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.

 

 

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Janathon Day 28 The future? Possibly less running

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I had to go into Cambridge this morning and I decided to do a second Janthaon walking day. It may be the cold weather, it may be listening to medics speaking about the risks of running excessively (Trust Me, I’m a Doctor BBC 2 yesterday, with the excellent Michael Mosley) or it may be I’m a little tired. Unfortunately for me, there’s a current body of opinion which asserts that after a certain level of physical exercise, you may be jeopardising your health by stressing your heart and damaging your circulatory system.

I recovered very well from my heart attack six years ago and I still feel I could run as long and as far as I want. But I don’t think medical opinion would support that approach. In future, I’ll continue to focus on parkrun and probably do fewer 10k races and perhaps just one or two half marathons at a slower pace. And more walking

The Tory government stance, and particularly Cameron’s pronouncements, on very conditional requirements for accepting lone children caught up in the migrant/refugee crisis, is sickening. Clearly, Cameron wants to keep them at arms length and despite his ever so rational explanations about the sensible Tory approach, it reeks of an intrinsic absence of empathy and compassion. Goodwill and sensitivity towards vulnerable children, who have no family to care for them and who are at terrible risk, should be a no brainer, even for the Tories. Their current policy reveals the emotional deadness within.

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.

 

Aliveandrunning October 30 2014

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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 April 30 2014

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Someone sent me a draft hard copy of the forthcoming UKIP general election manifesto. It’s not light comedy but you’ve got nothing to worry about if you are British, white, bigoted, racist, unkind, stupid, 100% heterosexual, xenophobic, thoroughly prejudiced, thrive on condemning others, attack minorities who are non British, like “cheeky chappies” who drink and smoke, and have a tendency to predict the end of society as we know it when the assumption is British culture is under attack from foreign forces.

I went running with the club yesterday evening and very pleasant it was too. We road run from the University Sports Track which is on the edge of Cambridge city but only a 15 minute walk to the city centre. It’s adjacent to countryside and fields and also a big new University development. We ran a couple of kilometres to a village and did 4 x 6 minutes at faster than 5k pace with 3 minute recovery times. It’s timed by blowing a whistle so the fastest among us can go further and then we run back in the direction we just came from. The slower ones get overtaken and this doesn’t matter because we are all timed by the whistle and everyone is tested no matter what your ability. There were around 25 of us and about another 35 chose to do training on the track. I always chose road running because it’s so varied and this includes running in darkness in the winter. We are a sociable crowd but it’s also OK to just run or stand alone if chatting amiably is difficult as it is for some people. I am able to chat comfortably when I want to but the conversation tends to be running dominated (race times, Garmin stats, training plans, races coming up, injuries, club news). In the past I’ve tried introduce topics of interest to me, for example UK lamp post design between 1910 and 1933 and convey my passion for lichen but it never seems to capture their attention sufficiently. Still, I’ll persevere.

I like walking around Cambridge, even when it’s packed full of tourists clogging up the small streets. They are particularly good at clogging the pavements when they move around in groups and there is a lull in their itinerary. My inner  sheepdog comes to the fore and I feel I want to run rings around them so they trot into the nearest place of interest in double quick time.

I went into John Lewis to claim my monthly free coffee and cake in their cafe. The counter was double ended and two identical queues of about 15-20 people  clutched their coupons. We all appeared to be in our 60’s. Of course some people didn’t have their coupons and had to pay with real money. Boy, did we laugh at them. What losers! Anyway, I got served just before I lost the will to live and sat down with my Americano, scone and butter in little plastic containers. Unfortunately the task of getting butter onto scone proved a challenge too far. I completely failed to break the thin plastic seal and lift it off. The corner of the container partially broke but stubbornly wouldn’t pull off. My fingernails were useless as was brute strength.Minutes of hard effort yielded no results. Sweat broke out  on my forehead as I attempted to cut the seal with the serrated knife that waited patiently to spread the butter within. I couldn’t do it. The little butter pot had defeated me and I ate the scone dry. I’m sure I heard one of the cash payers laugh cruelly at my plight. I’ve learned my lesson. Next month, when I return with May’s coupon, I’ll be carrying my Swiss Army penknife. No contest!