The Orchard Tea garden, Grantchester, mid October.

 

We arrived at the Orchard early on a chilly, sunny morning. All the deckchairs and tables were out but it was virtually deserted. In the sun, it was warm enough to sit out to eat or drink tea or coffee, and it soon began to fill up. We had walked from Newnham along Granchester Meadows and on the way there, walking by the Cam, we  spied this chap swimming towards Cambridge. On the way back, this group of cows blocked our path and despite negotiation, mediation, persuasion and a few more concepts ending in -ion, they stubbornly refused to move. Guess what? We went around them.

Last Sunday, I ran the Histon Bonfire Burn 10k. This went pretty well, by and large. The weather was cold and bright, all my running chums beat me and I met old running chum, Dominic, whom I hadn’t seen for a year or two. He also beat me!

Three years ago, I ran this race in the worst weather I have ever run in. Scouring wind, low temperature and driving rain.It gets worse every time I describe it. This was the only race I ever considered stopping prematurely apart from when I was injured. Subsequently I have always preferred over dressing for a race rather than wearing too little. I can run when I’m hot.

Today, Cambridge  parkrun was another mud bath as it was last week. As usual we were exhorted to run through the myriad puddles rather than dodge them and run into someone else’s path. This did happen last week when a runner was tripped, fell and broke his ankle. These kind of accidents are relatively rare, surprisingly since sometimes over 500 people are charging around narrow trail paths.

One last half marathon, for the year, next weekend, at St.Neots.

Poor America! Poor world! Donald Trump continues to make jaws drop with his wild disregard for truth, compassion and basic decency. The evidence for corrupt practises is slowly stacking up but how long will it take?

Good news on treatment for schizophrenia research. Trials are starting which explore the possibility that for some people, schizophrenia could be a disease of the immune system. Oliver Howes, a professor of molecular biology at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and a consultant pschiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, and his team, have uncovered evidence, with other teams worlwide, that abnormalities in immune activity in the brain may be responsible for the illness.. Good Guardian article on this November 4th.

 

 

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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.

 

 

Janathon Day 26 Bleakness and gales

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I decided yet again not to run with the club tonight but go for a solitary long run during daylight. The sky was overcast and it was very windy. I usually love running by the river but the light was poor and there was a very strong, sustained  headwind. At times it felt like I was making little forward progress and the wind chill made me cold. As a matter of habit I run towards Cambridge (and, of course, the river Cam goes through Cambridge) but I decided to turn around and not complete the intended distance.

With the wind behind me I made better progress and decided on a footpath, which I rarely take, towards Ely, still along side the river but with open views across the fens and cultivated fields. Despite the openness, it was less windy but the dismal, grim light remained. There was nobody about and it was , bleak, bleak, bleak.

I ran up to Bottisham Lock and felt so lonely I was compelled to talk to this motorised sluice gate winding gear as I stood staring at the unyielding landscape. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t respond. I regurgitated the one joke I know. Still no response. I gave up and moved on.

Total distance : 5.76 miles

The Guardian, today, gives headline prominence to statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb which reveal that deaths among mental health patients has risen by 21% over the last three years, from 1,412 to 1,713. There has also been a large increase in “serious incidents” – involving unexpected or avoidable deaths, serious harm, injury and abuse. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/26/rise-mental-health-patient-deaths-nhs-struggling-to-cope

These outcomes are linked with cuts to mental health service funding and the consequent degradation of services in the community and  hospitals and the substantial reduction in hospital beds. You’ve got to be a Tory not to care!

 

Janathon Day 22 On the way to being the next Lichtenstein

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It’s incredible! Print Making course, second week in, and Tate Modern in London and Tate Liverpool have been in contact, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst have messaged me and I’m being lauded as an exciting new talent. Here’s more –

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Despite this recognition, my fellow students failed to point out that I had a big blob of turquoise acrylic paint nicely positioned in my hair, just above my forehead. Luckily it came to my attention when I went to the loo before leaving the college. I was able to remove some of it but it looked very messy. I had to do a big shop in Tesco with very visible green highlights. Never mind. All in a day’s work to a creative like myself.

In the morning, before it went all kerflooey (this word was brought to me by dictionary.com : word of the day), I went for a run in a bitter wind and light, driving rain. Not my first choice of weather for running but it certainly made me focus and feel alive.

Change of plan for tomorrow’s parkrun. It’ll be Cambridge, and not Wimpole Hall Estate, the former probably the muddier of the two. Possibly a long run on Sunday.

Reasonably realistic and sympathetic depiction of puerperal psychosis/bipolar disorder relapse in East Enders at the moment. This is a soap being sensitive and responsible. The only dud note if you’ve been watching it is the time taken for East End characters to appreciate her level of illness and their capacity to accommodate her severe symptoms. Tonight she received treatment!

100th parkrun celebration. Runners not dressing down!

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Lorna’s and Michelle’s joint 100th parkrun (Lorna in red and Michelle in multi colour tutu. Various wings were worn and a lot of talking undertaken during the run. Coffee, tea and cake in the cafe afterwards. All very enjoyable. I was surrounded by running ladeeees and had to watch my P and Qs (an English expression meaning “mind your manners”, “mind your language”, “be on your best behaviour”. It’s not easy, I can tell you! I have to suppress the urge to be ridiculous at the best of times. It’s an ongoing battle since most of the time I think that’s a legitimate response.

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Cambridge parkrun was attended by a rhinoceros seen here menacing two fairies who have become detached from the magical community. No clever comment offered here. See how grown up I am?

Parkrun was a bit of a no score draw for me. I’m still 90 seconds down on my usual times and yesterday I felt tired. Today I went for a nine mile run and felt much better. I borrowed Lorna’s Garmin and clocked exactly 9 minutes a mile as an average. I wasn’t pushing hard and I felt quite relaxed. The problem running with heart disease is the medication (bisoprolol and Ramipril) acts as limiter on the amount of effort the heart can undertake. In practice the difference between running comfortably and running to capacity is rather small ie I don’t run much faster when I put in maximum effort.

The attack by a knife wielding man at Leytonstone Underground station yesterday who apparently shouted “This is for Syria” as he stabbed and assaulted a random person (presumably) and threatened others before he was Tasered and subdued by police, was a disturbing and frightening incident. The police are regarding it as a terrorist act, provisionally, but I note that BBC reporters included the possibility of his behaviour resulting from mental ill health. His physical movements and manner certainly gave that impression.

Since a high percentage of people regard themselves as citizen reporters and can easily video scenarios played out before them and share via social media, we can all enjoy the unfolding drama with detachment and  the safety of distance. Over and over again as with this incident. We can also see how bystanders, or people passing, act. This ranges from running off in terror to standing gawping or even walking over closer as if the danger was occurring on a screen. If news isn’t accompanied by explicit film or images, it loses its impact compared with news that is.Video can be repeated endlessly and shamelessly, as it was with 9/11.

A large proportion of of news presentation, these days, is devoted entirely to exploiting our emotions. It’s cheap, voyeuristic and cynical. The police themselves are complicit in this approach and freely make available video of subsequently convicted suspects being questioned. They also permit the making of sycophantic TV programmes following traffic cops and docile fly on the wall documentaries about themselves. News has been receiving a substantial make over for several years. There’s less news, it’s dumbed down and it’s more likely to be presented as emotive entertainment. We can all feel sorrowful and pretend we care.

Must leave you now. Going to watch that emotionally uplifting Nordic noir TV crime prog, The Bridge.

 

 

I REMAIN SUBSTANTIALLY CLOBBERED. IT’S NOT MY FAULT. I BLAME THE EVIL TORY GOVERNMENT.

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Six days ago, I came a cropper during the Hoohaah Wimpole half marathon falling heavily on rubble. My left thigh took most of the impact. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again (thanks, Nat King Cole). I fell at just over  a mile in and continued running for the next 12 miles. By the evening I was hardly weight bearing on my left leg leg and couldn’t bent it at the knee.

Now it’s six days on.There’s clearly been some improvement but it’s slow. I think I’ve had an impact injury to my quadriceps (and specifically to the rectus femoris), the type that footballers get when they get kicked in the thigh. I can walk but not jog, I haven’t been able to drive and I’ve got limited movement in my knee joint because any kind of stretching movement hurts.

Today is parkrun day and if I didn’t do it, I know I would have been subjected to a torrent of hate mail, Sinton-Hewitt would have been on my case and people would have openly wept in the streets of Cambridge. I don’t want that kind of attention so I decided to walk it .Usually Cambridge  attracts around 450 runners and more often than not a few people are walking most of it. Unfortunately, no-one walked it today although I wasn’t too far behind the people in front of me. Cambridge junior parkrun provided all the volunteers , including the 13 year old run director Chloe who gave a very confident pre-run  address to the assembled crowd. I was accompanied by tail runner 12 year old Ben who was very supportive to me and gave vocal encourage to the myriad runners who flashed past us. I hope he didn’t hear me grinding my teeth as I watched them recede into the distance. I came in at just over 48 minutes which, interestingly, is exactly twice the time I do it on this course when I go full pace. Young Benji, who has cerebral palsy, started late and came in a minute behind me. He ran with his mum and came in strongly to enormous applause.

Hopefully, I may be able to gently trot around Cambridge parkrun next weekend and then the subsequent one will be my 250th. It won’t be a PB!

Recent reports show the NHS in dire financial straits, suffering financial mismanagement, imply inefficiencies, experiencing poor staffing levels, missing targets and spending mountains of money on agency staff. If you treat the NHS as a market economy, require it to compete and make a “profit”, continuously emphasise poor financial governance, cut staff levels, employ dodgy borrowing devices with the private sector, continually reinforce the private sector has the nous, nerve and expertise to do a great (and cheaper) job and create standards which are designed to fail because of under funding, then it’s an inevitable set of outcomes.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/09/chain-failings-led-death-charlotte-bevan-newborn-baby-coroner-rules

This is a very, very sad coroner’s report of the death of a mother and her newly born baby. She had a long history of mental ill health, sectioning under the Mental Health Act and had stopped medication in order to breastfeed. Tragically, she left a Bristol maternity hospital unchallenged and killed herself and her child shortly afterwards.

Reading the coroner’s comments and conclusions, it’s hard to comprehend the apparent complete lack of joined up, considered care for a patient who is so obviously at risk.. Vulnerable mothers with a history of severe mental illness have been having pregnancies and births for decades in a health system which is a aware of the level of input required to ensure the safety and well being  of mother and baby. I don’t think this event occurred because of a lack of understanding of the health requirements. I think it’s much more likely to be due to staff shortages, cost and unavailability. These days, I can’t accept that general hospital staff are so out of touch with mental health issues that they are capable of willfully ignoring them.

 

 

 

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.