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.