Leonard’s gone!


Photo courtesy of John Wilderspin

New arch rival at Cambridge parkrun! Unusually, I’m running and smiling as we we approach the finish line and we come in within a second of each other. Cambridge has the good fortune to have a consistent photographer in John Wilderspin (for example, this week he’s put up 400+ images). There’s something confirming about a personal running picture even if it’s not flattering. There’s always the next one!

Running’s not very complicated at the moment. I’m tending to go for short 2 mile runs 3-4 times a week and 5k parkrun on Saturdays. Unfortunately, I’m not finding last year’s form at all but on the plus side I have the pleasant delusion that I am faster than ever. There’s a satisfying feeling of speed despite my stupid watch telling a different story. Possibly I’m running so fast, I’ve gone back in time. I know Superman can reverse time by flying around the Earth multiple times faster than the speed of light (I stand to be corrected on this with reference to the specific DC Superman comic). But then again, I know in my heart of hearts, being given a parkrun token with place number 172  emblazoned on the plastic coating is not compatible with magical running powers.

Talking of magic, I read a very enjoyable review of Elf Queens and Holy Friars :Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church by Richard Firth Green, £36. (London Review of Books : don’t worry, non London people, you too can have access to this literary mag). Widespread belief in fairies and mythical creatures meant they were given responsibility for all manner of unfortunate occurrences and circumstances and their influence waned slowly as society became more rational. Even today many people still believe in evil fairies and a malevalent Fairyland, chiefly UKIP voters and Daily Mail Readers.

Leonard Cohen’s death is a very sad event. He’s been a cultural and emotional part ofmy life since I was a teenager in the 1960s, listening to his first album in our 6th form common room. Drone, drone, drone. Powerful songs expressing adolescent feelings and a wonderful backdrop to growing up, reading Krisharmerti, Kafka, Hesse, Mervyn Peake, Oz, the International Times, walking the streets of London and seeing the best bands in London.

Aliveandrunning October 30 2014


This is Rupert. He’s a dalmatian. It’s a little known fact that dalmatians’ spots have the ability to change their position overnight. Sometimes they align themselves so he looks more like a zebra than a dog. He has a number of habits, one of which is particularly disconcerting. If I meet other dog walkers and we stop for  a chat in the field, he may well cock his leg up against you and pee. Generally this is hilarious unless you have the misfortune to be the recipient of his largesse. It may take several seconds for you to realise what’s going on and to react promptly ie jump out of the way. I’m considering teaching him to do it on command to people who annoy me.

Not much running going on this week. Following a jaunt to south west London on the weekend, I went down with a heavy cold. In the olden days I would have found the strength to continue running, at least for shorter distances, but now I am Mr Sensible of Cambridge. No runs for a week now. I’ll do a 5k parkrun tomorrow and I’ve got a 10k race on Sunday. If parkrun is a struggle, I won’t do the Sunday race. I’ll still go along and take some pics because us runners love to see ourselves in action.

It’s very dispiriting when the Government and the Great British Public, in the pre-election period, work hand in hand to reach out to the electorate’s  lowest common denominator. There’s clearly an insatiable need to condemn, demonise, vilify and hold in contempt those in society who have the least or whose life chances have been destroyed or sabotaged at a very early stage. At the moment politicians are falling over themselves to articulate in reasonable terms the cruelest of policies. Here’s an excellent example of a scandalous disregard for the value of human life. When the new Foreign Office minister Lady Anelay gave a written answer in the House of Lords at the beginning of the week she announced that our Government would not be supporting future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean (designed to save drowning, abandoned, sinking illegal migrants escaping to Europe). They die in large numbers already despite rescue services but the British government feels such humanitarian acts serve only to encourage migrants to make the dangerous crossing. http://bit.ly/1tGscI7

Of course, this absence of humanity will be applauded by large numbers of UKIP voters, Tories and right wingers in general who will accept the logic behind the statement and want other swingeing cuts to go further, either aimed at immigrants or benefit claimants. But they won’t take this logic and apply it elsewhere because it would be election suicide. What about stopping treatment of liver disease, obesity, lung cancer,and  heart disease  for drinkers, over eaters, smokers and non exercisers respectively on the grounds that this medical safety net only encourages them and others to continue their damaging habits. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are the parasitical  class (again). So much for empathy and Christian values!

The travails of the Naked Rambler continue! Stephen Gough has long believed it should be a given human right to walk around naked in public. To this end he has walked the length and breadth of the UK naked and has been prosecuted and imprisoned on numerous occasions. In fact he has spent a lot of time in prison because he’s in frequent contempt of court (he simply continues to walk naked as soon as he leaves prison).   http://gu.com/p/42zcp This is just nakedness. It’s not sexual, exhibitionist or threatening. Just unusual. Prison is is cruel option to a non problem. The UKIP/Tory perspective? He’s only got himself to blame. If you let him get away with it, everybody will be at it! If only. 

Aliveandrunning May 22 2014


This is a little game we are playing at the moment. The above  door is in frequent use. How long can we enjoy fecund nature (yes, fecund is a word that’s constantly on our tongues) before sheer necessity requires us to cut back to gain access? Probably quite long, actually. I can see us crawling through on our hands and knees in about a month’s time. That’s how ridiculous we are prepared to get!

I’ve cut down on running this week following tiredness due, almost certainly, to over training last week. I ran with the club 3 days ago and I’ll do Cambridge parkrun tomorrow but essentially I’m recovering. At present I’m feeling slightly listless. I had a haircut recently and I think my shorn locks weakened me further ( my stamina and strength was highest when my hair was long in the late sixties). Age shall not weary me but, as Samson found out, a haircut will! Just recently, someone commented that watching me run reminded them of the highly efficient T-1000 liquid metal shape shifting Terminator as he tries to catch nice Arnie driving away from the psychiatric facility with John Connor and his mum.

The club road running group did a Ik time trial then 4 further Iks. There were around 50 of us, split into 4 groups according to speed. I enjoy these !k distances. Yet again I made an effort to be more sociable and chat to people I don’t know. I’m still fighting an urge to run alone, to be the outsider, the maverick, the mysterious Runner With No Name like Clint in the Dollar films (minus the cigarillo for health reasons, of course).

Interesting BBC Radio 4 programme on May 20 called Personality Politics. The central idea was the contention that the brain is hardwired for political preferences. Our instinctive responses to danger, contamination etc may be exaggerated and over reactive and this might find expression in a correlation between political beliefs and our innate feelings of fear, disgust and threat. People who are socially conservative tend to emphasise punishment of transgressors, want protection from immigration, oppose abortion and gay marriage, have a stronger reaction to disgusting images and pay more attention to them. Conservative people are more focused on their personal feelings and more liberal people on the outside world. Apparently different parts of the brain are used corresponding to political preferences.

I can easily accept that particular beliefs and resultant feelings can activate different parts of the brain as an effect of those beliefs but not as a genetically hardwired cause. I think our early experiences, in the main, determine our degree of empathy, moral development and our response to difference and change. Disparities in brain functioning  would then follow the different beliefs and feelings as a result of those experiences, not the other way round. My head hurts now. I’m going to bed. Night night.