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!

 

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.

 

 

“Keep on running, grandad!”

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My daughter, Sophie, running in Cambridgw parkrun today (loving the camera, obviously). On this occasion she just beat me. Another daughter, Isobelle, ran Dulwich parkrun and son Dan did Valentines Park parkrun, coming in third but unfortuntely forgetting his barcode (so recorded as unknown).Doh!

I’m trying to get into better form for another couple of half marathons and the first one is next weekend at Wimpole Estate. I think I’m having  a little trouble with this distance at the moment because I’m not running the training mileage. I did, however, do a long run into Cambridge along the river Cam yesterday and found several hundred school kids walking towards me on the narrow towpath. I don’t believe they came out en masse to obstruct me but they certainly did not know a top class runner was at work. Several girls gave positive encouragement but just imagine my chagrin when one boy called out “Keep on running, grandad.” What! Surely I look like the young Clint Eastwood circa the Dollar films. Obviously the lad had perceptual difficulties. Anyway, I avoided crashing into the people looking down at their mobiles or falling into the river and ran 13 miles. I needed a rest after this but after a good night’s sleep parkrun was fine, albeit a bit slower.

Apart from the St Neots half in November, I’m doing a couple of 10k races in October including the Cambridge Town and Gown (around central Cambridge).

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Three unfinished models. So many more in the pipeline.

Boris Johnson! With a bit of luck, he’ll be the next Tory leader and bring the evil Tories into complete disrepute. A mildly successful comedian but a dangerous politician. A number of rungs down the ladder from Trump’s malignant narcissist. God save America and us all!

Daffodils barred from leaving the flower bed

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It’s Day 6 following poisoning by cheese cake and my forced withdrawal from Cambridge half marathon. I haven’t run since then until today when I jogged a couple of miles. I can recommend food poisoning (in my case) for first class nausea and vomiting, an over riding urge to lie very still, weird fluctuations in temperature,subsequently knocking back my appetite, occasional mild nauseous feelings and loss of interest in sweet foods. It’s around 359 days to go before the next Cambridge half but I’m guaranteed to remember not to eat New York vanilla cheese cake the night before.

Good news on the two runners who went into cardiac arrest near the finish line. They received very prompt treatment and are now said to be recovering well in Addenbrookes hospital.

The weather looks cold and wet tomorrow for Cambridge parkrun. I won’t have any problem doing 3 miles and I’m volunteering afterwards by collecting the course signage. I don’t find this task onerous. It’s very pleasant walking around the deserted woodland trail path and only takes 17-18 minutes.

Very interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian on narcissism It’s surprisingly difficult for people to disguise or hide narcissistic traits on social media although most are not motivated to do so. It seems to be deliciously tempting to reveal you’ve been for a cup of coffee, or a restaurant and so easy to become adept at making inane comments and compliments with the intention of having them returned. I blame ourselves, the facilitating social media platforms, cultural dumbing down, lack of emotional and psychological awareness and, as usual, the Evil Tories (although I haven’t refined their particular responsibility yet but I’m working on it).