Monday, 8 February 2021
Monday, 21 December 2020
Appearances can be deceptive. I have, albeit superficially, the look of someone who might be a runner. In my own imagination, at least. This leads me to believe I'll find running relatively easy. After all, I enjoy a walk. The more I think about it, taking up running begins to makes sense to me, particularly when I factor in (a) a desire to improve my general fitness, given that I have a fairly sedentary job, (b) a desire to maximise my lifespan, given the unlikelihood of a second chance, and (c) a desire to stay awake in the evening but to stay asleep at night, rather than the reverse.
I put on my new trainers, my new running trousers and an old t-shirt, then set off at what seems a sensible jogging pace. This is good. My joy lasts for two or three minutes before I run out of breath, at which point any pleasure is replaced by despair. I recover my breathing and try again. Run. Despair. Recover. Repeat. That's not a slogan anyone's going to put on moisture-wicking clothing. Most of my run becomes a walk, although I break into a jog at the end of my road in case the neighbours are watching.
Breathing, I'm later told, is not as instinctive as I'd thought. (Running tip #1: talk to someone about your challenges.) Concentrating on my breathing as I run - in for three or four paces, out for three or four paces - makes a dramatic difference. It also gives me something to focus on: I can't listen to podcasts because I can't concentrate on the stories, while my favourite music tends not to have the right number of beats per minute. Curating a playlist of perfectly-timed but otherwise uninspiring tunes doesn't help as much as I'd hoped.
Despite the disappointment, I'm getting faster and fitter. I don't notice the speed when I'm running - every run feels like potential failure, as I will myself not to walk home instead - but the fitness app on my phone offers regular congratulations on quicker times. It feels a bit like being back at school, having a teacher praise you for something you'd not wanted to do and didn't care about.
I'm still waking early, which means I can have an early run without a potentially embarrassing audience. I learn that interval training - sprinting and then walking - doesn't suit me. Feels like more failure. The first few seconds of running are okay, but then the despair sets in. Isn't this supposed to be packing me with euphoric endorphins? At least I'm partly distracted from the misery by counting my breaths. Back home, I still lack joy. There's usually a moment mid-morning when I feel energised, when I feel I could do it all again. That's when I enjoy a biscuit with my coffee.
This can't be right. Time for a consultation with Dr Google. 'Run slower', says the doc. Slow enough to have a conversation. Slow enough that you might be embarrassed if you meet a friend. This isn't because you can't run faster. It's because running slower helps you prepare for running faster. Apparently it's all about boosting the mitochondria in your cells. (This is the point when I admit to sometimes confusing mitochondria and midi-chlorians, which belong in the Star Wars universe. "More embarrassing than on a slow training run spotted", as Yoda might say.)
Turns out Dr Google was absolutely right on this occasion. My first slower run takes me up a hill I'd previously failed to finish and leaves me feeling pleased with myself. The next one is the furthest I've ever run. After that, I try a fast run. Grim but my quickest yet. Back to the slow ones and I'm not ecstatic but it's definitely a less unpleasant (or more pleasant, dare I suggest?) experience overall. There may even now be room in my head for a little audio entertainment, especially if I want to hit a specific pace. However, that's for the future. Right now, my phone tells me my biggest challenge is maintaining those slower speeds and not getting gradually faster - and that, it strikes me, is not a bad problem to have.
Thursday, 2 April 2020
Sunday, 29 March 2020
Sunday, 10 November 2019
The Observer's article starts with a quote from actor Helen McCrory. "So often when you meet child actors they're weird, they're freaks. No, I mean it, they're really odd people", she's quoted as saying. The original ITN interview continues "because they have a very weird life that as an adult you can just about get your head around".
Who's she talking about? Well, it's something she said eight years ago to endorse Asa Butterfield, who'd just co-starred with her in the film Hugo. "For a child to go through that and not end up very strange is really exceptional, and he's managed it."
There's no apparent reason to assume this is a snide reference to anyone specific, let alone Emma Watson, who'd been seventeen when she'd filmed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with McCrory, but that's what this article does. And then it builds on this assumed strangeness by throwing in the slyly pejorative 'precocious daughter of two divorced lawyers'.
Okay, being chosen as a child to audition for a film role is unusual. But 'strange'? I'm not sure. Graduating from university is apparently also an indicator of her strangeness, as is campaigning for gender equality. The article talks of Watson as 'an earnest believer in the ability to use her fame for good' but that's not enough for The Observer. 'Her controversial comments about ‘self-partnering’ may not have helped her', the paper says. It doesn't want to judge, of course, which is why there's a slippery 'may not' in there. It's the OTHER media that's been judging - The Observer handily provides a list - but not THIS newspaper. Except, well, it can't resist a bit of sarcasm. 'By apparently looking to reinvent an identity hitherto explained by the drably last-century concept of being, say, “happily single”, Watson said that “self-partnering” was a state that she had reached.'
Riiight. A hyphenated construct rather than two separate words. That's what this is all about. A repurposed quote, a list of other people's complaints, attacking Emma Watson without being seen to lay a finger on her, plausible deniability. Oops, no, not plausible deniability. The Observer goes on to nail its colours to the mast: Watson is 'indelibly sensitive and prone to navel-gazing'. Unfair, I say. The sensitivity is hardly surprising, given the behaviour of elements of the media, whilst the navel-gazing accusation is the inevitable result of being expected to explain yourself in every interview. Even if it's true, none of this justifies commissioning an article for a national newspaper.
Watson's often found herself 'a target for cruelty, rather than sympathy', the paper tells us. Indeed so. In fact, the article is a perfect example. How very meta. Criticism speckled with fragments of faux concern, sentences plucked from other people's interviews and a punchline that says she should 'try to learn and do better'.
She's doing very much better than I would have done in the same circumstances, I think. And showing a better example than the newspaper column, too.
Sunday, 3 November 2019
glass artist Claudia Wiegand
Jonathan Brown, who's organised the Lewes Festival of Solo Theatre
and novelist Beth Miller.
Gilbert O'Sullivan: What's In A Kiss
Sarah McLachlan: Fallen
The Dead End Kids: Have I The Right
The Whitlams: Your Daddy's Car
James Taylor: Fire and Rain
Chris de Burgh: Lonely Sky
Imelda May: Tainted Love
Jill Sobule: Almost Great