31 August 2008

Walk Awhile

Even Murakami only runs six days a week, so I don't feel too bad about not having got to run today. Too many other things to do, and even then it's dark and I haven't fixed my bike.


Watching the river flow

Yesterday was not a good running day: I thought about running to the office from Pddington, but my backpack felt too heavy (aways a convenient fall-back), and when I tried to run the other way in the late afternoon I decided to take to the Tube at Temple, about 3 miles into the run. So my average slipped a little, although I got in the morning cycle ride. The evening ride, however, was thwarted by my finding the rear tyre flat at the station when I returned - let down, I think, because there was no sign of damage. I wheeledd it to the filling station and blew the tyre up, unfortunately literally: I have used the air pump - the one clearly marked "not for bicycles" - many times, and at higher pressures than I was trying to achieve yesterday, but a loud bang signalled the end of my attempt to cycle home.
No morning run today, either, but a nice evenig trot down to Rowstock Corner and back up the Winnaway to give me about six miles, in a little over 50 minutes. Not really flowing, and I stopped to recover after reaching the top of the Winnaway (where I had followed a runner who turned round at the top of the hill, evidently set on doing some long hill reps), but pretty steady for the fifth consecutive daily run and perhaps I'll manage more tomorrow. The best thing, though, is that I tipped the scales at about 11 stone when I got back home, which is about 10 pounds less than I was a couple of weeks ago and should translate to a 20-second-a-mile improvement, if I am to believe what I read in Runner's World.
I've also taken an important step towards making my training more effective, ordering a top-of-the-range Garmin Forerunner 405 having found a special offer in a rarely-used email account the other day. It was almost a personal email from Hugh Brasher, offering a free pair of shoes if I bought the Garmin this month, and of course this month has not long to go. But the device wasn't showing on www.sweatshop.co.uk, so I used (or perhaps misused) the privilege of having had a professional relationship with Hugh and sent him a personal email - which quickly resulted in a reply from their online manager inviting me to phone. When I did so, they were expecting me, which made me feel like a very valued customer (I will say only nice things about the Reading Half next year).
The exercise I have been taking has already given me a great feeling of well-being. If I improve the efficiency of the training, I should be able to look forward to feeling better still - and to some PBs!

29 August 2008

Stimmung

A moment that brought to mind Sir Thomas Beecham's famous assessment of Stockhausen's work ...
Cycling to the station this morning, down the leafy path in Didcot that is in many ways the nicest part of the journey (so I take it even though it adds perhaps a quarter of a mile), a lady walking her dog - a poodle - stopped to let me pass. Her dog sat obediently beside her.
"What impeccable behaviour!" I commented as I freewheeled by, and she thanked me - I hope she realised the compliment was aimed at the dog.
On the right-hand side of the pathway, lurking in the shade of the trees and hidden by a few fallen leaves, was evidence that another dog was less well-behaved – and its owner, too. I had not time to take evasive action once I spotted it, squelching through it and leaving a brown mark in the tread of the front tyre, which was unpleasant but not intolerable. But when I reached the station I found that the rear wheel had done what it would do with any other liquid it came into contact with – so I’ll be cleaning my bike at the weekend.

28 August 2008

Five Miles Out

Hah! Still on target for the Murakami Average! I planned to do a track session this evening, which wouldn't have contributed much to the average, but instead found myself out on much the same route as on Tuesday. We covered about 4.8 miles at a reasonable pace, on what was a rare summery evening. Good flow again, and a very satisfying feeling to be maintaining this regime. A thousand miles by the end of the year might be a little tricky, but I should nevertheless have covered a good distance by then.

I might try the half-Marathon-a-month routine again this autumn and winter, if I can keep free of injuries - which, remarkably, has happened despite my ill-advised (in fact, downright reckless) increase in mileage.

27 August 2008

Sloth

In mitigation, it was late at night, I was exchanging emails with a lawyer in California and I was being conservative about how many miles I had run, but the title of yesterday's post should certainly have said eight and not five. In fact, it looks like about 6.1 on the map.

I followed that up this lunchtime with a standard Wednesday lunchtime outing: Cleopatra's Needle to meet up with some others, then the Bridges Race route (though part of it was closed off by the police, who were examining a suspicious car parked in a bad place) and back down the South Bank. I went on to the Millennium Bridge instead of crossing Blackfriars, to get me back to the office more easily as I had been running for an hour at that point, and it took me another twenty minutes to return from there at cool-down speed. Guy kept me to a reasonable speed (but thanked me for pulling him along!) for a recovery run, the first time I think I have ever consciously done a recovery run - it was needed after last evening, and I must be careful given that I have upped my mileage enormously and plan to keep up this six-miles-a-day average. I can only do that if I run gently, and gradually increase the speed.

Guy mentioned that he plans to ensure he runs 1000 miles this year. If I can keep up the average I should be able to manage more than that before the year end. Will I? Should I?

26 August 2008

Eight Miles High

My resolution to follow in Murakami's footsteps in my new year has got off to a good start. I went along to my club meeting this evenig, paid my long-overdue subscription and set off on the evening run with a bunch of people most of whom I have been running with for years. I ran most of the way with Simon, who claimed to be looking for a slow run this evening - which is what he always says, and has never in my experience meant before.

He kept me to a sensible pace for most of the way, but with about a mile to go we had got into a flow and I was able to chase down two runners from the club who were visible in the distance. Only after I caught them did I discover that one of them was Liz, with whom I had run the Reading Half in 2007 (see here). She was delighted to hear about Mel's exam results.

A great feeling at the end of the run, and if the rest of this year follows the model it will be a good one!

25 August 2008

One too many mornings

I ran last Wednesday, with the Excise Men, or two of them at any rate: about 20 minutes warming up on the way to the meeting point (Cleopatra's Needle), then a trot down to Westminster Bridge, across to the South Bank (which at that point is actually east) and follow the Bridges Race route, then carve a path through the tourists to reach the back of County Hall (does anyone still remember when it was County Hall?) and follow the quiet streets to Blackfriars Bridge, where we cross the river again and I break off to head back to the office (walk-and-run, about fifteen minutes). A very silly way to come back from injury, but apart from a twinge in my left calf at the far end of the route (of course it would be the far end! - bu the MI6 building) it seems better.

A session with Sharon on Friday left both my legs feeling tender, but that has passed and I am trying to stretch a little more. Inspired by Murakami and the Olympic Marathon, which I watched on Sunday morning having fallen asleep before eight and woken again just before the start, I essayed a gentle run this morning.I made it to the field (not a thousand miles from home, which would have fitted better with my choice of title, more like two), where I found Hilary and asked for a lift home. But a couple of miles is better than nothing: and perhaps the beginning of my next year tomorrow is the right moment to start to keep a log, train rigorously, average 6 miles a day and race as often as I can.

I have already taken the reckless step of entering for the Chippenham Half marthon, only three weeks away, so I hope this works.

11 August 2008

Who Knows Where the Timesheets Go?

The first page of the weekend FT to which I turn is invariably the back page of the Arts and Life section. Indeed, a large part of what I enjoy in the paper is in that section (most of the rest in the magazine, except of course Mike Southon's column) although its approach to art is too often from a purely financial angle and what it says about life is not usually about life as I know it. But Harry Eyres always strikes a note that resonates with me.

This week he discoursed on the derivation of the Greek word for summer, kalokairi. Kalos I knew, indirectly, from the irresistible impetus I inherited from my father to speak a few words in the language of any country I visit. Kalispera and kalimera (but not kalimares) are essential components of my Greek vocabulary, although I can't necessarily get the the right way round (so out running early one morning in Crete I wished a passing old lady good evening, which she corrected for me). The same instinct to try out foreign languages left me more recently floundering to find the right German words to tell my taxi driver, a "Persian" (his word) who had been in Berlin since the late seventies, that one of my daughters had a school friend whose father had also left Iran (or perhaps Persia) at that time, and also drove a taxi. But it failed to come into operation at all when I went to Istanbul a couple of years ago.

So the first part of kalokairi means fine or beautiful (so, more than merely "good" - I suppose they do have beautiful mornings in Greece, and in England we don't need a word to convey the same phenomenon). The second part is from kairos, meaning time, but not ordinary time, which is chronos: kairos is, as Mr Eyres explains, "the proper time, the unique, unrepeatable, propitious moment, as opposed to ... that other, deadly kind of time which grinds on relentlessly, linear, unstoppable, consuming all things." Or, to relate it to my recent work experiences, it's the satisfaction of finding a small but important point of law (the action for groundless threats relating to Community unregistered design right), the carefully-written letter, the well-received presentation, the runs in the Royal Parks, the regatta, the time spent with friends, rather than the stuff that I had to record with a view to selling it to clients. It epitomises what I don't like about practising law, summed up by Tony when he referred to that wonderful song that Sandy Denny might have written had she been a lawyer rather than a nurse before her musical career.

Clients are expected to pay for chronos, and indeed usually expect that this is what they will receive a bill for. But chronos almost by definition isn't worth a great deal. It's time spent running anti-money-laundering checks, going through "matter inception" processes, doing some low-grade drafting on the basis of a precedent written by someone with a shaky grip on the English language but published by a company whose prestige enables the user to rebut any argument that he or she failed to exercise due care in their choice of starting point at least. It's the time devoted to composing letters or emails, starting with the so-called client care letter (more accurately, partner care letter) and other communications necessary to minimise exposure to risk, then at the end of the process writing a bill for X hours of chronos at £390 per hour.

Sometimes, I suppose, there is no alternative to selling chronos. It's all a client wants, because it gives the client what it needs - which is not the chronos, of course, but the agreement, or the letter of advice, or to be brutal the indirect benefit of the lawyer's insurance. The trick then is to ensure that the charge for the chronos is aligned with the benefit to the client. My chronos is worth what a client is prepared to pay for it, and a fixed rate - even if it is deviated from regularly - is not an ideal way to express that, but perhaps it is the best available. I would much prefer to sell kairos to my clients, but I have an idea that if I tried to charge them thousands of pounds for an hour's kairos, even if I had given them many hours of chronos without charge, they would not be particularly receptive.

01 August 2008

The Leaving Time

Following a chance meeting with Nigel, handing round a French loaf, on (in? I remember Karoline being highly amused by the notion that we English travelled not inside the carriages but perhaps clinging to the roof - German, and probably most other languages, uses "in", although I guess there are places where "on" is absolutely right) the train, I found myself consulting the OED to find out why we came to be called "commuters" and what it had to do with commuting a sentence - because the experience of travelling by train every day is the antithesis of a commuted sentence ...

Commute, from the Latin commutare to change altogether, to exchange (com + mutare). Transitive verb meaning (1) to change for or into or to exchange (1633), to interchange (1667); (2) to change an obligation etc into something lighter or more agreeable (taking the preposition for, into, occasionally with) (1633); (3) to change a punishment or a sentence into a lighter one, or a a fine (1642); (4) to change one kind of payment into or for another (1795) or (in the US) to purchase and use a commutation-ticket (which is defined as a ticket issued by a railway company etc entitling the holder to travel, etc, during its currency at a reduced rate; a season-ticket); and finally intransitive verb meaning to make up or compound for, to serve as a substitute for (1645).
I suppose I interchange at Paddington, and even at Didcot where I leave my bike and take the train (or vice versa), and I have been exchanging south Oxfordshire for Westminster every working day though I don't think it is necessarily lighter or more agreeable - perhaps that is the journey home. Or perhaps it means that what lies at the end of the journey is lighter or more agreeable than the journey itself. Of course, nothing could be more agreeable than a journey on which one encounters an old friend distributing bread.
I was rather taken by one of the examples cited by the Shorter OED: "Perhaps the shame and misery of this life may commute for hell".

I have now commuted the commuting.

Farewell, farewell

I took a seat on the train and called the local taxi company to pick me up. "The last train?" "I suppose it is." Perhaps that's a measure of a good evening. Opposite me, a passenger tapped a sleeping occupant of two seats opposite each other - in other words, feet up on the facing seat - to wake him, and before the newcomer could take his seat the other leapt up and left the train, which had been standing at Paddington for ten minutes, as quickly as ever possible.
I asked the couple sitting next to me - Paul and Josephine, going by the tattoo on his leg - to ensure I didn't stay beyond Didcot, to avoid a similar performance. "Oh, we'll be long gone by then", Josephine told me. Meanwhile the companion of the passenger who had tapped the sleeper on the leg to wake him yawned and hiccupped loudly, and while the leg-tapper caressed her leg and kissed her gently on the cheek she stared at a point close to Bristol Parkway. I piped "Red and Gold" into my ears, reasoning that music would keep me awake to my destination.
Red and Gold is perhaps not the best choice. It is an excellent song, and the chorus never fails to rouse me, but it is too closely tied up with the annual festival held on the field of the battle it describes, and the Cropredy Festival is the greatest and most traumatic cause of nostalgia I know.
To cap it, I had spent a few hours with Ben P, who was there with me when last I heard Fairport perform this song on the very battlefield, and in the pub - putting back more beer than I normally do in a month.
The reason for all this was my departure from what I referred to in an email to the said Ben as "the service of Mr Dyson", whom he happily confused with Mr Lacey ... to add to the other Fairport references I had dreamt up: Farewell, farewell quoted in my parting email to my colleagues (with an alternative reference to Kevin Ayers's See You Later ). And Tony the disenchanted Fairport fan, had come up with "Who knows where the timesheets go?", which I will adopt as a motto.
Listening to Farewell, farewell (as I hope my colleagues have been doing) brings on new waves of nostalgia. I had been gently alerted to the fact that I might have to undergo one of those presentations that I have so often participated in at the office, but when I left my room at about 4.15 intent on returning an armful of books to the library I had forgotten altogether about the prospect and was caught completely unawares.
It fell to Ian to say a few words, which harked back to 1995 when, the merger of Bircham & Co and Stoneham Langton and Passmore being imminent, he had come to Bolton Street to hear me give a talk on trade marks, claiming that he had insisted to his partners that the merger go ahead to secure my services; and confiding in the audience that both he and I had been born in Hartlepool (which of course was not true, but I am not going to spoil a good story, even if I have to assume the role of a monkey-hanger to oblige him). But we have, as he reported, exchanged books on Hartlepool (though the exchange has so far been one-way, from him to me). Then he presented me with a card signed by more people than I realised I knew, in an envelope nicely decorated with a photo of runners, and a small gift bag containing (gift-wrapped, so it was not clear what they were) a pair of running socks, a can of Red Bull and a jar of recovery sports rub. Plus a gift voucher from the local running shop in a sum that I could scarcely believe. The hand of Nancy is clearly identifiable here.
I planned - truly - to spend a few minutes in the pub and to drink very little. Several pints later, that resolution was in tatters. I went back to my desk to send an email to a client, and to deal with a few other odds and ends. A box was filled with my personal possessions (what the author of "Then we came to the end" referred to as "shit"), mostly by Ben J rather than me. I sent an email and copied it to the senior partner, the source of the client. He sent me a reply. I responded, and so did he. This is not how it should be at 1030 at night. I sent a email to an attorney in California, and less surprisingly she replied. I left the office, and found my way to the train and an MP3 player full of ancient Fairport Convention songs.
I am pleasantly surprised that my colleagues - who are also my friends - should have gone to such lengths to mark my departure. I myself should not have gone as far as I did - leaving work in a state I had not intended - but there will be ways to put it right shortly. I had come to regard this as merely a job, where I had the pleasure of spending time with delightful colleagues, but I realise now that there was always more to it than that. The colleague who confided that she loved her workmates too much identified a truth that holds for me too.