Thursday, 27 April 2017


What a day! What a life! What a time!

Three and a half minutes faster than the time I recorded in my first marathon - London 2012.

05:37:29 in London in 2017.

05:40:55 in London in 2012.

05:42:10 in Edinburgh in 2014.

Yes, it would have been marvellous if  I could have maintained continuous running beyond the half marathon point - rather than switch to speed walking and running. I had after all run continuously for at least 17 miles in training. But when from 8 miles you are increasingly surrounded by walking runners, it becomes harder and harder to resist the switch. And my second half marathon was not much slower than my first - just under 3 hours compared with  2 hours 38 minutes. My dad used to take me walking when I was knee high to a grasshopper and I learned to be a fast walker from that very young age in order to keep up. I once had to kick my dad's ankles hard when he had over-walked me. Sometimes you can't just find the words!

Joy in the Meet and Greet to the south-west of Admiralty Arch

I remember posting after the Oxford half marathon in October last year and remarking on how inspiring it is to experience a city being closed down and refocused on one sporting event in the name of charity and community. It was extraordinary in Oxford - imagine how awesome it is when the city in which you find yourself is one of  the greatest capitals on our planet.

London - April 23, 2017 - what a privilege to be in that place at that time. And to be one of  the

Monday, 3 April 2017


This will be my final running blog before April 23 and the 2017 London Marathon - barring injury or other athletic nightmares. Yesterday was the last long run in the longer and longer Sunday run sequence. The next two Sundays will be run as part of the Tapering Programme before the marathon itself - 120 minutes next week and 70 minutes the week after. Then the 26 miles challenge in London.

First, the tale of Sunday's morning run as told by me yesterday afternoon on the Salvation Army runners website:

'My last long run today (03:06:24 and around 17.5 miles) - congratulations again to Sparky Joseph Holly for the long run and ode - and I was quite chuffed to add the half-mile from Mousehole up to Paul to the distance - and then back down to Mousehole. The emphasis is on the 'up'. I didn't so much run up the never-ending ascent but gently jog. The lone rambler walking ahead of me I took some time to catch up and pass with a friendly greeting - and then there was nothing to motivate me but the thought I could eventually sit in front of this computer and type the words 'I ran from Mousehole up to Paul before turning round at about 92 minutes of continuous running from Marazion.' Next Sunday, 120 minutes ...

From the village of  Paul, half-a-mile up from Mousehole, looking back towards Newlyn and Penzance

I'm really quite proud of having made that ascent from Mousehole to Paul jogging all the way. It is a  very steep hill and the sign in Paul proclaims that Mousehole is half-a-mile away. The pub and the church and the village green all entice me to stay for longer - this is surely a village setting that would have been taken to heart by Jago Stone, the subject of my biography and latest work of literature - see this link here. (I can't resist the author's urge to plug his own work: 'The Road to Corbyn' remains a fine 21st century secular and socialist update of John Bunyan's 17th century Christian classic 'The Pilgrim's Progress' - see another link  here. If you haven't yet got a copy or know someone who

Monday, 20 March 2017


In my last Countdown to April 23 2017 blog, I had managed 15 miles of  continuous running. I had reached the edge of inner Mousehole but had not yet got to the very heart of the port with its wonderful harbour views. And now - as of yesterday, Sunday 19 April, I have!

Mousehole - an idyllic Cornish harbour - in the distance the stretch of the run from Penzance to Marazion

But there was a glitch in the week before with no long run on Sunday 12 April. After a strenuous short hill run in very windy conditions, I developed a familiar sensation in my lower back that meant I had to switch to a routine of self-treatment - a combination of rest and walking and back rack exercises - for a few days, with a session as normal  from my physiotherapist, Ben Donaldson and an extra session with my chiropractor, Tanya. By Wednesday of last week I was fit enough to get another run on my local circuit under my belt - 3.5 miles  in a fast for me 34 minutes - followed  by a good gym session on Thursday. And then on Sunday I returned to the long run from Marazion out to Mousehole and back.

Here's a copy of my post on the Sally Army marathon runners website that I posted after the run yesterday.

'I'm back running and training! My chiropractic treatment on Tuesday confirmed my recovery from the lower back glitch and I had a successful and quite fast local and hilly circuit run on Wednesday (3.5 miles in 34 minutes), followed by a good gym session on Thursday. Today I set out from the Marazion car park with the desire to run for 160 minutes without stopping. The first 45 minutes saw

Monday, 6 March 2017


Another month gone - five more Sunday morning long runs under my belt since the last blog - see this link for Part 2 of the Countdown to the London Marathon 2017 series. I note I wrote and posted on Saturday February 4 2017 which was actually the day before I switched from my local circuit runs to the largely flat route from Marazion heading west to Penzance and then Newlyn and on to Mousehole and eventually beyond - and returning when I reached the set time for that week.

Here's the history of the progress so far:

Marazion car park to Newlyn town sign - 50 minutes and return in 53 minutes and then running around Marazion to get to the target time of 110 minutes (and 45 seconds) - Sunday 5 Feb.

Marazion car park to just past Newlyn - 60 minutes (aiming for a target time of 120 minutes of continuous running) and then returning to the car at 129 minutes (and 45 seconds) after taking a

St Michael's Mount from Marazion - always the object of desire on the return journey.

wrong turn on the coastal foot path - doh! - Sunday 12 Feb.

Marazion car park to almost the outer limit of Mousehole - 65 minutes - and then turning round and returning to Marazion and the car in 130 minutes and 40 seconds - Sunday 19 Feb.

Marazion car park to inside the outer reaches of  Mousehole - 70 minutes - and then back to Marazion and the car in 137 minutes and 32 seconds. Very fierce wind in my face running out from Marazion that lengthended the journey to Newlyn by three minutes - the wind was on my back on the return journey - Sunday 26 Feb.

Marazion car park to just before the centre of Mousehole in 75 minutes (still  a strong head wind in

Thursday, 2 March 2017


'He will have to go.'

It could be a Tory talking - a member of the 1% who control so much of our society's wealth and power and who sees a socialist vision as anathema - a deadly threat to their social and political interests.    .

Or it could be a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party - a Labour M.P. - since a majority of the PLP remain convinced that Labour will never be returned to power advocating socialist policies under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn whose declared manifesto for the next election, in 2020 or earlier, is based on ten pledges to secure socialism for the 21st century - see my three blogs using this link for the first blog and accessing the other two blogs from there.    

Those who directly represent the interests of the 1% are united in their determination to destroy Jeremy Corbyn as a political force. They mock him. They ridicule him. But in doing so, they betray

Jeremy Corbyn - leader of the Labour Party in the UK

their fears. The former Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, warned in an interview with the Huffington Post that Mr Corbyn's brand of left-wing populism would be hard to campaign against. It was not certain he would lose an election. He is quoted: "If you have another recession or if the Conservative government becomes very unpopular, he could win"  - see p,140 in 'The Road to Corbyn' by Rob Donovan (2016) using this link.

Those who are members of the Parliamentary Labour Party - or who are like-minded members of local constituency Labour groups - and are still wedded to the ideology of New Labour and believe in Tony Blair's abandonment of socialism as the passport to election success - face an existential crisis. Their Party lost in the General Elections of 2010 and 2015 despite following the New Labour

Monday, 27 February 2017


At some point next year, in 2018, I will be making contact with mainstream publishers to see who may be interested in putting their money into my biography of Jago Stone. Self-publishing - as I did with 'The Road to Corbyn' - remains on the table as an option. Either way, the more people who express an interest at this stage the better the sales will be come publication. That's why both the Jago Stone website and the Jago Stone Facebook page contain a box to fill in to express an interest in purchasing on publication - and being kept updated on the progress  towards that point.

Do please look and find the box and if you're interested fill in the box.

Here's the link for the UK readers.

Here's the link in The Page for America.

As you will know from my last Jago blog, there has been much new detail emerging ever since the New Year began. Here is the input from Marie-Elena Baker - Laina Baker - who left a comment on the first of my earlier American Connection blogs:

'This is so much fun to read! A real trip down memory lane. We (my husband and I) were stationed  at RAF Croughton, near USAF Upper Heyford) from the late 1960s through to 1981. I have 2 lovely watercolours, signed to my husband and I  from Jago Stone (1976) - Anne Hathaway's House and Trinity Church - two Stratford-upon-Avon views ... I would be happy to send them to  you. Jago even wrote notes on how it should  be framed on one of 

Trinity Church. Stratford-upon-Avon - Jago Stone (1976) - Specially painted for Laina and Rick Baker 

the pictures ... We met him though a friend who was stationed at Upper Heyford hospital ... He even sold  us one of his newly published books'.

That would have been 'The Burglar's  Bedside  Companion'- Jago's autobiography, published in 1975. Laina communicated with me
further and gave me permission to use names and show the

Monday, 20 February 2017


As each week goes past and fresh discoveries emerge from the online search for the identity of Jago Stone as a character and as an artist, I feel more and more excited as his biographer. My gut academic instinct that this style of research would pay rich dividends has been fully vindicated. I remember with pleasure the excitement of my research discoveries during the years from 1995-2003 spent exploring the subject of Drink in Victorian Norwich for my Ph.D. Now with the subject as Jago Stone and his times there is fresh delight in being the historian and practising the skills of this profession.

Using the material that comes to light, together with the detail that can be taken as fact already, the historian makes an interpretation of the past. That is what I am doing. My subject matter is not just Jago Stone. His 20th century world in all its complexity and change is a critical part of my focus. To understand Jago, make sense of the social  worlds he inhabited. And always remember the prerequisite of the good historian is the capacity for empathy. 

And so to a day in 2017 - last Thursday, in fact, the 16th of February. The day of my appointment at the British Library in London. The British Library opens at 9.30 am. Here is a photo I took of the queue ahead of me shortly after I joined it at 9.15. By 9.32 when the doors opened, the queue had increased nearly ten-fold and snaked around the piazza outside.

Queuing for the opening of The British Library on 16.02.2017

By 10.10 am I had completed my full registration and was sitting in a listening booth ready for the first of the three twenty minute plays of the item I had travelled overnight from Cornwall to hear. My four and a half hours inside the booth gave me the opportunity to make a full transcript of

Saturday, 4 February 2017


The London Marathon this year is on St George's Day, April 23, 2017. April 23 is an important day for national treasures other than St George and the London Marathon. It's also William Shakespeare's birthday - and death day. Factoids are so Radio 2. I love them.

I thought I'd treat my readers and any sponsors, actual or potential, to the good news of my continuing and extending long runs for the last two Sundays - and at the same time explore the theme of  'The Back Garden'. A visual exploration of the role of the back garden in my journey through life.

The back garden of our terraced home in St Ives - 2017

A contemporary shot. I used a cropped version of this picture for my Countdown to the London Marathon 2017 - Part 1 blog on January 17 last month but did not contextualise. Here I am in the back garden of our terraced home in St Ives in Cornwall, Dig down deep enough and you are highly

Saturday, 28 January 2017


My political antennae are well-positioned for crap-detecting. The phrase 'Special Relationship' has been heard so often in recent days that the alarm bells are sounding unbearably in my ears. Prime-minister May and President Trump and their teams have wrung the rhetoric dry and exposed the cliché of a special relationship high and dry for further scrutiny. I can only hope that most people can see through them and the deceptions  - if not now then in that future time when the proverbial chickens will have come home to roost.

Trump and May - a natural or a special relationship?

Here are some facts to consider. Not post-truth facts. Real facts. Objective facts. My source is Wikipedia - check the references - these facts qualify as facts. Here is a tale of a relationship that has fluctuated according to the needs of both the stronger party - the USA - and the will and political  judgement of the prime minister of the weaker party - the UK.

  • The United States gradually became involved in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s, but this time received no support from the United Kingdom. Anti-Americanism due to the Vietnam

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Let's be frank. I am hoping that if you are reading this you will want to continue - and you will also consider making an online donation to the website that is linked to this blog. If you can afford to, please sponsor my charity marathon run for the Salvation Army in London in April. More on all that later but first some information about the wannabe athlete you may be betting on completing the course. A kind of quick once-over of the two-year old fancied filly before parting with any money. Only this time round, the two-year old filly has morphed into a sixty-eight year old writer.

As the end of November 2016 approached, my training calendar/record book showed that I was now four weeks away from my latest - and 76th in a lifetime - blood donation (25/10/2016). I know from interesting experience the importance of giving the body time to recover, not least the older I get. I had waited until the 19th of November before returning to the gym for a session. That went well. So on 25/11/2016 I ventured forth on my run from home - up to Little Trevalgan and back down again. Around 3.5 miles. My local circuit. It took 36 minutes and 35 seconds. I could live with that - it was quite a windy day.

Preparing for my Sally Army run 

Two days later, I was out running again and this time it was two circuits - the first in 37:00, the second in 37:09. (7 miles in 74:09) - and then back to the gym for  another session on the Tuesday.

In December, I managed six runs and two more gym sessions. Two of the runs were long local circuit runs of 7 miles, with times of 73:05 and 75:02. I also clocked up three sessions with my ace physiotherapist, Ben Donaldson, at the St Ives Leisure Centre, and one chiropractic treatment with Tanya in Redruth. Ben is still working to ensure that the plantar fasciitis is kept at bay and Tanya manipulates in order to prevent any weaknesses left by the surgeon's laminectomy four decades ago from surfacing.

Made it!

Rather unfortunately, when matters athletic were going so well - this was my planned period of consolidation before I started the serious business of increasing the mileage from January through to the beginning of April 2017 - someone, on December 30, drove into the back of our stationary new car. And Louise and I were in the car at the time.

No serious damage to our car - much more to the other driver's. A bit of a shock and inevitably some neck issues surfaced within a few days. But I'm glad to report that the combination of physio and chiro treatment and my own experience has meant no damage to the training plan. Two 3.5 mile circuit runs and one gym session so far in January plus - crucially - long runs on Sunday 8th (7 miles in 73:21)and Sunday 15th (7.5 miles in 79:14). We are heading in the right direction!

So it's still a good bet to invest in the 68-year old writer. What do you get for your money? Well, for starters, the satisfaction of knowing that you have supported one of our national treasures - the Salvation Army. No one has a bad word to say about the Sally Army. And so many people I speak to have such positive things to say.

Hard going - London 2012

Here's my peon of praise. When I was a kid, my parents used to meet the Bowns, Bill and Ivy, every month or so on a Saturday evening for a drink either in my home suburb of Welling or a bus ride  away in Lewisham where the Bowns lived. No matter how, I would be waiting for them outside the pub to walk or catch the bus home depending on whether the pub was in Welling or Lewisham. Invariably, I was handed the copy of the War Cry that mum and dad had purchased inside the warmth of that pub interior I glimpsed and smelt (and yearned to enter one day). I may have got my messages confused but I grew up knowing that my mum and dad had respect for the Sally Army. My dad had been in the Royal Artillery - another army. He knew their outreach.

When I got my automatic place for the London Marathon in April 2012 - I was one of the last to get this bonus after five unsuccessful applications - I had intended to run for the Sally Army. But my sister had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and my mother-in-law had developed the condition in the recent last years of her life. I switched my sponsorship to the Alzheimer's Society and they were the beneficiary of the £2,000 plus my run raised. Now, it's the turn of the Salvation Army to benefit - and the specific cause is the further development of  a drug rehabilitation unit in Swindon that the Sally Army are responsible for running.

So here is  the link to my Virgin Money Giving website page where online donations can be given.

.My donation link

You will read there about how this run is also my personal tribute to my late father-in-law, Ronald Watkins, who died in July 2015, aged 90. His generosity in leaving me a legacy means I can pledge that I will match the total  sponsorship raised by my run using his legacy.

Many thanks in advance for your support if you are able to donate in this way to a really good and worthwhile cause.