So this is why I run, then



Arty running at Yorkshire Sculpture Park


‘Are you the lady who runs?’ the caller asked. Lady? <Snigger>. Runs? <Double snigger>. It was Radio Leeds who wanted to do an interview about running to music, I don’t run to music, I need to be completely aware of my surroundings, I could trip up at any time, but it was nice to be asked.

It’s not a bad title to have, because I do run, dammit (let’s not talk about being a lady). So why do I run, then? It’s always hard, I’m not a natural. I don’t get awards and I never win races, I’m more likely to come last than first, but I do love it.

For a start,  I’m in the great outdoors, whatever the weather, there’s always something to enjoy, the sights, the smells, the splashings. I’m not a keen road runner, I prefer the trails, but if I have to pound the pavements I do, taking in the urban surroundings, watching the flagstones pass under my feet, hey I spotted 5p the other day, I picked it up, I’m from Yorkshire, me.

I love to race, it’s a challenge, I’ve paid for it so I actually have to do it, because, dammit, I’m not wasting money (the whole Yorkshire thing). Sometimes there are medals, or tee-shirts, though never in my size, but always there are team-mates, friends and so many others there to encourage, cheer and generally chivvy me along. It feels good.

Then there’s running with mates, just because I can. Today a baker’s dozen of us met up at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and just ran, looked at art, tried to be art, realised we were nothing like art, ran a bit more, then had coffee and cake, it was glorious. That’s why I run, it’s glorious.

See the art. Run the art. Be the art


Training can be trying, especially when it involves steep hills tackled at speed again and again and again. I’m halfway through my personalised programme, prepared for me by Women’s Running to get me on tip-top form for the Gower Half marathon, and I need a bit of inspiration.

Calverley cutting has lost its attraction, I’m now on intimate stumbling terms with the steeper-than-steep drop from the village to the canal and to be quite honest I’d be very happy to never see it again. Seriously, I’ve huffed and puffed up there until my lungs have nearly burst out of my chest, wondering how 90 seconds can be so very very long. Fair dos, the training works, I get further up each session, I know I do, I count the stones and tree roots.

So for a change, and as I wanted to see the Poppies Wave at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and because they do decent coffee there, we headed over there. I love the YSP, we had our impromptu wedding reception there with a picnic in the grounds. I always feel very arty when I go there, inspired to to creative things, so I dressed the part, choosing my brightest running gear with the idea that I could be a running art installation, or something like that. Noel donned his usual black, shook his head in what looked like pity and set off ahead of me, I think he was pretending we weren’t together. No-one really noticed us, all eyes were on the poppies, and the queue to see the poppies.

The Poppies Wave, part of the installation set in the Tower of London last year, now cascades from the bridge at the upper lake, it’s an impressive site, all the more poignant to see the poppies emerging from the mud, as they did on the battlefields 100 years ago.

Poppy 2.CR2

I might have dressed artily, but my hill training is no picture, so  we chose a slope in the country park, away from the crowds. and gave it our best, the new watch chugging out data as if there was no tomorrow, as times I felt as if I would have no tomorrow. But the watch never lies and there were the ups and downs of my little heartbeat as I pushed onwards, upwards and downwards.

It was a massively enjoyable way to train, and the coffee and cake afterwards were very welcome. I’m now on the look-out for more arty hill training, though may tone down the running gear.

Light and shade

Light and shade

Light and shade and an Ursula von Rydingsvard sculpture

We are massively fortunate here in Yorkshire to be home to the sculpture park which is justifiably Museum of the Year 2014, I’d go further and call it Museum of Every Year. Though actually for me, it’s nature’s art that tops it all.

There’s 500 acres of beautiful Yorkshire countryside, scattered with sculptures, some of them by very talented artists, but many more by the most talented artist of them all, Mother Nature.

We popped in this weekend to catch sight of Ursula von Rydingsvard’s cedar sculptures. The 40 works from the 71-year-old New York-based artist have roots in her the childhood she spent post war with her Polish mother and Ukranian father in camps for displaced persons in Germany. She saw a lot of wood then, slept on it, ate with it and warmed her hands on its fire, little wonder, then, that it’s the medium she works in, that and the odd cow intestine. Seriously.

The sculptures are big, gigantic, in fact, She works on an industrial scale with a circular saw chipping and hacking the cedar wood that over the years has given her an allergic reaction, so much so that she has to work in a kind of spacewoman suit. That’s dedication.

While I can admire her vision and skill, and marvel at the sheer scale and physical effort, whenever I’m at the YSP, which is often, but not as often as I’d like, I’m always drawn by the natural which complements the man-made. The breeze bothering the autumn leaves, mist rising from the lake, dew clinging to the grass, or just the simple shadows cast by the light. All in all, a very beautiful place.

Yorkshire – even more to be proud about

The fantastic Jaume Plensa exhibition. I couldn't get enough of it!

The fantastic Jaume Plensa exhibition. I couldn’t get enough of it!

With the celebration of Yorkshire that was Le Grand Depart, the start of the Tour de France, you wouldn’t have thought things could get better for the White Rose County. Well, that just shows what you know, because the fantastic Yorkshire Sculpture Park has just been named Museum of the Year. So there.

According to The Guardian, which is usually right about these things, the big swathe of land on the Wakefield-Barnsley border went from being a blot on the landscape to a thing of beauty. Who’s going to argue with that? It started out in 1977 as a couple of works of outside art to complement the magnificent Bretton Hall College the then arty outpost of the University of Leeds. From there it grew, as well it might in the county which has produced two of the world’s best contemporary sculptors, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

The YSP and surrounding countryside is one of my favourite places ever, I’ve spent hours, days, probably weeks there, all seasons of the year. We even had our wedding reception there, not in the posh restaurant, but a picnic in the park. It’s also the Wakefield office of our business, strategically placed just off the M1. And it’s worth the £8 parking to just sit and enjoy the vista from my desk there, I mean table in the cafe.

But it’s the changing sculpture landscape that always delights and sometimes mystifies. Even without this award, I’d be proud of YSP, but with it? Another reason to celebrate our county. I’ll be wearing my white rose with pride on Yorkshire Day which, for all you Yuggles (non-Yorkshire folk) is 1 August.

Getting wet for my art

Rainbow colours from sculptor Jaume Plensa

Today shall henceforth be known as The Day of Getting Very Wet for my Art. With just a month to go of the fantastic Jaume Plensa exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and most of those working days, dammit, I needed get over there with my camera.

The fact that it was so wet I passed two partially-completed arks and a queue of animals and birds in pairs, looking quite anxious, except for the ducks, didn’t deter me. It was, I told the cagoule-clad hikers waiting for their cappuccinos at the cafe, an opportunity to explore textures, reflections and the slippery properties of mud. I’m not sure they were convinced as I headed out into the deluge, my camera concealed in my own cagoule and lenses protected by a huge umbrella.

It’s quite a skill to focus the camera while wedging an umbrella between my armpit and shoulder, and avoid slipping on the mud. I can honestly say I was the only person daft enough to splash across the waterlogged fields. I didn’t do much science at school, but I remember very well the lesson where we learned about capillary action. Our wonderful and diminutive physics teacher Mr Fry pointed out to us first formers that within five minutes of standing in a puddle, the wet would have reached our knees. He was wrong, within five minutes my knickers were wet through and my scarf was starting to shrink – that’s wool for you. Fortunately the camera stayed dry. Oh the sacrifices I make for my art!

Cupping, slurping and wiggling the way to the perfect coffee

Lisa from Coopers shows the instruments of pleasure

Johann Sebastian Bach was singing my song when he proclaimed in his Coffee Cantata, presumably after a tall skinny latte with two shots in the 18th century equivalent of Starbuck’s:  ‘How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! ”

Yes, yes, I love coffee and can bore for my country on the virtues of that lovely liquid, in fact, I think I have. But is it art? Today, in the inspirational surroundings of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, we found out and proved beyond doubt that art is in the eye of the beholder, but coffee is above that sort of discourse.

Along with 26 other coffee lovers and two who hate the stuff, but came along with their mates just for the fun of it, we expressed ourselves with espresso at a Creative Coffee workshop run by caffeine-fuelled Lisa from Coopers.

Coffee love always starts with the taste and I had a go at cupping, which wasn’t a throwback to the Joey snigger scene in Friends where he was measured for a suit, but sniffing cups full of brews until your eyes pop, followed by tasting and making the loudest slurping noises possible. My verdict, I’m a Columbian gal, pure arabica, none of that robusta stuff, which tastes like old tyres and is used in instant coffee, or  the Devil’s Granules as I call them. Even the workmen get fresh coffee at our house, though the last one had eight double espressos, which meant he finished in half the time. Result!

Lisa's fishy coffee

The art came into it with the help of foamed milk (any kind will do, just don’t scorch it) and a wiggle. Most of us got the hang of the scorched milk, very few could produce the fancy fans and hearts made famous on Flat Whites. The secret was in the wiggle, the wiggle of the jug that is, not the bottom.

I produced a near perfect treble clef, obviously in homage to Bach, while Noel’s creation, when viewed in a certain light, was Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.  Though there will never be a pilgrim trail to Noel’s coffee shrine, as he drank it. Dammit, we had to drink all our failures and we kept on failing… So what about this Art Coffee? Well, we’re going to stick with espresso and leave the frothing and wiggling to the experts.

Smells like heaven!

The start of the treble clef. It went downhill from there

We had to drink the left-overs. Damn!

By the way, back in Bach’s times, there wouldn’t have been anything like a Starbuck’s, the Germans were well into their beer and looked down on coffee.  His Kaffee Kantate, Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht or ‘Keep quiet, don’t chatter!’ is a satirical take on what Bach saw as the anti-coffee-drinkers among his fellow countrymen.