Throwing the bones of conversation to foretell of Summer and dreams

  • Tuesday, February 20, 2018
  • 0
Fox on the run
You scream and everybody comes a running 
Take a run and hide yourself away 
(Foxy on the run)
Foxy, fox on the run and hideaway.
(British band Sweet singing about groupies.)

Saturday was springs preamble, sunny and mild, a prescient calm bringing hope and the promise of better days. We sat in the sun, my family and I and when the shadows lengthened as they do we didn’t retreat to our sofa but experienced one of those transcendental moments that are unspoken and unplanned and because of those things carry great power. These moments pass into the collective memory like burning torches, their smoke curling the stories into the air and carrying them through time. It is uncanny how a close and familial group of people can make decisions without conscious thought but we found ourselves lighting our chiminea and hunching tightly around the flames in a tribal semicircle, throwing the bones of conversation to foretell of summer and dreams. Shaman like we read the shapes of the flames reflected on our faces while Hendrix, Dylan and the Stones sang down the ages through the Bluetooth speaker. My kids roasted Marshmallows and I sat slightly outside the circle to watch and listen. Back in caveman times I would have been clutching my crude spear in my left hand alert and scanning the dark to repel and protect from the things that rustle and howl just beyond the light.
I have made a slow return to running this week with a knee crisscrossed with Kinetic tape. Placebo or not it seems to work and the joint feels supported. On Tuesday night I was out with my Fox again. She was unusually bold, intersecting with me at various points on my lap and even loping alongside me for the length of the field on one occasion. While researching Fox behaviour I found a great story from Finland where the Aurora Borealis is known as Revontulet which translates as Fox fires. The belief is that the lights were a product of a Fox painting the sky with it’s tail. I didn’t realise it at the time but this run was a farewell, I was about to enter my fifth mile when I came around a corner to find the glittering spectacles of squat and stern faced officialdom blocking my path. I was informed that I am not allowed to run around the school and that I had to desist immediately. I could have sworn I heard the Fox snort derisively in the shadows.
I went out again on Friday, one of those clear afternoons begging to enjoyed in the woods. Despite my resolution at the beginning of the year to do some heavy metal running I have concluded that I should slow down and mellow out, hopefully being less injured that way. My recent runs have all been hallmarked by feelings of deep calm and this is worth far more to me than statistics informing me that my run was the nth fastest of all time. Adding to the loveliness of the afternoon, I heard the happy sound that I strive each year to hear, that of a Woodpecker, always my benchmark of an approaching spring. These birds may not soar in elegant parabolic arcs like other birds but I deeply love the blue collar sound of their workmanlike industry against the trees.
All this talk about hope is important, tonight the temperatures are predicted to drop sharply and there is the prospect of snow in the next few days. Winter is still here resisting springs nudge.

I believe my Paris Baboons were divergent thinkers

  • Saturday, February 10, 2018
  • 0
Had the monkey seen it's arse, it would not have danced.
As a boy I lived near the base of this Kopje in Mutare, Zimbabwe. I would fill an old army water bottle and climb it. Baboons would sit on the rocks and bark as I climbed.

I have been curiously buoyed by the story recently of the 52 Baboons who escaped from the Paris zoo. After a long and hard week where I myself have been as grumpy as a Baboon with fleas I needed this tale of animalistic freedom and revolution. I have enjoyed the mental image of the brightly bottomed primates flipping the proverbial bird towards human society and causing chaos.
A luta continua, vitória é certa.
I believe my Paris Baboons were divergent thinkers as opposed to convergent thinkers.
Let me explain. Convergent thinking is where a straightforward approach to a problem is utilised, where the answer is simple and obvious. This type of problem negates any need for a creative approach. Divergent thinking is the opposite, where a problem is abstract or can have multiple outcomes or answers and we need to apply creative thinking to find a solution. It's often seen as out the box thinking. It's a bit like trail running and road running, I know which one I prefer but they both have their uses.
The Bobbejane were communicating their desire for freedom creatively and divergently, their message was loud and unambiguous and captured the worlds attention perfectly.
I have also been listening on Youtube to divergent thinker Jack Ma, the Chinese founder of wholesaling giant Alibaba talk about education and how we need to apply divergent thinking to how we teach in the future.. Jack believes that we need to stop knowledge based teaching and move to teaching what he terms 'soft' skills. These include values, belief, teamwork, music, art and sport. Jack's rationale is that artificial intelligence and robots are rising up and threatening the jobs we are preparing our children for, these soft skills are things that machines won't be able to replicate, allowing our kids to have a space where they can still be productive rather than redundant. It is teaching them how to problem solve and make well researched choices. It is teaching independent thinking.
I agree.
Coincidentally I was on a PE course last week run by Create Development called REAL PE. This approach to PE combines creativity with cognitive, physical and social elements - and amazingly our trainer Nat had just returned from spending 3 weeks in China teaching these principles at the school that Ma has built!
Right now as I type I am eating the remains of a Doner Kebab, spooning strips of greasy lamb drenched in Chili sauce into my mouth with my fingers. A half full glass of red wine is on the floor at my feet Such is the simple beauty of life.
Last month I turned 53, a little more jowly but hopefully with my sense of humour intact. That is obviously important to me because I think I've mentioned it before!
I had a good run with Annie on my birthday too. We have formed a little collegiate running club where a few of us run on a Friday after work but this time it was just the two of us. It turned poignant as Annie spoke of her sadness at losing a friend to cancer and how it has affected her. At these moments running is a great vehicle for restoration and conversation. It is easier to be open and honest when you are running side by side surrounded by stillness and nature. We were both feeling a sense of wellbeing and peace amongst the trees and the gathering dusk and parted encouraged and strengthened by each other.
I also have one of those strange knee injuries that I blame on playing school football on a hard tennis court. It is stiff and a little sore and so I'm giving running a break because I fear inflaming it and turning it into a full blown injury. I am annoyed, my running has been going well and I have been feeling fitter and sharper.
Finally, I am feeling blessed and privileged. Last Saturday night I went into London with my daughter. She is at a performing arts school and invited me to go to Islington with her to watch an up and coming band formed in part by some of her peers. It's highly affirming when your teenager thinks you are cool enough to hang out with in a noisy pub with her mates. These guys go by the somewhat cheesy name, The Psycho Muffins but what they lose in their name they more than make up with their music. The band are hugely talented musicians full of force, fury and virtuosity, a tight and passionate power trio who left me slightly dazed but really inspired too.
Young people man, I love them.
James of the Psycho Muffins in full flight.
(Photo Psycho Muffins)


Laugh at everything, because it’s always funny.

  • Friday, February 09, 2018
  • 0
DOCTOR: Run like hell, because you always need to. Laugh at everything, because it’s always funny.
CLARA: No. Stop it. You’re saying goodbye. Don’t say goodbye!

DOCTOR: Never be cruel and never be cowardly. And if you ever are, always make amends.

CLARA: Stop it! Stop this. Stop it!

DOCTOR: Never eat pears. They’re too squishy and they always make your chin wet. That one’s quite important. Write it down.

Dr Who.
I said that I would stop waffling about running and increase the intensity, My goal is to turn up the volume and get into some heavy metal, chainsaw running, full of noise and friction like a thirsty rugby team heading for the pub. I’m going for thrust, focus and becoming hard again.
It won’t be a single minded pursuit of pace and miles, hopefully those will be the natural by products of running that will be a little wild and frayed at the edges, a bit berserk and thunderous. I am going to run like hell because I always need to.
It needs to be fun. I have never taken myself seriously, I can’t run with a face like dour steel, unflinching in adversity and boastfully swinging my cock around full of piss and wind about how running is my bitch. Running has always been fun, it’s always been about play and experience for me. It should be carried out with a smile at the least and preferably a laugh. It is joy.
Our PE teacher Guy has developed a curriculum based on the Paralympic values which he called the FLAME award. Flame being fun learning and movement education. I am applying it to my running.
Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool FC manager talks about Geil, a German word borrowed from 80’s music culture. It used to mean horny but has mutated into slang for awesome. Jurgen is talking about football when he says he can’t think of a better word to describe something he finds exorbitantly beautiful. I think running should be geil, exorbitantly beautiful.
In that spirit I encouraged the child whose face eclipsed the sun out into the sleet and rain. Once again he showed that he intuitively applies these principles of fun and joy and that he is hardcore where I am not. In freezing conditions he went out in shorts and a short sleeved tee, only wearing a windbreaker when I insisted. He pushed me, running beautifully especially the first mile and was still on my shoulder at the end. Each time we run he is improved, getting closer to an authentic training partner. Next he needs to increase his stamina and mental toughness. I am not rushing him, allowing these to develop on his own terms.
In the meantime we ran a bit helter skelter and a bit scribbled, shouting out random shouty things, half blinded by sleet and making a pair of dog walkers laugh when we skidded past in the icy mud. Only the humourless horses were indifferent to our flailing, long faced and pressed up against the cold fence under their blankets.