Kudos to the Couch To 5k Brigade!

Struggling for fitness, I’m appreciating – not patronising – newbie runners

New runners givin’ it bifters. Picture: anthonynolan.org

AS A NON-CLUB RUNNER who trains mainly alone, I’ve never felt we runners were that friendly towards one other.

Maybe it’s just a London thing, and people are different elsewhere…

But city pavement-bashers find it hard to break the habit of always blanking strangers and treating them with suspicion – even when we’re dressed in the same running gear, and united in suffering.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the suffering that does it? Perhaps we’re not being bad mannered intentionally, it’s just that we’re all in our own little worlds of pain, which even other runners don’t really come into.

A while ago, I read an article that compared runners to a kind of secular priesthood – think the shared sense of vocation and dedication; the urge towards purity and transcendence, even the uniform.

But the piece struck one bum note when it described how runners supposedly greet each other as they pass, by raising an arm like a priest in benediction, and I thought: “I’ve never seen that happen.”

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I’m Pretty Fucking Far From OK

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, so I’ll be honest: I’ve had it up to here with this m************ lockdown

Ving Rhames and Bruce Willis in a scene from Pulp Fiction

“ARE YOU OK? Are you all well?”

Have you noticed that, since the start of lockdown, people are asking questions like that and sounding as if they actually mean them, for once?

It’s one of the nicer aspects of being in the middle of a global pandemic – a sense that the person asking actually cares how you are, and isn’t just doing it out of politeness.

I reckon this comes from a tacit acceptance that we’re all vulnerable at the moment – so it’s all right to admit to a certain weakness.

Which is not the worst way to be in Mental Health Awareness Week.

But even now, when someone asks if I’m OK, I’m not laying my entire soul on the line.

I might say something guardedly revealing of certain susceptibilities – and then slap back on the stiff upper lip and add: “Of course we’re coping better than expected.”

So it’s not exactly full disclosure – but this is: today I feel pretty fucking far from OK.

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Lockdown = Getting Weird Shit Done

Coronavirus is making us strangely productive – the allotment has never looked so good, we’re righting decades-old wrongs and… bleaching carrier bags

“Someone’s got too much time on their hands” Image: mrshit50s

Conventional wisdom says that it’s The Devil who makes work for idle hands to do.

But, if our family is anything to go by, the lockdown has actually unleashed the work ethic and creative juices that lurk – if you look hard enough – in the breast of every right-thinking Brit.

We’re still working from home but – as we don’t have to spend time on commuting, make-up or dressing properly – we have become wildly productive in some unexpected areas.

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How I Gave My Kids The Beer-o-Virus

It isn’t just Covid-19 that’s catching in lockdown London

Original Images: Vektor Kunst and Clker Free Images/Pixabay

BACK WHEN the Coronavirus was just getting warmed up, I woke for a few days in a row with some worrying symptoms.

My throat was tender, my body was hot and sore, and I had a blinding headache.

I started to tell my wife, already imagining being isolated in the top room.

I pictured myself sweating and moaning on the lumpy sofa bed, constant bloody Netflix, meals left outside on trays…

Which was when I remembered the five beers I’d had the night before and realised that I didn’t have Coronavirus: it was just a hangover.

“You’ve got the Beer-o-Virus,” my Better Half declared.

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The Book Bonder

I didn’t feel safe with my parents – so I bonded with books instead

A young boy reading
Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

I’VE BEEN THINKING about books a lot lately.

It started when my fellow blogger FracturedFaith put out a post asking: “Are You A Book Addict?”

I thought: Hmmn. Sounds like me….

Then, there was a psychology podcast* on Attachment Theory, which discussed how we can form emotional connections to objects when we don’t bond well with our parents .

I’ve seen this in action myself: a boy with special needs that I once taught began an obsession with washing machines, of all things, right after his Dad walked out.

But the pod also explained that many ‘normal’ people also bond with gadgets like mobile phones, because they make them feel safe and in control.

And then it dawned on me why I’ve never been able to live without books.

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Heavy Metal, Top Of The Class!

If rock ‘n’ roll’s never gonna die, it’s my kids who’ll be keeping it alive…

A Photoshop collage of Heavy Metal music images
Original images: Pete Linforth and Clker-Free-Vector-Images/pixabay.

“Oh no!” I said, sitting in bed, reading the news. “Neil Peart died.”

“What?” said the Missus.

“Neil Peart died. He was the drummer in Rush.”

“Tchah!” she said.  “When you went ‘Oh no!’ like that, I thought it was something important.

“My life hasn’t been affected in any way by Rush. I couldn’t name a single Rush song.”

Two thoughts occurred to me at this point: No. 1 was that this was probably an inadequate epitaph for Peart – a clever, kind man once voted Rolling Stone’s 4th best drummer of all time.

No. 2 was: will Heavy Metal ever get the respect it deserves?

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Building A Sporting Dynasty – Eventually

It took a long time to raise an athlete, but I got there in the end… 

A rugby team huddle

THERE’S A VIDEO from the weekend that I can’t stop looking at – because it shows the fulfilment of a 19-year dream.

It shows the moment my son became… a Player.

In the clip, his blue-shirted figure piles into a rugby ruck and bumps the opposition off the ball. Seconds later, his team-mates pick it up and drive over the line for a try.

There’s commentary on the clip, too. Very poor, shouted commentary, which is not impartial or informed in the slightest.

In it, I am roaring: ‘Up again (Name Withheld)! Up again!

“Yes, drive it! YES!!!!”

There follows a cry of almost orgasmic satisfaction from behind the camera.

I very much doubt that I have bellowed louder, or with greater joy – maybe not even at the very moment in late 2002 that his Mum and I created little Name Withheld.

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The Most Loneliest Days Of My Life

Over a third of new Dads are worried about their mental health? Mate, I’ve been there… 

Man walks sadly on beach

MY KIDS made me happy yesterday.
I had lunch with my daughter, just before she went off to University to pick her Year One modules, and we talked excitedly about her future plans
In the evening, I watched my son at rugby training and felt myself filling up with pride as I saw how quickly he’s learning the game.
But it wasn’t always like that.
My wife and I are now almost – almost – at the fabled point in our kids’ lives where they stop being children, as such, and become more like engaging young friends. Like it said they would in the parenting books.
But getting to this stage has cost me a hell of a lot.
I don’t think it’s being too fanciful to say that – at various points – being a Dad cost me my job, my money, my friends, my self-respect, and my sanity.
And, sadly, today’s Baby Daddies don’t seem to be having it any easier than I did, almost two decades ago.  

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Netfix Versus The Book Junkie

Why won’t my kids read the amazing books I recommend? 

A book lies unread on the stairs

THE HOLIDAYS – peak time for reading.
I’m about a quarter way through The Enchantment Of Lily Dahl – an old paperback by Siri Hustvedt that I saved from the bin at the charity bookshop where I volunteer.
Before that, I took ten days to crack through Conspiracy, the last (so far) of S J Parris’ Elizabethan-era detective novels.
Prior to those, I demolished Michael Palin’s Erebus and the latest of Ian Rankin’s series featuring the seemingly immortal John Rebus, In A House Of Lies.
I bought both of the latter books in desperation at Luton Airport (Ooh-Eee-Ooh!), feeling twitchy about the books that I’d already packed; dreadfully naked and vulnerable without a satisfactory supply of words to burn through.
My wife has also been cracking on. She’s normally too tired and busy to read at anything but a snail’s pace, but she read a book a week lying by the pool, which for her is pure Linford Christie.

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Loneliness And The Middle Aged House Husband

I’ve been feeling quite alone of late. But maybe I’m just feeling more free?

An empty bird's nest
Image: F. Muhammad/pixabay

THERE ARE FOUR people living in our house still, but it’s starting to feel like an empty nest.

After my wife leaves for work around 8am, I sit alone in the top room writing and often don’t see anyone for hours at a time.

My son is, theoretically, present but – blessed with epic Summer Holidays after finishing his GCSEs in June – has done what most teens would, and turned almost completely nocturnal.

His sister, meanwhile, is finally about to start University, after a Gap Year working 9-5 in an office out west.

As a family, we are poised for change.

No-one is actually leaving the house but, by Christmas, the kids will be deep into their A-Levels and degrees, having taken another step up in maturity and a step further away from us.

And like British shipyards, steel works, coalfields, my House Dad business (Est. 2002) will feel closer than ever to locking its doors for the final time.

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