25 November 2006

Last Friday of the Month

I still can't get this right. First, I left my watch on my desk when I rushed to get changed. Without it, my pace could be all over the place: with it, I'm still pretty erratic, but at least if I have run a kilometre in well under four minutes I want to know about my mistake.
So I had no idea how fast I covered any of the marked kilometres round the Serpentine, though I am fairly sure they varied wildly. Nor do I know what my time was, but the race started at 1230, and after finishing and getting over the feeling that I was about to die, or at least throw up over a large part of Hyde Park, and then chatting to a visitor from Washington DC, then jogging to the gate behind Apsley House, I noticed that the time on the clock at the gate house was five to one. And when the results were published my time turned out to be 21:24. Unfortunately, I misread it at first and thought that I had improved - now I find that I am a minute slower than I thought at first, so some serious training is called for.
If next time I allow a little more time to get to the start, and don't have to get to Hyde Park from the office at 5K pace, I'll be close to 20 minutes.

18 November 2006

Free-form jazz and Fairport Convention

It wasn't designed that way, but it worked out quite well.
I'd been looking forward to seeing the London date in Fairport Convention's annual autumn tour for a long time. I'd been to the equivalent gig in the previous two years, each time with Tony, who'd be glad to come along again; Ben was also keen; Chris was persuaded, although he made clear his reservations about Ric Sanders's violin-playing, and in truth there are more electronic effects than is right for a folk-rock band.
I invited Dave and Mike, and Mike introduced Patrick, so a party of seven was planned. We discussed meeting for something to eat beforehand, but then I looked at the programme for the London Jazz Festival. A free commuter concert given by Lol Coxhill on the South Bank: too good an opportunity to see a living legend to pass up, and Tony, Chris and at the last minute Dave agreed.
Ninety minutes of free-form noodling on the soprano sax isn't everyone's cup of tea, and Tony was the one of us most likely to appreciate it - which made it doubly unfortunate that he didn't show up. The great man took the stage with a drummer and a bassist, which didn't match the billing, so he promised to play solo sometime in the middle. By the time the middle came, Chris had observed that if anyone suggested going for a pizza he'd go along with the idea, and Dave too was content with less than a full quota of the living legend, though we all agreed that the drummer was pretty good. At one memorable point, he lifted up a tea towel that he'd used to muffle some part of his battery and, finding a small gong hidden beneath, struck it almost as an afterthought before putting it to one side.
It has to be said, the pizza was rather better than the jazz, but better still was the main act of the evening. And here's where the unintended consequence came in: Chris's reservations about Ric Sanders did not survive - could never have survived - exposure to Lol Coxhill. When I had first made the suggestion, Chris had initially feared exactly the opposite, that Fairport would pale after the early part of the evening, so it was a pleasure to see the the contrary happen.
My great regret was that Fairport failed to play more than a couple of classics - Now Be Thankful, and the obligatory encore Meet On The Ledge - but it's good to know that after nearly forty years they are still bringing on new material, and that in the past decade or two they have come out with some excellent songs. I think the present line-up has lasted longer - must have lasted much longer - than any previous one, and although there is now only one founding member of the band still there, fittingly it's Simon Nichol, whose family home gave the band the first part of its name.
My guests seemed to enjoy themselves, though after the interval they started to drift away. Our plan to secure a table and enough chairs failed miserably, so we had to contend with a large pillar betwee us and the band. Usefully, however, this enabled Chris to screen Ric from view, and Ben, who announced an irrational aversion to Simon Nichol, could also make use of it.
By the time they reached the encore, our group had been reduced to two - me and Chris - but we left suitably uplifted, commenting on the superiority of Meet On The Ledge to most - almost all - of the songs written since. Richard Thompson certainly knew how to put a song together: the music perfectly matches the sentiments expressed so clearly and beautifully in the lyrics.
So after forty years they are still creating excellent new music, but they also have in their songbook one of the most complete rock songs ever written (and I haven't even mentioned Who Knows Where The Time Goes). Worth catching the last train home (at 0021).

17 November 2006

Lyrics in legal articles

An interesting article - more a diary piece - in the Law Society Gazette this week reveals that an academic in the States has surveyed scholarly legal writing and analysed the use of lines from songs. I am not in the least surprised that Bob Dylan comes top of the list: a court in the States, needing to say something about the fact that expert evidence was not always necessary, borrowed the line "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows". Of course it did: a better way to express that proposition would be hard to imagine. (But should it be Weatherman with a capital W? Who remembers either the political or the musical group of that name? Did Dylan mean them when he wrote the line? Certainly, the left-wing organisation was active at that time.)
I used a quote from Dylan in the heading of a chapter of my book on Copyright, years ago, though it was his introduction to a song on the great live album of 1966. Other writers in the survey seem to resort to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and The Grateful Dead (which reminds me, in the episode fro the first season of The West Wing that we watched last night, some six or seven years late, a flag hanging on Sam's office wall bore the motto "Don't tread on me" - which appeared in uncle John's Band). This, the writer suggested, tells us a great deal about who is writing these articles, which is not much of a revelation.
I tore the article out, because Tony - who wrote an article on trade mark dilution under the title "I hear you knocking but you can't come in", or perhaps just adapted it for the purpose - should see it. He will have ideas infinitely more recondite. I recently dug out my 1995 article on the motor vehicle distribution block exemption, "Whatevershebringswesing" (I'd better put in a link to help explain that), and of course I gave my copyright book the sub-title "A Question of Balance".
There's enormous scope here. Ben Price and I carried out a short conversation in the summer using Fairport Convention song titles - well, at least one was of a Dylan cover: "I'll keep it with mine", his response to me when I asked him for some money he owed me. How did I phrase the request? "Now be thankful" came into the exchange at a later stage. Little wonder he occupies top spot.
Another sign that winter is here is that Fairport play the 100 Club this evening: and for the third year running, I'll be there - with Ben, and Tony, and others. I'll be looking for inspiration.
The Gazette also carried a story about a trainee solicitor who had run the Athens Classic Marathon and who, it transpires, works nearby. I sent him an e-mail to congratulate him and to invite him to join us for lunchtime runs in the Royal Parks. That makes up, in a small way, for my failure to cultivate my fellow passengers.

Winter at last

This is the first morning so far this season that has felt cold, and coincidentally the morning when a little wardrobe disorganisation dictated that I travel without a coat. Waiting for the bus, the rain that was swirling around on the wind ensured that I was pretty damp by the time the bus appeared, a little later than nit should have been. The mornings are now quite dark when I leave home, too, heightening the impression of winter.
At the station, one passenger waits with his bike at the point where the door to the guard's compartment will draw up. His legs are bare, and I cannot imagine he has had an enjoyable ride. I consider asking him, but I've never spoken to him before and breaking the ice with fellow passengers is a process that has to be taken step-by-step. Although that's not how it happened in the first place.
for years I commuted with that famous English reserve, never talking to fellow travellers, until NL broke the ice one evening, introducing himself to a group of us who were sitting silently round a table and then introducing us to one another. Which is, directly, how I met Dorothy, and Chris, and The Master, and Robin; and by using the technique myself made the acquaintances of Andy, John, Julian, Lixin, a nice lady from Argentina, and many others. Nowadays, though, Coach A is populated largely with strangers. I need to practise my networking skills again.
I have started greeting one or two of these strangers whom I have seen regularly. I hope I'll have a new circle of friends before the end of the year. As a first step, I should change the habit of recent weeks and sit at a table for four instead of in a side-by-side pair of seats: facing someone is a good first step, especially compared with today when I am sitting beside a sleeping young woman wrapped in her coat, resting her head against the window with her scarf as a pillow - and she may have been in the same position all the way from Swansea. In the pocket on the seat back in front of her is a copy of A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine, one of those few books whose title is enough to make me want to read it. I won't wake her to ask if she's enjoying it, though.

06 November 2006

Monday morning: winter

Thick fog, low temperatures (though the forecast suggests it will be unseasonably warm later), delays to the trains - winter is here.
My mobile e-mail has been restored, and having my Psion back gives me something else to write about too. My neighbour on the train started cursing his laptop as soon as we pullled out of Didcot) and for all I know he had been cursing it from wherever this train started - Cheltenham, I think. He suggested that computers were the worst invention ever, and I vounteered that the computer is probably fine but what Microsoft have created to run on it is rubbish. Having a Psion gives you that feeling of superiority - how much better if I could work out how to use Linux on my laptop. I even tried over the weekend, with little success, to find a beginners' course. They are all too expensive for me. My Dummies book won't do it for me, though.
I am not going to run for a few days in the hope that my knees become a little more flexible. I have to marshal on Wednesday lunchtime anyway, and already I have not run since last Thursday. I have a visit to the chiropractor on Wednesday evening, so running will be off the agenda on Thursday too.
I have a much wittier excuse for not running, though. Last week, Vanessa sought to alleviate the boredom induced by a second circuit of Green Park by reciting London bus routes. I need some study time before I run with her again so I can keep up with the small talk.