parking, facilities, etc. Great relief when I suddenly remembered that parkrun starts at 9:30 in Scotland! 

Lovely setting,  convoluted course but loads of friendly marshals to ensure you don't get lost.

The only downside was that they got Mary's time wrong (three minutes too fast) but were not able to correct it.

Mole Valley. 06/11/2021. 29:38 [143 / 266]

Part of a road trip around southern England in November including a stay at Denbies Hotel from Wednesday to Saturday. After breakfast we only had to walk out the front door to get to the start line. For me it was my 29th different venue and my 103rd Parkrun.

It sounds lovely running round the vineyards but vineyards like slopes and the first 3km or so of the course is a long, steady uphill; I was reduced to something very close to walking. The second half is downhill, I picked up a bit of speed and came in under 30 minutes

The course starts with a quick loop of the start field then a long loop round the vineyard.

Morecambe Prom. 25/12/2021. 28:50 [97 / 113]

Christmas house and cat sitting for friends in Storth, just outside Milnethorpe, we had a choice of two Christmas day parkruns - Lancaster or Morecambe Prom, both about half an hour's drive . Mary decided the former looked a bit hilly so we went the the flat-as-a-pancake option. Boy was it windy and the wind-chill factor made for teeth-chattering temperatures. No parkrun signage as it would have blown away so we posed against the sea view - note how we are both standing on our coats to stop them being blown out to sea!

Nice of them to post a picture with me right in the centre: all black with Santa hat, red braces and a yellow Cow Cowl round my neck.

The course is out and back apart from the jetty which you only do on the way out. I passed the statue of Eric twice but I was so focussed on keeping moving that I missed him.

During the year I joined the FB group UK parkrun tourists open to those who have done 20 or more different venues. They do merchandising: I bought a Cow Cowl and for Christmas Santa brought me a Cow bobble hat! It is a kind of Masonic handshake for fellow tourists in the group to identify each other at parkrun.

Next year will kick off with New Year's Day at Rothay Park as we will be spending a week in our timeshare at Ambleside. Till next year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Brunswick Road 08 - New flooring

Penrith, Cumbria. December-2021.

The kitchen needs a new floor. Not just any old floor but one that might have been designed by Bertie Bassett.

The before. Several of the cupboards had already been stripped and carted away to the tip and replaced by temporary units. Behind the door was a bathroom which will be turned into a shower / utility room.

First step was to clear the kitchen of everything except a flying sink!

We suspected the old kitchen floor had no damp proof course and so it proved to be. Regardless, we had to dig up the old concrete floor to make room for underfloor heating. Digging it up was a noisy business all the way to the underlying soil and then a bit more to get the depth we needed for the layers.

Rebuilding: the four layers: sand, waterproof membrane, foam insulation slabs, cement.

At this point we got the builders to move the door so the utility room had enough space on the right hand side to fit the washing machine and the underfloor heating could be laid in the correct place.

With the door moved a new door frame could be fitted to accommodate a new door.

More layers: another, thinner layer of insulation followed by electric, underfloor heating (the orange cable) held in place by a mesh.

Yet more layers of cement, this time runny, self-levelling screed.

Several more thin layers of the self-levelling screed were need to get the required smoothness for the linoleum which will be fitted next year after plastering and decorating is complete.

Repeat after me, "It will be lovely when it's finished".

Friday, December 17, 2021

NYC Till Dawn Meet-up 1998

New York City, USA. 31-May-1998.

Way back in the late 1990's I joined a Marc Bolan mailing list called "Till Dawn". This was in the early days of the world wide web when mailing lists were a way to communicate with like minded people. 

I used to travel to the US several times a year on business and happened to mention that I was visiting New York in May 1998. It was suggested that some of us "tillers" could meet up and so it came to pass. Some lived in New York, some flew in from elsewhere in the States and Canada and kudos to Jorgen who flew in all the way from Sweden! This is the story of that gathering.

Breakfast with Jorgen: I cannot remember which hotel I was staying in for work. The company obviously paid the flights and the weekday nights but I would have had to pay the extra couple of nights myself. Jorgen was on a budget and staying in The Malibu Studios Hotel on Broadway. We met for breakfast at nearby Nookies restaurant and re-established our acquaintance from when we first met in real life. That had been at a T.Rextasy gig in Cambridge the previous September.

Breakfast - MarkMcL, Jorgen.

We met in a place called The Lounge: I don’t know who suggested it or even whether it still exists but that was where we gathered, somewhere in the East Village. Some of us wearing our matching Marc Bolan T-shirts. We had a chat and drinks, and someone brought along copies of a fanzine to share out.

Lounge - Ivan, zoom, CliffBro, CliffSky.

Lounge - zoom and soda.

Lounge - Jorgen and Ivan.

Lounge - DaveR and Jorgen.

Lounge - ?, zoom, Jorgen, Elaine, Ivan, DJ.

Lounge - the gang.

Lounge - Jorgen (photo credit Jorgen).

Lounge - The gang (photo credit Jorgen).

Lounge - MarkMcL, DaveR, Jorgen, Ivan, zoom (photo credit Jorgen).

Jewel 2 fanzine.

We dined at Restaurant 7A: again I don’t know how we picked this place but food and more beer was definitely required.

Restaurant 7A - DaveR, Jorgen, zoom, MarkMcL.


Street - Jorgen, MarkMcL, DaveR.

Street - DaveR, Jorgen, MarkMcL (photo credit Jorgen).

Street - DaveR, MarkMcL, zoom (photo credit Jorgen).

We went to CBGB : the legendary New York music venue where a number of famous people launched their careers including The Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie featuring the lovely Debbie Harry. We saw some aspiring band whose name I did not note so who knows if they went on to become famous!

CBGB Club - zoom, MarkMcL, Jorgen, DaveR.

We went for a late (early?) breakfast: apparently it is a New York thing to do after a night out. Not that I was ever one for going to the nightclub into the wee small hours. Anyhow we ended up having a full breakfast at 4 am and then back to the hotel for sleep.

Late Café - Jorgen, zoom, DaveR, MarkMcL.

We had lunch at Katz's deli: I think it must’ve been the following day that we went to the legendary Katz's deli where the famous "When Harry Met Sally" fake orgasm scene was filmed. 

Katz - zoom, DaveR, Elaine, Ivan, Jorgen.

We took the Staten Island ferry: Jorgen and I hung around as the two long haul tourists. We time to spare so we did a return trip on the Staten Island ferry. It was, and still is, free to foot passengers so it was a fun thing to go out and back and get a free view of Manhattan from the water. 

Staten Island Ferry - Jorgen, MarkMcL.

I dipped my toe in the Hudson:  wherever I go, particularly to a foreign shore I like to dip my toe in the sea, or in this case the mighty Hudson River.

MarkMcL dips his toe in the Hudson River.

I met up with a colleague of my brother: My brother worked in New York for 18 months. His office address was One Park Avenue, so that was easy to remember. By the time of this visit he was back in the UK but I did meet up with one of his ex-colleagues for a cocktail.

Bar - MarkMcL and Sheila.

I drink champagne on the roof of the metropolitan museum: I decided to fit in some culture while I was there so went to the Metropolitan Museum. Whilst there I thought I would celebrate my visit with a glass of champagne looking out over Central Park.

Champagne on the Metropolitan Museum roof

My word that was a long time ago!

Note: This post was prompted by Jorgen posting on facebook some photos from this event that I had never seen before! That inspired me to rework the clunky gallery on my website using some more up-to-date technology than Notepad and an FTP client. 

Back then it was chemical film, you posted off the roll and got physical photos back a week later. No digital cameras or smart phones then. Luckily I had access to a scanner at work although it was the size of a fridge. I then shrunk the pictures down to a size tiny by today's standard. That was because many people accessed the internet via dial up telephone connections that were really low bandwidth - tell that to the youth of today! 

Someday I will dig out the archive CD's and post some higher res photos.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Elles Bailey at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut

Glasgow, Scotland. Thursday 09-December-2021. 

This is the third time we have seen Elles Bailey. The two previous occasions were at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival at Skegness. The first time was 2017 on the introducing stage where up-and-coming artists perform in the central atrium and the act with the most votes get to appear on one of the main stages the following year. We voted for Elles and sure enough in 2018 she appeared on the Jaks stage

We booked these tickets forgetting that it clashed with the excellent Martin Harley who was appearing in Penrith that same night. No matter, we were happy to make the trip to Glasgow. It gave us an opportunity to stay with Mary‘s sister, meet up with our friends Geraldine and Alasdair for a curry and fit in some shopping.

As it turned out Geraldine and Alasdair were not able to make it and we ended up going for a Cuban meal instead. We got to King Tut's before the doors opened as there is a bar where you can wait to go in. It must be one of the smaller venues we have been to with limited seating but because we were there early we were able to get one of the benches at the back of the room. 

There were two support acts. Given that Elles Bailey has a strong country music tinge to her repertoire it was no surprise that the two support acts were very much at that end of the spectrum. We are always amazed at the number of talented musicians and singers out there trying to make a living.

Up first was Katie Whittaker who is very much country style and did an excellent half hour set, apparently under strict guillotine to give time for the second act to prepare so it was less chat and more song.

The second support was Demi Marriner. She was there as the guest of Elles and again a very enjoyable half hour. 

Elles Bailey had a full backing band: drums, guitar and keyboard. She also clearly has some devoted followers have been to all the previous gigs on this tour. She played a number of songs from her upcoming next album and few from her back catalogue.

It's a personal preference but I am not a fan of the "everyone does a solo" thing. It it common across the whole music spectrum from jazz ensembles to rock bands and I find it a little too self indulgent no matter how fine the virtuosity. 

The guy on the mixing desk decided that we needed a grand finale and cranked up the volume for the last two songs to a level that I was starting to find uncomfortable. I should know to always take my earplugs with me just in case of excessive volume. 

Elles did a couple of lockdown sessions with just her on keyboards which meant we got much more a feel for the person behind the musician. During lockdown we also bought the vinyl of her last album "Road I Call Home" and the download version, which is excellent and much listened to. We await the next album which is out next year.

Given the confined nature of the venue we decided to keep our masks on which meant no beer so we were, unusually, stone cold sober by the end of the gig. Staying with Mary sister made the logistics of getting home a lot easier than a 2 hour drive back to Penrith. We got the last train back to Bishopton where the brother-in-law was a hero and picked us up.

We are doing our bit to keep music live.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths

Carlisle, Cumbria, UK. Monday 22-November-2021

We booked ourselves on a tour of these baths given by Friends of Carlisle Victorian and Turkish Baths. I have to say the baths are an architectural gem: beautiful tile-work and stained glass windows. Some of the original features are intact and in lovely condition.    

It has a central plunge pool surrounded by benches. Out the back are steam rooms and saunas of various degrees of heat and humidity, not as pretty. Apparently the original tiles are still there but hidden under wood panelling. 

What I learnt was that these, and other baths up and down the country, were not for relaxation but were essential bath and wash houses for the urban poor who had no ready access to cleaning facilities. 

The first such public baths were opened in Liverpool in 1842 thanks to the inspiration of Kitty Wilkinson following a cholera outbreak caused by poor public health. These baths are a later example but still provided essential facilities for the local factory workers living in poor housing and unsanitary conditions.

They are Grade II listed: "This set of Edwardian Turkish Baths constructed in 1909 have been designated for the following principal reasons:

  • Decorative Scheme; the original internal decorative tiling and glazed faience work by the respected company Minton and Hollins of Stoke, notably in the cool room, is of good quality and complete
  • Intactness: alterations are few and the original plan of the baths remains intact which renders the Turkish Bathing process highly readable.
  • Rarity: this building is an increasingly rare example of a once common building form, of which only around 20 remain in England; it compares very favourably with the eight existing listed Turkish Baths."

[Listing 1393755]

More stained glass in the clerestory windows.

Upstairs they had just cleared out a room full of junk and clutter to provide public access for the first time ever to a lovely Art Deco skylight. 

The purpose of the Friends is "Campaigning to preserve and develop the Baths as health and wellbeing centre with the Turkish Baths as the centrepiece".  Their enthusiasm and dedication to promoting these is admirable, I wish them luck.