11 October 2016

One year of love

If it's October, it must be time for another intellectual property training course ... so here I am having delivered the first half of the course, preparing myself for day 2, staying the night in a hotel room large enough to hold a sizeable party - so big that something feels as if it's missing - having taken a very enjoyable and rather nostalgic run to and around (only the Inner Circle) Regent's Park. My running restart programme is going well: I clocked about three-and-a-quarter miles this evening, and "lost" another mile or so while Garmin tried to find a satellite, so I reckon I did well over four miles in total. It loosened up my plantar fascia quite nicely, but the soreness is still persisting.

I'm sure that a few years ago, when I was commuting between Paddington and RIBA, I ran through Regent's Park in the evening, after dark. I remember the strange sounds that emanated from the zoo as I ran past. Tonight the gates were firmly closed, so I was confined to the roads - probably just as well, as it was dark enough to make street lights necessary. And I guess heading home from RIBA was never very late: one evening there I caused consternation by asking to be let back into my office at some unearthly hour like 8 o'clock. Too many years spent working in law firms whose offices were accessible 24 hours a day!

I had to postpone my second Tuesday at Nottingham Law School because of my prior commitment to CLT, but was due to take one seminar yesterday. The prospect of a trip of nearly three hours there, and back again only an hour later, didn't exactly thrill me but was manageable, and part of the price of having such a great part-time job. But at the time I was supposed to be starting the seminar I was in a traffic jam on the M1, where I had been for two hours before that: so Monday was also postponed to next week, when I will have an intense couple of days (and so, unfortunately, will the students). At least I was able to catch up on some phone calls from the stationary car.

At one point during my sojourn on the motorway I became aware that I could hear a cock crowing. Then I noticed I could hear more. I realised that I was alongside an artic piled high with unfortunate poultry in stacked-up cages. The curtain sides of the trailer were closed, but sufficiently transparent (I suppose to allow ventilation) to see some movement and to make out feathers. It upset me greatly to think of the distressed animals, no doubt baffled about what was going on (or, in a traffic jam, not going on) and unaware that they were probably heading for an unpleasant fate. Not that I imagine their lives were very pleasant anyway. When the traffic moved a few yards and I was able to get away from this neighbour it was a big relief. I wonder whether, if I'd not been able to get away, I'd have been able to resist the urge to get out of the car and liberate some of them: but when the thought crossed my mind I could see that any newly-freed chickens would probably get no further than the free-moving southbound carriageway and become roadkill.

06 October 2016

Like a Rolling Stone

Not sure about how accurately "tocad a toda caña!" translates Dylan's famous words (just audible, especially if you know what you're listening for). Google Translate, perhaps censoriously, fails completely. I love YouTube for the unexpected foreign subtitles it throws up.

The opening bars never fail to give me goosebumps. I wonder whether other people have the same visceral reaction to it? "Light My Fire" does the same thing.

Holding back the years

For many years I thought - I convinced myself - that running could slow down, or even reverse, the ageing process. It helped that I only started running in my mid-thirties, so getting fit made me feel a great deal younger. It dealt successfully with aches and pains that might otherwise have become a great deal worse.

For various reasons, including a broken arm and then a pretty severe case of plantar fasciitis, I haven't run a lot for more than a year. Having reached the stage in James Dunne's PF rehabilitation programme at which he says I can do a little running, I started yesterday with a gentle mile (three laps of the playing fields) and added another lap this morning. The years seem to be falling away already - I hope the same goes for the 20-plus pounds of extra weight that I have acquired since the start of my enforced rest.

At the same time, I've forcibly made myself younger by embarking on a new career - perhaps more accurately a new job, and resuming a career which I'd largely left behind ("largely" because I still have my Moscow gig, as regular readers of this blog - if there are any - will be aware). I've enjoyed teaching (which after all is little more than talking about myself, at least the way I do it is) ever since I first did it, which would be at Essex University in about 1992: only in the last few years have I become concerned with whether the students enjoyed it as much as I did. Several of the Russians clearly have done, and last year, to my delight, a former student from many years ago confirmed that she had done, too, which encouraged me (inter alia) to look for some more lecturing work.

Which is how I came to be driving up the M1 to Nottingham on Monday morning, en route to start teaching intellectual property law to third-year undergraduates (level 6, as I have discovered having looked pretty stupid when I didn't understand the Regulated Qualifications Framework). Listening, as it happens, to the Adagietto from Mahler 5 which came on Radio 3 at an opportune moment - though it is not suited to listening at motorway speeds in an open-topped car. (The conductor was Kubelik and he took about 12 minutes, so a lot slower than Mahler.) Then a few minutes later came the Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde, a piece (the whole symphony, not just the last movement) which I need to put high on the list of "must-listens" which I am going to compile to get back into the habit of listening to music.

Two days, three seminar groups and one lecture later, and I was driving the other way down the M1, feeling considerably younger. So the title of this song by Simply Red is just right. I hadn't consciously heard it until I was introduced to this video recently - proof, again, of a powerful connection ... with a former student ... The video is full of scenes from the history of my father's side of my family, including the 199 steps leading to the church (and the Abbey) which my grandmother climbed so often that (according to family lore) she wore out the 200th one, and (presumably) the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It doesn't show Spantons, but it's quite a nostalgia trip.

07 September 2016

Let It Grow

So much for the procrastination cure about which I wrote the other day. Let it grow, indeed. I've got to carry on until I get this out of my system. A couple of weeks ago it was Walt Whitman, yesterday it was Chekhov and today it seems to be the Grateful Dead.

In 1995, in the US for the Internet Law Symposium at which I had been invited to speak, I'd hired a car to drive from Seattle to Bellingham to visit friends - and, come to think of it, to run the Mount Erie race, billed as "Skagit County's Oldest and Steepest Road Race", which didn't put me off because it was the only race in the area that weekend. Point-to-point, finishing at the summit, then you had to jog back down again which was even more painful than running up the hill. To make matters worse, it was just a week after my first Marathon.

As the hire car was provided with a cassette player (remember them?), I invested in something to listen to - and, seeking to expand my musical horizons and unaware of who else would be speaking at the Symposium I bought this ...

Of course it didn't come ready-autographed, but I was rather pleased to have it to hand when I met Barlow. (He signed it with his email address, a very modern thing to do in 1995 - I have erased the second part although I imagine he hands it out fairly liberally. In fact it's on his homepage, and so are his phone numbers and real-world addresses.) A couple of years later he kindly gave me permission to reproduce his essay about intellectual property on the Internet, "Selling Wine Without Bottles", in my Sourcebook on Intellectual Property Law. What a nice guy. One of those people I'm pleased to be able to say I've met in my life, like Stephane Grapelli, Ted Heath, Simon Callow, Harold MacMillan, Jackie Stewart, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tippett, Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Fallon, Dave Pegg, Eugene Ionescu, Joanne Harris, Jeffrey Archer, David Putnam, Michael Portillo and Roger Bannister (a rather random selection: please excuse me if I have omitted you).

And while I am on the subject ... I rather like his Principles of Adult Behaviour, although following principles set down by a member of the Grateful Dead reminds me of Hunter S Thompson offering advice on life. And having sought out that link I am reminded that this is all "Reading Galbraith" and I should occupy my time more profitably.

A great tape, too, which I enjoyed listening to frequently until car tape players disappeared.

Looks like rain

No it doesn't look like rain, for once, but it's a great song which has come to my attention in a very nice way and which cries out to be used here. I won't wait until rain threatens, which probably won't be long anyway. An added bonus is that the lyrics are by John Perry Barlow who, as readers of this blog might remember (because I have been known to mention it before) is the only member of the Grateful Dead with whom I have ever shared a stage - at the Internet Law Symposium, in Seattle, back in the days (1995 - I wonder how I fitted that in with everything else I was doing at the time: perhaps I wasn't teaching the LPC by then) when Internet Law was so new no-one except perhaps Barlow knew anything about it, and we were all making it up as we went along. Well, I certainly was. And at least I can claim to be a lawyer, not a retired cattle rancher and sometime lyricist.

Having spent several weeks hobbling around having (as I told my doctor the other day) bu****ed my plantar fascia - the usual problem, running too far too fast too soon once it felt a bit better - I have hit upon a magic cure, which isn't magic at all but perfectly well-known if you just know where to look on the Web (www.return2fitness.co.uk). And once I'd placed an order for a brace and some clever sticky tape, I used some of Mel's kinesiology tape and fixed the problem even before the delivery arrived.

There's a strip under my foot too, running from the ball of the foot to my old friend Achilles. Return2fitness.com suggested that taping and bracing overnight would show quick results, but I've been amazed at just how quickly it has worked. Had I tried it a few weeks ago I might have saved my entry in the Loch Ness Marathon but even if my plantar fascia will permit me to run there's no way I can get back Marathon-fit in a couple of weeks. Indeed I could have been cross-training, as in my imagination I hear many readers (many? who am I kidding?) telling me, but I really can't get into riding a bike around with no destination in sight, or swimming up and down a pool: I prefer to run pointlessly. How stupid is that? Don't answer that, on a postcard or otherwise: I know very well how stupid it is.

Now that I have reached my seventh decade, which is the way I like to express it because prime numbers are much more fun than ordinary ones, I'm taking on a lot more work. Is it typical of me to do the opposite of what most people do? I will be teaching intellectual property law two days a week, inconveniently at Nottingham Law School but if you ignore the fact that it's 130 miles up the road (and the railways do not offer a viable alternative from Oxfordshire) it's a great institution, and I expect to have fun. And I know quite a nice morning run along the river there.

01 September 2016

25 August 2016

The untold want

I was reading some guidance, which looked extremely useful, about a mindful approach to dealing with procrastination, a vice which has afflicted me since I was a child such that when our Latin teacher asked who in the class knew the meaning of the word mine was the only hand that went up. (Perhaps the others were just taking their time to get round to it.) Set aside five minutes to complete a task, and when you feel the urge to procrastinate don't try to overcome it but rather hold it in your mind, assess what it feels like, stay with the urge and then appreciate that you are able to feel it and not to succumb. Sounds good. I'll give it a try, later. First I have a few things I need to do ...

So today I found myself learning a bit about Walt Whitman. I've got a collection of his work on the bookshelf, but in fact I found what I needed on the web. It doesn't take  much to create a diversion from what I ought to be doing.

How I got to Whitman is another story, but it's relevant to a problem I am grappling with involving goals. So the couplet which I'd come across:
The untold want by life and land ne'er granted,
Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.
- once I'd worked out what it might mean (with the aid of some poetry discussion groups on the web), had quite a resonance for me. Particularly, it must be said, in light of a significant life event which is coming along tomorrow. There seems to be no way I can postpone it. It cannot be dealt with by procrastination.

The "untold want" which hasn't yet been granted to me could include those elusive goals. I'm pretty sure - in fact, I know - that there is a lot of other stuff included too, but I'm focussing on goals here. It might help me in my next Skype coaching session - I should think of myself as the voyager, sailing forth, to seek and find - to seek and find all sorts of things. Perhaps that's a particularly healthy attitude to have with tomorrow in mind.

Keep mediocrity at bay

An article entitled How to be mediocre and be happy with yourself  on the BBC News website caught my eye, partly because I had been discussing mediocrity only a few days earlier. That was in the context of whether I am a perfectionist, which I am pretty sure I am not, preferring spontaneity, authenticity and conviction to perfection. That only means, I think, that I wouldn't say perfection was the most important thing to seek - it might well be achieved while chasing other goals. But one thing I really don't like is mediocrity.

I don't think that I recognise much of what is discussed in the article as mediocrity. It seems to be more about ordinariness, some of it about disorganisation, some of it about the rejection of the demands of excellence and efficiency in favour of la dolce vita (Italy being held out as a paradigm case of mediocrity, it seems, although my paraphrasing might leave something to be desired) and to my mind those are not the same things. There's noting really wrong with the ordinary (although it can get boring if you have too much of it). I think Italy proves that you can create a lot of excellence without having to spend every waking moment striving for it.

I don't presume to say that never I produce anything mediocre. I'm sure this blog demonstrates that. But I try not to, although I'm not sure everyone else tries similarly. There's often a sense that mediocrity is good enough. I'm reading the latest Alexander McCall Smith book (well, it was the latest one when I started it, but that's  not a distinction that can last for long in his oeuvre) and was amazed to find an erratum slip apologising for the fact that all words ending in "-ize" (and I think words containing that string) had been automatically changed to "-ise". A computer was blamed, but in fact it seems to me to be a colossal failure of proof-reading. I suppose the only viable way to deal with the error was to issue the faulty copies with an addendum slip - it would be horribly expensive and time-consuming to pulp the entire print run and make thousands of new books. The result, I think, could rightly be called mediocre.

I've encountered mediocrity in other books, too - and I think I have already written about examples. Typographical errors, grammatical and stylistic howlers (why can no-one execute a simple parallel construction?), fact-checking failures (sewerage is not discharged into the sea, Greek is not written in Cyrillic) - my potential enjoyment of a book can be destroyed at a stroke.

I have encountered many fellow-lawyers who are content to be mediocre, too. Because the practice of law is no longer always concerned with a deep understanding of the subject but often with making the largest possible profit, competence is actually devalued. A former colleague could bill many, many more hours than I ever did because it took him so long to overcome his incompetence. (Which reminds me of a "credits" box we - to be precise, Nick Draper - once put in The Warwick Boar, sometime in the mid-1970s, listing people who had assisted in the production of the paper and adding that the process had been hindered by "incompatense".) I'm not sure that mediocrity is rewarded very often, although time-based billing does tend to have that effect, but it certainly isn't opposed and rooted out wherever it rears its ugly head. Perhaps it's the rejection of "elitism" which promotes mediocrity, though the better response to elitism is surely to celebrate everyone's authentic and committed achievement (another topic about which I have written before).

Yesterday I spent the hottest afternoon of the year in a basement room in the office of a firm of solicitors, presenting an update on data protection law. I hope the result was not mediocre. I worried for years that I delivered mediocre courses, and I have no doubt that sometimes they were just that. Then someone revealed to me, on the eve of a course that I feared was going to turn out mediocre, that some 20 years previously my lecturing had actually been very good. My confidence was suffering a bit before my data protection talk - given the subject, who could be surprised? - but by a happy coincidence my memory of that watershed moment received a prompt shortly before I had to perform. I might not be perfect, but perhaps if I have the stars I shouldn't ask for the moon.

26 July 2016

Going Home

A few walking interludes, but a good solid run across London yesterday evening to catch the train home. But, perhaps because I haven't been doing it for so long, I forgot the route - twice. From the start I turned off Bunhill Street towards Barbican tube station, and ended up taking an unfamiliar route to Blackfriars to reach the Embankment, then in Hyde Park I found myself at the Old Police House, having aimed for Paddington but taken the wrong path. I suppose it added a bit of mileage.

I normally reckon on an hour for this journey, and gave myself an extra ten minutes to allow for lack of training, so I made the train with that much to spare. A very satisfying outcome.

24 July 2016

I'm so tired

Alarmed to realise that I will be running a Marathon in nine weeks, and haven't made much progress in overcoming about a year of hard non-training, I did 10 laps of the playing fields yesterday morning (5K) at a reasonable-for-now tempo pace (8:13) and followed up with 7+ miles this morning, at a reasonable snail's pace. The first two or three miles were definitely of the run-walk variety, as I felt as if I'd rather be doing anything but running, but eventually my brain took over and reminded me that I'll never get anywhere without a bit of determination.

I felt a little disappointed about the performance, but the important thing is that no-one else will ever be remotely disappointed by it. When I run, I am in absolute control of what I get out of it, whether it's gratification or disappointment. No third party can affect that, nor can they share in the gratification or disappointment. Running is a perfectly autonomous activity, and that's a very strong attraction. Not that it isn't also a social activity, or that support and encouragement from others doesn't make a difference, but whether I perform as well as I can or not is entirely a matter for me.