Sedate lady running 09-15 Sept 2019 #amrunning #running

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A week of not much running, no yoga and one bit of volunteering and a great positive meeting. And a dog picture!

Well, of course I got a cold. I was all set for getting one, wasn’t I – lower mileage for a week or so knocking my immune system, stresses and strains, change of season and weather.

Monday – I’m very glad that Claire and I accidentally went and ran a bit longer than expected given that other running didn’t really happen. We popped over to her partner Sam’s house to let the dog out to do his doggy business, he is such a sweetie, much-loved by his family and liked very much by me. He’s a rescue and when he gets nervous out and about he sort of LEANS on you. Here you go …

The very lovely Kaci

I was pleased with my pace, given that I walked up hills as usual – picking things up a bit (I had a bit of a sprint along the canal!) and the heart rate remaining OK.

6.5 miles, 12:41 mins per mile.

Friday – Sort of feeling better, I went for a lovely long relaxed walk with Claire and Kaci round the local park. The planting is looking amazing and we had a lovely wander and a park ranger gave Kaci a dog treat, which was basically adorable.

Saturday – I went down to Cannon Hill Park for the very start of parkrun, as the Birmingham Samaritans were covering most of the volunteer positions and raising awareness, and I wanted to have a chat with them about my work as a Mental Health Champion and the Run and Talk events.

In the UK, Samaritans offer a free confidential counselling service over the phone, and in various other ways. You can call them free and there is more information here. Samaritans USA is here.

Samaritans are one of the organisations that the Mental Heath Champions system signpost to, via the Mind charity, so I was very pleased to chat about what we do, and pleased they were aware of the MHCs. Sara, the Head Samaritan in Birmingham, kindly gave me some lipsalves to hand out at the running club’s upcoming Run and Talk session and we’ll be talking further about how we can help raise awareness.

Samaritans – free phone 116 123 in the UK

We then had a quick Cannon Hill run and talk in which four of us had a chat and I ended up having a coffee with lovely Ruth.

Sunday – I was supposed to be running down to meet Ruth and Tracie, Ruth was doing a 13.1 distance in training to prepare for her next half-marathon in two weeks’ time. However, I had underestimated how much my cold had gone – it’s not on my chest but congestion much. So I had to call it a day – and then discovered I’d brought none of the three different ways I could pay bus fare (cash, Swift card, cash card). Doh! Fortunately Tracie loaned me a tenner, then I went to the supermarket, picked out some oat milk to get the right change, had to wait 10 minutes for them to allow us to pay for our groceries, then crossed the road and got the bus home.

I did at least get a picture of the middle of the route we run up from the canal, through the woods, across this road and into Billesley Common, with added accidental bus stop garden.

3.1 miles, 13:23 mins per mile (first two miles were under 12 mins per mile)

Weekly total 9.6 miles. Total this year 721.7 (I need 750 at the end of this month to be on track for my 1,000 miles in a year total, and I’m now down 30 miles on this time last year).

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

 

Book reviews: A fox and a gibbon – two easy wins between Atwoods #amreading

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I didn’t start “The Testaments” on the day it arrived, as Matthew was still finishing “The Handmaid’s Tale” plus I had a bit of a cold and wanted to come to it lively and alert. I’m happy to say it’s on the go now, and unputdownable and just as good as I’d hoped it would be, but I fitted these to in between and although they have nothing in common apart from the animal names, they’re popping in here together because I have other things to write about over the weekend.

Jason Fox with Matt Allen – “Battle Scars: A Story of War and all that Follows”

(09 September 2019)

Although I’m probably not the target market for this biography of a Special Forces chap, this account of Foxy’s life in the Special Forces, detailing his breakdown, diagnosis with PTSD, depression and burnout and his attempted cure by the military and actual cure working with a psychotherapist was really well written, authentic and gripping on both sides of the narrative. There are some gory bits, as there really have to in a book about active service on the front line, but that’s not dwelt upon and I coped fine.

The most important thing about this book is the good advice to men about dealing with mental health issues and great resources at the end from his and Jamie Sanderson’s Rock2Recovery initiative, exhorting men to get help, talk about their mental health and not just “soldier on”. As Mental Health Week and the associated Run and Talk session is supposed to concentrate on men’s mental health, I’m going to use this as a resource, as it’s a great way of getting this information in front of people who might not reach out for it normally.

Stella Gibbons – “Conference at Cold Comfort Farm”

(20 December – from Lorraine for my BookCrossing Birmingham Not-So-Secret Santa)

Firmly from my wish list but when I started reading this (in the middle of the night, sucking a cough sweet and with a temperature) I did wonder if it was me or the book that had gone peculiar! An almost entirely bewildering novella in which Flora Poste from the wonderful “Cold Comfort Farm”, now a solid matron and mother of five, returns to the Farm to help run a very modern conference. The male Starkadders have all left for South Africa so most of the Webb/Hardy satire is replaced by just-post-war finger-wagging and fun-poking at a group of artists (OK, understandable) and thinkers (including administrators I didn’t understand at all – maybe a comment on sociology and time and motion studies?) that Libby Purves in her introduction to my Vintage edition helpfully identifies as Picasso, Moore, Britten, Kafka, Anouilh and Sartre. And the National Trust has its own punishment, too. There’s a good bit when the Starkadders rise resplendent again at the end, but the administrators and scientists remain baffling and so it has dated.


So I’m nearly finished with “The Testaments” and can’t wait to discuss it with people – Matthew will only get the audio book finished next week but I should review it on Monday. Then it’s on with trying to get through all of “The Book and the Brotherhood” which I think is the longest Iris Murdoch, and reviewing that before the end of the month catches me. How are you getting on with “The Testaments” if you’re reading it?

Book review – “Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women who Dared to Dream” @TheEmmaPress plus @ShinyNewBooks and @EburyPublishing lovely links

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In the middle of my plumbing dystopian issues in my Margaret Atwood reading / re-reading, I temporarily ran out of book, as I speed-read “The Handmaid’s Tale” TOO speedily and had it done the night before “The Testaments” was due to arrive. What could I read as an antidote to dystopia? Ah, yes. A lovely book about women born in 1816 through to women who are right now daring to dream in my adopted home city of Birmingham (UK).

I bought this book excitedly in November 2018 and it’s been sitting on my desk ever since. It was perfect to pick up at this time in the world and my reading life, giving lots of positivity and hope. Published by local independent publisher Emma Press, you can find a direct link to the book here. Buy it for anyone from a young teen upwards, and especially to share our lovely city at home and further afield.

“Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women who Dared to Dream”

(bought direct from the publisher, November 2018)

With text by Louise Palfreyman and illustrations by Jan Bowman, Yasmin Bryan, Amy Louise Evans, Saadia Hipkiss, Farah Osseili, Chein Shyan Lee and Michelle Turton, published by small independent women-run Emma Press and supported by Birmingham City Council, this really did feel like a collective work of love and celebration.

The Birmingham Remembers campaign celebrated and commemorated both the end of World War One and the partial achievement of the vote by women, and it launched a social media drive to source public nominations for this book. The nominations were then whittled down by a jury of young female writers from Writing West Midlands’ Spark Young Writers groups before the book was produced and then launched at the Birmingham Literature Festival (which must be how I heard about it). I’m glad the introduction by three female local councillors explained the process.

We have all sorts of women among the 30 featured, from suffragettes and suffragists to academics, campaigners and leaders of social movements. Hannah Sturge goes furthest back – born in 1816, she founded a group in the anti-slavery movement, one of the first examples of organised female activism. We have examples of both suffragettes with their direct action (Bertha Ryland, who slashed a painting in the Art Gallery) and suffragists with letter-writing campaigns, and plenty of academics, including scientists and mathematicians, with Denise Lewis representing athletes and Kit de Waal writers. Did you know that one of the structural engineers who made the New York 9/11 site safe was Asha Devi, who grew up in Handsworth and works as an ambassador exhorting girls to choose engineering subjects?

Closer to home, I was interested to read about Dame Ellen Pinsent, Birmingham’s first female councillor and pioneer in education provision, after whom a local school is named, and proud to find Imandeep Kaur, who is celebrated for co-founding Impact Hub which puts people at the heart of solving the city’s problems, who I actually know!

The back of the book features ideas on interviewing your own heroes, a list of helplines and support, biographies of the writer and artists and of the young women who chose the selection. I also noted my friend Debbie in the acknowledgements. So a lovely local read which stretches far further.


My latest Shiny New Books review is up and features the rather wonderful “Rough Magic” by Lara Prior-Palmer (yes, she’s Lucinda’s niece and Aunt Luncinda comes into the book). Dismissed as scatter-brained and better at plunging into things than thinking them through first, Lara takes on the Mongolian Derby in this exciting and engaging read. I am grateful to Ebury Press for sending me the proof copy, and you can read my full review here.

Book review – Margaret Atwood – “The Handmaid’s Tale” @ViragoBooks

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I don’t often get swept up in the excitement over new book releases, especially in fiction, but so many people couldn’t resist pre-ordering Margaret Atwood’s sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Testaments” that I got into the whole thing, too. It’s publication day today and I’m eagerly awaiting, etc., but even though I a) am self-employed and can arrange my work to an extent, b) read fast, I won’t have a review out before Thursday at the earliest. However, having believed myself not to have re-read “The Handmaid’s Tale” for a while, here’s my review of my re-read of my dear and battered old copy (complete with post-it note inside: “Liz’s, please return” AND “Liz Broomfield English II” in faded ink inside the front cover!

Margaret Atwood – “The Handmaid’s Tale”

(1990)

Here’s a confession. I was convinced I had re-read this before, between my first reading aged 18 and my reading now, aged 47. But if I had, it certainly hasn’t been during the lifetime of this blog, or the book review journals that stretch back to 2007. I remembered the central premise, the idea, but not really many of the scenes. So maybe I hadn’t.

I remember when I first read it and why. I was taking Peggy Reynolds’ Women and Literature in the 20th Century course at university, an optional D period course in my second year. I have always had it rather fatally mixed up with Angela Carter’s “The Passion of New Eve” (which I’ve tried and failed to re-read recently: too MUCH!) and of course the landscapes of both would mesh together. I can only assume we had a week on dystopias.

Anyway, my goodness, if I’ve only read it at 18 and now, what a gulf separates those two reads. I knew so little of the world, its ways and its troubles then, though we were in the middle of the AIDS crisis and starting the First Gulf War. Then, if I’d imagined myself into the book, I’d have thought of arranged marriages or assignment to a sterile wife and her Commander husband to try to produce a child. Now, childless at 47 (although in a first marriage, white and of Christian birth, not as bad off as some), where would I be in that book? I dread to think.

We probably all know the premise – in a warring and fragile state, the birth-rate has dropped and women such as our heroine, ‘Offred’ are assigned to live with married couples and copulate coldly with the husband, hoping to produce a baby. She remembers the time before, her husband and daughter (and pet: oh dear. Be careful at Chapter 30), and their attempted escape from the increasing privations of the regime, as women are slowly denied money, jobs, freedom, and she hopes there is an underground force at work, resisting. She remembers the wonderful, testing Moira, her best friend (please please please let Moira pop up in the new book) and longs for even a few words to read. When her Commander makes an odd request, what is she to do?

It was the very small details that bothered me this time. Women have taken to the old handicrafts. Plastic has been banned and groceries are once again wrapped in paper. It’s well-known that all the details Atwood put in had happened somewhere in the world (by 1985!!!) and those just seemed too familiar. The rounding up and sending away of first the “Children of Ham” and Jewish people and then the concentration on anyone who wasn’t a white Christian in a first marriage screamed at me of that poem “First they came for …”

A powerful and of course sublimely well-written book. Unlike some modern dystopias, the violence is usually off-screen. I love the epilogue featuring a conference paper on the reliability or not of the narrative – something I’d forgotten.

I can’t wait to read “The Testaments” and can only hope it comes up to the hype.

Have you re-read “The Handmaid’s Tale” recently and are you waiting by the door for the new one to drop through?

Sedate lady running 02-08 Sept 2019 #amrunning #running

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A decent week with more balance and hopefully some adaptation. What I didn’t do was get many photos!

Tuesday – I was tail-running for our running club run so nipped up to club in time to help greet new runners – the two volunteers have to split duties between us so this time I was doing the warm-up and then letting runners out of the park and on their way in pace groups in a controlled manner (there are loads of us so it gets a bit busy if everyone just streams out). I did my trusty 1, 2, 3, 4 warmup which goes like this with the runners running in a circle around me … and I shout …

  • when I shout 1, clap your hands over your head. 1!
  • when I shout 2, skip three big skips with your arms going strong. 1! [laughter and confusion] 2, 1, 2
  • when I shout 3, do high knees. 2! 2, 1, 2, 3
  • when I shout 4, do arm circles. 1! 4, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1

Then we stop, do hip circles, do lunges in towards me while I pretend to be scared they’re going to get me, then ankle circles, then I try to get them to jog on the spot to keep warmed up.

This always gives people a laugh and includes most of the same stuff but in a different way to the way others do it (I got the idea from my Leadership course).

Anyway, once I’d let them all go I ran at the back, and lovely Ruth stayed with me. It’s getting dark now and I think that’s the last Tuesday run that will go from the park.

0.6 miles, 10:48 mins per mile / 4.1 miles, 14:28 mins per mile / 0.5 miles, 11:45 mins per mile

Wednesday – Managed to go to Dave Yoga and got through everything in the class although the DOMS after were for real!

Thursday – I wanted to do about 5 miles but dillied and dallied and dealt with work … Then I checked and my friend Tara the dog walker and pet sitter was walking some of her charges in the next furthest park away, so I ran down there, met her and her charges – we decided it was Bring My Friend To Work Which Is With Dogs day, as opposed to Bring Your Dog To Work Day – and had a chat and a walk, then ran back. I decided (OK, I was busting for the loo) to push the pace coming back and was pleased my heart rate didn’t get too out of control.

Highbury Park, part of the grounds of Joseph Chamberlain’s house. Lovely and wild and full of birds.

3 miles, 12:08 mins per mile

Friday – I went to Clare Yoga but realised just before that it was going to be a cover teacher. I managed to make myself go still, and it was a good class, although concentrating on the feet, ankles and calves. I knew that would hurt tomorrow, and it did, but there were some good new moves.

Saturday – I kind of had to do my long run today because my husband was around to do the 11am meds for the cat, so I could just come back for the 1pm ones – he was off birdwatching on Sunday. I managed to gather Ruth and Mary Ellen who both wanted to go long, too, and we did my 10-mile Northfield loop, which I haven’t done for ages, as I got a bit sick and tired of it at one point!

Ruth, Mary Ellen, Liz, Trudie (photo by Trudie, with permission).

Trudie manifested in Cotteridge, having used a canny mix of running and buses to find us, and she was with us for a good few miles before popping home. We enjoyed the cooler temps and the slightly turning trees down the Bristol Road and had a peek into Cannon Hill Park on the way past.

Peeking in to Cannon Hill

We went past a lovely haberdashery shop run by the woman who won the first Great British Sewing Bee as we came through Moseley on the way home: this is a typical grand Edwardian house and the display was pretty and autumnal.

Guthrie & Ghani

Mary Ellen said goodbye as she’d done 10 miles and I then took Ruth for a wiggle around the streets to get her to 11 – tried a bit too hard and sent her off at an angle so as not to do too much, then took myself round a loop and went too far AGAIN, so I ended up with 12 miles rather than the 11.7 I was aiming for to round up the week. Not a bad problem to have. I had been jeffing (Jeff Galloway Technique) with Ruth and Mary Ellen at a 1 min run, 30 sec walk ratio, but didn’t have that set on my watch and knocked out an 11:09 final mile which I was pretty pleased with. Longest run since the ultra, I think.

12 miles / 13:25 mins per mile

Weekly total 20.3 miles. Heart rate is adjusting and continuous running doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. Total this year 712 (I need 750 at the end of this month to be on track for my 1,000 miles in a year total, and I’m still down a few miles on this time last year).

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

 

Book reviews – Angela Thirkell – “Before Lunch” and “Northbridge Rectory” @ViragoBooks #amreading

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Two lovely gentle reads today before I plunged into a lovely big book about design for Shiny New Books then embark upon a Margaret Atwood double (re-reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” tomorrow; “The Testaments” arrives on Tuesday and will be gone into immediately (not sure what I’ll read on Monday!) – anyone else starting reading “The Testaments” on publication day apart from Ali, who I already know about?

Slightly annoyingly, Virago republished these two in time for lovely LibraryThing Virago reader Cate to buy them for me for Christmas 2018, but the one between them, “Cheerfulness Breaks In”, doesn’t come out until next spring! So I decided to just read on through them – after all, I read “The Headmistress”, which comes way after these, in November 2017, slightly by accident.

Angela Thirkell – “Before Lunch”

(25 December 2018)

A delightful novel with excellent characters, ‘low’ characters who are only slightly patronised and no funny foreigners. The Middleton’s find that Jack’s widowed sister and her two stepchildren are planning to rent the house next door for the summer. They draw close to the Bonds, as Denis charms Lord Bond with Gilbert and Sullivan evenings on the sly and Daphne charms his son and heir. Lots of characters I should recall from previous books pop in and out, especially at a load of meetings to discuss endlessly and never resolve a problem with a jumped up nouveau riche chap trying to build on a bit of land and the Agricultural show, but there is also real pathos in the growing ‘understanding’ between Denis and Mrs Middleton, and I must watch out for mention of her (Jack Middleton is much older than his wife) in the corners of later novels. Charming.

Angela Thirkell – “Northbridge Rectory”

(25 December 2018)

Just as light really as the previous one, but maybe the wartime setting gives it a higher value in terms of the atmosphere and daily life (amusingly, quite late on in the book a lady author who writes boring novels about day to day life is mentioned). I hugely enjoyed this, which was reminiscent of the Mrs Tim novels, and there were not too many Mixo-Lydians, even though the odd refugee is mentioned and they crop up in the chatter of the dreadful Mrs Spender.

The general atmosphere of early wartime in the village is summed up by Verena Villars, who has only been in the village for a year with her husband, the Rector:

The two ladies plunged into the intricacies of Mrs Gibbs’s household and Mrs Turner’s camp-beds, while Mrs Villars sat idle and wondered if she ought to have brought some knitting. It seemed unfair that a war, besides wrecking everyone’s summer holidays and devastating their evenings and mornings with blackouts, should give one a serious guilt-complex if one did nothing for a few moments

It’s not quite as dismissive of the privations of war as this implies, however: there are good solid naval and army characters and planes overhead. But also there’s this incisive remark which could be found in any book written about the home front:

In every war, however unpleasant, there are a certain number of people who with a shriek of joy take possession of a world made for them.

You have to love Thirkell for that, and for her exposure of the situations single women got left in, especially those managing difficult parents or aunts, for all her snobbery and indelicate phrasing around the less sharp characters.

The Villars have army high-ups billeted with them and one of them gets a pash on Mrs V – her marriage, however, asserts itself in a very sweet way. Laura Morland is mentioned, with Tony at Oxford, and there’s a cheeky mention of the next book to be read aloud at the working party being Trollope’s “The Warden” [both series of novels are set in Barsetshire, a century or so apart]. There’s some real pathos as well as humour in the complex relationships among some of the older characters, and even though the humour around Old French is a little laboured, this is a very good read.


Finally, a quick Confession – I have had a copy of this in the past but sent it out a-wandering and never claimed it back. As it’s by a favourite author AND features Iris Murdoch as one of the characters, I had to pick up a copy of Paul Magrs’ “Aisles” when I found a cheap one on Abe Books and it arrived today – hooray! Will be read early in the New Year.

 

Sedate lady running 26 August – 01 Sept 2019 #amrunning #running

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A slightly odd week where I did a longer run than normal on Tuesday.

Tuesday – My friend Sara who is doing the Birmingham Half-Marathon in October, was getting worried about not getting her distance in, so asked if anyone could accompany her on a 9-miler based around the running club’s Tuesday 4 miles. Some of us started with her, some of us finished with her, and I was with her between my house and the park at the end of the club run. We did a version of the other summer club run first then ran round at the back of the run (but still kept to the requisite 14 minute miles or faster required to run the full distance). Sara did her 9 – hooray! – and I got 8.5 miles in, which was frankly odd for a Tuesday evening.

I was getting quite a high heart rate and tired out and then needing to walk quite randomly: this taught me I need to rein things back in for a bit and go back to Jeff Galloway Method, which I did for the rest of the week. No photos taken today!

8.5 miles, 13:29 mins per mile

Thursday – Jenny was free in the early evening and this suited me, too. It ended up just the two of us and we did the Shortest Run We Can Do That Still Includes A Bit of Canal, taking in the lovely Lyon’s Boatyard, which she swears she’s never run past. I worked us up from the canal through the wood and then the Common without getting lost so seem to have worked out that route. Jeffed it 2 mins run / 30 secs walk which kept my heart rate much more under control and me more comfortable.

Lyon’s Boatyard

4.1 miles, 13:30 mins per mile

Saturday – I rarely have a week without volunteering and I had a lovely day out at the Veterans’ League Final in Nottingham with Sparkhill Harriers. All the finals were being run together so all the clubs from the league were there – lots of athletes but also lots of officials more senior than me. So I got to be a body in the field, doing what I was told, which was great! We were down for three events and I helped look after another. This is what I did:

  • Hammer – I stood to the far side of the cage from the competitors, watching for their feet staying inside the circle as they threw and them walking out of the back of the circle when they’d thrown. I had a white and red flag and raised them accordingly.
  • Hammer – I retrieved hammers after they’d landed, being sure to stay out of their way and obeying the safety protocol, and dragged them back to where the competitors would use the stadium’s ones or retrieve their own ones.
  • Long jump – I used the tape to measure the length of the jump and helped watch the take-off board to judge whether it was a good take-off or a foul
  • Javelin – I operated the Electronic Distance Measuring device to measure the length of throws and called out the result to the person calling up and recording.

View of field officials officiating

Sunday – Traditionally long run day but I was already up to what I misremembered as 12 miles (actually 12.6). I jeffed with Jenny (doing a short run), Mary Ellen (doing the end of a long run she’d started early due to family commitments) and Ruth (did slightly longer than me). We did the Shortest Canal etc. route then said goodbye to Jenny, Mary Ellen came with us for a bit longer then it was me and Ruth finishing off around familiar roads.

We were very privileged to come across this heron just as we joined the canal.

You can see the beginning of Lyon’s Boatyard in the distance here. As I took photos, he took off …

Photo of the day: done!

Unfortunately my Garmin watch, usually very trusty, did something to my run file and I can’t get it onto Strava – I’ve tried cleaning it up using software my husband found, but to no avail. Very annoying indeed. Fortunately, my watch was displaying the time spent, distance and pace, so I used that to add a manual record to Strava. And I can see my heart rate data on the Garmin app so can see it didn’t go too high. But no detail which is frustrating. I used the same jeffing strategy although near the end we walked a bit more. It was quite warm.

8.1 miles, 13:34 mins/mile

Weekly total 20.7 miles. My speed has at least been consistent, if not brilliant, and I am feeling more comfortable keeping to the jeffing for now. Total this year 691.7 (I needed 666.67 at the end of this month to be on track for my 1,000 miles in a year total)

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

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