This wonderful man with his Wongface and rubber wrist is a genius

  • Sunday, February 23, 2020
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it's time to rise up lazarus.
it's time to rise up from the floor.
i see the butterflies burning in your eyes
as you dance 
just beyond my fingers
i rise
like the candle flame between us
running through the forest
you create in the circle of 
your arms
to save you

Saturday and I was up early, forcing down food but loving my coffee, strong, bitter and hot enough to interest lucifer. That done I made my way to the railway station to meet the rest of the Fourdaysrunning mob.
I am early, always early, waiting for the rest of my life and other interesting things. Some see this as a flaw but I love to observe and reflect. I also hate being late.
Saturdays rumble from London Victoria Station to Weatherspoons pub in Bromley, a run of around 15 miles was no different, I stood in the draughty doorway of the station concourse watching people going about their lives and trying to gain some clarity for my own.
As for my life I can only write what is before me, the sharp knocks of my heart bouncing down my fingers and leaking out in a jumbled disordered mess.
Thursday was a bad day, my fickle bastard emotions betrayed me and I went down under their black weight, crushed again and functioning mechanically and without hope. I am having more good days but they are like a house of cards that collapse without warning.
I needed to run and I needed to run long. 
I keep rising only to stumble back down, Sisyphus with his stone, rising and falling in endless futility.
I rise because I am stubborn and something puts life into me even when I am dead.
Running is rising and so is genuine friendship.
If you find a companion with butterflies and candlelight in their eyes who will walk through hell with you grab hold of them and don't let them go, they are angels and steadfast spirits that can calm storms and cast mountains into the sea. They are often broken themselves because only the broken can understand, empathy is the electric current along which healing flows.
I say this over and over, it is running that keeps me on the right side of sanity and people, both broken and unbroken with their stories. You can't force this connection and the right people come along when you most need them.
I have digressed though. 
Back to Saturday's rumble, We caught a standard London train on a windy morning into a grey London, posed for the obligatory photo and ran off towards home.
The first two miles were uneventful, the streets empty of activity but full of architecture and marked only by the usual groaning made by runners of a certain age as they set out. Around two miles, on the edges of Brixton, I entertained people with a stunt fall, sliding along on my hands and knees into the sidewalk and managing to bleed.
Kissing London.
No one apart from me was amused so I rose, shrugged off their concern and we ran on like the middle aged delinquents or insane escapees that we are.
We all have a story to tell.
Brixton was a hubbub of life and colour as it always is, we dodged and swerved and probably left a few curses behind us on the pavement.
In Brockwell Park a butterfly crossed my path in an orange swirl, it gave me hope.
Inspired I had a conversation about depression and counselling, separation and suicide. Mental health and not allowing yourself to leak emotionally at work. We touched on the alpha male syndrome.
In Dulwich Park, we stopped for a coffee and discussed male and female orgasms. Fifty five and still learning new stuff man.
Through to Crystal Palace via Forest Hill it was education that became the topic, anxiety in the younger generation and the addiction of technology, how art is communication and the importance of the outdoors and sport as a counterpoint to tech and depression.
I discussed my failed vasectomy which led to my son being born. It's a great story.
We talked about Autism, learning social skills and social isolation. I said as I often do that the Autistics are my favourite people.
Around Beckenham it grew quiet for a while, we started to contemplate the finish and the pub. As parenthesis there was the usual groaning at the end of a long run by runners of a certain age when they begin to creak and we fell through the doors of the pub with joy and thirst. I drank Cider and ate chips.
Thanks to Steve J for his impeccable navigation, we never went wrong once.
And then there was Saturday night.
I went to The Electric Ballroom in Camden with the child whose face eclipses the sun to see the incredible Cory Wong play his Stratocaster. This wonderful man with his Wongface and rubber wrist is a genius, for two hours he and his band bounced around and gave us a glimpse of the joy of life in all it's positivity. Cory told us to embrace our creativity and have no fear. The connection between himself and his band flowed from the stage to the audience, as Cassie said on the Saturday rumble, art is communication. Through their art Cory and his band shared their story with us through the music and their stagecraft and I rose with them. You can't help but feel joyful when people are so energised and so in love with their passion.

This is the one I find the most arresting

  • Sunday, February 16, 2020
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I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near
Behind his house, a secret place
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face
He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns, to keep it tame 

(Bright Blue)

(Photo: Sam Nzima)
Not all running is done for fun. In this iconic photo taken on June 16 1976 Mbuyisa Makhubo is running with the dying Hector Peterson, 12. They had been part of a demonstration by school children in Soweto, Johannesburg, protesting against apartheid during which he was gunned down by the police. Running next to them is Hectors sister Antoinette. I believe there were six photo's taken that day but this is the one I find the most arresting - mainly because of Antoinette's hand position, fingers splayed, palm outward. Somehow it conveys the anguish and the fear, she appears to be trying to ward them off, holding back the inevitability. I was eleven and nine years later my father moved us to South Africa where I was conscripted into the South African Defence Force. It was the worst time of my life but it was also where I forged my moral compass and the values and beliefs of equality and social justice that I hold today. Despite that, after nearly thirty years I am still full of bitterness, anger and isolation. I have a suppurating wound in my soul that I cannot heal. I will never forget and I will always remember June 16.

The mind of fantasists and the authors of cheap paperback novels

  • Saturday, February 15, 2020
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You laugh together. You dance together. You gape at the hotdog eaters on Coney Island

There are spaces like brief flashes of light between the times I spend metaphorically rocking back and forth and gazing at a horizon that exists only in the mind of fantasists and the authors of cheap paperback novels that nobody ever reads. In these spaces I have been asking myself questions.
What defines my life?
Where am I?
Where do I want to be?
I'm struggling to answer these but I know my only hope lies in running and my friends. I know that I need both.
Kurt Vonnegut asked his adult son what he thought the meaning of life was, and his son replied: “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”
I'm not easy so my friendships stand with wild eyes on the edge of the abyss and take commitment and effort, my friends require grace and unconditional love to keep them alive.
Anyone who knows me understands that unless I run I become diminished and jagged so I make sure that I shoulder past the shadows, their sharp edges blunted by the rays of the rising sun, running minimilist and unburdened by the commitments of materialism, time or other peoples expectations. This is not selfish because it is in the recharging of ourselves that we can give of all the beauty that we contain to others, it is discharging the responsibility of grace towards ourselves so that we can do the same for the people that our lives contain.
Grace is everything.
Much of my thinking at the moment centres around running and friendship which are set against the backdrop of this unending depression that has gripped me with the sticky residue of a spiders web. It seems that the more I struggle and thrash the more it entangles me. I needed a challenge this year to focus on, draw me out and give definition to my life and somehow one found me.
Annie is my friend and she has watched me struggle like a lot of my friends knowing that they can't fix me. She runs with a motley group called Fourdaysrunning who I briefly ran with a few years ago. They were formed by a man called Ivor Reveley. Ivor, who has an Autistic son was chairman of trustees at Children on the Autistic Spectrum Parents Association (CASPA) and hit upon the idea of running for Four days over the bank holiday weekend in May to raise funds for the charity. Over the last decade the group has done various runs over the UK from the Isle of Wight, Hadrians Wall and The Thames Path. Ivor sadly died in 2018 but his spirit very much lives on through running.
This year the run is from Hunstanton to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and I am going.
I can't wait.
So I'm running every Monday night with the group and doing a longer Saturday run, either out on the trails or catching a train and running back, for instance we will catch a train to London Victoria and run to Bromley for a pub lunch.
The beautiful Zolani Mahola, who has done much to cross the divides that separate people put friendship like this; we are all connected and have so much in common, our stories are all unique and we have to be curious about our own and each other’s stories, to find the reason we were put on this planet and to be our full expression.
Sarah who is my friend teaches me to look for rainbows.
Ivor would have loved this, he was a man who was always challenging people to be better and find their full expression through relationship. He died to soon but left this legacy which he still lives through. He understood, I think, the importance of connection and shared experience. He loved story.
So, what defines my life? It's friendship and running. And my children.
Where am I? Still lost for the time being but now I have guides and a destination.
Where do I want to be? At peace, whole and someone who bestows love.
Working life out is not easy and takes work. I love the Southern Cross but I know that you have to cross the Equator to see it, there is a journey and a cost involved but I believe it is worth it.
Finally, I've borrowed this from The Guardian Newspaper: David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, said about the ending of the final episode:
“Well, what Tony should have been thinking, I guess, and what we all should be thinking – although we can’t live that way – is that life is really short. And there are good times in it and there are bad times in it. And that we don’t know why we’re here, but we do know that 20 miles up it’s freezing cold, it’s a freezing cold universe, but here we have this thing called love, which is our only defense, really, against all that cold, and that it’s a very brief interval and that, when it’s over, I think you’re probably always blindsided by it.”
Twenty miles up, it’s a freezing cold universe, we only have the human connections we make here, nothing is permanent, and love is our only defense. I suggest we all vote accordingly, and try to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.