New/old Tories crawl out of the septic tank and hose themselves down. Heart disorder stops me running.

This year, I’ve made it super difficult for people to negotiate their way to the kitchen door without a machete.

Hollyhocks and verbena bonariensis are in the ascendancy this year.The hollyhocks have developed rust, which is disfiguring, but height seems unaffected and they are flowering well.

My running regime was going quite nicely, thank you very much, until the day of my birthday, nearly six weeks ago, when I developed atrial fibrillation. I was running with my pal, Rob, in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by fields, when I lost puff and felt breathless. I recovered quickly but after several hundred metres, I had to stop again. I tried to run a few times before giving up and walking back to civilisation. I soon discovered that my pulse was irregular and elevated and so it has remained. My heart medication, bisoprolol, has been doubled and will soon be be tripled and I’m on an anticoagulant. My heart could revert back to a normal rhythm spontaneously. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably have a cardioversion procedure in several months, where a small electrical jolt to the heart hopefully reinstates a normal, strong beat.

So, disappointing in the extreme for me at present. The hospital has said I can continue normal activities, including running. In the last six weeks I have run one 5k which went okay. I ran less fast and didn’t feel breathless. Since then I have had covid and currently the weather in the UK has been very hot. Today, the maximum local temperature is expected to top 40c. I’ll run another 5k when the temperature returns to normal and then I’ll increase the bisoprolol as prescribed. I’m a bit wary of doing this. It may drop my blood pressure to the point where I experience dizziness. The doctor said that there was a greater chance of my heart reverting back spontaneously on the bigger dosage. My suggestion she put me on a huge dose of placebo fell on deaf ears so all my extensive evidence that placebo can be very effective, indeed life altering, went for nought.

Johnson is still scuttling around on the periphery making forlorn and absurdist statements but, essentially, he has collapsed under the weight of his own arrogance, hubris and mendacity. Unfortunately, these are not qualities a large section of the Tory party membership and supporting voters can easily recognize. They simply don’t care. The four leading candidates for the vacant post of UK Prime Minister all served under Boris Johnson and defended his blatant lying and contempt for acceptable rules of conduct. They were, and are, his creatures. Johnson’s appeal was irresistible to the lowest common denominator of voters who placed personality well above policy, fairness and competence, who valued humour which easily disguised the ugly reality of the impact of Tory “values”and applauded the racist mindset which espoused to make Great Britain great again. The simpletons ensured Brexit happened through Johnson and his ilk. We are all demonstrably poorer for Brexit. It’s defenders point to the global economic situation, the Ukrainian disaster and the impact of covid but will not countenance the obvious harm departure from the EU is currently causing. Trade has shrunk, there is a great contraction in available workers in many industries and the NHS is desperately short of staff. Red tape has increased and new trade agreements are lacking. Economic growth has stalled and our supermarket shelves are sadly depleted. It was all predicted.

Johnson’s Tories still banjax Great Britain. Local elections could help to change balance of power if our cognitively impaired electorate wake up.

Music courtesy of Philip Glass

Yes, rotating wooden balls fixed to metal rods. And why not? It’s relaxing, quirky and has a retro feel. You know where you are with a wooden sphere. It’s entirely complete and uncomplicated. But are a cascade of moving, swivelling balls art? Of course. Art encompasses great technical skill, possessed by relatively few people, who execute a visually realistic interpretation or an advanced creative depiction that few people would seek to question as a high art form. But art can equally encompass non traditional forms which appear low on the spectrum of high art but include elements which pose questions and challenge preconceptions or express dissent or shock. Is there a line that needs to be drawn when you talk about art? Who gets on their high horse and why? Why do art installations appear to polarise opinion? Do left and right leaning people like radically different creative styles? If you are over seventy, are you much less likely to enjoy or appreciate abstract and modern art? These aren’t original questions and what constitutes art encapsulates myriad discussions and nuanced argument. Do I care? Not really. I accept art is all things to all people What’s more interesting is the vehemence, prejudice and passive-aggression with which views are expressed. Or the absence of active interest in art or creative activity. Poor, unbalanced people!

Music courtesy of Philip Glass

More musical balls.

I last posted in February, two weeks or so before the Cambridge half marathon. This went well, in the main. No surprises, a steady pace and a bit slower than the last Cambridge half in October 2021. I also did the nearby Cambourne 10k in April and met up with some old running pals. I used to see them regularly when parkrun was on at Milton Country Park but with the demise of that venue {gnashing of teeth} contact is intermittent. Still, I’m continuing to run 30-35k a week so I’m doing okay. This includes running with my Cottenham pal ,Rob, in an adjacent village.

Boris Johnson’s luck has yet to run out which, with a bit of reflection, isn’t surprising. Has has no moral compass and he has surrounded himself with supporters that either can’t tell right from wrong or don’t care or have no qualms lying through their teeth. Whether its blithely denying participation in illegal lockdown parties, explaining why they sent thousands of elderly patients from hospital back to their care homes, untested for covid, and causing tens of thousands of preventable deaths, pretending they a have any sympathy or understanding for the ordinary working man or devising schemes to transport refugees/migrants to Rwanda permanently (out of sight, out of mind, cost undisclosed, plaudits from xenophobes, racists and fascists everywhere), you can always depend on the Tories to convincingly defend the indefensible and without a hint of shame or remorse.

Winter running. The cold, the wind, the mud. It’s predictable, like Tory sleaze.

Two daughters and one boyfriend ran the Cambridge 10k the day before I ran the half last October. It all went very well. It’s satisfying that all my five children have been running at some stage and will return to it when their circumstances allow. Running. Who wouldn’t want to do it, huh!

I’ve managed to run consistently since my last post in November 2021, without injury, and covering 30-35k weekly. I now have a new running chum whom I meet weekly in an adjacent village. This has resulted in new running routes, which is very welcome, since I have relied on just two for years. It’s also added a new dimension to running, namely, chatting. Having been a lone runner for decades, I wouldn’t have guessed this would be conducive, but it is. Of course, our weekly runs aren’t competitive. My strategy in any races we do together is to encourage chatting while I listen attentively and then pull ahead towards the finish, using the reserves of breath I’ve held back. It’s a fool proof wheeze. Possibly.

I’ve also returned to parkrun on an occasional basis. Occasional because of the covid risk but also, since the sad demise of Cambridge parkrun at Milton, because of the travel involved. Storey’s Field, Eddington, a new town on the edge of Cambridge, is my chosen parkrun at present. It’s very well organised and there are plenty of familiar faces, yet I still pine for Milton.

Under two weeks until the Cambridge half marathon. I’ve now done two training 21k sessions and feel set to go. The last Cambridge half was in October 2021, deferred from the previous March, so now it’s back to its original time of year.

Prime Minister’s Question time, broadcast live on the BBC each Wednesday, never fails to be an education. Boris Johnson, having won the last election with a vast majority, has proved that you can fool most of the people, most of the time. Huge swathes of traditionally Labour voters were persuaded to leave Europe based on government cultivated xenophobic anxieties regarding immigration, loss of British jobs to foreigners, loss of British sovereignty and jurisdiction and the assertion that the haemorrhage of tax payers money to the EU would cease and go directly to boost the NHS. What is it about the British electorate that provokes them to regress to uttering simplistic demands about “wanting their freedom back” and instancing minor examples of European law and bureacracy?

The Ukraine crisis has proved to be a get-out-of-jail card for Johnson, allowing a diversion of attention away from the government’s handling of Covid and the scandal of numerous social parties organised by the government during the lockdowns, egregiously breaching their own rules, and showing contempt for ordinary people. Johnson clearly revels in playing an inflated role as the elder statesman on the world stage. He does this well, with confidence, conviction and powers of persuasion instilled in him by his class and education. That’s how the Tories excel. They project and amplify emotions that target the electorate’s fears, anxieties, prejudices and sense of being disadvantaged. They shamelessly use their own statistics to demonstrate success, relying on a credulous electorate to be impressed. Think about the thousands of extra nurses, doctors and billions going into the NHS. Don’t think about the previous lack of investment and cuts to services and loss of hospital beds. Do be awed by the repetition of billions of PPE items obtained during the pandemic and regular announcements of further billions of pounds being expended on the NHS. Don’t mention the government reacted slowly to provide equipment, or abandoned care home residents to die in their tens of thousands. Or that a a large scale excercise concerning management of a pandemic a few years earlier pin pointed exactly what was needed to meet such a contingency, but had its findings and recommendations ignored.

This is what the Tories do best. They are, collectively, a master class in expert, nuanced manipulation directed against a softened up, beguiled public in thrall to posh boy politicians and hard nosed, cruel female counterparts.

Still running and still shocked by Tory bigotry

First post since last January. I’ve remained well, avoided covid and continued to run consistently. Parkrun returned over four months ago but I’ve only attended one so far. Unfortunately our local parkrun in Cambridge, Milton Country Park, decided not to host the event any more, a controversial decision that was extremely disappointing and taken for unclear reasons.The loss of Milton parkrun means I don’t meet up with running chums consistently and I’ve reverted to being a lone runner . I have, however, had more contact with a person I previously saw once a year at a local school run, which is good. They say friends and socialising is essential for robust mental health. I agree but I’m an introvert at heart. I did do Cambridge half marathon and three local 10k races and I’m currently running 30-35k each week. The Cambridge half took place late, in October, and I’ve signed up for the next one in March 2022.

Perhaps it’s a positive and protective behaviour that we don’t generally share our views and beliefs lightly with acquaintances, or that we do, much more whole heartedly, with people we know better or have reason to understand we will receive a sympathetic response. On the other hand, the unavoidable views of people who express clear opposition and animosity to our core values and standards produce a baleful effect and constant dismay. The Tory party, and Boris Johnson in particular, are the obvious examples. They have clearly demonstrated that elitist showmanship and entertaining guff can win hearts and minds. Unfortunately these skills and abilities are used to gloss over aggessive and cruel policies, blatent corruption and an obvious appeal to their credulous electorate. Their supporters thrive on the Daily Mail diet of fear, outrage, condemnation, predjudice, xenophobia, sentimentalism, thinly disguised racism and anti wokeness. They don’t appear concerned about sleeze, financial irregularities with tax payers’ money, the cavalier and fatal disregard for care home residents in the first covid wave or the plight of refugees dangerously crossing the Channel. Boris Johnson got Brexit done, they crow. We can be in control of our own affairs, stop immigration and forge our own way ahead. We can consider new ways of doing things, like pushing inflatable boats back to France and transporting illegal immigrants to centres abroad to be processed out of the public eye. The supine electorate laps up the big numbers the Tories claim to be spending on the NHS while fogetting that they ran it down in the first place. Rant, rant, rant. It’s not easy taking the moral high ground but this government of doesn’t make it hard either. What can you do when the Tories daily prove they possess no humanity and a sizeable chunk of the population just shrug their shoulders.

What have we learnt over the last year?

 

It’s a very broad question and, of course, we all learn differently. So what have I learnt? {Yes, it’s all about me. me, me}. I have been deeply impressed by the kindness, forebearance and bravery of others, particularly in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic. The suffering and loss has prompted deep compassion and continuing, everyday examples of innate humanity, despite the backdrop of an incompetent and complacent government. But, then again, that’s what I would expect because most people, under the most trying circumstances, would endeavour to act responsibly and sensibly and follow rules designed to alleviate the current crisis. The severe restrictions may have brought financial hardship, increased poverty, unemployment, loss of movement, prevented social interaction with family and friends and  stopped activities we took for granted but life, although curtailed, carries on. Nevertheless, the cost to many is huge.

So far, so positive. I don’t find the above remarkable. It’s what I expect. It’s not an eye opener. But some of the responses to the Covid pandemic and the American presidential election and its aftermath do turn a spotlight on a number of disturbing beliefs and an apparent willingness to act upon them.

Covid and Trump’s America have exposed and highlighted the existence of a willingness to embrace fantasy as fact and condemn unacceptable facts as fake. Both Trump and Boris Johnson trade in arousing negative sentiments and heightening emotions to influence people. Trump in particular is skilled at exploiting resentment and amplifying feelings of loss, unfairness, anger and hatred. He points the finger and creates targets for the aroused masses to focus their attention. In America, Trump has been able to sidestep reality and construct his own elaborate conspiracy theory to explain his defeat. He blithely faces down any kind of fact based argument, rubbishes anyone who disagrees and tramples democratic norms. In the Uk Boris Johnson doesn’t have to go to such lengths because the levels of anger and seething bitterness in the UK are much less virulent. We tend to fall for wealthy right wing stand up comedians to pull the wool over our eyes instead.

Why do so many people fall for politicians like Trump and Johnson? Why are they able to marshal such negative passions in so many of us? Their supporters are not psychologically minded. They are primed to react, to be aroused, to release their anger, aggression and sense of losing out, of being tricked. Their focus isn’t on community or fairness but on loss and identifying  who has taken it from them. They don’t think, they feel. That’s the nature of right wingers. Even if you feel I have presented an exagerrated caricature the evidence in both America and the UK is that the middle of the road conservatives will hold their noses and still support a fascist narcissist or someone who makes them laugh. Theses politicians are able to stir the deep well of aggression and negative emotions a lot of us obviously possess.

Phew! Back to something less controversial. Despite my dodgy right knee I’ve managed to run around 32k each week. That’s three 9ks and one timed 5k. My knee is still weak and stiff but running isn’t problematic. Part of my run is along an old Roman Road called Mere Way (currently threatened by the construction of a waste water treatment plant}. It’s exceedingly muddy for most of its length. We’ve had a lot of rain and the ground is saturated. It won’t be drying up any time soon. We are still in partial covid lockdown and there are no races on the horizon yet apart from Cambridge half marathon scheduled for October. Entry is by competitive ballot this year. I’ll do it if I can, Covid allowing.

I’ve just had a phone call from my GP surgery offering me a Pfizer vaccine. It’s the only advantage to having heart disease. Yippee!