“The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” round-up and “A Word Child” preview #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


So it’s time to round up our reading of “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” and look forward to what has always been a personal favourite of mine, “A Word Child”. My review of “Sacred and Profane” is here and we’ve had a good discussion in the comments, particularly on the roles of wives and mistresses. Do pop your thoughts in the comments there if you have any to add – and don’t worry if it’s not February 2019 when you do so – I always want to talk about Murdoch!

Away from my review and comments, Bookish Beck has been reading along with us with all the IM books she had, and has now finished (I thought she had “The Book and the Brotherhood” but I must be thinking of someone else, and did a great review of this one, with which I tend to agree. Jo’s Goodreads review is excellent as ever and I love the quotes she pulls out as well as those memories of trendy 1970s living rooms!

Maria Peacock has sent me these cover images of the 1976 Penguin paperback (a few people have this as it’s the copy Bookish Beck read, too):

Maria Peacock’s Penguin ed of “Sacred and Profane Love Machine”

Maria Peacock’s Penguin ed of “Sacred and Profane Love Machine” – blurb

and added this information:

“The detail in the 1976 copy is of a painting by Titian and shows the wrist and hand of the ‘sacred’ bridal woman. According to the Wikipedia entry one interpretation is that the  two women represent the goddess Ceres ( the naked one) who brought her daughter Prosperina ( the one in the frock) back from the Underworld. Emily in the novel refers to this myth when she says Blaise has killed her and sent to hell and he must come and find her to make her live again.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_and_Profane_Love

Peter Rivenberg contributed the more recent Penguin than mine:

Peter Rivenberg’s newer ed Penguin

“A Word Child”

I cannot WAIT to read this one. Set partly on the London Underground with the most delicious doubling and repetition and patterns, groovy coats and drug references and some pop music, I seem to remember. I’ve always really liked this one, maybe because I understood it a bit better, seemingly buying and reading it first on my 23rd birthday!

Here are my three copies. I love the First Ed but it’s a bit fragile to release entirely from its protective cover, so sorry it’s a bit reflective. Guesses on who all the heads represent (Oh, I THINK I’ve done a diagram of the relationships in this one that goes in a circle, something to dig out for the review!).

So Penguin had got into their new edition when I bought my copy in 1995 and there’s a great picture of the Hungerford Footbridge on it – I always thing of this book when I’m in London and trot across the bridge. I’m not quite sure what the IKEA chair on the new Vintage represents but there we go.

The blurb in the First ed (sorry this didn’t photograph well):

That’s a great blurb, isn’t it! We’re a bit more terse in 1995:

and the Vintage copy seems strangely derivative …

Are you going to be reading or re-reading “A Word Child” along with me? Are you catching up with the others or have you given up? What’s your favourite so far? Your least favourite? (and why has no one answered that question yet?)

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

Book review – Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery”


A birthday book from last year today, and a book I’d heard about and seen but hadn’t got round to picking up: I’m glad I was compelled to read it by being given it as I did get a lot out of it. It’s always particularly lovely to read about your home town and Fowler appears to live so close to me that I’m pretty sure I must know somebody who knows her, One Degree Of South Birmingham being what it is!

Alys Fowler – “Hidden Nature”

(21 January 2018 – from Jen)

Narrative of a summer where Fowler explores the canals of Birmingham in a very small inflatable boat (why have I never seen her?) and also comes to a surprising and marriage-ending realisation about herself.

I get frustrated with nature books that shoehorn personal life into them to cover more bases, but here the two are tightly interwoven and the beautiful writing draws irresistible parallels between the two. It’s also a lovely celebration of friendship and of other people’s relationships – Dave and Louise who live on a boat, strong and happy Sarah and Ming, each bringing her strengths and happily bickering about how to row their own boat.

I really loved, of course, when she described “our” bit of the canal (see my running posts on a Sunday for endless canal pics), including the lovely toll cottage which devastatingly burned down WHILE I WAS READING THIS BOOK and the Brandwood tunnel – now I know the picture of the man on one end is Shakespeare, which is nice! I also loved how they collected sightings of themed things like coconuts on their travels, something I often do with my running buddies. She also writes brilliantly about how we make maps full of our own experiences – again, something that running has given me (here’s the place where I sat down and had a cry, here’s where we ‘chased’ that nun up the Bristol Road) so that was something lovely to identify with. I can’t help wishing there’d been a real map in the book, however.

There is naturally some dead and icky stuff seen on Fowler’s travels: I was OK with it and I’m pretty feeble, as long-term readers know; it wasn’t gratuitous at all. The descriptions of nature and its interface with industry and residential areas was fascinating and the book as a whole was an interesting meander through the natural environment, with a moving story of a woman finding herself woven within it.

No acquisitions recently, although I did find a cheap edition of a scarce Virago for Ali! I’ve moved on to reading my book about the Brixton Academy bought last month, and am writing a review of Malala’s dad’s book for Shiny which I will link to here when it’s published. I really hope I get to read more books next month!

Book review – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb – “I am Malala”


Plucked from the middle of the TBR because I won her Dad’s book on NetGalley (I have read that now but am going to review it for Shiny New Books so will share my review there when it’s done – I’m glad I read this one first). It does feel like I’m the last person to read this book, so I was pleased when Gill brought it to put on the coffee house shelves and I could grab it, especially as Malala moved to Birmingham when she came to the UK for medical treatment, and I wanted to read about what she thought of our city.

Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb – “I am Malala”

(3 Dec 2018 – BookCrossing)

The updated autobiography of the famous advocate for girls’ education in Pakistan, including her journey for treatment and new life here in Birmingham (I’m glad she likes our city, on the whole). Her story and personality are remarkable but her father comes across as remarkable, too (on a side note, I was a bit shocked to realise he’s about my age! But of course he is!). I hadn’t realised that she’d made a film with the BBC and produced a diary of life under the Taliban’s rule for them, too, so it made more sense about her coming here.

I was proud to read about the care she had from medical staff here (including the Muslim chaplain and various nurses who found food and care for her) and I liked her relationships with her old friends, still going strong. It’s well done as there’s enough history and cultural stuff to explain the background but all related to Malala and her family, and enough detail on the violence and repression to make an impression, but never gratuitous.

She comes over as a very normal young woman as well as an exceptional one, and it’s a great read that I highly recommend.

Sedate lady running 18-24 February 2019 #amrunning #running #FebruaryFive


A “rest” week from mara/ultra training made slightly testing by a few additional things / worries in the background which made it less restful than I would have liked. Also a bit random in the days I ran as it was quite hard to fit stuff in around work and personal matters (all is OK, pet illness (OK) and various bits and bobs not directly to do with me and all hopefully resolved). In the background, I’ve been doing my physio exercises twice a day, pretty well every day.

Wednesday – I was meeting my friend Ali to pass her a book I’d bought her and to collect my copy of the same book I’d loaned her plus some of my special cheese she’d ordered in her grocery delivery. I had a main lunch then felt a bit full so left some of it (you know you’re a runner when # 182 – you eat your half-eaten lunch when you get home because veg portions). I had a big caramel latte with Ali then ran back with that swishing in my tum and a backpack on my back. It was almost all uphill, too!

Here’s a nice pic of standard 1930s suburbia for all you readers who think all my runs are pretty (there were almshouses to the left, all in scaffolding).

In suburbia

3.6 mi / 11:52 mins per mile

Thursday – I had an hour between jobs so nipped out with Claire, who had a day off work. There was blossom in the park! We were less on the canals than usual as only had room for 5.5 miles.


5.5 mi / 12:12 mins per mile

Saturday – For the first time this year I managed to volunteer at Cannon Hill parkrun. I found out later it was my 123rd volunteering stint (I’ve run it 25 times). I was on the HILL with my friend Trudie, so we were cheering people up the hill that comes just before the end of the run – someone came round afterwards and thanked us for getting him up the hill which was lovely.

Then I went and led the run and talk session we run jointly with Bournville Harriers. I did the intro and did a loop of the park walking with Lisa then had to go off to meet the in-laws for lunch. Pleased to get two volunteering stints in one morning!

Double volunteering

Sunday – This is the reason I’m posting late: my husband said it was a good idea to talk honestly about my fears and experience going out on the trails. Although I have run cross-country races twice (over about 6k, from memory) and the Sutton Fun Run, which is park paths, I haven’t been out on proper trails just running. One guy from club runs a regular session over on the Lickey Hills (Birmingham lies in a circle of hills and the Lickeys are the closest to us) and although he wasn’t there today, four of us headed out. Dave gave me a lift – we officiate quite a lot together and he ran my DIY marathon with me, Kate is a fellow-librarian and Rachel was new to me but very kind.

It was SO FOGGY when we set out at 8am!

foggy road

We got to the car park in good time and got going. It’s quite a challenging route with a lot of hills from the off. I mean, it’s beautiful and everything, and I had Saucony Peregrines on which did feel quite reassuring, but I spent a lot of the first two miles seriously gasping for breath – I think to be honest that while everyone was being so kind and understanding, I was kind of on the edge of panic. It’s so much concentration: where do I place my feet? mud or roots? don’t bang into brambles and ping them back at someone; is it better to run down the stony path in the middle or the grass slopes at the sides?

We were out of the mist but it was hanging around in the basin of the city – so pretty.

I think this bit looks like Scotland or the Lake District because of the pines.

Here we are

And this is the view from a castly turret sort of thing at the very top. Foggy city and the hills the other side rising out of the mist.

I was getting the hang of at least the paths under the trees (leaf mould and earth, not paved) and managed to run more continuously at more like my normal pace. Kate’s recommended Salomon’s YouTube channel with hints and tips. I was so scared, esp going down slopes, with loose stones and very unclear. I did not cry, and I did not fall, and I sort of enjoyed the mile running along the forest floor near the end. But look at that elevation profile (the grey background).

I’m not looking for sympathy or praise but when you first went off-road onto the trails, how long did it take for you to get used to it? If you loved it immediately, is there any hope for one who didn’t?

That course profile!

5.1 mi / 13:59 mins per mile

One good thing: my friend Trudie created this runners’ bingo for the club this month and I’ve managed to complete a line! Cross train – try something knew was today, I have volunteered for club running the 4 mile run last Sat and co-leading run and talk / jeffing the other Thursday, I volunteered at parkrun yesterday and I have worn my hi-viz for evening runs and also as an official!

Feel good February!

Miles this week: 14.2 Miles this year: 157 (9 to do to hit my 1,000 miles this year target)
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. Note: the weekly wrap is apparently ending this week! oh no! I’ve found loads of brilliant women to follow and hopefully we’ll keep wrapping up the week anyway and reading each other’s blog posts (I’ve got the most frequent posters on my Feedly feed now anyway). Or maybe it’s time for me to stop now, too, and stick to the book reviews?

Book review – Iris Murdoch – “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine” #IMReadalong @IrisMurdoch


As promised, I’ve managed to get this one read a bit earlier than the December and January reads, so there should be plenty of time for discussion before my round-up post. I’ve had some front covers sent to me already but always have room for more for my post at the end of the month!

Note I can’t help but have plot spoilers in this review, so maybe save it to read later if you haven’t read the book yet and intend to!

So this one was of course a re-read, probably my fourth read of it; I’ve always seen this is a bit of a minor work (and only really remembered the shocking act near the end) but I got such a lot out of it this time, and reassessed my feelings on various characters, as I seem to this time round, as a married mid-forties person. It’s so interesting how our views change, isn’t it.

Iris Murdoch – “The Sacred and Profane Love Machine”

(11 January 2019)

We find the Gavender family, Blaise the conman psychotherapist (in his own estimation), placid Harriet, wrapped up in her things and home and family, and tortured David who is, sorry, just being a fastidious teenager; and next door there’s Monty Small, mourning his wife and wondering how to escape from the detective he created. But Blaise has a secret and she has a child and a weird friend, and they’re all about to clash …

What a rich setting for a novel! Two houses and a flat, two families, two sons, a sort of Greek chorus observing things in the shape of two misfit neighbours, and then a drunken truth-teller. Although there’s a small cast, this doesn’t feel as suffocating as some of her novels, maybe because there are voices from outside. And we have lots of pleasing tropes that echo through the other novels – including many people standing in gardens looking in!

The opening of the book is very strong, with three separate characters all gazing at a small figure in the garden of Hood House.  We also see Harriet’s “pale form” (p. 14) in the garden early on. We also have Emily running down the street away from Blaise and being chased, and then falling (doesn’t someone else do this?). And hooray – Monty climbs a fence, continuing a long stream of fence-climbing in these middle-class thinking folk that IM likes to write about! I also now feel that people opening their tops to their waists is a trope and not an echo of this book or that book – Pinn does it to Monty here (but he doesn’t act on the temptation). Ectoplasm is one that’s only come in since about “The Nice and the Good,” with Harriet describing herself as it here (p. 238).

Cluttered rooms, that favourite of IM’s, are only really found in Harriet’s domain, where she’s collected all but the “serious family stuff” and gaudy things from holidays. It’s awful when these are disposed of later, isn’t it! Poor old Harriet, I could remember what was going to happen all the way through, the downside to re-reading, although there are some pretty clanging portents, too. Back to the usual themes and we have soldiers – Harriet’s father and brother. Have we had a soldier recently? We have a big important book which Blaise is failing to write. Edgar is a pink man with a fat face and fluffy hair – a real Murdoch type and of course Monty is dry and severe, another type. Just like when Gracie in Accidental Man messes up the bits of London that IM most loves, Blaise is “not interested in pictures” while Harriet has amazing pleasure from them: a sure marker of a dodgy character and a good one. Another indication of goodness and badness is in the reaction of the dogs to people, rolling around happily with Edgar, trying to eat Blaise!

There’s not so much water as there usually is, however the Thames acts as a separator between Blaise’s two households and crossing the river is always “a bad moment” for him. There are plenty of tears – or no tears in Monty’s case. There is some humour, I liked Monty being rather in thrall to his detective but then at the last moment being rescued by the actor who plays him. Also Pinn, when chasing Blaise the first time: “… he heard those sharp accelerating footsteps behind him and turned to see those slinky spectacles glinting in the sun” (p. 83). I also like Monty’s pricking of Blaise’s worry about Harriet finding out about Emily:

‘I feel if Harriet ever knew about Emily the world would simply end in a huge explosion.’

‘Your ordeal is that it won’t. You’ll all go on existing, sleeping and eating and going to the lavatory.’ (p. 112)

There’s some great doubling, too, not only the two families, two households, two sons, two deflowerings but also a severing of the Achilles tendon in the TV detective series and when Blaise gets attacked by the dogs. There are two brothers in some kind of an asylum (as described in the novel).

On the portents, crikey! When Emily is having one of her moans about her second-best status in the arrangement, first of all she claims “I’m the flesh and she’s the spirit, don’t tell me, I know!” and then, chillingly, “God, sometimes I feel like people who go to an airport with a machine gun and just shoot everyone within sight. You simply have no idea how much I suffer” (p. 79). In addition, when Harriet is dealing with finding out about Emily, she brings to mind her soldiering family and then, “Harriet was determined to stay upright now in the gunfire” (p. 131). Did first-readers notice or go back to this?

Who is the saint and who the enchanter? I’m not sure there’s an enchanter as such, is there? Blaise likes to think he is and it’s interesting that all his patients do so much better when he withdraws from their lives, but he’s imposed himself on them more than being created as an enchanter. Harriet doesn’t think she’s a saint, finding her charity work and interests easy and boring, and feeling she’s selfish. But her last act is a selfless one, of course. Blaise thinks (or thought) of her as “not an intellectual but – what? – a sort of saint? Well, not a saint so much as a noble lady” (p. 58), also saying that she’s completely normal and absolutely open (as contrasted with his peculiar desires (unspecified) that he shares with Emily. Monty sees her as “a gentle utterly harmless person who could make no one her victim” (p. 179) however, these are both men seeing her through their eyes. There’s an indication of the nature of goodness when Monty remembers Sophie’s dying: “He ought to have accepted that suffering from her with profound gratitude as a proof of her love” (p. 22) but he didn’t.

Is Edgar the saint? He loves selflessly, he keeps his odd desires to himself, and strives to help others. He tells Monty to let Sophie go, with a short piece on death (p. 263), counsels David wonderfully:

One’s mind is such an old rubbish heap. All sorts of little bits of machinery start up. Don’t bother about them. Watch them a while, then make a change. (p. 315)

which is the complete opposite of Blaine’s analysis and meddling or Monty’s avoidance, and accepts his loss at the end in the same frame of mind. IM seems to make a clear statement about him at the very end:

He might resemble a huge pink baby and spend his time in libraries reading very obscure texts, but he had had his share of soldiering through nightmares, and things had happened to him of which he could not speak even to Monty. (p. 317)

and in the last words:

Three good-looking women, he thought, and all of them after me! And he could not help being a little bit cheered up and consoled as he got into the Bentley and set off alone for Oxford.

I thought a lot more of Edgar this time around. Whoever the saint is, Harriet has learned and changed by the end of the book, realising she’d not been prepared for the battle she had to fight – “for a situation where she was not needed she had no heroism” (p. 235). She tells Monty she has become her own person and hard in the middle, although he’s not hugely impressed and seemed to prefer her vague married form.

So a deep and satisfying and complicated book (though the inter-relationships are not too hard to understand this time round). And a new favourite character in Edgar.

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 11-17 February 2019 #amrunning #running #FebruaryFive


A week when I ran on pretty well completely different days than I usually do but there we go, a change is as good as a rest, etc. I also did my biggest week in mileage terms since April 2018, so I’m glad it’s rest week next week! I’ve also kept up doing my physio exercises twice a day 5/7 days per week for February Five.

Monday – I was a bit stiff from my long run yesterday and I knew Claire was out doing her long run today, so I arranged to meet her for the end of hers and to get a recovery run in. I knew which way she was coming from so headed up to the high street to find her – her face when she saw me a bit earlier than expected (we were meeting by my house) was very sweet, but I had also wanted to check I COULD run! I took control of the route as I know how sapping it is from my experiences, so I ran her down to the park I’d run round in my end bits yesterday:

Another day, another park, another pond (photo by Claire, with permission)

We got back to our road and really I should have stopped but first I wanted to get to a round number and then I wanted to get Claire to her round number so I carried on round a loop with her. I did then stop when I got to 4.5 miles and managed to catch a snap of her coming in to finish. For those blog readers who comment about the prettiness of my running routes, this is also our reality …

Here she comes! There aren’t usually so many bins out on the street. In fact we then saw the bin lorry finally taking everyone’s recycling (there’s been a dispute recently).

Claire got 15.7 miles in and that was a hard one, running to work, having three meetings then running home! I was very glad to help her and guess what, a recovery run DOES HELP!

4.5 miles / 12:08 mins per mile

Wednesday – I went to Dave Yoga in the morning – I had to ask him not to adjust me as I was under the physio, and I concentrated very hard on trying to activate and use my lower back rather than just heaving on my hamstrings. All OK though a bit tired from concentrating!

Then Trudie, Caroline and I had a very pretty dusk run with a lovely sunset. What fun – we all needed some time outdoors with other people and there we went. I was also pleased to finally manage to make a “hat” out of my buff, having seen some instructions from my friend Dave online. Yes, doing it “on” and not overtwisting did work!

Buff Hat for the win!

A fun run: I started with Caroline while we waited for Trudie to be back from work, and Trudie and I looped back home together after saying goodbye to Caroline.

5.2 miles / 12:39 mins per mile

Thursday – my second physio session and I was nervous as I had done my exercises but was feeling stiff, esp in the lower back, plus my right shoulder and neck were hurting. He was however pleased with my progress and worked on my spine (ooowwww) and I felt a lot better afterwards. I got the bus down and back to save time, and that worked well. No appointment now until Monday week so I can work on all my exercises. He did say rather ominously that I was about 6 months away from an actual injury at the rate I was running, but I’ve done the right thing and we will hopefully prevent that.

Friday – went to Claire yoga and tried hard not to overstrain myself by pushing it, so felt a bit teary afterwards. Which was a bit silly, but sometimes yoga makes you teary anyway.

Saturday – I was rotaed to lead the club’s four-mile Saturday run which is taken at a gentle pace (12-13 mm) and is aimed at people moving up from the Beginners’ sessions on Saturdays. So I decided to make that part of my long run rather than running two days in a row (which I realise I did anyway!). Unfortunately, I’d had a stressful Friday evening (nothing too dramatic, resolved now) and not enough sleep, which are NOT good for my running, so I didn’t hold out much hope of doing the 16 I wanted.

I ran 4.3 miles on my own to get warmed up, then met Trudie, Sonya and Bernice (yay, we saw Bernice, who I ran the Canal Canter with last August but has moved away a  bit so we don’t see her often. Lovely to run with her again!) and one woman who’d come for the club run as she had been all year so far. She was a bit fast for me and we had to teach her loop backs but it was a nice run, kept to the advertised pace (I wouldn’t have been quicker if I’d not run first or after as it’s a hilly route) apart from when my water bottle fell apart suddenly!

I did some stretching at the end then Trudie, Bernice and I carried on along the club’s summer canals route, which we could all remember and which had some of the Canal Canter in it. Bernice had done parkrun before the club run and Trudie had been out the night before so we were all a bit delicate and walked / stopped for photos as necessary. Time below is run time not elapsed time but on the day of the marathon etc I will have SLEPT for example!

We got onto the canal at Bournville railway station and I had to share this lovely bit of public art.

But I’m going to be honest and share these pics where I am not looking my most happy, because this is an honest blog and it’s certainly not always easy!

In Bornville, Bernice, Trudie and Liz, photo by Bernice, with permission. What is my hair doing?

That desperate smile stuck with me (the other two are so beautiful and fresh-looking though!). We’re at the good old Kings Norton junction here. I clearly want to lie down or go home. Or possibly both.

Happy lady, happy lady, wahhh. Photo by Bernice, with permission.

We got back to the park and went in squiggles to get Bernice’s 13.1 hooray! Great work and her longest run for a bit (although we’re doing the same marathon, she is on a plan with a personal trainer while I’ve done my own and am trying to get ahead of myself so I can get used to running long and not have a horrible shock when I get to the mara. Let’s hope this works!). Then Trudie and I ran round the park and back home, then she ran up and down the road to get to her 12 (her longest for ages, too, well done!!). I got to 15.1 and I was very, very pleased with that, and my pace, all things considered.

A note on fuelling: I’d got some Tailwind samples in the week and tried the orange one. I didn’t mind the taste, though it not being sweet wasn’t a big bonus for me, and it WASN’T FIZZY, unlike all the tablet ones I’ve tried. It did go down well and I had no stomach woes whatsoever, I took in 600 mls of one sachet made up with 750 mls of water, with the rest drunk at the end and I didn’t take any gels – I felt OK but was quite hungry at the end. So I think I’d probably use it to replace every other gel and be my rehydration. I might well buy a packet of the orange though will try some of the other flavours, too (green tea is being given away, ugh, and I gave the lemon one to Bernice to try). I like the lower use of single-use plastic. I did buy some Gatorade powder too, though know that will only replace my single-use bottled lucozade, not the fuel.

15.1 miles / 12:57 mins per mile

Sunday – Our water is off! Oh no! I’m typing this at 7.30pm and they’re still digging up the road. However I still went for a run, then contorted myself to have a wash in a washing up bowl and jug standing in our walk-in shower! I did a recovery run and went out with Mary Ellen, which was lovely. Ran past BOTH burst water mains, on my road and round the corner, and did a big loop. I did 0.2 miles more than this as forgot to start my watch. But I felt SO MUCH better once I’d worked into it – this is something I’m definitely going to keep doing.

3.2 miles / 12:32 mins per mile

Miles this week: 28 Miles this year: 142.7

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 Amy’s (covering for Holly) is here.

Sedate lady running 04-10 February 2019 #amrunning #running #FebruaryFive


A week of varied experiences, from tempo runs to run and talk on Time to Talk day, from the physio to a long marathon training run, from endurance officiating to track and field officiating. Phew. I’ve also been doing February Five, which was invented by my lovely friend Verity, who does huge amounts of fundraising for Mind: I have had to switch my “thing I do 5 days out of 7” from strength and conditioning work to two lots of rehab exercises a day … but it’s all good, right?

Tuesday – I didn’t have anyone to run with (wah) so I headed out for a tempo style run, I had a lot of work so didn’t have much time and stuck with a four-miler. The best bit? I went at the same time as my best friend, Emma, who lives in London – and we shared trainer shots when we got home (we have a “thing” about the way we stand with our toes pointed in. Hm – we also have identical stiff lower backs and weak glutes …)

Although Em doesn’t love running as much as I do, I did notice she was keen to get back to it once her physio said she could, so maybe we’ve got her. I bust a gut on this run and was chuffed to get a 10:50 final mile (super fast for me). I was trying out my new Saucony Hurricanes – I do like them and they’re definitely comfy round the toes, but they don’t feel as controlling as my Guides so I’ll have to hope they look after my overpronation. I did proper “Paul” running, knees up, pawing the ground behind me, and my cadence was 169 (up from my old 164) so happy about that.

4 miles, 11:07 mins per mile

Wednesday – went to Dave Yoga and managed fine, thank goodness; felt good to be back in that class. Dentist straight afterwards was a bit of a shock to the system!

Thursday – I had had enough of my right glute hurting and my right hamstring being sore – it’s been ages and it’s not right. My old physio, Fotios, has stopped working at the place I went to him, so I went back to my OLD old physio, Phil at Urban Body, who runs sessions out of the local council-run gym, 1.2 miles from my house. So I went down, full of having an SI joint issue or a hamstring impingement and being told not to run … to be told I have an overloaded hamstring with an old tear (when? I fear the Canal Canter) and scar tissue (now being worked on – owwww), a stiff lower back (more massage) and weak glutes (some v odd exercises). I knew about the glutes and I knew they would come and kick me in the arse (ha ha) and I also found out that when I stretch I’m using the lower back too little and heaving on the glutes, hence the overload. So I have some exercises, and rolling on the roller and a ball (I happen to already have) and I can still run (PHEW).

Thank you to my husband for the image

I went almost straight from this session to running a Run and Talk session at the running club as part of the “jeffing” (walk/run strategy). I run jeffing with the lovely Ruth and Maria is my co-Mental Health Champion, so the three of us put on this session together and we were very pleased to have club chair Barbara along, plus 9 other runners (the most we’ve had for jeffing yet). We suggested a chat about how you relax, and I’d also posted the question “What does running do for you?” in the Club Facebook group, and we’d had lovely responses to that. It was a great run and we had some lovely comments afterwards; I did two laps as my leg was aching after Phil’s ministrations, then gave out badges, leaflets and postcards to the runners who were finishing after two laps, and waited for the other runners to finish. I also gave out postcards and leaflets to other runners who were finishing their own Thursday sessions: I’d got some lovely resources from England Athletics (who run the Mental Health Champions and Run and Talk initiatives with MIND, and from Time to Change, whose Time to Talk Day it was). A great and joyful evening, I was so pleased at how well it went.

Great fold out leaflets

My husband took a poster and leaflets into work, which was brilliant, too, and I also shared them with our friends at Bournville Harriers.

0.7 miles, 11:10 mins per mile / 3.05 miles, 13:06 mins per mile / 0.7 miles, 12:20 mins per mile – total 4.4 miles

Saturday – It was the last Men’s Cross-Country League match of the season, near Stoke-on-Trent, and I had a road trip with some of our fast lads, as I was one of Club’s designated officials for the match (unlike my other officiating jobs at road relays and county / regional / national events, this is where Club has to provide the pool of officials to run the event. When I was being assistant referee the other month, I was not fulfilling Club’s commitment). I’ve arranged that in future, I’ll be a Club official rather than a core official so I can fulfil Club’s League commitments, now I’ve got enough different experiences for my next level licence). The location was beautiful but high up and look at the view:

and it was pretty windy. Barbara and I were the two officials, doing A Board Judge Recorders, which means standing at the end of the funnel after the finish line and calling (me) and writing down (Barbara) the bib numbers as the runners come through. A line judge has put them in the right order, funnel managers keep them in the right order and moving down the funnel, and B Board are part way down the funnel, also writing down. Then there are tokens with finish positions at the end.

We had a good time doing it and all went well, wet and windy weather notwithstanding. We also rescued a fellow team’s tent that blew over while the racing was going on!

3.3 miles walked

Sunday – Long run time, and having done 13.5 last week, I was keen to build up to 15, getting my marathon / ultra training a bit ahead just in case and to allow me to progress an extra mile at a time. But. But. BUT in previous campaigns I have had real trouble getting to 15, and have bailed a few times when trying. Which I told Trudie and Mary Ellen at the start. Nothing like a bit of positive thinking, eh!! So we set off on a version of my 10-mile route to Northfield and round, but with a diversion at the university which added some miles.

Here we are at the Northfield Shopping Centre (where we used the toilets): just to prove it’s not all fields and trees and prettiness:

Trudie, Mary Ellen, Liz: we didn’t do any of these things. Thanks for the photo, Trudie.

We carried on (getting overtaken by svelte, fast, tiny-shorted, young runners just when we were powerwalking up a hill) to where I met up with the coach from another club who I will be helping with a bit of officiating on their behalf in their track and field leagues. He’d wanted to meet me which is completely fair enough as you need to check officials know what they’re doing, their level of qualification and their fitness for the job. I passed muster, joined the others and carried on.

I was getting a bit tired but cracked on, with my Lucozade sport and three gels in total. I was a bit whiny but the others got me round. And it was nice to visit The Vale, one of the main sets of halls of residence for the campus – a nice women took pity on us and took our photo so no propped-on-a-bench one this time!

Taken on Trudie’s camera and kindly sent to me – notice my knock knees. Must try harder!

I left the others in Moseley (they got in 11 and 11.5 miles, which is brilliant work) and I then went off and along and up and down and round and round, trying to get my watch to 14.5. For I had FORGOTTEN TO TURN IT ON when I started, and I wasn’t sure how much I’d missed on it but got obsessed that it might just be 0.5 miles I’d not logged. And I have just found when looking at the route that I also forgot to re-start my watch between the meeting and the lake – so another 0.25 miles missed …

I ran into lovely Abi from Club when I spotted a Kings Heath RC buff on someone in a car and had a little chat with her that helped SO MUCH. And then I went round and round and up and down roads and made it to 14.5 miles. PHEW. That was hard. But I was glad to get the bit I measured in at 12:52 mins per mile. And then I measured that first bit I missed on the watch and it was 0.75 not 0.5 miles. So I forced myself round a v hard 0.5 miles extra at the end! oh well …

15.5 miles, 12:50 mins per mile (approx)

Miles this week: 23.9 Miles this year: 114.4

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 Michelle’s (standing in for Holly) is here.

Book review – Ian Thorpe – “This is Me” #amreading


I seem to be reading a bit slowly recently, not sure why really, and this appears to be my first book review of February. However, I am getting on nicely with my Iris Murdoch read for the month so that should be up next. Here’s one of the books I bought with a book token back in January last year, at a good price because it was slightly battered.

Ian Thorpe – “This is Me”

(14 January 2018)

A good autobiography (written with Australian sports writer Robert Wainwright, who is acknowledged on the title page) although it’s in a bit of a funny order: it’s a diary of his 2011-2012 attempt at a comeback after being out of swimming for four years, then looking back on his sporting life, although not all in chronological order. It’s all clear in the end and is probably fine if you’ve followed his career in detail.

He’s honest about his depression, towards the end and also about his terrible struggles with the media, which I hadn’t realised about, but I loved the bits about his love for Japan and his passion for his charity work with Native Australians – there are a few rants in there, good for  him. He also has an interesting view on training and racing, using racing as an excuse for doing what he loves best – training. I can identify with that in my running – although obviously he enjoyed and excelled at racing. It’s also interesting to think that you’re always in your lane in swimming, not the case with most running. I did get a bit lost in some of the technical details of his swimming training and strokes, but enjoyed the descriptions of his interactions with the water.

I got very excited at one point, when I was reading about Thorpe attending a swim camp in Tenerife at the same time as my friend Verity was attending her usual swim camp there – and yes, it was the same place!

What came through was an inquisitive mind searching for something outside swimming: I think he’s become a good commentator so hopefully he’ll continue with that (this book really finishes with the London 2012 Olympics). An interesting read.

Sedate lady running 28 January – 03 February 2019 #amrunning #running #REDJanuary #FebruaryFive


A good week’s running although quite a tiring week all in all. I finished RED January, the Mind initiative and managed to do something every single day, even though one day was not the biggest “something” I’ve ever done. I did a sponsor page and sponsored myself £31 to celebrate, then I hope I will get a medal as well as my lovely t-shirt. It was fun to do something every day and I got quite into my squats and heel drops/calf raises.

I’ve now started February Five, which was invented by my lovely friend Verity, who does huge amounts of fundraising for Mind. This is my third year (you make a donation and get a medal: the medals are sponsored so basically your donation goes to Mind) and I’ve chosen to do five days with strength and conditioning (at least 100 “things” e.g. 60 squats and 40 heel drops) and five days with stretches (5 or more different ones) out of each seven in the month. Doable, but challenging. I start reporting on that below.

Now, the slight issue I’ve had this week was that my husband has been ill, so I’ve been looking after him, doing all the household stuff we share, and worrying. So I’ve been a bit tired all week, and even though he’s on the mend, that has taken a bit of a toll and made things harder than they might have been (it also meant I missed everyone’s Weekly Wrap posts last week – sorry – and a lot of blog posts in the week. I did catch up with the comments on this blog and am catching up on reading from now on but sorry if I’ve neglected you!

Monday – I was so very tired, and so when I walked out of my front gate and found Claire there with her lovely dog, I walked the “long” way round to the supermarket and had a very necessary for my mental health chat with her. Mind was very careful to point out that if you’re struggling with mental health issues or anything, just getting downstairs counted, so I was kind to myself and counted this.

Tuesday – And I was with Claire again as I’d said I’d tail run club run with her – she hadn’t made it to club run that much recently and I’d thought it would be a nice catch-up, too. Hurried up there and back so faster miles at the beginning and end (and that was my RED January activity, too. We ran with a lovely lady, also called Liz, who had a great run after graduating from coming to beginners for a week or so and trying out the full club run for only the second time this evening.

Me? Photobomb Claire recording her volunteering? What makes you think that?

5.5 miles, 13:09 mins per mile

Wednesday – 110 squats!! 60 calf raises, marching round the area for a few miles doing errands for poorly husband and buying stuff for a homeless guy.

Thursday – Oh, my goodness, it was SO COLD. Argh! It was supposed to be +1 (33) out but feels like -4 (24) and I waited until midday but urghh. I also ran solo, which I do do more often on a Thursday but was quite challenging.

Wrapped up warm

My Marathon Fail Jacket and fuzzy-lined tights were still in the wash, so I went for these older warm tights I have which have really stiff lining over the quads, and a fuzzy-lined long-sleeve top with my RED January t-shirt over it. Then a buff in hijab form to keep my ears and neck warm. This worked quite well and also wearing my RED top really spurred me to do the miles as I kept wanting to creep home!

It wasn’t actually icy as the pavements weren’t wet: any puddles or gutters were icy but it wasn’t dangerous. Only elderly men with dogs and postmen were out – one chap shouted “You’re a champion” and a postie wished me good luck! I kept running near friends’ houses and wanting to dart in and hide but I did manage five miles, somehow. Last mile was really quite fast for me (11:05) but I just wanted to get home. Also I did pause to catch my breath a few times. COLD.

5 miles, 11:26 minute miles

Friday – First day of February Five and I returned to yoga for the first time since before Christmas as I’ve finally stopped coughing. I thought it would be terrible but all those squats have made me more strong and flexible than I’d dared hope and I managed it just fine. Phew, and so good to be back, seeing all my yoga-mates (and Jenny was at the class, too, so we had a cafe catch-up afterwards). I counted yoga as my second day of both strength and conditioning (holding a squat for aaaaages, anyone?) and stretching, for the Feb Five win.

Saturday – My first weekend off either officiating or going to the running show this year so I had a bit of a lie-in and a gentle morning doing life admin that had slipped away from me. Still managed to do something running-related in the afternoon, as I met my friend Clare (another Clare) who is one of the Mental Health Champions for local club Bournville Harriers. Both clubs are running in-club Run and Talk sessions on Time to Talk Day next Thursday, and I’d got some spare resources to share with her. A lovely catch-up over a couple of coffees.

Sunday -Long run time and we had quite a few of us, although a couple had to drop out due to illness (it’s the time of year). It was cold, but nice blue skies and good company. I met Mary Ellen (who we managed not to photograph) and Claire outside my house and took a long way round to the park to meet Sonya, Trudie and Tara. You met Sonya back in the summer (remember the photo in the MAC loos?) but this was Tara’s first run out with the Sedate Ladies and she did brilliantly.

We set off on a circular route and got ourselves onto the greenways and beside the rivers. It’s come to my attention that I might be only photographing the pretty stuff – if you’ve seen photos of terraced red-brick houses and white semi-detached houses on here, that’s the majority of my running. And often the green routes are in a context of built-up industrial and commercial main streets, as here, where we’re 2 minutes away from seeing a heron and signing a petition about mending the paving around the Ford a nice man was doing, but started off beside a tile warehouse. We spotted my friend Andy Yu at one point which was lovely as I used to see him out running all the time but hadn’t spotted him recently.

Stratford Road / Greet path: Tile Warehouse and nice trees. Thanks Trudie for taking the pic and letting me use it.

I will try to take some more realistic photos. Anyway we had a lovely time. Mary Ellen had left us by this point but the rest of us stayed together for a good few more miles, along the green routes by the rivers (the Cole and Chinn Brook) and past Sarehole Mill …

Liz, Claire, Trudie, Tara, Sonya. More context – car / motorbike prevention gates and 60s housing next to the river path. Also a sign about bikes and a direction sign from the Canal Canter I did in the summer!

We then dropped onto the canal, to find it was FROZEN!

Frozen canal! Photo by Claire

The chap in the narrow boat was somewhat inexplicably throwing apples onto the ice, which were not going through! Trudie did her clever propping the phone in a tree thing to get an action shot of us …

I think I might have flying feet in this one!

We came off the canal and ran back to the park or home, saying goodbye as we went. People did from 7 to 15.3 miles, which was just brilliant – it was sociable and funny and great. I sent Claire off home as she was done with her 15 after a loop of the park (OK, after I made a Very Sad Face when she wanted to do a bit of one of the club runs with a horrible hill) and then looped back across and behind the high street to get 13.5 in – very pleased as I don’t like running 14 miles for some reason and I can hop up to 15ish next week. I was particularly pleased that my last 0.5 mile was as fast as my first mile and I showed resilience getting some speed up at the end.

Then did more stretching than I usually do (hooray) for 3/3 days stretching, 2/3 days strength and conditioning.

13.5 miles, 12:43 mins per mile.

Really pleased with my week this week all in all as I managed to get stuff done even though tired – and to make all my work deadlines.

Miles this week: 24 Miles this year: 90.7

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 Amy’s (covering for Holly) is here.

Book review – Bella Mackie – “Jog On” #NetGalley #JogOn


A running book with a difference, I was very glad to win this on NetGalley and can highly recommend it if you’re interested in the links between mental health and exercise or want to know more about getting a handle on anxiety.

An excellent book, part memoir and part how-to book, about how running helped the author’s quite severe mental health difficulties and can help others’. She usefully explains some of the issues one can face, and is pleasingly robust about post-natal depression not ‘just being a bit of baby blues’ and OCD not being about having tidy cupboards and I loved her honest and forthright style – she felt like someone you can trust, having been there herself but having the insight and self-knowledge to help others while telling it how it is.

Mackie’s breakdown and inspiration to start running were triggered by the end of her short-lived marriage, but she had deep-seated and life-limiting anxiety and depression from way before then. By starting running bit by embarrassed and difficult bit (she never, ever makes out it’s easy), she has chipped away at her fears, achieving what she refers to as small moments, for example getting on the Tube for the first time in years, or going through Camden Market. To be honest, I think this is more relatable than some of the big things people take on, and fits with the theme of the book being very personal and non-intimidating.

As part of this, I absolutely love how she isn’t a racer, not a marathoner, not a runner who ‘achieves’ some of the things other runners do (she does go to parkrun, though). I know the big racers and marathon runners (even one like me: I don’t like to think of myself as intimidating but I have a friend who was relieved when someone told them at a Run and Talk session that you can stick at 10ks or whatever, you don’t have to run marathons, and I try to remember to mention that now) can be intimidating and put new runners off, so I love this. She shares her struggles and is realistic, and also shares other people’s stories so the range of different kinds of runner is there, but it always comes back to the simple, pure running.

I love her description of a “good runner”:

By [good runner] I just mean a person who enjoys running and wants to keep enjoying it.

Mackie’s portrayal of how anxiety feels is top-notch but she doesn’t allow herself or her readers to beat themselves up over how they feel, act, or have felt or acted in the past. She’s very reassuring. She’s also very honest about how running isn’t a cure-all or an instant cure, and is strong on how we shouldn’t be afraid of using medication and therapy and also talking about that. She’s honest about how running can be another crutch and become obsessive, and bravely shares her own experience, shocked out of her for a lucky escape. She’s all about limiting how much you use it to keep it enjoyable and helpful.

From an acknowledgement that running can seem to mimic the symptoms of an anxiety attack (which is so helpful, I think, and also helpful for people to know who work with anxious runners) to an acknowledgement that everybody hates the first 10 minutes of a run, this is a book we can all relate to in some way. With a great resource list at the back, I have no reservations in recommending it highly.

Although I finished this book in January, it’s an ideal one to share in Time to Talk week which is all about exercise and mental wellness.

Thank you to William Collins for selecting me to read this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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