Evening run, The Meadows & Ecclestone, Chester (8 miles)

Starting out is always the worst bit. I set Trails running on my iPhone, set the HR monitor going and head off down City Road and onwards, towards the River Dee. Taking it easy as legs realise what’s afoot. Breathing stabilises as I cross the river over the footbridge and then it’s down to the Meadows – a huge expanse of rough grassland that fits in a loop in the river. Almost flat, there are enough devices – gates, hedges etc – to give me my next target point as I gradually increase the heart-rate peak before pulling back a touch.

Under the A55 and on towards Ecclestone, turning away from the river and passing through the red-brick, peaceful village that is part of the Grosvenor Estate. It’s a slight uphill gradient and a chance to give a different set of muscles a push. This village is too quiet – a bit like a set from The Avengers. You expect to catch a curtain twitch back from the corner of your eye. Kula Shaker on the iPod (Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts – the spirit of George Harrison truly alive in Crispian Mills songs and arrangements).

The return is via a road, and then a long stretch of woodland track that becomes a majestic driveway as it approaches the Grosvenor Bridge. This stretch gives me the chance to open up a bit, my body fairly warmed-up by now, pounding to Hawkwind’s Space Bandits album. More woodland, under the bridge and back home to pore over the stats and enjoy the Fulham v Liverpool game.

I averaged 5.7 mph tonight – I’m happy with that.

“I know you’re out there somewhere”

I rarely listen to my iPod when on events – the sound of the countryside, and my own thoughts, are usually all I need. On the other hand, my runs around the various routes I have in and around Chester are often done to the accompaniment of 70’s rock, Mahler Symphonies or Wagnerian drama.

The exception to the event rule was last year’s 100 (actually 106), when the mind-numbingly boring stretch along the road to Fortingall, and back through the woods into the 2nd night, were trudged whilst listening to Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto (in Stephen Hough’s recent blazing performance) and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s debut album.

But almost always, when not sporting earphones, I have some or other tune running through my head. Way back in the late 1980’s, just after all this long-distance stuff began, I recall tramping across the North Yorkshire Moors with long-missed friends on the (then) very popular Lyke Wake Walk. It was night, raining and misty and the (then) thin trod was a small stream. I followed dutifully behind the others whilst the Moody Blues album “Sur La Mer” played endlessly in my mind. There are very “moody”, dark and eerie songs on that album and they matched the night perfectly. Even now when I hear “The River of Endless Love”, “Want to be with you” and the magnificent “Deep” I think of that night, and the other crossings we made.

Even more apt was when we reached Ralph’s Cross, where we were to meet our support party. It was thick mist still, and they were obviously taking time to navigate the myriad tiny roads in the area. We waited, “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” running through my head, when sure enough, their headlights arced through the mist and swept into the car park.

I still pack a tiny iPod and earphones, and this album is always on there – waiting for the right “moody” atmosphere.

"Sur La Mer" Cover

"Sur La Mer" Cover

North Cheshire Wind Orchestra

Warrington Pyramid Hall, 7th May 2011.

I rarely come away from these concerts without wanting to look up some newly discovered piece of music, or composer, but hadn’t expected to on this occasion. “A Night at the Theatre” comprised music by Bernstein, Wagner, Puccini, Fucik, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Bock & Harnick and Sondheim & Wheeler  and a composer I’d heard the name of frequently, but was new to his music – Aulis Sallinen. His “Palace Rhapsody” of 1996, in this arrangement for wind orchestra, was wonderfully moody and evocative and even had echoes of the composers he was placed between on this bill – Bernstein and Wagner – as well as Sibelian hommages. A dark solo for bass clarinet stood out, as did the Wild West and  military passages. So, Sallinen has been added to my “must explore” list.

The overture to “Candide” kicked things off splendidly, causing much furrowing of the brows from the players as the bars flew past, whilst the sombre procession of Siegried’s Funeral March tested the patience – and counting! – of the brass section. A lovely oboe solo sang out amidst the grief and the full band rose wonderfully in the tuttis. After such bleakness it was a relief that the suite from La Boheme did not include music from the final act! (Wonderful solos, though, from the principle oboe, trumpet and flute)

After the break it was musicals all the way: Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof and Sweeney Todd were presented in chronological sequence and played with obvious enjoyment and flair – the young percussion section having a great time!

So, now to look forward to their next concert on July 2nd, when the theme is “War and Peace”. Can the walls of the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale contain their powerful “Mars”, from the Planets? Only just, perhaps.

“War and Peace” : Concert details.