Cambridge half marathon next Sunday

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Not the most flattering picture of me running towards the finish line at Cambridge parkrun recently. But, on the positive side it does show me ahead of my arch rival Eric (in red). We are both running below par at the moment. I haven’t got a good excuse but Eric has. I hope he regains his previous level of running fitness and I hope I can keep up with him.

Part of my problem is I’m running less and going to the gym more. My all round fitness has probably increased but at the cost of running speed. Not that this matters, of course. Speed is a false god ect,etc. Nevermind, I should be okay for the half marathon although my long runs peaked several weeks ago. I’m also booked for the Swavesey 5 miler later this month, the Cambourne 10k in April and Wings for Life in May (starts off in central Cambridge and the idea is to outrun a celebrity in a car). This was very enjoyable last year. Did around 7000 take part? Very nicely organised.

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Oh dear! I seem to have taken up clay modelling. These are a couple of basic prototypes which are part finished. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot like this and hopefully with more finesse. Interestingly, it has prompted a newfound fascination with wire (the armature within) and wood textures (for the base).

I blame Kevin Spacey and the House of Cards series for Trump and his self serving, manpulative and fascist policies. We’re quietly working our way through th 50+ episodes on Netflix and there’s a fifth series starting in May. Kevin Spacey is excellent as the dangerous snake who becomes President and given that the series aired years before Trump was elected, there are some very eery parallels.  He’s currently (Kevin) spending billions on creating jobs to ensure popularity and has excluded critical elements of the press from attending White House briefings. I’m certain Trump has devoured this series and has adopted Spacey’s President Frank Underwood as a positive role model. God help America!

As I write, the House of Lords has just defeated the government over the rights of EU citizens. They’ve voted in favour of guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit. Wonderful. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the nasty Tories will be able to get a reversal at a later point. Arch nasty Tory Lord Norman Tebbit voted with his nasty party, of course and in his little Lord’s speech rhetorically asked why everyone was getting worked up over “foreigners.” This attitude sums up Tories in a nutshell!

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Top man sees red in print

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It’s Sigmund Freud, of course, smoking a cigar as usual. Is it symbolic? Well, as the top man said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar! That’s just his opinion. Certainly it must have contributed to, if not caused, his cancer of the jaw. Was he a runner? I doubt it. Missed out there then, didn’t he.

I’m trying to get my running back on track. Today’s parkrun was a reasonable time for me at the moment and tomorrow I’m running a five miler in Swavesey. There’s a half marathon going on at the same time but I’m not up to that distance at present. My ex arch rival, Mike, will  be doing the five miler and he’ll be around four minutes faster than me. Another rival, Kerry, will do the half. Having missed the recent Cambridge half due to illness, my next half will be the Flaming June, which unsurprisingly, is run in June. I’ve got various 10k races in the pipeline. Training with the club seems to have taken a backseat and I don’t think I’ve been out with them since I injured myself during the Wimpole half marathon last October.My enthusiasm for training in a group waxes and wanes and currently I still prefer to run alone.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has resigned over Osbourne’s Budgetary  cuts to to benefits received by people with disabilities alongside tax cuts for the richest. He stated that the cuts were “simply not fair, not right” and it was wrong to finance tax cuts for the better off by “taking money away” from those with disabilities. David Cameron professed himself to be “puzzled and disappointed.” George Osbourne is left with egg on his face. They’ve all got blood on their hands as far as I’m concerned. It’s more of a case when thieves fall out. Iain Duncan Smith is hardly a man with a conscience.

Nearly forgot. Did the Freud print at my print making class. It looks okay but the quality is poor. The point is that the more you practice the better you become and this is only a first try.

 

 

Cambridge half marathon a fortnight away, walking along the cam and those evil Tories again.

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A cold, sunny Sunday in Cambridge yesterday. Plenty of eights on the river powered by the gilded youth, loads of runners and cyclists to knock you flying, hordes of couples mooning  around (St. Valentine’s Day) and shoals of tourists shimmying from one photogenic setting to another (it can be such uphill work getting people to believe you’ve actually visited somewhere unless you are able to show evidence of yourself in a snap with relevant backdrop).

I’m a creature of habit when I go into Cambridge. I always go into WH Smith to look at the magazines and usually buy one or two, I often go into Heffers bookshop or Waterstones, walk around the market square and visit the second hand book stall and take photos on a particular bridge over the Cam. Out of preference, I like to have a nice coffee and a tuna and cucumber baguette in the marvelously anonymous Eat cafe and possibly wander around John Lewis, a rather civilised department store. I like to trip through the extensive cosmetics area in a vain attempt to identify any of the sales operatives who have abstained from caking themselves in their own products. They are always immaculately turned out and attractive but wearing no or minimal makeup doesn’t appear to be an option. Are they contractually obliged to over do it?

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These grand and beautiful trees are on Jesus Green. How lucky are we?

Cambridge half marathon is only two weeks away. I haven’t done the training I would like to do because other things have got in the way. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that despite not having put the mileage in, my overall level of fitness enables me to step up quickly to do 13 miles. It’s speed that suffers, of course, but if speed is your objective you are following a false god! The very shallowness of the concept of speed! Does anyone really care about this over valued aspect of running? I rather like these fall back arguments when you’re getting slower and slower.

Anyway, I did 13 miles today and 9 miles a week ago plus a 5 miler and a parkrun since the beginning of the month. I might do two more parkruns and a couple of long runs up to 10 miles and that will be that.

A government task force has published a report, A Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which is very critical of the state of Engand’s mental health services, click here to read Observer article Today’s Guardian headline is NHS vows to transform mental health services  with extra £1bn a year. The report talks about a sharp increase in the number of suicides, estimates three quarters of people with a psychiatric condition do not receive help and documents that children are being sent all over the country to an available bed that may be hundreds of miles from their families.

The Tories and the coalition government have presided over savage cuts to bed availability, support services, staffing levels and overall funding of mental health facilities. Cameron in his ever so reasonable, we have learnt lessons, we must all pull together and defeat stigma, senior Tory style is presenting the spending announcement as an innovation and Tory triumph. David Cameron and his mates are duplicitous, fraudulent, own class supporting, unfeeling,  and lacking in basic humanity. They appeal to the voters who share their values – the cruel, the selfish, the self centred. May God help decent and vulnerable people.

 

 

Janathon Day 24 The rabbits are coming…..

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The weather has turned very mild again ( in the East of England). This afternoon it reached 13C and I was wearing a tee shirt (plus a few other items) when I continued building the rabbit proof fence around the polytunnel and allotment area.  I suddenly became aware of large group of rabbits, at least twenty, about 30 metres away, who appeared to be watching me and laughing. Several of them began to jump as if on springs and must have reached a metre in height. By coincidence my fence is a metre high. Clearly I will have to keep an eye on this. If the rabbits team up with the muntjac deer, it could go from bad to worse. I had visions of the deer carrying bunnies on their backs to assist them to jump down over the other side..

I had a lie in this morning so Rupert had a late walk, I went to the Emmaus community shop, did other stuff, worked on the fence and then went for a late two mile run just before dusk instead of a long run as I had intended. Never mind, it was still a productive day. I managed to buy a sturdy six foot by three foot table in Emmaus which is perfect to use as a craft surface for screen printing, cutting stencils and tee shirt design.

The Tory party has announced plans to help Muslim women to learn English and Cameron said a £20m fund would provide classes for all women struggling with the language. He linked better or attainment of English skills with helping to prevent radicalisation. However, the coalition government severely cut funding for language classes aimed at migrant women and between 2008 and 2015  there was a £160m reduction in available funds for teaching English to this target group. This is high end deceit. The Tories specialise in it.

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.

Aliveandrunning December 13 2014

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How lucky am I to come across this magazine in Cambridge precisely at the point my family were getting jittery at the prospect of running out of tattoo options for  Christmas. Now we are spoilt for choice! There are so many illustrations to choose from, there is little chance of duplication.

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What is it with men and ridiculously big fish? Why don’t we see women proudly displaying their over sized catches? Various explanations spring to mind. Nevertheless, WH Smith’s magazine shelves remain a source of high amusement and wonderment. Possibly I should avert my eyes from the sections where I have no interest in the subject. I may be fascinated by the imagery or the idea but I could be susceptible to being drawn into that particular world. It would be so easy to become a heavily tattooed angler (fresh or sea water?) and find myself on a front page, smiling smugly, holding a monster from the deep.

The running world drew me in over 30 years ago. It was like being sucked into a whirlpool and down into the central funnel (for the purposes of this imagery, the central funnel would be the running club I joined 3 years ago). I’m now a sad case, running parkrun every Saturday and many of the proliferating 1ok races and some of the ample number of half marathons. Running chum talk about running, pace, times, injuries and technology. It’s all a bit bewildering but I’ll carry on eating the cake, drinking the coffee and secretly dream of holding a giant fish.

Cambridge parkrun today! Very cold (for me) although I dressed for the weather. Some people are still in shorts and technical short sleeve tops despite the -1c or -2c temperature. It was both icy and muddy but my trusty trail shoes coped well. I’m not running consistently at present so my times are slower. Today I had the 25 minute pacer breathing down my neck and bellowing motivational encouragement to everyone around him. He had the audacity to overtake me and then I had the fear of being beaten by him. All at once, my attitude changed and I felt quite relaxed tucking myself in behind. Towards the end, I overtook him and managed to get in front by 15 seconds. What did I learn? I may have an ambivalence to pacers!

BBC Radio 4 podcasts. Who in their right mind wouldn’t listen to them? Thinking Aloud with Laurie Taylor discussed payday loan companies and an economist interviewee spoke about the availability of very cheap finance to the companies, the absence of of any kind of oversight or appropriate financial regulation and the highly profitable business model which is dependent upon multiple loans at hugely inflated interest. In effect the government subsidises the payday loan  companies and enables them to make huge profits at the expense of the poorest of people. Just as it pays huge subsidies to many of the previously nationalised companies, now in private hands and apparently run so much more efficiently and profitably. As if!

Another two part programme well worth listening to is Becoming Myself : Gender Identity. Last week, Transmen. This week, Transwomen. It’s about gender dysphoria and the work of the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic. Thank God we live in the twenty first century, and in this culture, to have this kind of understanding and empathy. I’m sure we’ll show as much sympathy for poor people eventually.

Aliveandrunning November 27 2014

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It was Dr Johnson, who, in the 18th century, said “He who is tired of Brussels sprouts is tired of life.” Humphrey Bogart made a reference to sprouts in the film Casablanca and Pope Francis recently gave them a mention in a private audience with the mercenary Tony Blair (along the lines of being able to accommodate celibacy but not contemplate a world without Brussels sprouts). The message is clear. Take these delightful green orbs seriously and they will repay you endlessly. Somewhere, under the salad, flat bread, olives, raw onion, broccoli and a mound of Brussels, lay pasta and turkey bolognese. I am now being repaid endlessly.

Not a lot happening on the running front. I last went out on the weekend when I did Cambridge parkrun (5k). I missed club night on Tuesday due to family commitments but I didn’t go out yesterday despite the opportunity to do so. It’s taken me a month to get over my cold and I’ve lost motivation. Oh dear! I’ll do Cambridge or Wimpole Estate parkrun next weekend and then try to get back into the running groove. The bloody miserable weather doesn’t help. I may get a SAD light and sit in front of it looking at my watch and waiting for it to cheer me up.

Not running is not a problem. My motivation will return and I’ll return to form. My level of fitness is good and won’t disappear overnight. Unless I am completely seduced by MYCOLOGY!!! Following the fungi foray I went on a few weeks ago, I am now seeing the little blighters everywhere.

WP_20141119_002 For example , I noticed these little chaps as I was about to get into the car. I had to prostrate myself on the grass to take this shot. It wasn’t a pretty sight, it wasn’t dignified but it had to be done. Not sure what they are. Might be a Shaggy Inkcap (or Lawyer’s Wig).

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I noticed this little group because they were giggling as I passed by walking Rupert the dalmatian. Probably from the Mycena family. I don’t know which one. See what I mean? With all this focus on fungi, it’s a distraction from running. Perhaps I’ll never get back in the running groove. They’ll whisper as I pass by “He used to be a running god. Now he’s Mushroom Man”. At the very least I’ll be regarded as a fun guy (geddit?).

Before privatisation, when large swathes of industry and utilities were publicly owned, the trades unions were demonised and the nationalised industries were felt to be soft, unproductive and a bottomless pit into which huge amounts of tax payers’s was thrown. Now the unions are neutered, the companies are privatised and the nasty poor are a terrible drain on our welfare system (funded by hard working taxpayers). But there is very little focus on the extensive tax breaks, incentives, subsidies and tax avoidance methods currently in situ for privatised, (previously nationalised)industries and their shareholders(funded directly out of the public purse).

The Tories and their media may bleat about Labour provoking a class war when they questioned the charitable status of privately run schools but clearly their tax concessions amount to a subsidy (or state handout) to a particular class of people. You know where you are with the Tories – well educated, cruelly self centred and very adept at scapegoating  the most vulnerable in society. Tories too soft? Vote UKIP, the BNP Lite party.

Gardening project update : no planning permission needed apparently although a polytunnel and a new shed are essential and these will need permission so I’m a bit confused. Awaiting clarification. Good news is that I will get a donated polytunnel and will be able to choose the size.