Book Review: 1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession

I love to read, and always have a book or two on the go, and visible on my Good Reads profile.

I recently completed reading Ned Boulting’s book “1923: The Mystery of Lot 212 and a Tour de France Obsession”, and popped a review up on and Good Reads.

A previously unseen film of an early Tour de France bought at auction inspires Ned Boulting to unearth the story behind the people, places and times captured on film.

Part Covid lockdown project, part history of the times, all delightfully written.

A unique, satisfying book that’ll appeal not just to cycling fans, but to all who enjoy a varied and lovingly pieced together story of a moment in time, and all that has been touched by it.

The film is available to view on YouTube:

Picking up where I left off…

I’ve not posted here in a while. My last post was a couple of years ago, and that and many of the previous ones were mainly longer-form posts.

A brief reminisce

Time was – back in the very early blogging years – I’d post several times a week. Then social media appeared on the scene. The format of twitter always appealed to me, and so drew more of my posts, certainly in the early years. I also find facebook’s symmetric engagement (we are both friends), rather than the asymmetric model of twitter (Where I can follow/unfollow as I wish).

Taking on roles at various places (from systems architect at parkrun, or being President at my running club) also started to pick away at my inclination to share views, opinions – some of things I perhaps wanted to say overlapped, and I wondered if that might cause… problems.

I took this website down for a few years, and of course then – 2015/16 or so – political stuff got a bit… spiky. All that populism, click-bait, challenges with journalism/balance on subjects like climate change also started getting quite… horrible. Social media became less of a fun place to be, and my desire to post things fell away.

I then wanted to share a few photos I’d taken, together with the 10th anniversary of parkrun in Scotland (a desire to put on record a few things such as why parkrun starts at 9.30am in Scotland, and the general story about starting parkrun up) helped reinvigorate this site. All the while posting less and less to twitter.

mastodon to the rescue

The dumpster fire that twitter seems to be becoming prompted me (and millions of others) to dig out old mastodon accounts, or create new ones.

I’ve since moved to a small, welcoming instance (find me, but the migration of many of the twitter people I follow, together with the sight of a few people who’d moved earlier, felt like things could really work here, and my dabbling hasn’t disappointed. I like what I see.

Discussion feels better, constructive, far less curated, and expansive. It’s also built on open technologies/approaches, and feels more considerate: the content warning setup is a delight. A touch of a usenet vibe too, which was a fun place to be for me for my very early years online in the 90s.

All said, feeling like I want to pick things up again, get back to writing up a few longer techie things (a few projects on the go/planned that’ll need an outlet), as well as some of the throwaway things: nice running routes, cycle journals, or pictures I’ve taken that I think people might like.

Anyway, we’ll see. Watch this space, or catch me online.

Transforming Pollok Park: Detailed Feedback to planning

For a while now, there have been proposals and consultations regarding a restructuring Pollok Country Park access arrangements, known as ‘Transforming Pollok Country Park’.

The full planning proposal was made available earlier in June (ref 20/01352/FUL), and the closing date for feedback is 6th July 2020. I’ve been a bit busy with AGMs, and various other things, but finally pulled my finger out at the weekend to review and write my own feedback (after prompting for some feedback to assist with drafting the GoBike response to same)

I’m afraid it’s another epic, in a similar vein to the Bellahouston park objection earlier in the year. But then I do live very, very close to the park and am directly impacted. That said, I hope I’m not about to find myself on a list at Glasgow Planning HQ…

During the drafting, I found some key points that may be of interest, and wanted to make it available for anybody who may be drafting their own.

  • There’s some deeply flawed proposals for Haggs/Shawmoss junction that prevents a right turn heading north. This will cause a lot of traffic to go into side-roads or through already busy rat-runs in Waverley park.
  • The traffic analysis that accompanies the proposal is very limited in scope.
  • The retention of the Burrell carpark for – get this – 109 general parking spaces in addition to a new carpark, is fundamentally at odds with the goal of removing cars from the centre of the park. I think it should be Blue Badge/access only, or – conversely – the sole car park, with a rethought access arrangement.
  • Further, that usage/modelling necessitates construction of a new road in the park (ie. to support two-way traffic). If they didn’t have as much use being made, it wouldn’t have to be two way, and it could perhaps be widened more sympathetically to allow passing of limited access traffic.
  • Much of the modelling/driving for a separate entrance was because of tourist traffic, ie. buses etc coming to the park, that couldn’t get under the Pollokshaws road bridge. With Coronavirus, much of this premise is up in the air.
  • That the above really just suggests they reassess their assumptions, certainly the analysis, before they start digging up the park.

Lots more in my draft. It is lengthy, but it feels reasonably coherent and – as much as it can be – to-the-point. I do have sympathy for the planning department, and want to try and be reasonable and help them reflect it up to the people (councillors) making the decision.

Plus they’ve published hundreds and hundreds of pages of supporting documents, they have to expect long, detailed responses.

I doubt it’ll make any difference to the inevitable decision: it feels like this has political weight behind it. Whilst I have clearly reservations, if it got built mostly as-is (with a few pragmatic shifts), I’d not be tying myself to a tree.

I ultimately think they had some tough decisions, but bent in a different direction than they could have if they’d not ruled things out earlier on.

I will be reaching out to my elected representatives for some of the implications to request they make representations of their own, not least I think the proposal is basing itself on an inadequate traffic analysis and outdated likely visitor modelling.

Hope it’s of use.

Other feedbacks I’m aware of that may be helpful if you’re of a similar mindset:

A thing what I made

A few weeks ago I was getting a touch nervous about how to chair my running club’s first ever Virtual AGM.

I was casting around for ideas and inspiration when I read this fortuitous tweet by my friend shardcore, who had found himself in a similar(ish) position giving a first ever virtual talk. He then posted a follow-up that put me on to this superb ‘tiny talk’ by Marcus John Henry Brown on Virtual Keynotes.

Now I don’t really consider myself to be a creative person, but the ‘tiny talk’ triggered a few ideas and just enough up-front confidence to think I could manage something, so I roughed out a rough ‘screenplay’, which miraculously didn’t get shot down by the people I discretely talked to about the idea.

I was set too on rounding it off with a ‘highlights reel’ to try and capture some of abundant positivity the club had developed during the lockdown to support each other – and me. There were lots of great contributions that I wanted to reflect, and in a way that felt a bit special.

So I set about recording a rough-cut, then a second ‘proper’ version, as well as a handful of video inserts plus the featured interview.

It took far longer than I’d anticipated, not least it turns out I’m absolutely terrible at remembering lines, and even when I remember them, speaking them CLEARLY. It’s much, much harder than Marcus John Henry Brown makes it look in his excellent youtube videos. I have a new found respect for every. actor. ever.

I also discovered just much time you can spend editing: That tantalising quest for the ‘perfect’ version that is surely, surely, just around the corner.

All difficult and time consuming, for sure, but I’m pleased – if still a touch nervous – with the result.

Whilst Chairing the AGM in which it featured, I confess I spent most of time my video was playing (all the sections so very familiar to me) with my head in my hands, nervously glancing at the 2nd laptop, showing the gallery of attendees’ delayed reactions to what was playing on my computer.

Were they staring in horror, or were they enjoying it? Oh good grief, was it buffering?, was it blocky, did that joke actually work, did it skip a bit, or – dare I imagine it – was it actually ok?

It was, it seems, actually ok. Some lovely words and comments received.

I suppose at this point I should let you judge for yourself:

A few technical notes: We used Zoom for the main meeting, streaming it over to Youtube (a full livestream of the AGM is available if you’re really, really curious). I used my iMac (recently with an external SSD to make it usable again) and iMovie to edit (and edit, and edit, and edit) the videos. I’ve a Blue Snowball Ice for sound.

The lack of feedback during the ‘broadcast’ was the hardest part. I’m definitely with shardcore here. No eye contact from the audience (or deliberate avoidance of such!) to indicate how well/terribly something was received. No chuckles, or even awkward silences to give you a steer.

This was just as true for the role of Chair too. 90 minutes in total, trying to move it through the agenda to keep it punchy, reflect comments, and give answers. Trying (entirely unsuccessfully) not to ummm. Oh good grief, do I ummm a lot.

A co-host – in our case fellow Trustee Emer – was invaluable to manage the meeting. With 60 or so attendees, too much going on otherwise (in my own head, and in the meeting). Plus I’d somehow lost the gallery view of attendees on my desktop, so was utterly terrified of destroying the call, if I pressed the wrong button.

As a digression, I believe strongly in open Governance: I think it’s important to see how decisions are made by organisations. To allow its membership to feel involved, and to lower the barriers to their engagement with it.

Governance really doesn’t have to be boring and monochrome. It can be engaging, enjoyable, informative, colourful and fun too.

I hope some of that comes through. You can find a summary of the AGM outcomes on the club news page.

I hope it all serves to make the club – a charity after all – stronger as a result, and I’m certain we’ll be using more virtual elements in future.

I’ve learnt a lot too. Plenty of technical elements, skills and tools, but unexpectedly about myself. Focusing on what I wanted to communicate, and how, but also on what mattered most to me.

All said, a fun and valuable experience. It’s perhaps helped draw a line under a strange few months, and I helped garner a bit more confidence about being a bit more when giving talking in public.

FWIW here’s the musical montage I put together separately. That track is going to resonate with me for a long while:

Planning permissions, and the ownership of a small section of Bellahouston park

Earlier this week, I became aware of a planning application adjacent to Bellahouston park, a large park on the south-side of Glasgow. The application was to turn a disused building (formally restaurant) into a nursery. I tweeted about it quite extensively (thread), and thought I’d try and bring it together/summarise.

I’ve had very little experience with the planning system, so I was a bit perplexed to see included in its scope some land, adjacent to the property, that is not in its deeds. The applicant had simply incorporated this land, which they did not appear to own or have rights to, in the proposals.

It turns out this is something that is legal, and can and does happen: There’s apparently nothing stopping anybody applying for permission on any land they like.

The question of course is, why would you? You as the applicant go through a costly process only to give – if it is granted – the owner of the land some permission they didn’t have before. Unless you’ve already agreed some terms, you’re increasing the hand of the land owner you presumably want to agree something with. It’d surely be entirely counter-productive to do this.

I therefore got to trying to understand the only possible scenarios: whether it was a misjudgement by the applicant; whether they actually had an agreement in place; or if I had completely misunderstood something.

Just to briefly cover the application itself, before returning to terms of let and deeds: It is hugely flawed. As well as a creating a private car park on adjacent land that is public parkland, it also proposes creation of an access road to service the carpark, utilising a nearby predominantly pedestrian entrance area to the park. Whilst this entrance had some limited car usage (for an adjacent property), it would have been a major uptick in volume, as well as introducing all manner of traffic flow issues into the Palace of Art, and – of course – the park itself. Naturally I’ve objected to the proposal, and have encouraged others to do so too.

To return to the question of rights of ownership, reading the documents in the submission, it seemed that the applicant had a conversation with Glasgow Life. To quote:

The location of this proposed parking area was suggested by Glasgow Life, the owners of the site, at a meeting on site who considered that a car park in this location could best serve the proposed facility

Extract from applicants supporting statements on planning reference 20/00106/FUL

This seems odd. Glasgow Life are the arms-length, council-controlled charity that manages various facilities on the councils behalf. But it does not own the land. A quick look at the 2018-19 annual accounts, where on page 19 they even state this themselves:

All buildings operated by the charity are leased from Glasgow City Council for a peppercorn rental.

Culture and Sport Glasgow (trading as Glasgow Life), Report and Group Financial Statements, Year Ended 31 March 2019

A look at the ScotLIS registration (GLA195297) for the Palace of Art confirms this to show it’s a Tenancy interest. It’s interesting that the existing car park is not included in the public deeds, further evidence that it’s council/public land there too. It’s certainly not Glasgow Life’s.

So, the applicant misunderstood the organisation who owns the land. But I still couldn’t get my head around why they would even apply for this permission on this land, without some form of justification. If they didn’t currently own it, might they have some tacit understanding with somebody about it?

Given I am confident it is the council’s land to manage (on behalf of the residents of Glasgow), I wrote to my elected ward councillors (who also cover the location in question) via the excellent, in relation to this planning application’s inclusion of this land:

I would request your assistance in understanding whether this is: a) simply an overreach or misunderstanding on the part of the applicant (which should surely therefore be grounds for outright refusal); b) whether there has been a transfer of deeds or rights in relation to this part of the park not reflected in the public records, or c) some suggestion or agreement this may or is likely to occur post-application.

email to ward councillors

I received the following admirably prompt response, via two of the four councillors, quoting an officer at Development and Regeneration Services:

“1. The area of land to the south of the site between the existing Class 3 and The Palace Of Art has been included within the red line boundary of the planning application by the applicants agent. According to the submitted planning application the applicant has owner notified Glasgow Life, 38 Albion Street, G1 1LH as part owner of the site. Any queries with regards to any potential Transfer of Deeds would require to be directed to Glasgow Life. This information is not available to Development And Regeneration Services”

Development and Regeneration Services officer response

Concisely, that’s “The applicant included it for some reason. They’ve notified Glasgow Life. Talk to Glasgow Life about transfer of deeds. We don’t have any information.”

For reasons outlined above, I question this response. This is not Glasgow Life land. So, whilst I’m anxious I may rapidly be turning in to “the sort of person who writes long letters to councillors and newspapers“, I replied with the following clarification request:

Alas I have a further question raised by the response: Glasgow Life does not own the land or buildings. It is, itself, a tenant. They state this in their most recent Annual Report (page 19, Leases “All buildings operated by the charity are leased from Glasgow City Council for a peppercorn rental.”). A tenancy arrangement is also recorded on the Palace of Art ScotLIS ref. GLA195297.

It is surely therefore, for Glasgow City Council, on behalf of the people of Glasgow, to discuss and manage leases, lets and transfers of right of this part of Bellahouston Park, not Glasgow Life as the officer suggests.

I feel my query – whether any lease, let or transfer has been discussed or entered in to in relation to this plot of land – remains unanswered and will not be served by addressing it to Glasgow Life. I am a touch concerned the responsibility for said lets, leases or transfers is not clear. I would therefore appreciate your assistance in clarifying this point, or correcting my understanding if I have misunderstood some element.

Email to councillors

So, to wrap this all up, just now the situation is:

  • A private planning application was submitted, covering a part of public land that an applicant does not own.
  • That this application is deeply flawed in its assumptions of getting rights of way over public land, to the detriment of park users. But also in its analysis and proposal (very little detail about proposed construction methods, or impacts)
  • That creating a private car park on public land would (I suggest) fly entirely counter to a great many park, council and government planning policies relating to retention and enhancement of green spaces (eg. CDP6/IPG6, PAV65)
  • But additionally I was concerned the applicant has perhaps been given some indication that they may have, or get, some lease or let. Otherwise, why would they even apply for this permission?
  • So I wanted to understand if that had happened, or some suggestion given (by some part of the council) that it would or could happen.
  • So I wrote to councillors, who contacted council officers.
  • Council officers replied suggesting Glasgow Life should be contacted in relation to the deeds
  • When such matters are not the responsibility of Glasgow Life, as they are a tenant to the council.
  • So I have asked the councillors who responded (and may be regretting doing so) to find out who is ultimately responsible for this patch of land.

The simplest explanation is still “the applicant simply made a mistake”. It fits with the overall application being poorly considered or advised, and just getting the wrong end of the stick during a site visit with somebody.

But I still struggle to completely shake the prospect of some agreement or suggestion being given, or Glasgow Life/City Council operating under some premise I don’t understand. So I’d be grateful if somebody was able to explain if the terms of lease to an organisation like Glasgow Life could include, or grant the right, to allow them to let the land they for such purposes?

If so, how could we find that information out? My wife has submitted a FOI request to try and and chase down if there have been any council discussions around this. Other ideas/corrections welcome.

Will be updating this as I go. Also on twitter on this rather involved thread. Unpicking the thread was the reason for this post, but expect I’ll continue to update both.

Original twitter thread

2018 Press coverage

A lot happened at the tail end of last year with the 10th anniversary of parkrun in Scotland, and I realised it wasn’t reflected here.

Interviews are both fun and terrifying. Fun, because it’s great to see things you care about getting coverage; terrifying because that filter process your words go through when a journalist reports them always feel a bit… odd.

A couple of prominent articles linked below. It’s fun seeing your name in lights, but I’m delighted there’s strong recognition of the people who were instrumental in getting parkrun off the ground in Scotland, and have helped make it a success over the years.

BBC – Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun

Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun – a nice wee piece, and a great photograph. Great coverage too of Liz Corbett, who took over as Event Director at Pollok, but now does so much as Scotland regional ambassador to develop parkrun here in Scotland.

I was keen to get my running club, Bellahouston Road Runners, a bit of a plug. Ideas, particularly slightly risky ones like starting a weekly 5k, take time to gestate and you need confidence you’re not entirely mad. Club runs with club colleagues where I muttered away about a “Pollok Park Time Trial”, and them not telling me it was a silly idea, were hugely helpful.

In the space I have here, I’d also add a note about Fetcheveryone – in a pre-facebook day, this was perhaps the main running UK social network, and there was lots of interest, and volunteer offers, there too.

Evening Times – Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5K phenomenon

Making the front page of the 28th December 2018 edition of the Evening Times came as a real surprise: we’d thought, at best, it’d be a bit of filler in the newspaper, but to see club members on our ‘subway run’ feature prominently on the front page was just brilliant.

It’s a great piece too: Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5k phenomenon

I remember talking to Catriona Stewart on the phone during a break at work at the BBC: she was brilliantly supportive of my nerves. It was an absolute delight to read her most recent article, and her recent (November 2019) twitter thread about her experiences at Glasgow’s newest (7th!) edition, the amazing Queen’s parkrun, Glasgow

Seeing parkrun events developing and reaching people 11 years later just shows what an amazing setup a free, weekly, 5k timed run anybody can take part in is brilliant. Looking forward to the next few years.

Wikipedia experiences

In November 2019, I made an attempt to start a Wikipedia page on Glasgow Life, the Glasgow City Council arms-length charity that operates the cultural, sports, library and community facilities in the city.

I did this because I had spent a fair amount of time researching some aspects of decisions relating to investments and decisions in a nearby park and leisure facility, and wanted to put some of the information I’d gathered somewhere public, in the hope it’d be useful to others.

Alas I ran headfirst into the slightly frustrating part of Wikipedia of opaque and obtuse policies, and slightly overzealous editors. My initial attempt was swiftly deleted (“Unambiguous advertising”). You can read the detail, and my technical response to it, on my Wikipedia talk page.

Whilst I know that wikipedia editors face a barrage of challenges, from defacement to advertising, and much else, I really can’t help but feel the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater here.

So I made second attempt, but that was – I felt – watered down to the point of uselessness, with a continued vague suspicion on the part of the editor who’d taken a look that I simply must work for the organisation, rather than simply be a geekily enthusiastic and motivated Glasgow resident/taxpayer about ensuring wider dissemination of the organisation, and its decision making. It’s an important quango with an annual budget of around £120m

So my ‘full’ article is available on the Draft history here, but I suspect if I don’t get the piece published (it’s still rejected), it’ll probably get deleted. So I’ve added a page on my website here with a copy of the article. It’s accessible at:

I tweeted about the experience as it happened, which does a good job of relaying the frustration I felt with the process. The thread is below.

NB. I realised subsequently it wasn’t actually my first wikipedia article. That was actually a 2005 article on Glasgow Fair. My wikipedia user id is rleyton, and I’d of course welcome any motivated Wikipedia editors to help give me a hand bringing a fuller Glasgow Life article together.

Why the 9:30am start time for parkrun in Scotland?

I get asked a few questions quite regularly about parkrun in Scotland. One of the main ones is “Why the 9.30am start?“, and it certainly came up in many of the lovely chats I had with people about the course today. It’s also probably the main difference for parkrun in Scotland (and the island of Ireland) compared to the England and Wales.

So, there are two reasons for the 9.30am start time at Glasgow, now Pollok parkrun, which was the first parkrun in Scotland.

Firstly, well, Pollok park is a tree lined park. I was looking to do setup at about 7.30am – cycling from home and putting the signs up (always the reverse of route), before returning to collect my car with the kit (we eventually needed a few traffic cones for our finish area, and they’re heavy).

I went back through my emails to Chris Wright, the first employee of UKTT (now parkrun), who provided critical logistical and moral support in getting us, and many other events, off the ground. I wrote this on 10th October, 2008, as permissions came together and we needed to start planning the detail of the event:

We’re actually considering a later 9.30am start simply because the sun rises 40 minutes later here in the depths of December. Add the heavy tree cover in some parts of Pollok Park, as well as the gorgeous Glasgow weather, we’d been thinking it’d make sense to set a slightly later start time, at least in the winter months. But there’s an argument (for sheer simplicity) to stick to one time all year round.

Chris responded:

Re start time, there is something to be said for a regular start time throughout the year so I’d be tempted to make it 9.30 throughout the year, but it really depends how busy the park gets during summer at about 10.30. I’d say start with it at 9.30 and keep it under review.  If you later decide to say Winter 9:30 GMT, Summer 9:00 BST then that’s always an option.

It was always at the back of my mind how much darker it’d be for any time trial/parkrun that started further north, if another community ever wanted one. I’d not visited anywhere much further north in the winter at that point, but I had a rough idea after a few winters in Glasgow just how dark it can get/feel in the depths of December. I’d also less awareness of what other city parks were like at the time, so figured they’d be at least as dark and foreboding, and fiddly to setup, as Pollok’s North Wood.

Secondly, the proposed event was to take place in the North Wood of Pollok park, which is just behind the Burrell collection, so there was a perfect post-run coffee venue to hand. But it opened at 10am. I was very worried about how – or even if – the community/atmosphere of the events I’d enjoyed (Bushy park time trial (now Bushy parkrun), and Richmond park time trial (now Richmond parkrun)) would develop if we had a 9am start, with most runners finishing about 30 minutes before the cafe opened. They’d simply go home rather than hang about. So, we’d have no easy post-run natter spot, and the event wouldn’t flourish. We’d then struggle for volunteers. It’d be hard work.

So, a 9.30am start would fit perfectly with the venue schedule, and would help foster the community.

It’s just important – certainly after parkrun grew beyond the 10 UK events it had at the end of 2008 – to remind Scots travelling south so that they don’t miss the local parkrun. Tourists who visit Scotland over the summer, or people who catch national publicity, do sometimes arrive for an earlier start. Alas the difference in start times doesn’t get spotted (assuming it’s stated!).

But that’s it really. We stuck with it, and didn’t really ever consider revisiting it. Dark parks in winter, and the need for coffee and cake, that was important to build the community, and it all just fitted. It felt right, and works well with other park venue opening times around Scotland.

Pictures from the inaugural Scottish/Glasgow parkrun

As flickr seems to be about to kill off its free service (at least in a way that is useful to me), I figured it was time to move the pictures I have from the first Glasgow/Scottish parkrun, somewhere else

The full set of pictures are available via this shared album link to Google Photos. A selection of my favourites[1] below.

Pictures were taken by Paul Flood. Alas Paul was the first Scot to discover that taking pictures of fast moving runners, in a tree lined park, was a lot trickier than we expected. It was also very cold.


[1] – By favourite, I mean representative of the event[2] and my memories. I cringe a bit at me-in-the-orange-vest
[2] – A couple are from after the first event (The C3 car and Burrell picture). Let’s call it artistic license.

Revisiting the early history of Glasgow parkrun


I’ve been doing some work recently to gather my various notes and thoughts together about the start of parkrun in Glasgow and Scotland.

In the pre-social media days, I used to maintain this website as a full on blog. Alas it got to become a bit too onerous, and I took it offline around 2011. Whilst it’s back again in this form, I always knew I’d want to pull some of the old content through again at some point.

I posted them as a series of tweets, which are available as a Twitter moment here:

Picture by Paul Flood, used with permission.