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!


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


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?


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.



It’s me..me..me!


I’m half way through an adult education course. It’s called Learn to Run with Your Mouth Shut for Beginners. Cambridge parkrun was my homework for this week. I reckon C minus!

Cold and wet last Saturday but the sun did did emerge. No-one I knew did a fast time. The gloopy mud prevented a nice springy step and I also felt constrained by the extra clothing. If I don’t over compensate with various layers, I get disproportionately cold around 2-3c and below. There were plenty of people running in shorts and singlet or short sleeved top, however and I remember more than several crazy people similarly under dressed  a couple of years ago when temperatures were down to minus 10 and 11.

I had an ultra sound on my thigh this week, two months after my fall at the Wimpole half marathon. I picked up an injury to my vastus intermedius which has resulted in some degree of calcification. Not sure of the possible consequences. I presume it might cause my quads to work less efficiently although be he calcification may resolve by itself. I’m now referred to the orthopaedic clinic for an opinion. Happily, I’m running okay except for a drop in fitness over the last two months and a five pound weight gain. That’s no problem because our digital scales give a different reading each time so with a bit of patience it eventually comes up with an acceptable weight.

I went running with the club a couple of nights ago after an absence of 9-10 weeks. We did a fartlek around Cambridge occasionally weaving in out between those funny people who choose to walk. I found it harder work than usual and I was lucky they didn’t expel me for bringing the the club into disrepute.

I returned home in time for the parliamentary vote on bombing Isis/Daesh in Syria. I find it impossible to believe anything the Tories have to say on a majority of issues and particularly military intervention and terrorism. American and British foreign policy has been disastrous for the Middle East and I think contributing to the bombing campaign is wrong. We are getting involved for political advantage, long term economic gain and probably to give our military an opportunity to test out their hardware and IT systems. The male drive to act with hostility and aggression is transparent even when it’s dressed up with glib justifications citing the need to combat evil and protect our hard working citizens.

Aliveandrunning December 20 2014


My new Hi Viz running jacket! Actually it’s a cycling jacket. I couldn’t find a Hi Viz running top which I liked, at a reasonable price and had sufficient protection from cold and chilling wind. Very competitive people may remark that it’s on the heavy side for running but that runs the risk of upsetting me. In this eventuality, I’ll challenge them to a duel of my choosing – a contest to see who could eat the most Brussels sprouts in twenty minutes, for example. The loser would have to sit very close to a naked flame for an hour. It gives me the jitters just to think about it!

I assume it’s the blood thinning aspirin I take for heart disease that makes me so sensitive to cold. The weather, particularly winter weather, wasn’t an issue before I had my heart attack but it is now. Previously I ran almost naked in Arctic conditions. Currently I’m so upholstered, people call out”There goes the Michelin Man.”

Cambridge parkrun today. The course was muddy and trail shoes were essential. Consequently my time was relatively slow. I looked up my brief personal record of runs for this time last year and my times showed little difference to today when course conditions were similar.

Most of my running chums went to Wimpole Estate parkrun for their 100th anniversary. Ms Alive and Running and I were due to go but family circumstances dictated otherwise.

Must sign up for Janathon (when I undertake to run and blog every day throughout January). This is very manageable if the runs are not too long and I don’t spend too long trying to be clever writing this blog. And the gods are willing to support me with drinks of ambrosia along the way. And the water nymphs along the River Cam don’t try to delay me as I run by. And the sun shines.

Mandy Rice-Davies (who has just died of lung cancer, aged 70), Christine Keeler and Stephen Ward, were central figures in the notorious Profumo Affair in 1963. They were stitched up by the British Establishment and class system. Still a very interesting and informative example of how powerful vested interests protect themselves. http://gu.com/p/44bqc


Aliveandrunning Janathon January 2

Day 2. I’m still recovering from yesterday’s mud festival at the Hinchingbrooke 5K. They should have billed it as a swamp challenge. In retrospect, I think Indiana Jones had less dangerous near misses even where he’s actually trapped in a swamp up to his neck. My body is unscathed but my mind is in bits. It didn’t help that my nice Ron Hill tracksters were still drying and I was compelled to wear running tights in broad daylight. I looked like Max Wall!

max wall image

Whereas, I normally look like this


No matter, I pulled myself together and went off for a 2 mile run just to keep things ticking over. The weather was sunny and mild today and if one was inclined, one could fantasise that Spring was around the corner. This one started to fantasise. I saw daffodils poking through everywhere and I’m sure I glimpsed lambs gambling in the fields.

Why run? You feel physically better – more alive, alert and fitter. Your mood improves, you feel more positive and you meet a whole new society of good people. You reduce the risk of developing a raft of diseases and disorders, you focus more sensibly on the food you eat. You feel younger (this is age related : you don’t feel 14 when you are actually 22) and it can be exciting and result in a sense of well being. Why wouldn’t you?

Aliveandrunning2013 July 3

Yesterday, I had an enjoyable run with the club. We did a time trial followed by intervals of 3 minutes followed  by 3 minutes recovery. The amiable coach counselled against “sandbagging”, that is under performing deliberately to gain unfair advantage or to save energy when effort is required. We were advised not to “brick it” which is to experience such alarm that the unhappy individual defaecates in their pants! This is all lad’s stuff, of course. It was like being back at school. There is frequent banter about times, distances achieved, cross training, injuries, races and expectations. Most of this has limited interest for me. I’m not a technical runner. I usually just run as fast as I can. The running fraternity is a broad church and I tend to gravitate towards the less competitive people who have a life outside of excessive exercise. However I heeded their warnings. I neither sandbagged nor bricked it. The latter condition, had I succumbed and driven home, would have required the car to have a deep clean.

Today,I scanned the headlines of  the print papers in our local supermarket. The Sun and Mirror led with the “scandal” of Coronation Street soap stars endorsing “fake” products, the Mail told its demographic that at last a radical cleric would soon be deported, the Star explained that a  Big Brother reality show contestant had received a death threat [surely par for the course} and the Express revealed that a mother of 11 had been allocated a “mansion” worth £500,000 by a council or housing association that was being paid for by “us” i.e. tax payers.

Wow! It must have been a slow day for grown up news. But everyday is a slow day for the tabloids.

Theresa May, Home Secretary, has announced a 6 week consultation over the future of police stop-and -search powers. She told MPs that black people were still seven times more likely to be searched on the street than white people. “If it’s being used too much or with the wrong people, then it’s a dreadful waste of police time,” she said.

Putting aside the issue of “wasting police time” { which translates as black people having the audacity to walk openly on the streets thus provoking officers to stop and search them needlessly}, this racist behaviour has been controversial for decades and was previously known as the sus laws. Since the police remain institutionally racist, things will remain unchanged.

Another item mysteriously absent from the front pages of the tabloids was the National Audit Office report that tax officials have failed to collect £9.6bn of VAT returns in 2010-2011. Clearly the government priority is to persecute benefit claimants and drastically cut health and social services rather than pursue lawful revenue streams from their business allies. More about this in a future blog.