Autumnal running and America on the brink

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Photo courtesy of John Wilderspin

Cambridge parkrun on November 5th. Chilly so I wore two running tops and tracksters. The following day I ran the  Bonfire Burn 10k at Histon. Four years ago this race took place in the worst weather I had ever run in. It was very cold, raining and windy. The race was delayed and I was underdressed. I couldn’t get comfortably warm until two thirds of the race was completed and I seriously considered abandoning it half way through. So yesterday, with rain forecast and low temperatures, I took no chances. Two running tops and a heavy duty cycling jacket, super efficient gloves, tracksters and a hat in a sidepocket just in case. Toasty warm before I started, I marvelled at the large numbers of men in shorts and singlets shiveringing the wind. Of course the sun came out immediately, the wind died down, the temperature went up and no rain materialised. It proved to be a lovely day for running in the Autumn sun in shorts and short sleeved top! No matter, I don’t mind running hot, either in winter or summer and the Bonfire Burn weather is always hard to predict. Better hot than cold!

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Post run amble to Milton Country Park cafe for coffee. Nicely coordinated with our colours, aren’t we. This is no coincidence, of course. We spend an hour before parkrun frantically Skyping until we get it just right and everyone is in agreement with our kit. It’s not easy being a runner!

OMG! It’s the horror of the American election. Please let sanity prevail. The spectacle of millions of Americans voting for a not so thinly disguised fascist who openly insults, abuses, belittles or intimidates those opposed to his beliefs or approach is truly disturbing. Trump’s politics demonstrate, not so much that you can fool most of the people most of the time but rather by demonising groups or individuals and overtly pandering to the dispossessed and economically left behind, you can easily incite their capacity for cruelty, absolute self interest and collective denial. So, despite camera recorded appalling behaviour and views over a long period of time, Trump’s supporters continue to instance his ability to speak plainly, take on vested interests and make America great again. Tonight, in one of his last speeches, the billionaire Trump asserted he was the champion of the working classes. This reminded me of the Tories and their Labour speak out doing the Labour Party in their concern for the working man. Trump appeals to the credulous and those lacking empathy, who want to rise again at the expense of others. Please American voters, don’t let him become 45th President of the United States of America.

 

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Janathon Day 9 We’re gonna be famous for 15 seconds!

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A very enjoyable Cambridge parkrun this morning. We had a record 504 runners and BBC Look East came along and filmed the whole proceedings. This picture shows our mate Kerry (who ran his 100th today) being interviewed by Jonathan Park. Kerry’s standing by a supply of cakes and a photo montage of Kerry centred pictures. Just out of shot is a couple of hundred drooling runners being held back by volunteers and gagging to devour the confectionery.

The run was very muddy, as anticipated, but the weather held. No rain and surprisingly mild. The camera man and interviewer Jonathan (who also ran) were very friendly and to blended in comfortably with everyone. They appeared to take possibly ninety minutes of film which might be edited down to a few minute or less. We’ll know on Monday evening when it’s scheduled to air. Hopefully it won’t feature me running with my mouth open and looking as if I’m about to collapse (my default appearance).

We tend to mark 50th, 100th and 250th runs as well as significant parkrun dates, and birthdays, with cakes at Cambridge. We also tend to take a lot of photos. Are we narcissistic? Obviously! Do the majority of other parkruns do this? Hopefully!

After the run we queued in the cafe and then enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee to further reward ourselves in good company. Next week, we’re off to Wimpole parkrun (cancelled today because of water logging)to celebrate their 3rd anniversary. For more of the same.

Perusing my wood pulp hard copy edition of that middle class, bleeding heart liberal, wooly, comfortable, arm chair lefty Guardian newspaper, I came across  an article :

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/08/church-of-england-fears-talks-on-gay-rights-could-end-global-anglican-communion

It discusses the high degree of likelihood of continuing fundamental disagreement in the world wide Anglican communion over gay rights and same sex marriage. As a humanist, I can only continue to marvel at the intrinsic lack of humanity, wilful ignorance and vicious, self serving prejudice in an organisation whose mission statement has something to say about love, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. And there you have it! It doesn’t say that sexuality is on a spectrum, varies within that spectrum for many of us and is often a biological imperative. So centuries old prejudices and sexual fears and anxieties are maintained and justified supernaturally. The church, with the clear conscience of the self righteous, can condemn and preside over the persecution of anyone outside of their definition of God approved sexuality. I think it would be more useful to return to the old, less cruel practice of estimating the number of angels who could stand on the head of a pin!

Sermon over.

I think these summit delegates would benefit from going for a 5k run before they begin to pontificate.

Into 2016 with 3 parkruns in 2 days

 

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Boxing day Cambridge parkrun. It’s all over and we are forced to eat rather rich brownies to celebrate Pauline’s and Linda’s joint 200th runs. I’m on the brink of falling asleep, my daughter Isobelle  has fallen asleep and my son Dan is thinking about it. Young Angus, who has just completed his 100th run, is about to puke!

We look unscathed but it was a very muddy race (sorry, I mean run. It’s important to maintain this fiction apparently). Slow times all round, thanks to the gloop but it feels good crashing through the puddles. I had a quick word with pal James, 65-69 category, who had a heart attack earlier this year. His new consultant is concerned about his low heart beat because it  fell to 36/37 per min during tests. Hitherto he was doing 5k in 20 minutes. We wondered if everyone was put on the same NICE medication guidelines for post myocardial infarction. One size fits all, it seems.

Locally, we’ve got two parkruns, 90 minutes apart, on New Year’s Day (with a bit of travelling, it’s manageable for everyone)) and our own at Cambridge the following day. We’ll be doing all three plus a New Year’s Eve 10k at Ely. This will help me get back to running fitness, hopefully.

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A few books that strong armed their way into my life recently. I’m trying to read Dead Scared, a crime novel set in Cambridge but NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman has taken over. It’s essentially about the history of autism and society’s mainly poor response to the condition. Very readable and very humane. Before that, I part read  Adult Bullying. It’s not a pretty picture! I had to suppress thoughts of buying a Taser Gun (again).

We Go To the Gallery by Miriam Elia is a very clever parody of the Ladybird reading scheme. It’s hilarious although the mildly rude bits could cause offence to people who trip over themselves to be offended. That’s not fair! I accept the oldest generation might find it vulgar and in poor taste but as for the rest? Tough titties! Ladybird Books took great exception to the breach of of copyright but it didn’t stop them publishing a number of spoof copycat titles inspired by We Go To The Gallery.

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Here’s one I made earlier. I do like to make a loose wreath at Christmas. It’s so mild in Eastern England this winter, the daffodils are out two months early and some roses are still in bloom. All the hellebores are in flower.

 

100th parkrun celebration. Runners not dressing down!

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Lorna’s and Michelle’s joint 100th parkrun (Lorna in red and Michelle in multi colour tutu. Various wings were worn and a lot of talking undertaken during the run. Coffee, tea and cake in the cafe afterwards. All very enjoyable. I was surrounded by running ladeeees and had to watch my P and Qs (an English expression meaning “mind your manners”, “mind your language”, “be on your best behaviour”. It’s not easy, I can tell you! I have to suppress the urge to be ridiculous at the best of times. It’s an ongoing battle since most of the time I think that’s a legitimate response.

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Cambridge parkrun was attended by a rhinoceros seen here menacing two fairies who have become detached from the magical community. No clever comment offered here. See how grown up I am?

Parkrun was a bit of a no score draw for me. I’m still 90 seconds down on my usual times and yesterday I felt tired. Today I went for a nine mile run and felt much better. I borrowed Lorna’s Garmin and clocked exactly 9 minutes a mile as an average. I wasn’t pushing hard and I felt quite relaxed. The problem running with heart disease is the medication (bisoprolol and Ramipril) acts as limiter on the amount of effort the heart can undertake. In practice the difference between running comfortably and running to capacity is rather small ie I don’t run much faster when I put in maximum effort.

The attack by a knife wielding man at Leytonstone Underground station yesterday who apparently shouted “This is for Syria” as he stabbed and assaulted a random person (presumably) and threatened others before he was Tasered and subdued by police, was a disturbing and frightening incident. The police are regarding it as a terrorist act, provisionally, but I note that BBC reporters included the possibility of his behaviour resulting from mental ill health. His physical movements and manner certainly gave that impression.

Since a high percentage of people regard themselves as citizen reporters and can easily video scenarios played out before them and share via social media, we can all enjoy the unfolding drama with detachment and  the safety of distance. Over and over again as with this incident. We can also see how bystanders, or people passing, act. This ranges from running off in terror to standing gawping or even walking over closer as if the danger was occurring on a screen. If news isn’t accompanied by explicit film or images, it loses its impact compared with news that is.Video can be repeated endlessly and shamelessly, as it was with 9/11.

A large proportion of of news presentation, these days, is devoted entirely to exploiting our emotions. It’s cheap, voyeuristic and cynical. The police themselves are complicit in this approach and freely make available video of subsequently convicted suspects being questioned. They also permit the making of sycophantic TV programmes following traffic cops and docile fly on the wall documentaries about themselves. News has been receiving a substantial make over for several years. There’s less news, it’s dumbed down and it’s more likely to be presented as emotive entertainment. We can all feel sorrowful and pretend we care.

Must leave you now. Going to watch that emotionally uplifting Nordic noir TV crime prog, The Bridge.

 

 

Books, bookshops, a polytunnel, running, Tories scupper Humanity, an old door.

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The Oxfam bookshop in Durham, where we stayed, and a short train journey from Newcastle and the Great North Run. Second hand books on three floors. Lovely shop, huge selection of books but substantially more expensive than any other comparable shop.

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Oohh… look!  A load of orange Penguins and old Pelicans.

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I toyed with the idea of hiding in the shop overnight but decided against it. The sheer volume of all these pre-loved  books weighed heavily upon me. I didn’t want to risk overdosing on the written word.

Back to the running world. I’m doing a half marathon on the Wimpole Estate in 8 days and only started training for it 5 days ago. In those 5 days I’ve done two 10 mile runs without any problem and I’ll probably do another 10 or 11 mile run and a parkrun before the half. This should be adequate for me to get around the course without the pressure of going all out. It’s nicely undulating and mainly trail. The last time I ran it (2013) I came in at 1 hour 55 minutes. I anticipate 2 minutes longer this time.

I often run along the river Cam, which, depending on the time of the season, is littered with anglers. As a rule, they never acknowledge anyone passing and continue to stare vacantly into the water in the forlorn hope of catching a luckless fish. They are invariably alone and occasionally smoking. All appear to have a sense of humour bypass otherwise they would be continually laughing at the notion that fishing is a sport. Anyway, for the first time in 16 years of running by the river, one of the fishing people actually turned around, smiled and said hello. And then, to add to the sense of unreality, he made a comment expressing surprise that a group of young lads who just  passed us were not in school. I responded in kind and had to stop myself commenting that he wasn’t following accepted protocol governing angler/runner interaction. I ran on, light in heart, relishing our transgressive behaviour. If I see him again it’ll be my turn to take the initiative. I hope he hasn’t been cast out of the fishing world for unauthorised contact with a runner. Only joking (mildly).

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My polytunnel is up and running! This is Guy who masterminded the construction. Green Minds, my fledgling therapeutic gardening project is progressing very, very slowly. The actual site is being developed by friend and charity trustee, Rebecca and myself but referrals to Green Minds have yet to materialise. The timescale for things to happen is a lot longer than I had anticipated. It will happen, I’m sure, and I’m very grateful for generous financial and plant donations from friends Elaine and Robert.

This Guardian piece on the “downfall” of Cambridge’s Addenbrookes hospital is worth reading for its perspective on so called “failing” hospitals.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/22/cqc-jeremy-hunt-nhs-hit-squad-addenbrookes-hospital

Strangely enough, here’s another Guardian article, this time on the baleful nature of drug pricing. Beyond dismal. Sort it out Jeremy!http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/sep/23/uk-cancer-patients-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-expertsents-being-denied-drugs-due-to-inflated-prices-say-experts

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Finally, here’s a lovely old door, currently attached to Durham Cathedral. What’s behind it, God only knows!

Great North Run 2015 : Part 2

Abject apologies to the entire blogging world. I accidentally pressed “publish” instead of “save draft” yesterday. I failed to notice this until Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader’s media team contacted me and said Jeremy had commented that he was sure I wanted to say a bit more in this blog. He was right! Thanks Jeremy.

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The Great North Run in Newcastle last weekend. 47,000 runners gathered on a closed motorway and ran to South Shields on the coast 13.1 miles away. I wasn’t running but I was there as a spectator and supported Joe, my daughter’s boyfriend and a family friend, Sue and her friend Abi. Also spectating were Ms Alive and Running (Lorna) and Mike, Sue’s husband, previously an arch rival but now so fast even Mo would tremble at the mention of his name. A great race and a great atmosphere but not such a great transport system. We had huge difficulties getting back to Newcastle and my daughter Isobelle missed her connections back to London. Nevertheless it was a good running day, the weather could not have been better and the previous day we had a great meal with Joe’s lovely family who live in Newcastle.

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We stayed in Durham, a short distance from the magnificent Cathedral which dates from the eleventh century. A hauntingly beautiful building, a monument to religious worship and complete indifference for the human condition as lived at the time.

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We climbed to the top of the Tower which called for a great deal of effort. I didn’t feel any closer to God despite the spectacular views. A wonderful, spiritual building and a reflection of man’s hubris and vanity all in one. It’s full of male commemoration and eternal respect for the great and good but I didn’t see many  women represented. Am I being unfair, casting a twenty first century cultural eye over a medieval society? No, I’m not that kind of guy. Perhaps I over think these things. No, you don’t!  Yes, you do!

Out running with the club yesterday. We went over to the American Cemetery to do some hill work (you really have to seek out the hills around Cambridge). It was completely dark by the time we returned to the University athletics track. Some of us were wearing head torches which are very helpful if the beam is strong enough. I’m considering getting one. It will only be worthwhile if I start running in the evenings, of course, because if you wear them during daylight, people are not greatly impressed.

I’m happier with the club at the moment. They are trying very hard to introduce new training runs and are seeking feedback and runners’ views. This is good. I also feel they are considering slower runners’ needs which can be a difficult balance, on the road, when there is such a disparity of speeds.

So Jeremy Corbyn is the newly elected Labour Party leader. Despite all the media scorn and high level of spite from his own colleagues, despite the vicious condemnation from the political pundits and various stupid people, he won the contest overwhelmingly. There will be spin and compromise and economies with the stark truth but nothing like the degree of falsity and degradation of values under previous Labour regimes. It’s widely predicted Labour will be unelectable at the 2020 election. I don’t believe this.

Coming next on the blog………pictures of a bookshop (actually inside the bookshop as well) and old wooden doors. It’s that exciting.

RantRantRantRant…..probably not running enough !

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This Is a clever card on several levels. It encapsulates a British 1950’s sentiment of wholesome perfection, middleclass values and almost religious rapture. It identifies three modern activities which are associated with relaxation, fun or enjoyable self indulgence and, more darkly, a suggestion of medical treatment. And then reveals the existence of hidden and shocking aggression. Of course this description robs it of all humour which is recognisable instantly at first reading. Never mind! It still has the ring of truth if taken literally.

What it highlights is the common existence of feelings of passive aggression and an urge to exact physical retribution with no clear reason why. The right wing and gutter press are full of it with their emphasis on free loading benefit claimants, rhetoric against migrants, lukewarm belief or outright scepticism of asylum seekers and rubbishing as outmoded socialism, or trades union extremism, any policies which are designed  to benefit the majority rather than appeal to the personal gain of individuals. What you get with the evil Tories are clearly defined groups which purport to  threaten, steal, sponge or unfairly gain at the expense of ordinary hard working people, huge business subsidies and tax breaks to benefit their own class, and worthless but convincing reassurances like “The NHS is safe with us”.

Add to this the relatively recent vogue for extended news coverage of titillating emotionality (victims’ statements, views of neighbours expressing incredulity, people demonstrating extreme grief, shock or distress and highly charged press conferences), it’s all too easy to feel emotionally manipulated, diverted and  deceived. You think you are caring to feel upset but in reality it’s a passive, contrived experience which exploits both the grief stricken and the viewer. Not all the time but a lot of the time.

Thank God some great people have the capacity to keep it real. Dead pan humorous  real. Kanye West has just announced his bid for the 2020 American presidency thus giving a lie to the stereotypical view that Americans don’t get irony.

Not too much happening on the running front. Last week I went out with the club and we did a fartlek around Cambridge. I enjoyed it. The newer coaches are trying hard to be inclusive of all running abilities and I feel they are succeeding. It’s not easy to cater for fast runners in their teens, 20s and 30’s as well as slower people in their 60’s and coming up to 70. But the will is there. I think the key is two coaches per road running session so the less fast runners don’t feel neglected or a drag.

I marshalled at Cambridge parkrun on the weekend which I always find an education. My position allowed me to see the start of the race. Those lads at the very front are labouring under the misapprehension that parkrun is a race judging by their stance, concentration, and ability to filter out all extraneous distractions including encouragement as they hurtle around. At the other end of the spectrum are the runners struggling to improve despite carrying an awful lot of weight but wanting to succeed. And they are!

Jeremy Corbyn, prospective leader of the Labour Party has spoken about introducing women only carriages on some trains. I support this. I know this proposal has been roundly condemned by a sizeable proportion of talking heads but speaking on behalf of the male population, we really can’t be trusted to consistently behave ourselves appropriately. Everyday sexism and hormone inspired conduct is still rife. A compete indictment of male behaviour? Certainly.

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What’s this, then? C P Snow’s eleven novel sequence of novels,. Strangers and Brothers, Penguin editions published between 1962 and 1982 (not original published dates). Two missing but easily obtainable. I have read several of them decades ago but I will now read the entire sequence. They follow the life and career of Lewis Eliot from a provincial town in England to London lawyer, Cambridge don, wartime service in Whitehall, senior civil servant and finally retirement. The novels were published between 1940 and 1970. They encapsulate a previous age and culture which I find absorbing. Otherwise I wouldn’t be reading them, would I? The paperbacks are quite old and the pages are tanned. I think these aged Penguins are a marvel. Estimated time to completion : 2017. So many other things get in the way.