Sedate lady running 17-23 June 2019 #amrunning #running

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Summary: A gentle week with an effort at the end

Monday – I thought I’d do a recovery run after the Bumble Bimble trail race the day before (see my report here). Turns out that trail running on technical downhills and mud isn’t made better by some road running. Claire was very very patient with me – I think I had an actual sit-down in the park at one point!

3.4 miles, 13 mins per mile

Wednesday – Nothing WAS hurt as such but I decided my ankles were still protesting too much to do yoga. So I didn’t.

Thursday – A nicer run along the same route as Thursday with Sonya. Almost the same route but much more comfortable. Phew!

3.5 miles, 12:14 mins per mile

Friday – I managed Claire yoga, hooray! Just what I needed and saw my friends who I’d alarmed by leaving the class last week on Wednesday when everything cramped up.

Saturday – Running club parkrun takeover and I did barcode scanning using the new app (a bit tricky in the bright sunlight). It was so warm that I could have run down and not got cold standing around. This was my 125th parkrun volunteering stint! We were on the alternative route away from the main park as there was cricket parking and a food festival happening there. It was good to catch up with friends before and after and I walked there and back to make my 10,000 steps for the day.

Sunny parkrun off they go!

Sunday – Bernice and I took a road trip (thanks for doing the driving, Bernice) to the Ridgeway to practise on some of the paths we’re going to experience in July on the Race to the Stones. It was a 90 minute drive down once she’d collected me. Early breakfast for me but Matthew had gone birdwatching so the timing worked well.

Road trip, Birmingham to North Wessex Downs

We decided to run one way for an hour, then back to the car, then along the other way for 45 minutes and back, as Bernice had 3 hour 30 running on her plan. This worked really well as we could leave some things in the car and know we were back there in the middle. Very reassuring!

The paths were much MUCH better than in the Bimble Bumble. We had rutted chalk, flat chalk, some road surface, some grass and some bare earth with stones or plain. Lots of elevation (1000 ft in the bit we did: my last marathon was 982 ft in total) and these surfaces could be up, down or flat, but I think we covered most of what we were going to get. Some pics from me and Bernice:

These wayposts were all along the Ridgeway, making it easy to find your way even without the event signage. (photo by Bernice)

Rutted chalk trails, Bernice going downhill

Rutted chalk, Liz by Bernice.

Happy ladies (honestly!) on the trails

Amazing far view with a beautiful poppy field

A nice lady we met took this pic of us. Everyone on the trail was so friendly and lovely!

Liz on a stile looking like one of those 1030s adverts for hiking (maybe). I was regarding something I thought was Wayland’s Smithy but wasn’t.

We actually went over this stile and off piste which was very exciting, and saw a trail of people so made it over the grass to Uffington Castle, a Neolithic hill fort, and then down the grass to get a view of the White Horse of Uffington.

A side note: I’ve been wary of the White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy since being unnerved by a TV series as a child and even reading the book didn’t help. The Smithy comes up in Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” sequence too. But actually up close it’s all benign and it’s such a privilege to be standing in such an ancient place – a Neolithic landscape, the Ridgeway having been used continuously since those times. Amazing.

Just about seen: the White Horse of Uffington – a chalk figure (it’s in the middle going over the brow of the hill)

 

Strava view showing the Horse and where we were before we dropped down

Once we’d looked at the Horse we were back at the car, so swapped bottles, I had half a banana and Bernice had some peanut butter sandwiches, we noted the ice cream van for later then set off the other way. For this and the previous segment we were going in the direction of the actual race, so it was great to gather the terrain.

Along more of an earth track for 45 minutes – here at the turning point.

It was getting more and more humid and I amused Bernice by pointing out that I was running in a miasma of my own sweat.

We diverted to Wayland’s Smithy on the way back – much more of a sacred grove than the alarming place I’d had in mind (it’s a former Neolithic burial mound, now open to the sky)!

Wayland’s Smithy

… and we were back! We had a picnic overlooking the valley: so beautiful.

Picnic time! (by Bernice)

The view from our lunch

The ice cream van had GONE when we got back but returned as we were lunching; rude not to, right –

Lollies! By Bernice

This was such a great idea, we both feel really reassured that the surfaces were OK – I think you could do it in road shoes but I felt more safe in my Saucony Peregrines with their rubbery soles. We both feel we can do it now and got 14 miles in so would have  been almost half way! We both felt we could have carried on, and that’s with coming into it tired rather than rested and tapered.

14 miles, 15:15 mins per mile

Miles this week: 20.9 Miles this year: 537.3 (for 1,000 miles in the year I need 500 by the end of this month)

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “Nuns and Soldiers” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch

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It’s been an unexpected and rather disquieting fact that this time around re-reading all of Iris Murdoch’s novels in chronological order, in my mid-to-late-40s (last time I did it was in 2008-10) I’ve discovered that many of the characters who I previously considered as ‘adult’, certainly older than me, have been slipped past and are now younger than me. This was again the case here, with the central, adult figures, Gertrude and Guy, being in their early-to-mid-40s and most of the constellation of ‘cousins and aunts’ similar. I’ve noticed I’ve had slightly less tolerance for the caperings of the young, so I hope I don’t end up unable to respect anyone apart from Bruno or (insert other very elderly characters here). It’s not a problem as such, just interesting.

If you’re doing the readalong or even selected books along with me, or of course some time afterwards, do share how you’re getting on and which have been your favourites so far.

Iris Murdoch – “Nuns and Soldiers “

(31 December 2018)

I think this one gets left out a bit as the follow-up to “The Sea, The Sea”. Certainly, based on the Introduction to my edition, it wasn’t received that well by the critics. But I’m very fond of it; I love the scenes in the French house, and I’ve certainly not tired of Anne Cavidge (so much more successful than Ann Perronet).

We open with Guy dying and his wife Gertrude surrounded by friends and family. The chorus of relatives demands particular behaviour when a circle of suitors manifests itself. While she tries to escape – to the north, to France – unprepossessing Tim seems to claim her heart while the distant satellite, a Polish “count” holds still with his love hidden. Who will Gertrude choose, and will she stick with her choice? Over the course of a year we watch Gertrude being courted, other constellations moving around her, and time passing in a circle.

Who is the saint? Anne or the Count are really the candidates, aren’t they? The Count is doing penance for his father’s anti-Semitism by page 4 (“and for much else”) although it’s worth noting that he does pass on gossip where a true saint would absorb it. His life is “a conceptual muddle” which is always a good sign. He also notes that “It’s not for me to judge” about Tim (p. 323) while also confronting Tim about his morals and seemingly planting ideas of integrity and honour into his head (p. 380).  Anne is of course an ex-nun who has a vision of a somewhat Buddhist Jesus and she effaces her love for the good of others. Gertrude says of her, “She is not a Saint, she is not even an Abbess!” (p. 52). I do love the portrait of their long and complex friendship, by the way, a massively attractive feature of this book for me. Manfred and Mrs Mount consider then to be “a spineless pair” who should have ended up together (p. 497). Is our saint Daisy, who absorbs things then pops off to be an American feminist? Tim is described as taking everyone’s blame by the chorus, but that’s because he’s a scapegoat, not a saint.

Are there any enchanters? Gertrude seems to have an effect on people but only in a loving way. Are the chorus of aunts and cousins which turn out to be manipulating things rather a lot in the late scenes a sort of joint enchanter, making things happen as they wish?

Murdoch is much more positive about marriage than in “The Sea, The Sea”. Gertrude and Guy’s bond was so close “They had never seriously quarrelled, never been parted, never doubted each other’s complete honesty” – presumably why she’s so very upset when Tim shows up as a liar. I loved the description of both Tim and Gertrude feeling a little superior to each other but transforming that into protective tenderness. There’s probably a lot to be said about Gertrude’s inability to appreciate art and Tim’s various issues in the art galleries, but I’m not sure I’m equal to that!

In other more common themes, Guy was writing a book of course, which is never finished. Daisy is writing a novel which is more successful. Anne has a short fur of hair, while Gertrude has tangles of brown and Tim of red. Once more, older women are described disparagingly – Daisy has become “prematurely haggard”. Gertrude grows older in Tim’s eyes, greying and with eyes displaying signs of crying. The descriptions of the sea in the north and the rivers and pools and canal in France are beautiful. The rain and thunderstorms play a major role. Stones are a big feature, with the beach ones hampering Anne but Jesus giving her a special stone. Anne observes Tim in the garden in France and he looks through a window and sees what he should not see. There’s discussion of how to be good and Jesus Himself sums it up:

Do right, refrain from wrong. (p. 298)

In this context, I also loved Anne’s statement to the Count that it’s best not to take your own life in case you could have done some good for somebody in later life. She’s passing on a good message here. Cats and dogs feature with all Tim’s cat paintings and Tim and Daisy’s story being bookended by Barkiss the dog disappearing and appearing.

Doubling is everywhere – Gertrude has two husbands, Tim has two tests in the canal and Anne one in the sea. In France and London are opposing house, one constrained and one free (or is it?). There are two dogs in the canal – one dead, one alive, both turning to show a raised paw, and two fountains (the face and the moss fountain). As well as Tim’s ordeal, he and Gertrude count themselves as having had one when they separate. There are two big break-up scenes (Tim and Gertrude, Tim and Daisy). I loved the times that Tim and Anne almost run into each other, walking in London.

There’s not much actual humour in the book but great sayings such as “There is a gulf fixed between those who can sleep and those who cannot. It is one of the great divisions of the human race” (p. 37) and on Gertrude and Anne’s friendship: “She and Anne would always be riding together in that indestructible chariot. Only since it was so indestructible there was perhaps no need to let it run over her dreams” (p. 281). I also loved the assessment of Tim:

Like many instinctive uncalculating liars Tim was too lazy to think out his lies with care, and faced with exposure tended perhaps, as a token gesture to his conscience, to tell the literal truth. (p. 340).

Daisy’s feminism and swearing opposition to pretty well anything is both brave and amusing. Tim caught in the brambles is also pretty funny.

In relation to other books in particular, Gertrude and Tim breaking up at the end of one chapter and then being found in the process of getting married at the beginning of the next always reminds me of when Dora in “The Bell” is resolving not to give up her seat on the train then doing so. The discussion of the meaning of Guy’s dying phrases, including the one about “the upper side of the cube” turning out to be about hitting a tennis ball rather than some kind of deep philosophy recall Dorina in “An Accidental Man” suddenly recalling that “Pliez les genoux” was about skiing lessons rather than the imprecations of some holy man.

A good read, I think, with lots of drama and adventure and a lovely denouement when we suddenly look at everything through Manfred and Mrs Mount’s eyes.


Please either place your review in the comments, discuss mine or others’, or post a link to your review if you’ve posted it on your own blog, Goodreads, etc. I’d love to know how you’ve got on with this book and if you read it having read others of Murdoch’s novels or this was a reread, I’d love to hear your specific thoughts on those aspects, as well as if it’s your first one!

If you’re catching up or looking at the project as a whole, do take a look at the project page, where I list all the blog posts so far.

Sedate lady running 10-16 June 2019 including Bimble Bumble Summer Edition 2019 race report #amrunning #running

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Summary: I don’t like going off-road so what was I doing running a 10-mile trail race??? Bimble Bumble Summer Edition race report after the rest of my week.

Tuesday – I went to Running Club tonight and it was So. Wet. I wore my (not very) waterproof, it was soggy, I was tired, and Mary Ellen and I decided to just run home when we reached the high street, rather than going through the park and back to the other park then running home. We did tell the tail runner! Then of course we ran in circles to make it up to five miles!

Running in UK June: wet Liz

Running in a UK June

5 miles, 12:46 mins per mile

Wednesday – I was so concerned to get home and dry and fed on Tuesday that I forgot to stretch. And I’ve not been rolling enough. Result? I went to yoga and my hams and bum and back were protesting so much I lay down and stretched, relaxed, then left half-way through (this is the week I kept quitting, it feels. Less quitting later).

Thursday – Managed to get out with Trudie for a run around. I was waiting for a parcel to be delivered for Matthew and we were very pleased that with me checking my phone, I managed to dash back home and catch the Amazon Man on his previous delivery at the end of the road, wait for him, sign for it, put it in the hall and finish my run. Hooray!

Trudie called this run Woman vs. Amazon!

3 miles / 12:00 mins per mile

Saturday – I was leading the club’s beginners’ session, something I always love doing. We had the house measured for blinds first thing then I popped over to the park for 9.50. I had Jenny joining me plus two lovely beginners I’ve run with before – they’d missed a few weeks due to the rain so were pleased with 2.5 miles of run/walk. Jenny and I then walked to the garden centre and she helped me choose some plants.

0.6 miles, 11:12 mins per mile / 2.5 miles, 14:03 mins per mile

Sunday – BIMBLE BUMBLE SUMMER EDITION

I knew I had to do this trail race because although I’ve been on the unpaved canal paths and the bottom of the rugby club where it’s traily, I needed a challenging trail race under my belt before Race to the Stones. A few of us decided to do this 10-miler. But I got scared, esp when we got an email saying the rain had made it quite treacherous underfoot and the farmer hadn’t been able to mow one of the grass fields. I’m scared off road and I didn’t really trust my shoes or myself. But I had said I’d do it, so I did it.

Tara and Matt kindly gave me a lift, along with my rucksack of food and spare socks. I was testing out my Aonjie rucksack (which I did wear for the Canal Canter last year) hoping to make sure it’s OK for RTTS, and I had my pretty new Saucony Peregrines on my feet. We arrived at the race HQ, a pub in Bromsgrove, and collected our numbers and connected with quite a few other KHRC folk, plus I saw Joan and Ian from officiating, which was lovely. We all talked nervously, changed into our gear, and had a good safety talk by the organisers.

This expresses literally exactly how I felt before setting off (photo by Bernice).

I was so scared at this point that I’d given myself a tension headache in my neck.

Off we set, down a grassy slope (eeps mud) and then through a wheat field …

Liz running through a field of wheat (by Bernice)

I did not know Bernice was videoing me aeroplaning along!

I nearly fell (well, gave up) at the first hurdle when we hit a stile. I am so slow climbing over these wooden constructions and was worried I was holding everyone back, offering to stop and go back. I did get more adept at these as we went, fortunately.

We then hit a truly terrifying downhill section through a wood. It was hang onto trees, step carefully, really scary stuff. I felt quite panicky here: I’d imagined the whole race to be a combo of this type of thing and muddy fields, which it wasn’t. Fortunately Tara shouted to me “Race to the Stones isn’t like this!). Then a slippery bridge at the bottom I did all the tiptoeing over.

Slippery bridge after rails we had to hang onto and before muddy steps (photo by Bernice)

You can see Fay and Tara doing what we’d just done and inching sideways hanging onto the fence. Scary! We did have a fab tail runner, Debbie – the organisation, signposting and marshals were all amazing.

On we went, muddy fields, stiles, gates … Some of us were scared of the terrain (me), some were worried about the distance, some were scared of horses and/or cows (which is fair enough) and this awesome lady had already run 8 miles to get her long run in!

Bernice and Liz in the woods

It was beautiful and I’m not complaining about the terrain, it’s as it is and common for this kind of race.

So beautiful – the views

All the sky, all the view

Lovely woods

Lovely woods

You can see the variety underfoot, though. We had a lovely horse come over to us all and I had the job of distracting it while Tara got through the gate, as it loved Tara, but all fun to see the wildlife (not many good birds, unfortunately).

All in all it was like one of those puzzle adventure games people play: work out how to get round the puddle, through the mud, over the stile … it took a LOT of concentration and was really tiring. But somehow, in about Mile 7, something sort of clicked (I’m not going to say it totally clicked) and whether I’d been out ages and was just tired and wanted to finished, but I somehow didn’t care and I was running over mud I’d have been scared of, popping over stiles (I did get a bit ahead at one point, purely because I wanted to make a bubble of time for getting over stiles!).

Bernice kindly recorded me running through some very wet and muddy grass …

Liz on the trails. The wet, muddy trails. By Bernice.

This was near the end. A few more gates, some more stiles, along we all trotted in a line of Kings Heath wonderment, and then there was cheering and whooping and we were running up a hill (hooray) and we were DONE and there was Tara’s fiancé (ooh), Matt and the organisers and a few other runners and a lady with MEDALS and a helper with water and we’d done it!

Look at them undulations!

Muddy ladies: Tara, Liz, Bernice, Tracie (where’s Fay?)

It was well set up at the end, eggs to collect (yup), a place to sit down, food being served, and announcements about the winners at the end, after we’d all come in, which I thought was a lovely touch.

That’s not all my hair, it’s an ashtray or something (by Bernice)

It was chilled and pretty at the end as we found everyone and congratulated each other, and to be honest, I went from fear to terror to panic to gritting my teeth through it to not hating it to not not liking it to a kind of hysterical enjoyment to gritted teeth and a vague ability to actually do it, and I’m OK with that. Everyone did so well, achieving what we set out to do and conquering various fears and outsideness of comfort zones: well done, us!

Eggses and a pretty medal

My shoes did superbly, I felt confident in them and only had one slide. They repelled water and stayed quite clean for a while, and I didn’t get any blisters (must remember which socks I wore). My rucksack worked really well: it’s not waterproof but that’s OK as I can put things in bags inside it and this was to test that. It did rain on us quite a bit!

9.7 miles (everyone else’s watch showed 10!) 15:42 mins per mile (or maybe a little less).

So roll on the Race to the Stones, which is three times as long but in no place as scary as that scary downhill, according to those who have done both.

Miles this week: 20.8 Miles this year: 516.4 (for 1,000 miles in the year I need 500 by the end of this month)

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review – Gretel Ehrlich – “This Cold Heaven” #amreading #20BooksOfSummer

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Well I’m under way finally with my 20 Books of Summer, and this one with its close print and historical narratives certainly didn’t give me a quick entry into the project this year! I was inspired to read this book by Bookish Beck’s review back in February 2018 – I ordered it quickly and then of course it sat on the TBR. But I’m very glad I picked it up and it was a very rewarding read about a place to which, like BB, I have no desire to go, but which I do like reading about! Oh, and I’ve realised my 20 Books list is a little more diverse than I thought, as this book is absolutely rooted in the lived experience of Greenlandic and other Inuit people, spending time with them, honouring their customs and sharing, rather than imposing on, their way of life.

Gretel Ehrlich – “This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland”

(10 March 2018)

A narrative of her seven years spent in Greenland for at least part of the time, a summer here, a dark, dark winter there, right up in the Inuit communities, living communally (very much so, with open toilets in hallways, naked drumming and a very basic life on the sleds), going on hunting expeditions and always conscious of and examining the pull between a modern and rapidly vanishing traditional culture, where those seeking to maintain the old ways have to present their case in the modern world and in some cases push back hard against it. The development of her friend Olejorgen, who has left Denmark to come to Greenland and learn to be a hunter describes a fascinating arc through the book: will he lose his professorial ways and become what he seeks to be?

As you’d kind of expect, quite a lot of dogs die (although this is not dwelt on in detail and some of the deaths are from preventable epidemics, showing another side to life in Greenland), and there’s a fairly upsetting scene with polar bear hunting later on in the book. However, even this doesn’t feel gratuitous if you accept that maintaining a way of life where you have to battle with the elements, one mistake can kill you very easily, and you and (first) the dogs are going to live off the meat while you make yourself a new pair of polar bear trousers is important and that this pretty small community should be allowed to survive as it wishes. It’s a difficult call to make and the author shows herself to be sympathetic while not glossing over the bad points of the culture and retaining self-reflection and critical thinking (she does get her head turned a bit by a hunky museum curator, however).

There are lots of passages describing the early 20th century explorer and ethnographer Knut Rasmusson – indeed, the impetus for her travels was reading his journals and she lugs the books around with her when all the rest of her luggage is lost. I didn’t personally find these as interesting as the passages about her own life and friendships, and I was glad when they petered out towards the end, however they did give a lot of interesting information, especially on the habit of picking up an Inuit wife for a journey, having a baby or two and then wondering what to do. I was fascinated by her reactions to the constant night and constant day of the two opposite seasons, written in perfect beautiful language, and then on a more practical level, I appreciated the epilogue from 2001 updating us on the various people we meet along the way, and I’m really glad I read this.


Now it’s on to my Iris Murdoch of the month, and I need to spend some solid time with that over the weekend! How are your 20BooksOfSummer (winter) coming along?

Book reviews – Joanne M. Harris – “The Gospel of Loki” and David Coles – “Chromatopia” plus book confessions @ShinyNewBooks @ThamesandHudson #amreading

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First off I need to tell you about “Chromatopia: An Illustrated History of Colour” by David Coles, which publishers Thames & Hudson were kind enough to send me to review for Shiny New Books.

This truly spectacular book would grace any coffee table with ease, but it’s more than just a pretty face, with fascinating facts in abundance and offers a good read to anyone interested in art, colour or indeed chemistry.

Read my full review over at Shiny. I’ve just had a look at Thames & Hudson’s autumn catalogue and there are some smashers in it, although I have a couple more from May and June to read and review before I can start frolicking amongst those!

Joanne M. Harris – “The Gospel of Loki”

(23 November 2018)

I bought this one because the lovely Annabookbel sent me the sequel, “The Testament of Loki” (which she didn’t finish, see her review here) and I am just unable to read the second part of a series first, it seems.

This is a really nicely done retelling of the Norse myths from the point of view of Loki. His voice is great, and the little details of swapping a Chaotic life in the form of a flame for a corporeal aspect that can feel all the senses give a depth to it that makes it not all just about stories. His motivation is laid out for us to see, and plausible, and he’s got a modern way with words while being firmly rooted in his context (a bit like the Marvel films, and of course it’s now hard to visualise the characters without seeing the film characters). He has to experience emotions, too, adding another layer. All the familiar tales are here, so there’s lots of nice recognition if you’ve basically been a bit obsessed by this stuff since you were 8 or so, but it’s all from his side of the story, so retains the interest. The mystery of who actually wants Ragnarok to start is a bit of a twist too far, perhaps, but it’s both competent and fun.

Incoming

Oh dear. You’ve seen the state of the TBR and noted that I can’t have cleared much from it if I’m reviewing my second book of the month. But then this happened.

Somehow Jon Bloomfield’s “Our City: Migrants and the Making of Modern Birmingham” got itself published without me hearing about it. How did that happen? When I heard about it, I just had to have it right away. It’s got at least one person I know in it, and looks just so well done and fascinating. It also adds to the diversity of my TBR, which I’ve been a bit concerned about.

More diversity with Japanese novel “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata, about a woman struggling to keep the way of life and work she wants while being buffeted by expectations from her family and employers. This was one Meg was given for Christmas and I apparently expressed a need to read it, so there it was when I met her for her birthday!

And then Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”. Ali had a du Maurier reading week recently to celebrate their joint birthdays. She had a competition to win a copy of “Rebecca” and one other book, and as I’ve managed never to read this novel, I entered, along with a few other people. And then, to everyone’s slight embarrassment, I won. Ali shared with me at the weekend that she drew me with the first random number generator run, and was horrified, so ran it again … and I won again, at which point she decided the fates wanted me to read it. Fortunately she’s said I can do it for DDM Reading Week NEXT year!

Currently reading

Once I’ve shoehorned these onto the shelf, I’ll get back to reading the first of my 20 Books of Summer, “This Cold Heaven” by Gretel Erlich, a fascinating book about her long-term love affair with Greenland. It’s very absorbing so far, although I have the thought of getting to my next Iris Murdoch before too long hovering gently in the background …

Happy reading everyone! How are your 20Books going?

Sedate lady running 3-9 June 2019 #amrunning #running

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Summary: A good week but I’m still tired and recovering from the marathon and it’s a bit hard to maintain training for big events and officiating at all-day events but that side of things will ease soon.

Monday – A lovely recovery run with Claire, chatting about our marathons, and my new yoga mat arrived! No pics.

3.2 miles / 12:04 mins per mile

Wednesday – Off to Abbey Stadium in Redditch with Hilary and Rob to be one of Sparkhill Harriers’ contributed officials for their veterans’ league match. A nice evening for it and Hilary, Darren and I plus helpers looked after the two javelin competitions. I was pulling through, which means being on the winder end of the tape measure, pulling it flat and through a dot in the middle of the throwing runway once someone has spiked a spike where the javelin ended with the 0 end of the tape. Hilary did the measuring and recording. My final experience for my Field Level 1 licence application!

Abbey Stadium, Redditch

Thursday – An early evening run with Trudie and Mary Ellen. I was still tired and it was quite warm so we decided to pop to Swanshurst Park to run round the lovely lake (where I’d run with Claire on Monday). A good idea, and we got to do some hamming (OK, I got to) when Trudie popped near the lake to take some pictures.

Photobombing in Swanshurst Park (Trudie’s photo)

3.6 miles / 12:40 mins per mile

Friday – I managed to get to yoga and enjoyed Claire’s class although got a bit confused between my left and right in a new thing we did. My yoga mat was super – it didn’t stretch or move and I didn’t slip on it. Hooray!

Saturday – I’d seen a call for officials for the West Midlands Schools track and field event at Alexander Stadium on the officials’ Facebook group and signed up and had a great day working there. Although the weather was shockingly bad, with pouring rain so bad we had to postpone some field events …

View from the officials’ room – floodlights on in the middle of the day in June!

… there was a great spirit of getting on with things and a lot of enjoyment. We were all rotaed on to do different events, so I started on discus and rotated through javelin, shot, high jump and triple jump. I was a bit alarmed to see I was lead on one high jump competition but it’s a discipline I’m used to working on and all went fine. My friend Alison, who is a senior photo finish official and has encouraged me mightily in my track and field career, was there, too, the first time we’ve worked at the same event. We failed to get a photo together but she snapped me organising the high jump!

I’m second from right in the foreground

and she gave me a wave from the officials’ room when I was working on the triple jump. We had great teachers assisting us and all went well, weather considering.

I got to fulfil two ambitions I’ve held since seeing these things done while spectating at the same stadium in June last year (see my montage of photos of officials I took then here) and …

  • Got to push a little trolley full of discuses round from the competition area to the Scrutinising Room (where people’s own pieces of throwing and jumping equipment are checked: all items were loaned from the stadium today)

discus trolley!

  • Help lift up a section of pink track from the triple jump run-up and replace it with a take-off board

It was a great day: I did all sorts of jobs from registering athletes, calling them up to compete, sounding the horn to check people in the field were safe, pulling through, measuring and spiking, recording results and working out finishing orders, so lots of good experience and learning points. And I got a lift home from a lovely co-official who lives near me (and knows Hilary and Rob / runs with KHRC sometimes: it’s a small world!).

The arty shot

Sunday – I was supposed to be running 13 miles but was quite fatigued (not just the officiating but not sleeping so well with the light mornings coming early: we are getting quotations for blinds for the bathroom and bedroom which should help with this issue). I met Trudie, Ruth and Mary Ellen at the corner of my road and we set off down to the canal and ran along the route Mary Ellen and I took the time we saw the swing bridge, towards Dickens Heath. Ruth was tired, too (OK, we were all tired!) and wanted a shorter run so Trudie ran back with her after we’d said goodbye with a nice selfie in front of a graffitied bridge …

Liz, Trudie, Ruth, Mary Ellen

We took some nice canal pics before they left us.

Canal scene, Haslucks Green

Then Mary Ellen and I continued on towards Dickens Heath. We had some idyllic scenes along the way, saw lots of baby water birds including ducks, geese (all marching down a meadow and getting purposefully into the water and coming towards us!) and a moorhen and coot, and lots of lovely gardens and decks across the water, as well as boats and dogs.

Mary Ellen and Liz

We took a selfie at our turning around point in Dickens Heath, by a bridge built in 1997, presumably when the new communities were built there – always interesting to see all this stuff and we noticed a nature reserve I might come back to explore with Matthew.

Dickens Heath bridge

Then we turned back as Mary Ellen wanted about 10 miles. This time, we managed to turn in by the arch by Yardley Wood and follow the greenways up through to the rugby club, comparing my photographed route map with Google Maps on Mary Ellen’s phone, so now we know the way properly. I was tiring by the time we got there but wanted to round things up from 9.5 so Mary Ellen went home and I did a loop … and ran into Trudie again (who had gone further than me AND gone in the shop!) and she ran me back in until we got to her road.

I was pleased that I had managed about half of the run off-road (see the path above, there was also loose gravel and small gravel and some harder path with bricks sticking up) and had worn black for hot training and my running backpack for checking it was OK, so got some good training for the ultra conditions. But I was tired and there’s no point completely flogging yourself into the ground, is there?

11.5 miles / 13:20 mins per mile

Next week I want to sleep more, do two lots of yoga and I have the Bimble Bumble 10 mile trail race on the Sunday with a few of the Sedate Ladies.

Miles this week: 18.3 Miles this year: 495.5 [I think I had this recorded wrong last week] (for 1,000 miles in the year I need 500 by the end of this month)

weekly-run-down-final-300x300The Weekly Run Down is run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Kim’s weekly wrap is here and Deborah’s is here.

Book review and blog tour – Jeremy Mynott – “Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words” @WolfsonHistory #WolfsonHistoryPrize

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Rather than a full shadow panel who all read all the books, and not entirely like a classic blog tour where lots of people read the same book, I’ve been honoured to take part in the blog tour celebrating the shortlist of the Wolfson Prize, which awards £40,000 to the best new work of non-fiction in the UK. Here’s some information on the prize:

From a major new biography of Oscar Wilde, to an entirely fresh take on Queen Victoria as Empress of India, and from a history of the human impact of the Holocaust, to an exploration of the role of birds in the Ancient World, the books shortlisted for the most prestigious history prize, and most valuable non-fiction prize in the UK, each combine excellence in historical research with readability.

The Wolfson History Prize 2019 shortlist is: Building Anglo-Saxon England by John Blair, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice by Mary Fulbrook, Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson by Margarette Lincoln, Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words by Jeremy Mynott, Oscar: A Life by Matthew Sturgis, and Empress: Queen Victoria and India by Miles Taylor

… and you can find out more here.

I was sent a lovely hardback copy of Jeremy Mynott’s “Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words”, published by Oxford University Press, and here I am, next up on the blog tour (see below my review for a list of all the participants and their books – I’ve been sharing all the reviews on Twitter through the week).

Jeremy Mynott – “Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words”

“Confiding” is a term used in birdwatching for the behaviour of a bird which will allow the approach of humans to observe it. That blue tit blithely feeding off the peanut hanger as you potter about on the patio, the robin on your fork handle or the heron you run past on the canal are all confiding. I can extend the metaphor to this book, in which an acknowledged expert on the relationship between humans and birds takes a gentle, close and approachable look at how birds were seen, experienced and written about by the Greeks and Romans. Packed full of illustrations and quotations, if it doesn’t have the hard-hitting nature of some of the books on the list, it’s hugely engaging and teaches us an awful lot about birds, humanity and the ancients, speaking perhaps more softly than some, with a wry smile and a little joke here and there.

Mynott is both a classical scholar and a writer on birds, and his love and deep knowledge of both areas shine through in this fascinating and rather wonderful book. From the preface, where he describes the variety of birds to be found in Athens and Rome to the epilogue, which pulls together feelings on the environment ancient and modern and shows how our experiences of nature are both different and similar, we follow a well-ordered and clear path through an exploration of the way birds were markers of the seasons, time and weather; their exploitation as a natural resource to farm and eat; birds as pets and entertainment (including a flamingo zoo!); their examination as the objects of wonder and then science; their appearance as symbols and in dreams; and their role as messengers between people and the spiritual dimension. He states early on that his aim is

using birds as a prism through which to explore both the similarities and the often surprising differences between early conceptions of the natural world and our own. (p. vi)

and he also describes an aim to contribute to the cultural history of birds and to introduce those not experienced in the classics to this time in Western history. I think he achieves these aims very well.

Through the book, references and often substantial quotations are pulled from over 100 classical authors, all of which have been translated anew by the author for the book. The structure is really clear, although he’s at pains to point out that there are other ways to structure the material and, indeed, other material that could be brought in.

Mynott is also at pains to ensure that we don’t map our modern views and attitudes directly onto those of the Greeks and Romans in a like-for-like way, as this is impossible. He starts off by explaining the Greeks were the first to describe the concept of nature, but is clear this doesn’t mean quite the same as our conception. He is academic, precise and intelligent, but never talks over the heads of his readers – although there is much for anyone with an interest in trying to work out which bird is being referred to where or in the struggles of translation. One example of the former will suffice – he spends quite a lot of time trying to work out what actual species Catullus’ girlfriend Lesbia’s “sparrow” actually was. He is clear that the Ancients probably had a closer relationship to nature than many of us do, with so many species and their behaviours being mentioned suggesting that audiences were familiar with a wide range of birds.

He is also careful to note that what we  might see as superstition or over-reliance on augury and religion is not necessarily so different from our need to wear certain clothes and engage in particular behaviours on specific days of the year, and there are some lovely examples of bird-related folk sayings that are still in use today – and probably “believed” to the same degree. Arguments for the value of the natural world are examined in their context and also against modern ideas.

The author never seems to mind a mystery – in fact, he highlights and embraces them. Why is the sport of falconry hardly mentioned in Ancient texts, and why are butterflies almost never written about, even though both appear in illustrations? Mynott examines the various theories put forward but accepts that there is no actual answer, and I like him even more for that. He is definitely a guide rather than a lecturer.

The end of the book holds one more smile for the avid birdwatcher. A lovely illustration of a confiding bird in an identifiable plant is described as a “little brown job” whose actual species cannot be identified. A lovely little in-joke, but again benign and inclusive.

Thank you to Ben from Midas PR for arranging for a copy of the book to be sent to me for an honest review.

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