Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jog on, nature.

A new thing I do since I last blogged frequently is running.

Honest.


Hitting your early forties, having kids, realising you're overweight and on a collision course with people adding the precursor 'jolly' to your name brings home certain inescapable conclusions.

You gonna die buddy.

Well, obviously. It's irritating to me that death looks pretty much unavoidable, and that the best one can do is prolong the good bit in between the eternities of oblivion. Other than giving up now and reaching for the head-blender, this means taking care of the soggy protein-based machine that houses what I like to think of as me.

I'm not talking about going vegan, tee-total and existing on seventeen mushroom-based calories a day though, because that would in itself be a type of living death, but a sort of sensible, achievable level of exercise which I could maintain and, hopefully, come to enjoy.

Believe it or not I have actually come to that place, and now run a few times a week, just small distances usually, and not very fast, but enough for me to think of myself as someone who runs.

A bit.

The school run finished, both my spawn are now somebody else's responsibility for a few hours, and I have no excuse not to exercise. I put on my man tights and top, then my running shorts over the lycra because no-one wants to see that, or at least I don't want to meet the sort of person that does want to see that, and out I go.

Today, a cheeky 5 kilometre trot along the canal should be enough to soothe the inner turmoil of modern living, and I soon get into my stride. I like the transition from the first couple of hundred metres when you think "why is this so hard" to suddenly breathing easily and finding you can now enjoy the scenery without wanting to spit, as the body wakes up to the fact that it is being required to run and activates various processes and abilities to achieve that. It feels natural. I am natural. I am at one with nature.

I smile benevolently at my fellow natural creatures, dragonflies a-swoop, birds on the wing and beasts on the . . . leg. A female duck swims quickly out from some reeds, honking with sheer joie de vivre. I watch for a moment, her wake a gentle rippling arrow fanning out behind like the cloak of a fantasy water princess with access to great CGI. We are both taken by surprise a moment later when she is pounced upon by three drakes, all pecking her head and half-drowning her in a brutal attempt at copulation. 

"Oi! Leave it out!" I yell, lobbing the head of a bullrush at the anatidaen rape scene, suddenly feeling less than at one with ducks as they scatter noisily and she escapes into the reeds.

I continue, breathing in the scent of . . . a large, quivering Labrador cross, pushing out something that looks like a seal foetus, it's owner standing by with a small plastic bag that I feel will be tested to its limits, should the dog survive this bowel movement.

Eyes watering, I go under a bridge to the picturesque locks, recently refurbished, that mark the half way point of my run and turn round for the return journey. A heron, bolder than most, stands it's place and watches me for a moment before snapping its head into the water, emerging a fraction of a second later with a wriggling thing which it wolfs down. Or maybe herons down.

I don't feel I am at one with eating stuff whilst it's still moving. Even live oysters have the decency to keep still. As if on cue, I inhale a midge, proving me wrong.

Coughing, but eventually succumbing to the inevitable and swallowing, I move on.

Two swans, both enormous cobs, are blocking the footpath, one on land the other on water. They have their wings curved back like ornate ceramic sails, chests puffed out and they both raise their bodies to display their own mass to the other.

A neat solution, I think, where two wild creatures assess one another and judge who might win a physical battle, and so can decide not to partake if the odds are too stacked against one, thus avoiding actual fighting and harm whilst achieving the same results. Nature often shows this excellent methodology; the parallel walking of red deer, for instance, or the chest thumping of silverback gorillas. Humans should do the same, I conclude in admiration.

Suddenly the two swans, both equal in size, start trying to tear lumps out of each other, hissing and gasping as they inelegantly but enthusiastically attempt to batter one other senseless, using tiny-brained heads like coshes and metre long wings like the worlds most exquisite bitch slappers.

I do not feel at one with swans as I detour around the splashy madness.

Nearly home now, and I am treated to the unusual sight of a grass snake swimming longitudinally along the canal. I slow down to a walk and watch for a good two minutes, a long time for such a shy creature. The snake, not me. Here is one of the benefits of running outside of a gym. Here I can see the way a creature like this beautiful reptile can exploit different substrates, using the same motion in water as on land, and I am inordinately pleased to be able to witness it for such a long while.

A coot leaves the pile of bent leaves it thinks of as a house and does that half-run, half-swim thing they do to stay along side it, and then proceeds to peck the snake's head over and over again. The snake, repeatedly dunked and possibly concussed, makes its way wearily into the reeds, only refraining from staggering because it hasn't got any legs.

I make it home, grab a drink and cogitate on the violence of the last half hour. There are probably many conclusions a behavioural ecologist could draw from these encounters, but I am not running to collect quantitative data or scientific evidence, I am simply running to develop myself. To that end, I realised that all species everywhere can be just as bad a bunch of dicks as humans.

And now I feel at one with nature again.






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ayyy!

Getting up at midday after finishing a couple of night shifts, nothing lightens the mood more than your goodladywife informing you that we must away to Cribbs Causeway shopping maul mall in Bristol to get the children some footwear more suited to Autumn and Winter than their current sandals.

After gnashing my teeth and considering opening an artery, I was placated by a bacon buttie and so opted for grinning and bearing it, for are not the happiest pebbles in the rough stream of life the smooth ones, allowing the troubled water to flow over them?

Who knows. They're pebbles. Their priorities are probably different from ours. More minerally.

Anyway, we parked in the underground section because  the boy M (aged 7) wanted to, and then got the lift up a single level because the girl, A (aged 4) wanted to. Then to John Lewis's shopping emporium to obtain footwear. Didn't see John himself, but someone else helped us. His nephew maybe. The choices were a tad lacking so we defaulted to middle class back up shop Clark's, and bought some there instead, with me handing over an actual bag of gold just to prevent my offsprings' feet from toughening up.

It was crowded, being a Sunday, and I could feel my usual aversion to crowds welling up like a geyser full of vitriol, so we made our way to the relative calm of Waterstone's for a ganzy at the books. People were waiting in a queue to see an author, but M and A were in too much of a hurry to see the aquarium they have in there to allow me to find out who it was.

I spent a few minutes looking at books, and explaining to A that she mustn't frighten the fish by smacking toy Orcas into the glass and shouting "Rah!" when I noted an American chap standing next to me, chatting to a young girl about a book.

It was, and I can't stress this enough, The Fonz.

I know!

Turns out Henry Winkler was doing the book signing. Me and a few similarly aged parents smiled at each other and raised eyebrows,but generally left him alone because, well, we're English. I bet a few of them wanted to point thumbs at themselves and say "Ayyyy!" though. Apart from me. I wouldn't even think that. He then proceeded to buy the little girl the book she wanted, which made her mum melt, before wandering off into the paper clad aisles.

I looked at the books he was there to promote, and asked the girl and her mum if they were any good, perhaps suitable for my son. They said yes, so I started flicking through them.

Henry walked past me, causing me to smile and nod. He then stopped, and we had a damn nice chat. He said he thought the books should be okay for a seven year old, and explained the premise behind a few of them, warm and enthusiastic at all times. Then he wandered off again to look at shelves of things. I took a Hank Zipzer book, the first one in the series I think, over to my son and we perused it, before he said yes he would like it. K (aged 42) gave me a monstrous hall'ow'e'e'n sticker book for A to buy as well, so she wouldn't tear the mall down in fury if we had the audacity to buy her brother something but not her.

At the till, Mr Winkler walked past me again.
"You've sold me." I said politely, indicating my purchase.
"Great." he said, and then "What's your son's name?"
I told him, and he wrote a personalised message in the front, then shook my hand. We cheerioed, and off he went to take his seat at the signing table, where the queue had become appropriately huge.

I'm not that bothered by celebrity, but that proper tickled me that did.

After that, we visited Pizza Express with vouchers because only the super elite who want to remember what it's like to worry about prices pay full whack for Pizza Express, where we watched A dance on the chairs, run round the table and talk loudly to the staff. A drive home saw A fall asleep so we put her to bed. M and I had a quick race on Wii MarioKart before he went off to bed and I am now eyeing up a bottle of red like an alcoholic lion spotting a pint of zebra.

Happy days.

Maybe, just maybe . . .

Hmm.

Might start looking at this again?

It was fun.

Yeah. maybe do it as a bit of a diary.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Hello everyone.

Apologies for previous email. I appear to have been spammed from Chile, according to Yahoo security.

Please disregard.

Best wishes

Jules

Monday, March 25, 2013

A bootful of thoughtfulness

Sometimes, when using the works equipment, you realise that the designers really did have your best wishes at heart:

This morning, I was doing my VDI, which sounds like it should involve a cotton swab and some wincing, but is actually a Vehicle Daily Inspection, and took a pickcha, because it puts off changing the defibrillator batteries for a minute which is, like, so boring and who needs 'em anyway:

The office. Ooh, nice drawers . . .

At first, it looks like the normal chaos one finds in the back of the standard rapid response vehicle used by ambulance paramedics the world over, but take a closer look and you can see they have specifically provided a perfectly engineered nook for my cup of hot brown:

If you turn the torch on, Batman appears with milk and sugar.

If that doesn't encourage one to be extra thorough in checking your kit then I don't know what will. Anyway, back to work. Probably shouldn't be blogging on duty anyway, but there you go.

"Right, CLEAR!"

"REPLACE BATTERY!"

"Oh shi . . ."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Toy orby, son?

Showing my superlative organisational skills, both of my children were born in early March (round of applause please, folks. Thank you. Thank you very much. Nothing like receiving a big hand for your testicles).

In anticipation, my soon-to-be-six year old son has been preparing for his birthday since Christmas, because nothing puts you in the mood for getting presents like receiving gifts. To be fair, his Christmas requests were relatively moderate; an accordion ("NOT a concertina, Daddy!" Well, obviously), a car garage and a pair of castanets, all of which have been duly furnished and didn't break the bank. We ignored his desire for a swimming pool in the garden on the grounds that we don't have a changing room.

For his birthday, he was also quite modest in his desires, wanting only a "spinny disco light". And a shit load of chocolate.

We mused over this for a moment, pleased that it was relatively straightforward but concerned that we might be on our way to having an obese, toothless John Travoltoid as a son. Relenting, because it's not exactly drugs or booze or those joyride-encouraging Super Marilyn computer games that all the kids want these days, we fed a tenner to the ever-giving medium of the internet, and waited.

Happily, the item was delivered quickly (Five stars! Will come again!), and you can imagine how chuffed we were to discover that the very packaging appears to show it was designed utterly with the six year old in mind.

Look:


Firstly, it's the Brightly Light model , a marque you can trust especially as this version is the 829B, a vast improvement on the excesses of the 829A, although the  leather attaché carrying case and accompanying dance troupe would have been fun. They've also done away with the diesel powered option and it's plinth is no longer thirty metres across.

Pity.

One thing they haven't changed is the fact that it's dynamic know no bounds, because why change a winning formula? Dynamic know no bounds could easily be the description for the average six year old child, as demonstrated when one stops running only long enough to ask a fat bloke when the baby's due, or to joyously tell you they've just broken wind and it sounded like an angry hippo.

Clear labelling also informs us that, despite it's many serious medicinal and political uses, this is in fact a faddish present:


My son is nothing if not faddish. His fads last about a minute, so this is perfect for him.

The instructions seem straightforward. I must remember to avoid vibrations and dusty play, so that's the bedroom out, although it will be hard to stop my boy touching it's movement. For cleaning, I'll check if I've got any neuter soap left over from my vasectomy.

Judging by the traditional lamp hint design it seems simple to operate, as one simply turns on the iridescent glassy orifice with the plinth switch. My first thought on examining it was that it should suit not only my son's refined taste, but also his popular one as well. Happily, the packaging confirms that this is indeed the case:


They do use Model number 892C as the demonstration in this picture though, which I hope won't upset my son too much. Especially when I tell him the reason he can't have that one is because he just hasn't been good enough.

You've got to be extra good to get the 892C.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scratching a Nietzsche

For a couple of days now I have been complaining that the nail on my right little toe has been hurting, because I accidentally pulled half of it out and now it's a bit sore.

You might think that this is a minor injury, but perhaps not when I inform you that there was actually a spot of blood when I did it. And the side went all red and swollen for, like, maybe half an hour afterwards.

I say complaining, but not a huge amount because I am, and this is objective fact, super-rufty-tufty, and you would barely notice my limp were I not wailing and dragging the affected limb behind me like a crocodile's tail.

Then yesterday I met a great chap called Paul, in his eighty-ninth year, who told me how he lost an eye in a Lancaster bomber in 1943. He was a front gunner and, after about twenty searchlights cheerily lit up his plane somewhere over Essen, flack exploded in front of them, shattering the perspex of his canopy and sending shards throughout his confined space in the nose. One shard entered his eye, bouncing of the back of his socket and exited via his forehead. The Lancaster limped home, the crew all surviving and he was patched up, with the damaged organ removed and replaced with a prosthesis.

He described how he had adapted well to this because he "had a spare".

Then, in his early eighties, he suffered a stroke, leaving him with mobility problems as the whole left side of his body was affected. Again, he had adapted superbly, walking with a stick and adjusting his lifestyle accordingly telling me "It could have been worse, and I've got a spare arm and leg as well!"

This gave me pause. I thought about what I had just heard and seen. About Paul's eye and my toe. About Paul's arm and my toe. About Paul's leg and my toe. About Paul's general stoicism in the face of adversity. And my toe.

You might not be surprised to learn that I came to understand something of myself after that. Not just myself in fact, but of all of us. Our suffering means nothing to the cosmos. Call it self-realisation, or an awareness of  one's own humanity in the face of nihilism, or maybe even call it enlightenment, but those thoughts took me to a conclusion I had never reached before.

I realised we have a lot in common, Paul and I, because I also have a spare toe.

In this little spark of clarity that we call existence, this flitting sparrow of life flying briefly through the banquet hall of eternity from one dark window to the next, don't we all have a spare toe.

Yes we do.We all have a spare toe.

Unless, you know, you haven't, in which case, sorry about that. Have you tried wearing Crocs?