29 October 2013


Precious faces dissolve as I try to focus,
come into sharp relief when I turn away.
I loved these people, their minds, their essence
yet their features frustrate and elude me.

Hymnal text, creed and prayer are etched in stone
but her name darts here and there, defies pinning down.
Words of old songs flow summer honey thick
but this morning's news is flimsy, already gone.

Where are my grey socks? An odd ball tucked somewhere?
I had yellow ones and a matching tie in '74,
nestling in a cherished drawer, the third one down,
in a room, in a house, in a street I lived on.

While bland minutiae soar to break the surface
murky depths claw vital facts below.
It's intriguing, what my mind believes worth saving,
my oatmeal head, grey and gently simmering.

I'm conjuring a scene half a century old
with a searing clarity, not recalled by squares
of foxy Kodak pressed between ancient boards.
As real as photons dancing on my retinas.

The common man remembers best his favourite things,
those tarnished gems and bouncing pearls he deftly caught.
If faces, scents or whispered words are lost
they merely spilled from my treasure chest...

like teardrops from my brimming eye.

20 October 2013

prince edward island half marathon 2013

I trained all summer for this autumn's full marathon but five weeks ago I suffered a calf tear which put paid to my scheduled final three long runs. Then I succumbed to a gastric infection which spiked my temperature and killed my appetite for a week. With interrupted preparation, the full 42km would now be out of the question.

I managed three 10k runs last week and was still recovering health and fitness. In an uncharacteristic fit of brinkmanship, I left it until the last day before registering for the half. However, in typical Virgo style I was up at 5am on race day. Plenty of time for oatmeal, bath and general fussing!
Michelle drove me into town in good time and we took some candid race day photos. The weather was fantastic for mid October, a sunny 10C under towering blue skies and a south westerly breeze to help the outward leg. Two hours was my goal and although I have never been quicker than 2:01 before, I have done a couple of fifty-five minute 10ks this summer, my only forays below fifty-six minutes for that distance. This morning I was attempting two of those back-to-back: at five minutes forty seconds per kilometre.
I seldom run with an iPod. Umpteen attempts in previous years have all ended in musical frustration - I couldn't see the tiny screen without my reading glasses; it was stuck on repeat; I couldn't operate the ridiculous wheel; the earphones failed... Today I tried my new Nano 7. I set it up at home and cued a thirty song playlist. On the start line all I had to do was tap the play icon through the transparent holder on my arm and slip in the earbuds (craftily routed through sleeve and head hole). It worked like a charm!
Doing near-miraculous mental arithmetic at each kilometre marker, I regularly assessed my pace at slightly ahead of target. The course is a figure of eight which snakes from downtown uphill to the airport and back. Scooting past the halfway point at fifty-eight minutes was a good sign. Apart from three crushingly steep inclines, it would be generally downhill from here.
I turned onto Malpeque Road by Sears in record time, leaving me a relatively comfortable thirty minutes to run the dead straight final five kilometers to Province House. Roadside support was fantastic as always. Families cheering all runners, and volunteers manning the frequent water and Gatorade stations. Just before the midpoint I sucked down the energy gel I had secreted in my shorts and chased it with water. Fuelling for the half is important but not nearly as crucial as for the full where dehydration and lack of nutrition are potentially devastating.
On the long, undulating drag south on University Avenue I began to feel the effects of my pace but I dug in and counted the kilometre markers down. A gentle kink left brought the finish line into view and on the left, Michelle and the girls waving madly and cheering. I ran under the finish banner with the clock reading one hour, fifty-seven minutes forty-two seconds, even managing a surge of speed for the line; a new record by over four minutes and importantly, under that tricky two hours!

Thank you to Michelle for the great photos!

PS: The official results are in and I ran a chip time of 1:57:29, putting me 30th out of 61 runners in the 50-59 age band. (223rd put of 601 total entrants.)

05 October 2013

the big apple (a distant nibble)

Kathleen (sorrowfully): "Where's mummy?"
Me (somewhat impatiently): "The Big Apple!"
Maisie (educationally): "Oh, he means Noo York."
Yes, Michelle jetted off for a week in NYC; the melting pot, the city that never sleeps, home of the sky-scraper and the yellow cab. And where are we? The melting pot-hole, the city that sometimes wakes up, home of the lobster supper and Green Gables.
For me it's Daddy duties, the school run, playing shop with Kathleen and bedtime stories. However we aren't missing out entirely; in this digital age it's quite possible to tag along and enjoy a nibble of 'The Big Apple', to sample the sights and sounds, cored and peeled for public consumption.
"There she is! With Nana, crossing the road!" I point to a likely couple strolling across a pedestrianised section of Broadway.
"Where?" Maisie demands, brow furrowed as she squints at my laptop.
"Right there. See her red shoes and green jacket?"
Maisie studies the pedestrians intently before growing doubtful. "She could be anywhere..."
There are several cameras overlooking Times Square streaming HD video and sound online, night and day. When we tune in at 7am the streets and sidewalks are virtually deserted except for red-clad city workers hosing away last night's excesses, but by 9am the show is in full swing and our eyes rove the crowds. There are gridlocked lines of yellow taxis and open-topped tour buses; everyone racing to be somewhere else; strident horns blaring; and every minute or so the ominous wail of police sirens. Heck, it's a jungle out there.
Michelle and her mum are a 'no show', much to the girls' disappointment so we play spot the Disney character, watching creatively dressed pan-handlers harass the crowds for photo opportunities and tips. Mid-morning we see Buzz Lightyear taking a break, deep in conversation with Spongebob on a corner of 7th Avenue. One of several Statues of Liberty approaches and joins in.
Michelle texts us to say she is waiting for a Brooklyn tour bus so we zoom in on Google Street View and see what she's seeing. I click and step inside the Hard Rock Cafe to see a three-sixty view of the tables, bars and memorabilia. Soon I am sidetracked and soar north to Central Park to enjoy a virtual stroll right through that lush oasis, thanks to Mr Google's fleet of trusty cyclists kitted out with helmet cams. From the comfort of my armchair I can scoot along the path by the Jacquie Onassis Lake, passing runners with an effortless gesture on my mouse pad.
The girls join me as I jump the Hudson to the New Jersey shoreline and look back at the iconic cityscape. Then we adjourn to YouTube and look down from a helicopter flight, grazing the forest of dizzy spires, picking out the Empire State and the Chrysler, before buzzing Liberty Island and back to LaGuardia. After supper we chat with Michelle on Skype, tucked up safely in her hotel room in the heart of Theatreland. She doesn't even seem as tired as we are!
It's hard work, this armchair travel!