Thursday, October 14, 2010

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee....

TIBS on the cheap; a pour-over coffee and a St Viateur bagel. It's just as good as a 'spro and a croissant.

The Valley Marathon last Sunday was a good day out, all in all. It started as all late-season race-days do with getting up obscenely early and hitting the road in the dark. It was funny to drive along the 102 to the 101 exit; every northbound car on the 102 took the 101 exit. Similarly on the 101, there wasn't any traffic on the Halifax-bound side at 06:30, it was all valley-bound!

I enjoy this race, certainly I have a history with it. My win at the '06 event (albeit in the slowest winning time in the history of the event) ranks as my all-time sporting achievement. Sure, it's not much but it's mine! It was a PB too; one I've never been close to since. The newspaper coverage was funny, with the reportage barely concealing it's contempt for my win. I was back the next year where I took 2nd in the half, in what is probably a PB 1:19:55. I might have ran a 1:18 at the St Andrew's Half one year, but I think that race was measured by the same people who measured the Navy "10 (sic) K. That year I chased John Herron through the lanes; he took every tangent, cut every corner, whilst I doggedly stayed on the correct side of the road. I lost by a minute, or about 200 m. I wanted to lodge a protest, but RNS doesn't have that kind of set-up! Anyway, appeal or no, I have my apples.

This was my first time on the new Wolfville course, and I think I prefer the old Kentville course. Partly for personal reasons, but perhaps first running the Wolfville course in anger under such brutally windy conditions wasn't the best introduction. I noticed they hadn't learned from my Valley experience of 2007 and there were runners on both sides of the road for much of the half, and it wasn't an out-and back!

For company on the trip to the Valley, I managed to coax my iPod back into life. Due to reasons too long to relate, it only works on shuffle, so I let it do it's thing and surprise me. On the way into Wolfville itself I got Don MacClean's American Pie, which isn't too bad to have as the day's earworm, especially if you've got to do a race.

Nothing worse than being unable to displace Your Love Is King by Sade on the start-line. Try running a PB to that! American Pie is, of course, one of the seventies two biggest "what was it all about" songs, the other being an absolute all-time top five favorite of mine;

This song has been in my life since my mother bought No Secrets in the early 70s, in other words since before my earliest memory.

It must also have been the first time I heard of Nova Scotia. It's funny how that works. Back in 1972, of all the places one might have imagined the three-year old me might end up, Canada, much less Nova Scotia, would have been low on the list.

I've led a fairly peripatetic life; six months there, three years here, four years in another place, yet Nova Scotia and Halifax are the places I have lived in the longest. Primo Levi once wrote "that on one of those pages, perhaps in a single line...or word...his future is written". It works in this context, how a single line on Track #3, held my future.

The quote's actual context was about chemistry and how the student should be aware as he reads his text-book that somewhere there is written the group or molecule that will make or break his future career. This works for any science, in-fact any academic field; we could talk for hours about this too, but perhaps not today.

I was thinking about this when we were in the UK a month ago. This is the place that I consider myself from. If pressed I'll call myself a "moral Londoner"; I wasn't born there but it's where I consider home and if Robert Frost was right and home where they have to take you in, then London definitely qualifies. I suspect most of you do too I bet you say "you know, Andrew, that British guy who does those races and writes that blog", yet I haven't lived in the UK for twelve years, or in London for seventeen.

I think that's why I was feeling somewhat displaced in the UK. It was familiar, I knew the lingo, I didn't have to order everything twice and still not get what I wanted, I knew my way around (literally and figuratively) and yet I still felt like an outsider.

They said the old USSR had villages in the depths of the steppes that were miniature British, German or French towns. Here prospective spies could practice going about their daily lives in English, French, German or whatever; buying stamps, getting a round in down the pub, opening a bank-account. This way, when they got to their operational area, they felt at ease and nothing seemed new. Tom Wolfe had a phrase for it, whereby the Mercury astronauts had pre-lived the whole space-shot experience from blast-off to splash down so nothing was novel on the big day. I felt the same, as though I had pre-lived my whole English experience somewhere else. Pete's Frootique perhaps! So when I finally got there it was familiar but in an academic way "Oh, so that's what a Marks and Spencers really looks like on the inside" "I heard about Yorkie bars, I wonder what they really taste like".

It's a strange sense of belonging in two places at once, and yet not being quite at home in either. No matter how comfortable you may get, there's always a niggle of disquiet that won't quite go away. I think the niggles are getting quieter though, and they no longer keep me awake in the long, dark hours of the early morning.

Anyway, enough of this. I have to go and tidy up the place I have made home (the flat, not Nova Scotia per se). Continuing with the spy-theme I suppose I should really have used a debrief double-entendre (fnarr fnarr) but alas, the truth is more mundane and not quite as sexy (as always!).


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