01 December 2016

Time Was

Commuting by train used to be something to enjoy. Crammed into a narrow seat yesterday evening, one of the few which didn't have a reservation ticket on them, next to a man who wanted marginally more than his allotted share of the space available and opposite (I was sitting at one of the two tables provided in a Great Western HST carriage these days) two women burdened with far more luggage than a rush-hour train can comfortably accommodate, I looked back nostalgically on the days when there was enough room to spread out. If there was no-one to talk to (rarely the case) it was an opportunity to get some work done. When, I wondered, did I last talk to anyone on the train? (I think it was a Polish punk, last Christmas.)

Just then an old commuting friend - no more than an acquaintance, in truth, but years of daily travelling together creates a special kind of relationship - passed me on her way to a seat further up the carriage. And later, as we approached Didcot, she passed again in the opposite direction, heading for the lobby for a quick exit when the train stopped. A minute or two later I too made my way to the lobby, where she was standing looking out of the window. I wondered whether she would recognise me, as it was a few years since we'd seen each other (and then she was telling Lixin and me off for talking too loudly in the quiet carriage), but she turned round and remarked that she hadn't seen me for years. (I didn't remind her of the last occasion.) Better still, she said I looked younger. No suitable rejoinder came to mind - at least, not one that that would have sounded anything but daft.

We chatted about those long-gone days - whether I was still cycling to the station, about her remark one morning when the train was late that she (being endowed with a Latin temperament) was surprised that this did not result in civil disorder - and what had changed since. People don't chat on the train as we (and Chris, and Nigel, and Mark, and Alison, and Geoffrey, and Dorothy, and The Master, and many people whose names I never learnt, including my Latin interlocutor) used to. Instead they commune with electronic devices. As they do on the Tube, too, where that morning I had become impatient with people who forced me to take evasive action as they walked along seeing nothing but the screen of the device in their hands. We put it down to a general lack of civility, and then went our separate ways on the platform expressing the hope that we'd see each other again before long.

15 November 2016


I didn't see the promised Supermoon yesterday - nor even the stars.

I was out early, for the first time in a long time, to go for a run. The streets of Nottingham aren't the best place for it, and I didn't want to venture as far as Trent Bridge as I did five or six years ago when last I went for a morning run here (which resulted in a damaged Achilles, anyway). ‎2.34 gentle miles was enough - actually not so gentle given that the city has some significant hills in it. 

I wondered about the man I could see at his desk in an otherwise deserted first floor office, above (presumably part of) RBS. And the man, older than me (older even than me!) in suit, tie and overcoat, carrying a briefcase, on his way to his desk at about 7.10 am. I had just passed Eversheds' office and could not help but connect him and that building. How nice to have nothing more demanding in front of me today than to deliver a lecture on moral rights.

At the law school there are notices advertising a talk: something like "what life is like as a corporate lawyer, and why my colleagues hate me". Quite.

31 October 2016

Solid Air

For the final leg of my drive to Nottingham this morning, I put the roof down and turned the CD player up - driving up the M1 with the wind and sun on my face, John Martyn (my purchase from the Oxfam shop in Nottingham last week) playing at full blast, singing along to the extent that he was the sort of musician with whom one could ever sing along ("May you never" is suitable), with a broad grin perhaps for the first time in a long time. And what could be more appropriate as the theme song for an IP course than "Solid Air"?

After a struggle the last time I did the drive, having to cope with no clutch, which makes city driving tricky, and with a deafeningly failing wheel bearing just behind the driver's seat, the car was a pleasure to drive. So much better than the trip last week, which necessarily made use of the train while Adam fixed the car.

I found myself regretting not buying a double CD of The Doors in the Oxfam shop last week - it would have been ideal listening this morning - but when I returned today someone had beaten me to it. They did however have "Spooked" by Robyn Hitchcock, which I am sure will be an essential addition to my library - as well as the brilliant "Television" it also features "Trying to get to Heaven before they close the door". Two seminal songs, come to think of it. And I also found myself unable to resist a CD from the bargain selection, by Rumer, an artist to whom I was introduced a year ago ... I liked what I heard then, but that might not be the best basis for buying the CD, which probably doesn't lend itself to open-top motorway driving either. We'll see. I might be singing along to Nobel Laureate's Greatest Hits again tomorrow evening. Probably with the roof up, too.

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 wonderful 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