Covid 19 has changed everything

The Cambridge half marathon took place on the cusp of more Draconian measures to combat the corona virus, on March 8th. So quickly have we been conditioned to self distance to protect ourselves, it feels unsettling to see these images.


Cambridge and Coleridge come in first and second (middle and right side C and C’er respectively). There should be a law to ensure they are putting in maximum effort and suffering at all times. I know this is the start of the race but they still looked composed at the end of it.

 No family member took part this year. I’ve still got a dodgy knee and my eldest son was unwell and had to forgo his place

In the UK, at present time of writing, we are allowed to exercise once daily, outside our homes, and appropriately observing social distancing requirements. My knee is still problematic, and my referral to the muscular-skeletal clinic has probably fallen into a black hole but I’m able to run short distances each day. The roads are very quiet and lots of people are walking around who wouldn’t normally be on the streets. Plenty of us are running. Personally, I feel the fitter I am, the greater resilience I will have if I contract the virus. I’m in one of the vulnerable categories because of heart disease so I am particularly careful. I feel fit and my lung capacity must be good. I don’t feel at risk but, of course, I risk others’ health if I become ill.

The middle class are about to discover the cruelty of Britain’s benefits system

The coronavirus crisis ignites a bonfire of Conservative party orthodoxies

Coronavirus exposes society’s fragility. Let’s find solutions that endure once it’s over

It takes a whole world to create a new virus, not just China

The above links are to Guardian or Observer articles and offer analysis to these drastically changing times. It’s ironic that the Labour Party’s manifesto, before the last Uk election in December 2019, was roundly criticised for its profligacy on spending plans to transform British society. We are in a crisis now and there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of financial help. This may be vital to maintain confidence in our economic system and prevent societal unrest and civil disorder. But the same Tories have presided over swingeing cuts to the NHS, education, social services, children’s services and local goverment for well over a decade  I had an argument with an idiot in a hospital outpatient clinic who kept on repeating “Where’s the money coming from?” The right wing have done such a good job in subverting the concept of public good and replacing it with fear and condemnation and personal threat, a large number of people can’t see the wood for the trees.

So galling seeing the Tories and their scientific and medical friends, standing at lecterns which proclain” Protect the NHS”, during the daily press briefings. As if they believe that.

I believe there will be a reckoning when this present emergency subsides and hopefully the evil Tories won’t succeed in spinning their own version of events.

Pity the poor Americans. Trump living on another planet and unable to string a coherent sentence together and suffering  wholly inadequate health care and social benefit systems. Where’s the humanity?

The Loneliness of the Long Injured Runner Assuaged Only By House Plants

Running marathons could help you live longer – but how do you start?

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2020/jan/07/running-marathons-help-live-longer-how-do-you-start?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

The call of the marathon! Seductive or easily dismissed? There have been lots of articles recently on how running is beneficial to your health. It joggles the brain nicely to ward off dementia, creates new brain cells and neurone pathways, strengthens joints and aids mental health. You don’t have to do marathons or even run. Exercise and activity are the fundamental components. Since my knee injury has stopped me running more than 5k, and at a more relaxed pace, I’ve been walking more and very enjoyable it is, too.

But it’s running I want to get back to. No Cambridge half marathon this year and no 10k race entries (yet). My knee remains weak and puffy but I think there is a slow improvement. My running fitness has appreciably declined, unfortunately. It will return, hopefully, when my knee is stronger.

Hold the front page! I’ve just returned from a five mile run and my knee held up. Not sure what it will be like overnight, but that’s hours away. At the moment it’s okay. New plan: register for 10k races immediately. What can go wrong?


I appear to have become obsessed with house plants (note that I am implying that this has been imposed on me  from above. I am just a helpless plaything manipulated by a higher intelligence to enact their whims). Someone or something has pressured me into setting up nearly forty plants and it’s a real headache trying to provide the right amount of light they require in a cottage that’s on the dark side. These first world problems are really under appreciated. Additionally, it’s very easy to overwater, one of the main causes for plant death or terminal decline, and, conversely, to under water. I’m still feeling my way forward. It’s not too difficult as long as you consider the individual plant’s needs on a DAILY basis. Like having children, really, except they don’t talk back.

Politically, we’ve fallen into the Dark Ages again.  Boris Johnson has a cabinet of poodles and absolute power. Like Trump he is able to sidestep integrity, truthfulness, consistency and any authentic concern for the needs of people outside his own elitist class. Like Trump, he has a large number of angry, prejudiced, uneducated and disillusioned voters who succumb to hard line, nationalistic policies which identify culprits and demonise minorities. Their styles are very different. One is a bullying white supremacist, the other a stand up comedian. But their nasty, viscious,cruel outlook is shared.

 

 

 

Running, races, interesting injuries, recovery and Brexit sadness

Here I am, running to partial victory (I would have won if I had succeeded in getting ahead of the several hundred people in front of me). This is the Cambourne 10k, just outside Cambridge. It was overcast and cold but good running weather for most. I should have worn gloves. More importantly my right knee and hip held up well. At the beginning of March I ran the Cambridge half marathon, a hard road surface and about ten days later my right knee and a right finger became swollen. I self diagnosed osteo arthritis. I was advised not to take ibruprofen because of my cardiac medication but I could take Voltarol (diclofenac diethylammonium,a topical gel, which I did. Result? Both knee and finger swelling quickly reduced. Like a lot of people of a certain age I get occasional arthritic local flareups particularly in my hands and they often disappear. But my swollen knee ACTUALLY STOPPED ME RUNNING!

I’m now back to running fairly normally and regaining lost form. I also took the decision to rejoin Cambridge and Coleridge Athletics Club (C&C) and went training with them this week. I gave up C&C nearly three years ago because I thought I was getting too slow to do the type of training I wanted to do with them, mainly road running. I’m still the slowest in the group but I’ll see how it goes. Some sessions will be more suitable than others and I’ve always got the option of doing track sessions instead.

 

Two running chums. Both beat me in the Cambourne 10k. I eat my banana, place the skin on the edge of the pond, my pal steps on it, skids and falls in. It doesn’t happen.

Brexit. It’s a Pandora’s box. Mostly we gravitate towards people whose views are similar to our own, if we know or suspect them. A lot of the time we don’t know people’s views and they may not know mine but because little clues suggest they might be substantially different, we avoid argument or friction. We get along by not challenging each other we don’t fall out because certain issues are avoided.  Brexit has sidestepped this pragmatic arrangement and frequently lays bare a range of beliefs, attitudes and values which are shocking.

I’d find it more than acceptable if the arguments for staying or leaving the EU revolved around economic or business considerations but I believe the majority of the peope who voted to leave Europe did so for racist and xenophobic reasons, underpinned by their anger at the  bewildering pace and changes of modern life and aided and abetted by the  fascist Daily Mail.

To put it mildly, it’s utterly dismaying to hear people rubbishing Europe, wanting to leave at any cost, desperately fearful of immigration and the loss of “Englishness” and feeling we are helpless under the weight of crazy European laws usurping our British (superior) sovereignty. The Little Britain mentality of most Brexiteers are in extreme contrast with the the humanity and common sense emmanating from the Europeans. Bring on a second referendum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

400 parkruns and a lot of long straw

Cottage getting a rethatch

I ran my first Cambridge parkrun in February 2010, six months after a heart attack and now I’ve passed the 400 mark. Two other running chums who are both in their late 60s and have had heart attacks are still running. Moral of the story? Stay fit and prosper after a cardiac event. Unfortunately I saw many people attending cardiac rehab who were overweight, didn’t do any exercise and regarded their heart disease as a considerable handicap. At that point, only just over 4 in 10 were taking up the offer of cardiac rehab and the takeup was lower in other areas. Oh dear! I don’t know if rehab uptake has improved much.

Cambridge half marathon in under two weeks. I’m trying to do a long run of 12 miles every week and , by and large, I’ve managed it. It takes some effort and focus but I feel so much better afterward, a sort of good, healthy tiredness.

Finished

I just read that the British teenager who absconded to to the Islamic State group in Syria when she was 15 (she is now aged 19 and has just given birth to her third child), has now had her UK citizenship revoked. She is currently in a Syrian refugee camp and wants to return to the UK. This is a complicated issue on a number of fronts but it is very disappointing that the Tory Home Secretary has placated the credulous and knee jerk nitwits of the Tory electorate who are unable to objectively evaluate any complicated issue. Compare and contrast with Tony Blair who was determined to go to war with George Bush on the flimsiest of pretences, shared responsiblity for tens of thousands of deaths and destabilised whole regions.

Cambridge half marathon, a toilet roll and a gastrocnemius injury

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beyondstrange.co.uk

How versatile is a toilet roll? Very versatile. For example, as illustrated, it goes along way in preventing poking one’s eye out if one is building a tall rigid metal armature in one’s living room. How lucky I am to create a mess in this family environment! On the other hand, my family gets to see a living, working artist at close quarters. Quid pro quo, I think.

At the time of writing, I’m fairly certain I’ve got a calf injury (gastrocnemius). Four days before Saturday parkrun, I was 35 minutes into a 50 minute run when I had to pull up and walk. My left calf had started to twinge on impact and slowly got worse. It felt okay by parkrun time (up to a point) so I went ahead and re-injured myself. It was going well until just before 4k and then I slowed right down to a jog but still managed to complete the 5k. I rested it subsequently but Sunday morning it was swollen.

Plan : longer period of rest (only an idiot would wait until pain had subsided and immediately run on it). I won’t run again until next Saturday. That gives my calf seven days to recover which is surely more than enough time.

I don’t usually get calf problems. A fortnight ago, I did Cambridge half marathon and have done various runs since. I’ve got a new pair of running shoes which are an updated version of what I’ve been wearing for several years and I doubt that’s the culprit. I read that calf problems are more common in older runners and take longer to resolve. One way to at least mitigate this issue would be to re-register at parkrun as Steven Youngman in the 40-44 age category. Mind over matter frequently does the trick!

The Cambridge half went reasonably well. With immaculate timing, the Beast from the East (a late snap of very cold weather and snow affecting the entire country) came to a sudden end shortly before the race. The snow and ice melted overnight, the wind dropped and the temperature was just right for running. Unfortunately a lot of runners couldn’t make it because of transport difficulties and uncertainty the race would go ahead. About 7000 took part out of a theoretical 9000. It gets very congested in parts of the city despite re-routing it to Granchester rather than the previous two city laps. I think this is a consequence of the increase in the size of the race whichI presume will continue to grow.

Lorna and two daughters spectated and my eldest son just beat me by a few minutes (a mere 24). I finished in just under two hours. What did I learn? I need to do more timely training before running 13 miles. And take a longer period to recover. Will I heed this insight? I’m more likely to this time.

We visited the Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern last weekend. Very good if you like non realist, abstract depictions of the human form. Tough if you don’t.

Much consternation among the sculptures when it snowed. They were relieved and  reassured when I confirmed they were for indoor display  only. Possibly I spend too much time talking to them!

 

 

 

 

 

Cambridge half marathon and Tate Britain

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This is not the Cambridge half, of course. This is Cambridge parkrun the day before. And very muddy it was, too. Photo taken by Rob Moir who is able to twist around, whilst running, and take a good quality picture without falling arse over tit, before accelerating off. Thanks Rob.

I was very lucky to run the Cambridge half. Four days before I did a bit of light lifting without an obvious problem but overnight my knee became painful. The following day it was very sore and stiff and I thought this might be the second Cambridge half in a row that injury or illness would stop me running. The next day, Saturday, I did parkrun but the knee held up and for the rest of the day. Just over three miles is one thing but thirteen miles is something else. Nevertheless, I did the half, and miraculously, with no ill effect to my knee except a little aching and stiffness. Phew!

I’m not running very consistently at the moment and not for very long either. I did run my fastest parkrun this year, yesterday, but I’m still catching up on last year’s times. Today, I ran the Swavesey 5 miler. Swavesey’s a village 10 miles from Cambridge surrounded by very flat fenland fields and when the wind blows, as it often does in the fens, there’s no protection. It was windy today but the temperature was mild. Nevertheless I ran in my jacket to avoid the wind chill. I came in 22nd out of 69 but two and a half minutes slower than last year.There was also a half marathon at the same time in which 134 ran. Another half was a temptation but physically I don’t feel 100%.

After the race, as I was leaving, I came across a gaggle of St. John’s Ambulance standing alone in the wind. They asked me how my race went. I revealed it went okay (this is not fake news!) and I said their presence was very reassuring to me because of my heart disease (they also had a couple of bikes out following the runners). Good people (does Trump use this phrase, it sounds familiar).

And so to the Tate Britain gallery, Millbank, London to see the David Hockney exhibition. Well worth visiting to see all his iconic pictures and pictures of various periods. Very enjoyable wandering  around the galleries again and absorbing the wonderful creativity.

Lorna is contemplating Jules Olitski’s Instant Loveland. There’s more going on in this picture than appears at first sight, particularly in the lower left hand corner. Thankfully there is no danger of Lorna being overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of lurid colours. Actually, I am sympathetic to this type of art but I still find it highly amusing.

This is Edward Halliday’s Christian and Hopeful Arrive Before the Celestial City, 1926. I’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress and I don’t remember it as a naked journey.

I walked into Cambridge’s premier bookshop, Cambridge University Press, with confidence and purpose. I found the hardback book I had seen in the window display and optimistically scanned it for the price. £60!!!!!!!! I staggered back, weakened in body and spirit. The staff were familiar with such reactions, helping me to sit down and wafting smelling salts under my nose. They gently prised the £60 tome from my immobilised hand, glanced at the price and offered the standard treatment response. “Don’t worry, sir. This title will be issued in paperback in two months at less than a third of the cost. I’m sure you’re  feeling better already, aren’t you? I was!

 

 

 

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!