Run Run Run #2

By racket racket

Part 2 of Creeping Bent and Electric Honey commander in chief, Douglas MacIntyre’s Run Run Run series taking the reader on a trip through the mind of a marathon trainer.

Part Two – Marathon training and existential ennui, Scars / Fast Product and ‘in defence of the magpie’.

“I’ve been walking along down this shallow slope, looking for nothing particularly…”

My name is Douglas MacIntyre and I have a confession to make, I am training for the Edinburgh Marathon which takes place on Sunday 27th May 2012. I have never run or even thought about running a marathon before. Maybe it’s to do with recently turning 50, but strangely I am enjoying my training regime. My training mostly consists of running in the beautiful South Lanarkshire countryside near Strathaven, during which my mind goes into creative and critical overdrive.

These mind-musings randomly detail the crazy mixed up obsessions that flit through my mind when I’m out running… Chess, ornithology, fishing, Velvet Underground, Truman Capote, Hamilton Accies, Vic Godard, Metal Machine Music, Richard Hamilton, Bill Drummond, Fast Product… A stream of unconscientiousnezzz. Ergo, I’ve taken the plunge and committed to writing this self-absorbed blog / diary detailing the existential milieu of marathon training for Racket Racket it might be vaguely amusing to someone, somewhere…. probably not. Always abstract. Welcome to RUN RUN RUN.

35 years ago, on 7th May 1977, the Subway Sect played Edinburgh on the White Riot tour and to quote Davy Henderson from the CD reissue liner notes of What’s the Matter Boy, “things changed forever, baby”. The video above, of Subway Sect, was shot live by Don Letts on the White Riot tour, and thus created the Sound of Young Scotland template.

“It’s about opposition to rock n’ roll, you all love rock n’ roll… We don’t…”
– Vic Godard

However, enough about pop, back to life, back to (un)reality. The Edinburgh marathon looms large in my mind as the impending rush towards Sunday 27th May continues unabated. My friend Ed Horrox at 4AD has given me a few pointers, including the energy rush that is ‘jelly beans & gels’. Other than that I have been following the prescribed training regime. I was lucky enough to be over in Majorca in early April for five days. I stayed in Fornatutx, a lovely mountain village on the Tramuntana range. I only managed a few short runs, most memorably on the mountain track to Cala Tuent. The weather was warm and sunny with the odd mountain lightening and warm needle rain. Most days were spent on walks or cycling – all in all a very groovy time. I saw a booted eagle, a red kite, and one of the blue riband birds – a hoopoe. It’s nice turning 50. I didn’t listen to any music for the five days. I can’t recollect ever enduring pop silence for so long. I’ll put it down as a tribute to Bill Drummond.

12th April – The willow warblers have returned from Africa, their mellifluous song is the sound of summer. They perch high in the trees behind my back garden leading down to a pretty wee river called the Kype. They seem to enchant and draw the sun. My marathon training has been inspiring as I trace the country backroads of South Lanarkshire. The cows are back in the fields with calves in tow, but unfortunately the large field where whaups and peeweeps were nesting has been ploughed, so their nest and eggs will have been destroyed. It’s probably early enough in the nesting season for them to locate another field and lay another clutch, hopefully without being thwarted by the industrial agricultural complex. This kind of intense farming has been responsible for many ills, including the decline of the skylark (another master of mellifluous melody).

Talking about nest destruction brings me to the annual failure of the blue dykie’s nest in my back garden, usually (I suspect) by the claw of the local cat. However, recently the blue dykie was brooding four magnificent blue eggs when I noticed an irregular visitor to my garden, public enemy number one, the magpie. Next day I noticed the dykie’s blue eggshell on the ground and on checking the nest found the eggs had been herried, I strongly suspect the magpie that was hanging around the hedge that the nest was in was responsible for the carnage (the magpie hasn’t been in my garden since).

I was lucky enough to be over in Majorca in early April. I stayed in Fornatutx, a lovely mountain village on the Tramuntana range. The weather was warm and sunny with the odd mountain lightening and warm needle rain. Most days were spent on walks or cycling – all in all a very groovy time. I can’t recollect ever enduring pop silence for so long. I’ll put it down as a tribute to Bill Drummond.

Ah, the magpie, that much maligned and indeed hated member of the crow family. l have to declare my position here, in the name of transparency, I am pro-magpie. When I was a pre-teen I spent most summer evenings out walking, either on my own or with my dad (when I wasn’t playing football that is). However, around The Glessert there were very few magpies. In fact, you never saw them apart from a few near the old railway line around the former Glassford railway station. I often ponder if this scarcity was a result of the post-1955 use of dieldrintype insecticides and the industrial pollutant PCBs, which affected several species of birds eggs resulting in shell breakage in the nest. Or maybe there has been a magpie population explosion since that period. In the 1960s and 70s the situation affecting eggshells seemed to be particularly problematic for raptors. I’m not sure if there is a connection, but throughout the 1970s there were no buzzards around Strathaven, as in zero. However, now when I’m out for a run I’ll see more buzzards than kestrels (for example). I’ll see at least four buzzards every time I’m running. Maybe buzzards and magpies have merely extended their range more successfully than other species.

The crow family are regarded as the bogie men of birds in Scotland; gamekeepers hate them, farmers hate them, and generally the public are intolerant (verging on brutal hatred of the magpie in particular). They are, of course, fiercely intelligent animals. Corvids have played a major role in the life of Nicky Clayton, who apart from being a Professor of Comparative Cognition is also scientist in residence at the Rambert Dance Company. Here’s an interesting BBC Radio 4 programme about her corvid / ballet interface and ruminations on flying apes / 7 is a secret never to be told / the cognitive process; and all that jazz.

Scottish birds on Run Run Run #2

Locally, I’ve never seen a jay or a chough (no surprise there) though we do have rooks, carrion crows, magpies and ravens. The rooks lay in the first week of March and the rookeries are currently loud and messy as they feed their gorging skuds. I’ve seen jays in the Abruzzo region of Italy and I was fortunate enough to see choughs on Islay a few years back on a birthday (mine) cliffside walk with my daughter Amelia. We were well chuffed. Very occasionally I come across a single hooded crow or ‘hoodie’ as loathed by generations of highlanders. In fact I saw one at 7am when walking up from the Craig Bridge towards Stra’ven a few weeks back to catch the bus to Glasgow. Curious. Must have lost its magnetic compass! It should be in the highlands! Hoodies, not loved, but I dig ‘em. As a kid I always enjoyed going on holidays to the highlands and watching the slow fade of central belt carrion crows into the highland hoodies.

I’ve seen jays in the Abruzzo region of Italy and I was fortunate enough to see choughs on Islay a few years back on a birthday (mine) cliffside walk with my daughter Amelia. We were well chuffed.

So, magpies are hated and blamed for the destruction of garden birds’ nests, eggs, and skuds. I had to point out to my children that although their sadness at the obliteration of the blue dykie’s nest in the garden is understandable, the magpie is driven by instinct. It’s in its nature and it has magpie weans to feed.

Penultimate word on the corvid front, the collective noun thing. Wow!!! A parliament of rooks. An unkindness of ravens. A clattering of choughs. A murder of crows A scold of jays. A tittering of magpies.

Finally, old Scots is being taught in primary school. I applaud this development, I grew up being surrounded by this tongue and speaking it, however somewhere in the 1970s the comprehensive Scottish education system knocked my language out of my mouth. I’m not nationalistic but I do cherish regional dialect and idiosyncrasies. Here’s an old Scots song known by all Scottish children.

Three Craws

Three craws sat upon a wa’
Sat upon a wa’, sat upon a wa’
Three craws sat upon a wa’
On a cauld and frosty mornin’.
The first craw was greetin’ for his maw
Greetin’ for his maw, greetin’ for his maw
The first craw was greetin’ for his maw
On a cauld and frosty mornin’.
The second craw fell and broke his jaw
Fell and broke his jaw, fell and broke his jaw
The second craw fell and broke his jaw
On a cauld and frosty mornin’.
The third craw, couldnae caw at a’
Couldnae caw at a’, couldnae caw at a’
The third craw, couldnae caw at a’
On a cauld and frosty mornin’.
An that’s a’, absolutely a’
Absolutely a’, absolutely a’
An that’s a’, absolutely a’
On a cauld and frosty mornin’.

Marathon training is ongoing. I’ve done a couple of 21 mile runs from Sandford through Stra’ven and up Threestanes Road past the Hastie Park and up along the back road to Auldhouse. The astounding countryside makes it almost enjoyable. From the old Auldhouse Road up the terrorgrind that is the incline up Ardochrig to Whitelee wind farm (biggest in Europe, power fans) and back down the other side of Stra’ven airfield and along past the duckpond, then back past the Hastie Park, Threestanes Road and out to Sandford. Really fucked afterwards. The gels x jelly bean combo works a treat and kept me truckin’. Spring is inspirational – on 22nd April I saw my first swallow of 2012 and less than a minute later I saw a large flock of skittery feldies preparing to return to Scandanavia. Other orno pleasures encountered have included wheatears, meadow pipits and a cuckoo calling (very rare to hear round our way).

Bob Last could have been a character invented by Warhol so he could phone him to ask how his reflection was getting on (worth at least 17 pages in From A to B and Back Again). Bob Last doesn’t receive the credit he’s due. Anyone that can package orange peel as an art concept is genius.

So, to return to 7th May 1977 in Edinburgh (as we always must) and the genesis porridge of neu-Scots art, I’ll finish circuitously where I started, with a pop group who took the Subway Sect script and ran. There is a school of thought in neo-pop academia that Blue Boy is Scotland’s Anarchy in the UK. I’d have to denude that notion. The truth of the matter is that the ESSENTIAL record that kicked Scotland out of its torpor is the double-top that is Adult/ery & Horrowshow. Both sides of the first single by Edinburgh’s Scars. Released on consumer fetishist label Fast Product, straight outta Edinburgh. Scars had the template guitar sonic that hotwired and coalesced my teenage interest in the electrical guitar. Paul Research had the pop name to match his guitar-arama and in Robert King they had the ultimate rock n roll marionette; part Alex Harvey part Johnny Rotten, part Jean Genet, part Alex Droog. The fact Scars played covers of Psychomodo and Billy Porter was telling but their absolute glory was best documented on the Fast Product 7”. After I heard Adult/ery on John Peel I made a point of travelling to all their Scottish gigs, every gig scorched. I saw them play with the mighty Fall at the Plaza in Eglington Toll in Glasgow. Contrary as ever Mark E Smith lauded them as his favourite group because he thought they were diametrically opposed to the Fall in every conceivable way.

Fast Product Sampler LP

Bob Last could have been a character invented by Warhol so he could phone him to ask how his reflection was getting on (worth at least 17 pages in From A to B and Back Again). Bob Last doesn’t receive the credit he’s due. Anyone that can package orange peel as an art concept is genius. If the Scars had recorded their set at Cargo in Rochdale with Bob Last at the same time they recorded the single, they would have created the greatest art statement since the Voidoids’ Blank Generation. They looked arresting too – total droogs, total punk, total glam, total art. I don’t want to diss Author Author too much but I wish they’d kept the Fast clothes / Last production. Still, to create the definitive punk statement (as they did with the Fast 7”) was monumental and more than enough in itself. The first time I met Alan Horne he picked up on the Scars badge I was wearing. All the Postcard set knew exactly what the Fast Scars had kicked in motion with Adult/ery/Horrorshow and they were hip enough to absorb the concept and bend it to their own collective will. But that’s another story…


A’ = All
Blue Dykie = Dunnock
Caw = Call
Cauld = Cold
Craw=- Crow
Greetin’ = Crying
Herried = Destroyed / Chased
Maw = Mother
Peeweep = Lapwing
Skittery Feldie = Fieldfare
Skuds = Newly hatched chick
Stra’ven = Strathaven
The Glessert = Glassford
Wa’ = Wall
Wean = Young child
Whaup = Curlew

I’m attempting to run the Edinburgh Marathon to raise money for Down’s Syndrome Scotland. This year DSS celebrates 30 years of working to improve the quality of life for everyone with Down’s syndrome and their families. I’ve never run a marathon before, I can only assume it’s a mid-life crisis on turning 50! The training is a slog, but I’m determined to make it, and promise to post a picture of me crossing the finishing line (which won’t be a pretty sight). My 8 year old daughter Matilda has Down’s Syndrome and is an inspiration to our family and everyone who meets her. DSS has been an invaluable source of support and information, any donation would be greatly appreciated.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – I raise more, whilst saving time and cutting costs for the charity. Visit the page here if you would like to donate: Douglas’s Just Giving Page


  1. al mccuskerthompson

    Thanks for the life-enhancement Douglas.

    I am anti-magpie!

    I recently went to see the film The Magpie Index which was basically Roy Harper ranting at the camera for 77 minutes. Not as good as it sounds and not enough, actually nothing, on women, Coleridge, Keats, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or Peter Jenner for my liking.

    He did, however, conceptualise ‘the magpie index’ which was his theory that you could mirror the decline in society by the number of magpies to be found in one square acre at any given time. Well, he is a poet.

    I recently wrote some poems for a twitcher friend including one that, remarkably, went over her head which contained ‘hidden’ references to collective nouns for birds. And it goes a little something like this…

    Bicycle Trip

    I raced on my bicycle to the village of Kettle
    Cycling Sunday morning
    The August air whizzing past
    With occasional whizzes of September, October
    There were no trains and I had no time to walk
    It had to be a speedy trip
    There was no spring in my step anyway
    At the venue I’d just left there had been a murder
    When a member of the cast was shot with a musket
    During the am-dram society’s rehearsal of The Siege Of Parliament
    No-one managed to stop the shooter’s flight
    All I could do was peep through the curtain and watch horrified
    It took all the strength I could muster to help with the body.
    When I left the building all I felt was singular exaltation
    Speeding past the morning-walked red setter
    Self-delighting in its own liquid energy
    The already oranging sun
    Heating the frosty suburban housewife
    And the rotund but groomed and manicured man of the cloth
    As he checked his watch on his way to church
    Followed by his wife and her brood
    All of us vibrating in the present as my wheels spun round
    Giving me a new lease of life despite the sad tidings
    I had to deliver to the dead man’s widow
    Although you might accuse me of dissimulation
    It was not through unkindness
    But rather relief that chance did not dole out the same fate to me
    Anyway, I knew she had many lovers
    One of whom was a famous politician
    Who was a bit too fond of the bevy
    Apparently he could charm the birds out of the trees
    His rasp of a voice could be heard regularly on the radio
    As could intimations of their covert relationship
    And the talk of his impending fall from grace
    As I freewheeled down the hill towards the village
    I saw the congregation exit the local church
    Like a herd of sheep, and stupidly wondered
    As my bike skidded to a halt in front of them
    What is the collective noun for cyclists?
    An annoyance? A smile?

    Take it ‘way drum an’ bass…


  2. Pingback: Run Run Run #3

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