I had no idea what to expect from Shambala, just that some friends went last year and had a great time. I loved it – it was like Glastonbury without the bullshit and marketing. The festival was held in the grounds of Kelmarsh Hall and made good use of the lake and the woods.
I'd heard of very few of the acts playing, which was fun. I ended up wandering around the site, seeing odds and ends. I stumbled on some impressive aerial acts on the Saturday and, on the Friday, was one of a dozen people dancing to the Transpersonals, who deserved a much bigger audience. I caught a string quartet playing I predict a riot and drank lots of coffee of varying quality.
The poetry was interesting. I saw some bloody awful acts as well as some stunning performances. Saturday night started with Yanny Mac, the domestic goddess, followed by Andy Craig Griffiths (I think) Andy Craven-Griffiths, with one of the best live sets I've seen. His poems were about his family and were both moving and funny. This was followed with a brilliant set by Tim Clair TIm Clare, featuring the wonderful poem Mrs F**k.
(Update Poets' names corrected following an irate email from Rosy Carrick.)
I saw so many cool things: the two people who dressed as Bananaman meeting and drinking together; a Rorschach costume; the woman hula-hooping at the lake; the Ugly Camping sign; the sound installation and lighting in the woods; the message going round, "If you're dressed as a bee they want you at the lake at 5"; the excellent book stall. Best of all, the rain mostly held off, which was fortunate since I was camping in a cheap Tesco's tent.
I can't wait for next year – thanks to Ayng and company for a great time!
I've taken a break from running since the Morecambe race but I'm looking forward to restarting my training in September when I return to Brighton. To give me something to work towards I've sign up for the Brooks Brighton 10K on October November 16th. I'm taking the next couple of months off to concentrate on writing which should also give me lots of time to practise running along the seafront.
On September 1st, a few days after I return, Brighton has one of the lowest tides of the year. While some people are cycling along the sand I'm planning to be more relaxed. I'll be at the West Pier ruins from around six, meeting some friends and toasting the sea. Last time I was on the beach at low tide was back in 2005 when Mr. Ribot and I stumbled upon the revealed West Pier. It was quite something.
To celebrate my return to the South Coast Club Smooch are holding a special night at the Komedia. Among the performers are Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, Bearlesque, Honey Moon and Kitty Peels with an aerial act. Tickets are available from the Komedia site – email me if you're coming along.
And afterwards there's a zombie night at the Ocean Rooms hosted by Transition.
One reason for going to Coventry was that I'd started taking Brighton for granted. The rent was expensive and I wasn't enjoying it. I decided to take some time out somewhere else, concentrate on the writing, and figure out what to do next.
At its best Brighton is a magical place where anything could happen and this weekend I saw that side of Brighton for the first time in ages. I spent two days walking around, drinking coffee and seeing old friends. I started at Bom-banes, a cafe with mechanical tables that was even better than I'd heard. I visited loads of favourite places, like Sukhothai Palace, Moments and Ethel's Kitchen, where I ate Raspberry and Lavender cake. Looking back, the weekend was mostly cake and coffee.
My main reason for visiting was to check out a flat in Hove. It had a balcony with a view of the sea and was just what I needed. The wait to find out if I'd got it was nerve-wracking but it looks as if I'll be moving-in early September.
It was the little Brighton things I loved most – the man on the seafront making pebble pictures near the band stand; the odd bits of graffiti (any marker pen message is more interesting than an advert); the terrible busking on New Road; the couple on a doorstep playing guitar and accordian; the height chart outside the Trafalgar Street pottery shop; bumping into a friend I'd not seen for years on the way to the station.
Sunday was relaxed, more coffee and more cake followed by a gruelling journey home. For once Virgin managed to lay on trains but it was a long journey surrounded by idiots. I was glad to get home and have an early night. Eleven days till I'm back for good.
It's been a few days since the Cross Bay Challenge and the experience seems even less real than it did at the time. I've never been in any other place like that bay. There were few landmarks aside from the other runners so it seemed that running took you nowhere.
The race was planned between Flookburgh and Hest Bank. The distance would have been 13 miles, more or less, but the River Kent rose after the start meaning the race had to be turned back to the starting point. Given the location the change is understandable – the organisers certainly weren't messing around. Everyone issued with wristbands and checked on and off the sands, and the list of runners was shared with the RNLI and coastguard. We were warned not to stray from the course because of quicksand.
The actual distance was 10.8 miles, which I ran in just over 100 minutes. The first five miles I was going faster than I've run before because of the wind behind me. I remember thinking how tough it would be if we ran against it. And, as we approached the river Kent the line of runners turned and we were led straight into the wind.
For the first half mile the wind was so strong it knocked me back to walking speed and I stopped running to conserve my energy. When it relented I started running again. I couldn't figure out what was happening since I had little idea of the geography. There should have been distance markers and water stops but after 4 miles these disappeared. It was just the sands and the runners.
The bay was the most desolate place I've ever been and felt strangely spiritual. The wind gathered up wisps of sand, forcing me to keep my eyes on the floor for long periods. Running into the wind felt like a nightmare, that dream where you run and seem to be going nowhere. Every so often we'd reach water and I'd speed up to cross as quick as I could.
It was only when someone pointed out we were reaching the place we'd started that I knew for sure what had happened. Yes, it was obvious we were going the wrong way, but at the same time the wilderness was disorientating. I kept expecting to reach the Kent crossing and approach Morecambe.
My only criticism of the race was the mess left at the water stops. The instructions had said to drop the bottles near the stations, but they ended up littered for some distance. There must have been a better way to handle that. I also feel a little sorry for Mum and Dad,who spent several hours waiting at the finish line with little information on what was happening. They seemed to have enjoyed themselves anyway.
Some other posts on the event.
I'm now hurtling down the M55 to Coventry after today's race. Sadly it was abandoned half way through as the River Kent was impassable. I'd been having a good run up to that point, with the trailing wind making me about a minute a mile faster than normal.
We turned back about five miles in which meant running straight into the wind. The rest of the run was harsh. At its worst the wind knocked me back to walking pace. I spent most of the time with a pack, grateful for the portable wind-break.
While it would have been fantastic to complete the crossing, the race was still an amazing experience. The bay is desolate with the wind sweeping across it stirring up flurries of sand. There are lots of small channels to run through with the delight of not knowing how deep they are. The event (especially the long and weary run into the wind) feels something like a dream now.
I started today not having run a half marathon and end it still not having run a half marathon. I'm going to search for another later in the year and will definitely enter the next cross-bay run.
I've arrived in Morecambe with Mum & Dad ready for tomorrow's run. The town has the faded glamour I like from my seaside towns but the rain was a bit much. I'd not packed a coat and was quickly soaked to the skin this evening. I took some good photos though.
The tide was in tonight, meaning the race course was underwater. The event sounds daunting but I'll just do my best and see how it goes.
A new parcel of books was waiting for me in Melbourne last night – Spook Country, The Body Artist and Julie Burchill and Daniel Raven's book Made in Brighton. I don't have any issue with Burchill and Raven writing the book, since Raven has lived in Brighton far longer than I have and, besides, everyone's welcomed to their opinion. But I had to stop reading at the reference to the "North Laines". Maybe it's pedantic, but if you're going to write a book about something it's best
not to make common mistakes to acknowledge the subtleties.
Anyway. I've got a load of notes for a last story about circuses that I'm going to type up tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, with the race and visits to relatives on the way home, but I'll write an entry on it once I have chance.
Coventry lately feels hot and stuffy. I want cool breezes and beaches. I miss walking by the sea at nights. Coventry has no good places to stroll.
I finished my training for the half marathon tonight with a 6.5 mile run. I'm far from an athlete but I am getting faster. A year ago I did no exercise and I'm proud of how far I've come. When people talked about how great running felt I used to think they were idiots. Now I find myself saying the same things.
I've also been doing a lot of writing recently. Last night I was working on a piece I wasn't happy with. I decided the idea was weak but I had nothing better. I despaired a little that I couldn't drag out ideas on command. Lying in bed a new idea came from nowhere. I woke half an hour before my alarm clock this morning and wrote a first draft. I don't know where the ideas come from, but they always seem to come in time. This week I've written two new stories, one about a banana, and one about apples.
I spent this weekend in Brighton after three months away. It was good to be back – the town was mostly the same as when I’d left and it was lovely to be near the sea once more. I didn’t end up running around as much as I have in other visits. I spent Saturday with Rosy, watching movies and visiting Pride, where I played the traditional festival game of failing to find people.
Sunday was a grey day and the whole town felt hungover. Everyone I passed on the street seemed subdued, particularly the ones who’d not reached home from the night before. I had an underwhelming breakfast in a favourite cafe followed by a complication of arrangements, then headed home early.
I did find time for some training, running from Brighton to Rottingdean on Saturday morning (a distance of 12 miles). Strangely, the first 8 or 9 miles took very little effort and only the last mile was particularly tough. I’m feeling a little more confident about next Sunday’s half marathon than I had been.
I’m returning to Brighton (for ever) on the 29th, although I’ve not yet sorted a place to live. I can’t wait to be back properly. More details soon!