Having being thrown out of my local (the living room) for threats of violence (bad sweary shouting at television), the landlord (boyfriend) has banned me from returning to watch the football, and particularly any match involving Manchester United. Interesting, really, since Man U is the landlord’s favoured team and I was merely supporting THEM in a show of supporting HIM (I read Cosmo). But something, something, took over and I can’t control it. I have a reasonably black sense of humour, given, but I plumb uncharted depths of evil in the vitriol I direct at certain players I feel have done wrong against United (Tevez, beware. Unkind. Un-kind.) John Terry is a joke figure now, yet I still laugh with added edge at his misfortunes. I long for a misplaced tackle on Walcott’s simpering, over-rated right foot and I long for a Rooney-ocracy.
My God. That touches the surface, merely. I am truly vengeful and nasty – and utterly without reason. I have very little knowledge of the rudimentaries of the game, nor do I care to learn. My vindictiveness towards teams and players is measured firstly on a scale of damage done to Man U, next ugliness and then seismic-ness of social indiscretion committed (Ashley Cole is currently off the scale.)
But its an outlet and its better that I vent my spleen this way than if I were, say, a prison guard or an illegal arms trader. Its safer.
I’m in the kitchen, making chilli, avoiding a Champions League match which would inevitably lead to me offering to take out Franck Ribery. This is clearly not in line with my quest to ‘be better’. Although not real anger or violence, it nonetheless feels like it. I’ve done an hour of Yoga today and its not enough. The sound of that choir yelping ‘The Champ-ions!’ just as ITV go to break has got me fired, ready to turn green and rip off my shirt.
So. I’m reading ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami. Have you heard of it? Its a really lovely, meditative read which makes me feel grounded and like I have space in my life and …yeah its a good read. It basically Murakami’s elegy to running, why he loves it, where he does it, how it makes him feel, how he got into it…but its, like, SO much more than that, man. You should read it.
So, I’m reading it and in it, Haruki is talking about how he handles that time honoured question which all runners face from non-runners – ‘What do you think about when you’re on a run? All that time, on the road? On your own? What’s in your head?’ And he answers ‘nothing’ – his mind goes nowhere – for him, the process of running allows him to switch off more successfully than any attempt at yoga or rhythmic breathing would do.
And I’m like SNAP! Me too! that’s what mine does! Once I get going, I just zonk out. I feel validated – like I’m in the club now because my mind goes nowhere when I run and so does Murakami’s. That’s not a coincidence. For long periods of time, we are zoned out together, just running. I’m already planning the joint interview in Runner’s world.
Just as I’m about to search flickr for potential photographers for a shoot in the Gobi dessert to accompany said article, I actually bother to finish reading the paragraph. Murakami is talking about the absence of thought for a period of HOURS, not minutes. He is running marathons in a state of blissful calm. I currently average about 25 minutes, tops – a mere powermince around a (rapidly decreasing) circumference patch of Hyde Park, before I start looking at pigeons and staring at other people who are running more succesfully than me.
I am calling off the shoot AND joint interview.
This summer I would like to attempt 10km – I currently manage 3.5 km. Its not a matter of stamina – its boredom – i simply cannot zone out for the required length of time (nothing to do with fitness, no, no) and this is what is holding me back from becoming a top class runner (nothing to do with haphazard training routine and trainers that were last fit for purpose when I was climbing up an apparatus wall in primary school ). No. Its to do with the ZONING OUT. My mental capacity is not sufficiently adjusted. Aha.
So I see 2 paths before me – do I push for it, follow Murakami’s example and press on through the boredom factor that mindless jogging involves? Or do I give up and sit on the sofa, where I find I can zone out successfully without the undue effort of moving my limbs in the open air?
To misquote Robert Frost, I choose the path more arduous. Not a massively bloggy choice is it? You were hoping perhaps for a list of inane telly viewed and junky activites engaged in, that prevent me from trying to get better at something and wrap me in a cynical knowing pop cultural bubble, where i talk only in phrases borrowed from old episodes of Blossom. Guess again. I am trying now to expand horizons – watch less shit, do more stuff.
Keep visiting – I promise to update and let you know how my aimless, unplanned and unclear manifesto for ‘being better’ is faring……including efforts at running and yoga and radio 4 and early nights and black and white films and learning spanish podcasts and all that honest improvement type of stuff…
I want to make this site more productive – fact! Since no-one reads anything else on here, I’m going to use it as a creative space, an online Shoreditch if you will (though not as wanky) and put up bits of writing I have been working on which you, dear readers, can respect, ridicule or merely respond to. And with this in mind (and to show that I am not proud) here’s a poem that I wrote at 2.30 in the morning when someone walking past my window woke me up:
listened out for company
Or some muffled conversation
But ker tink ker tink is all I heard,
Your heels in isolation.
According to the PM,
East London is the new Wild West,
Your stiletto heels should be okay
If paired with a bulletproof vest.
They left on your own, didn’t they?
God, men are shit.
He could have been a she, of course.
In which case, she’s a tit.
You could be a man in Cuban heels,
Like Prince or Sarkozy,
They would make the same ker tink ker tink
Or am I merely dozy?
You should have kept your bus fare back
Or a fiver for emergencies
Especially in the case of
Any crappy date ressurgencies.
(I’m assuming it was a date, because friends wouldn’t leave you on your own, would they?)
A contrast in our contexts,
You cold, me in my den
I’d feel terrible if tomorrow’s news reads
‘High heeled murder in E10.’
Your footsteps fade from earshot,
My eyes roll back in their sockets
Instead of vexxing on your ker tink ker tink
I start to dream of
rockets kung fu karate chops tiny caravans
cress growing on the back of my hand black and white telly hippo and car parts.
There you go. A bit of night writing for you. I never said it was polished (or even good). I’m practising abundance right now. Feed back what you want.
3 hours later, numb jawed, pop-eared and stump-footed, we understood why.
We understood why there were so many hiking shops in Ambleside, a quaint town on the shore of Lake Windermere, fringed by majestic mountains (well, they’re probably hills, but half way up, they feel like mountains.) These hiking shops were for ill equipped morons like us, who would never even attempt a hillock again without reinforced ankle boots and crampons. Instead, we made our first ascent in the most sophisticated urban garb:
Me – New Look plimsolls – designed to be used only in conjunction with a primary school gym apparatus -check!
Cream mac from Gap kids – too tight in the arm sockets – check
Cropped jeans – check
Snazzy T- shirt – check
Him – shinier than shiny bottomed trainers – check
Hooded top – check
Map – for losers
Kendal mint cake or other sustinence – no, ta.
The picture of my shoe may give you some idea of the relative success and comfort of our all-terrain wear.
The aches, pains and fearful looks of the locals were worth it however, for what turned out to be a blissful weekend in the Lakes, unmarred by the age long English traditions of shit weather and lousy traffic. I originate from the North (the other side of the Peaks) and enjoyed pretending that I held some sort of mystic connection with the area – in reality, getting out of the E10 ghetto made me realise how far I’d moved from my roots (man) and become a creature of the city, like an etiolated baby rat or mangy bin- fox.
I think Bill Bryson wrote that what the North has that the South doesn’t is ‘big skies’. Big, but also very bloody dark. Driving around Kendal (the nearest thing to a big city) at 9pm was like navigating an ancient mineshaft, such was the lack of streetlight. It made me believe in ghosts, but good friendly ghosts that live in the hills and watch over lonely travellers…oh dear God. The main thing about the lack of light is that it demonstrates that up North, even now, things are left to trust and instinct, including road safety.
But I’m not here to rally against the technocratic, superior South; nor am I here to embellish that dreadful old cliche of the philistine North. London is wonderful, irritating, witty, edgy, noisy, self-centred etc etc, but here are some reasons why the North still rules, gathered from my brief 2 nighter in Cumbria:
1) The Dunkirk spirit lives on – at 2 am on our first night, I’m woken by hushed tones in the corridor – ‘there’s ever such a strong smell of smoke near number 15’. Everybody up and out. I barely register any of the pasty faces in the hallway and am relieved when I can crawl back to bed. My fellow guests view the occasion differently – having used the false alarm as a springboard into conversation (‘did you smell it?’ ‘well, no but my wife saw some youths burning something outside earlier’), they happily stand around, having unhurried ‘getting to know you’ chats in assorted pyjama and anorak combinations, till the dawn chorus strikes up. Turning adversity into opportunity.
2) People are bigger, ruddier and can handle the cold. Women and children included. Never have I seen such a proliferance of shirt sleeves and bare arms in arctic conditions.
3) No place for a London face. Smile at someone in the big smoke and you’re a perv or a loony. Up here, it is rude not to exchange a howdoo with fellow wayfarers. By the end of my stay, I was crossing the road to make eye contact and establish smiling terms with anyone in the vicinity.
4) I don’t care if its a lousy truism – the air is better. The difference between breathing up there and breathing down here is like drinking Malvern sparkling after years of drinking….piss with cigarette butts in it. That’s how strongly I feel. My boyfriend got drunk on the Friday and was up at 6am on the Saturday, hangover or no, such was his faith in the restorative powers of fresh air.
5) Fashion is secondary, which is how it should be. We only learnt this through experience (see shoe photograph), but now I can’t wait to buy some of those shell-suity legwarmer things (gaiters?) and a cagoole.
It was nice to go somewhere and be the tourist, to get things wrong and do so very publically. It was nice to go somewhere which boycotted 24 hour culture, where the food hatch was battoned down at 9pm sharp of an evening. It was nice to go somewhere where the pavements were smooth, not an uneven patchwork of tarmac and brickwork.
Do I give an overview to the none of you who are reading? Is it worth introducing myself to myself? Several life coaches would wager it a very useful exercise, but I’m not in therapy. At the moment. I’m fine.
This blog is for all the thoughts that materialise to me as I go down escalators in John Lewis, make pretend phone calls in dodgy late night scenarios, lose focus at work. For all the enthusiastic bonhomie fuelled dialogues with friends – (lesssmakeadocumentary! lesssswriteaplay!) – which tragically tail off, due to ‘other commitments’, restlessness, fear? For all the receipts and backs of bills that harbour my half baked observations, scribbled down on tube journeys. These billets- murs taunt me for a few days, point up my lack of writerly motivation and then recede from view. Their wasted bodies are discovered only months later on the annual hunt for a safety pin at the bottom of the handbag. I cower in shame. They need a good home. Hence my blog. This will be their sanctuary. So this is about anything I want it to be about – doolallies, mostly.