Sunday, July 10, 2016

Where Now Is The Passion For Brexit ?

The ongoing fallout from the Brexit vote has produced a number of interesting outcomes, and the ongoing effect on the democratic process is one of them.

In the normal state of UK politics, when a vote has been called and made, and pledges have been put into the public sphere, there follows a set of checks and balances with an official opposition to ensure rigorous adherence to promises. We have seen recently how a government which has tried to impose things which were not manifesto promises, the imposition of Academy status on all schools, was met by a tide of protest. In the case of Brexit, things seem very different, indeed we seem to have entered an age in which the winners, not the losers, want to abandon political precedent.

If you came to my restaurant because I had advertised "Britain's Biggest Lobster - £20" but then sold you a single langoustine for the same money you would have every right to complain, and your complaint could be supported by law. If you make a promise to send £350m a week to the NHS, and then renege on that promise as soon as the vote is counted, what happens ? We are living in an age when lying to the electorate has fewer consequences than the false advertising of a fish special.

There have been accusations that the Brexit side never expected to win and that they had no strategy whatsoever for the actual Brexit if they did, and the rapidity with which many of the Leave camp leaders have fled the political scene following the vote seems to add credence to this notion. An ennui has set in with Leave supporters, they don't want to hear the howls of outrage from the 48%, and they don't seem to care that the cause they supported so passionately has withered away. The alternative is more disturbing, that many Leave voters did not believe the claims of the Brexit camp, that they accepted the possibilities of economic decline but voted Leave anyway in a warm surge of fuzzy nationalism.

Other people have voted Leave for entirely different reasons. If you live on some council estates in, for example, South Wales, and you haven't got a job by age 20, then the chances are you might never have a job for the rest of your adult life. Some communities devastated by the loss of the mines, steelworks and shipyards have not recovered economically 30 years after the main employers collapsed. If you've lived for years on benefits and austerity and no hope and David Cameron says the EU brings wealth and job security then you had every right to cast your ballot the other way because at least the other side promised a change of some sort when the status quo had brought your family nothing for generations. Perhaps these voters didn't expect to win, and didn't expect a win would bring them change anyway, after all, they've voted so often and received nothing in return.

For the rest of the 52% though, what is going on ? You were promised a new golden age, you were promised a well of funding for the NHS, a dramatic slowdown in immigration, and end to faceless bureaucracy and a booming economy. Leave leaders have first backtracked on their commitments, and then departed the political scene as if recognising that the Leave win is a poison chalice with the power to taint and harm all whom it touches. This perhaps is the nub of the matter, if things do not go according to Brexit promises over the coming years then the blame for each and every economic and social failing is going to be laid at the Leave door. Brexit and its leaders will become a scapegoat, imagined or real, for every political problem and fiscal woe. In this Theresa May is probably in the strongest position to benefit politically if she becomes the next PM. As a Remain campaigner, however fainthearted, May will not be tainted by a failing economy, her defence will always be that she believed we took the wrong decision, but that she is working hard to make the best of a bad lot.

The Leave website was purged of speech transcripts and promise documents days after the vote, highly prominent members of the Leave campaign have admitted that promises made were either unrealistic, or just would not happen. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? Many economic indicators predict that the UK economy will slow down, or perhaps slide into recession, you were promised better times. Leave voters, are you not outraged ? You were promised a crackdown on immigration, but Leave leaders have publicly admitted that the actual triggering of Article 50 may cause the largest surge in immigration the UK has seen in its involvement with the EU. Leave voters, are you not outraged ?

Or are you apathetic, not bothered, unwilling to use the fire and passion you burned with those few weeks ago to pressure your leaders into holding true to their promises. You surely didn't vote Leave just so you could hold your Union Jack a little higher and wave it a little more vigorously, you didn't embark on this project only expecting a bit of nationalistic pride in return, because I took a wallet brimming with nationalistic pride to the bank yesterday to pay my mortgage, but they said that I'd have to pay just like I did last month, in cold hard cash.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The John Carr Series

Being new to world of competitive racing I’m only just getting used to the social politics of the starting line, so for those of you who haven’t entered a race yet, here’s how it works.
Towards the rear of the huddle of runners the starting line is pretty much like club runs, it’s chatty and social, you are free to express feelings of nervousness and to comment on how fit, and fast, all the other runners look.

In the middle of the peloton things begin to change. You become aware of other runners appraising you, and then they edge past you with an “Excuse me” which holds distinct undertones of “I cannot help but notice that you are considerably older / fatter / more bandy legged than I, and therefore I need to start in front of you lest your shambling gait and ungainly manner impedes me in my quest for a PB.”

Down at the actual front line it’s just chaos. People are actually jostling for position, jostling I tell you! On a Wednesday night in Apperley Bridge ! Honestly folks, if we allow this sort of thing to continue then it’ll spread to Sainsbury’s deli counter queue and there will be hummus in the aisles.
The other thing that happens at all races is the pre-race announcement. Tradition here is that you shouldn’t be able to hear a word, no matter if the starting marshal is warning you of a bear pit on the first corner, the standard race announcement always sounds like an angry bee trapped in a metal dustbin half a mile away. Saltaire Striders haven’t got the hang of this, I could hear every word perfectly.

3-2-1 we’re off, briefly, there’s a few seconds of runner concertina as we sprint into the backs of the runners in front, who have en masse adopted the starting line pose of left arm raised, right hand on left wrist to activate their Garmin as they cross the line. Runners who haven’t managed to hit ‘start run’ on Strava will later be seen openly weeping as they approach the finish line.

(Photo - Rachael Smith)

5k is tough, I have no idea how to pace this, there isn’t enough time to settle into a jog, it just feels like sprinting all the way.  There are some small hills, enough to make your thighs burn, and then before the halfway you can see the really fast people flying past on the homeward half.  Legs burning, lungs bursting, I’m ready to chuck it in and just jog to the finish when we hit Orange Corner, a wall of Pacer shirts, a friendly cacophony fills the air, can I run this hard to the finish line, with that support, too right I can.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Anatomy Of A Half-Marathon

I popped out on Friday 4th to do a spot of running, I had in mind I'd do roughly a six mile loop into Guiseley, and then perhaps press on for a second six mile loop down into Otley if I was feeling good. The weather was cool but sunny with a very light breeze, pretty much perfect weather for running.

Miles 1-3) I'm feeling really good this morning, running at a couple of seconds under 9 minutes a mile which is a good pace for me and easily a minute faster than when I picked up running again in January. Probably because I'm wearing a hip belt for my water bottle (I hate carrying stuff in my hands shwn running), I need a pee, now I need a pee all I can think about is needing a pee.

Mile 3.5) Pop into the leisure centre for bio-break. As always the amount of pee expelled, about an eggcup full, is out of all proportion to the amount of relief gained.

Mile 6) I'm feeling really good, still under 9 mins which is probably too fast but it's hard to slow down when you're running so well. I'm back at Menston so yes, I'm going to push on for the half marathon. Ahead of me I've got at least two miles downhill into Otley and then some flat miles along to Burley. I'm running with my earphones in and a steady diet of Ramones - Wildhearts - Massive Wagons - Megadeth to keep me going, I don't mind shorter solo runs without music, but on longer treks I get fed up of the sound of my trainers slapping the pavement.

Mile 8) Still running well, but I'm so hot, there's little beads of sweat bouncing off me with every pace. Worst bit of the run so far was when I stopped at the Ilkley Road / Otley Bypass roundabout waiting for traffic, my legs felt a little heavy after I'd waited for a couple of minutes and when I tried to pick up the pace again it's feeling a little more laboured.

Mile 10) Ok, I'm feeling a little tired now. It is quite a warm morning and the water in my bottle has warmed up nicely and is doing little to refresh me. Thankful for a handy bush on the bypass to Burley for another bio-break, not so thankful for the short stretch without pavement, busses and trucks are big scary things up close.  There's a little uphill section on old Otley Road and I've really slowed down. All the way round I've been telling myself how good I'm feeling, but now I'm not, I seem to have switched from positive self motivation to grim determination in about half a mile.

Mile 11) Along the flattish bit out from Burley back towards Menston. The flat miles at the start of the run felt great, I felt light and bouncy, each step was easy and thoughtless. Now I feel leaden, heavy and strained, every footstep slaps down hard and jars my frame. And the uphill bit is still to come.

Mile 12) Uphill. Up Bradford Road. This is awful. What on earth posessed me to do this ? I'm tired, soaked with sweat from head to toe, my legs are aching, thighs are starting to burn, there's a niggle in my left calf which wasn't bothering me on the flat but which is spiking now with each step. Thud

Mile 13) I made it up the hill, lumbered around Menston Park and now I'm moving along Main Street in an ungainly, elephantine manner. I'm hating having to cross roads as the six inch drop off each pavement edge is hideous and my legs are so stiff now I'm scared I might stumble ovet the pavement on the other side.

Mile 13.1) I'm home, and I should be elated, but my brain has fried from the heat and exercise and somehow I've convinced myself that the half marathon distance is about 13.5 miles. For a moment I consider giving up, but then with a quite remarkable outburst of swearing I set off again, moving with wooden legs towards Bleach Mills, turn around, swear some more, get home again, 13.7 miles, and that's me knackered.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Two To Go

I sent TMA05 in for marking late last night, and for the first time in 5 years of university work I deliberately padded the essay to get it completed. Not that my padding was off topic, I added in a quote from Professor Nick Groom about the Goth band Fields Of The Nephilim and then responded to the quote. So it was on topic for the essay question but not in a manner that is going to get me any points.

If I wasn't still on the cusp of being able to achieve a 1st I don't think I'd be panicking so much. The awful score I received for my EMA on the previous religions module left my overall score just short of a 1st, but with the outside possibility of still getting there. Perhapos a lower score earlier in the course would have just left me in solid 2.1 territory and that would have been an end to the sleepless nights and endless stress.

I don't think TMA05 is going to get me over the 85% grade, and as it carries 25% of the total score for the module that's probably the end of that. Perhaps I can just relax a little now and coast over the line. Perhaps sometime soon I can return to reading books for fun, or not spending every single day off perched in front of the computor writing bloody essays.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Harewood Age UK 10k Dash

A misty morning gave way to uncomfortably hot, for the plump runner anyway, sunshine halfway around. It's not as hilly as Huddersfield they said, but nevertheless that hill after 5k seemed endless.

This race had a much bigger field than Huddersfield, around 2,000 runners against 570, so there was quite a wait to get over the start line, let's be thankful for chip timing. We'd warmed up first to some of the most awful music known to humankind, the sort of high tempo dance shite I'd normally run away from, then turned around to find that our place at the front of the warm-up had secured us last place in the starting line, bugger.

Three and a half tiresome minutes went by as we watched the elite runners bounding away from us, we shuffled slowly to the line and then finally got to do a bit of actual running. The route took us on a nice circuit of the Harewood estate, but I've got to admit that although lots of the club runners had said it's a nice route with lovely views, the traffic was heavy and most of the run was spent ensuring I didn't fall over someone else's feet.

I managed 54.11, a new personal best and two and half minutes faster than my last outing. The Airecentre Pacers were well represented with around a dozen of the Orange Army participating. We achieved a slew of PB's from the team, special mention to my near neighbour and running buddy Emma who had targeted a sub hour 10k and smashed it by two and a half minutes.

My sister in law Carole, her sister Lisa, and a group of friends also did the race, all achieving great times.

When I'd told my team at work that I'd joined a running club, one of the lads said "Who wants to run with a load of sweaty old blokes ?". Take a look at the pictures, they have to run with a sweaty old bloke, but I don't!

I'm not quite sure how the age grading figures work, but I got an age grading of 55.8% this time out, an improvement of almost 3% against Huddersfield. You can find various race time and grading calculators on this link.

I haven't got a race for April lined up yet, better get my skates / running shoes on.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What I Know About Running

1) I have to walk a bit, or a lot, am I still a runner ? Hell yes. When I first took to running a few years back I couldn't get to a half mile without thinking I was going to die. If you have run some, half, or most of your route, then you're a runner.

2) Some people can keep up a stream of consciuosness style of chat while running uphill. Usually I can either run, or chat. I'm not being anti-social, it just makes me get more out of breath.

3) Do you need loads of expensive kit ? Er, no and yes. I've found that investing in some good running trainers does make a difference, and having a skin-tight compression top and leggings stops my nipple ends from chafing off and other bits from flailing around uncomfortably. Something reflective for night-time runs is probably also a good idea. Also, I've come across some lycra leggings that would be the envy of any 80's cock rock / hair metal band, so obviously I've bought two pairs.

4) Body size isn't a good guide to running speed or stamina. You see some lithe and limber young folk who look at first glance as if they could run marathons for fun, and yet they're out of breath and struggling before the first half mile. That big lad at the Huddersfiled 10k who looked like he'd locked himself in the Pukka Pie factory for the winter, well he fairly trundled up the hills and thundered back down the slopes leaving slimmer, fitter looking runners trailing in his wake.

5) I have no idea about proper nutrition for racing, and I'm pretty happy just muddling along as I am. So it's crumpets for breakfast before tommorow's race, and then pretty much whatever I fancy for dinner afterwards, including a pint or two, or wine if I fancy. Obviously my approach to food and booze isn't perfect, that's why I'm overweight and might have been part of the reason for my stroke. But energy gels sound disgusting, bananas are foul and as for going down the road of elite athletes like Teresa McWalters, well just end me now, spirulina powder and flax seed isn't food. Steak is food, roast pork and all the trimmings is food, a nice Mediterranean meze with some garlic prawns, olives, bread and chorizo is food. And beer and wine are food, I know I'm not allowed so much these days, but beer is still wonderful.

6) It dies get easier, and then you can run a bit further and faster to compensate for it feeling easier.