28 February 2007

Childhood's End?

I'm not having a seond childhood, nor do I think it's true to say that I am reliving my youth. Despite my Most Glamorous Running Companion pointing out to me recently that I am middle-aged, I'm not sure that I ever really moved on from youth. Jim Morrison said you're whatever age you feel you are, going on to say he felt 40 and then dying at the age of 30. Life is often wearying and wearisome, but I'm keeping middle age at bay.

In the past few years, my resistance to aging has been aided by attending gigs by a variety of musicians who played an important role in my chronological youth - starting with Fairport Convention, and through the Cropredy Festival also Procol Harum and Lindisfarne: then the discovery (thanks to Mike Wood) that Audience were back: Roger Chapman and Richard Thompson along the way, and Robyn Hitchcock too, though he belongs to a slightly later generation: Kevin Ayers: and now Stackridge.

It doesn't even matter too much that I contrived to miss the new Stackridge's first appearance. I've read the reviews, and while I wish I was there (and also wish that I hadn't agreed to do a school careers convention on the day that they play their second gig - how can I talk seriously about the joys of being a solicitor while that's going on at the 100 Club?) I can also look forward to 1 April, which will be captured for posterity on DVD.

Just that they are playing again gives me a sense that a corner has been turned. Even life in the office seems brighter, although I have bored Shane and Bruce so much on the subject that Shane set me a quiz this afternoon, culling questions from (it transpired) the band's Wikipedia entry, which badly needs updating. I got all but one of his questions right, but who else would have been able to name the band members who proposed a reunion? I don't recall ever having heard of any of them before.

Shane has still failed to listen to the copy of Kind Of Blue that I lent him a week ago - even after I remedied my initial omission and produced a CD to go in the empty case I had handed to him. Bruce and I sang him the first few bars of Freddie Freeloader - I took the bass part - to show him what he's missing, though I imagine it sounded a little less than convincing. Later he started singing Bob Marley songs, so we exchanged favourites for a while. He was having a slow day.

Apart from Stackridge, my mood was elevated - whatever happened to that fine band the Mood Elevators who I saw with the Lemons several times in the early eighties? - when Henryk, the security man on the main entrance, approached me to ask a favour. He's always seemed a bit dour, and although I've long done good morning and good night as I passed his station he's not in the mould of Michael, his very friendly Ghanaian co-worker.

He needs a solicitor to sign his application for British nationality, which I find slightly surprising: I knew he was of Polish origin, but as he speaks idiomatic English with no trace of any accent except London I'd assumed that was some way back in his family history. Although there are well over a hundred solictors in the building, he asked me to sponsor him, and I find it flattering that he has done. I'm just a little apprehensive about that word "sponsor", but there's a box on the form in which to set out my level of knowledge. There's also a box for my passport number, so I cannot complete it today anyway.

He's done his test, he proudly tells me, 45 minutes to answer 25 questions on citizenship issues - rather like Liz Gamble's experience when she went for US citizenship, which sounded like Trivial Pursuit: indeed, it was while playing Trivial Pursuit with her and Mark when we were visiting them in Kentucky that she told us about it. The question had come up in the game, what is the only amendment to the Constitution that has been repealed? The same question had come up in her test. (The answer is prohibition, though I can't remember what nuber amendment it was.)

Henryk proudly told me that he had rattled off the answers in only 15 minutes, then checked through them to satisfy himself that he was home and dry. He reckoned he had at least 20. One of them, he told me, had asked what "consensus" was, and one of the choices had been a method of electing members of parliament. Of course, he said, it's a means by which the government updates information about the population.

Either Poles do irony far better even than the English, or I'd better keep my fingers crossed for him. Still, I'll take my passport in tomorrow.


I am trying to get my left knee better, so have done a lot of resting - and icing, and physio, and balancing on my left leg with the knee slightly bent as instructed by Suzy while brushing my teeth and waiting for trains (not at the same time). I have to brush my teeth gently, as vigorous movement upsets the balance - I'm not good at this, and Suzy thinks that my lack of balance may account for the damage to my knee.

I planned to run today, but at the bottom of Hagbourne Hill I realised that I had left my running shoes at home.

23 February 2007

Last Friday of the Month

Whatever damage, physical or psychological, the Sussex Beacon Half might have done to me, I had to run the Last Friday 5K in Hyde Park. Several weeks ago, I'd received a letter from a Canadian trade mark lawyer friend, Sylvie, who was going to be in London for a conference: she asked if I might be available to meet for tea or coffee: I counter-proposed that we do the race.
I should make it clear that I know Sylvie from participating in the International Trademarks Asssociation's annual 5K race, so my suggestion was not as outlandish as it might seem. I invited colleagues and other running partners, and ended up with a group of five, two of whom then dropped out with different ailments leaving Andrew H as the third and last member of the group. At least the balance between clients or contacts and the home team - two to one - was appropriate for a firm-funded client entertaining exercise.
We took a cab to Hyde Park Corner rather than turn up worn out by a sprint from the office (my usual opening mistake), and I showed Sylvie the map of the route that had come with our numbers. We didn't hear the announcements at the start (we were in the B race - expected time 21 minutes or more - and not anxious to start that from the front) so when the route carried on past the designated lamp post where it always turns left, towards Speakers' Corner, I was unprepared.
Sylvie began by threatening to disappear into the distance, but faded before we reached Speakers' Corner. At Lancaster Gate, where the route took a ninety-degree left turn, Andrew and I looked for her; she was a couple of hundred yards behind, and cheerily returned my wave. After that, Andrew faded a bit too, although while I waited at the finish line he managed to get past me and creep up from behind. He reckoned he was some 300 yards adrift. Sylvie appeared a couple of minutes later, acknowledged the two of us but failed to spot the finish line, stopping twenty yards beyond it when she encountered another stationary competitor who was able to confirm for her that she had indeed finished.
I forgot my watch (which has taken to sounding unasked-for alarms at odd times, and therefore requires banishment beyond earshot) so I had no indication of my time, but however long it took me it felt like a well-paced run, and I didn't aggravate my knee injury. (It tutned out the time was 22:29.)

18 February 2007

Sussex Beacon Half Marathon

There will come a day, I know, when I have to stop running. Today I had a taste of how it will feel, but I'm fairly confident that I have not reached the end of the road yet.

Entering the Sussex Beacon Half Marathon was not the greatest idea I have ever had. It's over 100 miles from home, and February is not normally spring. The Brighton seafront is notoriously windswept, and it could easily rain. But two colleagues picked it in preference to Reading, which we ran last year, so I entered too. Then they both decided they weren't fit enough to run it, by which time I had invited another running mate to join us: plus, after missing last weekend's Wokingham half marathon (much closer to home!) I was determined to see this one through.

My left knee had other ideas, although this was partly because I ran the event in a series of bursts, trying to catch aforementioned running mate having missed him at the start. I chased down several men in red shirts, one more than once, and may have had Andrew in my sights on a couple of occasions when I found I couldn't maintain the pace. So near mile 10, where the course descended to sea level from the promenade and executed a hairpin turn a couple of hundred yards from the finish, I took the direct route to the the baggage store and recovered my possessions. I think it's only the second time I have dropped out of a race (the other being the Paris Marathon, and then I did continue to the end at walking pace), and it was down in part to crazy pacing, but I thought it best to save my knee from further damage, and that will probably meet with my physiotherapist's approval when I see her on Friday.

Andrew managed his target of 1:40:00 and was pleased that I had persuaded him to do it, so there was at least some consolation. Oh, and I passed Sally Gunnell at about two miles. I have a feeling that she might not have been trying.

14 February 2007

Lummy Days are here again!

Momentous news! Stackridge have reformed again and are playing in Bath on 24 February and London on 16 March ... then again in Bath on 1 April, to be recorded for posterity. But I guess (and it seems I am right) not with Mike Evans, and it's hard to imagine the band's sound without him.

This blog will now contain more than a fair share of Stackridge-related material, I'm afraid. Time to amend the mission statement again ...

08 February 2007

Thoughts in Kings Cross Underground

Kings Cross underground has changed enormously. Thanks no doubt to the Eurostar terminal which is being constructed here the tube station is probably the most modern on the network. But the modernisation has resulted in a familiar landmark being moved, and it took me a few moments to find the monument to the 31 people who died in the fire in November 1987.
It's hard to imagine that it was over 19 years ago, and my memory of that evening is getting hazier. I do recall that I just caught my train from neighbouring St Pancras having taken the Victoria line north from a party thrown by my publishers, and the train time and the time of the fire coincided too closely for comfort. I remember the smoke in the tunnel that carried the old wooden escalator down to the Piccadilly line as I ran from the top of the newer steel escalator that had brought me up for the platform, and I remember the police officer who was rushing down to the source of the smoke as I passed through the ticket hall. I cannot be sure, but I fancy he is the holder of the George Medal named on the plaque, for my dash through the tube station took place as the alarm as being raised, according to the official report.
It is difficult to remember a time before mobile phones, too. Hilary drove in to town to check whether my car as still in its parking place, and the fact that it was not told her that I had not been incinerated. I travelled back to Bedford that evening and had to go out on some council business - a dinner with Paul Boateng was involved, though i recall that I didn't stay to eat. It was some community relations meeting that he had spoken at, I think, and the group was run by an interesting guy who encouraged me - on the other side of the political spectrum - to take an interest. I read a copy of The Unmelting Pot, about Bedford's 70-odd ethnic minorities, that he lent me. A long, long time ago. It was an aspect of being on the council that I loved.

06 February 2007

The Clear White Light

In Green Park the daffodils are in bloom, despite yesterday's cold which continued today. Spring might not quite be here yet - I wore hat, gloves and long-sleeved top to run this lunchtime - but it can't be far round the corner.
Using a knee support, I did the two parks with no discomfort (and in 22:25, which is not hanging around). I caused the damage to my knee a week earlier, with my exuberant trip to the diplomatic quarter, so today I had to keep myself reined in. I don't seem to be able to find a friend to run with (and to keep me under control) at present: perhaps when spring truly arrives they'll reappear.
I spent the morning kicking myself after leaving a file of papers on the Circle Line, condemned forever to circumnavigate central London. It included a draft article with two hours'-worth of marking up on the transcript, and irreplaceable notes about the Gowers Review from which I was working. Lesley says it might appear in lost property, which I suppose is true, but the probability is surely small.
The afternoon degenerates when Bruce raises the subject of Kind Of Blue, and Shane (who doesn't know it) finds it at no 12 in Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums. Naturally, a lengthy debate ensues and finishes up with the three of us drawing up our own top tens. I include Kind Of Blue, along with Atom Heart Mother, Nicely Out Of Tune, Liege and Lief, House on the Hill, Underwater Moonlight, Joy of a Toy, Blood on the Tracks, Stackridge and something else, which just goes to show what a bad list it was. I told Bruce I'd want to revise it withi a couple of minutes. His list contains ten albums I haven't heard.

05 February 2007

Winter's shadowy fingers

After the mildest January for 90 years (who counted?), today I am wrapped up in coat and hat: I'd be wearing gloves too, if I didn't want to type. Every breath I exhale produces a cloud of condendation. Yet I am not walking from the car park, or cycling to the station (not that mad), or running or scraping the ice from the car: I am sitting in Coach A.
We remarked that there were many vacant seats in Coach A as the train drew in, and as soon as we boarded it was apparent why. But Didcot commuters are hardy people.
What annoys me is less the discomfort, or the fact that I pay a substantial charge to travel on this train (the ticket price only covers conveyance from A to B, not even a seat, though there's usually one of those to be had), more the loss of this useful time. It's too cold to do any work. Once I've blogged the cold, I'm going to put my gloves on and read something.

01 February 2007

A good start

I rarely encumber myself with it (a fact that speaks volumes) but this morning I have my Bunbury in my pocket so I look to see what emails have come in. I am keen to read a reply to one that I sent to Japan, and sure enough there is a response. Better still, it opens:

Thank you for your email - it is always a good start to a morning to come in a read an unusual request/email instead of the daily usual stuff asking you to do work, and your unusual request made it just that - a good start.

I remember when work used to be like that.