Saturday, 26 February 2011

The First Brick - The Whole Wall

My training bible is Triathlon Training for Dummies but it let me down the other day. I was in university early for a supervision on the Vile Bodies project (see the other blog for the full pain of my artistic vacillations, which is my term for not actually writing anything) and was planning a nice swim on the way back but as I drove past Wyndley the packed car park reminded me it was half term and that the middle classes had obviously all decided to take junior swimming that very day. So home I came and made a fateful decision - it was time for my first brick. Brick? Described thus by my bible,
A brick is a bike/run workout in which you go for a run immediately after a bike ride. These back to back workouts teach your legs to go from one sport to the next, making your transition on event day easier and preparing you for that heavy-legged feeling you'll have when you start running after a bike ride.
Overgraduate attempts his first brick
 as spectators piss themselves laughing
Heavy-legged? You're not bloody kidding. Felt like I was dragging my arse along the floor. Managed fifteen minutes only (in fairness I had done a good pace for an hour on the bike, but even so) before collapsing into a heap. I need to do some more of these as a matter of urgency. I have been avoiding running because of my persistent heel injury and the niggling muscle strains I have picked up while refereeing, but have now decided to grin and bear it because it is not sufficient to rely on the refereeing mileage.

Notwithstanding the sheer sodding pain I felt pretty virtuous as I settled down that evening to drink red wine and watch Bright Young Things (ok but not life changing, more on the other blog), smug and secure in the knowledge that I would not be refereeing this weekend because my game had been called off. Then the phone rang and Mick Cowley reminded me of a drunken promise I had made to ref a match under the lights at AOE last night. Got to be honest, I'd clean forgotten. Anyway there is a happy ending because I got through that match unscathed and had a jolly good time. All of which served to remind me that rugby union is the world's best game and that Sunnybank Avenue is the best place to be involved in it. This second point was in no way contradicted by watching the joyless drivel of Super 15 rugby on Sky this morning, though the first is challenged by such inanity. In all the games I referee the collapsing scrum is hardly a problem notwithstanding the variable sizes and abilities of those involved. Professional rugby needs to get its house in order and quickly in this regard before some southern hemisphere half-wits take it upon themselves to legislate away one of union's distinctive and magnificent features. I refuse to believe that professional athletes cannot be conditioned to bloody well stay on their feet. Sort it out or our game dies a little. You are custodians of a grand tradition so stop being so self-indulgent.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

King Lear, Clint Eastwood And Waugh Stories

I stayed in writing camp until Wednesday. It was a wrench to come home in one respect but it's great to be back home in the bosom of the old family etc. Were it not for the small matter of her job I would gladly whisk Sharon off her feet and take us both back to Anglesey. It's probably the land-locked Brummie in me but there is something invigorating about sitting to work with the sea in view. Much less distracting than the sports channels as well.

King Lear on Tuesday night was really rather wonderful in most respects. The very fact of a substantial piece of that London culture coming to Llandudno was a nice start. I got there good and early - free parking on the Promenade within yards of the theatre. You couldn't come close to matching that in Brum much less in that London. I got a comfy seat in the bar and had a passable glass of pinot grigio while pretending to read but really doing some people watching. Judging by the accents the audience was as much English as Welsh, either second homers or Chester was empty for the night. Venue Cymru is a nice modern auditorium built on an old model but with good sight lines. I was in a good position to judge this because I was on the extreme right of the front row stalls. I even had a small view of the wings which could I suppose be off-putting, but which rather intrigued me. The actors were all total pros and kept in character until out of even my sight. Nor was I ever aware of anyone loitering for an entrance. The London cast is still in place (heading to New York after a short UK tour) and there was no sense of anyone being on holiday.

Derk Jacobi was immense but the two performances that caught my eye were Kent and Goneril. Michael Hadley as Kent did the best stage Midlands accent I can remember for the passages when Kent goes in disguise and he was competently subservient to the principal. Gine McKee was physically brilliant as Goneril even if she was suffering with a sore throat. She made her first entrance diagonally opposite me and my immediate thought was, bloody hell I hope she's not staring at me. Chilling and alluring both at once.

One minor gripe, I know the play had been cut to accomodate a cast of sixteen but the reappearance of France as a menial can be a tad confusing. Major plus, the best value programme in the history of theatricals. One hundred and forty-two pages with not an advert in sight and incorporating a full performance text. £4!  

Delayed only by my own confused detour down the alleyways of Llandudno I got bact to Anglesey and opened another bottle of Good Ordinary Claret and decided to continue the culture fest. Eastwood's companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima. This is the better of the two films and taken together they make a moving account of a desperate conflict. The two films cleverly interlink without the undestanding of one being in any way dependent on the other.

I continued my inefficient dramatising of Vile Bodies but details of those travails belong on the other blog.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Ballad Of Ira Hayes

Very late last night and after posting on my other blog (http://thestagingofvilebodies.blogspot.com/) I sat down with my Waitrose Good Ordinary Claret (under a fiver, does what it says on the tin) and watched Clint Eastwood's Flags of  Our Fathers which I rather enjoyed. Certainly it is far superior to Invictus which I really wanted to like but which I thought failed in the basic task of conveying the brutality of good rugby. However I was reminded of how a good song can so powerfully do the job of many words and pictures. This Johnny Cash song is one I included on one of my mix cd's done for the annual trip to Ireland and it succinctly gets across the crux of the later film's message.



Looking forward to King Lear tonight but I may take a power nap this afternoon to ensure I am fully alert for the experience. You can't take risks at my age.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Are Brilliant Mark VI

Ed Reardon's Week. You can catch it intermittently on Radios 4  and 7. By matchless serendipity last week's episode gave Ed a new girl friend played by, wait for it, Jenny Agutter. This is inspired casting since I'm pretty sure the producers must know that she has long been the favourite of the show's target audience, that is to say blokes like me. And don't tell me you don't know what I'm talking about. You know who you are.

Next up is an American, Rich Hall. I have been reminded how sagacious he is as I rewatch his documentary  How The West Was Lost on the excellent BBC4. This should be shown to film students in lieu of lectures on the western. It is partial, provocative and precise (within the first five minutes he looks straight at camera and deems George W. Bush a fuckwit) and gets you thinking. Which is a good start to the subject. Not, as others have expertly averred, that this is an area on which I am an expert, but that's not going to stop me having a go. Tough.

Ynys Mon. Or the Isle of Anglesey to us English oppressors. I'm on an extended break here because I'm going to see Derek Jacobi in King Lear at the improbable locus of Llandudno on Tuesday. Sharon and Helen were with me for the weekend but have gone home leaving me to a pile of books on Shakespeare (I counted them last night - twenty-two of them) and my supply of red wine. I have had what passes for a thrilling evening considering every reference to 'Rome' in Antony and Cleopatra. There are thirty, not to mention nine to 'Roman'. Just to prove how far into sad bookishness I have fallen, last week I spent a book voucher on my own copy of The Divine Comedy. I've even read some of it. And enjoyed it. Do I need help? No I need more book tokens and I need more shelf space, because as we all know, books do furnish a room.

This last one will cement my place on the naughty step but what the hell. Jenny Agutter. Sexy even on the radio. In a comedy. The photo is from Logan's Run which is not  a good film but I couldn't really put up a picture of the Railway Children now could I. Not without squads of social workers descending on my island strongness and embossing my name on some sort of register that Dave Cameron wants to make unamendable for ever and ever and ever. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

You'll Never Guess Who I Had In The Back Of My Cab

Only that David Cameron. 'What happened to the bike then?' I said but he didn't see the funny side. Tell you who he reminded me of - that Blair, Tony. Another posh geezer but you'd have to say Cameron's wife is better looking. Still each to his own as I always say, as long as it doesn't harm noone. I remember that Rousseau saying something along those lines when I took him down Soho. Nice enough for a foreigner.

a foreign fare-good tipper

Anyway I say to the boy Dave that I'm a bit perplexed by this latest Supreme Court uproar (Supreme Court Sex Offender Decision) and he says something along the lines of too right guvnor, strike a light etc etc. We're outraged he tells me, how dare the Supreme Court actually enforce the law parliament was dopey enough to pass in the first place and which (though I was too polite to mention this) his crowd don't seem to be in a hurry to repeal. But before he can go on giving it the old righteous indignation bollocks I ask him why it's now called the Supreme Court. This was down to Blair and his flabby mate Charlie Falconer apparently and no he hasn't got a clue what it was about other than perhaps Tone had watched too much West Wing. So we park that one. 


the fare who bust my suspension
But then it got very confusing and I got the distinct impression that Dave didn't understand a word of what I was saying. It's your Human Rights Act you see. It's created a constitutional conundrum which interferes with the old notion that the Queen in parliament is sovereign. Not unlike your European Communities Act all those years ago and on which it seems, not a little embarrassingly, that the vile old nutter Enoch Powell may actually have had a point. You see sovereignty is rather like virginity - once you've given it away it's a right bugger getting it back. At this Dave did that thing punters do when they pretend to read their paper. But he was listening alright. So since he wasn't going to make the running I carried on and rather surprised him by saying that it occurred to me that the dreaded judges had in fact reached a civilized decision but had got there by an unworthy route ie your sodding human rights. Which got me neatly onto prisoners voting. Have a look at what the super soaraway Sun had to say on the topic at http://www.sunvote.co.uk/cms/crime/155571/should_prisoners_have_the_right_to_vote.
Oi, where's your helmet!
Me? Of course they shouldn't vote says I, but it's for parliament to make its bloody mind up and do its job not pass the buck to a bunch of lawyers. Which brings me back to the virginity/sovereignty point I made earlier. Just to mix me metaphors completely, you can't put the genie back in the bottle can you? Dave said nothing, got out at Notting Hill, no tip. Cuts I suppose. 

Next week: Lord Denning, best fare ever; Tony Benn, lovely, mad as a box of frogs; Gordon Brown, couldn't take to him; Nick Clegg, even posher than Dave; Vince Cable, don't bloody start me! Cheerio guvnor.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Black Dog Days

It's the damndest thing about depression (or mine at least) that it spends most of its time secreted in the undergrowth of my life only to spring out and ambush me at inopportune moments. So today has been a poor sort of a day. I can at least rationalise it and assure myself that it will pass. But the worst times are when you allow yourself to speculate on what will happen if it proves stubborn. Keep taking the tablets I suppose, as God said to Moses, or was it Charlton Heston?

A better day for Egyptians though. The 'last pharoah' President Mubarak has bowed to the inevitable and resigned. Next stop Zurich to find a cash machine no doubt. I can only ponder pessimistically the prospect of the looming Muslim Brotherhood, the fabled face of 'moderate Islam.' No Egyptian woman need mither about the cares of presidential office if the Brotherhood take over - the post's duties would 'conflict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles.' Nobody's business but the Egyptians of course but the world doesn't really work like that now does it. On which cheery note I'm off out for a meal.

Oh, one last thing. The average salary at Goldman Sachs (this includes the cleaners and other skivvies) is £289000. Now one thinks about it the Brotherhood might be onto something. Or even Vince Cable. Now I've gone too far. Peace out man.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Reasons To be Cheerful ... And Otherwise

Mostly otherwise I suspect. Today I find myself with a bit of a downer on the world and the world is retaliating by having a bit of a downer on me. I see on the horizon a future as an unloved and unemployable multiple graduate whose only marketable skill is the one he is adamant he does not want to use. It has come to my recent attention that I am not quite as clever as I would like to be, though I will bite back and say that I am neither quite as dense as my prime detractor would have it. The outcome is nonetheless disappointing. Heavy bummer man.

I ran the touch in a police cup match this afternoon which was a nice diversion but one spoilt by my thigh muscle straining itself again. My body is rather taking the piss out of my athletic ambitions at the moment. Further bummer man. To add to my self-willed gloom I timed my exit from the ground so that I could spend an hour and a half making the twelve mile journey home. Yet further bummer man. There was compensation in hearing my old mate Vince Cable on the wireless trying vainly to big up the inevitable inefficacy (see The Overgraduate 22 September 2010 where I told you this would happen) of Project Merlin, the optimistically named (inviting magic presumably) agreement by which the government has 'reined in' our fat cat bankers. As J.K. Galbraith might very well have said, what a load of old bollocks.

Not untypically a good old whinge has cheered me up so now I am going to tell you about our jolly good weekend in that London. We were there to celebrate (belatedly) the birthday of daughter number two who paid us the compliment of being pleased to see us. Good start. We went to see Blood Brothers at the Phoenix. For reasons not unconnected to blind prejudice I wasn't entirely convinced I would like this. I was wrong. Blinding good evening and the girl who used to be in Atomic Kitten (seriously, she played Mrs Johnston) was excellent. I had way too much to eat and just too much to drink both of which added to the fun. The underground was running smoothly and the hotel was good (inefficiency at the cocktail bar notwithstanding) so top marks to Boris's that London. I rounded off the weekend by watching the Superbowl which my Pittsburgh Steelers lost to Green Bay. I ate all eight hot dogs I had bought for the occasion from the 99p Store.

All of which left me decidedly leaden on Monday morning but my mood was considerably lightened by the delivered wisdom of the real David Roberts (Professor David Roberts) on the mightily important matter of Hamlet and other topics Shakespearean. I returned home feeling challenged, wiser and definitely curious. And when you sweep all the garbage out of the way that is what education should be like. That is what I am going to miss about it. Enormously.

If anyone out there has a job going which might suit a man like me, I'm available from May onwards. I scrub up quite respectably, I've been around some interesting places and learned a lot along the way. Put like that, what have you got to lose?    

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Please Control Your Woman

I have had the dubious honour of meeting quite a lot of politicians. Some I like. Most are interesting. I have met two MPs who have served as Speaker in the House of Commons. With public figures I think it fair to make judgements on brief acquaintance. In fact with each of these two I had relatively leisurely encounters. Betty Boothroyd was diminutive, engaging, charming. John Bercow was merely diminutive. He is now shrinking the Speaker's role to match his own shadow. His judgement in marriage seems equally dubious - please see Sally Bercow . Oh deary, deary me. Move over Harman and Cable. Out of the way Lord Prescott. We have a new winner.

Training Again

The Beast is back, sort of. I got out on the bike yesterday for ninety odd minutes and tackled a few hills without total collapse. Pleasingly I seem to have improved immeasurably in the vital skill of eating and drinking whilst on the move. What made this discovery doubly rewarding was that the food in question was a cheapo muesli bar from the multi-pack I acquired at my absolute favourite retail emporium, the 99p Store at Mere Green, an enterprise risen from the ashes of the Woolworth unit. Twelve bars for 99p ie 8p a throw. The packaging announces that they are manufactured 'in the EU' so child labour can probably be discounted (or does that assumption make me naive or, worse, credulous?) but you have to wonder how anyone makes a profit. Anyway get down there while stocks last for your sports nutritional needs. Check out the toiletries as well. My various kit bags are now furnished with knock-down (knock-off?) deodorants. I smell lovely and have funds left for other vices. Should I take up smoking? Or is pornography more suited to a post-structuralist? I bet Roland Barthes smoked. The French all do.


As I look at the 99p Stores logo it occurs to me how dangerous inflation is. As we tolerate inflation so my favoured shop will be able to stock fewer and fewer items or will have to change its name - to Woolworth perhaps. There is a serious point in this. We poor buggers who remember the 70s and their early 80s hangover can tell you just how pernicious is uncontrolled inflation. There is a misguided notion in our current politics that a bit of inflation is no bad thing. I heard it neatly described the other day as a mechanism that transfers the burden of lifting recession from reckless borrowers (and that description definitely includes feckless governments) onto savers.

Enough special pleading. It's not just the cycling that's back in focus. Swimming as well. Fortified by my new economical stroke (courtesy of Sue's Swimming School - seriously that's what they're called) I set a new distance PB at lunchtime today and did so at a better than average pace. Still slow but not drowning. That should be my motto although I am also tempted by 'Per ardua ad Vauxhall Astra' which nicely sums up the struggle to achieve mediocrity. I'll get there some day.