Alive and Running March 26 2015

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The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, Cambridge. I had to follow the Tourist Route through the College which doesn’t allow plebs over the bridge but at other times access is granted. Possibly St. John’s has the biggest grounds of all the Cambridge colleges. It’s undeniably impressive and the Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful structure. Must go for a punt soon!

The Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough, who for years has been fighting for the right to walk about naked in public, has been refused permission to appeal against an earlier decision by the European Court of Human Rights that his repeated arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment for public nudity did not breach his human rights. He is currently serving a two and a half year sentence after he walked out of prison only wearing boots and socks following a previous prison term. I presume this extreme punishment is a result of repeated contempt of court. What a sad and ridiculous situation. I don’t think this eccentric man is regarded as a threat in any shape or form other than his willful determination to walk around unclothed. Possibly the authorities feel it could start a trend, or worse, a fashion. Surely, as a caring and compassionate society, we can accommodate a few naked people walking around and not feel so disturbed by it we are compelled to lock them up. Who wants to break a butterfly on a wheel?

I remain only an intermittent runner at present. Last weekend I ran the Swavesey 5 miler although I could have taken part in the Swavesey Half Marathon. I ran it 2 minutes faster than last year which pleased me until I read in my little running log I was getting over an injury at that time. Still, I did enjoy it and the weather was kind.

Club night two nights ago. We ran 6 x 700 metres at varying paces with a recovery jog back to the start. I was the second slowest runner in a group of around 20 but we broke into small similar speed groups and it all seems to work for everyone.

I ventured into the Cambridge University Press bookshop in the Market Square, Central Cambridge this week and cast my eyes over some beautiful books with eye watering prices (available on Amazon but at no reduction in price). No purchase made but it was a close run thing. I might return naked. I suspect they wouldn’t bat an eyelid!

Finally, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, was speaking about her career and the development of the teenage brain on The Life Scientific on Radio 4. Well worth listening to via podcast or Radio 4 Listen Again.

 

 

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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 June 26 2014 Juneathon Day 26

 

 

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Straight down the M XI to the outskirts of Londinium to see my mater and deliver this lava lamp to my daughter Shanti. It seems to be a Seventies original. It’s larger,more  heavier and more rocket like than new ones I’ve seen recently. I like it. I’ll look out for another similar lamp for Lorna.

I’m not being county-ist or anyfink but the standard of driving improved noticeably beyond Stanstead (out of Essex and into Cambridgeshire). On the positive side, you could say that the breathtaking swerving from lane to lane in fast moving traffic to gain a few metres is creative, courageous and visually stunning. Perhaps driving safely is ridiculously over rated and  boring. Perhaps driving in Essex should be kept to a minimum.

Anyway, having survived trial by boy racer I was glad to get back to Cambridge where we still drive cars preceded by a walking person waving a red flag. Mildly traumatised, I restricted myself to a 2 mile run accompanied by my pet butterflies fluttering in a subdued manner over my head and perfectly reflecting my jangled nerves.

Lorna is heavily involved in setting up a new junior parkrun in Milton Country Park where the adult parkrun is held. This Sunday a trial junior parkrun will take place followed by the first official run a fortnight later. A great deal of time and effort goes into getting a parkrun set up and staged, particularly when the participants are predominantly children. Well done. I’m sure it will be a great success.

Aliveandrunning December 28

200th parkrun at Cambridge today and I have run 148 of them plus another 10 at Wimpole Estate. The weather was fine – sunny and not too cold – but muddy in many places. My arch rival, Mike, was marshaling which left me competing with No. 2 arch rival Diane. As usual I could hardly contain myself. I felt like a rocket in a silo waiting for the FIRE button to be pressed, I was a torpedo restless in its tube. Someone said go and I took off like a particle whizzing around the CERN Large Hadron Collider. Knocking people aside without pity, I broke free from the pack and took on the mantle of front runner only to have my dream shattered. The race had not started yet. I was a highly strung thoroughbred and when a couple having a conversation near me included the word GO I responded instinctively. Boy, was there a copious amount of egg on my face ! Ashen visaged, I apologised to my fellow runners whom I had pushed into a ditch or into muddy puddles and retook my position farther back as a penance. It didn’t go very well. No. 2 arch rival Diane overtook me around half way and I had no gas left in the tank to catch her up. I was startled when a very small child went past me. I’m sure I’ve seen larger tadpoles ! As is the nature of small, young fast children, they suddenly speed up then dramatically slow up, simultaneously weaving from side to side and repeating this strategy. It’s hilarious if you are limited  to running responsibly as a grown up (unless you succeed in getting tripped up). After cutting me up several times, he took off and I was history. He probably complained to the run director that too many old people are cramping his style. Lovely run despite coming 135th out of a field of 336.

Tomorrow I hope to do a 45-60 minute run and on New Years Eve I’ve got a 10 K. Possibly on New Years Day I might be doing one or two differently convened parkruns. As I write this it does seem a tad excessive (for me). It will definitely blow out the tubes and hopefully get me running longer and more frequently again.

Cambridge parkrun is held in Milton Country Park to the north of the city. The course is mainly grass and trail with some narrow paths. I’m sure the trees are closing in at various points. Quite a lot of them look surly and resentful  as we pass by. I’m convinced they’re not happy with the  resultant pounding of over 300 pairs of feet every week. I’ll try to speak to the wood nymphs and reach an accommodation. I saw  Spielberg’s Poltergeist and I don’t want to be plucked off the run path by a malevolent maple.

Alan Turing has been given a posthumous pardon for his conviction following homosexual activity. He committed suicide after being required to undergo  “chemical castration”- experimental hormone therapy to dampen down homosexual urges. The type of work he had been allowed to undertake subsequently was limited because of the supposed risk to security linked to his sexual orientation. There’s plenty of criticism to the pardon under a Royal Prerogative of Mercy which notes he was convicted under due process of the current laws in 1952. Some people argue it’s unfair on the thousands of ordinary, consenting gay men who were convicted under the same laws whose convictions still hold. My view is that all men (and women, if any) who were sentenced under these vicious “moral” laws should be pardoned. Moral panics, and particularly those of a sexual nature, may last for decades or centuries or even become embedded into the culture. In kinder and more enlightened times, I feel it is very important to revisit those nasty, ignorant and bigoted laws and expose their cruelty rather than merely state they were a product of their times. Alan Turing , along with many others at Bletchley Park, shortened the war and saved thousands of lives. The “laws” he transgressed had no right to be laws of the land and contained no justice, only sexual fear and prejudice.

New Year resolutions :

1. Research science fiction literature over last 100 years with view to developing a cult/religion.

2.Consider options to monetise said cult/religion.

3. Complete Janathon (run and blog daily) for month of January.

4. Keep an eye on Pope Francis!

Aliveandrunning2013 September 29

Cambridge parkrun went well. No problems with my right calf muscle and I was only 22 seconds away from a personal best. My arch rival, Mike, beat me by 17 seconds but ” vengeance is mine, sayeth the runner” and we go head to head next week in the Wimpole Hall Estate Hoo Haar half marathon. Lovely, sunny weather for the 5K parkrun. Lorna volunteered, scanning finishers’ barcodes and, after the race,  we had coffee, with friends, outside in the warm sun. Why wouldn’t you do parkrun at 9 am on Saturday morning? Staying in bed often results in feeling lethargic during the day and susceptible people are at risk from Krispey Kremes or other dangerous sugar and fat confections if they don’t take active steps to wake themselves up. If you are feeling down in mood, running and particularly social runs can help you to manage your mood or positively alter your mindset. Runners readily form communities and everyone can belong. There are so many more available races these days and it can work out fairly expensive in terms of entry fees. Soon, people will be turning to crime to fund their running habit. But parkrun is free! They only ask you to volunteer occasionally (and this is fun rather than a chore). It gives an insight into the amount of organisation required to stage a run and allows you to contribute to its success. Parkrun is very inclusive ; parents frequently run with babies in buggies, carry toddlers or run with older children. You don’t have to be a “serious runner” or particularly fit but it will motivate you to think about what you would like to do regarding levels of fitness and how you could realistically achieve those goals.

At the moment, I think I will be sufficiently fit to do the Wimpole half marathon. I have done very little training, due to injury, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to complete the course without calf pains. If I feel uncomfortable, I will stop running. After more than 30 years, the penny has finally dropped. DON’T RUN ON AN INJURY ! It’s so tempting. How easily we can delude ourselves and become  unrealistically optimistic. We find we can run the race and the pain hasn’t been so bad. Then we discover, at our leisure, that we have compounded the injury which might have cleared up in a third  of the time  it will now take. Anyway, that’s the theory. But if I’m just ahead of Mike and my calf starts to twang, no way am I going to pull up and let my arch rival beat me so easily. In fact I will redouble my effort and push on, even if I need to be stretchered off at the finish line.

Today, we spectated at the Bourn to Run 10K where Mike and Sue were running. Both ran well over an undulating trail course and their young daughter, Emily, did the 3K race. A second excellent day of weather with unbroken sunshine and early Autumn warmth. We met loads of running friends of all abilities and it was an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday morning. Again, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that? If you experience problems with your mood, here’s a gold standard activity (running or volunteering or spectating) to mitigate and manage those difficulties.

Chief Constable Mike Barton of Durham Police has called for the decriminalisation of Class A drugs and advocates the care and treatment of addicts rather than criminalising them. He argues that the  disappearance of the criminal element of drugs removes the income stream of criminal groups, erodes their power and influence and allows for a “controlled environment” for the dissemination of addicts’ drugs, possibly administered under the auspices of the NHS. This approach has been implemented, or part implemented, in a few other countries. I don’t know what the outcomes have been but it is a dramatic change of tack that is increasingly being discussed. Unfortunately these kinds of controversial measures are laden with political risk for the party bringing in the appropriate legislation. The government would be denounced and pilloried by the right wing media whose demographic comprise the frightened middle classes, unthinking people, bigots and the mindset that requires all transgressions to be punished. I presume the coalition, or rather the Tories, won’t genuinely address the issue or will dismiss it.

Lorna pointed out a statistic in yesterday’s Guardian. “For 36% of Britons , a tidy home is a greater pleasure than a holiday, a night out or sex But the study showed that woman still do most of the tidying).” Source : survey of householder appliance manufacturer Beko. Ye Gods! What inferior kind of holiday, night out or sex are these people having?

Random pictures of books in our home. Reading a book, of course, is a greater pleasure than keeping a tidy house.

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Aliveandrunning2013 September 26

Hooray, I’m into the Cambridge half marathon for 2014. Various off spring are also trying to get registered. I got in today because I had pre-registered and have a Cambridge postcode, tomorrow registration is open for those who previously emailed their interest and on September 30, registration is open for everyone else……if places are still available ! The first tranche of registrations (which includes ME) has taken over 2000 of the 4,600 places in under 12 hours.

Great local story in our city newspaper, Cambridge News, which was taken up by the nationals. Trumpington Village Hall which hires out rooms or the Hall to groups like the Women’s Institute, pensioners and the Brownies, took an unremarkable booking for a “relationship support meeting.” In reality, the booking was undertaken by a bondage group who intended to provide lessons in “flogging, spanking and domination.” The paper described the individual workshops and sessions and noted that the low cost fee included tea, coffee, pastries and biscuits. One of the sessions offered Kink on a Budget, focusing on BDSM, “without breaking the bank.” On September 25, the paper’s headlines announced a bondage workshop at Trumpington Village Hall (with considerable detail) and on September 26, the headlines reported that the  village hall trustees had cancelled the booking (with more substantial detail of sessions that would now not take place and quotes from outraged local residents). The hall manager said “We provide services for little old ladies and child care groups. Some of our little old ladies who come to play bingo will be upset.” The articles marvelously illustrated the British stereotype of condemning anything sexually unconventional by implication or insinuation rather than straight forward criticism or argument. The clear message is it’s smut from which vulnerable people (little old ladies and children) need to be protected. The case for mild sexual diversity in the Cambridgeshire villages has received a body blow (with no sexual frisson in this instance).

In the near future I will be posting pictures of my books where they live, sit or are stacked, dreaming of an air conditioned, low light, purpose built library extension. I may also include pictures of piles of papers and magazines too. The world waits with bated breath.