“A Fairly Honourable Defeat” roundup and “An Accidental Man” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch

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It’s time to round up our reading of “A Fairly Honourable Defeat” and look forward to “An Accidental Man” There’s been a great discussion on my review again and I’m so appreciating the same people joining in each time, but if you’re coming along to this not in the month we read the book, please don’t be shy and do add your comments.

This one actually went down slightly in my list – not hugely and I didn’t dislike it but the characters were a bit more annoying than I remembered, and I’ve certainly gone off Morgan. But we have good old manky Tallis and his saintliness at last, seeing as I’ve been banging on about that for the last however many months.

Do post in the review comments if you’ve reviewed the book on your own website, blog or Goodreads page. Jo has done another great Goodreads review, even though this was her least favourite one so far. I’ll add more links as you let me know about them.

Just one reader-submitted cover this month. Peter Rivenberg has done stalwart work sending me the Viking US firsts and here’s the very odd but at least applicable one for this book:


An Accidental Man

Moving on to the next book (and we’re over half way through them now!) and I get the openings to this one and “The Philosopher’s Pupil” mixed up for some reason (anyone else?).

I have three copies as usual: a first edition found and sent to me by the lovely Kaggsysbookishramblings, a weird Penguin and the newer Vintage Classic (back to the red-spined ones). What odd covers they’ve all chosen! The Penguin is a representation for a hermaphrodite, for no good reason.

The firs edition goes onto the back and yes, I’m sure they are both scenes from the book, but aren’t there some more attractive ones to choose?

There was an original clipping and review tucked into the book: I do love the caption to the rather dashing photo of IM:

So there’s the blurb from the first edition:

I like the way the Penguin blurb uses “appalling” which always seems to be a very Murdochian word to me.

and the blurb writer for Vintage has as usual read the above.

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “An Accidental Man” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up)? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite?

You will find a page listing all of these blog posts here, updated as I go along.

Book review – Karen Joy Fowler – “We are all Completely Beside Ourselves” #amreading


I was given this book for my LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa last year and have to admit I’d not fancied reading it, though I appreciated being sent it in a lovely and thoughtful box of books. And I did change my mind, even though I knew the big plot twist. And now, because of the big plot twist, which makes it really hard to review, and because I also don’t really want to think that much about it because of the horrible cat bits in it (why did no one warn me when they saw I was going to read it?) so this is going to be a short review.

Karen Joy Fowler – “We are all Completely Beside Ourselves”

(25 December 2017)

I think this must have been Fowler’s break-out book, mustn’t it, when she suddenly upped her game. I’d enjoyed at least one of her novels, “The Jane Austen Book Club” but this really is a masterpiece of research and weaving together of fact and fiction. She makes it clear in the notes at the back of this edition that this book came from a conversation with her daughter and a “what if” question, and it’s equally clear that she approached the topic with humility and respect and did her best by the subject.

It’s an engaging book with an engaging central character / narrator and a good supporting cast. Everything is believable and the shifting time line easy to follow. It’s not all spelled out for you and she nips back and forth, and I have to admit that, distressing as the Unpleasant Incident is, it is essential to the plot, although distressing.

So that’s it, really – I gave it a go, I enjoyed it up to a point I had to do a little skimming and I don’t want to think about the horrible bit (if you’re going to mention that in a comment, no details, please!)

The book next to it was Francis Spufford’s “Golden Hill” which I gave a go at, but I’m really not great with historical fiction and I couldn’t get a foothold on it. So I’ve started reading “How to be a Heroine” by Samantha Ellis (OK, I started this on Friday because it was small enough to slip into the bag I was taking to town) which Meg gave me for Christmas and which is amazing so far, and I’ve also promoted “The Icelandic Adventures of Pike Ward” edited by my friend Katherine Findlay to the next read because I can’t wait, basically.

Book review – Mark Atkinson – “Run Like Duck” @sandstonepress @montythemole #amreading


A big thank you to the publisher, Sandstone Press, for sending me this excellent running book, and apologies to them and Mark, the author, for missing the publication date with this review. I always like a running book that’s amusing, rings bells, and is useful, and this one is a great example of all three. Many thanks to the always lovely Lisa Jackson for getting it from Sandstone to me.

Aged 32, Atkinson was sedentary and not into sport at all. His friend Dave challenged him to go on a run in their local park, and somehow he ended up doing ultra-marathons and joining the 100 Marathon Club. We’ve all been there, right?

So we get another book about a bloke getting fit and fast. But it’s more than that, because he gives an awful lot of really good, clear advice to the novice runner, 5k runner, 10k runner, half-marathon runner … you get my drift. Best of all, like those jokes put into children’s animations for adults to giggle at, he manages to work in little notes that the experienced runner will pick up on, but the novice will take at face value – which means he’s achieved the position of writing a book for all kinds of runner, which isn’t always easy.

Atkinson is self-deprecating throughout and always generous about other runners and race organisers, while also telling it how it is and calling out bad organisation (this is really useful, as a runner who’s had a bad experience might blame themselves when it’s not their fault (c.f. my injury in the Birmingham Marathon). He has a great section on parkrun, really getting the idea of it all and making sure people understand what to do with their barcodes at the end, even (I told you it was packed full of information). This passage sums up the author and the spirit of runners / parkrunners everywhere:

The climb starts at around the 2k mark where a stitch forced me to take a walk break. The good nature and attitude at parkrun is such that I started running again as so many people stopped to help. I didn’t want to inconvenience them any further. (p. 5)

and extra points for mentioning the lovely LDWA (I did their Canal Canter this year) and their walk/run events.

He’s very cautious in his progression, both for himself and in his advice, giving the correct information about building up slowly, checking your health before you start running, getting kit, etc. He also has a bit of a rant about people wearing headphones in races which immediately makes me a fan (and manages to apologise for having put the word “chicked” (beaten by a woman) in the book then taken it out again: we wouldn’t have ever known but it’s great to have that conversation).

The pre-race / pre-marathon advice is great and it’s the only book I’ve read so far which advises people with long hair to test what combination of bunches etc. to have it in in advance (true story: I rocked a high ponytail on a long run and wore a little patch of skin off the back of my neck with the end of it swishing back and forth for hours: how glad was I that wasn’t during a race!). And talking about marathons and telling it how it is, I found it charming to see a mention of the “loser top” you get from that extra ballot for the London Marathon “to wear on your training runs so everyone knows you’re a loser too and you can share mutual disappointment” (p. 93). He goes through a lot of the big races including the route and what to expect, which is hugely useful, without making it yet another book full of race report after race report.

Oh, and then the icing on the cake: he mentions the lovely Ben Smith, the 401 Marathons man (book review and details on him here) – calling him a running legend and actually encountering him twice in the book (marathons 245 and 399). Lovely and generous to give him a shout-out including mentioning his charity fundraising.

As he moves towards both his 100th marathon and his progression into ultra running there is a bit of timeline confusion (I think he mentions doing a 50 miler and 100 miler before he explains about them which got me a bit confused) but this is a minor point and it’s fine to work it out. You wouldn’t want a blow-by-blow account of every single race so you don’t get that.

In summary, a well-written and well-edited book that would make a super present for the runner in your life (or yourself), whether that’s someone interested in running or a committed hard-line ultra monster. There really is something for everyone here.

Sedate lady running 19-25 November 2018 #amrunning #running


A funny week this week because I was going to be Very Busy at the weekend so I knew I needed to get all my running in beforehand. Not too bad considering.

Monday – Because I’d last run on Saturday, I was able to have a lovely canal run with Claire. We did the usual bits plus a bit extra, and I remembered to take a photo of the famous Guillotine Lock at Kings Norton!

(more info about it here if you’re interested). We had a good chat and the miles flew by – as Claire is doing the London Marathon there will be plenty more long runs to be done.

8 miles, 12:13 mins per mile.

Tuesday – An unaccustomed two runs in a row! I met up with Jenny and we did a nice one of our usual loops, then I managed to push it on to 5.9 miles in total; really pleased with this as running tired. Notable on this run was that it was REALLY COLD and raining so I used Chocolaterunsjudy‘s top tip of securing a peaked cap with a buff – fabulous, warm and protected eyes! Brilliant stuff!

5.9 miles, 12:55 mins per mile

Wednesday – No yoga! Something had upset my stomach after (phew) my run on Tuesday and I didn’t feel secure to go to yoga. However, much excitement as my new, portrait, clipboard-with-a-cover and my field official’s warning horn arrived. I had to pose, right?

Thursday – An interesting and varied session. I knew I needed to get 6.1 miles in to reach my lower target of 20 miles for the week. I was down to support club’s 5k and Beyond session (the week before last I was covering for a friend) so I got out a bit early to get some miles in first. And ran into my husband outside Sainsburys supermarket, where he took this deeply flattering photo of his lit-up, reflective wife …

and this delightful atmospheric photo of my running off past all the trolleys. The glamour!

You can see my red “tail” light showing up nicely, though! That’s my gym behind the traffic lights, and look, we have Christmas lights!

So that was 3 miles then I got up to club and took the back marker as always, guiding three lovely new or returning runners through their first continuous 30 minutes (for a while for some). I got them to round up to 2 miles, mainly for the sake of easing my mental arithmetic …

Then I left them during the cool down (with permission from Coach Lee) and ran 1.6 miles home for a total of 6.6.

3 miles, 11:42 mins per mile / 2 miles, 15:21 mins per mile / 1.6 miles, 11:49 mins per mile

Friday – Easy Clare yoga with Jenny – we had a lovely meditation at the end and it was very calming.

Saturday / Sunday – I was over at Alexander Stadium for my track and field officials courses. Saturday, I had health and safety and then a generic officials’ module, followed by field in the afternoon. I found this very OK as I’d done my experiences at the Transplant games and Midlands league match, but it was good to find out the theory and rules behind the practice and recognise stuff I’d done.

Sunday it was track and starter’s assistant – I have had no experience of this as a competitor or helper/official so this was quite daunting but everything was well-explained and we spent time out on the track looking at the markings, etc. and doing a lot of learning. Many thanks to our dedicated tutors for both days.

Now I need to get four experiences in each discipline (I already have two in field) before I can apply for my Level 1 Licences. I must note a thank you to my friend Alison who is a senior official and has been extremely supportive of my journey, and reassures me I know what I’m doing!

Miles this week: 20.6

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year:  951 (916 was my end of November mini-goal)

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “A Fairly Honourable Defeat” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


Here we are at the mid-point of the readalong (oh no!). How have you found it so far? Do you have a favourite and a least favourite so far? What are you looking forward to most in the second half of the project? If you’re joining outside the set months I did this readalong, welcome, and please do contribute your comment or link to your review!

I first read this one in my teens and remember feeling, as with “A Severed Head”, that this was terribly sophisticated, which was obviously rubbing off on me (or not). I’ve read it at least twice since then, and my attitudes to the characters have shifted slightly, though I think I’ve felt the same about the actual story. Talking story – the blurb on my Vintage copy begins with events that occur on p. 404 of 438! What’s that all about?

Iris Murdoch – “A Fairly Honourable Defeat”

(August 2018)

Here we have a comedy of manners, indeed, something referred to as a midsummer’s entertainment. We have a cast of middle-class characters, some conspicuous by their veneer of American sophistication (by association) and some more gentle and doing all the good they can. Beautifully drawn relationships, heterosexual, homosexual and sibling, as well as those among friends, show what can happen when, as arch-would-be-enchanter Julius mentions,

Human beings set each other off so. Put three emotional fairly clever people in a fix and instead of trying quietly to communicate with each other they’ll dream up some piece of communal violence. (p. 419)

Does this not just sum up Murdoch’s novels in general??

We open with the shock of Morgan returning to London after the end of her affair with Julius. She bursts into her older sister, Hilda’s house, where she lives in perfect harmony with husband Rupert. Meanwhile, Morgan’s messy, contingent husband Tallis lives in a decaying house with his ailing father, and Simon and Axel, Rupert’s brother and his partner, fret over decorations and the perfect dinner. There’s a wayward son, Peter, too, for whom I had little sympathy this time around (presumably as I myself grow away from his age). And into this set of situations comes Julius, ready to work some tricks and have some fun. I’ll now look at the usual Murdochian themes and comparisons to the other novels in the oeuvre.

We have plenty of siblings – Hilda and Morgan, Rupert and Simon, and Tallis and his dead twin sister, who still visits him. Rupert and Tallis are both writing books, great unfinished works (Tallis gives up on his and Rupert’s gets destroyed). Pairings and contrasts abound, from Rupert and the hedgehog to Morgan’s comment on her two lovers: “Tallis has no myth. Julius is almost all myth” (p. 52) Quite a few papers are torn apart and scattered and there are two sets of letters – based on two other sets of letters, of course.

We have only a bit of stone action and more water. The stone is the malachite paperweight which Rupert manages to give to both Peter, in childhood, and Morgan, and Rupert holds all his work papers down with stones. The swimming pool holds pivotal scenes and the rain drums down on it with a pivotal thunderstorm, too. Hilda thinks the sea will bring her strength and help her decide what to do, then fails to actually visit it. London is a character as usual, although more benign in its weather. Rupert and Axel are civil servants, and the institution of the museum as well as the civil service and universities, workers’ education and charities all come into things.

It is a funny book in places – not just the savage irony of the plot, but comments such as “Julius might read all your letters if you left him alone in your flat, but he’d be sure to tell you afterwards” (p. 26) and is it only me who finds Tallis’ father’s rants about the revoltingness of being human quite funny at times? Simon’s horror at the sight of a naked Morgan raises a smile, especially the sentence, “He did not find it enjoyable” (p. 154). The teddy bear is funny, especially when poor Simon is trying to get rid of it.

Who is the saint and who the enchanter? Well, Julius is mentioned alongside the word saint on the first page, but is he either? He wants to manipulate, and seeks to control, but then Axel, Simon and Morgan, and poor old Hilda, all do fall under his spell. He’s definitely no saint because he’s busily passing on the pain of his war in a concentration camp by upsetting and hurting people all over the place, for fun.

Tallis is, of course, along with Anne Perronet in “An Unofficial Rose” often mentioned as the classic Murdochian saint. I was actually less annoyed by him than in previous reads, although the descriptions of his kitchen are perhaps best not read over your own meal. Being described as spiritless, a muddler, tired, confused and overborne makes him a classic IM saint. Morgan says of him,

His sanity is depressing, it lowers my vitality … Tallis has got no inner life, no real conception of himself, there’s a sort of emptiness. (p. 52)

Julius points out that he only doubts himself when he considers himself (in this scene, where Julius tidies the kitchen, he does apply attention to Tallis, too, p. 327). He tries to forgive, to help others, even at the cost of himself, to learn about people and to absorb. He seems distracted but has that all-important attention: for example, he’s the only character to spot Julius’ concentration camp tattoo. He has a handcart which feels a bit like a cross, and doesn’t care about appearances or possessions, and has visions of being at one with the world (see p. 199). But for all his meekness, when he needs to act (and Simon has this, too), he slaps the assailant in the Chinese restaurant before anyone can notice he’s moved, and he forces Julius to undo his bad deeds by making him speak to Hilda on the phone. In fact, Morgan is obsessed with him as if he’s an enchanter, but I feel that might be down to Morgan’s character, rather than his, as she is also obsessed with Julius and Rupert …

Is Hilda a sub-saint? She doesn’t pass on suffering and Morgan points out:

Who was always talking about helping people? Rupert. Who was always really helping people? Hilda. Only one failed to notice Hilda’s virtue because she was unaware of it herself. And she treated her good works as jokes. (p. 378)

Julius also seems to respect her in a non-snarky way, saying, “She’s not interested in herself the way the others are. This is what makes her so restful to be with.” (p. 398) I’m not sure I was that aware of Hilda even on the last read. I certainly rate her higher than her sister now: dignified and practical with her help for others.

I love how Axel and Simon’s relationship is treated as entirely normal – in fact described as so – with nothing particular about it actually reminding us they’re gay: it’s just a relationship. This is still quite an early book and I’ve always loved this about this one – and Axel and Simon remain two of my favourite characters in the whole oeuvre. I think they survive because they don’t meddle in other people’s business, and do that consciously, too, talking about it and making a decision, so doing something active there.

In relation to other books, it hadn’t really struck me that Peter was an extension of the Godless young generation that IM discussed in “The Time of the Angels” and will go on to discuss in “The Message to the Planet”. He is described as belonging “to the first generation that’s grown up entirely without God” (p. 12). Tallis’ father seems another version of Bruno, railing against the dying of the light, his illness kept from him, mulling over his life and the grotesequness of age. Hilda and Julius’ conversation at cross purposes (“so you know?“) puts us in mind of similar misunderstandings in “An Unofficial Rose”. Julius’ comments that Hilda will suffer to “spare them suffering” reminds us of poor old Diana being told to step aside and fade into the background in “Bruno’s Dream”. Who is the “philosopher with the funny name that  [Rupert] admires so” (p. 342) – could it be John Robert Rozanov from “The Philosopher’s Pupil”? Axel and Simon and Julius going off to the Continent at the end reminds us of any number of the books, going right back to “The Flight from the Enchanter”.

So, a book with a more attractive premise than “Bruno’s Dream”, perhaps, and a good Shakespearean theme. I feel it’s a more conventional novel, but with so many touches that can only be Murdoch’s. And I still enjoyed it, even though my opinion on the individual characters has shifted once again.

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 12-18 November 2018 #amrunning #running


A week when I did most of my exercise activities with my friend Jenny. Which is fine – and I made her pose for a photo on those grounds – but she’s probably tired of me by now! Especially after Thursday’s headtorch-related meltdown …

Tuesday – Because my husband was going to be away Friday night, I wanted to limit the number of evenings I was out running, so I jumped at the chance to do an earlier-evening-than-club run run with Jenny.

Look – I totally drew that lamp from the Pixar animations!

We had a lovely amble around, Jenny’s picking things up after a long period under the weather – but I was a bit late starting out and decided to put Paul’s form tips from last week into play. Goodness me: I terrified myself doing my first mile in 10:40 in the dark and up a hill! However, it was a bit of a strain, I did it on the last mile, too, and got my husband got some pics of me, too blurred to share but they did show my arms going back more and my feet kicking back higher, and I sent them to Paul who was pleased. However, it makes me run faster than I can breathe for and makes my ankles, calves and glutes a bit sore.

5.6 miles, 12:18 mins per mile

Wednesday – Went to early Dave yoga as it fitted in with having some cheese delivered. I managed a shoulder stand for eight breaths this time, really chuffed about that, and didn’t hurt as much from the class as last week. I think I’m going to try to get to this one every week as it is a proper work-out that leaves me mopping my forehead.

Thursday – Out with Jenny early evening again. On Wednesday, my new head torch had arrived (and Thursday saw my packs of gels come – I am so fortunate to be able to tolerate gels. These are Torq rhubarb & custard and cherry bakewell, one of their newer flavours, which I tested out on my long run with Ruth a while ago, and yummy.

So I instagrammed my pic of my torch and strapped it on my head and set off … and WAH! So it’s big and heavy and VERY bright even with only the central or two outer lights lit. And if I had it angled down enough not to blind people as I ran past them (I still saw people shield their eyes) and to light the path, I could SEE it in the top of my field of vision. Which is a) annoying and b) guaranteed to give me a migraine. I got very cross and upset and by the time I reached our meeting point (having already started late trying to get the blasted thing to work) I was in tears and not breathing well and telling Jenny to go on without me. She very kindly said I should stop and regroup a bit, and then I had the idea of expanding it and putting it round my waist. Climbing into it was a bit tricky but I got it done and it worked well in the end. Jenny had a shoe light and an armband and a head torch and a chap said to us as we ran down a hill “Ooh, you’re well lit up, girls” which we took as a compliment. So it all worked out OK in the end.

By the way, if you run with no lights on and you’re not lit up by headlamps even though you’re wearing flouro/reflective kit, you will look like this:

6 miles, 12:59 mins per mile

Friday – Friday (easier) yoga and there was Jenny again. Lucky we get on and I don’t think I made her giggle too much. We concentrated on opening and relaxing shoulders and chests, which I need, and it was a good session.

Saturday – Long run day as I have complicated things by having my Track and Field Official course both days next weekend, so I won’t be able to run either day easily, and so I want to front-load my week by running on Monday. So long run day it was. Matthew was away with his brother, so I got up at 5, had breakfast, did some work (I know, I know) and set out at 8am.

I started off with Mary Ellen, who was recovering from a cold (and was a very brave and uncomplaining soldier). We ran down to parkrun through the green way we did a few weeks ago, which is lovely, but I had somehow miscalculated the time needed (I think not taking into account some roads that take ages to cross) and got in a panic we weren’t going to make it to parkrun in time. So we went a bit under the pace I had planned, given this was a long run, and we paid for it. We saw my friend Andy and his wife Lis and their new baby (Andy running, Lis and bab not) and that was lovely, then set off on parkun. Not a PW at 38:00 or so, and lovely to see a good few friends around the course and marshalling. Then we picked up Jenny and set out to run back.

Jenny and Liz and a useful sign

I was  on 7 miles by now and really needed another 4 but I was seriously flagging. I had a gel and we went up Holders Lane (went = walked – we were all tired) and then set off back home. I got to 9 miles at a decision point and, having reassured Jenny that I was OK, had a rest day planned for Sunday and wasn’t pushing myself to extremes, however I was going to limit it to 10 miles as was tired. So we said goodbye and then I whipped up and down side streets, counting grimly to myself, and made it 11 anyway.

I was actually pleased with my fairly regular splits – you can see me rushing to parkrun miles 2-4 then doing even splits at parkrun, flagging and flailing then picking it up again. Good resilience training, right?

Then I had a lie-down and a sausage sandwich then walked 3 miles in total to and from an Indian-inspired high tea for a friend’s birthday. As you do.

11 miles, 12:28 mins per mile

Sunday – REST DAY!!! OK, I trimmed three big plants in the garden while Matthew installed our new video doorbell, but apart from that …

And although I will admit to not fitting in my Paul Circuits this week, I let myself off – I had so much work (over 40 hours of billable hours done, plus admin) and so it just wasn’t feasible. However, I stretched my hamstrings 6/7 days and did 30 squats while making my breakfast this morning.

Miles this week: 22.6

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year:  930 (916 was my end of November mini-goal)

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here. (to add when they’re up)

Book review – Marcus Crouch – “The Nesbit Tradition: The Children’s Novel 1945-1970” plus Shiny linkiness


Continuing my mission to read all the books I received for last Christmas and birthday by this Christmas and birthday, this was a fabulous read from lovely Lorraine in my BookCrossing Secret Santa parcel. First I just want to share that I reviewed Cathy Newman’s “Bloody Brilliant Women” for Shiny New Books last week: read my review of this excellent romp through about 150 years of lost and notable women here. Thank you again to publisher William Collins for the opportunity to read it.

Marcus Crouch – “The Nesbit Tradition: The Children’s Novel 1945-1970”

(8 December 2017, from Lorraine)

A lovely ex-John Rylands Library copy of a great book which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It does what it says on the tin, being a survey of children’s books in the post-war, pre-70s years. Notable for chapter heading quotes by Nesbit’s Oswald Bastable, it starts by looking at the books and authors that come just before the dates of the main text, with a good and thorough portrayal of writing in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and their big blooming in the 1930s. It is from this chapter that the book’s title comes, because the author claims that “No writer for children today is free of debt to [E.Nesbit]” (p. 16). And yes, we can see that she did create the genres that still exist today and definitely did during the period under discussion: the family comedy, comic fantasy, the time theme of historical reconstruction and even the theme of family fortunes and misfortunes, in “The Railway Children”.

After this survey of “Foundations”, Crouch takes us on a whirlwind tour of different themes, adventure, sci fi, time travel, comedy, magical lands, the countryside, school, home and family, work and then self and society, which ends up looking at issue-based novels. He takes a survey of the complete period in each chapter, with so many familiar books, and of course some authors popping up in more than one. He also takes care to include overseas authors, which is very interesting, with most of these being less well-known.

My only criticism of the book is that it stops too soon – and of course it does, because it was published in 1972! It was hard remembering that a lot of my favourites were published in the 1970s and 80s, so can’t be included here. It certainly made me want to rush back to my Nesbits and Streatfeilds, my Peytons and my Garners, and I was very glad this was plucked from the obscurity of my mammoth wish list.

I’m currently enjoying my Iris Murdoch of the month (“A Fairly Honourable Defeat” and I’m having some different reactions to characters than I  had last time) and also reading this amusing running memoir, Mark Atkinson’s “Run Like Duck”. However many running books there are, they all have something you can identify with! This is published tomorrow and I’m grateful to the publisher for sending it to me for review and apologise for not getting the review published until after the date of publication (unfortunately work calls me tomorrow so I can’t just lounge around reading all day or even take it for a spin on a static bike at the gym!).

Sedate lady running 05-11 November 2018 #amrunning #running


A good solid week in which I did all the things I try to do per week (win) but I have to admit I had 10 hours’ sleep between Saturday and Sunday and am still slightly creaky! Oh well …

Monday – Because I’d run long on Saturday, I was able to run with lovely Claire on Monday (a day she’s not at work). She’s always brilliant for a different and off-road route and this was no exception, with some beautiful canals and then a nifty short-cut through Hazelwell Park and a cut-through onto half-way up Cartland Road that makes that hill a lot better.

We sat on the bridge by the lock-keeper’s cottage for a bit to enjoy the lovely view and all the trees, and said hello to a man with a dog who was skittering up the steep bridge. Lovely. I was pleased with my pace because there were a good few hills and slippery canal bridges among the flat running and it was a lovely morning out.

6.7 miles, 11:55 mins per mile

Tuesday – It’s always a big ask for me to go out two days in a row but a couple of friends were going to club run who hadn’t been for ages, and I wanted to support Jenny trying to go a bit longer, and in the dark. We started off near the back and then Tracie tripped (and in going to save her, I managed to hit her back and nearly push her over – great work!) and was a bit sore so we took a shorter route and popped back home. It was good to stretch the legs out and I still got 3.5 miles in. Tracie seems to be OK now – phew!

Here’s a shot providing evidence of my ability to multi-task: stretching, drying my hair AND reading. All good as the glutes and hams are feeling much less tight.

3.5 miles, 12:40 mins per mile (middle section walk-run)

Wednesday – Jenny wanted to go to Dave yoga but could only make the early (hard) class so we went for it – she’s not a massive ashtanga fan so I wanted to be there for her. Phewee, it was hard work – I was sweating during and after. BUT I managed a shoulder stand for 6 breaths, and that’s the longest I’ve held a shoulder stand since the 1990s! I think it must be the Paul Circuits and their shoulder and core strengthening that has helped with that – another reason to keep up with them.

Thursday – Supporting the club’s 5k and beyond group again, taking Caroline’s slot as she was unavoidably busy: this was their first continuous running attempt so a big ask for them. I ran with a lovely lady who I’d run with in my previous volunteering session: she was a bit nervous but we took it steadily and did it! She was so happy and amazed, and I reminded her how they started out one minute running, one walking, and how she wouldn’t have imagined she could have run that far then. I really love helping this group as it’s wonderful to see their confidence grow. I tried to set a good example by going head-torch and one of my Lidl lights front and back (they have a loop and clip that will work around thin clothing. Mary Ellen saw my red light from ages back following me up to club, and when I did some extra at the end to make my miles up, first with Trudie, then on my own, Trudie and Dave could spot me from way off, too.

0.7 mi, 11:19 mins per mile / 1.59 mi, 14:24 mins per mile / 2 mi, 12:11 mins per mile

Friday – Realised I hadn’t done my Paul circuits and was seeing him for a coached session on Saturday, so had the bright idea of a) hoovering the stairs and landing and downstairs and bathroom and cleaning kitchen and bathroom b) doing Paul circuits, c) going to Claire yoga (second, easier session). Phew! I managed to do more in the circuits than last time, except the planks, where my shoulders were still sore from Wednesday. Claire yoga was very v e r y slow which was incredibly hard, but I did get through it just about!

Saturday – I was looking after Beginners in the park again for club – I’d swapped with Grace, meaning she could take my session in December when I’m officiating at cross-country in the afternoon. I had arranged to have a running form session with Paul so basically tried to get more miles in around those two points at 9.50 and 11.00.

I first ran three lovely miles with Trudie – it was so bright and sunny and blue. And we saw a PEACOCK!

We’d just run past it and Trudie said, “Um, that was a peacock topiary” and so it was. Instagrammable moment! But the lady from the house came out which was pretty awkward, though not to tell us off or anything!

Highbury Park was particularly lovely in the sun.

Then I took the beginners – one person turned up, but that was a lovely lady who had run with me last week. This week we did 1 min running, 1 min walking for 25 minutes and she did brilliantly.  I then ran a few loops to make up the time until I met Paul for my coaching session.

I met Paul at 11 and we went down the bottom of the park and went through my running form. First I ran a loop the way I would without thinking – and I was tired and sore so this was ideal as I wanted to work on my form when I was tired. He videoed me, yay. Then we worked on arms, and not crossing them in front, bringing them back, etc., with some exercises and demonstrations. Then it was legs, picking up my knees more and running with a little cone to bring my foot over – more videos and photos so I can compare. This was brilliant, if rainy, and I then ran home the long way round, trying to put all the instructions into place!

3 mi, 12:29 mins per mile / 1.8 mi, 13:57 mins per mile / 1.2 mi, 11:27 mins per mile / 2.5 mi, 11:35 mins per mile

So I got in 4 runs, two yoga sessions and a circuit session – done!

Kit update

I keep forgetting to share my new trainers! I was very upset when I got hold of the last two pairs of Saucony Guide 9s in my size, and I really didn’t like the Guide 10s (toes too narrow; went up a half-size; felt like I was running in clown shoes). So I had to bite the bullet and go to choose a new brand. Except I didn’t have to – after trying some Hoka OneOnes (too squishy, though many love them) and Brookes GTS (OK in a pinch and good to know they’re an option) I settled on Saucony Hurricanes hooray! Also the lovely folk at Up and Running give us a discount for being in a running club, which helps.

I also needed some trail shoes for training and then doing the trail ultra. I couldn’t face two sets of shoe shopping that day but Up and Running kindly put a pair of Saucony Peregrines aside for me, IN THEIR SALE and I went and tried them on Saturday afternoon. Loved them, very comfy (and I already knew several club friends like them) so bought those.

Aaand as my walking boots have developed a crack and leak, I treated myself to some updates in the sale. Except these are the same model, just a few years on, and don’t seem so tough and heavy. Must be a trend, as I popped in an outdoor shop on Saturday and could find nothing heavy and leathery. So I’m going to mend the crack with duct tape and use those for the bad conditions, and these for other conditions.

Other women might have millions of pairs of heels; I have a trainer and walking boot problem. There are worse addictions, right?

Miles this week: 23

Progress towards 1,000 miles in the year:  908 (916 is my end of November mini-goal)

Weekly wrapI take part in the Weekly Wrap run by two wonderful running women and joined by lots of other inspirational women. Wendy’s weekly wrap is here and Holly’s is here.

Book review – Mary Webb – “Gone to Earth” #amreading


Well, although I’m not up to books actually unpacked or received on Christmas Day, I am up to 08 December when the BookCrossing Birmingham group had our Christmas do and Not So Secret Santa. The lovely Lorraine drew me and bought me two fine older books from my wishlist, this one and “The Nesbit Tradition”, which I’m currently reading. See a pic of all my Christmas acquisitions here – I have read a few of them already during 20 Books of Summer and All Virago All August, so not too many to get through before this Christmas …

Mary Webb – “Gone to Earth”

(8 December 2017 – from Lorraine)

This novel, with its classic Webb themes of the goodness of nature, its destruction by industry and the ownership of women by men, is unfortunately a bit of a distressing read. We meet Hazel, child of nature, Shropshire of accent, and her fox cub, Foxy, and alarm bells of course begin to ring … as well as (very anti-) foxhunting scenes (we don’t see anything happen in detail but Hazel’s vivid imagination is enough) there’s a wholesale slaughter of songbirds but a man who has seemed a sort of ally but has twisted virginity and love of the land into something very wrong. There’s a love triangle and one man who pushes his nature down and shouldn’t do (reading that Hazel would have loved him if she’d thought him likely to strike her / he was willing to basically pretty well rape her) and one man who lets his nature run free and shouldn’t do (and does both these things though does feel a bit bad about them). There are some lovely scenes but it’s all full of foreboding (yes, Stella Gibbons fans, it’s a bit something-in-the-woodsheddy) and where I have loved her other books for their imagery and beauty, this one was A Bit Much. Mysticism and real-life oppression make this a heady melodrama that is never going to end happily.

I will continue on to read the last one of hers, but this one is not for the fainthearted!

As I mentioned, currently reading “The Nesbit Tradition” though I will be starting my next Iris Murdoch tomorrow. The book on children’s books 1945-75 is a glorious procession through both well-known British and less well-known non-British writers and is wonderful.

Book review – Krissy Moehl – “Running Your First Ultra” #running #amreading


Photo thanks to Bernice

Well I had to include this pic of me and Bernice with our matching books, right? There’s nobody in the world doesn’t know we’re planning to run an ultramarathon next summer is there? Being sensible us, we’ve read race reports on people’s blogs, checked it all out, had a planning meeting AND bought books. I had a poke around looking at the millions of how-to books here and this was written by a woman and praised by some of the ultrarunners I admire, so I went for it.

Oh and this won’t be one I take to the next book swap at running club. This one’s with me for the foreseeable!

Krissy Moehl – “Running Your First Ultra”

(01 October 2018)

Moehl has been running ultras for over a decade, and shares interesting stories about starting out running with the guys, with kit that was barely adapted for women, and the changes she’s seen in the sport over the years. I really loved this personal aspect in what is very definitely a how-to book with multiple training plans (as opposed to one of the many ultrarunning autobiographies I seem to have filled my running reading with).

She’s also risk-averse, sensible, cheerful but not over-the-top and calmly convinced that (with a bit of help from her) we can do it. She’s all about the mental as well as the physical aspects and there’s a wealth of exceptionally practical information. She even explains how ultramarathon training is different from marathon training: for a start, you’re not expected to run 70-80% of your distance in training as you do in marathon running (typically I will get to 23 miles before a marathon; we are planning to slot in a marathon before this race, but that will be a one-off rather than several goes around that distance). There are little lists throughout about what, for example, she always takes with her on a longer training run, as well as formal packing and support team lists at the end.

The training plans are packed full of information, inspiration and tips and hints – something to read and concentrate on every week and lots to learn from. At the back are lots of details about your support crew (we won’t need this this time, but the plans go up to 100 miles), with a big emphasis on smiling when you see them and being appreciative and grateful, something Moehl is big on the whole way through (she also advocates volunteering at races and working on trail maintenance as well as respecting what we call the Countryside Code here in the UK. All good stuff.) There’s a great section on how you actually do the run, including race etiquette, choosing whether to run with music, etc. and a great early section on thoughts that can work against you (what if I feel I can’t finish?) and what you can do about them (including a sensible attitude towards injury).

There’s a chapter on recovery which I will read this time (well, I have read it, but I will remind myself after the race). Somewhat famously, I didn’t research how to recover after a marathon when I did my first one, as I wasn’t entirely convinced I was going to do the thing until I was actually on the start line, and went racing about almost doing myself a mischief until I finally slowed down!

I only have one small criticism and that is that somewhere in the production process of the copy I have, some fairly awful typos slipped in. I couldn’t see anything that affected the actual running content, but it’s hard not to be disconcerted when you find so many errors (and I’m not THAT editor, it really has to be bad to have me mentioning it). Maybe the proof text slipped through to the finished product. As a fairly experienced runner, I could see it doesn’t affect the content and practical information, but I’d hate the great content to be undermined by someone worrying that uncaught writing errors could reflect errors in the advice.

This is a great and inspiring book which, although the training schedules look tough and I can promise everyone now I will not be running five to six times a week, ever, has plenty of relatable and doable information which I have no doubt will make our path to our ultra a lot clearer and more copable with.

I’ve moved on to a VERY doomy Mary Webb which I know isn’t going to end well (OK there’s a pet animal, so I looked). “Gone to Earth” is luminous and wild and weird and a good read nonetheless. What’s the best how-to book you’ve read to help with a hobby?

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